berdichev

My Name is...

…Rifka. I am from Berdichev, Russia, and I’m running away. You see, I’m a Jew, and in Berdichev, Jews are hunted down like wild fowl and murdered in their homes. My whole family: Mama, Papa, Saul, Nathan and I are going to America. My three other brothers, Asher, Isaac, and Reuben sent for us from America so that we can get away from all of the hardship and fear in the Old Country. I’ve never met them, because they left to America before I was born. 

My parents say that because I am the only one with blonde hair and blue eyes, it is important that I stay strong. Mama and Papa and my brothers all have dark skin and eyes, characteristics of Jewish people. I, on the other hand, have pale white skin and golden hair, so I look Christian. I don’t quite understand why hereditary characteristics affect our lives so, but if I can help my family get out of Russia and away from those horrible soldiers, I’ll gladly flaunt my unusual features. 

My name, Rifka, is special Mama says. It means, “to bind” in Yiddish. I have to bind my family together across an ocean: from my brothers in America to my parents and brothers in Berdichev. I have a lot of responsibility, but I am ready. I am ready to go to America.  

Shalom, 

Rifka

I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? If you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that.
—  Shylock
From The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare