Picture Day: A Jewish Mother's Poem – Kveller
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jewish identity

Picture Day: A Jewish Mother’s Poem

A parent's reflection on the current moment.

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via Canva

I sent my son to picture day
October 10, 2023
In a Magen David
That I borrowed from his father
To a school
That has been tagged by swastikas
In a city
Where an antique store
Sells Nazi memorabilia
Kill the Jews
Gets graffitied on the wall 

My son
Five years old
Loves being Jewish
Proceeds to tell everyone he meets
He does not understand
I shush him
Or take him aside
His parents carefully selected
His name
To be the same on the outside
And inside
To be on his passport
He knows
How to code switch
Between Mom and Ema 

He wears his Magen David
For his mother
Whose grad school dreams were quashed
When her supervisor told her
It is off-putting that people know
That she’s a Jew
When walking into a room 

For his grandfather
Who was asked where his horns were
On a business trip to Texas
For his great-grandfather
Liberated during a death march
For his great-grandfather
Liberated from Dachau
For his great-grandfather
Who had to change his dreams
Because of quotas
For his great-grandmother
Hidden as a Catholic
During her formative years
For his great-grandmother
Who left everything behind
To flee Stalin and the Iron Curtain
For his great-uncle
Killed defending Israel
For the aunts, uncles and cousins
Who never had a chance
Gassed in Treblinka 81 years ago 

For his cousins
Huddling in bomb shelters
For his aunt’s friend
Kidnapped and killed in Gaza
The Crusades
The Inquisition
The Pogroms
The expulsions 

For him to know
That we are not Jews
With trembling knees
And that we stand on
The shoulders of ancestors
Who slew giants and
Wrestled with angels
When the photographer
Tells him

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