This past year I was fortunate enough to be part of JF&CS Legacies: High School Visits and met with a Holocaust survivor for 25 community service hours. Regina survived the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and several concentration camps, ultimately losing her entire family. She is one of the most inspirational and courageous individuals I have ever met and it was a gift to work with her and hear her story. In the course of working on a project together, she showed me the page in the book at Auschwitz when they logged her in. I did not know this but, at their discretion, the Nazis would at times change someone’s name if it didn’t sound “Jewish” enough, or force someone to use their Hebrew name. The following poem was inspired by her story.
I have a name
By the grace of god I have a name
Descended from ancient majestic temples
Kings and queens who ruled thousands of years ago
Shared with mighty women from past generations
Their blood flowing through my veins
Yes, I have a name
You have shaved my head and forced me to wear rags
Murdered my entire family
Even if anyone was alive
I am not sure I could recognize them
Without the sweet sound of their voices…
Calling out my name
I stand before you
Number tattooed on my arm as if I were cattle
Please, don’t change my name
Whether it sounds “Jewish” enough to you –it does not matter…
Write it down as it is
It is my name…It is me
It is all I have left
There is no way I could repay Regina for the gift of the experience of getting to know her and her story, but I did want her to understand her impact on me and that her story matters and will be remembered and retold. “I have a name” was my attempt at this. I entered this poem into the Mass State Poetry Society contest for Regina and Regina alone. And I chose to donate the first place prize money to support JF&CS, the agency that promotes making these connections and part of whose mission is to make sure we all never forget.
Originally posted on the JF&CS blog.
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