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 Goldie Herskovitch

December 13th, 1940

To My Dearest Chaychu,

I knew you wouldn’t cry when we lit the menorah.  I’ll admit that my heart was beating as Mendeleh swiftly twisted the strands from his shirt to make a wick, nervous that the smell of the fire would travel to unwanted noses. I feared they would finally find our hiding place and that the past few months would have been for naught. But you didn’t make a sound, and they didn’t smell the fire. I close my eyes now and pray: Let this not be our last Chanukah. Let us survive, small flames amid the darkness.

December 13th, 2017

Dear Yael,

You didn’t even flinch when the principal called us into the office together to tell us the news. You tossed your long, dyed hair, a show of defiance….or was that relief?  We tried so hard to put up a strong front on the way home from school, but as soon as we got home, I burst into tears. We missed you at Chanukah lighting tonight. You should know that Tati put extra oil in the menorah for you. So that when you come back from wherever you spent your night, the candles will still be burning.

December 17th, 1940


Mendeleh hasn’t returned. It’s been two days since I sent him out for food. I wanted us to live, Chaychu, I wanted you to live! I should have gone myself. I should have waited another night, but you were crying, and Mendeleh wanted to help you, his baby sister. I know that you’re too young to miss him, but I wonder if you, too, feel the fear, the despair. You are even quieter than usual. Chaychu, when will this end? It’s Chanukah; a time for miracles. I was witness to so many miracles within the last year. You were too. You’re too young to remember them, but if you survive, you must tell them over. If only you survive.

December 17th, 2017


You didn’t come back last night. We haven’t heard from you. Oh, how we’ve tried to make you happy. You try to look happy, but we aren’t fooled; your eyes tell a different story. We despise this vulnerability, a new feeling for us.  And yet, though you seem to us a stranger in many ways, our arms remain open, always. Tati is going to put extra oil in the menorah again tonight and the remaining nights of Chanukah. We pray that you sense it, that you feel it, even if you come back when the fire is long gone.

December 20th, 1941

My Chaychu,

It’s Chanukah again. We are still here. Today you said your first word: Mama. I had to quiet you immediately because I heard footsteps, but they didn’t hear you call my name. It was another Chanukah miracle. They are all around us, the miracles. I saw your glowing face tonight, shining like a candle, and I was comforted. Chaychu, we will survive!

December 20th, 2018


It’s the eighth night of Chanukah, and you came home. Just in time to light the menorah. You laughed when Tati poured the oil and it spilled all over. He did it on purpose, to show you that we’ve been filling it up all along.  I saw your face in the candles, and although you look much different than you did last year, I think you got the message. We know that you need us, but most importantly, you finally know: you’re our special girl.

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