by Anthony Stefano
My 12-year-old daughter Jenny woke me at 7 am Sunday morning by pouncing on me like she was still a three year old.
My eyes barely open, Jenny rocked me back and forth with great enthusiasm. “Wake up Daddy! You promised. It’s been a week since my Bat Mitzvah.”
“I will my sweet child, just give me a few minutes to wake up. Ask your Mother to make breakfast for us. Once we’re finished, I will tell you all about your Aunt Sarah.”
By 10 am they were finished eating. “Come let’s sit on the couch and I will tell you all that I know. It is very painful for me to recall, so please do not interrupt.”
“Yes, Daddy. I will listen carefully and quietly.”
“World War II had turned into Hell for the Jewish people, way before Hitler tried to conquer the world. That Devil Hitler’s plans struck Sara and her family on the day she, her husband Avi, and their son Isaac went to the Scuola Tedesca Italiana, the Great German Synagogue of Venice, where Rabbi Adolfo Ottolenghi had performed their boy’s Bris. It was a dark day for all Jewish people when his Congregants were stopped from praying, so that the soldiers could force everyone into the streets, like animals being led to their slaughterhouses. Sara had never been so afraid, not for herself but for her child. She held onto Isaac for dear life and once everyone was forced into the street, Isaac’s father Avi tried to stop a Nazi from taking their child away from her, and in the process, he was killed. Sarah tried to protect her child from that Nazi, who then hit her on the head with his rifle. She and the child fell to the ground, the soldier checked Sarah, and believing she was dead, picked up the child and continued. That evening, a nearby family, who had saved other Jews, saved her. Once the war was over, Sarah searched for a sign to lead her to her sweet Isaac in Venice, but with no success. Many years passed and in 2007 she moved to Israel. From that day on, your Aunt Sarah visited the Martef HaShoah, The Chamber of the Holocaust, on Har Zion. Every day and night, Sarah prayed that she might see something there about her home in Venice. She also tried to find her son by telling people her story and by showing the one photo she had of him, in the hope that it would lead her to him. Her spirit never wavered, but her body was near its end.
One beautiful starry night Sarah felt a strong emotion, like a call from Heaven to go to the Martef. Avoiding everyone, she slowly and painfully walked to a new wall of stones with the names of vanished Jewish communities, in the hope that she might have missed something. From the distance approaching the wall, she saw a man whom she could not recognize. Yet, she sensed a familiar emotion emanating from him. He was also searching for someone.
When he saw Sarah stumbling towards him, he ran to her side and caught her just before she fell to the ground. “Isaac, is that you, my son?” she asked with tears in her eyes and a smile on her face. The man knew the pain she had suffered.
Sitting, on the ground leaning against the wall with her head on his lap, he could feel that her body was beginning to give out.
“Yes Mama, it’s your son, Isaac.”
Sarah’s dream had finally come true. She held her son so strongly that he was able to feel her Soul exiting from her body. Sarah, with the last bit of strength in her heart, reached to the heavens where her husband Avi was waiting for her to join him. That night another Jewish star shone brighter than ever, to show the Jewish people and the world that another one of their flock had been embraced by Hashem, making it possible to exist forever, as Sarah and Avi traveled through the universe side by side, accompanied the spirit of Hashem.
“So, Aunt Sarah spirit passed once she found her son? “ his daughter asked quietly.
“Yes, and no sweetheart. Her belief that he was her son is what helped her Soul rise to Heaven”, her father softly explained.
“So, who was the man, Daddy?”
“He was just another Jewish man, who had lived through the traumas of World War II and the Camps of Hell and who understood her pain and knew that it was the right thing to tell her that he was her son.”