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Ninety-Three Daughters of Israel

a Holocaust poem by Chaya Feldman

We washed our bodies
and we grew clean;
we purified our souls
and we grew quiet.

Death does not terrify us;
we go out to meet him.

We served God while we were alive
and now we can best serve our people
by refusing to be taken alive.

We made a covenant of the heart,
all the ninety-three;
together we learned
and together we will meet our end.

As I write these words
the hour is upon us:
barely enough time to write down this prayer ...

Brethren, wherever you are,
honor the Torah we lived by
and the Psalms we loved.

Read them for us, as well as for you,
and someday when the Beast
has hunted his last prey,
we hope somebody will say Kaddish for us:
ninety-three daughters of Israel.

In 1943 Meir Shenkolevsky, the secretary of the world Bais Yaakov movement and a member of the Central Committee of Agudas Israel in New York, received a letter from Chaya Feldman: "I don't know when you will get this letter and if you still will remember me. When this letter arrives, I will no longer be alive. In a few hours, everything will be past. We are here in four rooms, 93 girls ages 14 to 22, all of us Bais Yaakov teachers. On July 27, Gestapo agents came, took us out of our apartment and threw us into a dark room. We only have water to drink. The younger girls are very frightened, but I comfort them that in a short while, we will be together with our mother Sara [Sara Shnirer, the founder of the Bais Yaakov Seminary]. Yesterday they took us out, washed us and took all our clothes. They left us only shirts and said that today, German soldiers will come to visit us. We all swore to ourselves that we will die together. The Germans don't know that the bath they gave us was the immersion before our deaths: we all prepared poison. When the soldiers come, we will drink the poison. We are all saying Viduy throughout the day. We are not afraid of anything. We only have one request from you: Say Kaddish for 93 bnos Yisroel! Soon we will be with our mother Sara. Signed, Chaya Feldman from Cracow."

As an editor and publisher of Holocaust poetry, I wonder what Chaya Feldman, a teacher, would have thought of the present-day plight of the children of Gaza, many of them students awaiting the Beast. You can read their stories and poems in their own words by clicking this link: The Children of Gaza Speak.―Michael R. Burch

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