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Bridges: A Jewish Feminist Journal 12.1 (2007) 98-103

A Song fo a Jewish Soul
Blume Lempel
Translation by Julia Wolf Mazow

I often go to Temple Beth Sholom where, as a Hadassah member, I help prepare luncheons. At Beth Sholom members of community organizations are provided with a place to hold their meetings, and in the back of the temple is a kitchen with all the conveniences for people to make refreshments and coffee.

One day when I was busy preparing the tables, three young people came in. They remained standing by the door looking perplexed, as if they wondered whether this was really the place they were looking for.

"Can I help you with something?" I asked.

"I hope so," answered one of the young people.

I noticed that all three wore leather jackets and fitted pants with tie-dyed dots on them. All three had long hair; two were brunettes, the third, a blond. He carried a fine leather briefcase under his arm.

To tell the truth, I was a little frightened. Who could tell what he carried in the leather case?

The oldest of the three stepped forward. "He has yortsayt today." He pointed to the blond young man, who blushed a bit, let his head droop, and looked at his shoes. [End Page 98]

[End Page 99]

"What can I do for you?" I asked once again in my natural voice.

"We want to see the rabbi." He pointed to the blond. "His wife was a Jew. Do you understand what I mean?"

I took a good look at the blond youth. In my eyes he could not have been more than twenty years old.

"When did your wife die?" I asked him.

"A year ago today." The oldest answered for him.

I showed them to the rabbi's office, where they stayed a long time. When they came out, the rabbi accompanied them to the door. He invited them to return around six o'clock in the evening. He had already arranged for someone to say kaddish and also to kindle a yortsayt lamp for the young woman's soul.

At six o'clock in the evening I too entered the temple. To me, such a service was bound to be unusual, even in times like these.

When I arrived, all three young people were already in the front of the synagogue, sitting in the first row, facing the rabbi. All three held open siddurim. They stood up when the worshippers stood up. When everyone sat down, they sat down too.

I was unable to see if they looked in the siddurim or not. I saw only their backs, the yarmulkes on their long hair. I noticed that they didn't look around even once, not to the right side, not to the left. They probably felt the curious eyes aimed at them from all sides, but they gave no sign that they noticed. Not a limb moved—as if they were trying not to spoil the effect of this mystical experience.

After the elderly Jew appointed by the rabbi had finished saying kaddish, the blond youth stood up. In his hands he held a guitar. He plucked at the strings. His friends on either side stood still for a while and soon began to sing a popular song about a young woman who could not adapt to life and finally chose an early death.

The congregation remained seated as if they were stupefied. They let the young people finish their song, which they did in the tenderest of voices. The sweetness of the song was breezily caressing, and with a tremble it poured itself out over the body of worshippers.

As soon as they finished the concert, they left without so much as a zay gezunt. On the bench where they were sitting they had left a package of records behind for the people in the temple to divide among themselves. I too received a record. It appeared that these young people...


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pp. 98-103
Launched on MUSE
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Archived 2012
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