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even in winter through snow deep as my thighs my father walked me to synagogue short-cutting through the puking lot of the country club with (it was said) a token Jewish member and past the skating pond where every other neighborhood child was free

in the coat room I removed the pants I'd been allowed to wear for the snow my father already taking his place among the davening men while I slipped into a row of silent women, off to the side where we were not permitted to touch the Torah or even its garments with our unclean hands

my mother went shopping and visited with her friends, not inclined to participate in the ritual I had no choice to refuse, although once I stood my ground and said I would not go with him and joined my mother in the forbidden car our hands touching money

I had learned how to recite the prayers but never how to pray, not in my own language and not in my own voice it was only much later, when I no longer walked with my father that I found a moment of grace when my hands hovered above a pair of lit candles and I whispered to the ghosts of every woman who came before me, every blessed touch of light

ELIZABETH ROSNER teaches writing at Contra Costa College and has recently completed Souvenirs & Silences, a family memoir about the holocaust. This poem was a prize-winning entry in the Anna Davidson Rosenberg Poetry Contest for Poems on the Jewish Experience held at the Judah L. Magnes Museum in Berkeley, California.
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Author:Rosner, Elizabeth
Publication:Judaism: A Quarterly Journal of Jewish Life and Thought
Date:Jan 1, 1995
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