Lost and Found

The other day I lost my Magen Dovid. I was quite distraught and tried not putting too much significance into it during this difficult time. And yet it rankled me the whole day.

This Magen David wasn’t just a regular Star of David. It embodied the experiences of my parents, both of whom were Hungarian survivors who possess a unique and incredible story of endurance.

My father, of blessed memory, was fifteen years old when he was liberated by the Eighth Infantry Division and the Eighty-Second Airborne Division of the US Army from a small sub-camp of the Neuengamme concentration camp called Wobbelin. It was a place where people were left to die.

My mother was born in 1944 at the very end of the war, and survived with my grandmother thanks to a Shutz-Passe issued by Raoul Wallenburg stating they were Swedish citizens. My grandfather had been killed on a death march before my mother’s birth. Many years later, we discovered that the week my mother was born was the same week my father had been taken by the Nazis from his small village along with his mother and siblings.

In a matchmaking effort only G-d could orchestrate, years later, my parents, though fifteen years apart, met and married. Their wedding was attended by family and friends and other Holocaust survivors. Any child’s birth brings great happiness to the parents; mine also signified rebuilding. I was named for my father’s mother, Yehudis, who mothered thirteen children and was killed immediately upon arriving at Auschwitz. Among some of the baby gifts my parents received was a little gold Magen David that managed to survive the horrors of the Shoah.

The little gold star lay in my drawer until I was old enough to appreciate its value. It was small and bent with unbelievingly sharp corners that scratched my hand while wearing it on a bracelet, so I took it to the jeweler to make it into a pendant. The jeweler was honored to behold a piece of Jewish history and assured me it would be crafted into something beautiful yet dignified. He set it in a glass dial, much like the face of a watch. When it was ready, I wore it occasionally, but since the outset of the war in Israel, it proudly rested around my neck every day.

Among some of the baby gifts my parents received was a little gold Magen David that managed to survive the horrors of the Shoah.

And then I lost it while sweeping the kitchen floor. I convinced myself in the mad rush of the morning that all was not lost and I would try and find it later that day, which indeed I did. After returning home from my teaching job, I searched the house until I found it. Oh, the joy of finding a precious lost item!

As I thanked G-d for the gift of that moment, I had another thought. We are suffering from unspeakable tragedies and devastating losses. In spite of the tremendous sadness for the losses and concern for those in captivity as well as for the wounded, there is still a distinct feeling of joy among our soldiers. This has spread like wildfire not just in Israel among the brave survivors and everyone involved in incredible acts of kindness, but really across the whole Jewish world. I would like to humbly suggest a reason why.

Once upon a time we had something precious. We were a nation with one purpose, one mission. Then we lost it, for whatever reason. And now we found it once again. It may be battered and bent, but it is shiny and oh-so-bright. It is our own golden star, our national treasure of unity.  And there is no greater joy than that. Am Yisrael Chai.

Judy Landman has written for many other publications, and her recently published book of poetry, Seasons of the Rain, is available on Amazon. This essay and other writings are in memory of her father Mr. Jack Margaretten, Yaakov Mordechai ben Yitzchok Tzvi.

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