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In Memoriam: A Poem from My Archive

This weekend brought the sad news of the passing of Charles Elbaum, a charming man whom I had the pleasure of meeting when his middle son and my bff became engaged in the early 1990s. Over the years, I’ve had the joy of sharing many Elbaum simchas with their family.

Beyond his warmth and sweetness, Charles was quite brilliant (he was a physics professor at Brown University). He was also a Holocaust survivor.

In his memory, I share here a poem I wrote shortly after his eldest grandchild became a Bat Mitzvah, in a service that featured one of these rescued scrolls.


And God spoke to Moses, saying:
“Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them:
It shall come to pass in the year 5770
on Shabbat Parashat Emor, that the child
named Hannah, daughter of Deborah and Daniel,
shall be called to the Torah as a Bat Mitzvah.
And after she reads from this aged parchment,
the Torah shall be gently closed, dressed,
and placed in the arms of Hannah’s grandfather,
Charles, father of Daniel. At 84, the Polish-born man
will then be seated on the bimah, with
the velvet-robed scroll leaning next to his heart.
The congregation will watch. His wife will weep.
From Europe, these human and holy remnants
will have been saved, will have survived,
will be reunited in a suburb called Wellesley,
a few miles outside Boston, United States,
on this day, in this place. And it shall be so.
I am the Lord your God.”

(originally published by New Vilna Review)

My thoughts and love are with all of the Elbaums. May Charles’s memory be for a blessing.

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9 Responses »

  1. Sorry for your loss, our loss. Thank you for that strong poem especially. It reminds me of the great bittersweet poem (they are all great) in Chava Rosenfarb’s collection, “Exile At Last”:
    “I would go into a Prayer House”

    So I would go into a prayer house
    To sit with a community of the pious
    Who are bound to His strong belt.
    And both in tragedy and in happiness
    They praise Him, they praise Him.

  2. Lovely poem, Erika. A beautiful tribute, then and now.

  3. Perfect.

  4. Very inspiring and what I needed to read – – it’s a lovely poem, thank you for writing and posting it.

  5. Lovely piece. I cannot imagine an English Jewish poet writing such a piece, nor for that matter many American Jewish ones!

    Yeshar koach,


  6. Everyone, I cannot tell you how moved I am by these comments. Thank you.

  7. Thank you for re-sharing. I love this poem, and the memories it brings of that special day. You captured the moment perfectly.


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