The most profound testament to Jewish resilience I have ever seen was only slightly bigger than the palm of my hand.
My teacher placed the photo photograph on my desk; it was a landscape he captured while in Germany. Before the Holocaust, that land encompassed gardens and houses, schools and synagogues. But the Nazis left it a barren wasteland with only the charred remains of Jewish houses to prove they were ever there. Entire towns were leveled; entire bloodlines were slaughtered.
But among the rubble, an unintentional monument stands to this day. For as far as the eye can see there are rows upon rows of chimneys, the only parts of the houses left unscathed. The Nazis may have come with fire, but the chimneys, all brick and stone, refused to burn.
In the shadow of these structures I see the matriarch for which I was named: Sarah, wife of Abraham and mother of Isaac.
She may not have retrieved the Ten Commandments from a mountain like Moses or erected the first Holy Temple like Solomon, but Sarah’s legacy will outlive stone, the Talmud, and even the Torah. One day, even the western wall will succumb to age, but the Jewish spirit of loyalty, perseverance, and gemilut chasadim (good deeds) will remain. This is because of Sarah.
It was Sarah who strived so greatly to give Abraham children. Sarah was the one who, when faced with her own infertility, offered Abraham the option of bearing children with another woman to keep the Jewish bloodline alive. Sarah strived to instill Jewish values in her children, to carry on Jewish traditions of righteousness, charity and faith.
This is what I want to emulate of Sarah. I want to carry the eternal light to the next generation. I want to tell the stories of my people and spread the ideals of Judaism to my future children. I want to be like Sarah, whose legacy arguably outlives that of any other figure in the bible. She brought us the next generation of Jews. She brought us an eternity of survival.
Jews have had a history of hardship and persecution. But in teaching Judaism to our children, we ensure this spirit will never die. Jews are a people of fortitude; even when everything else around us is burning, we will rise above the smoke.
We will not burn. We will persist.
— Sarah Emily Baum
Marlboro High School
Morganville, NJ, USA