You were supposed to be my great uncle

And I’m sure you would have been a great one at that

Telling me stories as I grew

Taking pride in my achievements

And I in you

But your life was cut short

You disappeared from France

To be murdered in cold blood

Which runs icy deep in my own veins

The pains of your yesterday are alive in my heart today.

Je suis Alfred Rein

I am Alfred Rein 

  

You were supposed to live on for another century

21 years old

You returned from Birthright to Paris

With Israel on your mind and as your goal

Your life shone with promise;

It was awaiting you

But those baselessly hating you,

For your identity as “Jew”

Took your life along with three others

We are no longer whole without you, my brother.

Je suis Yoav Hattab

I am Yoav Hattab

 

I am all of those who were

But never will be

Never are

We cannot let the

the scars of the Shoah fade.

Today, the battleground is different

But hatred pervades.

 

One day this summer

As these thoughts whirled through my mind,

I walked the length of Jerusalem

Searching the city of peace

For a piece of the past.

I went where all are given

A place, a name

And in Yad Vashem

I pause by a certain exhibit which prohibits

Me from remaining only in the present

I stand by the shoes

Paralyzed

Mesmerized

Brown loafer

Red Sandal

Pink infant shoe

Black hearts

Stopped yours from beating

 

I see the reflection of my own shoe in the glass,

The only barrier between this moment and past.

I close my eyes and promise:

I’ll bring you back;

Your steps are mine

I walk forwards in life for you,

With you.

I am six million lives never given the chance to be lived.

I am also the pain of the current persecution, no matter how many miles away I stand.  

 

And when I feel the most uncertain today

about what tomorrow will bring

I remember the words of Martin Luther King

When he said

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies,

but the silence of our friends.”

 

All I know is that indifference

Will make no difference

Six million silenced voices of the past

Beg us to raise our own today.

 

…because we live now

For those only given a “then,”

I am never again.

And so are you.