Hold It All

Tag: Hedy Epstein

Six Short Chapters from Forthcoming Book, “Dear Love of Comrades”

The Affordable Care Act Won’t Help Me Here

Dear Nima
I have three appointments–

In cardiology, cardiology

In the next two weeks
But there’s no doctor I can see about missing you

“This Is It” by Eileen McGrath Mosher

Shim-dawg (lovingly named),

My mantra this past week, “This is it,” without knowing it, consciously, it has been on your FB wall. I wondered but without a lot of curiosity what that meant to you. Here is why it has been so important to me.

I have to tell myself every minute that this is my new reality… my brain can only seem to recall it for a mere moment that this is it: This is life, this is my home, my job, my kids, my family but not as it has ever been before. It is not my dreams, my forecast, my hope, my desire.

But it is full of love, children laughing, neighbors calling, family supporting, community praying. Moments of pain so deep and literally body numbing and moments of laughter so full that my muscles ache, moments I feel the air leave my body requiring a painful deep breath as if I just broke the surface of the after after nearly drowning. This is it.

Right here, right now, it is all we have. So despite all of it, be kind, live consciously, aware of your breath, the trees CO2 exchange and your neighbors’ inhale. All of us sharing intimately this shared NOW.

This is it.

Eileen (I-dawg)


With the Barakats

Last night, Sharifa Barakat and I had dinner at Central Café (along with Imman Musa and Dania Saffaf Atienza). Sarah Dwidar had introduced me to Sharifa her freshman year at SLU on sunny day on West Pine. Later, she took a Social Justice class with me, and we were part of SLU Solidarity with Palestine. I have long been impressed with her humor, love of literature, and keen sense of responsibility. A while back, she led us in a close reading of Ghassan Kanafani’s Men in the Sun, and Other Palestinian Stories.

After dinner, the two of us walked to Left Bank Books to hear author Ibtisam Barakat (no relation to Sharifa) share her philosophy and read from her new book, Balcony on the Moon: Coming of Age in Palestine. Someone asked her a question about the political solution to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian people, culture, and land, and she said, point-blank, there’s no solution politically, there can only be a “soul-lution.” Accordingly, her contribution is to tell the story of her life as a Palestinian in Palestine and the Diaspora. She has published two books so far, and she mentioned at least three others to come, insha’allah. Read the rest of this entry »

Three Working Epigraphs for Forthcoming Book

Everybody too intransigent. Everybody too mean.
—Allen Ginsberg

Appreciation is the sacrament.
—Allen Ginsberg

You have to write your own history, nobody’s going to do it for you.
—Allen Ginsberg



Hedy Epstein

“Born Only Yesterday, and Already She Speaks Like a Perfect Mensch”


Dear Dianne,

I think this is the 4th time I’m reading Meshugah. It was originally serialized in the Yiddish Daily Forward. Because I’m reading it with you, and because Hedy is on our minds, in our hearts, I am paying more attention to the voices, the dialogue this time around. I marked the following passages, see what you think. Imagine twenty-five-year-old Hedy amidst such characters in NYC in 1949!

MA= Max Aberdam
AG = Aaron Greidinger
IS – Irka Shmelkes
M = Miriam
P = Priva

“Don’t be frightened, I haven’t come back from the Great Beyond to strangle you!” MA

“I’m alive, I’m alive.” AG
“You call this living?” MA

“My friend, I may have lost everything, but a bit of sense I still have. Though I’m in debt over my head, I owe nothing to the Almighty: as long as He keeps sending us Hitlers and Stalins, He is their God, not mine.” MA

“Where have you been all during the war?” AG
“Where have I not been? In Bialystok, in Vilna, Kovno, Shanghai, later in San Francisco. I experienced the full range of Jewish woes.” MA

“In all America you cannot get a decent cup of coffee. Hey, waiter! I ordered coffee, not dishwater!” MA

“In New York I found I was home again—they are all here, our people from Lodz and Warsaw.” MA

“I live on pills and faith—but not in God but in my own crazy luck.” MA

“Most of my clients are women, refugees from Poland who haven’t learned to count in dollars. They were driven half-mad in the ghettos and concentration camps.” MA

“The world is turning meshugah. It had to happen.” MA Read the rest of this entry »

The Real United States by Hedy Epstein

Not long after I came to the United States [later 1948], I began to work for the New York Association for New Americans (NYANA) near New York’s City Hall and later in the agency’s shelter on West 103rd Street. The agency brought to the U. S. displaced persons who had been living in displaced persons camps in Germany since the end of World War II. I had daily contact with these persons. With every new boatload of people arriving, I scanned their faces, hoping to find my parents among them. I inquired of them where, in what camp, they had been during the war, hoping someone would be able to provide some information about my parents. None could.

Ethel instructed me in my duties. Her response to my repeated suggestion that we go to lunch together was always, “No.”  Summoning up a lot of courage, I asked her why she did not want to go out to lunch with me. “Don’t you know we cannot go to lunch together,” she said. “Why not?” I asked. She replied: “I cannot eat in the places where you can and I am sure you would not want to eat where I eat.” I failed to understand until she explained: “Negroes are not allowed to eat in restaurants frequented by whites.” I was shocked, incredulous. After all, President Lincoln had freed the slaves. That is what I read in history books. I thought therefore there was no more discrimination. This incident served as the catalyst for my involvement in the civil rights movement, always as a protestor and later, also, professionally.

In Gratitude for Serge Klarsfeld by Hedy Epstein

I attended the 1983 Gathering of Holocaust Survivors in Washington, D.C., where I received a message from my Father, 43 years after he gave it to a fellow concentration camp prisoner in Camp les Milles in France. It was the closest I felt to my Father since I left Germany.

I was sitting at a large round table with a group at the Gathering, among them Kurt Maier, whom I last knew in Kippenheim as a boy about 6 years younger than I. He told me he had a present for me. He showed me a well-worn notebook that his own father had kept while in the camp. The elder Maier and his family had promising arrangements to come to the United States. In the notebook, he collected messages from his fellow prisoners to deliver to family and friends, if he survived. Among them was a message from my Father. He hoped that he and my Mother would be able to come to the United States in the not too distant future. When handed the notebook, I looked at it with almost paralyzing shock. I touched the page. I thought perhaps my Father had touched it and I was touching him. I felt his presence there.

Looking over the books for sale at the Gathering, I came across Serge Klarsfeld’s most startling opus, Memorial to the Jews Deported from France, which contains a list of more than 80,000 names of Jews deported to the “East” or killed in France. Not all were French Jews; they came from over 50 countries. Each entry includes name, birth date and birth place, and, in most instances, the destination, e.g., Auschwitz. A description of each convoy is also included. An article in the New York Times Magazine states: “… It is just by chance that the lists of names of the deportees survived. Each passenger list for the convoys sent to the East was typed in four copies. Two went with the convoys and were destroyed, as was the copy kept at the transit camp (Drancy). But the Germans allowed the Jewish Community Council in Paris to keep a copy. By the time the Germans fled the city in 1944, the defunct Council was forgotten. So were the copies of the lists. When Serge found them in a crate in a French Jewish archive not far from his office, they were faded and crumbling …. Sometimes the names were all but illegible….”
Read the rest of this entry »

The Good News, 3.4.2017

The Good News is that Dianne Lee sent me the following letter, which reminds me of Hedy’s sharp wit, deep commitment to the Palestinian people, and support of people seeking justice.

Hedy letter to Burke

Saturday Share the Wealth: The Last Two Months with Hedy Epstein

Local and global activist Hedy Epstein  was diagnosed with cancer in early April of this year. She died at the age of 91 in late May.

This week’s Share the Wealth will be  stories  by several of Hedy’s care givers who accompanied her  in the last weeks of her life.

Join us
SATURDAY 8 October 2016
Potluck dinner begins at 6:00 pm
Sharing begins at 6:45
At the home of Fatima Rhodes
4406 A Laclede Avenue
Central West End
Saint Louis



Hedy, on the right; Gaza Freedom March; Cairo, 2010

A Jewish Vocation

This week I finished Marcel Reich-Ranicki‘s autobiography,  The Author of Himself.  He was a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto and the foremost literary critic in post-war Germany.  As I read him, I thought of my friend Hedy Epstein, whose family, like Reich-Ranicki’s, was killed in the Holocaust.  She admitted that from 1945 to 1970, she hated all things German until she had a surprising insight. Read the rest of this entry »

Gratitude for Friday 29 April

In the course of this day
Being face to face with…
Joanie French
Hedy Epstein
Anna Piller
Patrick Cousins
Lena Salameh
Jeneane Salameh
Amaly Yossef
Aroona Toor
Imman Musa
Courtney Barrett
Andrea Scarpino
Justin Lorenz
Sherri DeRousse
Jessie Sarber
April Ulinski
Savannah Sisk
My cup runneth over

On the Phone with Hedy

Even her detractors might agree:
Two of Hedy Epstein’s characteristics—
Pertinacity and indomitability

I’ll add a third and fourth
Tenderness and compassion
As when I called her from Ramallah

To explain why I was unable the day before
To pick up her and friends at Ben-Gurion Airport
After their long flight from Saint Louis

The IDF had detained me and friends for hours
Granting me the most infinitesimal taste
Of what Palestinians routinely undergo

Hedy took this in …
Then the tremulous softness in her voice as she asked
“Did … they … torture … you?”