Blog  I Am: A Poem By Fall 2016 student Em Samuels

I Am: A Poem By Fall 2016 student Em Samuels

Em Samuels, a Fall 2016 student, is a senior from Ventura, California. She is the President and Membership Vice President at VCTRY (Ventura County Temple Reform Youth) and is the regional song-leading chair where she leads children’s services at Torah School. Em also attended URJ Kutz Camp.  

Yesterday I was in Israel, learning about the devastation of the Holocaust. Today, I am in Poland, visiting the places where the devastation happened… where my people lived and died. I wrote this poem today while reflecting on my time in the Warsaw Ghetto.

I am not myself.
I am 4,000 years
of perseverance and determination.
I am the continuation of a people
who have died
so I can be alive.

But I am not myself.
I am the memory
of exodus from Egypt
and the joy
of reaching the Promised Land.
I am the song of hope
for a future generation
that so many prayed for.

But I am not myself.
I am an exiled people,
a people that learned to thrive
and make any place holy.
I am the synagogue
that my ancestors built
to keep their souls above ground
while their loved ones went under.

But I am not myself.
I am one of the unnamed,
one of the many in a mass grave.
I am the hero of the ghetto
that history has forgotten
but whose great-niece
can never forget
because she would not be here
if not for my bravery.

But I am not myself.
I am the tears of joy
on my grandmother’s cheeks
when she realized
that her people had begun
an era of redemption.
I am her laughter
at the moment
when she first held my mother
and knew that she would be safe.

But I am not myself…
I am a Jew.

-Em Samuels, Fall 2016