Our Ukrainian Guide’s Response


My Back of the Book essay in the Sept. 28 issue of The Jewish Week (“Our Simchat Torah Song”) elicited many interesting phone calls, emails and emotional conversations with friends and acquaintances in the supermarket, on the street, in the subway and in our synagogue.

The most remarkable response was from our exceptional Christian Ukrainian guide, Sasha.

In my essay I wrote about our family’s Simchat Torah song, whose origin, as I learned from a letter my father wrote to me, was in the town of Monastryschte where he first sang it as a child with Tolner chasidim.

Last summer, Sasha brought us from Kiev to Monastryschte and was with us when we stood at the site of two mass graves where we recited Kaddish for the more than 5,000 Jews who were murdered there by the Nazi killers.

Sasha shared an intimate moment in our family’s life, thereby creating a special connection that has been sustained.

I forwarded my essay to her, and with her permission I share this excerpt [from her response]:

“I am so touched to share your memories. While reading your article I again and again feel a deep appreciation to be involved into your family. Your article is so deep to cause emotional concern as for the past relations between our nations not to be repeated in future. I received your letter on the eve of Babyn Yar tragedy (Sept. 29-30) and both your article and recollections of the tours to that ravine, which I have been doing these weeks including Yom Kippur Day, fill my soul with the hope that new generations are in the process of re-evaluation of what happened. And I can be a part of it by doing my job honestly pouring out my heart and facts … .”

Sasha’s response gives hope for the future.

Navah Harlow, founding director Center for Ethics in Medicine, Beth Israel Medical Center, Manhattan