Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Dear Mrs. Bluth,



Please forgive me if this sounds messed up and unclear, but my head is not in a very clear place right now. Hasn’t been in quite some time. I’m just really tired and can’t write to all the people I know who have been good to me, cared about me and often talked me out of what I’m thinking of doing just as soon as I get up the nerve to actually do it this time. So this is sort of a way to give them closure and to thank them for all their effort, but my life is really not worth it.

There are so many dark days in my life, even from when I was little, my parents came over from another country (Italy) after the war and all they had was the clothes on their back… and me. I have very little recall of my early childhood other than that I was always hungry. Six brothers and sisters followed and my mom died while birthing the seventh. For a while thereafter, we lived with a great-aunt and uncle who beat me when I wanted a sliver more food than was put on my plate. My father had a nervous breakdown and was put into a mental facility where a year later, he died. The aunt and uncle put us in a city run orphan’s home but we were all separated in different places and I lost track of my siblings. I never cared to find them because I didn’t want to know if they suffered as I did, being shuffled from home to home, abused in the worst ways. My one fantasy was that my brothers and sisters had better fortune finding adoptive families that offered them good homes with people who were compassionate and caring. Those thoughts were the only ones that came close to hope that there was a chance for a better life.

When I was sixteen, I saw a newspaper ad for farmhands needed on a milk farm in Iowa, That night I went through my current tormentor’s pockets and stole enough money to get me rides to the farm. The farmer that owned the farm was a big, burley man who took one look at me and threw me across the barn. He said this job was for men, not boys running away from home because they didn’t get what they wanted. He said if I didn’t finish my allotted chores for the day, I wouldn’t get fed and I’d have to sleep in the barn with the cows. It was the height of winter and after sleeping n the barn the first night, I worked my fingers to the bone getting my work done, Things got a bit better after that, but there was no end to the brutality I suffered at the hands of the other hired help. I stayed out my time until I was eighteen. Then I made my way to New York, where my aunt and uncle once lived.

I managed to find work and gained the respect of the people I worked with in spite of the fact that I had very little schooling or normal social contact. You don’t need very much education to work in a large restaurant, you need fortitude and muscle. I had both. Those were the finest days of my life. Abundant food, camaraderie and the first time I felt good about myself. One night, there was a fire that burned down the restaurant and any dreams I might have had for a better life went up in smoke along with the little room I was allowed to sleep in. I was lucky to get out with my life. Having nowhere to go and next to nothing in my pocket, the only place for me became the streets. There is where the real brutality of a life of misery and poverty becomes evident, a place where all hope dies and nothing but darkness to look forward to. Where human beings are reduced to something below animal for a scrap of cardboard or a claim to space to sleep. That is where all hope is lost because there is nowhere lower to sink. But miraculously, amongst the garbage and the filth of human waste there was exquisite goodness and kindness.

There were the kindest people from the big synagogue nearby, who brought food to the dredges of humanity like us. I am not even Jewish but that didn’t matter. Every other day, like clockwork, Hilda would come with some other ladies and bring us sandwiches and warm soup in the winter and always asked us if we wanted to come off the streets and they would help, but no one accepted the offer because once you’re on the streets you never leave. Once I got very sick, almost deathly sick, and when Hilda and her ladies came, she didn’t ask me anything. She sent for some men from the synagogue to come and bring me to their basement. There, she nursed me back to health and offered me small jobs to do so as to maintain my dignity, as she put it. I stayed for a few weeks, but I knew where I belonged. The streets called me back and I went. One day, Hilda didn’t come. When I asked one of the other soup kitchen volunteers where she was, they told me she passed away the night before. So G-d chose to take even this from me.

I could fill volumes about all the horror and loneliness that made up my life. But for the moments of pure goodness and light, brought to me by Hilda and her ladies, and Sashi sent by the Rabbi with warm clothes, jackets and blankets in the winters. Zalman, the emissary of good will who always had a joke and pleasant conversation to lift my spirits and give me hope, even when it was way too late for me to hope for anything. David, who had the neighborhood deli often send me a new meat variation to “try out” for his customers, and Yalina, his counterperson who would pass by on her way home and slip me the potato salad that was supposed to come with the sandwich, and the countless many other good hearted, beautiful souls who came from the synagogue every Sabbath and brought me food from a Kiddush. I just about didn’t realize how many beautiful souls, kind hearts and wonderful people had a presence in my life, such as it is. So today, I asked my friend Herman, the Rabbi’s secretary to bring his laptop and I would dictate this letter. I made him promise he would send it to you.

I don’t know if I will go through with my intent, or that day will come tomorrow or the next day. I know that I owe so much payback to my Jewish family in this neighborhood and I didn’t want to leave without saying thank you. The world can say what it wants, that the Jewish people are responsible for all the misery that mankind made for himself, but I know different. I have seen the face of G-d in these people, something so great, loving and powerful, it almost makes one believe there is such an entity and the Jewish people are indeed His children!


Dear Readers,

This came to me via hand-delivered envelope with the following note. I took the liberty of only changing names and locations to protect identity and confidentiality as there were just too many individuals to track down and ask permission they be mentioned in print.

This letter is a special treasure and was meant to resurface all these years later but just at the right time. I do not know the whereabouts of the letter’s author, or whether he is still in the world of the living, but his words bear witness to the great goodness, compassion and mercy that is Klal Yisrael!

My sincerest thanks to Herman’s daughter who completed her father’s wishes to see that this letter, lying dormant these past twelve years, finally reach its destination. Have no fear, there was nothing cryptic that requires omission. The letter appears exactly as the writer dictated it save for name and location changes. In the zechus of the amazing things caring and wonderful people can bring about through goodness, love and compassion for one poor, lonely homeless person, may we all merit the Geulah bimhayra, b’karov b’yomainu, Amen.


Mrs. Bluth,

This was found amongst my father’s papers and I wasn’t sure if you are the person it was meant to go to. My father, Herman, passed away three months ago and, while going through his papers, I came across this letter. I don’t know if he forgot to mail it or misplaced it, but I think it was meant for your column. Since the envelope was sealed, and I sent it to you as is and unopened even I am curious as to what he was writing to you about.

Please use your discretion if there are personal issues that should not appear in print and respectfully not print it. It is enough that I honored his wishes, albeit belatedly, because I know he meant for it to reach you.

Herman’s Daughter

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