Purim in America by Dan Butler

Last time the Russians came to America, it was different. They were us. We were them.
Its cousin Myrtles story, really. She’s the only one left who remembers it first hand. It’s been such a long time. So much has changed.
It was 1913. Myrtle was the youngest of seven children whose father had died from bronchitis at 41, nine years before. America, the "golden land" was a faraway dream. One by one. Myrtle's mother Esther sent her teenage children ahead to America...The equivalent at that time of sending children to the moon today, in hope of a better life. Myrtle remembers the horrible scene when her sister Rivka, then 15, tearfully pleaded with her mother to tell her what she had done wrong that she was being sent away. Only after the train was out of sight did this impoverished single mother, desperate for her children to have a future, break down and sob uncontrollably; an incident from when she was three years old that Myrtle has carried with her for more than 85 years.
As each of her three oldest children arrived in America, they got menial jobs and began to save enough to buy tickets and passports (the priceless “Shif-carten") for their mother and three sisters back in Russia.
When the passports arrived, mother and children were off to America. Take note: when the fanciful yuppified Jews of today reminisce about the glories of shtetl life in Eastern Europe, let them note the departure of Myrtle’s mother, Esther Eta Mirkiss.
She left without a backward glance at an inhospitable land that had devoured the father of her children, who she had learned to cherish since he had married her -an 18-year-old stranger- to avoid the spiritual deficiencies of life in the Czar's army. (It didn't work; he was drafted anyway.) She also left the remains of a three-year-old son, as much a victim of Russian medicine as of Russian disease. She took almost nothing with her. She had nothing to take.
Not even a backward glance. To this day...
Third class, a leaky ship, storms, and a fire on board. Imagine that first sighting of the Statue of Liberty as dawn broke off the coast of their American future.
As they stepped off the boat, mother passed out their ID cards. They joined the line to be interviewed. Myrtle's older sister Sorel, who today might be classified as having Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) ran ahead. An official pulled her out of line-asked her several questions, and sent her off with –unlike everybody else– a big blue “X” marked on her blouse.
She was slated for intensive examination to ascertain her mental condition. She wouldn't pass, and she would be sent back...
But, in some arcane Purim allusion to drawing lots (Purim means lots), when mother handed out the cards, she had handed Sorel her younger sister Chana’a card by mistake.
Ghana was very bright. She could easily pans any test. And after all, the orders they got were for Ghana to be tested... With careful coaching. Chana became Sorel, who was Chana anyway. A masquerade if you will. Purim in America. It worked, of course. Chana was exceptionally bright.
And so, they found themselves in a hearing room where the “judge" asked few perfunctory questions, and then opened the doors of America to Esther Eta Mirkiss and her three children with a smiling “gait gezunt" (go in good health, in perfect Yiddish).
First she cried. Then she laughed. And they hugged and danced and laughed again and cried again.
And now, exactly 80 years later, the story is still told in the family. So that each new generation can always look back to their humble origins. It helps them keep their bearing as they pursue the American dream, and to follow a straight line from the past into the future...The Message of Purim.
A lot has changed in 80 years. Russia and America for sure. Purim though, still has the same message...