Service of Trust III

September 8th, 2020

Categories: Hope, Immigration, Trust

Over centuries there have been millions of examples of King Solomon’s choice where mothers give up their children to save them. Nine year old Gittel’s mother did. The character of a prize-winning book, Gittel’s Journey: An Ellis Island Story, written for children six years old and up, Gittel’s experience was inspired by the flight of author Lesléa Newman’s grandmother who also escaped her homeland alone.

In the book Gittel’s mother was refused entry to the ship that was scheduled to take them both to America to flee Nazi Germany. She didn’t pass the health inspection so Gittel made the long journey by herself.

Imagine never seeing your parents again. Gittel did but Newman’s grandmother didn’t.  The tragedy of this loss resonates with many families. “All of my grandparents came through Ellis Island in the very early 1900s,” said David Reich. “Some came with a sibling, but none came with their parents and none of them ever saw or even spoke with their parents after they left Russia, Hungary and Poland, other than by letters.”

Lesléa Newman, author, Gittel’s Journey

At that time, author Newman told Bill Newman last week on WHMP Radio, Northhampton, Mass., “Gittel found her family [in New York] because many people were kind to her on the boat, they created makeshift families and she was taken care of on Ellis Island until her family could be found.”

Nurturing strangers, typical of the period, “stands in such stark contrast to the way the US is reacting to and treating immigrants seeking asylum from Central America and Mexico today,” said Newman, which is what motivated her to write the book to show children–and to remind all her readers–that “there are other choices when a stranger comes to your land.”

“Gittel’s Journey,” magnificently illustrated by Amy June Bates, won a 2020 Christopher Award because it exemplifies The Christophers’ motto, “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” Like the other celebrated authors, illustrators, writers, producers, and directors of 20 winning feature films, TV programs and books for adults and young people the book also “affirms the highest values of the human spirit.”

Would you be able to let go of your child to save him/her? Is there a valid rationale for mistreating innocent children or anyone escaping danger? Will we again return to a caring culture that proudly and aggressively protects the innocent and fragile?

Photo: thechristophersblog.org

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5 Responses to “Service of Trust III”

  1. Lucrezia Said:

    Much depends on the child’s age, personality and ability to cope. Assuming the parents have bothered to get to know their children, there’s a multitude of answers to that question.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Lucrezia,

    Sending away even the most stable, independent, garrulous youngster must be atrocious but if you think that a family or kind person will take care of the child there would be solace in that. These days, if news reports are accurate, you can’t count on that for anyone arriving in this country at all. Gittel, Lesléa’s grandmother and David’s grandparents were all fortunate in this regard.

  3. Martha Takayama Said:

    The book sounds and looks exquisite and important. I plan to read it and give it for a present for my grandchild and two first generation Dominican- Colombin-American little girls.

    The Post reminds of many conversations I had with my grandparents and family members. My mother’s maternal grandparents all came to this country and lived together. My grandfather came with one brother who was older and three beautiful cousins whom they were supposed to look after despite their teenage years and, at least in my grandfather’s case, slight build. My grandfather’s father never left Russian Poland, but his mother came with her youngest child, my great-uncle whose hair supposedly turned white as he hid from the “Bolsheviki” in a forest. None of the trips was pleasant.

    The questions in the post are even more fearful. I don’t feel able to answer about my willingness to let my child go. I can’t think why anyone should ever mistreat innocent children. The most disturbing question of all is whether we can or will ever return to a caring culture. I could never have imagined that we would be as cruel, ignorant, irresponsible, misanthropic and lacking in redeeming values as we are at this time. I don’t know if we can redeem ourselves, but I hope so.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Martha,

    Between authors and illustrators like Lesléa Newman and Amy June Bates and organizations like The Christophers there is hope. We need to amplify their work and spirit to drown out the nasty, mean-spirited voices in the land.

  5. Jim Gordon Said:

    Jim wrote on Facebook: Good post about what appears to be an interesting book. As for me I would’ve dumped my kids anywhere to get rid of them. OKOK you know me better than that, but in a truly desperate situation I guess Gittel’s journey was necessary. You’re a very thoughtful blogger.

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