Has an article of clothing ever saved your life? Here’s my friend Lydia’s story:
My jacket saved my life.
Coming down the stairs of my elementary school, I heard the boys yelling derogatory racial slurs. They were coming for me.
I am Jewish.
They needed someone to blame for their trouble.
I was the target.
Even at eleven years oldI knew that anti-Semitism was something I had to endure.
I am Jewish.
The beating from the boy in my class left me bleeding, bruised and in a heap on the ground. The black jacket that sheltered me from the winter elements provided just enough cushion to protect my internal organs.
He could have killed me.
Six months later, that beating endangered my life once more when I needed emergency stomach surgery. Providentially,a visiting surgeon “just happened” to be at the remote hospital where I was rushed. He was a God–send.
As my dear friend Lydia told me of her life in the former Soviet Union, my heart ached for her lost childhood. No child should have to endure such hatred. No wonder at the age of eighteen Lydia convinced her family to leave. [i]
The emigration process for the Jewish community was humiliating. Labeled as traitors, they were stripped of all identifying documents. Passports (identifying them not as “citizen” but “Jew”) were confiscated.
Temporary refugee visas labeled “REFUGEE” were issued.
Our juxtaposed life experiences are full of contrasts:
While Lydia was fleeing with her family to Italy, I was learning to swim.
I was watching Saturday morning cartoons when Lydia was learning a new language to ensure her survival.
It is hard to relate to someone whose life story is so different from ours. To build bridges of understanding, we need to hear their stories. We need to enter their world. We need to demonstrate the love of Messiah Jesus.
The Jewish people have endured suffering for generations at the hands of so-called Christians. It takes a courageous person to stop baseless hatred ̶ confronting one ugly comment or violent attack at a time.
Our voices can be heard over the shouting. The consequences might mean we suffer alongside God’s people. That is the model of Israel’s Messiah Jesus, a man of suffering and acquainted with grief. [ii]
It would have only taken one person to stop Lydia’s beating.
Next time let it not be a jacket that protects from the blows.
Written by Kori, LIFE Staff Member
Anti-Semitism is on the rise worldwide, with thousands of stories just like Lydia’s. How can we stand against such evil?
Kori adds: When I heard Lydia’s story, I was moved with compassion. I gained a greater understanding of things I never had to endure. Lydia spoke of people who helped her family both physically and emotionally. The moms at her sister’s school befriended Lydia’s mom. Some helped with physical needs and shared information of how American systems work. When we really “listen to hear,” we are able to understand the needs of others and how best to love them.
[i] Between 1987 to 1990 over 220,000 Jewish people fled the Soviet Union; Lydia’s family was among them.