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Looking Beyond


I was very clueless on the whole Jewish religion until I met Nancy. She would always answer all my strange questions and I would always be grateful for that. I never could understand why she could not eat what the rest of us were eating but I always knew she would explain it to me again. She would bring her own food and her pots and always some sort of treat for everybody when she came.

— Jessica Baiucchi

Her commitment to her faith never ceased to amaze me. At first I was puzzled—why did she not turn the TV on some mornings when I knew she liked hearing the weather first thing? What would happen if she was in the car on Friday after the sun set? What was the deal with the money on Saturdays? I didn’t understand at first, but gradually I saw more and I began to understand and appreciate the beauty of her Sabbath.

— Loren Launen

IT HAPPENED IN THE CITY of Minsk. A young Christian girl was found dead. It did not take long for the mob to gather, demanding Jewish blood to avenge her death. The Minsk police, attempting to maintain a show of decency, piously explained to the anxious Jews that they would not be able to restrain the mob from seeking retaliation—unless the killer was found.

A Jewish fellow by the name of Ashkenazi went to the police and “confessed” to the killing. Everyone in town, including the police, knew that Ashkenazi was innocent. Everyone knew that he was offering himself as a sacrifice, to spare his fellow Jews another devastating pogrom.

The sacrifice was accepted. Ashkenazi was hanged to satisfy the bloodthirsty appetite of the mob, and the anticipated pogrom did not materialize. For years afterward, the entire Jewish community of Minsk would light a yahrtzeit candle and recite kaddish for his soul on the day of his death.

This story is not unique to our people. Rashi relates (Taanit 18b) a heart rending tale of one such blood libel that took place long ago, in the city of Lod. When a king’s daughter was found dead one day, the city’s Jews were accused of killing her and sentenced to a collective death—until a pair of Jewish brothers stood up and “confessed” to having committed the crime. The king had the two put to death in place of the entire community. In this way, these two holy individuals redeemed great numbers of their falsely accused brethren.


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Acknowledgments Introduction Testimonies Photo Gallery 1 Reflections from Nancy's Mother