I had noticed it before, but for whatever reason hadn't asked and that day as she bent down to pick up a toy I had dropped I saw the numbers and thought to ask. So I asked her what those numbers were and she said that when she was 18 bad men took her away and put those numbers on her arm. I asked her why and she said because they were Jews. And that was all she said and she quickly changed the subject. Yet somehow, I felt this depth of sadness and fear from her that I thereby felt and I felt really scared because I knew that I was a Jew too.
My brother was born on May 11th and it was a beautiful spring day and I knew that the front door was open. I thought to myself we have to close it so that the bad men don't come. So I told her that I needed to go to the bathroom. But I didn't go to the bathroom, I went and closed the screen door, then I closed the front door and leaned against the wood sort of feeling the heft of the wood thinking we'll be okay and then I thought, no, they can get through this. I thought I'll have daddy put in a thick, steel door and then I thought, no, they can get through that. And then I felt this incredible terror and sense of vulnerability.
I think really being faced with the knowledge for the first time that there was bad in the world and people I knew had suffered at their hands because they were Jews and I was a Jew too and therefore I was also at risk and they could come get me too. I was completely convinced that that was inevitable at some point they would come to get me too. I have a very vivid memory of standing in front of the door with the stairwell behind me vowing with all of a four year-olds ferocity that I needed to do whatever I could do to change the world so that there wouldn't be bad men. I really see that moment as where my commitment to social justice and my sense of empathy and connection to other peoples who experienced persecution and suffered from discrimination and prejudice came from.