Jewish books - favorite Jewish children's books, Jewish teen books and Jewish inspirational books with sample chapters and stories online.


Jewish children's books-middle grades

Jewish children's books-young teen books

Jewish teen books

Jewish books - Jewish inspirational books

Links to Jewish educational sites

site map

Jewish books - Jewish children's books



A Light for


This book is based on the play "The Guiding Light" by
Eva Vogiel and Ruth Steinberg.

First published 1992
Copyright  1992 by
Eva Vogiel and Ruth Steinberg

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Vogiel, Eva.
Summary: A young Russian girl struggles to keep her Jewish
traditions alive in a Victorian orphanage in England run by a
cruel headmistress.

FOB 35002 / Jerusalem, Israel

200 Airport Executive Park
Spring Valley, NY 10977

Printed in Israel



In loving memory of my wonderful parents

Their example has always been my guiding light.

Ruth Steinberg

In memory of my dear father-in-law
and in love and appreciation to my mother-in-law
whose strength and stamina sustained them and their children
through difficult times during the war.

Eva Vogiel

We also dedicate this book to the girls
who took part in our play, "The Guiding Light,"
on which we based this story.

Chapter 1


THE LONG RAYS of the setting sun cast
a rosy glow over the picturesque Russian village.
At such a moment, one could be excused for be-
lieving that Brodzhynev was a haven of peace and
contentment. People could be seen making their
leisurely way along the main road, some stopping
to make last-minute purchases as the shopkeep-
ers prepared to close and shutter their shops for
the night, while others turned straight into the
winding side streets, to the simple wooden shacks
that were their homes. The only indication that
all was not well in the village was the occasional
anxious look that the Jewish inhabitants threw
over their shoulders as they hurried past.

In fact, this autumn of 1877 was a particu-
larly harrowing time for the Jews of Brodzhynev.
Hardly a day went by without the Cossack sol-
diers marching in and seizing some hapless young

man suspected of evading army service. Their
manner was brutal and they turned a deaf ear to
the desperate pleadings of their captive's family,
who feared they would never see their loved one


In her small, humble home Anya Aronowitch
sat rocking her baby daughter, trying to lull her-
self at the same time into a sense of well-being.
She had everything to live for. Eighteen months
ago she had married Avraham Aronowitch, a
good, kind, dependable young man, who had been
one of the best students in the yeshiva. And now
they had a beautiful little daughter, Miriam, for
whom Anya thanked Hashem constantly.

Every morning Avraham rose at five o'clock
to study Torah with a neighbor before saying his
morning prayers. Then he would set off to work,
ploughing fields and doing other farm work on
the estate of a wealthy landowner in the neigh-
boring village. But before he left in the mornings,
he would bring in the chopped wood from the
woodpile outside and stoke up the iron stove in
which Anya did her cooking.

Now, after a busy day doing her housework,
Anya sat in the shabby old rocking chair her fa-
ther had given her, cradling her baby hi her arms.
She looked around the room proudly: Though her
little home was humble and contained only the
barest of necessities, she loved it dearly. There
was a crisp, starched cloth on the table and

the meal she had cooked for her husband was
bubbling on the stove. As she sat awaiting his
return, she clung desperately to the feeling of
contentment she had striven to conjure up, wish-
ing she could control the sensation of fear and
panic rising within her.

The baby began to whimper. Anya rocked
her gently, singing a soothing lullaby, one that
she remembered her own mother singing to her
when she was a child.

Sleep, my child

Rest, my child

Though stormy times surround us.

Do not fear

Hashem is near

His protection is all around us.

It's not for us to question "Why?"
Hashem is watching us on high.
Make Yiddishkeit your guiding light,
Keep your emunah forever.

The baby smiled at her and Anya caught
sight of a tiny white speck shining in her mouth.
Could it really be - or was she imagining it?
Gently she ran her finger along the gum and, sure
enough, she could feel something sharp. Pulling
the baby's lower lip down slightly, she peered
into her little mouth - and there it was, quite
unmistakably: a new tooth! She hugged her little

daughter excitedly, momentarily forgetting her

A knock at the door startled her for a mo-
ment, until she realized it was Avraham's usual
signal - three soft taps and one loud one. She put
the baby down in her cradle and hurried to the

"Oh, Avraham!" she cried as she flung it open.
"Guess what! Our little Miritchka has cut her first
tooth! I've just discovered it this minute. Oh, do
come and see it!"

Taking a minute to hastily bar the door, Avra-
ham took off his coat, draped it over a chair and
strode to the cradle. "Come on, little one," he
crooned, picking the baby up. "Open your mouth
and show your Papa what a clever girl you are!"

The baby gurgled happily and her father
peered into her mouth and smiled. Then he closed
his eyes and sighed deeply.

A feeling of alarm gripped Anya. "Avraham,
is anything the matter? Has something happened
in the village?"

Avraham gently put the baby down and
rocked the cradle for a few moments before re-
plying. "They came for Shimon Moskov and the
Shulkin brothers today," he said softly, almost in
a whisper.

"Oh, no!" Anya cried out in distress. Olga
Moskov was her Mend and she could not bear
to think of the anguish she must be suffering,

deprived of her husband after only three weeks
of marriage. And what about old Mrs. Shulkin?
Since she had become a widow she had relied com-
pletely on her two sons. How would she manage
without them? "Oh, these Cossacks!" Anya's voice
was bitter and her eyes filled with tears. "Why
must they pick on us? Can only Jewish men fill
their army?"

"Anya..." Avraham blurted, grave urgency in
his tone, "if they come for me, promise me...."

"No! No!" Anya's agonized cry interrupted
him. "They mustn't take you! It just can't happen!
What would I do?..."

"Listen, Anya, we must face the fact that it
might happen...."

"No, no, no!" Anya covered her face with her
hands and began to weep hysterically.

"Anya! Try to calm yourself!" Avraham said
sternly, hating himself for speaking to her in that
tone but knowing that he had to. "Time may be
short and we must decide what you should do.
Please, Anya!"

Anya stopped crying immediately. She
gulped and wiped her eyes, a look of guilt and
remorse on her face. "I-I'm sorry, Avraham. I will
try. Tell me, what should I do if they...if they,.."
she began to sob again, unable to put the terrible
thought into words.

"If the Cossacks do come for me," her husband
said quietly, "you must not stay here. It can't be

safe for you or little Miritchka. What if there's a

"But where else could I go?"

"I want you to make your way to England."

'"In England!" Anya gasped. "So far away? I
might never see you again!"

"On the contrary  there is more chance this
way. If I am taken to the army I will try to
escape...I don't know how, or when, but I will
keep trying. If I succeed, I can't come back here
- this is the first place they would look. So, I too
will make my way to England and with Hashem's
help, I will find you. There must be some sort
of Jewish organization in England, probably in
London, the capital, that looks after refugees.
Try to contact them - and I will do the same."

"But how will I get to England? I wouldn't
know how to begin!"

"Listen now, and listen well, Anya! I have
it all worked out. Boris Petrov, who works with
me on the farm, lives in a cottage at the edge
of the forest. You can't miss it - it has freshly
whitewashed walls and the door is painted yellow.
In his front garden you will see a dovecote - he
is very fond of pigeons. Make your way to his
cottage and he will take you in his wagon to a
nearby port..."

"This Boris," Anya asked anxiously, "is he
Jewish? I could only trust another Jew."

"No, but I know him well and you can trust
him. I have already spoken to him and arranged
everything. He knows the captain of a small ship
that sails regularly to Europe. Boris will negotiate
a price with him. It might mean that you will have
to give away most of our savings, but at least you
and little Miritchka will be safe!"

"But Avraham, there is something I don't
understand. Why do we have to wait until - God
forbid  the Cossacks come? Why can't we all flee
at once, now, to England and be safe together?"

Avraham shook his head. "If only we could!"
he cried. "But it's not possible. If I were caught
I would be shot..." Anya shuddered at her hus-
band's words. "Boris tells me that this captain is
not too fond of Jews - and that, moreover, having
been a soldier himself for many years, he is very
intolerant of anyone who tries to evade serving in
the army. However - and this is the point, Anya
- he is always willing to help a young woman
in distress, and Boris suggests you tell him that
your husband has run away, deserted you and the
baby, and that your only relatives have settled in
England and will be able to offer you and the baby

a home."

Anya frowned. "But Avraham, you know I'm
not good at telling lies or pretending. I'm not sure
I could carry it off..."

"You'll manage," her husband said encourag-
ingly. "And you know, one can do many things
which seem inconceivable, in order to save one's

life. You can leave most of the talking to Boris. By
the time he's finished he'll have the old captain
weeping tears of pity... And Anya, you must never
forget that Hashem is always with you. You will
not be alone."

Three loud raps on the door interrupted him.
He turned pale and gazed speechless at Anya as
the color drained from her face too.

"I-is it them?" she whispered tremulously.

"I think so..." Avraham replied, his voice

They stood motionless, two pale figures
rooted to the spot. The knocking was repeated,
this time with even greater insistence.

"I'd better open it," Avraham said in a hushed
voice, "or they'll break the door down."

Anya stood twisting her fingers as she
watched Avraham stride to the door and pull
it open, and she gasped at the sight of the two sol-
diers who loomed in the doorway, unmistakable
in their Cossack uniforms. As soon as they were
inside they drew their shiny bayonets and stood
erect, rigid and formidable, their faces dark and

"Avraham Aronowitch?" Their harsh voices
bode evil.

"Yes?" he answered.

"You are required to serve the Czar. Come!"

Without further ado, they grabbed him and
marched him out, leaving Anya, shocked and

stunned, staring at the empty doorway. She stood
frozen for a few moments as the realization of
what had occurred penetrated her mind. It had
all happened so quickly that she wondered if she
were dreaming.

But she soon began to grasp the fact that this
was no nightmare, but stark reality. Hopelessness
and desolation swept over her, almost crushing
the breath out of her body. With a weak cry, she
flung herself into the rocking chair and began to
weep uncontrollably, soaking the faded old canvas
with her tears. The baby began to cry and Anya
rocked the cradle with her foot, unable to pick
her up. When at last she managed to wrench
herself out of despair enough to nurse the child,
she sobbed over her the whole time.

"Poor...little Miritchka..." she heaved be-
tween sobs, "your Papa is gone... Oh, what will
become of us?"

As if she understood, the baby wailed loudly,
her cries pulling at Anya's heartstrings.

It was hours later that Anya, her tears fi-
nally spent, made some attempt to think ratio-
nally about her situation. But her thoughts were
muddled. What was it Avraham had said? Boris
Petrov...a cottage by the forest...pigeons...would
take her in his wagon...a ship...tell the captain...

The strain of trying to plan was too much
for Anya and, utterly exhausted, she fell into an
uneasy sleep.

When she awoke, shivering, it was still dark.
She shook herself, wondering why she was sleep-
ing in the chair, and suddenly the memory flooded
back. She fought back tears that threatened to
spill out again. She must not give in to despair
now. There were things to be done, and now she
remembered Avraham's instructions with perfect
clarity. But when should she go? It was not safe
to venture out in the dark. On the other hand,
if she waited for daylight, news of her husband's
arrest would have spread through the village and
her well-meaning friends and neighbors would all
come flocking in to comfort her and, no doubt, try
to dissuade her from fleeing. No, she would leave
at the crack of dawn, when she would have just
enough light to guide her, and the inhabitants of
Brodzhynev would hopefully still be asleep.

She began to move about the little house
mechanically, preparing for her departure. The
fire in the stove had burned itself out, leaving
a chill in the room. Anya shivered and stared
ruefully at the pot still on the stove. Avraham
had not even had the chance to eat his supper. He
must be hungry. Where was he now? What was
he doing? She shivered again and shook herself,
trying to push these upsetting thoughts from her
mind. She peered into the pot. The stew had
become completely dried out. Without appetite,
she forced herself to consume some of it so that

she would have strength for the journey. Then
she gathered the most important items out of her
meager belongings, and as many baby clothes
and blankets as she could manage, and tied them
into a bundle. Soon she could hear the first birds
outside, beginning to chirp their dawn chorus,
and parting the curtains a little, she peered out
and saw that the darkness had lifted slightly. It
was time to go.

She picked up her daughter, fed her and
dressed her warmly. Then she put on her own
coat, pulling the collar up over her ears, and
looked about the room to make sure she had not
forgotten anything. Suddenly her eye fell upon
the silver candlesticks standing on the shelf
Her mother's candlesticks! She could not leave
those behind! She remembered how her father
had given them to her on her wedding day.

"I had these specially made for your mother,
and I gave them to her on our wedding day," he
had told her with tears in his eyes. "There isn't
another pair like them in the world. Use them
to light your Shabbos candles and you will keep
your dear mother's memory alive."

Lovingly, Anya packed the heavy candle
sticks into her bundle. Then she wrapped the
baby up in a woolen shawl and, reaching the
door, allowed herself one last brief look at her

modest little home, where she had hoped to live
so happily. Blinking away a tear, she turned and
noiselessly closed the door behind her. As she
hugged her child close, she whispered a prayer to
God for safety and protection for them all. Then
she stepped into the street and began to make
her way toward an unknown destination...and an
unknown future.


return to Jewish books for children in middle grades


Home   Jewish children's books-middle grades   Jewish children's books-young teen books    Jewish teen books   Jewish books - Jewish inspirational books   site map