My Journey: A True Life Story

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Today’s Inspirational Story is submitted by Sarah Feinberg Sverdlin.

You have been invited to a glimpse into Sarah Feinberg Sverdlin’s Journey. Enjoy.

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So, every life story has a beginning and mine began when I stepped onto the gangway of the big ship, the one headed to the golden Medina, America.

This is not a village tale, nor a shtetl story, no it’s bigger than that. Bigger and grander than the little shteeb I came from.

So there it was, the funny blue Hamburg sky , the painted curtain behind which lay the staircase of our descent Into the dim light of steerage. We were just so many steer, steeds, cows, bulls, and old bearded goats.

I have nothing to tell about the middle passage. I only tell you the excitement I felt as I stepped onto the deck eying the great liberty lady bearing the torch, making a shining pathway In the murky water of the east river guiding me from A life of darkness ignorance and persecution onto the teeming shore of opportunity, money and enlightenment through education.

I could neither read nor write. I had nothing in my hands but a few rags, and my hat. And my other hand holding papa’s. My handsome papa.


Why he chose me, a 14 year old uneducated unaccomplished girl, to accompany him was an enigma, a blessing, a riddle.

But papa had nothing but girls and his oldest was Molly who had preceded him to America where she got married.

So I, being the next available healthy girl, was lucky. I left mama, Dora, Ruthie, and little Eva, behind. We would work and bring them over.

We worked long days and we did bring them With the help Of our one true God, master of the universe, Allowing us to do his work.

However, I had no time for prayer, less time to keep kosher, and Papa was barely able to say his own obligatory prayers.

I was a Mandela, a maiden girl, so I never wore a shetel, the ugly wig meant to lessen A married hausfrau’s attractiveness.


We worked in the sewing factory, the sweat shop, much like the one that burned down with the mostly female machine operators inside, (the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist factory.)

We worked 7 am to 7 pm with a 30 minute lunch and bathroom break.

To the Jewish newspapers we entered story contests, wrote pathetic questions seeking romantic advice and reading Yiddish stories full of pathos and bathos, whatever that means.

I started my own towel route on my floor. 5 cents per towel per week or some other small amount for a fresh clean towel.

Each day of the workweek . We worked 6 days per week. Do the math.
I had two skirts and two shirts. Not much else . Wash one outfit daily and wear the other while it dried on the fire escape, our iron staircase balcony.

We went to the Yiddish theatre, the movies, the vaudeville halls for our short hiatus from the hellish workload.
That is only the beginning of my journey, but where there is a beginning there is middle and beyond.

To Be Continued.

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