A meaningful Star of David makes its debut

I made a promise to myself on the day of the Tree of Life Synagogue massacre in my native Pittsburgh: I would no longer go out in public without something identifiably Jewish around my neck. I have stars, Hamsas, even a miniature State of Israel made there from the metal of a scud rocket. I have silver and gold to match any outfit. As if that were the important thing, which of course it is not…
What is important: I can finally let go of the shaming insult I received as a teenager from a shoe salesman. Too bad my feet are long and narrow and hard to fit; what he commented on was the necklace I was wearing. And what he said was, “You Star of David girls are never satisfied with anything.” I didn’t wear anything identifiably Jewish after that — except in Jewish settings only — my Boubby the Philosopher’s old star, set with bits of marcasite that sparkled like diamonds.
She gave it to me immediately after my wedding, just before my husband and I left for New York to be unit directors at a big Jewish camp in the Catskills. I put it on and never took it off until, in mid-August, the chain broke, and I put the star aside to await my next chance to shop for a replacement. But it never happened, because that same night, the staff residence in which we lived burned to the ground, taking Boubby’s star along with it. I’ve tried for years to replace it, but — as the old saying goes — “close, but no cigar.”
That lost star isn’t my favorite story. This one is: When Fred and I visited Poland, first we saw the Holocaust horror sites, but then we visited one of the country’s other main draws: the Wieliczka Salt Mine in Krakow. It’s really an underground museum, since miners over centuries have carved statues in that salt. Down we went on an elevator with other visitors for a long look. Previously, in both Warsaw and Krakow, I had visited shop after shop stocked with items carved from the ubiquitous amber of that area, looking in vain for any Jewish star. There were hundreds and thousands of crosses in all sizes, but not a star anywhere. Should I have been surprised? Frustrated.
I just abandoned my search.
But of course, this mine, like most tourist attractions, had a gift shop, where I gave my hunt one last try: “Do you have any six-pointed stars?” I asked the young woman behind the counter. “A Jewish star?” She answered no, which didn’t surprise me. But as I started to walk away, she called me back to wait a moment. And, reaching under her counter, she brought up a small box of odds-and-ends, pulling from it a pair of earrings — small, dangling stars of silver, each centered with amber. I asked no questions, paid whatever she wanted and brought my treasure home.
I do not wear earrings, having been warned never to put any weight on either ear ‘way back in 1969, when I had surgery to remove a tumor from behind the right one. So, I took these to a jeweler friend, who formed a pendant for me — one star atop the other. Today was my day to wear it for the first time since the massacre.
Since making that personal promise to wear a Jewish symbol every day for the rest of my life, I have done so. And no one yet has ever made a comment on anything that was hanging around my neck. Sorry to disappoint you, but today (which was a week before you’re reading this), nobody said a word, either. I’m disappointed, myself. And I puzzle over this: Are my most treasured symbols invisible? Well, it doesn’t matter: It was enough just to be a proud, public Jew, wearing what may well have been the last Jewish stars left in Poland.

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