by Pnina Moed Kass

What Would Be Sufficient?

I wanted so many things but more than anything I wanted
to write.
If only I could write.
My parents taught me words in Russian, French,
German, English.
I added words of my own. In a new home, new words— words
in Hebrew.
I shoveled the words like coal into bins, to keep me
warm—community words, story words, Bible words,
wife words, mother words, words from my childhood,
blessing words.

I was afraid of some words—old, forget, remember.

And on top I piled the words of Israel—war words,
peace words.

Long words: negotiation, mediation, reconciliation, repatriation,
conflagration, nation.
Short words: die, dying, dead, death, calm, truce, border,
silence, hope.
I pried open words that were shut like shells and spilled the
meat into sentences and pages and books.
With the arrogance of my craft I imagined I would find the
words to part the sea, banish the evildoers, herald the
light. I didn’t.

Hate. Love. Let me have the words to bridge them and 1 will
say Dayenu.

Dayenu, “it would be sufficient,” is the refrain of the Passover seder

Pnina Moed Kass has lived in Israel for 36 years—the third country she has made her home. Much of her writing has dealt with the struggle, or pain, or victory of an “outsider.” “Five Words,” an IRAYA Short Story winner, is about a young girl whose mother heroically throws her off a train bound for a concentration camp. When the girl reaches Israel she struggles to become part of kibbutz society. A series of seven picture books in Hebrew, “Berele,” portrays a snail who yearns to be as strong, or as fast, or as adventuresome as the animals around him. “Mr Shaabi” (in a UNICEF anthology) is about an Iraqi Jew trapped in the bombardment of Baghdad. Real Time (Clarion 2004) is a novel about people involved in suicide bus bombing. From the 16-year-old suicide bomber, to the Arab doctor, to the new immigrant from Odessa, to a teenager from Berlin, they are all outsiders.

Writing from the Outside

The articles in this special section:

A Jew Amid the Alien Corn

by Michelle Edwards

The Hobo Book Exchange

by Barbara Feinberg

Politics Make Her a Stranger

by Deborah Heiligman

The Shame of Being Smart

by Francine Klagsbrun

Writing to Become Whole

by Miriam Stone

Growing Up Weird

by Ellen Kushner

Uptown Jews, Downtown Jews

by Susan Goldman Rubin

At Last! I Didn’t Belong!

by Emily Nussbaum

What Would Be Sufficient?

by Pnina Moed Kass


by Carol Snyder

My Country is Judaism

by Susie Morgenstern

An Israeli Foster Mother

by Galila Ron-Feder-Amit

In Favor of Outsiderhood

by Rebecca Alban Hoffberger

An Adult Can Be Your Best Friend

by Kathy Walden Kaplan