by Karin Terebessy
The time traveler was back. Tall and thin, standing in front of a low hanging clothesline, flapping with yellowed linens. He was fifty--or sixty--years old, with a gray wash of stubble on his angular cheeks. But he stood straight and strong, in a soldier's uniform. Well muscled and lean. Eyes sharp, dark blue, squinting as he surveyed the ghetto.
Leo recognized him immediately.
Heart lively, Leo swiftly wound his way past the market, the gates, the wire, and finally fell against the crumbling facade of the boarded up butcher shop.
"You're back," Leo said breathlessly. Just shy of twenty-five, the short sprint had none-the-less tired him. "You still look too healthy," he managed. "It's good I spotted you first. Come. We've been working on your project."
Leo took a steadying breath and pushed himself upright. Swooping beneath the clothesline, he ducked into the alley. People sat in piles, threadbare blankets about their shoulders. They glanced at the scene of an old soldier marching behind Leo, then looked away.
"In here," Leo said finally, nodding to a small hole in the side of the building, where brick had caved in and left a hollow.
The sounds of the men were already audible. Nine of them, together, practicing kaddish. Their voices rich--tenor, baritone, bass--rising and falling, like a song.
Two months earlier, the time traveler had appeared, and taught Leo the mourner's Kaddish. Leo enjoyed the visit, but it was over too quickly, his agile brain easily memorizing Kaddish, even with all its graceful nuances.
Almost as though it were a parting gift, the time traveler gave Leo a job--assemble a Minyan of ten men, and teach it to them.
"My grandfather died in this ghetto," the time traveler had admitted, looking off into the gray sky. "I can't change that, but a Minyan reciting kaddish for the dead won't change history. At least I can do that for him."
It was a challenge to find men up to the task. Many men had the education, the linguistic skill, the talent for song. But Kaddish required daily recitation for a year. What Leo needed was to find men with the faith that they would be alive for that long.