How to Spot One of Us by Janet Kirchheimer

CLAL, the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership
ISBN 13: 978-0-9633329-8-1
114 pages


Review by: Sally Lipton Derringer

There is every reason to read How to Spot One of Us. There’s the pleasure of witnessing a poet unafraid to listen, so that she may truly hear. There’s the grace with which this poet takes what she hears and makes it speak. As we listen to this talented new voice that speaks so eloquently for those who lost their lives in the Holocaust, for those who have lived through it, and for their children, we cannot help but hear. It is not often that we get the opportunity to learn what we thought we already knew.
There are poems that speak about her family’s experiences and poems that speak about Ms. Kirchheimer’s personal experiences. In poems such as “Lunchtime,” “Grand Central Station,” “At the Butcher’s,” and “Jury Duty,” the objects and activities of the everyday world become chilling representations of the Holocaust. A pizza oven turns sinister; riding a crowded subway or taking a number at the butcher shop induces sudden panic; waiting to find out if one has been selected for jury duty hits a little too close to home — home being that place where the stories of the Shoah have been passed down from parent to child and survive. The poems are a kaddish for her family, as Rabbi Irving “Yitz” Greenberg states in his Introduction, and give “life to the dead and compassion to the living.”

In this expertly crafted, profoundly moving book of poems, surely destined to be one of the most important books of the year, Ms. Kirchheimer proves that the voices of the Holocaust can never be silenced.