When Shifra Miodownik, aged eight, brought an American sailor home
Autobiographical writing, 2010, commissioned by Julie Meadows
Drummond Street was full of Jewish families with lots of kids. Most of my friends were Jewish and like me they spoke Yiddish at home, but we spoke English between ourselves. The street was our second home. We were lucky to have a median strip as our playground. In 1943-4 we often saw American sailors in Melbourne. One Friday, in the late afternoon, an American sailor approached me while I was playing ball and asked me if I knew where Jewish people lived. I told him that I was Jewish. He told me that he was hoping to share a Shabbat dinner with a Jewish family. I immediately invited him home. A neighbour, Mendel Lasky, was standing at his gate, having just come home from work. He was alarmed to see me with a sailor and came over to see what was going on. I was a “latch-key kid” because both parents worked late. My mother, who was a remarkably capable lady, had cooked a huge meal before she had gone to work, so the sailor had a beautiful traditional Shabbes meal with us that night. He spoke a passable Yiddish. We never kept in touch, but for many years after, people liked to tell of when Shifra Miodownik, aged eight, brought an American sailor home for Shabbes.