WHO Were You, DORA? A Writing Competition for Love Stories Gives a “Voice” to Three “Forgotten Women”

Qוuirks in time – old letters turn into voices in the present… Naomi’s Photos

I received a surprising letter a few days ago.

I was informed that a writing competition of short love stories inspired by historic letters, had recently taken place.  Someone was inspired by the historic letter I had posted and wrote a short love story, which won first place.

The entries are still not available to the public. I haven’t read the story yet.  Nonetheless, I feel that this story has given a “forgotten woman” from the past, a voice in the present day.

To me, the fact that this short story came into existence actually highlights a line with TWO unhappy women at either end, in addition to an ornery woman in between.

It’s ironic that the historic letter inspired a love story, considering the lives of these two women, but that’s the beauty of art – a moment captured in time can create something that wasn’t there in real life.

Distorted shadows are all that remain… Naomi’s Photos

Back in 2016  I began writing a series of posts in which I, with crowdsourcing help, tried to unravel the mysteries hidden in previously unknown letters written by my mysterious step-great aunt Dvora /Dora before and during WWll (up to 1940) in what was then Poland. The goal was to discover what I could of the short LIFE she lived in Brest, Belarus (then Poland) before its violent end,  most likely on October 15, 1942,  aged 22, at nearby Bronnaya Gora.   ( To see the first post of the series and follow the discoveries, click here:   Who Were You, Dora, One.)

Dora’s life was short and unhappy, we’ll never know if she even experienced her first kiss. Her letters don’t mention anyone – in the period before the ghetto she cared for the house and her father, who perished along with her.

Dora’s letters were written to her much older step-sister Libby/Lillian, who had immigrated to New York when Dora was a child.

The guardian of “lost voices”… Naomi’s Photos

The fact that Lillian kept Dora’s letters isn’t so surprising. At first, they must have been a connection to her past. Then, a memorial to those who perished.

Perhaps having created a physical space to keep letters, Lillian then kept additional letters, from other relatives,  including one from a 16-year-old girl named Haya.

A girl living in a farm school, in the soon-to-become Israel.

What I find mind-boggling is the fact that despite the woman being someone who was, to put it politely,  not known for being warm or “grandmotherly”, was fortunate enough not to have all her old papers chucked into a bin when her cousins’ children cleaned out her apartment after she passed away.

They kept the letters.

Letters that years later made a long journey all the way to me, thanks to them.

Absolutely amazing.

There was a time when her future seemed brighter… Naomi’s Photos

Haya’s letter is dated March 8, 1948.

A dramatic period of change – 3 years after WWII, two months before the Declaration of Independence.

It’s a lovely little letter from a girl describing life at an all-girls farm school in central Israel at that time.

The teenagers studied for about 3 hours every morning and then did farm work for another five hours. There were two groups of young people  – new adolescent immigrants who needed a stable place in which to adjust to their new lives before moving on, and the “local” girls for whom this was their boarding school (though Haya herself immigrated when she was three years old).

They raised Eucalyptus trees at the school. Haya describes how everyone pitched in to fill an order and get SIX THOUSAND  Eucalyptus trees destined for replanting in the arid Negev area out on time.

In the evenings they had gym classes and choir practice. They had a youth movement – sometimes they had fun activities, while other times they discussed current events.

An interesting letter from a historic point of view, though I never would have expected it to inspire a love story!

Letter writing was once “a thing” … (Naomi’s Photos)

I posted the letter on a site called Otzarot – a History in Letters. A national letter archive, in Hebrew. The founders want to show history through the eyes of “regular people”, the kind of people whose lives never made it into newspapers.

A direct link to Haya’s letter, in Hebrew

I posted the letter because I hoped it would somehow let her leave some mark that she was really here.

Haya’s life was a sad one. After a brief, disastrous marriage she became a recluse, working at night and barely interacting with the world.

I  am grateful to the organizers of the story competition. Without having read the short story that the letter inspired, I’m moved that Haya’s letter, written all those years ago, was read and that her existence was remembered.

For me, that is enough.






EFL Video Lessons for ALL Ages – One New Link to Bind Them All!

Look inside and see! Naomi’s Photos

Moving digital platforms is like moving to a new home – you have to sort your possessions, see what you would like to keep, what needs repairing, and what should be thrown out.

I’ve already sorted a large percentage of my EFL video lessons, so I’m sharing the link here today.

(There are still some videos waiting to be “unpacked”…)

The collection is literally for all ages.

The videos are not divided according to age or level, because there is no “right way” to divide them.

It all depends…

You have to stop for a while and choose what to take with you / Naomi’s Photos

The video “The Egghunt”  is clearly meant for younger children, in fact, it is the only video lesson I made explicitly for that age.  The content is too “young” to use with my Deaf and hard-of-hearing high school students, even if the task might be just right for some of them.

However, the “Simon’s Cat” videos work with both younger students and teens, so it all depends on the language aspects you think are suitable for your purpose.

*** The short video lesson “Simon’s Cat – Expectations”, highlighting the verb “to expect” is brand new!

In comparison, the crazy knitting video, which appears in the “Chunks in Context” lesson, uses vocabulary from the “Band 3 vocabulary list” so that does serve as some indication of level…

The only video that is long (10 minutes!!) is there for a reason. Teachers might choose to show their classes the film “A silent Melody”  to students as a way to bring up the topic of inclusion. Regardless of the task that I added with the video.

All other videos are short ones!

So many rooms to go through and pack up, LOL! Naomi’s Photos

In short, many of the other videos can be used for a wide variety of ages.

You will just have to browse and see which ones are right for you!

Here is the link.  I will be posting more!

***Important – In some cases, you will see a form for submitting the task. YOUR students cannot answer using the forms I have posted, their replies will get to me…