A tribute to Esther Shayna, a virtuous woman
When we think of Queen Esther, the first thing that comes to mind is that incredible Jewish woman who saved the children of Israel from the disastrous decree of King Achashverosh. At every moment in history we always find people who inspire us and transmit precious teachings with their unwavering examples. Time passes and then history and life give us more extraordinary beings capable of doing great things for their neighbors. Shavei Israel is pleased to present one such modern time hero: Esther Shayna.
Our dear Esther was born in Cuba and had to leave by fleeing to the United States. Her parents put her on a very small plane, in the Pedro Pan program, where the children were sent alone to the United States. It was not known when there would be a family reunification.
Esther went four years without seeing her parents, who stayed in Cuba taking care of her family. Esther tells us, “I had the enormous blessing of being reunited with my parents after four years of uncertainty. At 9 months, my father passed away and my mother and I faced life in New York, alone. The Jewish composer Leonard Cohen wrote, ‘There is a crack in everything: that is how the light gets in.’ That was his motto; he certainly had to go through a lot and in the end came the blessing of the Torah.
Esther was a girl and she was taken in time of communism that was shadowing the future of the Caribbean island. Just as the Jews were despoiled in the Shoah, so Esther’s family was despoiled. So many years of efforts and sacrifices taken away by a ruthless and greedy regime. They took everything from her, but never her spirit. It is very difficult to destroy the essence of a Jewish soul. These things that she experienced at such a young age would accompany her to the new country in which she would reside for much of her life.
America would welcome Esther with open arms, but sometimes her arms tend to be very strong and not very delicate when it comes to new immigrants especially. The beginning is hard and full of tears and emotions, but that beginning is always necessary to make us stronger and more resilient. Esther grew up and became strong, she also became very intelligent. In her youth she was able to study psychology, education and languages. She also worked for many years for prestigious newspapers and news centers. The natural communication skills that Esther developed helped her a lot in her personal and professional life.
On a strange morning on September 11, 2001, Esther was in the World Trade Center when two commercial airplane were hijacked along with their entire crew by ruthless terrorists and were crashed against the towers of the financial center, thus causing the death of thousands of people. Esther was there breathing the dust and chemicals from the rubble, witnessing death with her eyes, the destruction and desolation caused by the terrible attack. She was already a journalist at that time and had to transmit what was happening in real time, it was her mission and her duty to make known what had happened there. Many hours passed and Esther continued to inhale the dust of despair and chaos. All of these things would cause serious health problems in the future. But she didn’t stop breathing and kept going.
The famous journalist comes from a lineage of prominent Jews who left Spain fleeing the bloody inquisition. They made their long journey to the Caribbean, when it still preserved the blue of its beaches and its sky. They arrived on the island and settled and started a new life. Esther’s grandparents and parents would preserve these customs for a long time and instill the values of the Torah in their descendants for all their generations.
Esther resides in New York City where she lives surrounded by Orthodox Jews. She and her husband Yeshaya are honorable members of this community. She is always helping everyone she meets and has also reached out to many strangers. Yeshaya supports Esther in her works of generosity and shares with Esther the feeling of satisfaction that helping others brings, always with the best intentions and from the depths of her heart.
In Cuba there were and are many Jews dispersed for various reasons. At all ends of the island there were Jewish families who followed the traditions of their ancestors. And many contacted Esther Shayna so that she could help them flee from destruction and hopelessness. Once again, but this time in modern times Esther would have to save her people from oblivion and death.
Even though most of the people of Israel returned to their original land, saving one Jewish soul is equivalent to saving an entire people, a world, and a universe in its entirety, as written in the Talmud. Esther helped many Cuban Jews escape the clutches of an impeccably cruel enemy. She guided them and helped them in whatever was necessary towards the path of freedom. She bought plane tickets that cost fortunes in order to free oppressed souls. She paid for Judaism studies, bought clothes and shoes for those bare and tired feet, made immeasurable sacrifices, giving her all without expecting anything in return. This is Esther, always hidden in her Mitzvot and in her good deeds, never boasting about the good she did or that she does. She always gave all the credit to Hashem and his great mercy.
Esther’s kindness has no limits. And it would take hundreds of articles like this to highlight her value as a human being. A human being who is faithful to her principles and values. She’s always thinking about her neighbor, always thinking about the other person and their needs.
Esther, with her courageous attitude, has saved the lives of hundreds of people. She has given hope back to entire families, she has given a lot of herself for those around her and for her people, Israel.
In these difficult times that Israel faces as a nation, Shavei Israel wants to honor this incredible woman who has been a living example of how a human being should behave in the face of the adversities that he faces daily. She is an honorable daughter of Israel and her people. She always had many reasons to choose evil, but it was quite the opposite, she always chose love, good and life, bringing blessing to many and to her own existence. Confronting evil, face to face, and always challenging it with good actions and mitzvot, Esther is an example for the women of Israel of how a human being should lead her destiny.
May Hashem give her much health and much prosperity, and may He continue to strengthen her in her precious and noble work, which is to assist each Jewish soul every time it knocks on her door.
By Eliav Riera Pérez