Nueva Esperanza – by Rachel Prizant Kotok

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César gasped after tearing off the wrapping paper. More Legos!

He wanted to give a speech. “En inglés,” he insisted. César cocked his head, glanced at the sky, and contemplated English words. He looked at the dozen people before him.

“Thank you…for…the party.” Gracious words from a bold ten-year-old. Scattered tissue paper and gifts littered the grass in the backyard.

I introduced myself to four Guatemalan women who attended. One asked me in Spanish who the other people were, meaning the white people. Were they from Mariana and José’s church? I explained that we were friends from a Jewish congregation who knew the families living here. Extended pause. Chat resumed; we admired a baby’s sparkly boots.

Our group accompanies a Guatemalan family currently living with the daughter of European Holocaust survivors and her spouse. The accompaniment project is named Nueva Esperanza, New Hope. Accompaniment means solidarity, sanctuary, companionship, and welcoming newcomers who become community. Nine months ago, Mariana and César endured a harrowing journey to reunite with José. At the border detention facility, U.S. Border Patrol agents separated mother and child for days.

But today it’s love, celebration, and birthday cake. Today Legos exist to rebuild a childhood.