Sofya Sara Esther Tamarkin.
Born in the Soviet Union, Tamarkin immigrated from Saratov with her family in 1989 when she was around age 12.
Her journey to Torah Judaism has been more than a journey of intellect & deeds, but also of heart & soul.
Her English writing is superb and possesses a certain depth & dimension beyond articulation, but definitely experience each time coming across a new article of hers.
Here her articles on chabad.org:
And here are her articles on Aish:
Growing up in America, I well remember the plight of the Jewish refuseniks & the stories we heard and the letters we wrote them to show the Russian government we cared, hoping it might offer them some kind of protection.
(Mostly, the letters never arrived to the refuseniks, but were returned obviously opened & carelessly glued shut. The letters mainly signaled to the Russian government that someone cared about the family; someone on the outside was aware of their existence. I've no idea how much it worked for the average refusenik—other than Natan Sharansky, for whom it worked well as he received a continuous ocean of mail—but during the age of 11-14, it was all I knew to do & it made me feel I was doing something for them.)
Tamarkin is only a couple of years younger than me, so it means a lot to read about her experiences during a time that made such an emotional impression upon me. Without having known of her specifically, she was one of the people about whom the young me felt so much concern.
Here are some favorite articles by Tamarkin:
Within, Tamarkin describes the 7th-grade-girl "pogrom" she endured at the incitement of one of her teachers. Amid the atrocities throughout Jewish history, it isn't the worst event of Jew-hated you'll ever come across, but for the sensitive young Tamarkin who grew up with these girls and considered them real friends, it was a traumatic betrayal.
We merit a rare finale to the saga when the adult Tamarkin visits the teacher (now a principal) years later.
I think many if not most people can relate to this one.
Tamarkin discusses the emotional attachment we have to non-Jewish aspects of our former lives. Even FFB people can feel attachment to certain aspects of whatever they experienced in their surroundings.
Also, in a funny twist, the story of Snegurochka ("snow maiden") was one of my favorite fairy tales as a child, so that added another relatable element to the topic as in, "Oh, she knows the beloved Snegurochka of my childhood!" (But in a completely different context. I never knew about Snegurochka's connection to the December holiday.)
Different versions of this fairy tale exist, but the one I knew told of a childless couple who merited a lovely daughter made out of snow named Snegurochka. I don't remember many details, but the basic premise was that one day toward the end of winter, her normally overprotective parents allowed her to go berry-picking (or something like that) with the neighborhood children.
As the morning drifted into afternoon, the day grew warmer.
Snegurochka got separated from the group. Then they heard her cry out for help, but when they arrived, all that was left of Snegurochka was a puddle of snow.
How deliciously tragic to the young me!
I don't know what that says about me as a child, but I also loved Little Mermaid (not the Disney gooped-up version, but the real tragic version tempered by the comforting ending about how the foam-absorbed former mermaid earns a soul by reporting all the good deeds of children around the world).
But one of Tamarkin's best turned into a delightful unfolding story in continuing parts, starting here:
Actually, you should read it anyway before continuing so you'll know what the rest of this post is talking about.
Anyway, that article made me feel so intrigued.
Also, Tamarkin described everything in a way that allows to you to experience it as if you were there with her.
Judging by the comment section, I saw I wasn't the only one who yearned to know what happened to that irresistibly sweet & mysterious Chinese girl with her page of Tehillim, and who tiptoed around Singapore's Chabad House out of her great attraction to Judaism.
Yes, Tamarkin managed to find out that the sweet 16-year-old Chinese girl was on her way to converting, but didn't know any more.
The comment section continued to fill with comments wishing to know more.
Then comments came in from readers who thought they knew her, claiming her name was Elisheva and she was now a Lubavitcher rebbetzin.
Others remembered her as a fantastic teacher in England whom they referred to as "Miss Yu."
Fortunately, readers thought to send Tamarkin's article to the formerly "timid yet determined" Chinese girl and...bingo!
Now the mother of a little girl & married to an Italian convert, Elisheva (Yu) Martinetti contacted Tamarkin to let her know what became of her in the end.
Here is the result:
Then they conducted an interview with Elisheva Martinetti.
Despite describing herself as having "an introverted nature," she ended up as an impassioned enthusiastic teacher of Chassidic thought to frum girls in England.
You can tell she has really found herself in Torah Judaism. She seems like she was born frum.
Here it is:
And of course, Elisheva's husband David Martinetti also has a powerful story about his own journey:
And then a video of them both telling their shidduch story:
END OF SPOILER
How often do we get this kind of closure in real life?
And with this kind of inspiring, spiritual, Jewish theme!
I hope all this gives you some good, geshmak Jewish reading.
Note: No one asked me to publicize Tamarkin's writing & she has no idea I even exist. (Update 30/3/21: This was true when the article was first written. As you can see in the comment section, it's no longer true. Such are the "magical" powers of the Internet...) The reason for writing this is that I just really like her writing & wish for others to enjoy it too.