Letters from Rifka Short Essay - Answer Key

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1. What is Rifka doing as the novel opens?

"Letters from Rifka" begins with twelve-year-old Rifka writing to her cousin Tovah, telling her of how her family escaped Russia on a train on their way to the United States.

2. What is revealed about Rifka and her family, and why they had to leave Russia?

A few important facts about Rifka and her family's background begin to emerge early in the book. Not only do we know that they are Russian Jews, but we can see up-close exactly what this means for them at the time, and why they have to flee the country; the guards, who discuss Jews with disdain (even wealthy Jews, such as Rifka's uncle), are the perfect example of this attitude.

3. What does Rifka tell Tovah about her role in the family's escape plan?

Rifka thanks Tovah for her family's role in the escape and describes how Rifka, the only daughter and with beautiful blonde hair, had to distract the guards on the train.

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