"I ’ve got cleaning help for you,” said Itzik to his younger sister.

“Who? That Russian lady, Olga, who cleans the building for you?”

“No. Bernadine.”

“Who’s that? The kushi girl you were telling me about?”

“Don’t use that word,” Itzik admonished her.

“Why not?” Faigy asked with an innocent air. “That’s what she is, isn’t she?”

“Why not?” He peered down to the yard outside Levy’s apartment on the ground floor. The two teenage sons were bent over a makeshift grill, grilling chicken wings. “Maybe for the same reason we don’t like to be called dossim?”

“Oh, come on, Itzik. You know it’s not the same thing.”

“No, I don’t know that. The only difference is when we’re the ones being called names.”

But all quibbling aside, Faigy didn’t really care what color the cleaner’s skin was, as long as she could do a decent job. Itzik said she needed the money; She and her brother were students on scholarships, and they received a stipend that covered their rent, but no more. So they worked out all the details, and on Thursday afternoon, there was a gentle knock on Faigy’s door. Faigy went to open it, and her eyes scanned the dark-skinned young woman who stood there.

The children gathered around and stared at her curiously, too.

“Where are you from?” asked six-year-old Chani.

“From Africa!” her eight-year-old sister Rivi declared confidently.

“No,” said the new cleaning lady with a smile. “I’m not from Africa.”

“Where are you from, then?”

“From the most beautiful island in the world,” Bernadine replied, as she put on a smock and started lifting the dining-room chairs onto the table. “A very big island in the Pacific Ocean.”

“Bigger than Eretz Yisrael?” they asked.

“Much bigger. About 37 times the size of Eretz Yisrael.” She swept the stone-tiled floor energetically. The girls sat on the couch, lifting their feet obediently, and fired questions at her.

“My island is all green,” Bernadine told them in simple but lyrical Hebrew. “It’s full of forests and plants, and it’s nice and warm there all year. It has wide rivers and interesting animals, and a blue sea all around it.”

As she sprayed the glass on the breakfront with window cleaner, the big question came: “If it’s so nice there on your island, why did you come here?”

Why did you come here.

Why, indeed?

The simple answer was, “To complete my education on a level I could never reach in Papua New Guinea.” But how did you come to get an advanced education in the first place? Why are you working right now in Jerusalem instead of raising a couple of curly-haired toddlers and a patch of vegetables in Yango Bay?

She toyed with answers: Because they said I was bewitched. She didn’t know how to say that in Hebrew, and how could she explain to them, with their childish eyes, about the superstitions her people were steeped in? How could she tell them how horrible it was to feel cursed? How could she explain that she herself had started to believe she brought bad luck, and it would be better for the whole tribe if she stayed away until the curse could be removed with black magic? (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 675)