WHAT MAKES A BOOK JEWISH? | HANUKKAH’S LIGHT AMID THE DARKNESS
NOVEMBER/ DECEMBER 2023
A Nation Grieves AM YISRAEL CHAI
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SUPPORTING HEROES: HOW YAD SARAH HELPED TZIPI REGAIN INDEPENDENCE We owe everything to heroes like Sergeant Tzipi Ya’akobian, a 21-year veteran of the Jerusalem police force who suffered a vicious terrorist stabbing attack, severing her spinal cord and leaving her paralyzed from the shoulders down. After a year in the hospital, Tzipi was finally able to come home – but how would she manage? Yad Sarah steps in to help. We showed Tzipi equipment and accessories she didn’t know existed, like an adjustable bathroom chair. We also demonstrated how to cook with some simple adaptations, practice, and patience. Like any of us, Tzipi was delighted to be home, “I finally had peace. I can't describe to you the happiness I felt when, for the first time in a year, my children came and cuddled with me in the morning.” Now, Tzipi has hope again: “The sky is the limit."
YAD SARAH IS PROUD TO SUPPORT THOSE WHO DEVOTE THEIR LIVES TO ISRAEL.
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One Book, One Hadassah On the Road Live from Los Angeles! February 22, 7 pm PT Ayelet Gundar-Goshen, award-winning Israeli author of The Wolf Hunt, in conversation with Hadassah Magazine Executive Editor Lisa Hostein Israelis in Silicon Valley. Antisemitism in the United States. A mother’s fears for her teenaged son. Amid our heartbreak over the war in Israel, we look forward to featuring this acclaimed Israeli author to discuss her timely new novel. Don’t miss the first in-person gathering of our popular reading series! The event will be broadcast simultaneously. To receive in-person and simultaneous broadcast registration details when available, email email@example.com
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NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2023 | VOL. 105 NO. 2
DEPARTMENTS 14 ESSAY Pop culture from Taylor Swift to Barbie
26 HEALTH Jewish-centered books for parenting
32 TRAVEL Portugal’s Jewish past
(CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM) PHOTO BY KRISTIN TEIG. FROM ‘PORTICO: COOKING AND FEASTING IN ROME’S JEWISH KITCHEN’ BY LEAH KOENIG. COPYRIGHT © 2023 BY LEAH KOENIG. USED WITH PERMISSION OF THE PUBLISHER, W.W. NORTON & COMPANY, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED; DAVID ROYTMAN LUXURY JUDAICA; DOR PAZUELO/FLASH90
IN EVERY ISSUE 4 President’s Column 6 The Editor’s Turn 8 Letters to the Editor 10 Cut & Post 30 Hadassah News 49 Crossword Puzzle 67 About Hebrew 68 Question & Answer On the Cover
Family and friends attend the funeral of Israel Defense Forces soldier Adir Avodi in Modi’in in October. Photo by Jonathan Shaul/Flash90.
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12 COMMUNITY CAN SAVE US By Sherri Mandell “Community is an integral part of Jewish power and continuity,” writes Mandell, who recalls the support of friends and neighbors who surrounded her after the murder of her son, Koby, 22 years ago. “Look at how Israelis abroad returned to Israel from around the world after the October 7 terrorist attacks” to fight for their country.
16 WHAT MAKES A BOOK JEWISH? By Nora Gold “Maybe the debate over the nature of Jewish fiction is an unresolved question like the ones in the Talmud labeled ‘teiku,’ which will only be decided when the Messiah comes.” So writes Gold, editor of the online journal Jewish Fiction .net, who asked several prominent Jewish female novelists to weigh in on how they define Jewish literature.
22 AND THE BAN PLAYED ON By Lisa Barr Across the United States, debates about censorship, book banning and challenges—a term for any formal request to remove a book from a school or library—have heated up. Caught in this web are several Jewish authors as well as books about the Holocaust.
28 HADASSAH: HEALING THE WOUNDED By Barbara Sofer Hadassah doctors began treating civilian survivors and seriously wounded soldiers immediately after the Hamas terrorist attacks. But not all wounds are physical. In a nation reeling with shock, fear, grief and anger, doctors are also stressing emergency mental health first aid (page 68). NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2023
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38 FOOD Fried Roman delights for Hanukkah
42 GIFT GUIDE 44 ARTS
• Manilow and Sussman’s Harmony
• A new home for the National Library of Israel
• Israeli female authors are having a moment
• Recent titles for kids and teens
• Interview: Mitch Albom 38
Term of Endearment From a few experiences I expected to the many I never dreamed of By Rhoda Smolow
hen my flight left john F. Kennedy International Airport on October 6, I thought I was making a brief trip to Israel for a celebration honoring The Jerusalem Post’s choice of the 50 Most Influential Jews of 2023—a list I was humbled to be on as Hadassah’s representative. When my flight landed on October 7, Israel was at war, having suffered waves of rocket barrages and brutal murders at the hands of Hamas, evoking memories of the Holocaust. Instead of an awards ceremony, I went to our medical center in Ein Kerem, where I met some of the survivors. I spoke to one man who had been shot by terrorists who chased down his car; he lost a leg, but our doctors saved his life and his wife thanked and hugged me. I saw people who had been attacked on the road, in their homes and at the Nova music festival. I went to be honored for what Hadassah does and instead witnessed what Hadassah is. This is my final magazine column as Hadassah’s national president. The past four years have gone by in the blink of an eye. Most of my presidency has been conducted in the shadow of Covid. In America, forced to close our offices, we pivoted quickly into a virtual community— and that led to more members being able to participate in national, regional and local events. I am proud to say that we kept the entire Hadassah staff employed and actively working. Through most of these four
years, we held our National Assembly and National Board meetings, two highly successful fundraising galas and many other events, on Zoom. In Israel, our doors remained open. Not only did our medical center continue to provide world-class care, it became a leader, nationally and on the international stage, in treating Covid and fighting the spread of the pandemic.
MY 43 YEARS IN HADASSAH HAVE TAUGHT ME TO SMILE THROUGH CHALLENGES— AND THAT A POSITIVE ATTITUDE OVERCOMES NEGATIVE FORCES.
cannot express enough pride in the enormous respect Hadassah has received around the globe as a humanitarian organization, notably through our work on the Polish border aiding refugees from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with their medical needs and our efforts to help during the earthquake rescue and recovery mission in Turkey. Hadassah was among the organizations honored with the 2023 Genesis Prize for our response to the Ukrainian crisis. Among the most agonizing aspects of pandemic isolation was being unable to travel to Israel for so long, which deepened my reverence for the early generations of Hadassah
women who labored to build a Jewish state that most would never see with their own eyes. With them in mind, I was especially gratified to fulfill the promise of holding Hadassah’s 100th National Convention in Jerusalem in 2022. I have witnessed with admiration how Hadassah encourages and enables all members to stand up and speak out on issues important to them. We have a stronger voice today in defense of a democratic Israel, in advocacy for women’s reproductive freedom and in opposition to antisemitism and all forms of hate and prejudice. My 43 years in Hadassah have taught me to smile through challenges—and that a positive attitude overcomes negative forces. And beginning my presidency with a pandemic and ending with a terrible war, I have been reminded that, like battle plans, expectations rarely survive the first crisis. Walking through the corridors of the Hadassah Medical Center in early October I saw the results of hate, but I also felt closer than ever to Henrietta Szold, beholding a landscape of need as she walked through Jerusalem in 1909. Her vision led to building the greatest medical center in the Middle East and a pillar of modern Israel. All Hadassah walks with her. I thank you all for the privilege of leading this wonderful organization with Pride, Passion and Purpose through a few experiences I expected and many I never dreamed of.
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Wounded Israeli soldiers from the south arrive at Hadassah Medical Organization in Jerusalem.
WE CAN’T STOP THE BLOODSHED, BUT WE CAN STOP THE BLEEDING. On October 7, Israel was under fire and plunged into war. Hadassah has stood side-by-side with Israel through the most tumultuous times — including the War of Independence, the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War. Today, HWZOA is here yet again for the people of Israel. Your support is urgently needed to continue healing and saving the lives of Israel’s most severely injured medical supplies for Hadassah's ongoing emergency services, operating rooms, the trauma department, and for the opening and expansion of new and existing psychological support centers. Help us alleviate suffering by supporting Hadassah’s At War: Heal Israel Now Emergency Campaign.
Give Now. Every Dollar Counts.
go.hadassah.org/israelatwar-hmagad Hadassah reserves the right to direct any excess emergency funds raised for this crisis to future emergency crises in accordance with Hadassah’s emergency crisis and response protocols.
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THE EDITOR’S TURN
CHAIR Marlene Post EXECUTIVE EDITOR Lisa Hostein DEPUTY EDITOR Libby Barnea SENIOR EDITOR Leah Finkelshteyn DIGITAL EDITOR Arielle Kaplan EDITOR EMERITUS Alan M. Tigay DESIGN/PRODUCTION Regina and Samantha Marsh EDITORIAL BOARD Roselyn Bell Ruth G. Cole Nancy Falchuk Gloria Goldreich Blu Greenberg Dara Horn
Ruth B Hurwitz Francine Klagsbrun Anne Lapidus Lerner Curt Leviant Joy Levitt Bonnie Lipton
Marcie Natan Nessa Rapoport Sima Schuster Susan S. Smirnoff Barbara Topol
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When Our World Changed Determination and resilience in the face of evil By Lisa Hostein
nation grieves. am yisrael Chai. These are words when there are no words. These are words that can only begin to describe our ongoing shock, grief, heartbreak and fear in the wake of the worst massacre of the Jewish people in one single day since the Holocaust. And these are words—Am Yisrael Chai, the Jewish People Live!—that declare our determination and resilience in the face of evil. Much of this issue was completed before the devastating Hamas terror attacks on Israel’s southern border— before, in other words, our world changed. We were, however, able to scramble to include a few important pieces that speak to what’s foremost on everyone’s minds. Among them is a poignant commentary by Sherri Mandell, an inspiring Israeli mother who knows what it’s like to experience the murder of her child at the hands of terrorists (page 12). We also bring you inside the walls of Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem, where victims—both civilians and soldiers—are being treated for serious injuries (page 28) and where mental health specialists are beginning to address Israel’s collective trauma (page 68). Healing will take a long time, and for some, it will likely never completely happen. But as Mandell writes in her essay, we need community more than ever at times like these. Books are certainly one vehicle to bring us together. In honor of Jewish Book Month, which is the month leading up to Hanukkah, we commissioned several special features, NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2023
including one that asked prominent female authors: What Makes a Book Jewish? The diversity of their answers will delight and surprise you (page 16). You also may be surprised by the number of Jewish books and authors who are caught in the web of book bans and censorship these days, as popular Holocaust fiction writer Lisa Barr reports (page 22). For parents navigating stressful times with their children, Rachel Pomerance Berl explores a recent crop of Jewish parenting books (page 26). And in our regular books section, Sandee Brawarsky profiles some of Israel’s leading female authors (page 50). Also included are a roundup of new children’s books (page 54) and an interview with Mitch Albom about his latest work of fiction (page 60). Thanksgiving, on November 23, and Hanukkah, which begins the evening of December 7, provide muchneeded opportunities to come together with family and friends. Hanukkah, which celebrates an ancient Jewish triumph over forces that sought to destroy us, reminds us that with pride, truth and perseverance, light can shine through the darkness. Consider celebrating this year with fried delicacies imported directly from Rome’s Jewish ghetto (page 38) and new gift ideas that display Jewish pride and Israeli creativity in our annual Gift Guide (page 42). We pray for the peace of Israel, the safety of Jews and the innocent everywhere and the strength to stand up to antisemitism and anti-Zionism. Let the light shine through this Hanukkah.
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
CRITICAL JUNCTURES The September/October 2023 issue of Hadassah Magazine continues Hadassah’s tradition as a broadthinking Zionist organization. The articles on Golda Meir by Deborah E. Lipstadt (“Golda’s Genius”) and Uri Kaufman (“When Golda Pulled Off the Impossible”) reminded me of two aspects of her strength at critical junctures in Israel’s history. The inclusion of Sherry Amatenstein’s article on dual narrative tours, with her (too-brief) description of some of the people she spoke with and organizations contributing to intercommunal work, brought an important perspective that few other Zionist organizations would have covered. It is not critical that one agree with all statements, but it is important to listen to other perspectives. Jerome (Jerry) Langer Highland Park, N.J.
WEARABLE AIR BAGS Carol Saline’s September/October article, “Stop That Tumble Before It Happens,” was a thorough description of the enormous problem of falls in seniors. The issue is important to me as a senior and because both my parents died from complications of falls.
However, I believe that mitigation of falls is not enough. Air bag technology is starting to be modified for devices that can be worn by seniors at risk of falls. We need to mobilize tech companies to commit further to developing these products. We need Medicare, when devices become widely available, to help defray some of the costs. We need journalists and politicians to advocate for these products. And we will need advocates to push for compliance among seniors to wear them. Jay Luger Forest Hills, N.Y.
PIONEERING WOMEN Thank you for highlighting Rebecca Gratz in the September/October issue (“Namesake, Aunt and Inspiration”). Gratz College was so excited to welcome, in June, an actual Gratz family member into our building for the first time ever. It was even more exciting since we have recently launched the Rebecca Gratz Digital Collection of letters and documents from the private life of one of America’s most prominent Jewish feminist pioneers. This digital collection was created, in part, in memory of Dianne Ashton, Ph.D., professor of world religions
JEWISH SHOWS: KLEZMER TO BROADWAY TO ISRAEL WITH LOVE YIDDISH IS IN MY GENES AGING/SHMAGING YOU ARE THE FUTURE (Holocaust program) And more…….visit: www.naomimiller.com 609 664 2251 email@example.com NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2023
at Rowan University, a pioneering scholar of American Jewish women and the leading biographer of Rebecca Gratz. Mindy Cohen Gratz College Melrose Park, Pa.
ST. THOMAS’S JEWISH SON Thank you for the profile in the September/October issue of Rabbi Julia Margolis, the new religious leader of the historic Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas (“On St. Thomas, Finding the Presence of History and God”). People visiting Charlotte Amalie might also want to know about Camille Pissarro, the renowned French Jewish artist born and raised in St. Thomas and considered by some the father of Impressionism. Beryl Rosenstein, M.D. Pikesville, Md.
BUDAPEST NUPTIALS I was fascinated by the July/August 2023 story “Jewish Heritage Along the Danube” and its mention of the Dohany Street Synagogue in Budapest, also known as the Great
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Synagogue, the second-largest synagogue anywhere. (Jerusalem’s Great Beth Midrash Gur is the largest.) My maternal grandparents were married there 129 years ago. I had the joy of entering its sanctuary in 2008 carrying a copy of their wedding invitation, written in German, the formal language of the AustroHungarian empire. A rough translation of it reads: “Adolf Spitzer and wife are pleased to invite you to the wedding of their daughter Ilona and Mr. Ignatz Schwartz, which takes place on September 16 (Sunday) at 3 in the afternoon at the Temple (Tobacco Street).” The word “dohany” is Hungarian for tobacco. Walter Gray Middleton, Wis.
CHANGE IS NOT A BAD THING In response to Anita Diamant’s July/August commentary “Things Change,” one reader from Livingston, N.J., wrote a letter to the editor questioning whether Diamant’s position on change should be considered a good thing. In 1950, my family became the 40th Jewish family in Livingston. My parents were founding members of Temple Beth Shalom, and my mother was the first president of its sisterhood. Rabbi Samuel Cohen was our esteemed rabbi and Cantor Henry Butensky our esteemed cantor. I attended Monmouth Court and Roosevelt schools and graduated from Livingston High School. There was little to no diversity in the schools,
gender was not discussed, and intermarriage was rarely evident. Today, the town is diverse. There are LGBTQ+ organizations; being gay or transgender is not a shanda. Intermarried parents often choose to raise their children in the Jewish faith. Yes, the times are changing, and being more accepting, sincere, sensitive and open to others is not a bad thing. Diane M. Lieberfarb Avon, Conn.
WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU! Please email letters to the editor to firstname.lastname@example.org. To read more letters, visit us online at hadassahmagazine.org.
make room on the coffee table for this one.... “... Aside from Sondheim’s own exceptional books, Finishing the Hat and Look, I Made a Hat, this may be the best coffee‑table volume devoted to his work.” — Shelf Awareness
A Black Dog & Leventhal hardcover and ebook wherever sold
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At Hanukkah, It’s Time to Eat the Donuts family in Dorchester, Mass. Twenty-two years later, when his son Robert celebrated his bar mitzvah, it is doubtful that anyone left the lavish 450-person reception at a swanky downtown Boston hotel until the last crumbs of dessert—perhaps donuts?—were consumed. In those intervening decades, Rosenberg, who passed away in 2002 at the age of 86, accumulated a fortune as the mastermind behind the company that he founded in 1950 and which
A jelly-filled donut and munchkin, plus other treats from Dunkin’
today has dropped the “Donuts” to become, simply, Dunkin’, headquartered in Canton, Mass. Rosenberg wasn’t a particularly religious man, but his father did provide him with a Jewish education through his bar mitzvah. So he might have been pleased that in a current global empire of over 13,200 Dunkin’ locations,
Sefaria Turns 10 Years Amid Launch of New Initiatives Jewish texts have existed for thousands of years. But for most of that time, only those with Hebrew and Aramaic literacy and access to sacred books (usually men) have been able to explore them. All that changed 30 years ago, when the internet democratized information. Still, even a dozen years ago, Googling “Talmud” returned varied results of dubious provenance. Enter Sefaria, the online database of Jewish texts that was born 10 years ago “out of a desire for there to be access to the texts of our tradition,” said Chava Tzemach, a spokesperson for Sefaria. The brainchild of writer Joshua Foer and former Google engineer Brett Lockspeiser, Sefaria found a reception beyond anyone’s expectation. From its first upload—a 1913 public domain translation of the Torah—the nonprofit, donorfunded site has grown to include 3,300 Jewish texts, from the Torah
and Talmud to the Mishna and rabbinic responsa, among others, and attracts 700 monthly users. Many of them participate in the page-a-day Talmud learning cycle called Daf Yomi. At least 200 independent projects—from Miriam Anzovin’s Daf Reactions series on TikTok to a Daf Yomi app from the Orthodox Union—use Sefaria’s resources. Along the way, Sefaria has expanded the very notion of accessibility. Witness Word-byWord: A Jewish Women’s Writing Circle, a new multiyear initiative that will support 20 female-authored projects of Jewish textual analysis. Co-led by Sefaria’s chief learning officer, Sarah Wolkenfeld, and Yeshiva University scholar Erica Brown, Word-by-Word aims to redress the absence of Jewish female scholarly voices. For its 10th anniversary, Sefaria launched a collaborative project that is accessible in the broadest NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2023
sense: the Global Community Torah. “We wanted to celebrate with the Sefaria community in a way that’s interactive,” Tzemach explained. No knowledge of Hebrew or Judaism is necessary to participate. Sign up, choose from one of six Hebrew typefaces and click to populate the next of the Torah’s 304,805 letters into an evolving “scroll.” Mousing over the
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text, scribes can view the names of fellow contributors from, so far, 75 countries. “Sefaria’s vision is to see Torah as alive in the world, and that only happens when Jews around the world are engaging with these texts,” Tzemach said. This project, she added, “is a way that you can stake your claim on our tradition.” —Hilary Danailova
BILL GREENE/’THE BOSTON GLOBE’ VIA GETTY IMAGES (LEFT)
William Rosenberg, the founder of Dunkin’ Donuts, left his own bar mitzvah early. A few relatives remained for a meager post-haftorah meal while he went back to work as a grocery delivery boy William to support his DepRosenberg ression-depleted
chosen people choose jelly.” Hanukkah notwithstanding, jelly donuts were the most memorable to Rosenberg, according to his autobiography, Time to Make the Donuts, co-authored by Jessica Brilliant Keener. He used to accompany his father on early morning visits to a stall in Boston’s Faneuil Hall, where they would pick up the treats. “They were so loaded with jelly,” he wrote, “that when we took a bite, it would squirt. If we had to get up at four in the morning just to experience the fresh taste of that jelly donut, it was worth everything in the world.” —Beth Segal
to over 400 in its first year. “I’m overSpecial Agents whelmed to see the interest in BuJews among the bureau workforce,” Rossman said. Open Ranks Among the group’s activities are arranging
Arm, during which agents and analysts briefed more than 95 Jewish institutions on security threats and learned about the issues facing each group. Since then, the FBI has received dozens of tips, some of which turned into ongoing and active investigations. In May, BuJews hosted the FBI’s first Jewish American Heritage Month celebration featuring keynote speeches by Ambassador Deborah E. Lipstadt, the State Department’s special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, and Attorney General Merrick Garland. The group also runs a monthly speaker series. Last Hanukkah, BuJews held an inaugural menorah lighting at FBI headquarters in Washington. Looking ahead to this year’s ceremony, Rossman said that it fills her heart to see “the FBI light the darkness in such an incredibly poignant way.” —Avi Dresner
Jewish Buddhists, or JewBus, are a wellknown phenomenon. BuJews, on the other hand, are a better kept secret since, fittingly, they are found only at the FBI. The name stands for Bureau Jews, and it describes those involved in the FBI’s Jewish American Employee Resource Group (ERG). As defined on the FBI’s website, ERGs are “informal, employee-led groups that connect employees with shared interests”—which is precisely what BuJews co-founders Hillary Rossman and Lisa Crowder had in mind when they started the group in August 2022. It’s impossible to say how many Jews work at the FBI since the bureau does not track religious affiliation among its employees. However, attorney Rossman, who is a supervisory special agent and acting chief division counsel for the FBI’s Miami field office, said that she has been the only Jewish special agent in more than one office throughout her career. That’s one reason why she’s kvelling that BuJews membership, which also includes non-Jews, grew
invitations to Passover seders for employees on temporary assignment, designing an FBI kippah and stocking siddurim at the nondenominational chapel at the bureau’s training academy in Quantico, Va. According to Crowder, an analyst and liaison officer in Washington, D.C., BuJews “help FBI divisions better understand, support and liaise with Jewish communities and serve as a resource for leadership to address harassment, hate crimes and domestic terrorism incidents.” Toward that end, BuJews designed a model for law enforcement to build trust with Jewish communities before antisemitic acts happen. In November 2022, an FBI office in Westchester County, N.Y., launched Operation Outstretched
Lighting Darkness Uri Rosenwald, BuJews vice president of operations, lights a menorah; celebrating Jewish American heritage in May were, from left, Lisa Crowder, Riselle Bain, Leslie Kaplan Barry, Merrick Garland, Deborah E. Lipstadt, Hillary Rossman and Rosenwald
(THIS PAGE AND OPPOSITE) COURTESY OF DUNKIN’ COURTESY OF THE FBI
and thousands of jelly donuts.” There are other nationwide kosher options, including Krispy Kreme, whose major plant in Winston-Salem, N.C., is certified kosher, as are 65 of its locations. Both brands offer a variety of fillings. Dunkin’ has jelly (which is an appleand raspberry-flavored blend), lemon and apple as well as Boston, Bavarian and vanilla cream. Krispy Kreme sells raspberry, custard and cake-batter fillings. But, as Mehlman reiterated, “at least on Hanukkah, the
there are at least 40 kosher outlets—and many more that serve some kosher items—according to Rabbi Aaron D. Mehlman, the so-called “Donut Rabbi” who oversees Dunkin’ kashrut in the Greater New York area. Dunkin’s filled donuts are always popular, Mehlman said, but come Hanukkah, “I tell the owners, many of whom are not Jewish, to prepare for the holiday surge, when they will sell thousands
Volunteers feed soldiers near the Gaza border.
Community Can Save Us ‘All of Israel is responsible for each other’ | By Sherri Mandell
OREN BEN HAKOON/FLASH90
n october 10, president Joe Biden gave a speech from the White House supporting Israel and calling Hamas “pure evil.” He once again shared the story of meeting Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir on the eve of the Yom Kippur War 50 years ago, when he was a young senator. The president recalled how, during a photo op, she told him, “We have a secret weapon here in Israel. We have no place else to go.” That may be true. But that’s not our only secret weapon. We have another weapon that gives us strength: our strong feelings and obligation toward each other. As it is written in the Talmud, Kol Yisrael arevim zeh bazeh, “All of Israel is responsible for each other” (Shavuot 39a). I can vouch for the power of community. In Tekoa, where I have lived for almost three decades, it was my community that helped me survive the murder of my eldest child 22
years ago. My 13-year-old son, Koby, went hiking with his friend Yosef Ish Ran in the canyon near our home on May 8, 2001; terrorists found them and beat them to death with rocks. A cruel, barbaric death. My neighbors, friends and family were there for us, listening to us, cleaning our house, cooking for us, taking our kids to school, surrounding us for as long as we needed. They ensured that our family did not fall into the black hole of grief. When my husband and I visited Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, the late religious authority and prominent psychiatrist, a few weeks after the murder, he told us to be sure not to isolate ourselves. He told us to go to weddings and bar mitzvahs. He told us that we needed community. We took that sage advice one step further. We made a community for bereaved families and children when we established the Koby Mandell
Foundation the same year our son was murdered. Now, during Israel’s war with Hamas, volunteers and staff from our foundation have opened a hotline and attended shivas. We have continued to run support groups for bereaved families as well as Camp Koby, a summer sleepaway program with additional year-round activities for 400 children that will soon, tragically, include many youngsters newly coping with loss. The camp includes therapy and fun, but what saves these kids is being with others who have endured the same experiences. Natan Sharansky, a former politician, human rights activist and Soviet refusenik, once visited Camp Koby. One of the campers asked him how he managed to survive the gulag and solitary confinement. He answered that he knew that Jews worldwide cared deeply about him, that they were fighting for his release, and that they would save him. He knew that he was part of a community. Our enemies have destroyed entire kibbutzim and ravaged towns in the south of Israel. They massacred whole families; they viciously murdered and took hostage the elderly, women, children and even babies. It’s not clear how these communities will rebuild. Yet I believe they will. Because those who remain will need each other. Community is an integral part of Jewish power and continuity. Look at how Israelis abroad returned to Israel from around the world after the October 7 terrorist attacks. They understood that they were needed to defend their homeland in its time of need. “I couldn’t live with myself if I stayed in America,” one said in a news report. Matt, a tourist from Denver visiting friends in Tekoa at the outbreak of war, chose not to return to the
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United States. He stayed and helped my town by reinforcing saferoom doors. A friend in Jerusalem waited in line for 10 hours to give blood. A couple I know in their 60s went to Sderot, in the South, to help distribute food. The whole country wanted to fight or to help. Wars are won by nations, not just by armies. By the nation becoming a community with a united purpose.
Now, more than ever, Israelis need your help.
hat is hadassah and the magazine that you are now reading if not a “we”? A community of people connected not only by love of Israel and their heritage, but also by their need to give, to take action, to ensure a strong State of Israel and the future of the Jewish people. And for the moment, at least as I write this in the early stages of Israel’s war with Hamas, some of the world community is united in their sympathy for Israel, in their abhorrence for the savagery of Hamas. At Camp Koby, I recently overheard a child say, “We put our broken hearts together and made a new heart.” Our hearts, for the moment, are all united—the truest definition of community. May we be victorious as in the days of Hanukkah when we defeated our enemies. May we be blessed with light and happiness.
In times of crisis, no organization in Israel saves more lives than Magen David Adom. Your support provides the crucial vehicles, equipment, and protective gear the men and women of MDA need to save lives in any emergency. Visit Magen David Adom at afmda.org/give or call 866.632.2763.
Sherri Mandell is co-director of the Koby Mandell Foundation (kobymandell.org), which runs programs for bereaved families in Israel. She is the author of The Road to Resilience: From Chaos to Celebration and The Blessing of a Broken Heart, which won a National Jewish Book Award in 2004. Her most recent book is The Kabbalah of Writing: Mystical Practices for Inspiration and Creativity. NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2023
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My Year of Taylor, Barbie and Margaret Reflecting on pop culture moments of 2023 By Hannah S. Pressman
TAYLOR SWIFT PHOTO: RAPHAEL_PH/FLICKR/CC
hen the zeitgeist is trying to tell you something, it’s inescapable. This year, women—their stories, songs, ambitions and perspectives—dominated the culture at large. From the world tours of Taylor Swift and Beyoncé to the globe-conquering Barbie movie and the resurgence of Judy Blume, the artistic visions of women defined the spirit of 2023. Yet as much as these moments will be etched into our collective memory, giving us signposts (and selfies) to mark our participation in pop culture phenomena, they also give us a chance to reflect as individuals. Now that some of the buzz has receded, I’ve had time to consider the many conversations that this year’s women-centric arts offerings have prompted with my friends, many of whom are Jewish mothers, and inevitably with myself. Each of these happenings brought me face-to-face with a former incarnation of my girlhood and prompted me to wonder who, exactly, I am now. Here was my situation: In a feat
of cosmic coincidence not witnessed since the total solar eclipse of 2017, over the span of seven days this summer, I rented the film adaptation of Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret; viewed Barbie in a movie theater; and attended one of Taylor Swift’s shows at Seattle’s Lumen Field. It felt like a lifetime’s worth of ruminating about girlhood, feminism, mothering, identity and the color pink all compressed into one astonishing multimedia fever dream. Like many other parents, I took two of my kids to see Taylor Swift on her Eras tour this summer. Embracing my 40-something mom status, I dressed in compression socks and sensible shoes, the better to climb the many stairs leading to our perch high up in the stadium rafters. My comfy concert outfit was a far cry from the array of sequins, feathers, cowboy boots, ball gowns and inventive creations assembled by the young Swifties who packed the arena. However, when my 14-year-old handed me a few of the beaded bracelets that he had made—at every show, fans trade
thousands of friendship bracelets encoded with lyrics and colors—I instantly felt a little more “Bejeweled,” to namecheck a song from Swift’s 2022 release, Midnights. Watching the pop superstar display her full range of songwriting powers over nearly four hours, I found myself in awe of Swift’s ability to stitch her catalogue, much of it famously autobiographical, into a narrative of artistic and personal growth. The night was epic, but the story of girlhood on display was thrillingly intimate. Despite the mesmerizing production, I found myself at times turning to simply watch my kids watching her. I couldn’t avoid the parental awareness that this would be a core memory for them: their first stadium concert, their first time singing alongside 72,000 other people, their first time seeing the night sky lit up by cellphone flashlights held up in tribute to Swift’s grandmother during the performance of her song “Marjorie.” Don’t worry, I didn’t spend the whole show musing about future memories. I sang, danced and joined the crowd in “shaking it off,” collectively jumping so hard that a seismic event equal to a 2.3 magnitude earthquake was registered in the area. Barbie felt like an earthquake of a different kind. I showed up at a Seattle theater for a weekday afternoon matinee wearing a pink sweater
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COURTESY OF HANNAH S. PRESSMAN
set and feeling ready to see some gender norms subverted. I did not expect the swell of genuine emotion and theological searching that director Greta Gerwig’s interpretation would provoke. I suppose I was surprised because my dolls of choice growing up were a redheaded Raggedy Ann and a brunette mother-daughter pair that my mother’s friend had sewn. The girls across the street, though, owned a Barbie Dreamhouse with all the trimmings, and my sister and I thought that it was spectacular. It turns out you don’t need to have owned a Barbie—or identify as a woman—to be moved by this movie. Gerwig’s masterful take ended up being a “both, and” experience for me. I recalled being a girl in thrall to the doll’s original appeal while also staying mindful of being a middleaged mom with a young daughter (still too young to see the film) and some thoughts about women’s often perilous status in the world today. When America Ferrera’s character, Gloria, delivered her instant-classic monologue toward the end of the movie, I silently co-signed each frustrating societal double standard that she pointed out, perhaps none more so than “we have to always be extraordinary, but somehow we’re always doing it wrong.” Who knew that a candy-colored exercise in corporate irony could make me feel so much? Exiting into the theater lobby afterward, I locked eyes with an older woman wearing dangly pink earrings. She felt it, too. While Swift’s show and the Barbie bonanza were each seismic in their own way, I think Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret most rocked my world this year. As I watched the story unfold on my laptop, I could feel waves of nostalgia crashing over me. I remembered the experience of
reading the book and of being the age depicted in the book. I remembered all the other Judy Blume novels I read around the same time and the feeling that she was granting me access to a world that was new and challenging, but also exciting. When the movie premiered back in April, my friends and I rejoiced that our beloved Judy Blume was having a moment. Women of a certain age, and especially Jewish women of a certain age, felt seen by the adaptation of the novel. What surprised me the most upon viewing it, however, was how much I identified with the harried artist mom charmingly played by Rachel McAdams—a character who barely registered when I encountered Margaret as an adolescent, but now, as a mother, writer and educator trying to find the right balance between work and life, duties and desires, spoke to me all too clearly. I had completely forgotten it, but Margaret’s mother has a name, too: Barbara.
got interrupted by the pandemic but that this year, thankfully, resumed. Rifling through my old bookcase, I found my fingers resting on a paperback copy of Blume’s groundbreaking novel, a Dell Yearling edition published in 1970 with a cover showing a blonde girl in a marigold-yellow dress against a background of purples and greens. It cost $2.75 and came with a back page cut-out order form for The Judy Blume Diary: The Place to Put Your Own Feelings. Brushing my fingertips on the book’s spine conjured a whole universe of longing and shame. I shared photos of the book on my Instagram page. Another Seattle Jewish mom immediately texted me a photo of the same exact book cover. She was in New Jersey visiting her parents’ house, and Margaret was sitting on a shelf waiting patiently for her, too. Waiting, as the selves from all our previous eras do, to be rediscovered, so that they can remind us of our history and propel us forward, bravely, toward our next evolution.
Hannah S. Pressman is currently at work on Galante’s Daughter, a memoir connecting her Sephardi family history to explorations of American Jewish identity. She lives in Seattle with her husband and three children.
xperiencing taylor, barbie and Margaret in one week made me face some truths of my own. I am now the parent who takes tween and teenaged kids to a concert. I am now the woman who can laugh ruefully at jokes about patriarchy’s power. I am now the reader who wonders how 30 years possibly could have passed since reading a certain book. Yet, I am still the girl who preceded all these identities, wondering who I’m going to be when I finally grow up. And it turned out that the universe had a way of reminding me about this, too. I recently visited my parents’ house in Virginia, part of an annual tradition that
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The author wore pink to a screening of ‘Barbie.’
What Makes a Book Jewish? Prominent female authors define Jewish fiction
By Nora Gold
It is reflected, as well, in my new book, 18: Jewish Stories Translated From 18 Languages, whose stories were all originally published in our journal. Curious to discover how authors nowadays think about Jewish fiction, and hoping to shed some new light on this ongoing discussion, I reached out to seven fiction writers, all Amer‑ ican Jewish women, and asked: “In your opinion, what makes a work of fiction Jewish?” Their replies are fascinating.
IT IS NOT SIMPLE TO DEFINE JEWISH EXPERIENCE, JEWISH CONSCIOUSNESS OR THE JEWISH CONDITION. To Faye Kellerman, a Jewish novel is anything that encompasses the Jewish experience, and because that experience is so vast, it is hard to define perimeters. For Allegra Good‑ man, a novel is Jewish if it contains Jewish characters, subject matter or themes, but the author does not have to be Jewish. To Helene Wecker, some aspect of the work should originate within Jewish experience. For Anita Diamant, a work of fiction is Jewish if it includes at least one Jewish char‑ acter. For Jean Hanff Korelitz, her fiction, rather than her life, is where she expresses her Jewishness. Dara Horn is drawn to Hebrew and Yid‑ dish literature because its writers don’t give their characters redemp‑ tive endings. To Ruth Knafo Setton, Jewish fiction is diverse, not just Ashkenazi. (See full replies on the fol‑ lowing pages.) These authors’ rich and thought‑ ful comments are in themselves very
diverse, leading me to wonder about other diversities as well. For example, would the answers to the question “What is Jewish fiction?” differ if asked of authors—like those in my book 18—who write in languages other than English? Might these authors view Jewish fiction differ‑ ently, given their specific cultural and linguistic contexts? Generally, native English speakers hearing the phrase “Jewish fiction” think only of English-language Jewish fiction (and usually only American), when, in fact, due to our diasporic history, a key feature of Jewish fiction is its multilingualism. Yet most English-language readers are unaware of this literary treasure house. Jewish Fiction .net has published fiction translated from 20 languages, including Turkish, Albanian, Croatian, Ladino and Dutch. Perhaps the time has come to reconceptualize the way we think and talk about Jewish fiction, and to recognize in our discussions the mul‑ tilingualism of our literature. The insights of the authors pre‑ sented here add to the continuing conversation about Jewish fiction. The heterogeneity of their perspec‑ tives is par for the course in Jewish tradition, where there is not only room for, but insistence on, multiple viewpoints and competing ideas, as there was with Hillel and Shamai, and indeed our whole Talmud. Maybe the debate over the nature of Jewish fiction is an unresolved question like the ones in the Talmud labeled “teiku,” which will only be decided when the Messiah comes. Nora Gold, author and editor of the literary journal Jewish Fiction .net, has won two Canadian Jewish Book/Literary Awards. Her latest book is 18: Jewish Stories Translated From 18 Languages. In Sickness and in Health/Yom Kippur in a Gym (two novellas) is slated for publication in March 2024.
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DONNA GRETHEN (OPPOSITE PAGE)
he question of what constitutes Jewish fiction continues to fascinate readers, writers and scholars, and no matter how many times it is discussed, consensus is never reached. For most people, “What is Jewish fiction?” is a theoretical question, but for me it’s a practical one because in addition to being a fiction writer, I’m the editor of the online literary journal Jewish Fiction .net, so defining the parame‑ ters of Jewish fiction is essential for deciding which of the submissions we receive qualify for publication. The challenges of defining Jewish fiction have been extensively written about and debated by academics and authors, and as I’ve followed these discussions over the past two decades, what’s been most striking is the im‑ pressively wide range of perspectives. Some view Jewish fiction broadly and include in this category anything that contains even a single Jewish char‑ acter or that is written by a Jewish author. Others define Jewish fiction more narrowly, as Ruth Wisse, professor emerita of Yiddish and comparative literature at Harvard University, does in The Modern Jewish Canon. Wisse views Jewish litererature as writing that is “centrally Jewish”—a phrase originally coined in 1970 by writer Cynthia Ozick— which to Wisse means reflective in some way of Jewish experience, Jewish consciousness or the Jewish condition. In a work of Jewish fiction, writes Wisse, “the authors or characters know, and let the reader know, that they are Jews.” Wisse’s definition, like any, has its limitations, and obviously it is not simple to define Jewish expe‑ rience or consciousness or the Jewish condition. Still, this is the most com‑ prehensive and persuasive definition I’ve found, so this is the one we apply at Jewish Fiction .net.
Jewish immigrants. Most Jewish readers of The Red Tent consider it a Jewish novel. Many non-Jewish readers have thanked me for introducing them to Jewish tradition and/or history. I never thought of The Red Tent as a Jewish book; the action takes place long before there was “Judaism” or “Jews.” But since it’s full of names we know from the Hebrew Bible and our own family trees, by my own definition, it’s a Jewish novel.
ll you need is at least one character identified as Jewish. The character doesn’t have to say or do anything identifiably Jewish (light Sabbath candles, sell pickles on the Lower East Side, survive the Nazis, attend Brandeis). But identifying them as Jews raises questions about identity, belief and affiliation, and begs for some kind of explanation or at least a label (Long Island, Socialist, Orthodox). Can you imagine a novel that identifies Rachel or Harry as Jewish and leaves it at that? That would be weird. Maybe even antisemitic.
MOST JEWISH READERS OF ‘THE RED TENT’ CONSIDER IT A JEWISH NOVEL.
SHARON JACOBS (LEFT); MIRANDA KARGER
By that standard, three of my five novels are certainly Jewish: Day After Night is a post-Holocaust story set in pre-state Palestine. Good Harbor’s protagonists meet at an oneg after Friday night services. The Boston Girl’s protagonist is the daughter of
Anita Diamant is the author of 13 books, including five novels; her latest book is nonfiction, the updated Living a Jewish Life.
n my opinion, a Jewish book contains Jewish characters, subject matter or themes. Defining Jewish books by content, I count Daniel Deronda as a great Jewish novel. The book is about Jewish identity, Jewish nationhood, and the title character is a Jew—so this is a Jewish book, although its author, George Eliot, was not Jewish. But let me add something to my definition. I think that writers bring their background, education, experience and memory to their work. Because of this, a Jewish author may imprint a book with Jewish experience, even if the content of the book is not overtly Jewish. My novel Kaaterskill Falls, about a German Jewish community summering, is a book about Jewish
IN ALL CASES, MY JEWISH BACKGROUND INFLUENCES MY ART. —ALLEGRA GOODMAN
people and the Jewish experience. On the other hand, my newest book, Sam, is about a girl with little connection to Judaism, although her father is Jewish. There is almost no Jewish content in the book—but my observations of unaffiliated Jews inform the novel. In my work, Jewish themes and characters are sometimes clearly visible on the page. At other times, my Jewish subjects are almost imperceptible, like a watermark on paper. In all cases, my Jewish background influences my art. Allegra Goodman’s books include Sam, Kaaterskill Falls, The Cookbook Collector and The Family Markowitz.
JEAN HANFF KORELITZ
wenty years ago, I met my college rabbi at a dinner party, and he asked me: “Are you living a Jewish life?” Our last contact before that night had been when I asked him to officiate
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at my wedding, and he declined. My fiancé wasn’t Jewish. A Jewish life? Not by his standards, no. Apart from a large and creative Passover seder with my cousins, most of whom also have non-Jewish partners, we don’t observe, and we don’t believe. But I had a different answer: Yes. In my work.
MY JEWISHNESS LIVES AND EVEN THRIVES IN MY NOVELS.
(CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM) COURTESY OF FAYE KELLERMAN; COURTESY OF JEAN HANFF KORELITZ; MICHAEL PRIEST
—JEAN HANFF KORELITZ
My Jewishness lives and even thrives in my novels. Some of them (The Sabbathday River, The White Rose, The Latecomer) have more overt Jewish content than others, but fiction is where I’ve explored the Jewish experience and even considered some of the mysteries of faith. It’s where I’ve illuminated my own family history and enhanced my understanding of our traditions. Jewish fiction encompasses every degree and facet of Jewishness. As a writer and a Jewish woman, I’ve been especially impacted (and instructed) by Chaim Potok, Erica Jong, Gail Parent, Michael Chabon and Allegra Goodman. My college rabbi was polite about my answer. My Irish husband and I recently celebrated our 36th anniversary. Jean Hanff Korelitz is the author of eight novels, most recently The Plot and The Latecomer.
n the past, what made someone a Jewish writer was usually very simple: the choice to write in a Jewish language. When I began writing novels, I considered all that our community has lost through the lack of a Jewish language and set out to write as though English were a Jewish language—not to write books with words in italics, but to write books where the plot structures and literary references were drawn from the archaeology of Jewish texts. I did this for 20 years.
even thought about. Instead, their stories rarely resolve because life rarely does. These writers are asking questions rather than providing answers. At this point in my life, this is what I find most powerful and true. Dara Horn, a scholar of Hebrew and Yiddish literature, is the author of five novels and the essay collection People Love Dead Jews.
MY UNDERSTANDING OF JEWISH LITERATURE NOW IS LESS ABOUT LANGUAGE AND MORE ABOUT ARTISTIC HUMILITY. —DARA HORN
I rarely think about this anymore. My understanding of Jewish literature now—descriptive, not prescriptive— is less about language and more about artistic humility. What draws me to Hebrew and Yiddish literature is that the best writers in those languages avoid giving their characters redemptive endings, or epiphanies, or moments of grace—things that our subtly Christian culture has taught us to expect from literature, and things that many of my favorite Hebrew and Yiddish writers clearly never
Jewish novel is anything that encompasses the Jewish experience, and because that experience is so vast, it is hard to define perimeters. Since Jews were scattered in the Diaspora and absorbed into many different nationalities, there is no one way to look at Jews and at books with Jewish content. When I first started writing novels, I was greatly influenced by noir literature. But I wanted my books to say something about my Jewish identity because writing what is meaningful to me always seems to
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flow more smoothly. Rather than approaching Judaism from a cultural identity like in most American Jewish fiction, I purposely chose to represent the religious aspect of my faith, embodied by my character Rina Lazarus, who starts out in the series as a young, widowed, observant woman. I did this because I thought that religion is more cross-cultural, since most people understand the rudiments
WRITING WHAT IS MEANINGFUL TO ME ALWAYS SEEMS TO FLOW MORE SMOOTHLY.
DONNA GRETHEN (TOP); COURTESY OF RUTH KNAFO SETTON
of religion even if they are not actively practicing. I thought to make Rina identifiable across all denominations, making her more universal and more globally identifiable. I think she would consider herself Jewish and an ardent Zionist (I live part time in Israel) as well as an American—much like myself. And like me, she would absolutely be a lifetime member of Hadassah. Faye Kellerman is the author of the best-selling Decker/Lazarus mystery series; her latest book is The Hunt.
RUTH KNAFO SET TON
s a professor, my concern with what makes Jewish fiction Jewish is to give my students a taste of the amazing diversity of Jewish voices—not just Ashkenazi, but also Sephardi, Mizrahi, Israeli, Indian, South American, Orthodox, LGBTQ, etc. As a writer who was born in Morocco, I can’t forget an editor once telling me, “You write well. Next time try writing about the real Jews.” Ahh. Not the North African, Mediterranean, couscous-eating, mint-tea-drinking Jews I’d described in my first novel, The Road to Fez, in which a girl returns to her birthland and encounters her Moroccan family and a Jewish martyr-saint who chose death over conversion to Islam. I’d call that Jewish fiction. In my forthcoming novel, Zigzag Girl, an Irish magician in Atlantic City tries to solve her friend’s murder. I wouldn’t call it Jewish fiction though it was born in my Sephardi imagination, and the characters struggle to outrun ghosts of the past as they attempt to redefine themselves. And the novel I’m currently working
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on has a mix of Jewish (Sephardi and Ashkenazi) characters and non-Jews, archaeologists and artists searching the past for answers to the present.
I CAN’T FORGET AN EDITOR ONCE TELLING ME, ‘YOU WRITE WELL. NEXT TIME TRY WRITING ABOUT THE REAL JEWS.’ —RUTH KNAFO SETTON
Jewish? Not Jewish? I’d go for Jewish. And for keeping the door open for all Jewish voices. Ruth Knafo Setton is the author of the novel The Road to Fez. She is a multi-genre writer whose awardwinning fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry have been widely published.
ow is Jewish fiction different from all other fiction? Well, I’ve tied myself in knots about it, and as usual I end up identifying with the Wicked Child: It depends on what that means to you. For my own tastes, some animating aspect of a Jewish story should originate from within the vast kalei-
‘JEWISHNESS IS THE WATER I SWIM IN’ BY DANI SHAPIRO What makes a novel a Jewish novel? Does it need to be written by a Jew? Or have a rabbi as its protagonist, or a cantor, or maybe a psychoanalyst? Does it need to be set in Israel, or wartime France—or Scarsdale? The late great novelist David Foster Wallace once shared this parable: Two young fish are swimming along when they cross paths with an older fish. The older fish calls out: “Hey guys! How’s the water?” and then swims on. A few moments later, one of the young fish turns to the other and asks: “What’s water?” To me, as a human being and as a novelist, Jewishness is the water I swim in. It is as inseparable from me as the other deepest aspects of my identity: wife, mother, daughter, friend, writer. And a Jewish novel is one that is suffused with Jewishness to its core, which can
mean many things. When Signal Fires first came out, I received an annoyed note from a reader who asked why I was representing Jewish families who ate non-kosher food or drove on Shabbos. I thought about this question a lot. Was I misrepresenting my Jewish characters, or was I representing, in Signal Fires, a slice of Jewish life in America—an America in which Jews have been able to ask: What is water? We’re living now in a time when we cannot afford not to know the water we’re swimming in, or to ignore the realities and exigencies of being Jews today. I wanted to write a novel in which my characters are indelibly Jewish, in their gestures, their dialogue, their memories, their choices, to the point where it is simply unspoken fact. Sarah has a memory of Noah Kantrowitz throwing up in the neighbor’s azalea bush after his bar mitzvah. Peter refers to a trip to Trader Joe’s in Los Angeles on New Year’s Eve of 1999 as “Erev Armageddon.” And, of course, there’s the guilt, the worry, the parental love, the grief, the shame these families face as they live their lives, Jewish to their core, perhaps for this reason most of all: They never stop asking questions. They’re living
THE BEST OF JEWISH FICTION INCORPORATES THAT OUTSIDER’S VIEW. —HELENE WECKER
literature, period—to which I will reply that it’s the particulars that lend the flavor, just as all foods satisfy our hunger but there’s only some that taste like home. Helene Wecker is the author of The Golem and the Jinni, which won the 2014 Harold U. Ribalow Prize, and its sequel, The Hidden Palace.
their lives, yes, their modern, assimilated lives, but if asked, they know exactly what water is. Like me, it would be the first thing they’d say when asked to define themselves. Dani Shapiro is the author of 11 books, including her most recent novel Signal Fires, and the host and creator of the hit podcast Family Secrets. This essay was adapted from remarks given by the author earlier this year when she received the National Jewish Book Award’s JJ Greenberg Memorial Award in Fiction from the Jewish Book Council for Signal Fires.
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SHELDON WECKER (TOP); © BEOWULF SHEEHAN
doscope of Jewish experience, whether that be religious or secular, historical or mythical. Like scholars arguing over a text, the story needs to wrestle with something—a difficult relationship, a futuristic vision, a questionable deity—the better to understand it. And just as Jewish life has historically existed at the periphery of other societies, the best of Jewish fiction incorporates that outsider’s view: the discomfort of never quite fitting in or feeling at rest, of habitually shying away from certainty even as one longs for it. Of course, you might say that these are the characteristics of good
A Banned Books Week display at a branch of the New York Public Library
And the Ban Played On
AP PHOTO/TED SHAFFREY
Banned books, censorship and fallout | By Lisa Barr
n 1991, as a young journalist fresh out of graduate school, I was assigned by my editor to cover an exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago. The exhibit was called “Degenerate Art: The Fate of the Avant-Garde in Nazi Germany.” When I walked into the exhibit, my breath caught in my throat. Chills covered my arms as I viewed the more than 150 paintings—brilliant masterworks—that the Nazis deemed degenerate and illegal. I knew right then that I was not reporting any old story. I, the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, had found my story—the one that would forever change the course of my career. I began a deep dive into the world of Nazi-looted art. I learned that
Hitler’s first mission after assuming power in 1933 was to destroy the nation’s free thinkers—the artists, authors, journalists, architects, entertainers, philosophers and teachers who did not comply with the Aryan ideal of “acceptable” expression. As it gained power, the Third Reich executed a cultural rape and robbery throughout Europe—burning books and looting and destroying art. I sometimes try to picture that happening to me, imagining if, as a Jew, my laptop and phone were confiscated. That peers in the writing world were arrested for working with me, and libraries were closed if they showcased my work. That anything I wrote was considered a crime against my country.
The situation in America today, of course, differs from Nazi Germany. However, across the United States, instances of, and debates about, censorship, book banning and challenges—a term, according to the American Library Association (ALA), for formal requests to remove a book from a school or library—have intensified. Caught in this web are several Jewish authors as well as books about the Holocaust. During the 2022-2023 school year, according to PEN America, a nonprofit that works to defend free expression, there were 3,362 instances of books banned or challenged in schools and libraries nationwide, affecting 1,557 titles. This is an increase of 33 percent com-
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ensorship is fear mongering. Fear of new ideas. Fear of repercussions. The greatest underlying fear for authors like me is that our books will never be read, or we will be scared to write them in the first place for fears of the political climate or fanning the flames of culture war. Recently, this fear blew up in our own Jewish community. In late August, the Mandel JCC in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., disinvited Rachel Beanland, a Jewish author, to a major event. Beanland, winner of the 2020 National Jewish Book Award for her debut novel, Florence Adler Swims Forever, had been scheduled to headline a luncheon in January 2024 to discuss her latest novel, The House Is on Fire. The book is a work of historical fiction about a deadly fire in the early 1800s in Richmond, Va., and addresses slavery and the rights of women. In an email to Beanland, which the author shared on social media, the Mandel JCC said it was canceling the author’s appearance because the subject of her book was too “complicated…in this current political climate.” The political climate the email is referring to is the one in Florida, where legislation has been enacted that restricts content taught in schools, calling for greater scrutiny and possible removal of books that
discuss race, racism, gender and sexual identity. (Florida and Texas, both with conservative governors and state legislatures, top the list of states with the most book bans.) Personally, I have spoken at the Mandel JCC in the past and had a wonderful experience. This decision was a shock to me and many of my colleagues. The backlash to the JCC’s decision, no surprise, went viral. The Jewish Book Council, a national organization devoted to Jewish literature, wrote a public letter in support of Beanland, emphasizing the importance of free expression. The Mandel JCC publicly apologized to Beanland, stating this decision was not in alignment with their commitment “to promoting diverse voices, opinions and perspectives.” In an interview, Jesse J. Rosen, president and CEO of the Mandel JCC, reiterated that his team has been “working aggressively to apologize and plot a course forward” and that his board of directors has begun “to examine our internal controls and procedures to ensure that communication from our agency is reflective of our values and what we stand for.” The Mandel JCC reinvited the author to speak at the luncheon. Beanland respectfully declined. The damage was done, but hopefully lessons have been learned. “As writers, we have a responsibility to tell stories that bear witness, both to the injustices of the past and today,” Beanland told me. “This is our gift: Using words to help people see the world for what it is and what it could be. I get very nervous about censorship because I don’t want a single writer to steer away from the difficult stories. It’s the difficult sto-
ries that most need to be written, devoured, discussed and shared.” Yet “difficult” tales are being censored nationwide. And books by Jewish writers, in particular Holocaust-themed literature, are being swept up in these bans. One of the more well-publicized recent instances happened in January 2022. The McMinn County Board of Education in Tennessee voted unanimously to remove Maus, Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel about the Holocaust, from its eighth-grade curriculum and school library. The book was removed because it contained swear words and nudity, according to publicly available minutes from a school board meeting. A scene of four Jews being hanged caused one board member’s outrage. In response to the ban, Spiegelman was quoted as noting that the censors “want a kinder, gentler Holocaust they can stand.” Over the years, other Holocaustthemed titles have been censored. The Diary of Anne Frank, both the original diary and the graphic novel version by Ari Folman, were challenged or banned for sexual content. Lois Lowry’s Newbery Medal-winning children’s novel, Number the Stars, was challenged for language, specifically numerous uses of “damn.” In response to the ongoing bans and challenges, in 2022, the Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL) put out a “Statement on Censorship and Banning Books,” expressing concern about the issue. “We at the Association of Jewish Libraries are keenly aware that the banning of books is antithetical to the functioning of a healthy, free and democratic society,” Heidi Rab-
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pared to the prior school year. “Broad efforts to label certain books ‘harmful’ and ‘explicit’ are expanding the type of content suppressed in schools,” PEN America found, noting that topics ripe for banning include violence or abuse, race, gender and LGBTQ+ identities as well as books that discuss health and well-being, death and grief.
inowitz, member relations chair at the AJL, said in an email. “The rise in book challenges is alarming as a sign of creeping authoritarianism and an attempt to control the thinking of readers, especially young people. Jewish tradition encourages debate and the exchange of ideas, and the repression we are seeing right now is diametrically opposed to Jewish values and American values.”
COURTESY OF JOANIE LEEDS
number of non-holocaust related books by Jewish authors have also been targeted. Among them, Jonathan Safran Foer’s 2005 novel, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, about a boy’s journey through New York in the aftermath of September 11, has been banned in school districts in Illinois and Ohio as well as other states for profanity, sex and descriptions of violence, according to complaints to the school boards. In 2023, 20 books by Jodi Picoult, including The Storyteller, which features a Holocaust-related plot, were pulled from library shelves in the Martin Country School District in Florida. They were among a group of 92 titles removed from that district’s middle and high schools due to a complaint filed by one parent, who claimed the works contained mature or sexual content. Nevertheless, the majority of parents in America are against banning books. Indeed, a 2022 ALA poll notes that 70 percent of parents nationwide oppose the trend. Despite the opposition, the bans persist, as, according to a PEN America report, administrators and school boards in some states have told teachers and librarians to “err on the side of caution” about which titles to make available. And then, of course, there’s everyone’s favorite young adult author,
Judy Blume, whose books such as Forever and Deenie are frequently targeted. (Forever is among the 92 banned in Martin Country.) Blume has been a longtime anti-censorship advocate and recently became part of a group of 14 authors who raised more than $3 million to help PEN America open a base in Miami. “I believe censorship grows out of fear, and because fear is contagious, some parents are easily swayed. Book banning satisfies their need to feel in control of their children’s lives,” she has written on a section of her website devoted to the topic. “They want to believe that if their children don’t read about it, their children won’t know about it. And if they don’t know about it, it won’t happen.” Censorship, however, is a complex issue that spans the political spectrum. Classics like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn have faced bans or challenges by liberal groups due to racist language. And the publisher of Dr. Seuss’s books decided to discontinue several titles because of imagery that depicts racial stereotypes. In recent years, a subset of censorship, largely associated with the left of the political spectrum, has emerged: cancellation. Many authors I have spoken with are afraid of being “canceled”—facing social media attacks, condemnation by literary groups—for writing about topics that aren’t “their own,” be it religion, race or sexual orientation. “One of my main characters in The Stockwell Letters is a Black man,” said USA Today best-selling author Jacqueline Friedland. Before publication, she had deep concerns about the reception of her novel, which delves into the connection between Ann Phillips, an abolitionist, and Anthony Burns, a fugitive slave. “As a white woman, I certainly can-
not claim any specialized knowledge about the Black experience,” she told me. “I feel strongly that it’s important for writers to try to step into the shoes of people who are different from them.” Friedland noted that so far reception of the book has been positive. But, she added, “I worked very consciously to make sure people know that the book is as much about a white woman as it is about a Black man, which I think helped people accept the project as a whole.” She recalled the advice that the late Toni Morrison, a Nobel laureate whose books have been targeted by bans, once gave to students at Oberlin College: “People say to write about what you know. I’m here to tell you, no one wants to read that, ’cause you don’t know anything. So, write about something you don’t know. And don’t be scared, ever.”
am heartened by those taking action against censorship. Across the country, Banned Book Clubs are emerging, groups that are choosing restricted books to read and discuss together. In September, the Hoboken City Council in New Jersey passed a resolution that makes Hoboken a “book sanctuary”—essentially, a place that bans book bans. That same month, California passed a bill barring book bans in schools.
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Jewish institutions are stepping up, too. In Missouri, during ALA’s Banned Books Week in early October, the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis and the National Council of Jewish Women St. Louis unveiled a new coalition called “Right to Read.” They are partnering with several Missouri organizations to help state libraries and bookstores combat bans and challenges. One Jewish singer-songwriter has even produced a full album dedicated to fighting bans. Grammy Award-winning singer Joanie Leeds has been making children’s music for over a decade. Her 11th album, Freadom: Songs Inspired by Banned
Children’s Books, dropped in September. One song, “Cholent Time,” was inspired by Mara Rockliff’s book Chik Chak Shabbat, about a diverse group of neighbors who help an observant Jewish woman make the Shabbat stew. The book was purchased in a school district in Jacksonville, Fla., then withheld for 15 months while being reviewed by the district. “As a proud Jewish American with strong progressive values, I’m deeply concerned about the increasing book bans across our nation,” said Leeds. “One fearful parent’s influence should not silence diverse voices in schools and libraries, violating our First Amendment rights. Sharing Jewish stories and educating non-Jewish
readers about our culture are essential, just as it is for any marginalized group.” Let children read. Let writers write. Let artists paint and sing. Let us all not be afraid to share opinions, ideas and words for fear of being banned, uninvited or canceled for creative expression. Yesterday, it was a colleague who was censored. Tomorrow, it may be me—or you. It’s time to turn the page and stand together to fight censorship and those who are trying to take a knife to our freedom of expression. Lisa Barr is The New York Times best-selling author of Woman on Fire. Her new historical thriller, The Goddess of Warsaw, about a legendary Hollywood actress with a secret past during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, will be published in May 2024.
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Parenting, a Task of Biblical Proportions Jewish-centered books provide guidance and reassurance By Rachel Pomerance Berl
SHUTTERSTOCK (ABOVE); COURTESY OF ALICIA JO RABINS
ix weeks after my son was born, I was lugging him to an appointment in an astonishingly heavy car seat, when an elderly woman sidled up to me and whispered, “It’s so hard, isn’t it?” Although no woman can predict her path in motherhood, I still wish I’d had a clue about the changes it involved and continues to involve, now that my son is 7. That becoming a mother, especially a Jewish mother, might require a breaking down to rebuild, like growing a muscle or gutting a house. Thankfully, a couple of recent Jewish books on parenting present the journey as such—one of biblical proportions—even as they suggest we dial down the pressure and consider our own well-being in the process. Alicia Jo Rabins’ Even God Had Bad Parenting Days: Ancient Jewish Wisdom for New Parents and Rabbi Amy Grossblatt Pessah’s Parenting on a Prayer: Ancient Jewish Secrets for Raising Modern Children look to sacred texts for guidance and comfort. Anita Diamant’s newly revised Living a Jewish Life: Jewish Traditions, Customs, and Values for Today’s Families offers meaningful ideas for new family rituals.
The Torah and the Talmud “remind us how little changes over the millennia,” Rabins said in an interview, pointing to the rabbinic phrase tza’ar gidul banim, the pain of raising children. In her book, Rabins, who has two children, describes being overwhelmed and struggling with her marriage after the birth of her first child and feeling “so seen” by this almost 2,000-year-old phrase from the Talmud. Despite the plethora of books on parenting, Rabins, who lives in Portland, Ore., said she hadn’t found much about “how it feels to make that transition into becoming a parent.” Drawing on her awareness as a poet, musician and Jewish educator, she wrote a collection of micro-essays that seeks to answer the question: “How can our tradition support us through this very sacred and tumultuous time?” In one example, she relates the midrashic tale of the angel who visits us in the womb and transmits the entire Torah, only to wipe it from our memories with a tap on the mouth before we’re born, leaving the indent above
our lips called the philtrum. “I love this story because, while our instinct is often to hold on tightly to all we’ve gained, this legend is about the power of letting go,” Rabins writes. “Sometimes, in order to be born, in order to grow, we have to forget the Torah we knew so well.” In her introduction to Parenting on a Prayer, Pessah recalls the same legend to suggest that intuition guides us to that knowledge we had in the womb, urging parents to listen to their internal “GPS,” or Great Parenting System. In 18 chapters, Pessah, a community rabbi in South Florida, links Jewish prayers to lessons in parenting. She explores, through the examples of her own three children, subjects such as empowerment with Mi Chamocha and boundaries with Adon Olam. But what underlies her book is much the same message conveyed by Rabins—that the central challenge of parenting is letting go. As her oldest son prepared for college, Pessah describes pulling into a gas station and weeping at the sight of a tanker trailer. Sixteen years earlier, Yossi was a truck-obsessed toddler, and they would stop to watch tankers delivering gas as he peppered her with questions. She consoles herself Alicia Jo Rabins and her two children
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f it’s any consolation to worried mothers and fathers, according to the Talmud, parents are only bound by a handful of obligations: circumcise male children; redeem firstborn sons with the ritual of pidyon haben; teach kids Torah, a trade and how to swim; and get them married. In her book, Rabins adapts the list to four goals: love our children; keep them safe; pass down our traditions; and teach them to need us less.
Rather than berate herself for perceived parenting failures, Rabins recalls the checklist and tries harder tomorrow. “I give them a hug,” she writes. “I tell them I love them. And then I look up the deadline for swim lesson signup.” Anita Diamant makes a similar point in Living a Jewish Life. “You don’t have to know everything. You don’t even have to know a lot to be a great Jewish role model,” she said in an interview from her home in the Boston area. Simply put: “Add a lot of joy to Jewish living.” Whether you host Shabbat dinners or take up Israeli dancing, you’ll transmit pride in being Jewish. “You really can’t fail at this if you’re trying,” she said. “There’s always next week, and there’s always next holiday.” Diamant, who grew up in a secular home, picked up traditions and knowledge from friends. These days, she acknowledges, she also learns from her adult daughter, who channels her Judaism through social justice work. “Maybe that’s the goal. You raise a Jewish child to be your Jewish teacher,” she said. With my second child, a daughter, I figured I knew the drill, not fully appreciating that this magnificent creature would continue to thrill and confound me. A spitfire who belly laughed at an age when humor seemed inconceivable, my now nearly 4-year-old daughter’s favorite meal is sardines and cottage cheese, and she insists on wearing crop tops and spandex no matter the weather. From the side, she looks like my mother, who, in the ultimate act of letting go, passed away six months ago. “Mom, this is your biggest day,” my son said to me the morning after she died. “Why’s that?”
Amy Grossblatt Pessah
“It’s your first day without a mom.” Thud. He later explained that if my mom is with God and God is everywhere, then she is inside us. We learn from the living memories of our parents and from the uniqueness of our children. And, as these parenting books explain, if we remain open and present to this as we care for ourselves, we continue to grow as well. Rachel Pomerance Berl is a freelance writer in Bethesda, Md.
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COURTESY OF AMY GROSSBLATT PESSAH
with the verses of Mi Chamocha, chanted by the Israelites as they fled Egypt, hoping she has empowered her son for his venture. In a chapter that examines God’s omnipresence through the verses of Adon Olam, the morning prayer that describes God as infinite and “without end,” Pessah introduces the concept of tzimtzum, Hebrew for contraction. In Jewish mysticism, the term describes the process through which God contracted, withdrawing from the world to make room for humanity. Though Pessah longed to connect with her increasingly distant adolescent daughter, she realized she, too, must contract, to give her daughter space to expand. “During this painful process, I will turn to God as my redeemer and refuge and hope to find solace and comfort,” she writes. Whether or not we let go—of perfectionism, old beliefs, the thrill of our children’s earlier stages—the days pass to make room for something new. The other night, while tucking my son into bed, I mentioned the safety hazard of a light-up toy with electronics protruding from its structure. “It’ll be easier when I’m older, Mom,” he said. “You won’t have to worry as much.” I asked him to explain. “I’ll make more decisions for myself.”
A Michal Ohana (left) with her mother, Rita Zack
Some of the ‘Lucky Ones’ Treating the victims of Hamas at Hadassah By Barbara Sofer
COURTESY OF HMO
ichal ohana, 27, a social media editor, just wanted to dance. She and a group of friends drove from Jerusalem to the Nova music festival near Kibbutz Re’im not far from Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip. As dawn broke on October 7 and the festival-goers started for home, trucks and motorcycles carrying armed terrorists pulled in front of them. Ohana ran for her life, dodging automatic machine gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades (RPG) in a nightmare chase. She found what she thought was refuge under an abandoned Israeli tank. But when many others joined her, all of them became a target of Hamas gunfire. Ohana took a bullet in her leg. “I was one of the lucky ones,” she said. “There were murdered people all around me.” Hundreds of young people attending the festival were killed by Hamas terrorists. Ohana, who was hospitalized at
Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem, recounted her harrowing ordeal to Hadassah National President Rhoda Smolow the day after the attack. Smolow had traveled to Israel from New York and visited the wounded who had been transported to the Hadassah Medical Organization from the South. “I feel privileged to be supporting a hospital that gives excellent care to wounded civilians and soldiers,” said Smolow. She shared the concerns and prayers of nearly 300,000 Hadassah members, and the men and women of Hadassah International, all of whom support Hadassah’s lifesaving work. Ohana is no stranger to Hadassah Ein Kerem. Her mother, Rita Zack, is a veteran nurse at the hospital. “My daughter texted me from under the tank and everywhere else she ran to send help,” Zack said, wiping away tears. “I am thankful that she survived and will get the best care possible at Hadassah.”
s of mid-october, 120 patients, most of them soldiers, have been brought for treatment at HMO’s hospital campuses at Ein Kerem and on Mount Scopus. The vast majority have serious injuries, often requiring multiple orthopedic, maxillofacial and neurological surgeries. One is a lone soldier from Houston who was shot in the face. To address the influx and prepare for the ongoing war, largecapacity emergency rooms were added on the third floor of the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Hospital Tower at Ein Kerem and in the parking lot of the new Gandel Rehabilitation Center at Mount Scopus. Meanwhile, thousands of Israelis have responded to a call for blood donations to HMO. And doctors and nurses are selflessly working far beyond their shifts, at no extra pay, to provide expert care to those in need. One Hadassah doctor who lives on Kibbutz Nir Am along the border with Gaza spent October 7 trapped in a reinforced saferoom when the attacks began. Dr. Sagui Gavri, head of Hadassah’s pediatric cardiology unit at Hadassah Ein Kerem, is usually holding in his hand an electrocardiogram chart of a young patient, whether Israeli or Palestinian; he has treated
Support and Prayers Hadassah National President Rhoda Smolow visited Ohana and spoke to her about her ordeal.
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southern Israel helped save more than 300 lives before he himself was seriously wounded.
over 200 children from Gaza. But for more than 24 hours, Dr. Gavri was holding a handgun, his eyes fixed on the door of the saferoom where he, his wife, Orna, and their 9-year-old son, Timor, had barricaded themselves. While armed Hamas terrorists set saferooms on fire to drive out and murder families in nearby kibbutzim, that did not happen at Dr. Gavri’s kibbutz, where he is a third-generation member. According to reports, Hamas made it to the outskirts of the kibbutz but did not enter, as kibbutz residents fought off the terrorists, killing two before the others ran off. After a day huddling in the saferoom, Dr. Gavri and his family traveled to Jerusalem. Speaking to Smolow in the atrium of the Davidson tower at Ein Kerem, a weary and tense Dr. Gavri said, “Grandparents, parents, children were murdered. This is far worse than the Yom Kippur War.” Another kibbutznik, Baruch Cohen, also underwent a terrifying ordeal. The 71-year-old serves as the head of civilian security at Kibbutz
unreal,” he said. The ICU had to move patients to accommodate the more critically wounded. “We took in 15 seriously injured patients at once. It was the worst disaster I experienced in my career, which spans South Africa, Australia and Israel.” Cohen lost the leg that took a direct hit from the RPG, but he absorbed the news with equanimity, said Dr. Van Heerden, who quoted the patient saying that he would “deal with it and is grateful to be alive.” “Baruch came here close to death,” said his wife, Mina. “Our daughter is an ICU nurse in a different hospital, and she tells us just how hard the team here works to save every life and how professional they are.” Mina, who had visited Albany, N.Y., last year as part of the Jewish Agency for Israel’s partnership program, told Smolow: “I was in Albany, and I know what the Hadassah organization is and the sacred work you do. I can’t thank you enough.” Barbara Sofer, an award-winning journalist and author, is Israel director of public relations for Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America.
Medics arrive at Hadassah Ein Kerem with wounded soldiers.
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NOAM REVKIN FENTON/FLASH90
A Hero Baruch Cohen from Kibbutz Magen in
Magen, also near the border with Gaza. He had trained a group 20 kibbutzniks for armed emergencies, and Cohen and the armed volunteers kept the terrorists from overriding the kibbutz. Cohen and his group are credited with saving more than 300 lives. While battling the terrorists trying to breach the kibbutz fence, his leg was hit by an RPG. When the terrorists saw that he wasn’t dead, they shot him. Seriously wounded, he drove his own vehicle out of the kibbutz and arrived in very serious condition to the Intensive Care Unit of Hadassah Ein Kerem. Among the doctors who treated Cohen is Dr. Vernon Van Heerden, head of General Intensive Care. When Cohen came in, “he was in very serious condition,” Dr. Van Heerden said. “Thankfully, he is doing much better now.” Dr. Van Heerden, an observant Jew, was home for Shabbat when his phone rang with the urgent call to come in. “I was apprised that something major was happening and went to the hospital. The sight of three helicopters in a row landing seemed
Student performers at the centennial celebration
Annabelle Bienenfeld Yuval
A Century of Triumph Teens find safety and hope at Meir Shfeyah ‘A HUNDRED YEARS OF PURE ZIONISM’ | BY BARBARA SOFER
ahava Jorno, class of 1977, drove four hours north from her home in Eilat. Yaakov Sapozhnikov, who graduated in 2017, flew in from Florence, Italy. Shoshana Tachran, a 1959 alumna, came from Beersheba, where she’s now retired after 50 years of working as a midwife. They were among the thousands of alumni and supporters of Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, who gathered on September 21 to celebrate the centennial of
the Meir Shfeyah Youth Aliyah Village with speeches, concerts, Israeli dancing, fireworks and pop-up hot dog and dessert stands. But the event, held on Meir Shfeyah’s campus, was more than a reunion. As Israeli President Isaac Herzog said in a video message shared that day, “It was a celebration of a hundred years of pure Zionism.” Meir Shfeyah lies 36 miles north of Tel Aviv and 22 miles south of Haifa. To get there, one ascends a road that curves between glorious vineyards. At the crest of the hill are dormitories and an award-winning high school, a dairy with prize-winning cows and a student-run winery set among towering oaks and terebinths.
HADASSAH WILL BENEFIT FROM EASIER ISRAEL-U.S. TRAVEL Israel has become the first country in the Middle East admitted into the United States Visa Waiver Program, a move that will allow Israelis to travel to America without a visa for up to 90 days. This admittance will serve the economies of both countries while advancing cultural understanding. Hadassah leaders and grassroots advocates mobilized over the last year to show support for this action, which was finalized in September, through letters to the State and Homeland Security Departments, the White House and members of Congress. Among many benefits, Hadassah Medical Organization doctors will no longer face the difficult visa-procurement process that has sometimes prevented them from attending conferences, completing important trainings or speaking in the United States. Israelis also play a large part in Hadassah and Young Judaea youth programs, serving as counselors, educators and role models. Israel’s admission into the Visa Waiver Program will help facilitate additional cultural exchange and lower barriers to participation. NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2023
The village sits on one of the tracts of land near the Carmel coast purchased in 1891 by philanthropist Baron Edmond de Rothschild. Like the other nearby towns he established— Zichron Yaakov, Binyamina and Pardes Hanna— he renamed the place, then an abandoned Arab village called Shfeyah, for a family member: his grandfather Amschel Meir. (Shfeyah is an obscure Arabic word probably meaning “the edge” because of the hillside setting.) Hadassah came on the scene in 1923. That year, to alleviate the ill health and educational privation experienced by Jerusalem-area orphans after World War I, Hadassah supported the transfer of girls to work and study at Meir Shfeyah. Two years later, the baron gifted the village to Henrietta Szold and Hadassah, with the intention that it become a center for rescued children.
mong the celebrants at the September festivities was Brooklyn-born Annabelle Bienenfeld Yuval, 96, who remembers her first visit to Meir Shfeyah in 1950, when she led a group of fellow Junior Hadassah members around the campus. “There were teens from Poland and Yemen communicating in Hebrew and learning farming,” she recalled. “They were dressed in cotton shorts and buttoned summer blouses. These new Israelis were already talking to each other in Hebrew, and we were frustrated because our Hebrew was limited.” Israeli and school pride at Meir Shfeyah
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Israeli novelists past and present educate and entertain us with their books. Fill in the titles or author names below and then make a “must-read” list for your book club.
Though not Israeli, American journalist and Hadassah member Ruth Gruber wrote passionately about the young state in her books, including in ______ , a novel that follows a real-life Hadassah nurse from the days of the Yishuv to the Six-Day War.
The Wealthy: Chronicle of a Jewish Family (1763-1948), a novel by ______ , offers insight into Zionism’s attraction to 19th and early 20th century Western European Jews.
______ is the author of the powerful To the End of the Land. He later won the Man Booker International Prize for A Horse Walks into a Bar.
Another multigenerational family saga is A.B. Yehoshua’s ______ . Also from Yehoshua, who The New York Times dubbed “the Israeli Faulkner,” comes ______ , his novel about an aging engineer falling victim to dementia.
Do you know about the head writer of B’Tipul, the Israeli television series adapted for HBO as In Treatment? She is novelist Yael Hedaya, who was a National Jewish Book Award finalist in 2006 for ______ .
Amos Oz drew on his years of living on a kibbutz when writing ______, billed as a “novel in stories” that offers an unsettling look at village life in Israel.
Prefer to learn about early Israel? The Blue Mountain and A Pigeon and a Boy, both by ______ , are read by many high school students in Israel.
Omer Friedlander, a gifted young Israeli author, wrote the short story collection ______ .
NOW YOU KNOW… MORE ABOUT ISRAELI NOVELS AND NOVELISTS
Yuval made aliyah two years later because, she said, “the germ of what I’d felt at Meir Shfeyah pulled me back.” She is a longtime Jerusalem resident. For Jorno, an educator and community organizer, the blend of farming and studies plus the emphasis on equality for all sounded enticing when she overheard her parents considering the school for her mischievous brother. She convinced her Iraqi-born parents to let her go
instead. “We internalized the value of cooperation and deep friendship,” she said of herself and her classmates. Faced with a choice of working with the cows and the chickens or at the winery, Sapozhnikov, who moved to Israel to escape antisemitism in Russia, said choosing the winery was a no-brainer. Now he is studying viniculture in Italy. “At Meir Shfeyah, I learned a new language and got a new home,” the
Pitching In Na’ale students on their way to clean out and prep bomb shelters (left); making care packages for soldiers after the Hamas terror attacks in October
24-year-old said. “I gained the confidence to follow my heart for my dream career in the wine industry.” Like Sapozhnikov, most of the 340 residential students—there are approximately the same number of day students who commute from surrounding towns—come from the former Soviet Union. Indeed, Meir Shfeyah was the first youth village to take in teens from Ukraine after the Russia invasion in 2022. And like Tachran, 83, who left Iraq with Youth Aliyah a year before her parents did, many of the students arrive in Israel without their family through the Na’ale program. In October, after the Hamas terrors attacks in the south of the country, 70 Na’ale students who had remained on campus during the High Holidays collected food packages for soldiers and displaced families. Whether escaping the Holocaust in Europe, immigrating from Arab countries and India or joining the waves of immigrants from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia, in every decade of the past century, teens from abroad as well as those from challenging home situations within Israel have found safety and hope at Meir Shfeyah. Barbara Sofer, an award-winning journalist and author, is Israel director of public relations for Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America.
FRONTEIRAS DO PENSAMENTO/LUIZ MUNHOZ/CC-BY-SA-2.0 (TOP)
ANSWERS: HAMUTAL BAR-YOSEF; ‘MR. MANI’ AND ‘THE TUNNEL’; ‘SCENES FROM VILLAGE LIFE’; ‘THE MAN WHO SOLD AIR IN THE HOLY LAND: STORIES’; ‘RAQUELA: A WOMAN OF ISRAEL’; DAVID GROSSMAN; ‘ACCIDENTS’; MEIR SHALEV
ZIONISM…DID YOU KNOW?
Picturesque Porto along the Douro River
In Portugal, Shadows of a Jewish Past Strains of ancient Sephardi lineage from Porto to Lisbon By Rahel Musleah
he portuguese town of Castelo de Vide, less than 20 miles from the border with Spain, is as picturesque as they come. Its enchanting cobblestoned streets redolent of Jewish ancestry and wreathed in the scent of linden trees beg to be photographed. Its whitewashed homes adorned with glazed azulejo ceramic tiles dazzle the eyes. Yet hewn into the exterior stone walls of some of those houses are symbols left over from a dark page of history: the Portuguese Inquisition, which lasted almost 300 years. Above one doorway on Rua Nova (New Street), a crude carving of a fish representing St. Peter, the catcher of lost souls, floats above a name etched into the stone: Maroc. This once was the home of a formerly Jewish family that chose baptism to escape the Inquisition’s wrath. They were moved from the adjacent Jewish quarter to Rua Nova, a street that took its name from these residents who were New Christians, a term used in Portugal for conversos, or Jews who converted. There are Rua Novas all over Portugal. The contrast between the country’s sunny charm and the Inquisition’s ruthless legacy gripped my
heart and my imagination on a group tour I experienced earlier this year that was organized by the Jewish Heritage Alliance (JHA), a global nonprofit dedicated to preserving and promoting the legacy of Sepharad— the Jews of the Iberian Peninsula. The inquisitions in Spain and, later, Portugal were watershed events in Jewish history, yet they “receive scant attention,” said JHA founder and CEO Michael Steinberger. Portugal’s breathtaking vistas stretch from north to south, from the stunning Douro Valley wine region to the southern Algarve coast. They include its two main cities—Porto in the north (also called Oporto) and Lisbon in the center of the country— along with smaller mountain towns. Nobody really knows when Jews arrived in Portugal, said Rabbi Peter Tarlow, the tour’s academic leader and co-founder of the Center for Latino-Jewish Relations and CryptoJewish Studies. The earliest archeological evidence of Jewish life dates to the third century. The Spanish Inquisition established in 1478 by the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella intensified following the Edict of Expulsion in
1492 that forced Jews and Muslims to convert to Catholicism or leave. About 100,000 Jews fled west, to Portugal, whose Jewish population at the time was significantly smaller. Their safety was short-lived. As a condition for marrying the infanta Isabella of Aragon, daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella, Portugal’s King Manuel I promised to convert or expel his country’s Jews. In 1496, he promulgated an Edict of Expulsion, however, due to the prominence and professional influence of the Jews, the king didn’t want them to actually leave, and he instituted a 20-year grace period in which they were not investigated. Nevertheless, thousands of Jews left, fleeing to North Africa, the Middle East and Europe. The Portuguese Inquisition was established by King João III in 1536 and targeted New Christians and crypto-Jews, the latter a subset of New Christians who maintained secret Jewish practices. Some 50,000 crypto-Jews left Portugal. Others hid in Portugal’s small towns. According to scholars’ estimates based on the available documentation, more than 1,100 were burned alive in autos-dafé—public sentencings followed by punishment—and close to 30,000 suffered imprisonment and torture. In the 19th century, a small number of Jews returned to Portugal, mainly from Morocco and Gibraltar. Some Eastern European Jews fleeing pogroms and economic ravage in the 1920s passed through on their way to other countries; a few stayed. Approximately 380 Jews were living
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in Portugal at the outbreak of World War II and an additional 650 Jewish refugees from Central Europe were granted resident status.
oday, portugal, which has become a hot tourist destination, has a Jewish population of about 6,000. Most are French or Israelis whose Portuguese heritage traces back through ancestors who sought refuge in the former Ottoman Empire and North Africa. Studies estimate that the number of Portuguese with some Jewish lineage is as high as 40 percent out of a total population of more than 10 million. Worldwide, JHA estimates that there are 200 million people who are descended from either Spanish or Portuguese Jews. Since 2015, descendants of Jews who were expelled have been able to obtain Portuguese citizenship. About 100,000 have applied and half have received citizenship; several thousand have moved to Portugal. Carolino Tapadejo next to his wax-figure likeness in Castelo de Vide’s House of the Inquisition
The old Jewish quarter in Castelo de Vide
Portugal’s Jewish saga unfolded for me in layers. In Castelo de Vide, former mayor Carolino Tapadejo, a descendant of crypto-Jews, detailed the city’s Jewish history from Roman times to 1320, when 49 families from Gibraltar settled there. Thirteen years later, they received permission from the king to build a synagogue. Following the Spanish expulsion, 4,000 Jews crossed the border near Castelo de Vide. Among them were Tapadejo’s ancestors from Toledo. Born on Rua Nova, Tapadejo, as a boy, often visited a neighbor who lit a hidden candle on Friday afternoons. “She told me, ‘This is what my grandmother did,’ ” he recalled. “She told me, ‘This is also your family [heritage].’ ” “I am not religious,” said Tapadejo, whose wife is also of crypto-Jewish descent, “but like most b’nei anousim [descendants of forced converts], my heart is Jewish, and my children and grandson feel the same.” After he was elected mayor in 1974 at the age of 26, Tapadejo organized the municipality’s purchase of the synagogue on Rua da Judiaria and helped turn it into a small Jewish museum. Another museum, the House of the Inquisition, graphically depicts every aspect of the inquisitorial process. All the life-size wax figures—of guards, judges and victims—are modeled after the likenesses of real people now living in Castelo de Vide. Tapadejo posed for our group alongside a figure of the inquisitorial judge NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2023
modeled after him, his smiling face a contrast to the judge’s grim expression. Also on view is a replica of a wooden cupboard that secretly housed a small Ark with a Torah.
orto, almost 200 miles northwest of Castelo de Vide, is a vibrant, bustling mecca of tourists and residents along the Douro River. Its Jewish community has also spearheaded a number of museums. A reconstruction of an Inquisition prison carriage greets visitors to the Jewish Museum of Porto, which opened in 2019. The museum retells Jewish history stretching back even before Portugal became a kingdom in 1143. For generations, Jewish merchants had their offices along the Douro, which flows through the city and extends 550 miles from Spain to the Atlantic. For me, the most dramatic lesson of the museum came from learning about heroes such as Captain Artur Carlos de Barros Basto. Born near Porto in Amarante, Barros Basto, a descendent of crypto-Jews, officially converted back to Judaism in 1920. He founded the modern Porto Jewish community 100 years ago, when he was the sole Sephardi among a group of 30 Ashkenazim. From 1927 to 1930, he scouted rural towns in search of crypto-Jews, seeking to reintegrate them into communal life. He supervised the building of the Kadoorie-Mekor Haim Synagogue with donations from the Sephardi
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RAHEL MUSLEAH (BOTTOM); SHUTTERSTOCK
Belém Tower in Lisbon
The Monument to the Discoveries along the banks of the Tagus River in Lisbon
Shaare Tikveh, Lisbon’s largest synagogue
Porto’s grand Kadoorie-Mekor Haim Synagogue
Portugal’s little-known role in the Holocaust is delineated in Porto’s Museum of the Holocaust, which has welcomed more than 100,000 students—10 percent of the country’s schoolchildren—from all over the country in the two years since it opened. A long wall displays 412 identification cards issued by the Portuguese Committee for Assistance to Jewish Refugees. Some of these Jews had received life-saving visas signed by Aristides de Sousa Mendes, the Portuguese consul general in Bordeaux, France, who issued thousands of visas to Jews in defiance of his government (read more about Sousa Mendes online at hadassahmagazine.org). In Lisbon, 200 miles south of Porto, two synagogues played a major role in Holocaust rescue. Shaare Tikvah, established by Sephardi Jews from Morocco and Gibraltar, and Ohel Jacob, founded by Polish Jews in 1943, served as sanctuaries for thousands of Jewish refugees during World War II, providing food, clothing and health care. Some of the refugees stayed and changed the complexion of the community. Shaare Tikvah, completed in 1904
and designed by well-known architect Miguel Ventura Terra, was the first synagogue built in Portugal since the Inquisition. Ohel Jacob is a Reform congregation that has welcomed crypto-Jews interested in returning to Judaism. Lisbon holds special interest for the Chabad Lubavitch movement because the city was the point of departure for the Lubavitcher Rebbe—the late Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson—when he escaped Europe in 1941 aboard the Serpa Pinto, headed to New York. The Rohr Chabad Portugal-Avner Cohen Casa Chabad in the nearby suburb of Caiscais welcomes visitors and residents alike. Its library contains a collection of rare books dating to the 15th century, including a copy of the first book ever printed in Lisbon, a commentary on the Torah by Moses ben Nahman, who is also known as the Ramban or Nahmanides. Lisbon’s two ancient Jewish quarters, centered in the Alfama and today’s Praça do Comércio districts, were destroyed by an earthquake in 1755. The nearby Praça do Rossio, the city’s liveliest area, was the site of the Court of the Inquisition, where Jews and other heretics were burned at the stake. At the edge of the square, outside the São Domingos church, is the site of the Jewish Lisbon Memorial. The simple round stone marker embedded with a silver Magen David memorializes the victims of a 1506 massacre, during which approximately 4,000 New Christians were
(CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM) SHUTTERSTOCK; RAHEL MUSLEAH; DESIGN PICS INC/ALAMY
diaspora, including a hefty gift from the Baghdadi Kadoorie family. That synagogue, located across the street from the museum, is the largest on the Iberian Peninsula. It was inaugurated in 1938, when synagogues in Nazi Germany were being razed. Its gleaming white Art Deco exterior and majestic Ark of maroon, navy and gold reflect Barros Basto’s ambitious goal of reviving the community. Today, the congregation boasts a membership of 1,000. But Barros Basto’s work among the crypto-Jews failed for many reasons, including their refusal to convert to Judaism or give up rituals antithetical to Jewish law. Over the centuries, as families kept secret Jewish practices without any further education, their faith became diluted. In Portugal, that specific crypto-Jewish faith is called marranism, without the derogatory nuance that that word carries in Spain. Like Alfred Dreyfus, his contemporary in France, Barros Basto experienced personal disgrace motivated by antisemitism. He was falsely accused of sexual misconduct before being dishonorably discharged from the army in 1937 for having taken part in the circumcisions—not illegal but considered immoral within the military—of several men with Jewish heritage. The uniform he was deprived of wearing is on display at the museum.
Livraria Lello book emporium in Porto
The official governmental website, Visitportugal.com, features numerous descriptions of Jewish sights. Several tour operators offer Jewish heritage trips through Portugal, including, among others, the Jewish Heritage Alliance, Robyn Helzner Jewish Heritage Tours, Gil Travel and the TripAdvisor-backed Viatour, which also offers day tours of Jewish sights in Lisbon and Porto.
Visit Porto’s six landmark bridges, including the 1877 Maria Pia Bridge, a symbol of Portugal attributed to Gustave Eiffel, and the Dom Luis de Porto bridge, which you can cross by foot. Not far from the riverfront, the famed bookstore Livraria Lello, built in 1906 with a neo-Gothic exterior and Art Deco interior, is rumored to have inspired J.K. Rowling’s depiction of Hogwarts’ sweeping staircase as well as the Flourish and Blotts bookshop in Diagon Alley, though the author herself has denied this. Rafael Diogo in Belmonte’s Beit Eliahu Synagogue
A plaque marks the site of the main synagogue that once stood on the Escadas da Vitória. Another plaque in the former Judiaria do Olival commemorates the expulsion and honors the Jews who kept their faith. Other worthwhile Jewish sights include the Jewish Museum of Porto and the Museum of the Holocaust. The Kadoorie-Mekor Haim Synagogue has two rabbis, one Sephardi and one Ashkenazi, who alternate leading services, which are Orthodox. The Crowne Plaza is within walking distance of the synagogue, as is the Hotel da Música, which features a kosher restaurant open to the public. Book in advance for that restaurant as well as the city’s only other kosher eatery, Iberia.
Casa do Gato Preto, the House of the Black Cat, said to have been the rabbi’s residence in medieval times, is decorated with a Lion of Judah and depiction of a Jerusalem gate with an inscription, “Made by Lopo, 1530.” Today, it is a private residence. The Isaac Cardoso Interpretation Centre of Jewish Culture NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2023
Coimbra’s Biblioteca Joanina
tells the stories of some of the town’s illustrious Jewish families, including how they fared during the Inquisition, and maps the spread of their descendants worldwide. The museum also houses a small synagogue, Beit Mayim Hayim.
Explore Belmonte’s fascinating Jewish history—past and present—at the Beit Eliahu Synagogue and the Jewish Museum of Belmonte.
CASTELO DE VIDE
Castelo de Vide’s Jewish sights include a Jewish museum on the site of a 14th century synagogue (Rua da Judiaria) and the House of the Inquisition. Yet another museum is scheduled to open soon, a tribute to native son Garcia de Orta (1501 to 1568), a cryptoJewish physician, herbalist and botanist who escaped with his family to Goa, India.
The University of Coimbra’s Biblioteca Joanina, completed in 1728, is a darkly spectacular library built in the Baroque style and ornamented with gold from Brazil. One of the rarest possessions among its 60,000 volumes is the 15th-century Abravanel Hebrew Bible, a handwritten, richly illus-
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trated manuscript commissioned by a Sephardi family that fled to Amsterdam and the Balkans during the Inquisition. The library also owns the largest collection of Portuguese Inquisition verdicts outside of Lisbon. A long-term exhibition, “The Jews from Coimbra: From Tolerance to Persecution,” is on view in the city’s former Inquisition headquarters.
Lisbon’s spacious and sheltered natural harbor at the intersection of the Tagus River and the Atlantic Ocean served as a point of embarkation and return for Portuguese explorers and is marked by the 16th-century Belém Tower, now a UNESCO monument. The Monument to the Discoveries honors Prince Henry the Navigator, who led Portugal’s search for a route to Asia by sailing south around Africa. Shaare Tikvah is a 900-member Orthodox Sephardi congregation with daily services. Many hotels are within walking distance, including the Dom Pedro. Ohel Jacob offers Reform services. Rohr Chabad Portugal-Avner Cohen Casa Chabad in Caiscais is among the largest Chabad centers in Europe and offers meals and daily services to travelers and residents.
RAHEL MUSLEAH (BOTTOM); SHUTTERSTOCK
WHAT TO SEE AND DO FROM PORTO TO LISBON
murdered after they were accused of causing the plague and drought that were sweeping the country. It was easy for me to imagine Portugal’s medieval past in its interior towns, some of them walled or formerly walled cities situated in the dramatic landscape of the Serra da Estrela
Mountains. In Coimbra, Portugal’s capital from 1139 to 1260, I could picture Jewish merchants gathering in the main square until the Inquisition made the city its regional headquarters. The University of Coimbra is the oldest university in Portugal and one of the oldest in Europe. Its students wear black cloaks that are said to have inspired the robes worn by Hogwarts’ students in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. As our tour entered the university’s ornately tiled and painted St. Michael’s Chapel, I noticed the nametag on a young chapel employee, Catia Cardoso. I The Jewish Lisbon Memorial near São Domingos Square
Douro Riverboat Cruise – Portugal
www.kosherrivercruise.com NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2023
asked her about her last name, which was one commonly adopted by Jews during forced conversions. She looked puzzled but told me that cardo means thistle, so she believes that she comes from a place where thistles grow. She didn’t mention, and may not even know, that Isaac Cardoso was a prominent 17th-century physician, philosopher and scholar born in Portugal to a crypto-Jewish family. In fact, at our next stop, in the town of Trancoso, we visited the Isaac Cardoso Interpretation Centre of Jewish Culture, opened in 2012 by the local government. Less than an hour’s drive south of Trancoso, the isolated hill town of Belmonte seems an unlikely place to find any Jews, past or present. But the area’s Jewish roots stretch back centuries. Today, the community of 45 maintains an active Orthodox congregation led by an Israeli rabbi. Souvenir shops sell Judaica as well as locally produced kosher wine. A seven-branched menorah set against a red door unmistakably announces Belmonte’s Beit Eliahu Synagogue, built in 1996. The words of the Shema run the length of the sanctuary on a wall supporting the women’s balcony. The unique ner tamid is designed from an open pot with a spouted neck, a larger replica of what was used to hide and light Shabbat candles at home. Several group conversion ceremonies took place in Belmonte until the mid-1990s, when most of its Jews immigrated to Israel, Spain or the United States. Our guide at Beit Eliahu was 15-year-old Rafael Diogo, the son of the community’s president. Through a translation provided by tour leader Peter Tarlow, Diogo recounted the community’s history. Belmonte’s Jews, he explained, were forced to convert in 1496. However, they maintained
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their identity for over 400 years by largely marrying among themselves; lighting candles surreptitiously on Friday night; and observing holidays a day or two before or after the proper date on the Jewish calendar to confuse the Inquisition. The community survived thanks to the unusual charity of their Christian neighbors, who didn’t denounce them. Because of Belmonte’s remote hilltop location, the town’s Jews believed they were the only ones in the world until 1917, when they met Samuel Schwarz, a Polish-born engineer who was running a mining operation in the area. In the course of his work, Schwarz found medieval Hebrew inscriptions on a stone in Belmonte that he believed belonged
to a 12th-century synagogue. At first, some of the locals denied they were Jewish, but when they heard Schwarz recite the Shema, they told him the truth. Schwarz documented their social and religious customs, prayers and manuscripts. The enigmatic stone is housed in Belmonte’s Jewish museum, which also displays Inquisition-era artifacts. I thought about the Belmonte congregation, a testament to abiding Jewish faith, back in Lisbon during my visit to Shaare Tikvah. I asked Sandra Montez, who conducted our tour of the synagogue, about her own family background. “Sorry to disappoint you,” she said. “I’m not Jewish.” Later, however, she revealed that during her tourism studies, she felt
something was missing from her courses: research about the Jewish community. She began studying Judaism on her own and learned Hebrew. “Whenever my mother would cook, and the knives would cross, the first thing she would do was uncross them,” she told me. “But if you would meet them [my parents], they were absolutely Catholics. Something didn’t fit very well. When I realized that, they were already older and could not explain why and how. A lot of what we had was lost in the past 500 years.” Rahel Musleah leads virtual tours of Jewish India and other cultural events. In June, her Jewish heritage tour through Portugal was sponsored by the Jewish Heritage Alliance.
Did you know? Ashkenazi Jewish men and women are 10 times more likely to carry mutations in their BRCA genes and have increased risks for various cancers.
Know your risk so you can be proactive about your health. Order an at-home CancerGEN kit at jscreen.org.
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Rome’s Ancient Jewish Foodways Classic fried artichokes and apple fritters for Hanukkah By Adeena Sussman
t was early in spring 2020, and Leah Koenig was eager to get to Rome. The cookbook author and Jewish food authority had already begun research on a book about Roman Jewish cooking. The dream project would be the follow-up to her encyclopedic, critically acclaimed The Jewish Cookbook, a global compendium of Jewish foodways that was released in 2019. “I have a special history with Jewish Rome and I was eager to deepen it even further,” Koenig said by phone from her home in Brooklyn a few weeks before the publication, in August, of Portico: Cooking and Feasting in Rome’s Jewish Kitchen.
The Portico d’Ottavia
Unfortunately, Covid-19 upended her plans. The in-person Roman immersion she so craved—and that the book required—would have to wait. But like so many in the early days of the pandemic, Koenig quickly pivoted, determined to keep the book on track. “The world quickly turned virtual, so I did, too,” Koenig said. Soon she was polishing her Italian on the language-learning app Duolingo, Zooming into Roman Jewish kitchens for interviews and cooking lessons, and making lists of places and people she planned to visit once the world reopened for travel. “I was able to cross-reference
things I had tasted in the past,” said the 41-year-old, who first backpacked her way through the city after college but only briefly visited the Jewish ghetto then. Five years later, in 2008, while on her honeymoon with her husband, Yoshie Fruchter—with whom she now has children Max, 8, and Beatrice, 4—Jewish Rome presented itself in all its dazzling glory, history and deliciousness. The couple found themselves walking around the Portico d’Ottavia, in the area of the former Jewish ghetto, which is home to many Jewish businesses and restaurants. There they sampled nut- and fruit-studded cookies with a storied pedigree at the 300-year-old Pasticceria Boccione and gorged on crispy Carciofi alla Giudia (Jewish-Style Fried Artichokes) at a number of eateries. They became enchanted by the European-chic yet utterly Jewish vibe that only Rome could nurture. On that same trip, Koenig found herself at the Shabbat table of local Jewish caterer Giovanni Terracina, whose celery-and-tomato meatballs
Jewish-Style Fried Artichokes
and red wine stew blew her away and inspired her to dig deeper into Jewish food. “It really opened my eyes and made me curious about the history behind the food,” she said.
Carciofi alla Giudia | Serves 4 to 6
PHOTOS BY KRISTIN TEIG. RECIPE REPRINTED FROM ‘PORTICO: COOKING AND FEASTING IN ROME’S JEWISH KITCHEN’ BY LEAH KOENIG COPYRIGHT © 2023 BY LEAH KOENIG. USED WITH PERMISSION OF THE PUBLISHER, W.W. NORTON & COMPANY, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
nd what a history it is. Besides ancient Israel, Rome has the oldest surviving Jewish community in the world, dating back 2,000 years to the time when Judah Maccabee sent envoys from Judea to seek protection from Syrian King Antiochus—and stayed. Two centuries later, their descendants were joined by the enslaved Israelites brought to Rome by Emperor Titus after he captured Jerusalem and destroyed the Holy Temple. From that point, a unique community called the Italkim evolved, practicing a distinctive fusion of imported Judean and local Roman traditions. The next major wave of Jews came with the expulsions from Spain, Leah Koenig
Portugal and the parts of southern Italy controlled by the Spanish crown, with many Jews finding their way to Rome. This unified Italki-Sephardi community lived in relative freedom until 1555, when the virulently antisemitic Pope Paul IV forced the Jews into the now infamous ghetto. For nearly 300 years, around 9,000 Jews lived in packed quarters, forbidden from working in most professions and consuming popular foods earmarked for non-Jews like large fish and prime cuts of meat. The Jews adapted, turning mackerel and sardines into savory stews, crafting dishes from offal cuts, turning a weed known as the artichoke into a worldrenowned delicacy and generally transforming cucina povera—essentially, peasant food—from a sow’s ear into a silk purse. The Jews of Rome were emancipated in 1870, but only 68 years later, Mussolini’s government imposed racial laws. One hundred Jews died in Nazi concentration camps, and the rest escaped, went into hiding and rebuilt the community after the Holocaust. Postwar, a significant population of Italian-speaking Jews arrived from Libya, seeking refuge from persecution that worsened after the Israeli War of Independence.
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6 medium artichokes, tough outer leaves trimmed and with their centers scooped out 2 ounces light olive oil or vegetable oil (such as sunflower or grapeseed) for deep frying Kosher salt Lemon wedges for serving 1. Line a large plate with paper towels. Pour about 2 1/2 inches of oil into a medium deep saucepan and heat over medium until it reaches 280° on a deep-fry thermometer. 2. Working in two batches if necessary, add the artichokes to the hot oil and cook, turning occasionally, until the hearts are tender when pierced with a fork, 10 to 15 minutes. Carefully transfer the artichokes to the prepared plate to drain and cool. Set the saucepan of oil aside. 3. Once they are cooled, gently pull open each artichoke to expose the center (it should resemble a flower). If the artichokes have hairy chokes in the center, use a melon baller or sturdy spoon to carefully remove and discard them. 4. Put the saucepan back over the heat and bring the oil up to 350°. Add the fried artichokes, cut side down, and fry until browned and very crispy, 2 to 4 minutes. Return to the paper towels to drain and sprinkle generously with salt. Serve immediately, with lemon wedges for squeezing.
This unique Jewish history and diversity was what Koenig researched when she finally made it back to Rome in 2021. “The delay made getting there all the more meaningful,” she said. She reconnected with Roman Jewish native Micaela Pavoncello, whom she had met on her honeymoon and who would become a cherished consultant and confidant. Pavoncello, a vivacious 45-year-old who is a professional tour guide and unofficial mayor of Rome’s approximately 16,000-person Jewish community, squired Koenig and the book’s photographer, Kristin Teig, around the city for a week. “When I wanted to do the book, it was important to me to get Micaela’s blessing because I am well aware of issues of appropriation, and I am not from Rome,” Koenig said. “I
Apple Fritters with Vanilla Sugar Mele Fritte | Serves 6 to 8
FOR THE VANILLA SUGAR 2 vanilla beans 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
asked her if she was going to write a cookbook about Jewish Rome, and instead she gave me her blessing to write mine.” “I’ve known for a long time that Leah had everything needed to share Jewish Rome with the world,” Pavoncello said during a phone interview. “She is curious and gracious and is a wonderful writer and cook who has also become a friend.” Pavoncello connected Koenig with people who had a specific expertise in Roman Jewish cuisine, including some who did not live to see the book’s publication. Among them was Italia Tagliacozzo, born in 1938, who survived the war by hiding in a convent and eventually opened a restaurant near the ghetto in 1999. “Talking to her on the phone, I got this vibe of a Jewish grandma
FOR THE FRITTERS 4 large baking apples,
peeled 3 tablespoons granulated sugar 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups milk or non-dairy
milk Vegetable oil (such as sunflower or grape seed) for frying
1. Prepare the
vanilla sugar: Split the vanilla beans and scrape out the seeds; set the pods aside. Put the sugar and vanilla seeds in a food processor and pulse until fully combined. Transfer the sugar NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2023
with spectacles and a bun,” Koenig said, “but, in fact, she was beautifully coiffed and immaculately dressed whether she took us to eat in her restaurant or hosted us in her home.” Another, Hamos Guetta, started a YouTube channel so his daughters could access traditional Libyan foodways through his videos. Though Guetta passed away before Koenig’s 2021 trip to Rome, she did prepare Libyan Roman dishes with his daughter, Ghily, during that visit. What Koenig took away from her time in Rome was how seriously the locals take their food traditions. “It’s wonderful how protective Roman Jews are of their recipes, and it shows a people still really connected to their cuisine,” said Koenig, who even witnessed a heated debate between two elderly Roman Jews about how
to a glass jar, add the reserved pods, cover tightly and set aside. (The sugar can be used right away, but the flavor will develop over time. It can be stored, tightly covered, for up to 1 year.)
2. Prepare the fritters: Using an
apple corer (or a melon baller or sturdy metal teaspoon), carefully remove the apple cores and discard. Slice the apples into 1/2-inch-thick rings and set aside.
3. Whisk together the flour,
sugar, salt and baking soda in a large bowl. Add the milk and whisk until smooth.
4. Heat 1/2 inch of oil in a large
frying pan over medium heat until shimmering. Line a large plate with paper towels and set nearby.
5. When the oil is hot, working
in batches of 4 to 5, dip the apple
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rings into the batter, let the excess drip off and carefully slip them into the oil. Fry, turning once, until golden brown on both sides, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to the paper towel-lined plate to drain.
6. Sprinkle the fritters generously with vanilla sugar while still hot and serve immediately.
PHOTO BY KRISTIN TEIG. RECIPE REPRINTED FROM ‘PORTICO: COOKING AND FEASTING IN ROME’S JEWISH KITCHEN’ BY LEAH KOENIG. COPYRIGHT © 2023 BY LEAH KOENIG. USED WITH PERMISSION OF THE PUBLISHER, W.W. NORTON & COMPANY, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Sephardic Balkans: Jewish Heritage Tours to properly slice artichokes. Echoing the centrality of artichokes, Portico includes an illustrated how-to for cleaning and peeling them. Koenig also offers a guide on stocking a Roman Jewish pantry with staples like anchovies, chicory, salt cod and caraway seeds. Then there are the recipes themselves, whose simplicity belies their rich history. Curly Endive and Anchovy Pie, for instance, was born out of a lack of refrigeration: The anchovies were layered between lettuce leaves to keep them cool. In many dishes, like Pezzetti Fritti (Fried Mixed Vegetables), frying in olive oil became a Jewish tradition because the oil was plentiful, inexpensive and pareve.
ack in her own kitchen, Koenig made some adjustments to the recipes she’d gathered in Rome for her primarily American audience. “We Americans love our garlic, and Romans are more lighthanded with it, swirling a whole clove in sizzling oil to perfume it but then removing the garlic,” she offered as one example. And then there is olive oil, that most quintessential of Hanukkah foods. “The amount of olive oil Roman Jews use in their cooking was revelatory. I’m no longer a ‘two tablespoons in my sautéed onions’ kind of a cook,” said Koenig, who now pours oil more liberally. For Hanukkah this year, fry up Koenig’s Carciofi alla Giudia—the city’s most iconic Jewish dish—as well as her apple fritters, a sweet treat that will transport you to the streets around the Portico d’Ottavia.
Learn about the Sephardic and Ashkenazi communities of the Balkans. Travel with Dr. Joseph Benatov of the University of Pennsylvania May–July 2024 & 2025 Our Tours:
➔ Jewish Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia, and Trieste (Italy)
➔ Jewish Bulgaria, North Macedonia, and Greece
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➔ Jewish Albania, Montenegro, and Corfu (Greece) Explore magical Dubrovnik, Split, Salonica–“The Jerusalem of the Balkans” –Transylvania, Bucharest, Sofia, Belgrade, Trieste, and Sarajevo, home of the Sarajevo Haggadah. Contact: sephardicbalkans.com firstname.lastname@example.org 267.970.1817
Adeena Sussman is the author of Shabbat: Recipes and Rituals from My Kitchen to Yours and Sababa: Fresh, Sunny Flavors from My Israeli Kitchen. She lives in Tel Aviv. NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2023
jewish heritage tours
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HANUKKAH GIFT GUIDE
Shine a Light
ighting the menorah is weighted with deep significance this holiday as we search for glimmers of hope and happiness amid our grief and fears for Israel. We offer here a touch of sweetness to balance the bitter, and gifts and items that evoke Jewish pride and Israeli creativity as we come together to celebrate a holiday centered around the triumph over our ancient enemies. For more items go to hadassahmagazine.org.
TURN, TURN, TURN
Tchotchke’s design ethos focuses on merging whimsy with tradition. The handcrafted Emerald Ripple Menorah, which allows users to place candles anywhere along its round ridges, is a perfect example of the company’s distinctive touch (from $180; moderntribe.com).
A TIME TO TALK
Root & Seed wants to help unlock your family heritage with their Conversation Cards. The game’s 68 cards have discussion prompts and a QR code that lets players discuss then digitally record family stories and traditions (Conversation Cards, from $29; Hanukkah expansion pack, from $8; rootandseed.com).
A TIME TO PLANT
FLOWERS FROM ISRAEL
Barbara Shaw’s home goods spotlight different aspects of the Israeli designer’s beloved country. Her set of coffee mugs are decorated with flowers native to the Jewish state, including the red poppy, the national flower of Israel, and the white winter crocus (set from $50; barbarashawgifts.com).
Elevate your holiday centerpiece with the Talia Dreidel Terrarium from Adara Rituals, available in gold or black, or with the Mini Dreidel Terrarium that is a perfect size for holding your chocolate gelt (from $78 each; mini terrarium from $24 each; adararituals.com).
DESIGNING WITH HEBREW
Israeli high-end luxury Judaica designer David Roytman, who recently opened a gallery in New York City, leans heavily on his heritage in his creations. Both his dreidel/whirligig (from $250) and napkin holder (from $150; davidroytman.com) are styled using the alef-bet.
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A TIME FOR PRIDE
TOKENS AND TREASURES
The Olive Branch pendant and necklace from fine-jewelry company Zahava, which means gold in Hebrew, has the word “peace” engraved on its back. Company founder Jessica Hendrick Yee found inspiration for her designs in her Jewish upbringing. Much of her work features Jewish imagery and sayings (from $345; zahava.com).
WOMEN OF VALOR
This 500-piece puzzle is not just a celebration of Zionist women, it also helps support this magazine. Receive or gift the puzzle, created from one of our classic covers, with a donation of $250 to the Hadassah Magazine Circle (hadassahmagazine.org/make-a-gift).
Popular accessory designer Susan Alexndra brings candy-colored appeal, a perky style and Jewish pride to her Judaica jewelry, including her Mensch Earrings (left, from $138) and her (above, from top) Protect Your Neck Choker (from $85), Shalom Necklace (from $148) and Prayer Necklace (from $108; all at susanalexandra.com).
A TIME FOR LOVE
The Ahava sculpture was gifted to the Israel Museum by Pennsylvania artist Robert Indiana. The symbol of American connection to the Jewish state is reimagined (clockwise from bottom) as earrings (from $32), bookends (from $84; both at shoptheweitzman.org) and a resin sculpture (from $245; thehappykangaroo.com).
A TIME TO PLAY
Pickleball has swept the nation. If you haven’t started playing yet, a “kosher” sweatshirt (from $70; santabarbarahappy.com) and pickleball hat (from $24.95; shoptheweitzman.org) will provide some inspiration. NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2023
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Behind the Scenes of ‘Harmony’ Barry Manilow and a stellar creative team let a real-life story sing | By Suzanne Dressler
The Comedian Harmonists in ‘Harmony’
ver 25 years ago, when lyricist and librettist Bruce Sussman went to The Public Theater in Manhattan to view a German documentary, he had no idea that he would leave with the seeds of a Broadway show. The film featured the Comedian Harmonists, a six-man singing and performing troupe in 1920s and 1930s Germany. Upon leaving the theater, Sussman immediately went to a pay phone and called his long-time musical partner, Emmy-, Tony- and Grammy-Award winner Barry Manilow, with an idea for a musical about the Comedian Harmonists. “I was baffled that I had never heard of them before,” Sussman, a Drama Desk Award winner, said in an interview. “I was totally stunned by the story.” Manilow jumped on the idea. Both Sussman and he had started their long careers wanting to write musicals, before developing primarily as soft-rock and pop musicians, collaborating on such hits as “Copacabana” and others. The Broadway production of Harmony, which opens at the Ethel
Barrymore Theatre on November 13, represents the culmination of years of effort. It is “a dream come true to hear this cast sing,” Manilow said in an interview. The real-life Comedian Harmonists, famed for their blend of satirical antics and sophisticated harmonic talents, sold millions of records, made several movies and performed all over the world. Three members of the ensemble were Jewish, and one of the non-Jewish performers married a Jewish woman, putting the troupe on the radar of the Nazi regime. Harmony explores the Comedian Harmonists’s beginnings, success and eventual dissolution. Distinguished Broadway actor Chip Zien plays the Rabbi, a former Harmonist who serves as the narrator of the show. Harmony reveals the group’s struggles under the Weimar Republic with the rise of the Nazi Party and the choices each member makes to try to survive the coming conflagration. Harmony received rave reviews when it played at the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene in spring 2022,
becoming a New York Times Critics’ Pick. Nevertheless, it hasn’t been a smooth ride to Broadway. “Putting together a musical is a bear. To write it, to create it, to get it on its feet anywhere,” admitted Manilow. Sussman and he knew that each of Harmony’s iterations—the first opened in 1997 in San Diego— could be its last. Getting it to New York City required the right producer, and they found him in the prolific Broadway veteran Ken Davenport, a recent Tony winner for his production of Once on This Island and Kinky Boots.
he creative team also includes Broadway director and choreographer Warren Carlyle and casting director Jamibeth Margolis. “Barry and Bruce approached me about five years ago,” Carlyle said. “I feel so lucky to be the one to get to tell the story.” Indeed, the Tony winner did his own research in preparing to direct and choreograph the show. “I want to get everything right,” he said. “I want to bear witness as a non-Jew and say, ‘This can never happen again.’ ” Margolis, whose Broadway casting credits include Les Misérables and The Phantom of the Opera, began working on Harmony in 2019, for the Folksbiene production, which was later delayed until 2022 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. “Every show deserves special attention in casting,” said Margolis, who noted that she is a member of Hadassah. “But as a true story, there is an extra responsibility to make the
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PAUL APHISIT (ABOVE)
Barry Manilow (left) and Bruce Sussman
characters believable.” Finding the right combination of actors to play the Harmonists was challenging, she said. “We had to look for six performers to create that perfect sound and blend to evoke the real group…. The Harmonists have to do it all—sing, dance and act.” The ensemble members are played by Danny Kornfeld (as a younger Rabbi), Zal Owen, Sean Bell, Eric
BROADWAY’S JULIE BENKO
ctress and musician Julie Benko is making a name for herself on the Great White Way. In 2022, she played Fanny Brice briefly in the Broadway revival of Funny Girl after Beanie Feldstein left the role, for which The New York Times called her a “2022 breakout star.” Starting in November, the 34-year-old will portray another Jewish woman on Broadway in Harmony, based on the true story of the Comedian Harmonists, a popular singing ensemble in Weimar Germany. Benko plays Ruth, the Jewish wife of Chopin Bootz, a non-Jewish singer in the group. This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Concerns around “authenticity,” when non-Jewish actors are cast in Jewish roles, have emerged in recent years. What is it like for you, playing a Jewish character as a Jew? Authenticity in casting is tricky nowadays, and I really appreciate it when the effort is made. It’s a complex, nuanced issue, and there isn’t a blanket response. A friend of mine said there is the “joy” and
Peters, Blake Roman and Steven Telsey, reprising their roles from the Folksbiene production. New for the Broadway production is Julie Benko, who takes on the role of Ruth, a Jewish political activist and spouse of an ensemble member (see Q&A below). As a grandchild of a Holocaust survivor, Margolis believes in the importance of telling stories from that era “based on fact,” she said. “I was so impressed when I learned about the significant amount of research Bruce Sussman and Barry Manilow did when writing the show.” Manilow recalls throwing himself into studying the era and its music. “I was soaking in that world. It was horrible, but also thrilling,” he said, noting one musical number that was
the “oy.” As Fanny, I got to play an iconic Jewish character that had nothing to do with the Holocaust, and that was “joy.” It was a gift to play the “joy.” Now I am doing more of the “oy.” I am honored to get to encapsulate Jewish life on stage. Fanny and Ruth are two different women who lived at the exact same time in different countries with completely different views on life. What has it been like working with Barry Manilow, Bruce Sussman and choreographer Warren Carlyle? It was a joyous experience. Truly a theater collaboration. Warren would take my ideas and humor me. And we had a lot of fun discovering and playing together. I got to record the cast album, and Barry, being a great musician, was particular about it. I worked hard! Tell us more about Ruth. She’s an amalgamation of different characters. Chopin’s real wife was named Ursula. Ruth is a Bolshevik activist; Ursula Bootz was not political, though she was Jewish. I tracked her daughter down. The name “Ruth” comes from a Holocaust survivor that Bruce [Sussman] knew
particularly challenging. Called “Threnody,” it is a pivotal piece near the end, when the Rabbi confronts God and his own survivor’s guilt and despair. Sussman said he hopes the show proves to be equally powerful for audiences, allowing them “to bear witness to this incredible story.” Suzanne Dressler is a freelance writer and podcast host of There’s a Word for That!
personally. She is a composite character, and that’s a little freeing as an actor; I get to do more of what I want. Female Jewish stories have been lost to history, but Jewish women were a huge force of resistance in Nazi-occupied countries because they could hide their Jewish background (more easily than men, who were circumcised). What are you hoping the audience walks away with? In Germany, the Comedian Harmonists are known. Outside of Germany, they are not. Most people I talk to, this is their first interaction with the story, and I am excited for people to hear a story that the Nazis tried to silence. Allowing it to live on a Broadway stage—the pinnacle of our profession—is an act of political resistance. It’s an act of defiance. It’s never been more relevant, as antisemitism is rising in the United States. —Suzanne Dressler
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The National Library of Israel
The Collective Memory of the Jewish People The National Library of Israel’s new building—and its renewed purpose | By Esther Hecht
PHOTO © LAURIAN GHINIȚOIU
nation’s ability to define itself in writing and to transmit that definition to future generations are often considered among the hallmarks of civilization. That, perhaps, is why the renewed National Library of Israel (NLI), now in a purpose-designed building in a new location, shines so brightly within Jerusalem’s cultural constellation. (The NLI’s grand opening in October was postponed after Hamas’s attack on Israel.) The sleek $200-million library is situated between two of the city’s most important institutions: the Knesset and the Israel Museum. Shaped like a concave lens and faced in a mix of stone and concrete that glows orange at sunset, it is far more than a building that houses books. “It’s a place of really big questions,” said Raquel Ukeles, head of collections at the NLI. “Any time you are dealing with collecting or curating, you’re making value judgments about what’s important. So, our primary work is to be the collective memory of the Jewish people and Israeli society. In essence, we are both documenting and, to some degree, defining what it means to be Jewish and Israeli today.”
Those interested in exploring that definition can access the Israel Collection and the Haim and Hanna Salomon Judaica Collection, two of the NLI’s four core repositories. In the Israel Collection, the NLI amasses anything related to the language and culture of the Jewish state, from books published in the country to postcards, menus, music, photographs and internet sites. The globe-spanning treasury of Jewish texts in the Judaica collection, according to Ukeles, is larger than that in any other institution. The other two core archives are Islam and the Middle East, considered one of the most important Islamic repositories in the region, and Humanities, which contains works from luminaries such as Sir Isaac Newton and Jewish novelist Franz Kafka. The NLI building, which has 11 stories, five of them underground, was designed by the Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron, whose international credits include the de Young Museum in San Francisco. The fouracre campus is landscaped with native plants and trees that reflect themes of environmental harmony and sustainability. The plaza to the south of the building features an installation by Micha Ullman called “Letters of
Light.” Inspired by the kabbalistic text Sefer Yetzirah (The Book of Creation), it features stone blocks arranged to cast shadows that form the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. The centerpiece of the building is a three-floor, circular main reading hall flooded with natural light, a well of knowledge with some 200,000 books lining the rounded shelves. With the facility’s advanced cooling system and other green features, the NLI bills itself as the most environmentally sustainable building in Israel. Readers, scholars, school groups and tourists—500,000 visitors are expected annually—can watch the robotic retrieval of books and view exhibitions located mainly in the wing that houses the visitor center. Among the pieces on display is a 12th-century commentary on the Mishna by Maimonides with his handwritten corrections as well as masterpieces from Marc Chagall and other artists.
he seeds of the nli were sown in 1892, when the Jerusalem branch of the B’nai Brith organization opened the city’s first free public library in rented premises on Jaffa Road. After the Hebrew University was established in 1925, the library moved to the school’s campus on Mount Scopus. During Israel’s War of Independence, when Mount Scopus became inaccessible, the books were secretly moved to various locations. In 1960, a new home for them was built on the university’s Givat Ram campus. Plans for the new facility were put in motion in the 1990s, when stakeholders led by the Rothschild family, members of Knesset and academics re-envisioned the library, used then mainly by scholars, as the national library of the State of Israel and of
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the Jewish people worldwide. In 2007, the Knesset passed the National Library of Israel Law, which defined the goals of the institution and made it independent. The groundbreaking in 2016 then led to the task of defining the four core collections. Private funds from Yad HanadivThe Rothschild Foundation, the Gottesman family of New York and other donors covered 85 percent of the cost of the new building. The remainder came from the Israeli government, which will help fund operational and other costs, supplemented by grants and donations. Today, the NLI houses some five million items, most of them books. Approximately 100,000 of the items are considered rare, among them illuminated manuscripts, prints from the 15th through 17th centuries, documents and religious texts from the Cairo Genizah and an extensive collection of antique maps of Jerusalem and the Holy Land. The digitization of many of the holdings, including hundreds of historical Jewish newspapers, has made them freely available worldwide. Asked about the most valuable item in the library, Ukeles referenced the Keter Damascus, or the Crown of Damascus. Dating to the 10th century, it is one of the earliest copies of the Hebrew Bible in the form of a codex, or book, rather than a scroll. But it was about another item that Ukeles told an emotion-laden story: a 400-year-old Oriyt—the name in the
Director Weinberg has a slightly different focus. What excites him most, beyond the NLI’s holdings, he said, are “the people who come in—the visitors, the users” and their ability to create works based on the collections. Weinberg’s words echo a dictum from Austrian Israeli philosopher Martin Buber, whose manuscripts are among the treasures of the NLI. “After you have visited the library ten times to look at books, go once to look at the readers…,” Buber wrote. “Thus, you will be able to learn something you will probably not be able to learn as well anywhere else: Books are great, but man is greater.” Esther Hecht is a journalist and travel writer based in Jerusalem.
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A page from the Keter Damascus
ancient Ge’ez language for the Ethiopian Jewish version of the Torah. This Oriyt (pronounced Oreet, and sometimes spelled Orit) was a very rare early copy containing the Five Books of Moses plus the Books of Joshua, Judges and Ruth that had been translated from Hebrew to Ge’ez. It belonged to a large family from the Tigray region of Ethiopia. En route to Israel in the 1980s, the family “carried this precious text with them through Sudan,” Ukeles said. When, in 2016, they decided that it belonged in the library of the Jewish people, around 100 family members came to the museum, she said, and “opened it and…read from it. It was extraordinary. We were all crying. Since then, they come back every few years to visit their Oriyt.”
Hanukkah Gift Guide
With a little Yiddish and a lot of humor mixed in, DO nOT eaT This BOOk!:
fun wiTh Jewish fOODs & fesTivals is a bubbly read-aloud featuring several Jewish holidays and the foods and traditions associated with each celebration. Includes kid-friendly recipes! Available at bookstores now.
Chunky gOes TO Camp:
In Yehudi Mercado’s full-color middle grade graphic memoir sequel to Chunky, Hudi and his imaginary friend, Chunky, head to Jewish summer camp, where the dynamic duo meet a new friend who can see Chunky, too, and get mixed up in a prank war. Available at harpercollins.com.
iT’s her sTOry: irena senDler:
Irena Sendler was a humanitarian and social worker in Nazi-occupied Poland during World War II. In secret, Irena built a network of people to smuggle 2,500 children out of the ghetto, saving their lives. This is her story.
BlaCk BirD, Blue rOaD:
In this historical fantasy novel, Ziva will do anything to save her twin brother Pesah from his illness—even facing the Angel of Death himself. From Sydney Taylor Honor winner and National Jewish Book Award finalist Sofiya Pasternack. Available at harpercollins.com.
Available on Amazon.
Told in alternating past and present chapters, Bri’s heartwarming story unfolds over the eight months leading up to her bat mitzvah—as well as over the course of the big day itself. From the bestselling author/ illustrator of the Emmie & Friends graphic novel series, Terri Libenson.
The puTTermans are in The hOuse: Becky Putterman is sick of feeling left out. With her bat mitzvah around the corner, she hopes it’ll finally be her turn in the spotlight. A heartfelt and hopeful middle grade novel from Jacquetta Nammar Feldman. Available at harpercollins.com.
Available at harpercollins.com.
The Origins Of israel COlleCTiOn
Yale’s prizewinning Jewish Lives biography series presents the perfect gift for friends of Israel. This gorgeous set explores the origins of the State of Israel through the lives of its visionaries and leaders. Available only at JewishLives.org/GiftIdeas.
For These Jewish Women, Crime (Writing) Pays
For These Jewish Women, Crime (Writing) Does Pay
ellerman of the Peter ker/Rina Lazarus series
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ACROSS 45. Acute anxieties 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 1. Kellerman of the 47. She won a Newberry 58 59 60 61 62 63 V.I. Warshawski Petercreator Decker/Rina for “The Westing 64 65 66 67 68 69 Lazarus series Game” Regulation 5. Mystery author 50. Attend a dance 70 71 72 73 Backgammon impossibility Rochelle who taught dateless 74 75 76 77 78 79 Branch HQ at an Orthodox 53. Wight or Skye 80 81 82 83 Sheridan of films "X-Men" high school 54. Quail group 84 85 86 10. Israeli author Batya 58. Tolkien creature "___ you O.K.?" Practices" who wrote “Murder 59. Dead ___ 87 88 89 "Unorthodox on a Kibbutz” 61. Where you might or 13. “Thanks ___ !” find IMHO Plaza kiddo 89. ___ uncertain terms 51. Going round and 19. Navajo spirit 14. Tortilla triangles 63. Hammer of 25. Bach’s ___ in G Major round Function 49. Helen Gurley 9. Shade-tolerant foliage Brown's "___ 75. Bed-and-breakfast with toppings detective lit kin DOWN 26. Luminary among 52. Game plan and the Single Girl" ___ you have it 16. Theater award 64. Crosswise, on deck 10. Culinary 76. Vintners' connoisseurs vessels 1. Observe Yom Kippur luminaries 55. Big shot 50. Good shot 17. V.I.___" Warshawski 77. "...the 66. Fighting sport, "Saving Private 11.___ A bad habit, kicked Lord is ___" 2. Jai 27. Of a cultural group 56. Barely get, with creator for short 51. Going round and round Pigsty 3. Way back when 12. 80. Salinger grain 28. Brings home "You go, ___!" “out” 20. Regulation 68. Takes the honey and 52. Game plan 4. In-flight info, Homer's "Stupid me!" 29. .0000001 joule 15. Chatted via webcam Baltimore P.I. is Tess 57. “Absolutely!” 21. Backgammon 81. Her runs? for short 30. Drain cleaner 55. Big shot 60. Some fridges Monaghan Atlanta-based station impossibility 70. Author of the 16. Garbage 5. Knotty as wood ingredient56. Barely get, 84. Pique condition? Branch HQ Alexandra Cooper 62.with Even"out" smaller "Rise and22. shine!" 18.was School support grps. 6. “It ___ was 31. Cheerios grain 23. Sheridan of “X-Men” series 65. Ticket category 57. "Absolutely!" 85. Mainstay Fudged the facts there...” (Taylorspirit Swift 19. Navajo 36. Glob or mob ending films 74. Greek letter 67. Time piece? 86. Word before or after cheese, lyric) Acute anxieties 37. Peewee 60. Some fridges 25. Bach's ___ in G Major 24. “___ you O.K.?” in Green 75. Bed-and-breakfast 69. Have trouble Bay 7. Slurpee alternatives 62. Even smaller She won a25. Newberry for “Unorthodox kin 26. Luminary among 39. Poison ___ saying “S” 87. "Give it ___!" (try) 8. Estrogen and e Westing Game" 42. Deposit in 65. someTicket category luminaries Practices” author 76. Vintners’ vessels 71. Your husband’s dad: progesterone to treat 88. Anesthetic of old banks 67. Attend a dance dateless 29. Plaza kiddo 77. “...the Lord is ___ ” 27. Of a cultural group Time piece? abbr. menopause: abbr. 44. Broad valley 32. Function 80. uncertain “You go, ___ !” 89. ___ terms Wight or Skye 69. 28. Have trouble saying "S" Brings home 72. Kind of infection 9. Shade-tolerant 46. Part of a sundial 33. ___ you have it 81. Her Baltimore P.I. is Quail group 73. Gown fabric 29. .0000001 joule that casts 71. foliage theYour husband's dad: abbr. 34. “Saving Private ___ ”Down Tess Monaghan 77. Black cat, maybe Tolkien creature 10. Culinary connoisseurs shadow 72. Kind of infection 30. Drain cleaner ingredient 35. Pigsty 84. Pique condition? 1. Observe Yom Kippur 78. Indian bread 11. A31. badCheerios habit, kicked Dead ___38. Homer’s “Stupid me!” 85. Mainstay grain 48. Big: abbr. 73. Gown fabric ___Word before or after 12. Salinger grain 49. Helen Gurley Brown’s 79. Inner: prefix 40.might Atlanta-based 2. Jai86. Where you find 77. Black cat, maybe 36. Glob or mob ending 80. Thin mint grp. 15. Chatted via webcam “___ and the Single 3. Way station back cheese, in Green Bay when HO 78. 37. Indian bread Peewee 82. Backstabber 16. Garbage Girl” 41.detective “Rise andlitshine!” 4. In-flight 87. “Give it ___ (try) info, for!”short Hammer of 39. Poison 88. Anesthetic of old 43. Fudged the facts 18. School support grps. 50. Good shot 79. Inner: prefix 83. ___ Beta Kappa ___
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42. Deposit in some banks 2023 I 49 I hadassahmagazine.org 6. "It was ___ NOVEMBER/DECEMBER was there..." 44. Broad valley (Taylor Swift lyric)
80. Thin mint grp. 82. Backstabber
Answers on page 60
A Sparkling, Significant Literary Present Israeli female authors are addressing modern society’s big questions | By Sandee Brawarsky
©BASSO CANNARSA/OPALE.PHOTO (LEFT); © OMER ARMONI
ovelist ayelet gundarGoshen remembers when she was in her late teens and her mother, a teacher with a serious library, brought home a book by Israeli author Maya Arad. Her mother put it “on the shelf with the Israeli male authors,” Gundar-Goshen recalled. For the acclaimed novelist, “it was a moment.” Israeli female writers these past few years have also been having a moment, a significant one. According to the National Library of Israel, 2022 was the second consecutive year that the majority of new novels and books of poetry published in the country were authored by women. Gundar-Goshen, whose most recent book to be translated into English is The Wolf Hunt, is among this latest generation of skilled storytellers. Also included in this cohort are Hila Blum, whose novel, How to Love Your Daughter, won the
2021 Sapir Prize, Israel’s top literary award; Maayan Eitan, author of the debut novella, Love; Dana Shem-Ur and her debut, Where I Am; and veteran novelist Noa Yedlin, whose most recent work is Stockholm. These women, all in their 30s through 50s, are residents of Tel Aviv, except for Blum, who lives in Jerusalem. Their books have been published recently in English. If David Grossman and the late writers A.B. Yehoshua and Amos Oz have been the leading lights of Hebrew literature of the past, these women are the sparkling present. Much like their extraordinary male predecessors, they are interested in investigating the details of both surface life and deep interior truths. All address big questions about modern society through the lens of fiction, such as the dissonance and displacement faced by emigrants (Where I Am), or dig into relationships,
whether between mother and child (The Wolf Hunt and How to Love Your Daughter) or a group of friends (Stockholm). Contemporary in approach, they are both of Israel and global. As Blum noted of her novel, “Its thematic emphases are, of course, not exclusive to Israel, but it is Israeli. Everything in it is relatable to me.” If the focus of each of these five books is diverse—parenthood and aging; the complexities of identity and love; how people are ultimately unknowable—there is one thing they all share: a gnawing unease. Many of the characters experience an underlying anxiety, and all the novels end with a lingering sense of ambiguity for readers to ponder. Perhaps that’s an indicator of the mood in Israel—even before the current crisis engulfing the country— or the world, or a not-uncommon literary shrug today.
yelet gundar-goshen is, arguably, the best known of these authors in the United States, with three of her earlier books translated into English. The Wolf Hunt (Little, Brown), translated by Sondra Silverston, is set in Silicon Valley and features at its center an Israeli couple and their son. An attack
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Editor’s Note: This article was reported before Hamas’s attack on Israel.
have the ability to do evil.” Asked about the importance of a sense of place in fiction, GundarGoshen, who lived in San Francisco in 2018 while a visiting scholar at San Francisco State University, said her focus is on “the DNA of the human soul” and not on a specific geographical place. “On the other hand,” she noted, “I love when the story is well-settled, when you can feel the soil.” Readers can certainly “feel the soil” in Dana Shem-Ur’s Where I Am (New Vessel Press), translated by Yardenne Greenspan. It, too, is set outside of Israel, and is lush with the sights, sounds, food and the cultural minutiae of France. Reut, an Israeli literary translator, is living in Paris with her French philosopher husband, JeanClaude, and their child, Julien. In the midst of deadlines, Reut agrees to a lavish dinner party and then a trip to Italy with a group of her husband’s affluent, intellectual friends. This leads to revelations about her own dissatisfaction with the life choices that forced her into the roles of mother and wife. The events also
reveal her disconnection from the city she now calls home and her nostalgia for her native country and, as Shem-Ur writes, “that Israeli spontaneity, that tendency to force strangers into becoming friends.” Shem-Ur depicts Reut’s alienation along with moments of delight, like the pleasure of a conversation with a stranger on an airplane. Where I Am excels at capturing the subtleties of language and the possibility of passion and intimacy as well as the textures of time, light and travel. In one example, the book describes the Adriatic Sea as resembling “a slender bottle of wine” with its rock formations “flanking the turquoise water from both sides, almost meeting in the middle.” Shem-Ur began writing the book in Paris while earning her master’s degree in philosophy. “You can’t avoid what you know. This novel is set in Paris,” she said. “But it’s about an Israeli.”
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MAGAZINE DISCUSSION Join us on November 16 at 7 PM ET as Hadassah Magazine Executive Editor Lisa Hostein hosts a panel conversation on “What Makes a Book Jewish?” with celebrated Jewish writers Allegra Goodman, author of the novels Sam and Kaaterskill Falls; Dani Shapiro, whose most recent books include the novel Signal Fires and the memoir Inheritance; and Ruth Knafo Setton, whose debut novel, The Road to Fez, is inspired by her Moroccan Jewish heritage. Register for the free virtual event with this QR code or online at hadassahmagazine.org.
COURTESY OF DANA SHEM-UR
on a local synagogue distresses their ex-pat community, leading parents to enroll their kids in a self-defense course taught by a former Israeli military officer. Soon after, a young Black boy in the community dies at a party of an apparent drug overdose. Lilach, the Israeli mother—called Leela by Americans who can’t pronounce her name—wonders whether her son, Adam, might have had something to do with the boy’s death. The novel is full of psychological depth, suspense and nuanced understanding of the conflicting identities of Israelis living abroad. The book investigates this conflict through the languages—Hebrew and English— that the characters use in different settings; their connection to family back in their native country; and their attraction and bemusement with American life. “When our son was born, we gave him a neutral name— Adam—that would work in both Hebrew and English,” Lilach recalls. “A name that would slide down the throats of the Americans like good California wine….” A 2013 Sapir winner for her debut novel, One Night, Markovitch, Gundar-Goshen is a practicing clinical psychologist and has worked as a journalist and screenwriter. She explained that she was inspired to write The Wolf Hunt while dropping off her daughter at a preschool in Tel Aviv. She realized all the mothers were looking suspiciously at the other children, wondering if any would bully their child. Central to her novel is the question of how well a mother can really know her kid, how well anyone can know another person. “It’s interesting how we are all afraid of ‘the wolf,’ not considering the possibility that our own child may be the wolf,” she said. “We don’t stop to acknowledge that we all
© SILAN DALLAL (LEFT); רשנ סיריא, CC BY-SA 4.0
In contrast, Tel Aviv is unmistakably the setting for Maayan Eitan’s first book of fiction, Love (Penguin Press), even though the Israeli city where Libby, the protagonist, works is unnamed. The novella, a sensation in Israel, was the winner of the 2022 National Jewish Book Award’s inaugural Jane Weitzman prize for Hebrew Fiction in Translation. Love is a finely chiseled and disquieting portrait of Libby (her name a transliteration of the Hebrew Libi, which means my heart), a young woman earning her living though prostitution. In short vignettes and rapid, first-person narration, Libby describes her evenings encountering clients in homes and hotel rooms arranged by her pimp. She recalls her childhood as she shares gum and alcohol in the back of cars with fellow prostitutes, including an Ethiopian woman working her way through college. She also reflects on masculine desire, the omnipresent male gaze. “I fell asleep with their arms around my waist, but my sleep was erratic, brief, and eventually I slipped from under their bodies, put on my clothes again, and got out of there,” Libby recounts. Eitan, who translated her own book into English, weaves in references to literary works such as the poetry of Sylvia Plath and Paul Celan. She injects the text with a raw musicality even as she describes Libby’s emotional detachment and cold indifference to the sex act. Libby, throughout, remains a mystery, yet one the reader comes to care about. Although Noa Yedlin’s novel Stockholm (HarperCollins), trans-
lated by Jessica Cohen, is named for a Swedish city, it is also set in Tel Aviv. A great portraitist, Yedlin writes about a group of five Israelis who have been close since their army days 50 years earlier. One of them, a noted economist, is rumored to be a Nobel Prize finalist. When he dies suddenly just before the prize is to be announced, the others decide to “postpone” his death, that is, not alert anyone, until after the Nobel announcement. A dark and very funny comedy of errors, and manners, the novel is a multilayered exploration of friendship. Each chapter goes deeply into one character, revealing back stories, loyalties and secrets. Yedlin’s characters are people in their 70s, inhabiting that window before advanced old age when, she said, “there’s still time to make changes, still time to correct what you have done wrong. But you don’t have all the time in the world.” The novel was made into an awardwinning television series in Israel. Yedlin, the recipient of the Sapir Prize for her 2014 novel House Arrest and, in 2021, the Prime Minister’s Prize for Hebrew Literary Works, notes the common, everyday focus of her novels. “I think good novels have a universal core,” she said. “They touch the innermost places in the human soul, be it Israeli, Chinese or North American. People are people all over the world, made of the same feelings.”
hat universality of emotion, mapped onto a motherdaughter relationship, shapes Hila Blum’s How to Love Your Daughter (Riverhead), translated by Daniella Zamir. An editor of literary fiction, Blum examines the fractured relationship between an Israeli mother, Yoella, and her only daughter, Leah. “The core of our existence, wherever we are, is practiced through relationships, mother-daughter among the most crucial,” Blum said. A work of emotional archaeology, the novel opens with Yoella peering into a window in a foreign city. She is watching the granddaughters she has never met, children of her own beloved daughter who has disappeared from her life. Yoella then shifts through time to look closely at their lives in Israel—the dance lessons, school nights, trips to Europe—asking how deep maternal love can lead to estrangement. The novel’s clear, piercing prose is compelling, disturbing and memorable. “I’d studied her face hundreds of times, thousands, always thinking, you take my breath away,” Yoella muses while gazing at her daughter. Blum said she knew the sentiment she wanted to convey in the novel before she knew the story or characters. “What if,” she said, “with all the good intentions in a tender, caring and loving relationship, you might stand and look backward and realize that something has gone very wrong.” Blum, the author of the 2011 Israeli best seller The Visit, is making her English-language debut with How to Love Your Daughter. And she doesn’t shy away from the label
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“Israeli female writer.” “I am all those things,” she said. Yet, she quipped, “if you give me some more options, those might resonate, too.” When asked about the prominence of female writers in contemporary Israel, Eitan answered, “There’s more space and a feeling that those voices have more room to be heard.” “It’s a generational change,” Gundar-Goshen said. “Women can write novels that will tell the great Israeli stories as much as men. It’s a very important shift.” For her part, Yedlin acknowledges the importance of male writers to the Israeli canon in the past but pointed out the lack of significant female representation. “The canon
was hermetically closed,” she said. “Whenever a newspaper wanted to hear an opinion on current events, when there was a need for someone to speak at a rally, it was always the same male writers. When you thought of an Israeli writer, you thought of them. In recent years, this has changed. For many reasons. The world changes. The structure of the literary market changes.” There are many other prominent female authors whose voices could have been included along with these five. Several of these authors mentioned Maya Arad—the novelist whose book Gundar-Goshen can so clearly recall on her mother’s bookshelf—as an influence and a friend. Literary critics sometimes
refer to her as the best living writer of her generation. She’s the author of several highly praised novels in Hebrew; her work will be available in English for the first time in March 2024, with the publication of The Hebrew Teacher. Israel is small enough that these authors said that most female writers know each other, or at least their work, and are generous to one another. “It’s not necessarily a community,” Gundar-Goshen said, “but a fabric made of words.” Sandee Brawarsky is a longtime columnist in the Jewish book world as well as an award-winning journalist, editor and author of several books, most recently 212 Views of Central Park: Experiencing New York City’s Jewel From Every Angle.
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invited a brand-new friend, who had been sitting on the bench, to play hopscotch. “The thing is, bupkes may mean nothing, but it can feel like everything,” the book concludes.
‘A Wild, Wild Hanukkah’
Books for Kids: Inspiration Plus a Few Babkas for Hanukkah By Alexandra Lapkin Schwank
ILLUSTRATION BY JO GERSHMAN (ABOVE); ILLUSTRATION BY ROXANA DE ROND/BOTH IMAGES COURTESY OF KAR-BEN PUBLISHING
hinking about what to read with the kids during Hanukkah? This year saw a bumper crop of wonderful Jewish-themed children’s books. Some relate biblical tales with a delightful feminist twist, rethinking the stories of Adam and Eve and Noah’s Ark for little readers. New releases for older readers include a biography of groundbreaking Jewish journalist and photographer Ruth Gruber, who documented major events of the last century, and a beautifully illustrated story about the brave children of the Kindertransport and the man responsible for their survival. Finally, no reading list is complete without something to whet the appetite, such as two sisters who compete in a babka bake-off and one book that features a recipe for every Jewish holiday. These suggested reads—the first six for ages 3 to 8; the rest for 8 and up—are perfect for curling up by the light of the menorah, or any night of the year.
A Book About Bupkes By Leslie Kimmelman. Illustrated by Roxana de Rond (Kar-Ben Publishing)
Eve and Adam and Their Very First Day By Leslie Kimmelman. Illustrated by Irina Avgustinovich (Apples & Honey Press) In this frankly feminist book, another delightful offering from Kimmelman, the first man and woman explore their surroundings while naming the animals and plants they encounter. Eve’s names—nightingale, weeping willow, nine-banded armadillo—are initially more imaginative than Adam’s, such as ant, cat and dog. As rain begins to fall and the sun goes down, the two learn to lean on each other and their faith in God. Avgustinovich’s vivid portrayal of the Garden of Eden and Kimmelman’s words are wonderful reminders to marvel at both the “ordinary and miraculous” around us every day.
This is a book about nothing, or bupkes, in Yiddish. Young Zoe engages in acts of kindness for her friends and family and leaves a trail of bupkes in her wake: An empty garden means an elderly neighbor has a basket full of freshly picked vegetables; an empty bowl is all that is left after Zoe makes chicken soup for her sick mom; and a park bench is empty because Zoe
The Babka Sisters By Lesléa Newman. Illustrated by Tika and Tata Bobokhidze (Kar-Ben Publishing)
‘A Book About Bupkes’
Prolific children’s writer Lesléa Newman is out with a new book about two sisters, Esther and Hester, who live next door to each other. When Sylvester moves into the neighborhood, they compete for the title of best babka baker, and Sylvester agrees to be their taste-tester.
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After much mixing, stirring, kneading and baking, the sisters arrive at Sylvester’s house for a Shabbat meal. What will his verdict be? With silly rhymes sure to leave kids in giggles and with whimsical illustrations by sisters Tika and Tata Bobokhidze, this title makes for sweet reading.
A Wild, Wild Hanukkah By Jo Gershman and Bob Strauss. Illustrated by Jo Gershman (Kar-Ben Publishing) Who wouldn’t want a polar bear at their Hanukkah party? Or two “crying crocodiles” who peel onions by the pound to make latkes? Each night of Hanukkah, more and more animals arrive, eating jelly doughnuts, flipping latkes and lighting candles. On the final night, “eight pompous, punk-rock penguins” show up to spin their dreidels on the floor and finish off the celebrations. Gershman’s wise-looking animals and the authors’ witty rhymes will delight children and parents alike.
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Counting on Naamah: A Mathematical Tale on Noah’s Ark By Erica Lyons. Illustrated by Mary Reaves Uhles (Intergalactic Afikoman) Everyone knows about Noah and his ark. But what do we know about his wife, Naamah? “Though her name meant pleasant (and she was very nice), Naamah was known best for being clever. Especially when it came to MATH,” writes Lyons. In her amusing midrashic reimagining, Naamah is an engineering and math whiz who plays a vital role in saving animals from the flood. She uses her problem-solving skills to calculate how much grain they will need and where to house the hippos and elephants so they don’t tip over the boat. When the animals get restless, Naamah organizes the first ever deck-athlon.
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Stars of the Night: The Courageous Children of the Czech Kindertransport By Caren Stelson. Illustrated by Selina Alko (Carolrhoda Books) Sir Nicholas Winton helped save 669 Czechoslovakian children from the Nazis by bringing them to the United Kingdom on the eve of World War II. This book tells the children’s story from their collective point of view. Their days used to be carefree, picnicking in the parks of Prague NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2023
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and ice skating on frozen rivers, but suddenly their lives grow somber, as do the evocative paint-andcollage illustrations. Author Stelson recounts how their parents begin to make arrangements for them to leave and pack their suitcases with warm clothes, books and teddy bears. “There will be times when you’ll feel lonely and homesick. Let the stars of the night and the sun of the day be the messenger of our thoughts and love,” one mother tells her daughters at the train station as she sets them on their journey.
‘Beni’s Tiny Tales’
Beni’s Tiny Tales: Around the Year in Jewish Holidays Written and illustrated by Jane Breskin Zalben (Christy Ottaviano Books) Beni the Jewish bear is back in this delightfully illustrated installment in
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the series by Zalben, who first began writing about him and his family over 30 years ago. Now, Beni is all grown up and is teaching his own children about holiday traditions, from Rosh Hashanah to Shavuot. Beni’s Tiny Tales includes 10 stories, each centered around a Jewish holiday, as well as recipes—for Hanukkah, there are Dreidel and Menorah Cookies and Doughnut Holes, among others—songs and craft ideas. Zalben’s watercolor and pencil drawings of the bear family are cozy and detailed, with each character’s personality shining through.
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Nothing Could Stop Her: The Courageous Life of Ruth Gruber By Rona Arato. Illustrated by Isabel Muñoz (Kar-Ben Publishing) Journalist, photographer and humanitarian Ruth Gruber led an extraordinary life. Her assignments took her all over the world, from the Siberian Arctic to Alaska, from Germany in the 1930s to the newly established State of Israel. Nothing Could Stop Her describes how Gruber defied convention from the start. She was born in 1911 to Polish Jewish immigrants in Brooklyn and graduated high school at 15, then went to New York University. At 20, she became the youngest person to receive a Ph.D. at the University of
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ON YOUR SHELF: YIDDISH ESSAYS, THRILLERS AND A NEW MEMOIR
By Sandee Brawarsky
Cologne in Germany, completed in just one year. She arrived back in New York in 1932, on the St. Louis, the same ship that would be denied entry to the United States in 1939 when it was carrying European Jewish immigrants. Motivated by her Jewish identity and sense of justice, Gruber’s work went beyond writing about current events to wanting to change them. After the war, she documented the plight of Jewish refugees settling in Mandate Palestine and the birth of modern-day Israel. At the age of 76, Gruber traveled to Ethiopia to record the stories of Ethiopian Jews. This is a fascinating biography of a remarkable Jewish woman, perfect for children and their grown-ups.
Out and About: A Tale of Giving By Liza Wiemer. Illustrated by Margeaux Lucas (Kalaniot Books) Daniel wakes up early one morning, looks out the window and sees his dad going somewhere, his arms
Writings on Yiddish and Yiddishkayt, the War Years, 1939-1945 by Isaac Bashevis Singer. Translated and edited by David Stromberg (White Goat Press) Originally published in the Yiddish Forverts during World War II, this collection of essays by the Nobel laureate is both timely and a window to the past. Among the varied topics Singer, who died in 1991, addresses are Jewish holidays and customs. As Stromberg, editor of the Singer Literary Trust, explains, the writer felt an urgency to get these down on paper just as the people who closely observed those customs were being murdered. For Singer, spirituality, mysticism, art and politics were all connected. He also writes about the modern Jew as well as the danger of “indifferent Jews,” making a case for Jewish education and spreading an appreciation of Yiddish and Hebrew literature. My Name Is Barbra by Barbra Streisand (Viking) From her Brooklyn roots to her superstar career to her present-day advocacy, Barbra Streisand reflects on her successes and struggles in her much anticipated, almost 1,000-page memoir. The multi-award-winning singer, actress and director describes her first appearances in subterranean New York City nightclubs, her breakthrough performances on stage (and then on film) in Funny Girl and the trajectory of her great career and friendships. Tinocchia: The Adventures of a Jewish Puppetta edited and translated by Curt Leviant (Livingston Press/University of West Alabama) Memoir or folk tale? Award-winning writer Leviant, author of many works of fiction, tells of finding and translating a 120-year-old handwritten manuscript in the Siena Municipal Public Library archive in Italy. It is a companion to the Pinocchio story, told in the voice of a girl puppet, Tinocchia, her name a play on the Hebrew word for baby, tinok. The event-filled chapters involve Purim and a Purimshpiel and a love story. “Everything is possible in an impossible world” is how Leviant both begins and ends his playful tale. The Passover Protocols by Ellen Frankel (Wicked Son) Ellen Frankel’s third offering in her Jerusalem-set mystery series opens with a murdered boy whose body, drained of blood, is found outside the Belzer Great Synagogue. As in Frankel’s two previous crime novels, intelligence agent Maya Rimon and Chief Police Inspector Sarit Levine are rivals in solving the case, which involves blood libel, antisemitism, white supremacists and Russian mobsters. In the background are office politics, Ethiopian rituals, Hasidic customs, Krav Maga, Israeli food in its great variety and romance. The Winthrop Agreement by Alice Sherman Simpson (Harper) What begins as a somewhat predictable immigrant story—a young Lithuanian woman arrives alone at Ellis Island, and her new husband, who had left earlier for America, doesn’t show up to meet her—takes an unusual twist. Pregnant, hungry and exhausted, Rivkah joins up with another abandoned bride, and the two work in sweatshops. Rivkah is determined that her daughter, Mimi, will have a better life. The Winthrops of the book title are a wealthy uptown family, and through a ruthless Winthrop son, Mimi has an opportunity for that better life—with a secret.
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loaded with boxes. But when he asks his mom and siblings about where dad went, they give a mysterious answer: “He went out and about.” At school, Daniel’s imagination runs wild. What could be in those boxes? Daniel pictures a baseball mitt, a birthday cake, even a pizza. Eventually, Daniel figures out the contents of the mysterious boxes and joins his dad on a mission of tzedakah, helping those in need.
Two Tribes Written and illustrated by Emily Bowen Cohen (HarperCollins) Mia, who recently celebrated her bat mitzvah, attempts to reconcile her Jewish and Native American identities in this coming-of-age debut graphic novel by Emily Bowen
Cohen. Mia’s mom is Jewish and her dad is a member of the Muscogee Nation. Originally from Oklahoma, she moves to California after her parents’ divorce. Her newly observant mom remarries, to a Jewish man. Through illustrations and text, Bowen Cohen describes Mia’s struggles at her Jewish day school, where she looks different from all the other students, and at home, where her mom refuses to talk about Mia’s dad
and the other half of her heritage. Feeling increasingly isolated and misunderstood, Mia lies to her mom and takes a bus to visit her father in Oklahoma. In an author’s note, Bowen Cohen, who is Jewish and Muscogee, describes her dual heritage and how she drew on it for inspiration. She weaves together Jewish and Native American culture and narratives in her book: Mia muses that lox and schmear would go well with traditional Native American fry bread and connects the biblical story of the prophet Jonah and the whale with the Muscogee tale of creation. Alexandra Lapkin Schwank is a freelance writer for several Jewish publications. She lives with her family in the Boston area.
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Parallel Lines By Ruth Marks Eglash (Black Rose Writing) British-born journalist Ruth Marks Eglash raised three children in Jerusalem during her time as a reporter and editor for The Jerusalem Post, and later as Jerusalem correspondent for The Washington Post. During the “stabbing intifada,” a wave of violence that erupted in 2015, her children were teenagers, and Eglash struggled to reformat the stories she’d been reporting about the attacks to answer the questions they were asking. Parallel Lines, her first novel, grew from that pressing need. The book, targeted to young adults, explores the conflicts between Jews and Arabs as well as the tensions between secular and religious Jews.
The plot revolves around three teenage girls liv‑ ing in Jerusalem, each leading distinctly separate lives that never intersect—until they meet through a series of traumatic events. Tamar, a secular Jew, grapples with anti-Arab vitriol at her school while unexpectedly falling for her Arab friend, Ami. Meanwhile, Nour, a Palestinian from East Jerusalem, finds solace in her father’s calming words after a harrowing encounter with Jewish troublemakers in the Old City, where an Israeli soldier comes to her rescue. “You need to learn to judge people for who they are, not what they are, and don’t be fooled by outer appearances,” her father, a pharmacist at
Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem, tells her. “It’s the inner light that counts.” Her brother and cousin, however, are becoming more radicalized against Israel and the Jews. Rivki, who is ultra-Orthodox, meets secular teens during a brief hospitalization at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem and worries about returning to the restrictions of her insulated life. As the novel unfolds, these young women navigate a turbulent landscape marked by political unrest, acts of terrorism and moments of compassion that highlight the rich tapestry of Jerusalem’s diverse communities. Indeed, riding the light rail to school and while doing errands, all three observe the lives of their fellow Jerusalemites. “The hefty border Continued on page 62
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Book Talk With Mitch Albom By Ruth Marks Eglash
A N S W E R S Crossword Puzzle on page 49
F A Y E K R I C H G U R A L O T N A C H O S T O N Y S A R A P A R E T S K Y R U L E T I E T R E E T Y E A R E M A R I S S A P I E S M A N E L O I S E U S E T H E R E R Y A N D U M P D O H T N T G E T U P L I E D A N G S T S E L L E N R A S K I N G O S T A G I S L E C O V E Y O R C S E A T E X T M I K E A B E A M M M A E L O P E S L I N D A F A I R S T E I N T A U I N N T U N S O N E G I R L L A U R A L I P P M A N S N I T S T A P L E H E A D A G O E T H E R I N N O NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2023
What inspired you to write a Holocaust novel, and why now? I always wanted to set a story during the Holocaust, but I felt like I’d read about the Holocaust so many times, and as a writer, you want to be original, so I just avoided writing about it until now. Then I came up with the combination of setting it in Greece and making it a book about truth and lies—and not really about the Holocaust. I already knew I wanted to create a story about a little boy who never lied. What cemented it for me was when I found out that Salonika had the highest percentage of Jews of all the cities that the Nazis destroyed. I was able to tell a story that most people hadn’t heard before, set in a culture that a lot of people aren’t familiar with. When you realize the same awful tragedy that we’ve heard in so many different ways wiped out this entire city’s Jewish population, then we get a renewed realization of how really, truly tragic Hitler’s war was.
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itch albom’s tuesdays with morrie turned the sports journalist into an internationally best-selling memoirist. The Five People You Meet in Heaven launched his successful fiction career. And his newest novel, The Little Liar, set to be released on November 14, ushers him into the well-trodden terrain of Holocaust-related literature. Yet, The Little Liar will likely stand out from other novels about that era not only for its sharp themes but also for its setting: Salonika, or modern-day Thessaloniki, Greece. Born in 1958 in New Jersey, Albom has lived near Detroit, Mich., with his family since 1985. Before turning to writing, Albom tried his hand as a professional musician, performing in Greece. It was this experience that led to The Little Liar. The story unfolds mainly through the eyes of 11-year-old Nico Krispis, who has never told a lie. When the Nazis invade Salonika, Nico innocently believes a German officer who gives him a chance to save his family—if Nico, who is himself Jewish, can convince other Jews to board the trains heading north, to Poland. “Whenever I write my books,” Albom said, “I try to find a theme that resonates with people. And truth, or lying, is something we’re all familiar with as both victims and perpetrators.” This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
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Where did the idea come from to focus on lies? I guess it’s always been something that’s interested me because lying is an easy thing to do. You don’t need a particular skill and there have been some great liars throughout history. About 10 years ago, I was at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem and saw a video of a woman talking about how the worst thing was that the Germans used Jews to lie to other Jews on the train platforms. I thought, “Wow, that’s taking lying to a whole new level because now you’re forcing one of your lies into the mouths of somebody else.” How do you explain the enduring popularity of Tuesdays with Morrie, about your visits to your former professor, Morrie Schwartz, when he was dying from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis? I think it’s because people find themselves in Tuesdays with Morrie. Everybody has had a mentor and/ or everybody sees themselves in my story. At some point in our lives, we are one of those characters, and the book continues to find readers because people continue to grow. I am going through that metamorphosis myself, so now I read it from Morrie’s perspective. What do you think makes a work of fiction Jewish? The obvious answer is that the subject matter pertains to Jewish history, Jewish character or Jewish plot. But on a deeper level, I think it is a sense of humanity, family, wisdom from various sources and a little dash of humor. It’s also a sense that all of it is taking place under the watch of God. Ruth Marks Eglash is a Jerusalem-based veteran journalist who writes for multiple outlets.
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WHO WILL SAY KADDISH? MORSE TOURS
HADASSAH’S PERPETUAL YAHRZEIT PROGRAM ENSURES THAT KADDISH WILL BE RECITED IN JERUSALEM FOR YOUR LOVED ONES. EVERY YEAR. FOREVER.
PERPETUAL YAHRZEIT Kaddish will be recited annually for your loved one in perpetuity in the Fannie and Maxwell Abbell Synagogue at Hadassah Medical Center beneath Marc Chagall’s iconic stained glass windows.
ENHANCED PERPETUAL YAHRZEIT R G be A R Erecited T KaddishM Awill for your lovedTOURS one MORSE daily for 11 months after burial, after which Kaddish will be recited annually.
ADVANCE YAHRZEIT A reservation to ensure Kaddish will be recited for you and your loved ones upon their death. Available in standard and Enhanced Perpetual Yahrzeit.
hadassah.org/yahrzeit For further information, or to establish a Yahrzeit, call 877.212.3321 or email email@example.com.
HADASSAH, THE WOMEN’S ZIONIST ORGANIZATION OF AMERICA, INC. ©2023 Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc. Hadassah and the H logo are registered trademarks of Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc. The solicitation disclosure on page 62 is incorporated in this advertisement.
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police officer…was regularly seen guarding the gates of the Old City,” Tamar muses about her fellow passengers. “The Haredi lady with the oversized crooked hat worked at Strauss’s Bazaar.” She never speaks to
any of them, but they are “as recognizable to her as Jerusalem’s iconic landmarks.” If the city itself is the fourth central character, then Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem, where diverse patients and staff intermingle, is
CHARITABLE SOLICITATION DISCLOSURE STATEMENTS HADASSAH, THE WOMEN’S ZIONIST ORGANIZATION OF AMERICA, INC. 40 Wall Street, 8th Floor – New York, NY 10005 – Telephone: (212) 355-7900 Contributions will be used for the support of Hadassah’s charitable projects and programs in the U.S. and/ or Israel including: medical relief, education and research; education and advocacy programs on issues of concern to women and that of the family; and support of programs for Jewish youth. Financial and other information about Hadassah may be obtained, without cost, by writing the Finance Department at Hadassah’s principal place of business at the address indicated above, or by calling the phone number indicated above. In addition, residents of the following states may obtain financial and/or licensing information from their states, as indicated. DC: The Certificate of Registration Number of Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc. is #40003848, which is valid for the period 9/1/2023-8/31/2025. Registration does not imply endorsement of the solicitation by the District of Columbia, or by any officer or employee of the District. FL: A COPY OF THE OFFICIAL REGISTRATION AND FINANCIAL INFORMATION FOR HADASSAH, THE WOMEN’S ZIONIST ORGANIZATION OF AMERICA, INC. (#CH-1298) AND HADASSAH MEDICAL RELIEF ASSOCIATION, INC. (#CH-4603) MAY BE OBTAINED FROM THE DIVISION OF CONSUMER SERVICES BY CALLING TOLL-FREE 1-800-HELP-FLA, OR ONLINE AT www.FloridaConsumerHelp.com. KS: The official registration and annual financial report of Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc. is filed with the Kansas Secretary of State. Kansas Registration #237-478-3. MD: A copy of the current financial statement of Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc. is available by writing 40 Wall Street, 8th Floor, New York, New York 10005, Att: Finance Dept., or by calling (212) 355-7900. Documents and information submitted under the Maryland Charitable Solicitations Act are also available for the cost of postage and copies, from the Maryland Secretary of State, State House, Annapolis, MD 21401 (410) 974-5534 MI: Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc. MICS #13005/Hadassah Medical Relief Association, Inc. MICS # 11986/ The Hadassah Foundation, Inc. MICS #22965. MS: The official registration and financial information of Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc. may be obtained from the Mississippi Secretary of State’s office by calling 1(888) 236-6167. NJ: INFORMATION FILED BY HADASSAH, THE WOMEN’S ZIONIST ORGANIZATION OF AMERICA, INC. AND HADASSAH MEDICAL RELIEF ASSOCIATION, INC. WITH THE NEW JERSEY ATTORNEY GENERAL CONCERNING THIS CHARITABLE SOLICITATION AND THE PERCENTAGE OF CONTRIBUTIONS RECEIVED BY THE CHARITY DURING THE LAST REPORTING PERIOD THAT WERE DEDICATED TO THE CHARITABLE PURPOSE MAY BE OBTAINED FROM THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY BY CALLING (973) 504-6215 AND IS AVAILABLE ON THE INTERNET AT www.njconsumeraffairs.gov/charity/chardir.htm. NC: FINANCIAL INFORMATION ABOUT HADASSAH, THE WOMEN’S ZIONIST ORGANIZATION OF AMERICA, INC. AND A COPY OF ITS LICENSE ARE AVAILABLE FROM THE STATE SOLICITATION LICENSING BRANCH AT 919-8145400 OR FOR NORTH CAROLINA RESIDENTS AT 1-888-830-4989. PA: The official registration and financial information of Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc., Hadassah Medical Relief Association, Inc., and The Hadassah Foundation, Inc. may be obtained from the Pennsylvania Department of State by calling toll free, within Pennsylvania, 1(800) 732-0999. VA: A financial statement of the organization is available from the State Division of Consumer Affairs in the Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, P.O. Box 1163, Richmond, VA 23218, Phone #1 (804) 786-1343, upon request. WA: Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc., Hadassah Medical Relief Association, Inc. and The Hadassah Foundation, Inc. are registered with the Washington Secretary of State. Financial disclosure information is available from the Secretary of State by calling 800-332-GIVE (800-332-4483) or visiting www.sos.wa.gov/charities. WV: West Virginia residents may obtain a summary of the registration and financial documents of Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc. from the Secretary of State, State Capitol, Charleston, WV 25305. WI: A financial statement of Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc. disclosing assets, liabilities, fund balances, revenue, and expenses for the preceding fiscal year will be provided to any person upon request. ALL STATES: A copy of Hadassah’s latest Financial Report is available by writing to the Hadassah Finance Dept., 40 Wall Street, 8th Floor, New York, New York 10005. REGISTRATION DOES NOT CONSTITUTE OR IMPLY ENDORSEMENT, APPROVAL, SANCTION OR RECOMMENDATION BY ANY STATE. Charitable deductions are allowed to the extent provided by law. Hadassah shall have full dominion, control and discretion over all gifts (and shall be under no legal obligation to transfer any portion of a gift to or for the use or benefit of any other entity or organization). All decisions regarding the use of funds for any purpose, or the transfer of funds to or for the benefit of any other entity or organization, shall be subject to the approval of the Board or other governing body of Hadassah. The Hadassah Foundation, Inc. is a supporting organization of Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc. September 2023 NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2023
a fifth. At Hadassah, the distance between the titular parallel lines—a term that refers to the Jerusalem light rail as well as to the experiences of the three girls—narrows as the girls become friends. This is a classic YA coming-of-age story combined with the anguish and opportunity of life in Jerusalem. All three girls are well-developed characters with compelling stories. Their struggles to speak out for what they think is right while navigating peer pressure is a universal theme. Eglash allows her characters to speak their truths as they grow and learn. Both young readers and adults can gain insight from their stories. —Elizabeth Edelglass Elizabeth Edelglass is a fiction writer, poet and book reviewer living in Connecticut.
One for Each Night: The Greatest Chanukah Stories of All Time (New Vessel Press) As far as holidays go, Hanukkah is a disaster. Or so argues Emma Green in her essay “Chanukah, Why?” Green, a staff writer for The New Yorker, explains: “Somehow, the world’s entire gelt supply seems to have been manufactured in 1993… filmy-white sub-par chocolate.” On the plus side, though, there are latkes, she writes, “but woe to the holiday that relies on potatoes as its only defense.” Green’s is one of over 20 stories, essays, poems and reminiscences from Yiddish, Israeli and American writers collected in One for Each Night. Most of the contributors, many long dead, are well known for writing on Jewish topics: Theodor Herzl, Chaim Potok and I.L. Peretz, among others. Several of the writers, though, are not normally associated with Jewish
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subjects. Green, for example, usually covers education and academia. Joanna Rakoff is best known for her memoir My Salinger Year. Her essay, “Dolls of the World,” is an intimate exploration of the role played by a child’s doll collection and a grandmother’s menorah. Not surprisingly, the selections are as varied in tone and substance as the authors themselves. Sholom Aleichem takes us back in time to an Anatevkaera shtetl where two youngsters run from one relative’s home to another collecting holiday gelt. And writer Esther J. Ruskay, the first woman to speak from the pulpit at New York City’s Temple Emanu-El, in 1839, offers a glimpse of how the eightnight festival was celebrated in a 19th-century home. Most poignant,
in my opinion, is Elie Wiesel’s “Lighting Chanukah Candles in Death’s Kingdom,” where one prisoner in Auschwitz is willing to barter his last crumbs of bread in exchange for oil and potatoes with which to construct a menorah, so he could kindle the holiday lights. Wiesel, as the narrator, pleads with him, arguing that “lighting Chanukah candles is not a mitsve for which you have to sacrifice your life.” But the prisoner insisted, “These times require us to sacrifice for every mitsve.” But it was Green’s essay that I found most meaningful. What started out as a humor piece became a serious look at the history of the holiday in the United States. For some Jews,
she writes, “Chanukah is the only time of the year when they engage with their heritage.” She speaks to Neal Hoffman, who invented the Mensch on a Bench as a kind of counter programming to his children’s insistence on getting an Elf on a Shelf. His 3-year-old has memorized the song that the Mensch sings and now recites it all year. “I’m so proud of that, so happy about that,” Hoffman tells Green. The stories collected here are often moving, sometimes funny, sometimes sad, but all in some way evoke the spirit of the holiday. It is a perfect addition to any Jewish library. —Curt Schleier Curt Schleier, a freelance writer, teaches business writing to corporate executives.
Commemorate your loved ones with a special Rememberance in Hadassah Magazine Each Remembrance includes your loved one’s name and photo, along with your tribute of 150 to 180 words, including any involvement with Hadassah, if pertinent. The cost is $625 per Remembrance, per issue.
For more information or to reserve space for a Remembrance in the next issue:
Contact Randi O’Connor Call (212) 451-6221 or Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Shirley Doris (Bass) Schramm (1927–2017) was an almost life-long Ken‑ tuckian whose two consuming interests, after family, were opera and Hadassah. A librarian by profession, after her second son was born she devoted herself to volunteering—tutoring day-school pupils in Hebrew, making phone calls to elderly shut-ins—and above all working for Hadassah. We remember her decades of weekly shifts at the Purple Plum (the Hadassah thrift shop), her multiple terms as chapter president (at one point Louisville had the largest single chapter in the country), and her many years on the Midwest Region board. Her sons scattered to Jerusalem, Ohio, California, and Texas, where she and her husband Ted frequently visited their 15 grandchildren. Our mother lived long enough to shep nachas from 12 great-grandchildren (proud that five of them were born in Ein Kerem). Her bracelet, with a charm for each of her progeny, became too heavy to wear. When she passed away two weeks before Hanukkah 5778, she left that bracelet on the dresser by her bed, and left us all an immense spiritual legacy.
יהי זכרה ברוך
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Guide to Jewish Literature Order these books directly through the Hadassah Magazine website! Just go to Hadassahmagazine.org and click on Guide to Jewish Literature.
Stephan R. Frenkel
This critically acclaimed Amazon Bestseller begins with the captivating story of Clara Prinz, a remarkable woman forced to leave her native Berlin in 1939. As Clara travels alone on a voyage into the unknown, she turns to memories of her adolescence during La Belle Époque – the Beautiful Era filled with optimism and cultural transformation at the dawn of the twentieth century.
Available on Amazon and www.laevnotes.com.
On 174th street: the WOrld Of Willie MittleMan Mel Weiser
Days are bad in the Great Depression of the 1930s. But for little Willie Mittleman and the Mittleman clan in their Bronx, NY neighborhood, life is still good, proving that laughter and love will always be the lifesaving forces to rescue us from adversity and pain. A big-hearted gem. Funny, touching and insightful. For readers of all ages. Available on Amazon and Bookshop.org.
the ChOiCe: a nOvel Of lOve, faith and the talMud Maggie Anton
The award-winning author of Rashi’s Daughters takes characters inspired by Chaim Potok and ages them into young adults in Brooklyn in the mid-1950s. When journalist Hannah Eisin interviews Rabbi Nathan Mandel, a controversial Talmud professor, she persuades him to teach her the mysteries of the text forbidden to women, though it might cost him his job if discovered. Secret meetings and lively discussions bring the two to the edge of a line neither dares to cross, testing their relationships with Judaism and each other. Maggie is happy to meet with groups or book clubs; contact info on www.TheChoiceNovel.com.
eighteen WOrds tO sustain a life: a JeWish father’s ethiCal Will David Patterson
Jewish fathers have long recorded their wisdom for their heirs in what is called an ethical will. This book is the ethical will of a father who has spent a lifetime studying Jewish tradition. It is organized around eighteen words that form the foundations of human life, taken from the Hebrew word for “life,” chai, which is eighteen. Among these words are goodness, gratitude, prayer, love, and others. David Patterson is a winner of the National Jewish Book Award and the Hadassah Myrtle Wreath Award.
Available from Wipf and Stock Publishers and Bookshop.org.
i’ll reMeMber YOu Deborah Packer
Based on true events, set on the turbulent home front America of 1943, a proud, small town Jewish girl and a complex Jewish soldier from Brooklyn with horrific memories of another war - A bittersweet love story about two strangers struggling with personal challenges and childhood trauma in the shadow of antisemitism, racism, and the uncertainty of war. Available on Amazon and BN.com.
gOOd girls gO tO hell
A coming-of-age graphic memoir set in the West Bank, Good Girls Go to Hell depicts the reality of growing up in a region split by religious tensions—and sometimes violent conflict. From political protests to personal struggles with school, body image, and relationships with family and friends, Tohar Sherman-Friedman’s life is an inspiring story of conflicting convictions, rebellion, and personal growth. Tohar recounts her experience as the youngest of seven children in a conservative Jewish family, navigating a life buffeted by high expectations for school performance and religious adherence at home and tense conflict in the world outside.
the WarsaW sisters Amanda Barratt
In WWII Poland, two sisters fight against the darkness engulfing their homeland, one by entering a daring network of women sheltering Jewish children and the other by joining the ranks of Poland’s secret army. As Warsaw buckles under German oppression, they must rely on the courage that calls the ordinary to resist. Shop at BakerBookHouse.com for 30% off and free U.S. shipping.
MOe fields: the speCial bOnd betWeen fathers and sOns Stuart Z Goldstein
A five-decade story of a teen in Brooklyn who becomes a boxer in the 1932 Golden Gloves, fights in WWII, marries his sweetheart, overcomes anti-Semitism to build a plumbing business – and saves his family when his wife at 44 is crippled by a drunk driver. Recipient the U.S. 2022 National Literary Award for excellence in Memoirs– and ranked a “bestseller” on Amazon’s Jewish book list.
Hardcover, Paperback 386 pages or e-book, available on all book platforms. Inscribed copies from author at email@example.com.
atOMiC annie Robert Mayer
Based on a true story of an immigrant Jewish family that settles in Brooklyn. The family’s assimilation and eldest son Irv’s service in WWII and his Korean War weapons work with Robert Schwartz (US Army Weapons Hall of Fame). At Picatinny Arsenal, they developed the world’s first tactical atomic bomb. Described in 1953 as the biggest breakthrough since Oppenheimer’s bomb, Atomic Annie, made the US Army the strongest Army on earth, changing US military history. This family story also covers some fascinating history: atomic fission, Picatinny Arsenal, Ghost Army of WWII, classic NFL games, Truman-Eisenhower conflict, and the Korean War. Available on Amazon e-book and paperback.
Kill Brothers is a pulse-pounding, cold case thriller that delivers pageturning twists and turns, weaving together historical fiction (World War II) and modern-day DNA analysis. Will NYPD’s Detective Mills murder investigation link him back to Greta Weber’s shocking secret of nearly a century before? From the 1920s Germany to 2018 in Brooklyn, Kill Brothers will keep readers racing through the pages until its mindbending conclusion. Available on Amazon and www.stevendmoscovitz.com.
riding in a Car, nOt in a KangarOO Elaine Serling
A musical story full of fun, family and friends. Everyone celebrates together—even a kangaroo—at a parade and shares music and daycation memories. Use the QR code printed inside the book to download the songs. Read along! Sing along! Music and stories by singer, songwriter, author, and bubbie Elaine Serling.
Available on Amazon or at www.elaineserling.com. 800-457-2157; $19.95 + $3 shipping.
bubbie’s babY: 15th anniversarY editiOn Elaine Serling
A musical story celebrating the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren. This book features fresh lyrics and a toe-tapping melody. The colorful illustrations mirror the joy of this special bond. Use the QR code printed inside the book to download the song. Prepare to make memories to last a lifetime—listening, reading and singing together! Available on Amazon or at www.elaineserling.com. 800-457-2157; $19.95 + $3 shipping.
Of lessOns lOst Fred Snyder
Routed in World War II history and the realities of the modern ArabIsraeli conflict, this story follows brothers Yaakov and Lazor through their escape from a Nazi transport and their struggles to survive. As the story continues, the brothers’ sons become the focus as they experience the challenges born out of what had happened to their fathers so many years ago. Sample Reader reviews: “An engaging, interesting, and electrifying story…I couldn’t stop blinking..” “A fantastic plot, with intense action, and thrills around every corner…” “This book deserves more than five stars…” “A reading experience I never had before…”
Available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Bookshop.org, and in Jewish bookstores. oflessonslost.com.
Kugels and COllards Lyssa Kligman Harvey and Rachel Gordin Barnett
In this lively collection of stories and recipes, Rachel Gordin Barnett and Lyssa Kligman Harvey celebrate the unique food history of Jewish South Carolina. Featuring more than eighty recipes — including Jewish staples like kreplach dumplings, southern favorites such as peach cobbler, and modern fusions like grits and lox casserole—from seventy contributors, Barnett and Harvey explore the African American and regional influences of cherished dishes. Kugels & Collards invites readers into family homes, businesses, and community centers to share meals and memories.
Hardcover, $36.99 | 8x10, 256 pages, 26 b&w and 60 color photos. To purchase, visit uscpress.com/Kugels-andCollards or call HFS at 1-800-537-5487.
lOving Our OWn bOnes Julia Watts Belser
A transformative spiritual companion and deep dive into disability politics that reimagines disability in the Bible and contemporary culture. Loving Our Own Bones invites readers to claim the power and promise of spiritual dissent, and to nourish their own souls through the revolutionary art of radical self-love. Scholar, activist, and rabbi Julia Watts Belser delves deep into sacred literature, braiding the insights of disabled, feminist, Black, and queer thinkers with her own experiences as a queer disabled Jewish feminist. This essential read will foster and enrich conversations about disability, spirituality, and social justice. Available on Bookshop.org.
On repentanCe and repair Danya Ruttenberg
National Jewish Book Award Winner. From the award-winning author and writer Danya Ruttenberg comes a crucial new lens on repentance, atonement, forgiveness, and repair from harm—from personal transgressions to our culture’s most painful and unresolved issues. Rooted in traditional Jewish concepts while doggedly accessible and available to people from any, or no, religious background, On Repentance and Repair is a book for anyone who cares about creating a country and culture that is more whole than the one in which we live, and for anyone who has been hurt or who is struggling to take responsibility for their mistakes.
Available on Bookshop.org.
the Marriage bOx Corie Adjmi
Forced to return to her parents’ roots in the Orthodox Syrian Jewish community in Brooklyn, Casey Cohen faces two opposing worlds as she explores the unfamiliar culture and finds love. “...a readalike for Meg Wolitzer’s The Wife and Melissa Bank’s A Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing and sets the weight of familial, romantic and cultural expectations against the terrifying freedom of the unknown.”—Booklist. Available on Amazon and Bookshop.org, www.corieadjmi.com.
the blue tent: erOtiC tales frOM the bible Laria Zylber
This daring literary exploration reimagines well-known Biblical narratives with a sensual twist. In this provocative collection, familiar Torah characters are brought to life in intimate and passionate encounters that challenge traditional interpretations. These tales provide a fresh perspective on desire and human connection while inviting readers to view the Bible from a new and captivating angle that the author calls sexual midrash.
Available in paperback, Kindle and audiobook on Amazon.
MY vieW Of the MOuntains, a CatsKills MeMOir Patti Posner
A tale of the Hotel Brickman. The author, Patti Posner, the boss’s daughter, reveals the inner workings of the famous Catskill resort, along with the human story behind it all. Learn about the family drama, explosive secrets, drugs, familiar love and commitment. Patti’s memoir is a piece of Jewish-American history. Available on Amazon.
JeWs in Old pOstCards and prints Lars Fischer
Sandy Shefrin Rabin
Explore the themes of Purim – moral courage, masking our feelings, good versus evil, the moon – in this awardwinning, bittersweet coming-of-age novel about Mira Adler and what she learns about life and love from her violin and Yiddish teacher, Chaver B, a mysterious and paradoxical recent immigrant from Prague, who Mira believes harbors a painful secret. Kirkus Reviews named it one of the Best Books of 2021, calling it “compelling… poignant and eloquent.” Ideal for bat/bar mitzvah gifts, book clubs, and classrooms, and for anyone who enjoys a good story. Discussion guide available. See www.PrairieSonata.com for more reviews and details on purchasing. Available in hardcover, softcover, and e-book.
What YOu dO tO Me Rochelle B Weinstein
Have you ever wondered about the real story behind your favorite song? In Weinstein’s latest novel, inspired by fan favorite “Hey There Delilah,” Rolling Stone reporter Cecilia James is on the hunt to find the muse behind the title song “What You Do To Me.” Told in dual timelines, the story captures forbidden love, healing old wounds, and the singular power of music.
Available on Amazon and Bookshop.org.
Friends Ben and Don embark on a last-minute road trip. Don is worried about Ben who recently lost his wife Ann. Or has he? Ben can hear his wife when no one is around. His psychiatrist says Ann is merely a bereavement hallucination but Ben knows she is as real as the wind. Almost Magic is a gentle look at love, loss and maybe moving on. Available on Amazon. Got a book club? Contact author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
latKe’s first hanuKKah
Alan Silberberg; Illustrated by Alan Silberberg
The Greatest Hanukkah Gift— A History of Jews in Europe and around the Mediterranean. The book celebrates the vibrancy and diversity of Jewish life and culture in the “golden age” of the postcard, of a world largely extinguished by the Shoah and the expulsion of Jews from Northern Africa.
Now even the youngest readers can celebrate Hanukkah by joining Latke and his zany friends for an eight-night-long party! Alan Silberberg brings his signature humor to the board book audience with a silly, accessible introduction to Hanukkah. Latke is having a party to celebrate the miracle of the oil, and before the holiday is over, all his friends will join him.
Yiddish lives On: strategies Of language transMissiOn
Available on www.vintage-press.co.uk.
Winner of the 2023 Canadian Jewish Literary Awards – Yiddish. While widely considered an endangered language, Yiddish has emerged as a vehicle for young people to engage with their heritage and identity, and as a site for creative renewal in the Jewish world and beyond. Yiddish Lives On explores diverse stories and strategies of resistance to language decline. 2023 | Cloth | $37.95 | 376pp | 20 photos, 5 tables. Available on Bookshop.org.
Board book; to purchase visit www.penguinrandomhouse.com; $7.99 plus shipping.
Sheryl Haft; Illustrated by Jill Weber; Contributions by Ina Garten
In the small blue room there was a bubbala, and a little shmatta, and then—oy vey!—came the whole mishpacha! This festive parody reimagines a classic bedtime book as a lively Jewish family gathering complete with bubbies and zeydes— a perfect gift or read aloud that includes an exclusive latke recipe by Ina Garten, TV’s Barefoot Contessa!
Hardcover; to purchase visit www.penguinrandomhouse.com; $17.99 plus shipping.
frOM here: lessOns in lOve & lOss frOM 9/11 Felice Zaslow
Felice and Ira Zaslow’s love story spanned almost four decades, from the beaches of Far Rockaway to a comfortable suburban existence on the south shore of Long Island. Then came the morning of September 11, 2001. Through the days, weeks, and months that followed, Felice had to find her way through unfathomable trauma, on a path she had to forge herself, seeking guidance and role models along the way. This remarkable and inspiring memoir puts a very personal face on a national tragedy, facing down the darkness by looking for the light that is always present. Available on Amazon and Bookshop.org.
isaaC bashevis singer’s Writings On Yiddish and YiddishKaYt: the War Years, 1939-1945 Edited and translated by David Stromberg
Features 25 carefully curated essays written from just before the start of WWII through to its immediate aftermath, offering readers the unique opportunity to bear witness to the shifts in Isaac Bashevis Singer’s perspective as history unfolded. While Singer’s foresight, expressions of hope, and scathing critique of demagogues and fascism are products of their time, they are just as essential— and as chillingly relevant—in 2023. The first in a threevolume series, Writings on Yiddish and Yiddishkayt serves both as a broader record of the past and a close look at a legendary writer coming into his own.
Paperback, hardcover, e-book, 207 pages. To purchase visit shop.yiddishbookcenter.org.
at vitOria: a CitY’s Medieval prOMise betWeen Christians and sephardiC JeWs Marcia Riman Selz
An amazing story of how a medieval Jewish cemetery caused extraordinary emotions. At Vitoria transports the reader from 1950s Bayonne, France, back to medieval Spain and weaves a story of success, love, terror and honor. The historical and cultural details make for an evocative narrative that draw the reader in and provide an engaging sense of realism.
256 pages, Available online at Bookshop.org and Amazon paperback ($11.96), e-book/Kindle ($2.99).
aMOs Oz: the legaCY Of a Writer in israel and beYOnd Edited by Ranen Omer-Sherman
“As Oz himself put it: ‘Imagining the other is a powerful antidote to fanaticism and hatred.’ He saw imagination as ‘not only an aesthetic tool’ but ‘a major moral imperative.’ Oz’s pursuit of that imperative is a major theme of Amos Oz: The Legacy of a Writer in Israel and Beyond, a collection of illuminating essays on the author edited by Ranen Omer-Sherman.” — Wall Street Journal.
Paperback, 424 pages, ISBN 9781438492483, $37.95, 30% discount with code XHMG23 through 1/31/24, SUNYPress.edu.
street COrner dreaMs Florence Reiss Kraut
Set between the World Wars, this suspenseful family saga, love story, and gangster tale brings to life the Feinsteins, a family forged in tragedy and hope, struggling to attain their dreams in Brooklyn’s teeming streets. The beautifully written and tender descriptions of Ben, Golda, Morty and Sylvia living amid the Jewish and Italian gangsters who ruled New York in the 1920s and 1930s, are realistic and captivating. Like Kraut’s acclaimed first novel, How to Make a Life, this page-turner is well researched and a great book club read, perfect for holiday gift giving. Author will Zoom with book clubs.
Available November 14, in paperback, audio and e-book on Amazon, Bookshop.org or wherever you buy books. www.forencereeisskraut.com.
bOrrOWed tiMe: survivOrs Of nazi terezín reMeMber Text and photos by Dennis Carlyle Darling
Borrowed Time is retired UT-Austin professor Dennis Carlyle Darling’s documentary, through photographs and interviews, of those who survived the unique Nazi ghetto/camp located at Terezín, Czech Republic. Darling reveals Terezín as a place of painful contradictions, through striking and intimate portraits that retrace time and place with his subjects, the last remnants of those who survived the experience. Hardcover. 288 pages, 114 duotone photos. To purchase visit www.utexaspress.com or call 800-621-2736. $55.00, plus shipping
Emily Bowen Cohen
Inspired by details from the author’s life, this fictional comingof-age graphic novel for readers 8+ follows Mia, a girl whose father is a member of the Muscogee Nation in Oklahoma and whose mother is Jewish and lives in Los Angeles. Can Mia learn to embrace the complexity, meaning, and deep love that comes from being part of two vibrant tribes?
Available now wherever books are sold.
fOOd, hOpe & resilienCe: authentiC reCipes and reMarKable stOries frOM hOlOCaust survivOrs June Hersh with Foreword by Daniel Boulud
This vital collection of survivor stories uplifts and inspires alongside recipes that nourish your soul. Read about daring partisans who fought in the woods, hidden children who sought comfort from strangers and those who endured unimaginable internment. For Holocaust survivors, food was a way to connect their lives before the war with the homes they created after. Culinary icons such as Michael Solomonov, Jonathan Waxman, Ina Garten and more contribute their own recipes as tribute to the remarkable survivor community. Author June Hersh gives readers a taste of history and a life-affirming message that honors the legacy of Holocaust survivors. A portion of the proceeds from sales of this book will benefit organizations committed to Holocaust education. Available wherever books are sold.
there Was OnlY One rubYe. . .
Joanne Posner Waldorf
Most Southern Jewish ladies living in the 20th century behaved with a “rule book” of society norms. But our Rubye was a woman who loved romantic relationships, and the normal binds of a traditional marriage escaped her vocabulary. In this memoir you’ll see the behaviors of a beautiful, yet overweight, Southern Jewish belle who broke every rule of society as she went through her life with the unique attitude that she could do it her way. And for her entire lifetime, she got away with it! A fun and informative read - you’ll love learning about Georgia and Southern Jewry.
Available in paperback, audio, and e-book on Amazon.
iMpOssible esCape: a true stOrY Of survival and herOisM in nazi eurOpe Steve Sheinkin
From three-time National Book Award finalist and NYT-bestselling author Steve Sheinkin, this new young adult nonfiction book tells the true story of two Jewish teenagers racing against time during the Holocaust—one in hiding in Hungary and the other in Auschwitz, determined to escape and tell the world what he has seen.
Hardcover, 222 pages. Reviews, author info, and order links at https://us.macmillan.com/books/ 9781250265722/impossibleescape
the little liar Mitch Albom
The #1 New York Times bestselling author Mitch Albom returns with his most compelling novel yet, following a Jewish boy who has never lied who is tricked by the Nazis into deceiving his own people. A riveting, inspiring story, Booklist says, “This is Albom at his enthralling best.” Pre-order your copy now. Available on November 14th wherever books are sold. Also available in e-book and digital audio.
aunt sadie ’s letters Of hOpe & healing Shari Anderson
In 1941, Sadie Kleinberg’s ten-yearold niece, Rhoda, was quarantined in the children’s polio ward at St. Giles Hospital in Brooklyn, NY. Rhoda was immobilized and bedridden. Visiting hours were restricted to two days a week for one hour. Aunt Sadie took it upon herself to be Rhoda’s cheerleader, advisor, comfort giver and entertainer by writing her niece daily letters. Each letter included at least one poem Sadie composed just for Rhoda. These 101 letters, written from November 1941 to March 1942, offer light, love, and coping lessons during a dark and frightening time. Available in paperback from Amazon, Bookshop.org and other booksellers, Kindle and in all e-book formats. www.sadies.letters.com
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What in the World? Bold, powerful and A root with divine implications | By Joseph Lowin
hat does the ineffable name of God have to do with the Virgin Mary? Like other theological ַּת ֲעלּומֹות (ta’alumot), mysteries, they are both connected to the Hebrew root מ-ל-( עayin, lamed, mem), whose wide range of meanings relates to the world, eternity, mystery and youthful vigor. In Samuel I, when King Saul witnesses young David overpower Goliath, the astonished king asks ( ֶּבן ִמי זֶ ה ָה ָעלֶ םben mi zeh ha-alem), “Whose son is this strong young man?” Earlier in the Bible, when Abraham sends his servant, Eliezer, to find an appropriate wife for his son, Isaac, Eliezer encounters an ( ַעלְ ָמהalmah), “young maiden,” who gracefully serves water to both him and his camels. Rebecca’s act of graciousness assures the servant that he has found the perfect bride for Isaac. The word almah is also found in the Book of Isaiah, in the phrase ַעלְ ָמה ( ָה ָרהalmah harah), “young woman who is pregnant,” who, Isaiah prophesizes, will give birth to a son named Immanuel. In the 3rd century BCE, the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Bible, uses the Greek parthénos, which can mean virgin, for the Hebrew almah. And when Christianity connects the phrase in Isaiah to the Virgin Mary, a doctrinal mystery is born. The Yom Kippur mahzor enjoins us not to profane ( ִעלּּום ְׁש ֶמָךillum shemekha), “Your hidden name,” i.e., God’s Ineffable Name. Psalm 90:8 stretches our meaning even further, with ( עֲ לֻ ֵמנּוalumeinu), “our hidden sins,” which implants the word sins within our root. The noun ( ֹעולָ םolam), world, is likely derived from our root, and Exodus 21 tells how a Hebrew slave can choose to become indentured לְ ֹעולָ ם (le-olam), “for life,” which means, in halachic reality, “until the Jubilee.” In the Aramaic Mourner’s Kaddish, our root is also given a time frame of sorts, ( לְ עָ לַ ם ּולְ עָ לְ ֵמי ָעלְ ַמּיָ אle-alam u-le-olmei olmayah), “forever, and to all eternity.” In modern Israeli discourse, an interviewee may use the root to ask to speak ( ְבּעִ לּוּם ֵשׁםbe-illum shem), “anonymously.” When you want to emphasize your negative answer to the question “Have you ever…?” just say, ֵמע לָ ם ל ֹא (meh-olam lo), “No, not ever!” Have you ever had a piece of jewelry that ( נֶ ֱעלַ םne’elam), mysteriously disappeared? It is perhaps wise ( לְ ַה ֲעלִ ים ַעיִּ ןle-ha’alim ayin), to turn a blind eye, to the occurrence rather than mistakenly accuse another of theft. On the other hand, is it not wrong that, when faced with social ills, society responds with ( ִה ְתעַ לְ מוּתhitalmut), willful blindness? Indeed, an irritated commentor on Facebook or Instagram may grumble, “What did I expect?,” ֹעולָ ם ג לָ ם (olam golam), “The masses are asses.” When one is feeling irritable about our world’s tendency to groupthink, this may be an appropriate complaint. Joseph Lowin’s columns for Hadassah Magazine are collected in the books HebrewSpeak, Hebrew Talk and the recently published Hebrew Matters, available at gcrr.org/product-page/hebrew-matters. NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2023
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Statement of Ownership, Management and Circulation: (Act of October 23, 1962 Section 4369, Title 39, and United States Code.) Date of filing: October 2023. Title of Publication: Hadassah Magazine. Frequency of Issue: Bi-monthly. Location of Known Offi ce of Publication: 40 Wall St., 8th Floor, New York, NY 10005. Location of Headquarters of General Business Offices of the Publishers: 40 Wall St., 8th Floor, New York, NY 10005. Executive Editor: Lisa Hostein,: 40 Wall St., 8th Floor, New York, NY 10005. Owner: Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc.: 40 Wall St., 8th Floor, New York, NY 10005. Known Bondholders, Mortgages and other Security Holder Owning of Holding One Percent or More of Total Amount of Bonds, Mortgages or other Securities: None. Average No. of Copies of Each Issue Printed During 12 Months from September/ October 2022—July/August 2023: 227,731. Paid Subscriptions on Form 3541 and Other Classes Mailed Via USPS: 223,943. Paid Circulation Via Non-USPS Distribution: 2,747. Free Distribution by USPS Mail or Other Means: 1,728. Total Distribution: 226,461. Copies Not Distributed: 1,124. Total: 227,731. Total Number of Copies Printed Nearest to Filing Date: 226,901. Paid Subscriptions on Form 3541 and Other Classes Mailed Via USPS: 223,498. Paid Circulation Via Non-USPS Distribution: 2,762. Free Distribution by USPS Mail or Other Means: 1,379. Total Distribution: 226,627. Copies Not Distributed: 274. Total: 226,901.
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Drs. Esti Galili-Weisstub and Amit Shalev ‘We’re only at the beginning of our collective trauma’ By Wendy Elliman
COURTESY OF HMO
n october 1, after 30 years as head of the Herman Dana Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Hadassah Medical Organization, internationally renowned psychiatrist Dr. Esti GaliliWeisstub retired from the position and was succeeded by Dr. Amit Shalev. Then came October 7 and Hamas’s assault on the Jewish state. The two physicians and the rest of the staff at the psychiatry center are now confronting what Dr. Galili-Weisstub called the nation’s “collective trauma.” She has brought her expertise to countless trauma victims worldwide, including training mental health professionals in Pittsburgh after the 2018 Tree of Life synagogue shooting. Dr. Shalev, an Israeli army elite forces veteran, specializes in pediatric trauma and suicide prevention therapy and research. Now, in a nation reeling with shock, fear, grief and anger, their focus is emergency mental health first aid. Sometimes, a single consultation is enough to address some of the anxiety that young people are coping with, they explained. A few days after the terror attacks, Dr. Galili-Weisstub gave basic routine support to a 10year-old Jerusalem boy who was experiencing an acute stress reaction. Following her meeting with the pair, the boy no longer panicked when sirens sounded, and he agreed to venture from his house. “After the consultation,” Dr. Galili-Weisstub recalled, “the boy said to
me, ‘I’m O.K. now. I can let my mum go to work.” This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. With Israel at war, what mental health challenges are to be expected? AS: With the shock and unprecedented barbarity of this war, we’re seeing Israelis summon enormous reserves of mental strength. But, ahead, we’re clearly looking to a great wave of mental health struggles. People with pre-existing mental conditions are likely to deteriorate, while those previously healthy are being pushed to their limits. Many are already directly impacted by loss, and in our small country, everyone knows someone who’s lost someone. EGW: People will need help in regaining their inner sense of security and trust as well as their belief in ultimate goodness—something we can’t start working on, because there’s still no stability. We’re only at the beginning of our collective trauma. It took a full generation to recover from the trauma of the Yom Kippur War. What we’re experiencing now is far worse. Is the extreme youth of so many of those injured, kidnapped and killed having a particular impact? AS: For youngsters, the fact that infants and children have been attacked, abducted and slaughtered brings the terror very close, amplifying many times over normal fright. They feel threatened and vividly imagine themselves as victims. Adults
Dr. Esti GaliliWeisstub
Dr. Amit Shalev
need, therefore, not only to deal with their own distress and horror but must try to reassure their children as well. EGW: The cruelty and brutality of the images and videos on social media add to mental health challenges experienced by youngsters. These are sufficient in themselves to trigger PTSD. If parents can’t stop their children watching, they should talk with them about what they’re seeing. How can the mental health struggles of younger children be addressed? AS: From the war’s second day, we’ve streamed webinars to pediatricians, social workers and psychotherapists, tutoring them how to give parents tools to help them and their children. We’ve opened a hotline and a crisis intervention clinic where psychologists and psychiatrists provide mental first aid face to face, and via Zoom for those too afraid to come. We’ve been going to kibbutzim near Jerusalem, where traumatized refugees from the South are being housed, and conducting group and individual interventions. We’re working round the clock. We’re short-staffed—many of our team have been called up for military duty, others are bereaved— but we’re using our decades of experience in treating post-trauma and acute stress to support this newly distressed population. EGW: As in air safety, where adults don oxygen masks before helping their children, we bolster parents. Themselves worried, fearful and perhaps bereaved, adults are crucial in delivering the reality and emotional experience to children, and we’re helping them do so as positively as possible. Wendy Elliman is a British-born science writer who has lived in Israel for more than five decades.
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Technion Impact: Visionary Education Support Technion students— Israel’s future innovators, industry pioneers, and leaders of a scientifically literate nation.
Because of You, Jewish Values Will Shape Future Generations “Hadassah is the foremost organization that supports Jewish life, education and health care, both in the United States and abroad. Having both recently retired, we are now in a position to give back and we have decided to establish a charitable gift annuity with Hadassah.” — Phyllis and Robert Wolff Rockville, Maryland, and Lakewood Ranch, Florida
nstilling Jewish values in future generations is deeply important to Phyllis and Army retired Lt. Col. Robert Wolff. A charitable gift annuity (CGA) allowed the Wolffs to make a contribution to Hadassah and, in return, receive steady payments for life. The Wolffs also support Check out our attractive rates! Charitable Gift Annuity Rates ONE-LIFE RATES*
the West Point Jewish Chapel, where Robert serves as curator and as a member of the West Point Jewish Chapel Fund. He invites Hadassah members to visit the Chapel and learn more about Jews at West Point and the accomplishments of Jewish graduates.
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NEW OPTION! You may be eligible to fund your CGA using your IRA. This option comes with special rules, so contact us to see if you qualify. *Rates as of Jan. 1, 2023. Rates are fixed when annuity is established. Rates are also available for two-life gift annuities. If you reside in New York, please contact us directly as your rates may vary slightly. Minimum age: 65 | Minimum contribution: $5,000. Charitable gift annuities are not available in all states. The information and content contained herein are intended for educational purposes only and are not intended to provide legal, tax or other professional advice or to be relied upon. For such advice, please consult with an attorney, tax advisor or accountant. Figures cited in any examples are for illustrative purposes only. References to estate and income taxes include federal taxes only and are subject to change. State income/estate taxes and/or other state laws may impact your individual results. The solicitation disclosure on page 62 is incorporated in this advertisement. Charitable deductions are allowed to the extent provided by law. Hadassah shall have full dominion, control and discretion over all gifts (and shall be under no legal obligation to transfer any portion of a gift to or for the use or benefit of any other entity or organization). All decisions regarding the use of funds for any purpose, or the transfer of funds to or for the benefit of any other entity or organization, shall be subject to the approval of the Board or other governing body of Hadassah.
California residents: Annuities are subject to regulation by the State of California. Payments under such agreements, however, are not protected or otherwise guaranteed by any government agency or the California Life and Health Insurance Guarantee Association. Oklahoma residents: A charitable gift annuity is not regulated by the
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