Friday, November 15, 2013

Snow In August: Wondeful Read

Snow in August
By Pete Hamill

This book is not written by a Jewish author, which makes this even more wonderful to read. I am not starting a debate what makes a book Jewish or not?  I am posting it because it is about a Catholic boy, and how he connects with a Rabbi.  
This is the third time reading. Because of our community read, The Golem and the Jinni; we decided to pick this one. Pete Hamill's story is wonderful. 

Michael, Irish Catholic 10 year old. Living in Brooklyn in the 1940's. Michael is a average kid, there isn't any TV. Instead,Michael likes to go to the local movie theatre where he's mom works-with his friends. He also enjoys reading comic books- Superman. 

Michael, and his Brooklyn friends are threatened by the gang, The Falcons. I should say the entire neighborhood is afraid of this thug. Michael just happens to be in Mr. G's store ( Mr. G is Jewish)at the wrong time. Mr. G sticks up for Michael. The thug( can't remember his name), beats up Mr. G pretty badly. Michael witnesses the crime. He is not a snitch; he is not going to tell. In the meantime, a local Rabbi see's Michael one day going down the street, He asked Michael a favor. Because it is Saturday, Shabbat for the Jews, a holy day. Would Michael be the Shabbos Goy? 

What turns out to just be a favor turns into a friendship that will forever change both Michael, and the Rabbi. Rabbi Hirsch wants to learn better English. Rabbi Hirsch asks Michael, if you teach me English, I will teach you Yiddish- Michael agrees. 

What happens is Michael and Rabbi Hirsch become close, and learn about each other. Rabbi Hirsch, we learn about his wife during the Holocaust. We also learn about the story of the " Golem of Prague". Michael we learn about his father's death during the war. But. also the hardship of living in the tenements with his single mother. 

Michael's troubles without his father;trying too grow up too fast. He is trying to be strong for his mother. Since there is trouble brewing on the streets of Brooklyn( Falcon gang). Michael is worried about the Falcons. They think he snitched. Because the cops keep showing up at unexpected places. He's friends have abandoned him as well. He's only friend is Rabbi Hirsch. 

Each of them become stronger and reach out to each other to help each other, as they friendship becomes stronger. Their connection is baseball, and Jackie Robinson. They talk about these two things every time they meet. Michael is excited one day, the Rabbi got tickets for the baseball game. This is all Michael can think about till the actual game. He is so excited. 

After the game, Michael admits to Rabbi Hirsch what happened to Mr. G. Rabbi Hirsch's advise to Michael. Sometimes not telling is worse than the crime itself. 

The rest of the story is very moving and Mystical. I only learned about the Golem from reading Snow in August. It is a very moving sweet story about a boy growing up in Brooklyn in the 1940's. I will worn you that there is antisemitism, and discrimination in Snow in August. But that is the point of the story. 

If you are waiting to hear about the Golem. Yes, there is a golem that is created in the story. But, I am not going to relate that to you. That will just ruin it. The book brought tears to my eyes what happens at the end. I would love to tell you why. But, I just can't. If you do read the book. Check out other background info. about the golem. There is also on Netflix, a episode of X-Files called Kaddish. Then check out youtube, you will find the movie, Snow in August; the movie adaption.

My take of the story, is a growing up tale. There is nostalgia, 1940's, Brooklyn N.Y.  If you bought  or have the newest version of Snow in August. You are in for a treat. Because the back of the book explain's why the author wrote Snow in August.  I Just loved this book. You are doing yourself a disservice if you don't read it. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Blog Tour: Line Up

Today, I have been invited to participate in the TLC Book Tour of, Line Up.  I would like to thank TLC Book Tours asking me to participate.  You can visit the other stops at TLC Book Tours site, and a special treat, a interview at CBS News with the author, Llad Shoham. .
 This is the first time I am reading a novel that takes place in Israel. I have always been told to stay away from books from Israeli author's because of the translation.  Too many strange names, and places.  Even though I know a little hebrew, I have always been put off.

Either, they never heard of this author before, Liad Shoham, or we were told wrong. Because Line Up, is terrific. It gets you at the first sentence and grabs you, and it doesn't let you go. 

I don't know much what comes out of Israel. But, what I do know it is used to be there was limited books translated to English. But, now it seems that there are more authors able to be translated and read by English speaking language. 

I am very happy I read this book. There is many twists and turns, and holds your attention.

It starts in Tel Aviv, Israel,with the noisy retired, older lady, Sara Glazer. She is  watching out in the wee hours of the morning making sure that her neighbor picks up after his dog. 

Sara Glazer, notices a man and a woman, then a struggle, she realizes it is more sinister, it is a rape. But, she keeps her mouth closed. Can she identify the man?

But, what we do know is Adi Regav has been raped brutally. After the rape she and her family will never be the same. Adi, is a single, independent woman. She is terrified every day, wondering what is lurking outside her window. Her father,Yaron sits and waits outside of her apartment building, waiting there to protect his daughter. 

One night, while he is sitting out in his car, while he's daughter is in her apartment. Yaron notices something strange. A man is following a woman. He thinks to himself definitely, this is the same man that raped my daughter. He bring him to justice. But, not everything seems as it should. 

He manipulates he's daughter, and pretty much persuades her to give the confession.  She is not sure if this is the guy, but believes her father, that she is doing the right thing.  But, then she recants her story and is left off.   Why is she being so gullible?  Why is she being persuaded.  Should you always believe your parents? Would you have done the same thing?

The man picked up is, Ziv. He works for a mafia mob boss. But, he is mistakenly picked up. He is not about to tell the real truth about what he was doing outside her window.  He keeps his mouth quiet. They are accusing him of something else.    Then realizing they don't know the original crime he committed.

He is not going to tell the police what really went down. He is released on a technicality. The mafia is looking for him. But, luckily Ziv is one step ahead of them. This is when it gets exciting. 

That is all I am going to reveal. Because if I reveal too much more I will ruin it for you. 

This is not my type of book. I usually read literary fiction, or historical fiction. But, when TLC book tours asked me if I was interested, I jumped at the chance. 

For years I wanted to read something from my "tribe". But,there wasn't anything that took my fancy. I am so glad, that TLC Book Tours contacted me.

I was in the need of a fun book. I have not found any good books to read lately. But, this one hits the spot if you are in the mood of a fun, beach read. 

One thing, I have noticed not putting the author down. The writing is not flowery, or pretty. It is simple writing, like you were reading a newspaper. The author doesn't trick you. He gets to the point. This book doesn't make you think, and question. Just read it for what it is. 

On the cover of the book it did not tell me if the novel was translated or not.  It hit me, the writing was different, perhaps it was not translated.   The writing is not a usually writing style of any authors I know.   Not even John Grisham writes as plain as that. 

Why would the author not write in his native language Israel first. Strange, but it made me think of the writing style.   Anyway,  The novel is a best seller in Israel.  I wonder why??   I thought it was great, no matter if I am not used to the writing style.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

August Jewish Book Carnival

The Jewish Book Carnival was posted last week. Sorry I am a bit late for posted the link here. It is a wonderful smorgasbord of books this month. From fiction post to holocaust, to the high holidays almost upon us.  

The fiction post is by me, of course you guessed, The Golem and the Jenni.  Anyhoo!!  Where did the summer go we are right around the corner for September.
Here is the link, to the Jewish Book Carnival.   If you have time visit this wonderful Jewish Book Carnival hosted this month by Leora. Great job for her first time.

It is a little early, but because classes have already started for me. I don't have much time this week. I have to catch up. Since some of the classes are online, and learning the technology.  All of the homework, and tests are to be submitted on a special website.  I had to teach my self last week, before starting the actually school work.  So, I am a bit rushed.  My first work is due tommorrow, and quizes are all due on Sunday night before 12.

I would like to wish you all La Shana Tova,  a happy and sweet new year 5774!!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Jewish Book Carnival: Author Helene Wecker

Finally it's here my interview with Helene, the author of The Golem and the Jenni.  If you have not heard of her, you must have had your head in the sand literally. I can't believe being a debut author this is her first novel. Where has she been?

After reading her fabulous novel. I have not read anything that lives up to anything else.  Lush in history and description of character, place, and time.  It is a tour of nostalgic turn of the century New York City, circa 1899.  You can read my review here.  Also some background resources for you. Visit youtube to watch a full feature silent movie, The Golem(1920). Here is her website.

 Hi, Helene thank you for taking the time to visit me at Susan's Literary Cafe.  Welcome!!!

First I would like to tell you Helene, you have become my favorite author of all time.  Your novel speaks volumes to me.  It has all the elements, of historical fiction, magical realism, romance, storytelling, suspense, and so much more.  The best part, because I am a transplant from the north, you bring New York City to life.  It is more thing that I miss living in South Carolina.

Helene is a debut author for the novel, The Golem and the Jenni.     She grew up in Libertyville, Illinois, a small town north of Chicago, and received her Bachelor’s in English from Carleton College in Minnesota. After graduating, she worked a number of marketing and communications jobs in Minneapolis and Seattle before deciding to return to her first love, fiction writing. Accordingly, she moved to New York to pursue a Master’s in fiction at Columbia University. She now lives near San Francisco with her husband( her husband comes from a Syrian family) and daughter.

Helene, What was the inspiration for your novel? Why the characters of the Golem and the Jinni? And why set it in turn-of-the-century New York, instead of modern New York?
When I was in grad school, I started working on a series of linked short stories about my own Jewish family and my husband's Arab-American family. A couple of the stories were okay, but the rest were not very good, and I knew it. I was talking with a friend of mine about it, and how frustrated I was. She suggested I try a different approach. She knew that I was a scifi/fantasy geek, and she challenged me to add a fantastical element, to take the stories out of the realm of straight-up realism. So instead of a Jewish girl and an Arab-American boy, I decided to write about a golem and a jinni. I thought I was just taking a break and writing a fun little story, but then it became clear that I had a novel on my hands. I set it in turn-of-the-century New York because that was when the first big waves of Jewish and Syrian immigrants were arriving in America. I thought the communities would be new and chaotic enough that a golem and a jinni could hide pretty easily -- unlike today, when you need a driver's license and a birth certificate, and and everything's on camera. Also, one of my original ideas was to tell the story over a hundred years! I got rid of that idea pretty quickly, though.
As a child, were your parents or grandparents big on Jewish folktales?
No, strangely enough! At least I don't remember hearing any folktales from them. My mother's parents were cosmopolitan German Jews, and Old World folktales weren't really their thing. My dad's parents were Polish Jews, and spoke Yiddish, but I don't remember them telling me folktales. Usually they were too busy trying to get me to eat! Instead of folktales at home, I had science fiction, most of it from my dad: Bradbury and Asimov and Heinlein and Star Trek. Only lately have I realized how closely some of the themes in the old golem stories match themes in classic science fiction -- only instead of golems, it's robots.

What was the inspiration for your novel? Why the characters of the Golem and the Jinni? And why set it in turn-of-the-century New York, instead of modern New York?
When I was in grad school, I started working on a series of linked short stories about my own Jewish family and my husband's Arab-American family.

 A couple of the stories were okay, but the rest were not very good, and I knew it

. I was talking with a friend of mine about it, and how frustrated I was. She suggested I try a different approach. She knew that I was a scifi/fantasy geek, and she challenged me to add a fantastical element, to take the stories out of the realm of straight-up realism.
 So instead of a Jewish girl and an Arab-American boy, I decided to write about a golem and a jinni. I thought I was just taking a break and writing a fun little story, but then it became clear that I had a novel on my hands. I set it in turn-of-the-century New York because that was when the first big waves of Jewish and Syrian immigrants were arriving in America.

 I thought the communities would be new and chaotic enough that a golem and a jinni could hide pretty easily -- unlike today, when you need a driver's license and a birth certificate, and and everything's on camera.
 Also, one of my original ideas was to tell the story over a hundred years! I got rid of that idea pretty quickly, though.
As a child, were your parents or grandparents big on Jewish folktales?
No, strangely enough! At least I don't remember hearing any folktales from them. My mother's parents were cosmopolitan German Jews, and Old World folktales weren't really their thing. My dad's parents were Polish Jews, and spoke Yiddish, but I don't remember them telling me folktales.

 Usually they were too busy trying to get me to eat! Instead of folktales at home, I had science fiction, most of it from my dad: Bradbury and Asimov and Heinlein and Star Trek. Only lately have I realized how closely some of the themes in the old golem stories match themes in classic science fiction -- only instead of golems, it's robots.
Did you mean to write a book so massive, in depth and character?
I didn't start out with that goal, certainly. Then the characters and story lines started to proliferate, and I realized that the book was going to be a lot longer than I'd originally thought. It was intimidating, but also exciting, because that's the sort of book I really love: long and involved, with a community of interesting characters. (I'm thinking of genre novels like Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, or realist fiction like the recent Skippy Dies.) At one point the book was a lot longer than it is now, at least 20 percent longer. I cut out a lot at the sentence level, but scenes and subplots too -- extraneous material that wasn't doing much besides slowing the pace.
Did you realize you had the Jewish theme of free will, or was it a accident? I understand you were not brought up in a religious household, but free will is in your novel. The rabbis teach us young about free will, so if that is the case, where did that come from?
The theme of free will came directly from my characters themselves, from the Golem's servant nature and the Jinni's imprisonment in human form. Once I'd given them these constraints, it seemed pretty clear that this would be what they had in common, and what they would talk about. As for when I first encountered ideas about free will, I honestly think it goes back to all the books I've read: stories of robots acquiring sentience, and defying their creators, and so on. Also I remember reading Paradise Lost in college, and being taken with Milton's idea that God knew ahead of time every decision we would ever make, yet we still had the free will to make those decisions. It seemed like a really interesting paradox.
What do you want your readers to come away with after reading The Golem and the Jinni?
Ideally I'd like them to come away thinking about the issues that prompted me to write the book, like the tug-of-war between duty and free will, and between tradition and modernity. Honestly, I get leery at the idea of books with messages; I think the best way to kill a book flat is to give it an obvious message. I'd rather ask questions instead.
Do you call yourself a fantasy writer or magical realism?
Either! Both! I've been calling this book a "literary historical fantasy," and I know it's being shelved all over in bookstores -- in literary fiction, or historical fiction, or fantasy/scifi. Since this is the only major project I've ever written, I'm not sure yet if I'll only be writing genre-tinged fiction. Maybe someday I'll write a book that's completely realist, which honestly for me would be a real feat. So until then I'll just call myself a writer, and leave it at that.

What books would you like to share that you enjoyed ?

book recommendations: do you read Neil Gaiman? His AMERICAN GODS is really, really good. Also you might like JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR. NORRELL by Susanna Clarke

Have you published anything before writing The Golem and the Jenni ?

I have a written a short story, from a online journal. Here is the website at

Thank you Helene for taking the time to visit me. Hope to hear, and read more fantastic books by you in the future.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Wow!!! The Golem and The Jenni

The Golem and the Jinni
By Helene Wecker
Complimentary copy by Harper Collins

Wow!!! I am blown away by this amazing novel. I can't believe this her debut!!!!

The Golem and the Jinni, is one post I want to do justice.  This is the best book I have read in years.  I said that last year about Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton.  Truly after you read the post I hope you run out and buy it.   Any book that is unique and different in its storytelling, has won me over from the start.

This unique story is so hard to put in word. I had to think in days how to put my thoughts together.  Ms. Wecker has such a imagination. I wondered how come we have not heard from her before. Surely, this book is not a debut.  It turns out it is.

I am still thinking about this amazing book. How to post, and write about it after a week. I am still contemplating. I have been afraid to post on my book blogs. That is how good it is. I even posted on Amazon, which I don't usually do. But, I want the world to know about this book.

The Golem and the Jenni is wonderful,  unique, magical, enchanting, and Jewish story telling at it's best.  There are books that give you character study, and books that transport you.  But, The Golem and the Jenni gives you a wonderful ride, and spell bounding at every turn. You wanted to know what happens next. You can't keep turning the pages fast enough.  It keeps you up all hours of the night, and keeps the night oil burning.

I am Jewish, but never read the stories of the old country, Yiddishkeit.  This is what it reminded me of, the old story telling. Like the stories we used to be read, and hear as as story book bed time stories.  Storytelling not narrative written down, but oral story telling at a campfire.

  The book is part Jewish folklore,  Romance, Part historical fiction, magical realism, mysticm- Jewish, and Arab, and of course fantasy.  The author takes us  on a tour of turn of the century New York City, of the Jewish, Lower East Side, and Old Syria.  Almost like a carpet ride. Because the Jinni is able to fly so he takes us above the tenement homes, but on the roof to see below. Which  a unique experience.

This is the kind of book, that is so lush in description, and multi layered characters. This is the kind of book that I think would be hard to pull apart and critique because the storytelling is so awesome.  The author sometimes gets carried away with description that makes the story drag a bit.  But, you doesn't distract from the story because of the rich, and lush story telling.

There is so much to talk about in this novel, to name a few Jewish, and Syrian immigration, Tenement housing, living conditions, immigration policies, Lower East Side living, family, storytelling, and free will.

My recommendation before you read the book, is to do research and find out what a golem is. Then do research on the Genie.

The story takes place in Danzig, Poland.  Otto Rotfeld is not a handsome man, and he is a outsider and doesn't trust others. He decides he wants a wife, but not a ordinary wife. He wants a wife of his own making, and then he seeks out the Kabbalist, Schaalman. He asks him to make of wife of his own desires.    While on the way to America on the ship Mr. Rotfeld brings her to life. But, he ultimately dies with a burst appendix.  What is she to do without a master. She doesn't have free will, she is born to follow orders of her master.  She is like a new born child with new experiences. She doesn't know what to do or act. When she gets off the ship she starts wandering.  She encounters a Rabbi that takes her in.  He realizes she is not a ordinary woman, but a Golem, her name we find out is Chava, which means life.

Then not faraway in Little Syria, a Arab immigrant community called Little Syria lives a tinsmith named Abeely. He is brought a copper flask needing repair.  While attempting to fix it, something happens, a Genie pops out.  He is naked, he is trapped as a shape of a human being.  He is bound by irons on his wrists.

In the mist of this is Schaalman, he tries to find his creation. Has he come to destroy her? Or to make him his master?  You will just have to read the book to find out. I am telling you it is worth the read.

Here is a few quotes I loved that gives the uniqueness of the book. "Schaalman could control the Jenni how ever he wished, and the golem was his own creature to destroy. He held their lives in his hands. He might use them  each against the other, or seal the Jenni in the flask and turn the Golem into dust, servitude, and else death.".  If you would like more reviews of what other people think, I am sure if you do a google search you will find positive reviews as well.

Our Jewish community in Myrtle Beach is selecting our first community read book. The Golem and the Jenni happens to be one of them.  I don't think anything else will compare. With the others on the nominating committee, I have heard everyone's take. Everyone agrees, The Golem and the Jenni.

I would like to thank Heather for the complimentary copy.

Friday, June 28, 2013

What is Jewish Fiction?

I would like to thank Erika Dreifus for sharing this video.  It sounds like to me that there is a fine line. Still no one has the answer. Like always there could be 5 Jews and everyone has a different opinion.  It will never be answered. Which is fine by me.  To me I think it is your own experience, and your own interpetation.

For me Jewish fiction has to be:
1) The author must be JEWISH.
there are some authors that say their book is Jewish when they never experience being Jewish. Going one time to a passover seder doesn't cut it.
2) The Jewish experience and ideas
 Just because a person writes in a few Jewish names doesn't make a book Jewish.

What are your thoughts leave a comment.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Jewish Grand Strand Reads 2013 Part 2

Jewish Grand Strand Reads event was held yesterday. With 30 people in attendance. We picked Mr. Fish to have the event. It is owned, by Ted and Lisa Hammerman. Lisa, is one of our long standing book club members of 38th Ave. Diva Readers. It is centrally located and across the street from our temple, Temple Emanu-El.  The presentation of the food was so pretty you don't want to eat it. I would rather look at it.  That would be a great way to lose weight. You know the joke SEAFOOD!!!  The food and service was excellent.  I ordered the Talapia blackened sandwich, with a cuke, and tomato salad.  You can't forget the hush puppies either.
We discussed the novel, Rav Hisda's Daughter by Maggie Anton. Our guest speaker was Rabbi Debbie Slavitt.  She is a wonderful speaker, and she draws everyone.  Her discussion, and questions made for interesting topics further to explore and ask more questions.

Rabbi Debbie Talked about the temple before the destruction of the second temple, and the exiles that left before the second temple and after. What was it like without a temple?  How did Judiasm survive without the Temple?  without sacrifices? What was the culture like in Jerusalem vs. Babylonia? What happened to the Sanhedrin, now that there was not a need for them?

 Why Rabbi's? The concept of synagogue and Rabbi is not what we think of today in daily life.  Rabbi's did not have a pulpit, or lead prayer.  The word for "Rabbi", is teacher. Rabbi's formed the conversations from different generations of sages for oral  Jewish law called the Talmud. When we modern Jews think of Talmud we think of  many, many books. But, in actually printing press did not come about till 1500 years later.  So, it was passed on to their students by word of mouth, and discussion of other Rabbi's and debates, etc.

In Rav Hisda's Daughter here are the talking points:
(For reason's I won't get the name right. I will call her Rav Hisda's Daughter)

Why did her father ask her to name the one she wanted to marry. What was the reason she said Rami, and Abba. Was it so she wouldn't embarrass the boys?

Why did Rav Hisda allow sorcery, and magic in his home if he is a learned Rabbi? That is the point back then the Rabbi was only a teacher. He did not dominate Jewish life, and judge and tell you, what is right or wrong. He wanted to be accepted in the secular world as well. Just like today assimilation is possible. The Babylonia culture was all around us.  So, you had to take it in.

The incantation bowls that were put upside down to catch the demons, the evil eye on a baby sleeve, etc, etc.

Then we talked about the mosaics in the bath houses and the significance of them.

The Culture between Jerusalem vs. Babylonia was different. Why do you think that is? You would think it would be the same. But, in Babylonia you were surrounded by all kinds of people. In Jerusalem it was just one kind. The point is that there were differences all around you. There was not sameness.

Our second annual Jewish Grand Strand Reads was a large success this time than last time.  Our attendance doubled.

 A few of the authors sent me autograph copies of their newest novels. I was showcasing southern beach reads by Mary Kay Andrews, Dorthea Benton Frank, Beth Hoffman, and Susan M. Moyer.

                                                       Til next year, looking toward 2014.

Jewish Grand Strand Reads 2013

I have been organizing our Jewish Grand Strand Reads. The first year I did not know what I was doing.  We had a small group of people. Our book event was Dove Keepers by Alice Hoffman.

  This year, we chose Rav Hisda's Daughter by Maggie Anton.

I did not reach out to the Jewish synagogues or organizations for help because I did not know if there was a need. But, yesterday I got my answer. We had a total of 30 people show up, with a few cancellations.

There are some drawbacks though when it gets larger. But, I love the idea of the Jewish community of Myrtle Beach,  reading,  and discussing and sharing ideas. Especially around one book.  It is alot of work, but if you have the commitment, drive and willing to sweat a bit, and some sleepless nights.  It is worth it at the end.   But, you must have the passion and the love for the writing, the book, and the author.

 With the help of my friend Donna, I pursued my idea. I don't think I would have done it without her support. There has been crazy times that I get ideas in my head, and I call her all different times night or day.  I hope I don't cause her to get a divorce. LOL!!! My friends think I am a bit eccentric because of my love of reading and books. Because I talk, eat, and sleep books. I am known as the "Book Maven" or " Book Diva", depending on who you talk to.

Why I am posting this if you have a idea and you are passionate about it. Do it! Don't think it can't be done.  Go on your PC, and do a lot of research. See if someone else has done it. I can't tell you how many hours of research I did. Reading recommendations, and contacting other organizations to talk to them.  Nancy Pearl, from the New Jersey Jewish Federation took the time and gave me so many resources and information how to organize.

So many people told  me it couldn't be done in this area.  Mainly because we don't have the resources. We are a resort town, and a small Jewish community. Up north, authors are always willing to come to book events. But, in the south everything is spread out.  There are not plentiful authors that are willing to come down here without charge.

 There are always books that have topics to find discussion, and a jumping point for discussion.  To enhance, and enrich the the book experience.

We have something better.  We have one thing they don't have, Rabbi Debbie Slavitt.   She is and will be our next speaker.  She is wonderful to listen to and get ideas and share with.

You would think I am done, and can take a rest. You are wrong even before we started our book event yesterday.  I had a meeting with Sisterhood of , Temple Emanu-El to discuss working together for the Jewish Grand Strand Reads.

They will be supporting me and my idea.   They realize there is a need here. Especially when some of them attended the book event yesterday.  They realized how many people came with out that much publicity.  Can you imagine if it was really publicized.

Thanks for visiting, and if you are planning a book event  and you need some help you are welcome to contact me.

Here is our new logo that our temple secretary made for next year's event.  It is awesome and now official, Jewish Grand Strand Reads 2014:


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Lost Wife: Book Review

The Lost Wife
By Alyson Richman

How would you feel finding your Bashert after 60 years??  Is this  G-ds will, or fate, or luck?

You go to your grandson's wedding. You see someone that looks familiar to you. Those eyes.... You will never forget those eyes, no matter how long it has been.

The Lost Wife, is not a typical holocaust novel.  It doesn't dig deep into the horror of the Jews, and the concentration camps, like the other literary novels do.  I would call this a light read, maybe even a romance novel.  But, that said, I enjoyed reading, Lost Wife anyway.

Spoiler Alert==============================Spoiler Alert======================
 Lenka and Josef are sweethearts.  But, then WW2 erupts and everything changes.  Lenka and Josef are separated

 Lenka is rounded up with her parents and her sister to be transported to Terezin.

Terezin, is the camp where many artists had shared their horrors with the world with their art, during and after the war.  Some of the art work was buried and later discovered after the war.  Other art work was slipped secretly out of the camps for the world to see during the war.

I liked the author's style of telling the story.  She started. the story with a wedding, when they are in their 80's. they have not seen each other for over 60 years.  I am not going to tell you too much more. Because it will ruin the surprise.

 They go back in time, when they first meet.

There are many authors that use the same style. Peeling the story back very s-l-o-w-l-y. Sometimes it works, and sometimes not.  Alyson Richman's style, was a mix of straight narrative, and peeling the onion. But, not using it too much. She peeled back the story in the beginning. She did not go back and forth peeling the onion too many times.

There was not too much to discuss. But, what was discussable was talking about the artistic works that were done during the war.  U.S. Government and the Red Cross's participation. Were we  and our government's  fooled??  or just a blind eye??    The people of the world just did not want to believe something like this could happen. It was too horrific.

I  enjoyed reading the novel, even though I would call this romance. I loved the artistic view point.  The artists that resisted the Germans, by using their art work. How they buried their work, and later came back.   There were parts of the novel, that I actually cried in buckets.

HOW WOULD YOU FEEL THINKING YOUR BASHERT HAS DIED, and then seeing him after 60 years he or she is still alive?? 

I like a book that I learn, or experience something new.  I give it 5 stars. You can check out the author's website here.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Haven: Book Review

By Ruth Gruber

This is a wonderful part of American history I was not aware of. I don't think many Americans are aware of it either. It was actually kept secret.

This is  a true account from Ruth Gruber perspective.  Ruth Gruber was a very well known writer that told stories, from the Artic, Russia, and other places. FDR wanted to bring 1000 people over from Italy to the United States.  Ruth Gruber was asked to accompany them over, and literarily hold their hand accompany them over on the ship. They were to go to a old military base, close to Canada called Ortwego, New York.

This is a wonderful account of her experience, personally and professionally.  There were many obstacles these people had to face coming over.  They had signed a paper stating they must return to their original country of origin, once the war was over.  Without thinking, they just wanted to get out of Europe, out of the clutches of Hitler's hands.  I would do the same thing, I would be desperate too.

Because when enter the United States you were not classified as a immigrant. You were a guest of Pres. FDR. This meant you did not have any rights.

During the time they were on the ship, there were all kinds of people. There were the holocaust survivors, and soldiers, and the wounded. Then you had different class of people, different countries, as Jews, they are then divided from Sephardic, to Askanazi's, then educated, and non educated. 

The Jews wanted to be divided up even further when they were to get to the camps. But, that did not materialize.  When they got to the camp, first was the bob wire, can you imagine you were already in the camps, in Europe and then coming to another place with bob wire, you would not be too happy either. You were divided up into families, and there were major adjustments that everyone in the camp had to make.  From being a European to adjusting to American life.

The refugees tried to adjust to the best they could.  They developed a school for the children. Eventually it was agreed they needed to attend a American School. They were given clothes by the different organizations.  They had a wedding, and children being born.

After the war was over, that is when the story became news.  Ruth Gruber fought for these people. Some of them did want to return to Europe, Realize that the people that were on the ship were not only Jews, but Christians, Romanian, Gypsies, any one that needed a safe haven to the United States.
Many of them were allowed to stay in this country as long as they had someone that was responsible for them.  They were eventually allowed to stay in this country, and they became successful, and productive citizens.

But, that is not all that goes with the story. Haven is actually the turning point of Ruth Gruber's life. She became a successful foreign correspondent, when it came to foreign stories, everyone wanted Ruth.  She then went on to help with the committee to establish the state of Palestine. What should happen to the DP in Cypress, and the other camps. The Ship Exodus, is a powerful story of more people trying to come to Haifa. Then the people of Ethiopia which ended in the plight of African Jews trying to come to Israel.  This story goes on, and on. Ruth did not sit back, and just take pictures. She was a advocate for these people in pictures and listening to their stories.

This a wonderful read. If you were looking for the life of Ruth Gruber then this is the book you should pick up. The book was made into a movie, called by the same name.   There are pictures in the book that document the people's plight. Ruth has won many awards, and has been involves with fund raising many Jewish organizations. She has published many books. She won a Jewish Book Award for Raquela, a story of a Jewish pioneer nurse that worked in Palestine before and after Palestine's independence. 

You can read my other posts below about her life and other books.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Book Review: Witness by Ruth Gruber

By Ruth Gruber

Witness, is a conglomeration of Ruth Gruber's travels from 1940's-1985.  She was the first person to earn her PH.D in one year. She then became a writer on her travels to the Artic, and the Gulag. She then traveled to Alaska, where she took beautiful pictures of Eskimo's that lived there.

She was selected by Ickes, to accompany 1000 holocaust survivors from Italy to Ortega, N. Y.  Which is on the border of the United States and Canada. These refugees were only to be guests to President Roosevelt until the war was over. Ruth, helped the refugees to become American Citizens.

 She took pictures of the holocaust survivors that were in the DP Camps, and showed the crowded, poor sanitary conditions, ragged clothes, and what conditions they were living in.  She took these pictures with such emotion and care. You could tell she care about the people she took pictures of.

Ruth is known for the pictures she took on the Exodus. The pictures were on the front page of many newspapers. Exodus was made into a movie with Paul Newman.  Just as a side note she has written many books, I plan to read a few more.  I hope to convince my book club to maybe read the book Haven.  Ruth Gruber is a incredible woman, and she is over 100 years old.

Ruth Gruber witnessed history in the making, she didn't just take pictures. She saw history, and witnessed it.  This was the time that most people knew about what was happening in the world. They were proud to be American citizens.

I have written a couple posts about her below. I hope you will check it out.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Book Review: Raquela by Ruth Gruber

By Ruth Gruber

I have been wanting to read Raquela ever since I joined Hadassah, a few years ago.  I don't remember how I found the book, but I knew I wanted to read about the pioneer nursing in Palestine. There is not much work written, and when I found it I was excited to read it.  But, I waited it out, hoping to have make a program with this.  Unfortunately, that did not pan out.

The opportunity happened when I picked the book for our book club. Then I also found a few months ago on Showtime, the documentary of Ruth Gruber. If I connect both the book, and the documentary here is our book club topic.

I picked Raquela, in honor of Jewish Women History Month, and because this is Hadassah's anniversary, and because it is close to Purim. Which we honor, Queen Esther, which her name in hebrew is Hadassah, ironic wouldn't you say?

The book, Raquela  was written in the late 70's. I felt after reading it, it was timeless. It still matters now, more than ever in Israel. The pre- and post Palestine immigrants, the culture, the Arab-Jewish relations, the British and Imperialism, etc.   I am not going into the politics, only about the history of the pre-and post Palestine.  Since I am a history buff, I loved the book by Ruth Gruber. Which I found interesting.

Ruth Gruber wrote this, trying to find a exampleary nurse, that represented Palestine. I think she did in Raquela Prywes. Raquela, was born a ninth generation Jerusalemite. Which makes this story much, more interesting. She did not come from a Orthodox family, but a traditional Jewish family like most that live in Palestine in 1940's, before the war.

There were revolts against the Jews and Arabs, and lots of fighting, and killing amongst the Jews.  Britain was limiting the amount of immigrants(holocaust survivors)from Europe after WW2, this was called the White Papers.  There were plenty of battles against Britain, but also with the Arabs.
There is plenty of historical background I am not going to get into.

There is a romance involved, her boyfriend goes off to war.  She graduated Hadassah's Nursing School. Before she graduates she meets Henrietta Szold, and she is mesmorized by her. We learn about the formation of Hadassah Hospital and the organization that Henrietta Szold forms in New York, and why, it was important to her.

Raquela, became a nurse, but her family especially her mother was not happy with her being in the thick of things.  She went to nursing school on Mt. Scopus before the battle of the Arab- Jewish conflict. We learn about the fate of the Hadassah Hospital on Mt. Scopus, and the many doctors, and nurses that were killed.

Raquela, after she graduates she works in the field with the many military hospitals. With poor medical conditions, crowded conditions,  and not enough medical supplies, and poor sanitary conditions.  She then is recommended for a few posts for the DP Camps, of Cypress, and Athlit. Through Raquela's we learn about the culture, and what it was like to live in Palestine back in the 40's. Where Palestine was still a poor country, and a waste land and how it became a fertile country it is today.

She marries her first husband where we get a glimpse of the culture and conditions of the DP Camps, and her husbands travels. They closely worked together in research in Obstetrics, and Gynecology.  We also get a glimpse eye view from the people that were in Cypress, to Batsheva, and the Negev where she delivered babies to the Bedouin. The husbands did not want to take the wives to have their babies in the hospitals. They did not trust the medical care, but with a bit of coaxing their minds were changed.

One of my favorite parts, as a young girl growing up, and going to Sunday School I can remember the famous heroes, in Israel. Hearing the names of Ben Gurion, Golda Meir, etc.  I loved reading about them.  There is also a part where Raquela saves, and doesn't realize at first who it is, Golda Meir's daughter is about to give birth, but she has toxemia.  She saves her life.

She eventually has two children. Living in Palestine, with her children is not easy in the 60's. Through the 1967 war, all the children went to war, and you had to fight. I can remember the discussions we, as children had about that in Hebrew School. All men and women had to go into the military. That, of course is different than it is in the United States.  The book spans from the time Raquela is a little girl in 1911- 1985.

Her first husband passes away, and she marries a doctor. They work side by side for research for medical care in Israel. They come to the United States where they closely work with one of the university to learn about the medical care to bring back medical systems to Israel.

There are daily occurrences of fighting and skirmishes with Arab and Jew, and with the many countries in the middle east, for example Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, etc. 

I can remember the Zionist feeling, and now all those feeling are stirring up again. I can remember the discussions from the parents of the Hebrew and Sunday School children when I was growing up. Why would you want to do Aliya, if your child is going to enlist in military no matter if she is female or male.  Why would you go to a desolate country, where they don't have the same things we have in the U. S.

I can still remember a conversation a couple of years ago. With Mira, the Rabbi's wife. They are both Israelis. I can recall her telling me, a funny story when she was in nursing school.
 You had to pay a lot of money to ship things in special. While she was going to nursing school, I believe it was Hadassah Hospital. Her room mate received a package from home in the United States.  She was waiting for over a month to receive it, it was "Peanut Butter". Can you believe a staple that is easily bought in a store here, had to be shipped to Israel.

While her room mate was out, Mira could not contain herself and broke into the peanut butter. When her room mate came back, there was nothing left.  In some ways that is hilarious, but some ways sad.  How other countries could not get the same things that we easily could buy in a store.  Luckily, I hear that has changed because there are factories in Israel, but when it was first established there were not things that were easily accessibly, that includes wine too.

I recommend Raquela highly, and you may want to read other works by Ruth Gruber.
 My book club enjoyed reading Raquela, and told me they would recommend it to anyone that would listen.  We also watched the documentary about Ruth Gruber. I would highly recommend as well.

You may want to read my post where I honor this fabulous lady.  She was one of the few foreign correspondents in the world. She rescued 1000 holocaust survivors, from Italy to the United States, and she also took pictures of the more than 4500 holocaust survivors on the Exodus.  You can read my post on my other blog, at Bagels, Books, and Schmooze below this post.  Enjoy!!

              Happy Passover Everyone, and Next Year in Jerusalem!!!!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Ruth Gruber: In Honor of Jewish Women History Month

The post is written in honor of  Purim,( a bit late), and Jewish Women History Month, which also includes the founding of Hadassah over 100 years ago. 

Here are a few links you may be interested to finding out more info about this awesome lady. Here
Jewish Women Archive
Have you heard of Ruth Gruber?? if not, you should read this post. This is one awesome lady!!
She has written several books about her life history in pictures, and these different places, and cultures she has been. 

In honor of Jewish Women History Month, this post is written for one special lady, Ruth Gruber.
 She is one awesome lady. She has seen history in the making, witnessed it and photographed history, from the Artic, Russia, to Palestine, where ever oppressed and unfair treatment took her.

Ruth Gruber is now, 100+ years old.  She was born in 1911 in Brooklyn, NY. She went to college and graduated, and fell in love with everything German. She won a scholarship in Cologne, Germany. She earned her PH.D. on her thesis of Virginia Woolf. She was the youngest person to receive the degree.

She knew she wanted to become a writer, what kind of writer she did not know.  She toured on to the Gulags, in Russia, the Artic, and visited Alaska to see how the Eskimos lived, and learned about their culture.

During the war, 1944. President Roosevelt allowed 1000 holocaust survivors to come to the United States from Italy. The only stipulation, they had to return to their country of origin, after the war was over. They were guests in this country.  Ruth Gruber accompanied the refugees and stayed with them. After the war, she helped them to stay and become American citizens. Some of them become important American citizens.

After the war, she worked with a committee to help the Holocaust survivors enter Palestine.  The British were only allowing a limited amount of Jews in Palestine, before and after Israel became a state. Many Jews were dying in Europe, and Britain was stopping Jews from coming in to their "Homeland". She photographed pictures from the displaced persons camp in Cyprus, Athlit.  Pictures were seen all over the world, she is most known for her pictures of the Exodus, and inCyprus.

                 Ruth Gruber did not only see history, she was history in the making!

In 1948, the ship Exodus, was taking holocaust survivors to Palestine. During the time they were in international waters, the British started firing at these inoccent Jews. They were not welcome anywhere in Europe. They went back to their homes, either shot at, killed, or threatened. They had no where to go where they were welcome. The only place left was Palestine.  Everyone had a home, but the Jews.

So a private Jewish Agency bought a ship to transport the Jews to Palestine. But, the ship was intercepted.
When they got to Haifa, they were not allowed to get off the ship unless they were sick or wounded.  Instead the British ships transported them back to Europe, in France, and then to Germany.

She photographed with emotion when she took the pictures. She did not hold back. She had guts.  She was the only few foreign correspondents to be allowed in to the DP camps. These people trusted her, and told them her stories. Which are documented in her books.  You can get her book, Witness which has 190 pictures of her travels up to 1985.

Our book club read her book, Raquela, the story of Raquela Prywes. She was a nurse before and after Palestine's independence. If you have never read the book and interested in the history before and after, Israel's Independence, and curious to learn about the history of Hadassah and Hadassah Hospital, The medical conditions, for the doctors and nurses in the middle east, then you may want to pick up this book. Even though the book was written it the 70's the book still is a good book to read if you are interested in the life and history of Palestine in the 1940's.

There are several books that Ruth Gruber has written. Several Jewish websites, and there is a documentary called, Ahead of Time about her life. You can find her books listed on wikpedia.

 Our book club saw the movie and highly recommend it.  This was a good book club meeting, everyone enjoyed the film and the book.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Authors and Publicists: Thank You

Our temple, Temple Emanu-El is having a Dinner Dance/ Silent Auction every year about this time.
I work and don't have time to go to services.  The best I can do to get involved is to try to get items donated for the silent auction.  This is the third year I am involved with this. Each year, I am not dissappointed.
Many authors and publicists help donate autograph books for our auction.  This year was not a exception.

Here are the authors, and the publicists that donated to our Temple Emanu-El dinner dance/silent auction. Oh, and if you are interested, and live in the area of Myrtle Beach, SC give Jessica a call to attend. Here is our temple website.

Here on the red carpet are the books that were donated:
I am picturing the book with the author below.  First is Jerusalem Maiden by Talia Carner. You can read my review here from when it first was published.

Next is Joshua Henkin, A World Without You.  Without hurting anyone's feelings. I admire this author because of what he does. Besides being a awesome author.  He reaches out to book clubs, and will even come to your book club if you live in the area.  Unfortunately, I don't live in the Metro New York area any longer.  I will tell you this is probably he's better books that I have read.  You can read my review here.

Next, is the one I am really excited about. I contacted Jodi Picoult's publicist. She signed a autograph copy of her newest yet to be released novel, Story Teller.  Yes, people in my hot little hand is newest, not even released yet. Jodi, is basically a household name. Book clubs love her books and eat them up.  This is going to be great, I would love to see the reaction of people's faces when they hear I was able to pull this off.   I wonder how much they will auction this off for, and who will get it.

Unfortunately, I have not reviewed Story Teller to let you know what I think. Jodi Picoult's publicist only sent it to me yesterday. But, I plan to review. Like her other books, I am hoping it will be great for discussion. Easy to read, and discuss and a hot topic on social issues.

Last but not least. Imposter Bride by Nancy Richer.   Again, I did not review yet, because I just recently received the galley. Imposter Bride will be published soon.

 This list is not comprised as starting with the best to worst.  It is in random order.
All these books are writen by Jewish authors.

I bet you did not know that Jodi Picoult was raised Jewish as a child. I don't know if she is a practicing Jew now.  How, I know this I wrote her a few years ago, and asked her directly. It was in reference to a book she wrote, Change of Heart. There was references that coincided with the practice of Judaism.

I would like to personally thank all the authors, and publicists that helped support my temple.
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