Jewish Historical Fiction
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Jewish Historical Fiction for Middle School and Young Adult Readers
Biblical Era | Middle Ages, Renaissance, & the Spanish Inquisition | Immigration & The American Experience | European History | Holocaust | Israel

Jewish History Books for Middle School and Young Adult Readers
General Jewish History & Nonfiction | Biblical Era | European History (Excluding the Holocaust) | Immigration & The American Experience | Holocaust | Israel

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The Tiger in the Well
(Sally Lockhart Trilogy, Book 3)
In London in 1881, twenty-four-year-old Sally finds her young daughter and her possessions assailed by an unknown enemy, while a shadowy figure known as the Tzaddik involves her in his plot to defraud and exploit the hordes of Jewish immigrants pouring into the country

Description from Publisher

Nothing prepares Sally for the shock of receiving a summons from a man she has never even heard of, suing her for divorce and the custody of her beloved Harriet. Two other figures emerge: Daniel Goldberg, a Jewish slum radical with a violent past; and the ironically titled Tzaddik (saint), who preys on helpless European Jewish immigrants. The Tiger in the Well is the story of their converging paths, as Sally struggles against the net closing around her and seeks to find out who is persecuting her and why. The writing style is lively and direct, and there's lots of action. While Sally's story is for mature readers, it is never sordid or sensational. This is a suspense novel with a conscience, and a most enjoyable one.

Description from School Library Journal

Sworn Enemies
The author of Lisa's War turns to a another grim chapter in Jewish history: the kidnapping and forced conversion of Jewish boys by the Russian Czar's army in the 19th century. Her carefully researched story is told, in alternation, by two young men. Aaron, 16, the highly respected best student at Odessa's yeshiva, is soon to be married; though carefully observant, and knowing it's forbidden, he is secretly meeting his betrothed (innocently -- they debate subjects like Job). After one tryst, he is kidnapped by Zev, a vengeful former classmate who's jealous of Aaron's brilliance and prospects. Zev is also observant, but he's been brutalized by abuse; without a qualm, he sends Aaron into the horror--and almost certain death--of the army. Starved, beaten, humiliated, and driven without respite, Aaron is one of the few survivors in his original group, but -- after careful reasoning about God's commands--submits to baptism to save his life. Zev, too, is caught; ironically, he contrives to avoid conversion. With two friends, Aaron plots escape, only to be caught by Zev, who ends by coming with them -- and betraying Aaron yet again. Vicious and unrepentant, Zev is more than a foil for Aaron's moral struggle against a hatred that can only destroy him too; he is chillingly believable. To her credit, Matas offers them no reconciliation; and conscientious Aaron knows that he also bears some guilt for what has passed between them. A harrowing, thought-provoking, skillfully written novel about a past whose evil legacy persists.

Description from Kirkus Reviews While the moral issues are as powerful as the story -- no small feat -- the exactness of the parallels in the two boys' situations seems an excessive diagraming of the historical material. . . . {Nevertheless}, Ms. Matas is agood storyteller, and her novel will tell young adult readers about a less than familiar aspect of Jewish history.

Description from The New York Times Book Review

Winner of Sydney Taylor Book Award (Association of Jewish Libraries)

The Endless Steppe :
Growing Up in Siberia
A young Polish girl, her mother, and her grandmother, taken prisoners by the Russians during World War II and shipped to a forced-labor camp in a remote, impoverished Siberian village, somehow manage to stay together and alive through near starvation and harsh arctic winters.

Description from Publisher

Winner of Sydney Taylor Award (Association of Jewish Libraries)

The Circlemaker

By Maxine Rose Schur
Czar Nicholas's soldiers enter all the Russian villages and seize the Jewish boys for the military, but Mendel, only twelve years old, knows he is too young to fight and makes a desperate attempt to reach the border in order to flee to safety. He travels on foot, by train, and by horse to the Hungarian border to safety and a chance to reach America. The harsh conditions for the poor under Czar Nicholas I are realistically drawn, but the heart of the book is a survival adventure story.

The Night Journey

By Kathryn Lasky

  • National Jewish Book Award
  • ALA Notable Book
  • Sydney Taylor Book Award (Association of Jewish Libraries)
  • Association of Jewish Libraries Children's Book Award

"I sit here all day long, year after year. I remember. I remember all sorts of things."

Rachel has been warned by her parents not to discuss the past with her great-grandmother. But Nana Sashie has other plans. She begins telling Rachel about her family's flight from the pogroms and other dangers of Tsarist Russia. The daring escape plan was Sashie's own idea-and she was only nine years old.

Description from Publisher

Broken Song

By Kathryn Lasky
The year is 1897, and gifted violinist Reuven Bloom is fifteen years old. Life for the Jews in Russia is very hard. First Reuven’s best friend is captured to serve in the Tsar’s army, and then his parents and older sister are murdered. Reuven’s dreams of music must be set aside. Now he has only one goal: escape. With his baby sister strapped to his back, Reuven sets off toward an unknown freedom. His journey takes him first across Russia, and then ultimately to America. Readers will remember Reuven as the revolutionary who helped Sashie and her family flee from Russia in The Night Journey. In Broken Song, Reuven’s own powerful story unfolds.

Description from Publisher

Through rich prose filled with imagery, distinct characterization, and historical research, Lasky breathes life into the horrific history of anti-Semitism in Russia in the late-19th and early-20th centuries. At the start of the book, 15-year-old Reuven Bloom, a talented violinist, focuses on music and trying to balance his Talmudic studies, but the vicious activities of the Czar's army soon change his life. His best friend is kidnapped and taken to be a soldier. Soldiers murder his parents and older sister, and only Reuven and his baby sister survive. Circumstances make the teen courageous as he tries to escape the Cossacks and to find a cousin in Vilna who might help him and Rachel reach safety in the United States. She is taken to America when Reuven agrees to join the revolutionary movement and fight, and he joins her six years later. This reads like an adventure story, but the research at its foundation is clearly evident. Reuven was first introduced in Lasky's The Night Journey, but this novel easily stands on its own. An excellent addition to any collection.

Description from School Library Journal

Like her award-winning The Night Journey, this draws on Lasky's Jewish grandparents' experience fleeing violent persecution in Eastern Europe at the turn of the nineteenth century. Her focus is on Reuven Bloom, 15, a violin prodigy living in a shtetl in the Pale of Russia. First Reuven's best friend is forced into the czar's army. Then his parents and older siblings are murdered by Cossacks, and he flees across the border with his baby sister in a basket on his back. For several years he works as spy and saboteur for the revolutionary Jewish Bund in Vilna, Poland, until, tired of politics and violence, he emigrates to "the Goldeneh Medina" (the golden country), America. The epilogue of dreams totally fulfilled is too idyllic, but the young man's brave struggle is a part of Jewish history, and it's all the more powerful here because it is told without reverence.

Description from Booklist

Until the Messiah Comes : A Russian-Jewish Adventure

(Do-It-Yourself Jewish Adventure Series.)
The Jewish future is up to you in this sixth volume of Kenneth Roseman's popular "Do-It-Yourself Jewish Adventure" series. Until the Messiah Comes takes young readers on another grand trek back in UNTIL time to the end of the nineteenth century. Set at the turn of the century, readers explore Jewish history and make strategic decisions that still have an impact on Jewish life today. Turning the pages, one has to decide: to sail to Ellis Island or escape the pogroms in Palestine; to join the forces of socialism, Zionism, or secularism; how to respond to the rift between the different practices of Judaism in America and Europe. Each decision creates a thrilling story line in this exciting new addition to Kenneth Roseman's entertaining and educational Jewish adventure series. After reading the book, readers will realize how this "game of chance" has actually transpired throughout history.

Description from Publisher

Rooftop Secrets and Other Stories of Anti-Semitism
Each of these eight short stories describes a Jewish child's bout with anti-Semitism, from the Spanish Inquisition to modern times. Each story includes a brief introduction that places it in the proper historical perspective, and is followed by a commentary by Albert Vorspan, a writer on social justice. Some of the stories do not stand on their own as literature but serve only as case studies. A notable exception is the very moving tale of one boy's questioning of faith during the Holocaust and his ultimate heroic decision. Throughout the book, historic information is deftly interwoven. For most effective use, this book will require a skilled teacher or discussion leader to extend the text. Some of the stories, especially ``Spraypaint Justice,'' set in contemporary America, contain stereotypes that are cleared up in the commentary, but could be damaging if the commentary is not read. This book does promote pride in Jewish values and endurance.

Description from School Library Journal

Manya's Story :
Faith and Survival in Revolutionary Russia

By Bettyanne Gray
The Polevois were a Jewish family who lived peacefully in a small community, or shtetl, in the Russian Ukraine in the early 1900s. Suddenly and violently, the shtetl and its inhabitants were caught in a recurring nightmare that had haunted European Jews for centuries--pogrom, the brutal and unprovoked destruction of Jewish lives and property. Ukrainian Jews became helpless victims in the three-sided struggle for power among the Bolshevik Red Army, the anti-Bolshevik White Army, and the forces fighting for Ukrainian independence. Manya and her family were forced to flee for their lives. Manya's journey brought her to the U.S., where she, her husband, and their child found a safe haven and a new life. This dramatic account of Manya's ordeal is written by Bettyanne Gray, Manya's American-born daughter, in memory of her valiant mother and of the countless others who lived and died in the shtetls of revolutionary Russia.

Description from Publisher

A riveting saga of the author's parents' harrowing escape from the Ukraine during the Russian Revolution. Ukrainian Jews were caught in the middle of the struggle for power between three forces: the Bolshevik Red Army, the anti-Bolshevik White Army, and the forces fighting for Ukrainian independence. The clearly written, vivid, chronological account provides a good balance between political background and personal story. There are graphic descriptions of the indignities inflicted on individual family members, which add to the power of the narrative. Many books concern Hitler's time of persecution, but Manya's Story demonstrates that the severe oppression of Jews had begun many years before. The short length and glossary of Yiddish and Hebrew terms make it accessible. This new edition (the first was published by Lerner in 1978) is the same as the old except for the addition of black-and-white photographs of family members, a list of Gray's relations who survived, and an updated prologue. A compelling, poignant account that readers won't be able to put down until the end

Description from School Library Journal A gripping and unusually detailed account of the raw horrors suffered by the author's mother's family between 1917 and 1921, this book weaves history seamlessly into the tale. Caught between Russian Red Bolsheviks, White Russians, Ukrainians and the German Army, Jewish families fortunate enough to survive at all escaped at the price of lives permanently scarred by unspeakable, clearly described atrocities. The reader cannot avoid the stark contrast between 21-year-old Manya's pleasant life as a well-to-do young woman concerned with boyfriends and silk gowns and that of a desperate refugee, fleeing with nothing but infant in arms and wild-eyed terror. Miraculously reunited with her husband after nearly losing her son to a severe head injury and then to an avaricious smuggler, Manya eventually arrives in the United States and carves out a new life. But she doesn't shield her children from her terrible story and supports charitable endeavors as a remembrance to those who were swept away for no reason other than having been born Jews.

Description from Children's Literature

A Place Not Home
The story of a young Jewish girl and her family try to flee Hungary during the 1956 revolution.

The House on Walenska Street
Esther lives on Walenska Street in Nesvich, Russia, with her two sisters and her mother. Her father has died and their life is hard as they try to make ends meet. Mother depends on Esther to help take care of her younger sisters. Esther's special job is to read the letters from their cousins in America, and write back to them. The year is 1913, and she writes to tell them all is well, and fantasizes about their life in America. This is a very gentle story that reveals a lot about the trials and tribulations of simple family life in the Russia of that day, and the hopes of going to a better life. Esther is a good daughter, but has her rebellious moments. She runs off and gets lost. She finds her way back, only to hide as Russian soldiers break into their home to steal food and valuables. This is a touching story with beautiful full-page illustrations, based on the life of the author's grandmother.

Description from Children's Literature

Strudel Stories
In this nostalgic collection of stories, three generations of strudel makers share personal histories with children of the next generation. These stories are presented as the secret ingredient to an excellent homemade strudel. In Sarah's kitchen, we hear tales of Eastern European Jewry involving a little boy who cheated death twice. In Bertie's kitchen, we hear about the immigration of a little girl who had the courage to turn her coat inside out when the feared Ellis Island medical inspector marked her with the dreaded chalk "X." Willy, a grandfather with a gift in the kitchen and a huge love for baseball, tells about the orphaned refugee boy accepted into his family after the Holocaust. Classroom teachers could use this book as a resource for an immigration unit. The stories are very sweet, like the pastry they are named for. Several segments discuss the mechanics of strudel making and depict children helping in the kitchen, waiting to be entertained by stories.

Description from Children's Literature

Lion And The Unicorn
It's hard to be brave. Lenny Levi has been trying ever since his father went off to fight in World War II, leaving him with a medallion depicting a fighting unicorn and lion. When bombs start to drop all around his house in London, his mother puts him on a train to the country for safety. There, mean children make fun of him and, well, being brave seems almost impossible. Thankfully, Lenny discovers a safe haven, a walled garden with a lonely looking stone unicorn, and he retreats there often. When he meets a quiet one-legged young man in the garden one day, Lenny slowly begins to learn the deeper meaning of courage. Once again, Shirley Hughes displays an unwavering sense of character, and beautifully colored, soft illustrations place the narrative in its physical and emotional context. Her sensitivity to the nuances of feelings in young people makes her stories profoundly appealing and satisfying. In this story of fear and loneliness, she brings the experiences of a time gone by into the present with clarity, wisdom, and elegance.

Description from

Dybbuk: A Version

By Barbara Rogasky
This retelling of an early-20th-century play based on a Jewish legend is uneasily balanced between an evocation of European shtetl life and a ghost story. Leah and Konin were promised to one another by their fathers even before they were born. However, when Leah is old enough to be married, Sender, her father, wants her betrothed to a rich man. Konin, now a poor orphaned scholar, meets Leah and they fall instantly, irrevocably in love. Thwarted by Sender's greed, the young man studies the Kabbalah, searching for a way to obtain the necessary wealth. When he fails, he dies and comes back as a dybbuk–an unhappy spirit that possesses Leah's body and speaks through her lips. Though an exorcism is performed, she chooses to rejoin Konin and dies before she can marry the man her father has selected. Stories of the supernatural have undeniable appeal, but this one, with its archaic setting and strongly religious connections, seems too specialized for most collections. Rogasky's writing, which is full of inverted phrases (e.g., Pious and sincere they were or Old it is, centuries old), is distancing--even though she addresses readers directly at times (Forgive me, Dear Reader. I cannot explain the meaning of all that happened….). Fisher's dramatic black, white, and brown-toned illustrations add to the hard-edged, unyielding nature of the tragic tale.

Description from School Library Journal

A Jewish legend about a girl's possession by a dybbuk, or restless spirit, is strikingly retold in a picture book that fits as smoothly into collections of children's Judaica as it does in sections of scary Halloween stories. Rogasky chooses to tell her version in a narrative longer than a traditional picture book, but she doesn't expend words idly; her storytelling is rich and powerful, as adept in conveying a sense of Hasidic culture as it is in narrating moments of sheer terror. These are terrifying indeed: Rogasky's dybbuk is a poor, orphan boy who dies when his destined fiancee is promised to another, and returns as a ghost to be united with his true love. Extending the horror are starkly composed, monumental oils in inky blacks and moonlit grays by venerable illustrator Fisher. Particularly noteworthy is Rogasky's distinct treatment of various voices, ranging from the narrator's intimate tone to the villagers' gossipy banter to the ghost's creepy pronouncements. With some artful adaptation, this will work well for readers' theater or storytelling performances.

Description from Booklist

The Adopted Princess

By Dr. Marcus Lehman
Fleeing Cossack marauders, Rabbi Shabse Cohen (known to future generations as the "Shach") and his young daughter are separated in a forest. The child, unconscious and burning with fever, is rescued by the king of Poland himself. This is the beginning of Esther's life as companion to the king's daughter. Legends arise about the Jewish girl in the royal palace who remains devoted to the faith of her people, just like Queen Esther of old. Through a series of adventures, Divine Providence brings the courageous young heroine to fulfill her destined role. An inspirational tale of faith and Jewish pride.

Description from Publisher

Out Of The Depths
By the mid-nineteenth century, many wealthy European Jewish families, lured by new-found political freedom and riches, had abandoned the Torah way of life in favor of high society. When Edward Lindenstein, the arrogant and frivolous scion of one such family, married Minna, a religious girl, there were bound to be difficulties. This enthralling novelette traces Edward & Minnas shifting fortunes from the capitals of Europe to the far-flung shores of Africa and South America. A tale of greed, deceit, piracy on the high seas, and the ultimate triumph of faith.

Description from Publisher

Rivka's Way

By Teri Kanefield
Fifteen-year-old Rivka Liebermann, the daughter of a highly respected doctor in Prague’s walled Jewish quarter, has just learned of her arranged betrothal to Oskar Kara, her brother’s friend. Although Oskar seems gentle, kind, and wise, she hardly knows him. Whenever she thinks of the upcoming marriage, she feels a terrible pain in her stomach. Rivka thinks that if she could just leave the quarter for one day, she’d be happy. She wants desperately to walk through the streets of the city and see the marketplaces and bridges and hills her brother Jakob has described to her. But it is forbidden for a girl to leave the quarter on her own. But what if she dressed as a Gentile boy? How difficult would it be to walk past the guard at the gate and explore the city? Does she dare? Once the plan enters her head, Rivka can’t let it go. She assembles a disguise and secretly leaves the quarter on her own. What she experiences outside the walls changes forever the way she thinks of her family, of the relations between Jews and Christians, and of herself and Oskar.

Description from Publisher

The Great Potato Plan

By Joy Nelkin-Weider
Simcha thought that he, Mama and the little ones would soon be on their way to join papa in America. But when a terrible war breaks out in europe they are unable to leave Warsaw. Simcha knows Papa expects him to keep the family safe while they are apart. Can Simcha come up with a plan to save his family from starvation and from attacks by Russian soldiers?

Description from Publisher

t's not a new story; in fact, it was a familiar tale of the father going off to America to earn the money to send for his family, leaving behind his wife and children to fend for themselves. In this Polish shtetl, Simcha, 13 years old, feels responsible for his mother, and his siblings- Suri (age 14), Toba (age 10), Chana (age 8), Gershon (age 6), and Zisha (age 4). Imagine being caught (or trapped) when the Germans declare war on Russia and Poland gets mixed in. Money for transportation has to be used to live on and Simcha comes up with an idea to keep the family going. The author, Joy Wieder, presents this story based on tales from her own family. Weider also drew the black and white illustrations for this fun-to-read book for children 7-10. Not only does one find an adventure story, but there are midos to learn, and topics to discuss about family when reading this. Young readers will find this a hart warming, family story.

Description from Jewish World

The Great Potato Plan is intended more as a fun-to-read book, and involves Simcha, who, expecting to leave for America with Mama and the little children, is stranded in Warsaw when war breaks out in Europe. Acting as Papa's surrogate, Simcha undertakes to keep the family safe in the face of attacks by Russian soldiers, while coming up with a plan to save them from starvation.

Hachai Books are relatively inexpensive, teach a great deal about tradition and ritual, and deserve a wider readership than they currently enjoy.

Description from Southeastern Virginia News

Shadows in the Night

By Zev Spektor
It is late on a dark Friday night in the little Polish town of Lubonsk shortly before the First World War. Young Yerachmiel Melentzky is walking home from the bais midrash when he is mysteriously abducted. In the morning, when his parents wake up to find that Yerachmiel has not returned, the desperate search for the abducted boy begins. As the tense and exciting novel unfolds, Reb Mendel Sorkover and Henach Lazerson, assisted by the enigmatic Avraham Salzenbaum, pursue one puzzling clue after another, as they follow the unexpected twists and turns of the investigation. As the search goes on, each answer they find raises new and troubling questions until the startling climax results in a satisfying resolution.

Zev Spektor has peopled his book with a colorful assortment of upright heroes and sinister villains, including a clever Gypsy dealer in sleeping powders, an innkeeper who is always laughing, an eccentric prison warden, a reformed Communist and a diabolical Pole with delusions of grandeur. It is a book the entire family will enjoy.

Description from Publisher

Friend or Foe: A Novel

By Eva Vogiel
The author of Invisible Chains offers another novel set at the Migdal Binoh School for Orthodox Jewish girls. The year is 1948, and Nechy Horowitz's mother has returned to London to be reunited with her daughter. Unfortunately, Mother's war experiences have left many scars, and she is not yet able to care for Nechy. In addition, the cottage next door to the school has been sold to a strange Scottish couple, the Campbells. Mr. Campbell is polite to the school's headmistress, Mrs. Langfeld, but his arrival in the neighborhood coincides with a series of troubling events, including visits from school inspectors, the discovery of an old German bomb, and the appearance of anti-Semitic slogans painted on the school fence. Children who are not religiously observant may have trouble identifying with the strict code of conduct at the school, but Vogiel's cast feels comfortable and grows more so as the story evolves. The intrepid Mrs. Langfeld, who solves the mystery without causing a scandal among her students' parents, is particularly appealing.

Description from Booklist

Invisible Chains

By Eva Vogiel
In Invisible Chains youll be transported to the charming setting of the British countryside and drawn into a familiaryet fascinatingly foreignworld. Judy Kleiner is tragically confined to a wheelchair. Her older sister, Frumie, is devoted to helping Judy but torn by a need to live a life of her own. When the two sisters are sent to a Jewish boarding school, they grapple with the chains that bind them. Their teacher's dedication to helping her leads her to a startling revelation. Witness as these three lives intersect at a dramatic moment, leaving the girls and their caring teacher forever changed. Perfect for adults and teens!

Description from Publisher

Fourteen-year-old Frumie feels chained to her younger sister, Judy, who is confined to a wheelchair as the result of a fall down the stairs following an argument between the girls. Their parents send the sisters to a boarding school for religiously observant Jewish girls, hoping that the country air will spur Judy's recovery. One of their teachers, Madame Debrett, agrees to help Judy get further medical help and, in so doing, learns that her own husband, who was reportedly killed by Nazis, is alive and well in Palestine. Set in the English countryside of 1948, Vogiel's story reads smoothly and will be of interest to young teens--especially those who are religiously observant themselves. Judy's character is more problematic. She masterfully manipulates everyone around her, yet no one calls her on it. Do people accept and enable her behavior out of the politeness of a bygone era, or does devoutness prohibit the mention of faults? It's ultimately unsatisfying that Judy never gets her come-uppance. An acceptable choice for larger collections or where demand is high.

Description from Booklist

Behind the Border

By Nina Kossman
With poignant innocence, Kossman writes of her childhood experiences in Russia in the '60s. Each chapter relates a memory tinged with the effects of the totalitarian regime that influenced every aspect of her and her family's lives. The opening vignette reveals the unexpected restrictions of the border when a beach ball floats out to sea and young Nina is told that she would never be allowed into Turkey to retrieve it. In the subsequent chapters, the author describes situations through the eyes of a 7-to-10 year old in which adults reveal either fear of authority or of autocratic bullying. Her parents try to protect her, but her experiences at school eventually result in surprisingly mature conclusions as she comes to realize, fear, and resent the strictures under which she lives. The book concludes with this Jewish family's hopes to emigrate to America. The simple, childlike style intensifies the impact of Kossman's words, and is reminiscent of the fictional Friedrich by Hans Peter Richter. The reading level and format are appropriate for elementary-grade students, but some of the content may elude them. However, this unique book will serve to promote discussions of freedom. The commonality of typical childhood activities-going to the beach, friendships, and school assignments-make the child very real. The endnotes further reveal the restrictions imposed on Soviet citizens.

Description from School Library Journal

Sacred Shadows

By Maxine Rose Schur
"When I was told my father was dead, I ran away....I reached the pine grove, and there I flung myself down, hugged the damp earth, and waited."Against a pre-Hitler backdrop rarely viewed in young adult novels, Lena Katz suddenly learns that the Germany for which her father died is now considered part of Poland. She grows up torn between her desire to leave and her allegiance to her mother, who ignores thecountry's growing anti-Semitism. Then Janusz, a handsome young idealist, enters Lena's world and alters her life forever. Maxine Rose Schur's books include The Circlemaker (Dial), her first novel, which Publishers Weekly hailed as "atmospheric and suspenseful...maintaining an edge-of-the-seat tension until the very last words."

Description from Publisher

Lena Katz is a Jewish girl growing up in Germany in the period between the two world wars. After Poland reclaims the German province in which her family lives, anti-Semitic activity becomes more blatant. Lena's mother believes that things will get better and resists all attempts by her extended family to get her to move to Germany. Many of Lena's Jewish friends, including romantic interest Janusz, are attracted to the new Zionist movement, and Lena is caught in the middle of a difficult dilemma: remain with her war-widowed mother or flee to Palestine.

The novel's suspenseful ending is rendered more powerful by the knowledge that most readers will bring to it: many Jews who did not leave Europe did not survive World War II. The book is most successful at making real the ways in which Lena's life is affected by racial hatred. For example, her mother's previously successful shoe store is unable to compete with stores owned by non-Jews after suppliers will no longer provide her with shoes and customers are too intimidated to shop there. Libraries may want to purchase this for its unique historical perspective. An afterword supplies factual details about the destruction Hitler wrought in Europe.

Description from School Library Journal

Schur (When I Left My Village) draws on family history for this ominous tale of German and Polish Jews facing rising tides of anti-Semitism in the years before Hitler's rise. In the wake of her father's death at Verdun, young Lena Katz and her mother run a successful shoe store in Ledniezno, once a town in Germany, now part of a reconstituted Poland. Being both German and Jewish, they and their friends come under increasing attacks as the years go by--a time in which Heine's poems become attributed to "anonymous" in new editions of Lena's textbooks, newspaper and government antagonism toward Jewish businesses becomes more open, and local support for the Nazis grows. Lena's mother refuses to leave Poland, promising better times ahead and angrily rejecting the Zionism of Lena's heartthrob, Janusz. Spanning the years between 1917 to 1932, the plot is episodic and slow to develop; Lena's innocence in the face of all she sees and hears is artificially prolonged, while the ending, in which Lena at first refuses and then decides to accompany Janusz to Palestine, passes without even a parting scene with her mother. A brief afterword encapsulates the Holocaust and the foundation of Israel. The novel offers readers a moving glimpse of how public opinion set the stage for genocide, although that purpose occasionally engulfs the storyline and characters.

Description from Kirkus Reviews

The Secret Code and Other Stories

By Gershon Kranzler
From a hijacking in London to a rescue at Brighton Beach, these exciting stories depict modern Jewish boys faced with challenges and tests of character, in the midst of fast-paced adventure.

Description from Publisher

Table of Contents:

  • A Bar Mitzvah Boy's Revenge
  • Chanukah in Stalag 32
  • The Friendly Pawnshop
  • The Secret Code
  • Divine Gift
  • Higher Duty
  • The Contest
  • The Daily Psalm
  • The Siddur
  • A Real Champ
  • The Hitchhike
  • For the Sake of the Sabbath
  • Rescue from the Ocean
  • The New Teacher
  • In Business for Himself
  • The Value of a Cheescake
  • Meeting at Kfar Eliyahu
  • Hijack
  • A Treasure is Recovered

Naftali the Storyteller and His Horse, Sus and Other Stories

by Isaac Bashevis Singer
A collection of short stories which explores the humor and life of the people of Poland.

Biblical Era | Middle Ages, Renaissance, & the Spanish Inquisition | Immigration & The American Experience | European History | Holocaust | Israel

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