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Library Resources for Jewish American Heritage Month

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Library Resources for Jewish American Heritage Month

jewish heritage month

By Congressional resolution and Presidential proclamation in 2006, Jewish American Heritage Month is commemorated in May and is a national month of recognition of the more than 350 years of  Jewish contributions to American culture, acknowledging the diverse achievement of the Jewish community in the U.S. in fields ranging from sports, arts and entertainment to medicine, business, science, government and military service.

Inau­gu­rat­ed in 1950, the Nation­al Jew­ish Book Awards awarded by the Jewish Book Council is the longest-run­ning North Amer­i­can awards pro­gram of its kind and is rec­og­nized as the most pres­ti­gious. The Awards are intend­ed to rec­og­nize authors, and encour­age read­ing, of out­stand­ing Eng­lish-lan­guage books of Jew­ish interest.  You are sure to find books of interest from among the current and past award winners and finalists in 18 categories.

Below are listed some of the 2023 award winners and  some other recently published fiction and nonfiction titles (including biographies) available with your library card that highlight and speak to the Jew­ish expe­ri­ence through­out history.  Also listed are DVDs and online resources.

Nonfiction

between two worlds

Between Two Worlds : Jewish War Brides After the Holocaust by Robin Judd

Historian Judd, whose grandmother survived the Holocaust and married an American soldier after liberation, introduces us to the Jewish women who lived through genocide and went on to wed American, Canadian, and British military personnel after the war. She offers an intimate portrait of how these unions emerged and developed-from meeting and courtship to marriage and immigration to life in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom-and shows how they helped shape the postwar world by touching thousands of lives, including those of the chaplains who officiated their weddings, the Allied authorities whose policy decisions structured the couples’ fates, and the bureaucrats involved in immigration and acculturation. 

Bruno Schulz : An Artist, a Murder, and the Hijacking of History by Benjamin Balint (2023 Biography Winner)

A biography of the Polish-Jewish writer and artist includes an account of the discovery of his last artworks–murals painted on the walls of a villa occupied by a Nazi officer–sixty years after his death and the complicated political dispute over the ownership of the murals.

Cold Crematorium : Reporting From the Land of Auschwitz by Jozsef Debreczeni

The first English language edition of a lost memoir by an Auschwitz survivor, offering a shocking and deeply moving perspective on life within the camps. When József Debreczeni, a prolific Hungarian-language journalist and poet, arrived in Auschwitz in 1944, his life expectancy was forty-five minutes. This was how long it took for the half-dead prisoners to be sorted into groups, stripped, and sent to the gas chambers. He beat the odds and survived the “selection,” which led to twelve horrifying months of incarceration and slave labor in a series of camps, ending in the “Cold Crematorium”-the so-called hospital of the forced labor camp Dörnhau, where prisoners too weak to work awaited execution. But as Soviet and Allied troops closed in on the camps, local Nazi commanders-anxious about the possible consequences of outright murder-decided to leave the remaining prisoners to die. Debreczeni survived the liberation of Auschwitz and immediately recorded his experiences in Cold Crematorium, one of the harshest, most merciless indictments of Nazism ever written. This haunting memoir, rendered in the precise and unsentimental prose of an accomplished journalist, is an eyewitness account of incomparable literary quality.

The Counterfeit Countess: The Jewish Woman Who Rescued Thousands of Poles During the Holocaust by Elizabeth B. White

White tells the remarkable, unknown story of “Countess Janina Suchodolska,” a Jewish woman who rescued more than 10,000 Poles imprisoned by Poland’s Nazi occupiers. Mehlberg operated in Lublin, Poland, headquarters of Aktion Reinhard, the SS operation that murdered 1.7 million Jews in occupied Poland. Using the identity papers of a Polish aristocrat, she worked as a welfare official while also serving in the Polish resistance. With guile, cajolery, and steely persistence, the “Countess” persuaded SS officials to release thousands of Poles from the Majdanek concentration camp. She won permission to deliver food and medicine–even decorated Christmas trees–for thousands more of the camp’s prisoners. At the same time, she personally smuggled supplies and messages to resistance fighters imprisoned at Majdanek, where 63,000 Jews were murdered in gas chambers and shooting pits. Incredibly, she eluded detection, and ultimately survived the war and emigrated to the US.

Exploring American Jewish History Through 50 Historic Treasures by Avi Y. Decter

This full-color book offers students and general readers new perspectives on the rich complexity of Jewish experiences in America. Each of the treasures is described in historical, material, and visual contexts, offering readers new, unexpected insights into the meanings of Jewish life, history, and culture.

Happily : A Personal History, With Fairy Tales by Sabrina Orah Mark (2023 Autobiography & Memoir Winner)

Through twen­ty-six essays, Mark breath­less­ly leaps between her fam­i­ly his­to­ry and the metaphors hid­den in fairy tales. Her life’s jour­ney has moved her from a Brook­lyn yeshi­va upbring­ing in a divorced home in the sev­en­ties and eight­ies to a more rur­al Geor­gia, where she is a writer and the moth­er of two Black Jew­ish sons.  The fairy tales offer her a way to probe her own appre­hen­sions about being a moth­er, a step­moth­er, a third wife, and the daugh­ter of an unsen­ti­men­tal moth­er. 

jewishholidaytable

The Jewish Holiday Table : A World of Recipes, Traditions, and Stories to Celebrate All Year Long by Naama Shefi

From Rosh Hashanah and Passover to Hanukkah and weekly shabbat dinners, this joyous celebration of all the Jewish holidays offers a treasury of 130 recipes gathered from 30 influential chefs and food professionals around the globe, whose shared stories illuminate the diversity of the Jewish diaspora and its cuisine. 

Judaism is About Love : Recovering the Heart of Jewish Life by Shai Held

A profound, startling new understanding of Jewish life, illuminating the forgotten heart of Jewish theology and practice: love.

The Land of Hope and Fear : Israel’s Battle For Its Inner Soul by Isabel Kershner

An urgent, wide-ranging portrait of the divisions among Israelis today, and the external threats to their country, at a critical juncture in its history.  Through moving narratives and on-the-ground reporting, a veteran New York Times correspondent who has spent decades working in Israel reveals what holds the country together.

Lovers in Auschwitz : A True Story by Keren Blankfeld

Zippi Spitzer and David Wisnia were captivated by each other from the moment they first exchanged glances across the work floor. It was the beginning of a love story that could have happened anywhere. Except for one difference: this romance was unfolding in history’s most notorious death camp, between two young prisoners whose budding intimacy risked dooming them if they were caught. Incredibly, David and Zippi survived for years beneath the ash-choked skies of Auschwitz. Under the protection of their fellow inmates, their romance grew and deepened, even as their brushes with death mounted and David’s luck in particular seemed close to running out. As the war’s end finally approached and the time came for them to leave the camp, David and Zippi made plans to meet again. But neither of them could imagine how long their reunion would take or how many lives they would live in the interim.

Nosh : Plant-Forward Recipes Celebrating Modern Jewish Cuisine by Micah Siva

Nosh is the vegetarian cookbook for the modern Jewish kitchen, drawing inspiration from history through a 21st century lens.  Stunning food photography, kitchen glimpses, and enlightening sidebars on the history of Jewish culinary traditions.

Time’s Echo : the Second World War, the Holocaust, and the Music of Remembrance by Jeremy Eichler (2023 Jewish Book of the Year)

A stirring account of how the flowering of the European Enlightenment, two World Wars, and the Holocaust can be remembered through the poignant works of music created in their wake.  Eich­ler close­ly exam­ines the lives and work of four of Europe’s pre­em­i­nent com­posers: Ben­jamin Brit­ten, Arnold Schoen­berg, Dmitri Shostakovich, and Richard Strauss. Their music tells the trag­ic sto­ry of how their lives were dis­rupt­ed by the rise of Nazism. It also touch­es on the vic­tim­iza­tion of the arts and the destruc­tion of Enlight­en­ment ideals and Euro­pean Jew­ry as a whole. 

To be a Jew Today : A New Guide to God, Israel, and the Jewish People by Noah Feldman

A guide to contemporary Judaism by a law professor and public intellectual.

Fiction

all night pharmacy

All-Night Pharmacy by Ruth Madievsky (Debut Fiction Award)

What does it mean to be in a tox­ic rela­tion­ship? How much respon­si­bil­i­ty, if any, does the suf­fer­er bear for sub­ject­ing them­selves to manip­u­la­tion and abuse? She doesn’t raise these ques­tions overt­ly so much as allow them to sit with read­ers. In doing so, she reveals the fac­tors that led to both sis­ters’ extreme dys­func­tion. Those vari­ables — includ­ing prob­lem­at­ic par­ent­ing, sex­u­al abuse, men­tal ill­ness, addic­tion, and the ances­tral lega­cy of an oppressed peo­ple exposed to vio­lence — con­tribute to the final frac­tal equa­tion, whose feed­back loop results in an ever more com­plex and seem­ing­ly infi­nite pat­tern of destruction.  Through­out the four-part nar­ra­tive, told from the point of view of the unnamed younger sis­ter, the theme of inter­gen­er­a­tional Jew­ish trau­ma pre­dom­i­nates. 

The Boy with the Star Tattoo by Talia Carner

When Claudette Pelletier was a child, a traveling Jewish man taught her to read. Now, in 1942, that same man seeks out her help for himself and his son to hide from the Nazis. She falls in love with the son, and they have an affair, but he finally escapes France, leaving her alone and pregnant. When France is invaded, Claudette, who is disabled and thus a target of the Nazis, makes the heart-wrenching choice to leave her son behind with a friend while she travels to safety in Spain, promising to come back. But when she returns, she is unable to locate her long-lost son. In 1968, secret naval agent Sharon Bloomenthal is hired by naval officer Daniel Yarden. Sharon hopes to find out more about the Jewish orphans that were rescued by Youth Aliyah, as her mother was one of them. She ends up learning much about Daniel’s past and his ties to an elderly woman named Claudette Pelletier. 

City of Laughter by Temim Fruchter

A rich and riveting debut marrying centuries-old folklore to twenty-first-century queer literary fiction, this novel spans four generations of Jewish women bound by blood, half-hidden secrets, and the fantastical visitation of a shapeshifting stranger over the course of 100 years.

Code Name Edelweiss by Stephanie Landsem

In the summer of 1933, a man named Adolf Hitler is the new and powerful anti-Semitic chancellor of Germany. But in Los Angeles, no-nonsense secretary Liesl Weiss has concerns much closer to home. The Great Depression is tightening its grip and Liesl is the sole supporter of two children, an opinionated mother, and a troubled brother. Leon Lewis is a Jewish lawyer who has watched Adolf Hitler’s rise to power–and the increase in anti-Semitism in America–with growing alarm. He believes Nazi agents are working to seize control of Hollywood, the greatest propaganda machine the world has ever known. The trouble is, authorities scoff at his dire warnings. When Liesl loses her job at MGM, her only choice is to work with Leon Lewis and the mysterious Agent Thirteen to spy on her friends and neighbors in her German American community. What Leon Lewis and his spies find is more chilling–and more dangerous–than any of them suspected.

The Dutch Orphan by Ellen Keith

When the Nazis invade Amsterdam, singer Johanna Vos watches in horror as the vibrant music scene she loves is all but erased, her Jewish friends forbidden from performing with her onstage. Alongside her friend Jakob, Johanna helps organize the Artists’ Resistance, an underground network allowing Jews to perform at house concerts hosted by their allies. When Johanna hears of a Jewish orphan headed for deportation, she does not think twice. She takes the baby in as her own, hiding the truth from even her own sister, Liesbeth. Meanwhile, Liesbeth finds herself in a dilemma, as she knows of her sister’s staunch support for the Resistance, but her husband supports the Nazis. When a charming member of the Dutch Fascist Party sets his eyes on her, her predicament only deepens. As secrets continue to grow between the sisters, severing their once-unbreakable bond, they are both forced to make choices that will alter their lives forever.

18 jewish stories

18 : Jewish Stories Translated From 18 Languages

This is the first anthology of translated multilingual Jewish fiction in 25 years: a collection of 18 splendid stories, each translated into English from a different language: Albanian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Ladino, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Turkish, and Yiddish. These compelling, humorous, and moving stories, written by eminent authors that include Shmuel Yosef Agnon, Isaac Babel, and Lili Berger, reflect both the diversities and the commonalities within Jewish culture, and will make you laugh, cry, and think. 

The Family Morfawitz by Daniel H. Turtel

When Hadassah Morfawitz flees Nazi Germany with her siblings and arrives in New York, she is determined to turn the city into her own Mount Olympus, at any cost. This is her ruthless journey to high society.

The Forbidden Daughter : The True Story of the Holocaust Survivor by Zipora Klein Jakob

The unforgettable true story of a girl born in the Kovno Ghetto, and the dangerous risk her parents faced in defying the barbarous Nazi law prohibiting childbirth. Elida Friedman was not supposed to have been born. In the Kovno Ghetto in Lithuania, Nazi law forbade Jewish women from giving birth. Yet despite the fear of death, Dr. Jonah Friedman and his wife Tzila, choose to bring a daughter into the world, a little girl they name Elida-meaning non-birth in Hebrew. To increase their child’s chance of survival, the Friedmans smuggle the baby out of the ghetto and into the arms of a non-Jewish farm family when Elida is only three months old. It is the beginning of a life marked by constant upheaval. When the Nazis raze the entire Kovno Ghetto, Jonah and Tzila are among those killed. Their only child is left orphaned and alone, dependent on the kindness of strangers. Despite her circumstances, Elida grows up, changing families, countries, continents, and even names, countless times. Surviving the war and the Holocaust that stole her parents, the young woman never gives up hope. In her lifelong pursuit to find love and belonging, she works to rebuild her identity and triumph over her terrible circumstances.

The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store: A Novel by James McBride (2023 Winner)

This nov­el takes place on Chick­en Hill, the low-income sec­tion of Pottstown, PA. In the 1910s, its inhab­i­tants are pri­mar­i­ly Jews and African Amer­i­cans. But by the 1930s, almost all res­i­dents are African Amer­i­can — except for Moshe and Chona, a white Jew­ish cou­ple who own and oper­ate The Heav­en & Earth Gro­cery Store. Chona was raised in this store and has decid­ed to keep it rather than leave, as the rest of the Jews have; and, as a result, she’s built lov­ing rela­tion­ships with the Black folk in town. When they call on her to hide a young dis­abled boy from author­i­ties who want to put him in a men­tal insti­tu­tion, she quick­ly takes up the cause. There are a num­ber of nov­els that exam­ine the rela­tion­ships between Jews and African Amer­i­cans, but few do so as expert­ly and ele­gant­ly as McBride’s. 

Hidden Yellow Stars by Rebecca Connolly

The story of Andrée Geulen and Ida Sterno, who worked with the Committee for the Defense of Jews to hide more than three thousand Jewish children in Belgium during World War II.

DVDs

auschwitz report

The Auschwitz Report

When two Jews finally manage to escape the Auschwitz concentration camp, they compile a detailed report about the systematic genocide at the camp. However, with Nazi propaganda and international liaisons still in place, their account seems to be too harrowing to believe.

I Danced for the Angel of Death: The Dr. Edith Eva Eger Story

At the age of sixteen, Edith Eger was sent to Auschwitz. Hours after her parents were killed, Nazi officer Dr. Josef Mengele (The Angel of Death), forced her to dance for his amusement. This dance saved her life.

The Jewish Americans

Chronicles the 350 year saga of immigrants who gradually wove themselves into the fabric of American life without abandoning their traditions.

The Jewish Journey : America

Discusses the history of Jewish immigration to the United States throughout the centuries.

The Jewish People: A Story of Survival

This is the story of Jewish survival. From slavery to the loss of their homeland; from exile to anti-Semitism; from pogroms to near annihilation in the Holocaust, they managed to endure while so many communities have vanished. Spanning millennia, this history of the Jewish people explores how a small group who started as desert nomads overcame countless obstacles to survive to the present day.

 Of Animals and Men

Jan and Antonina Zabinski, the keepers of the Warsaw Zoo in Poland, saved nearly 300 Jews during the Second World War. This is a poignant documentary that is an extraordinary true story about the humanitarian spirit, as exemplified by two people who, with enormous personal risk to themselves, faced the most challenging circumstances with bravery and decency. In 1965, Jan and Antonina Zabinski were recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations.

The Story of the Jews

Simon Schama presents this epic series exploring the extraordinary story of the Jewish experience from ancient times to the present day. Both deeply historical and utterly contemporary, this is a compelling film about distinctiveness and difference, separation and isolation, tolerance and prejudice. It is also a celebration of the ways in which Jewish thought, imagination, and achievement have transformed the world for us all.

Online Resources

Kanopy available with your Livingston Library card has several films/documentaries on Jewish Americans, Jewish history and cinema.

Jewish Women’s Archive

The Jewish History Resource Center

-Archana Chiplunkar, Adult Services & Acquisitions Librarian

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