Category Archives: Books

Books I Love – The Kiddush Ladies

Throughout my life, no matter what I’ve struggled with, I’ve always been blessed with dear friends who comforted and supported me. Most ladies would agree that it’s our female friendships, not our romantic relationships, that truly nurture and sustain us. Because those friendships are so vital, it can be devastating when they sour.

Author Susan Sofayov tackles this heartfelt topic in her new novel, The Kiddush LadiesIt  centers on heroines Becky, Miriam, and Naomi—3 ladies whose shared faith and many years of camaraderie should’ve created an unbreakable bond. As each one endures her own difficulties, their lifelong friendship splinters: Naomi’s husband has left her for a man; Becky’s son wants to marry a Catholic girl; Miriam’s upbringing as an only child leaves her unable to attain the close family connections she craves.

While all of the characters were multi-faceted and believable, Becky’s story was the most interesting to me. Every Jewish mother has a fear (often kept secret) that their child will marry a Christian, that their grandchildren will become Christian, and generations of customs and beliefs will be lost forever. Becky’s intense bewilderment and displeasure at her son’s choice is portrayed very honestly.

While some may find The Kiddush Ladies to be slightly dark reading material, I enjoy “Chic Lit” about imperfect people, thrust into difficult situations not of their choosing, and seeing how they react—rightly or wrongly. This is not an uplifting book, but it will be relatable for most of us who have experienced the unexpected craziness that life has to offer.

In the end, we have to accept others as they are, not how we want them to be. That can be an exceptionally bitter pill to swallow, but nobody ever said friendship was perfect.

Books I Love – Jewish Treasures of the Caribbean

One doesn’t often think “Jewish” when they hear the word “Caribbean,” but Photographer Wyatt Gallery has captured a nearly-extinct world of wonder in his remarkable new book, Jewish Treasures of the Caribbean.

In modern times, the Caribbean is viewed mainly as a vacation and Honeymoon spot, but hundreds of years ago, it was a safe haven for Sephardic Jews fleeing persecution. They established communities in Aruba, Barbados, Curacao, Jamaica, St. Thomas, St. Eustatius, and Suriname, which thrived for centuries and are home to the Western hemisphere’s oldest synagogues and cemeteries.

Thumbing through the colorful pages is a true delight, allowing the reader to journey through time, back to a world filled with brightly painted buildings, ornate gravestones, sand-strewn floors, and candlelit chandeliers.

One of the things that surprised me most was the extravagance on display. Neve Shalom Synagogue in Suriname has eleven Torahs (rare today even in the wealthiest American congregations). The obvious pride and love for Judaism is so touching!

Sadly, modern “progress” has taken over in unexpected ways, demonstrated perfectly in this photo, taken in Curacao: an oil refinery was built adjacent to the Beth Haim Cemetery, corroding many of the stones from pollution.

Without preservation, what’s left of these dwindling communities could disappear forever—a true tragedy. Only five historic synagogues remain left in use, and many of the cemeteries have been damaged or lost as well. 

Should the worst come to pass, when nothing is left standing, Jewish Treasures of the Caribbean will serve as a moving tribute to these extraordinary landmarks, creating a photographic legacy of a little known Jewish experience. This book should be in the collection of every history buff.

The Best Jewish Children’s Books of 2016

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Since many of us are still scrambling to choose, buy, and wrap gifts for Hanukkah, Tablet’s list of the best Jewish children’s books of 2016 may come in handy. I Dissent, about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg looks intriguing, especially if you have a young lady to shop for.

At our house, we have always preferred educational toys. It’s nice to include fun and silly stuff, too, but learning gifts are the most important!

Books I Love – Sew Jewish

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Ever since I was in my teens, I’ve enjoyed collecting Judaica. Over the years, I’ve built up quite an assortment, but every piece was either given to me as a gift or I purchased it myself. Sew Jewish, a wonderful new book written by Maria Bywater, has inspired me to create some.

I first heard about this talented lady through her popular web site Huppahs.com. Not only does she make gorgeous, handmade canopies, she has designs for most every facet of Jewish life including holidays, Shabbos, and celebrations.

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Sew Jewish includes 18 fun yet practical projects:

  • Challah Cover
  • Dreidel Game Kit 
  • Mishloach Manot Boxes 
  • Matzah Cover
  • Hand Washing Towel
  • Havdalah Spice Pouch 
  • Wedding Huppah
  • Bridal Veil
  • Kippah/Yarmulke
  • Tallit
  • Hamsa
  • Tefillin Bag
  • Mezuzah Case
  • Tzedakah Jar Wrap
  • Mizrach
  • Tallit Bag
  • Shalom Pillow
  • Aleph-Bet Blanket

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You can’t help but feel inspired while thumbing through the pages. I saw many projects that I’d like to try; best of all, it’s something I can actually do! Many crafting books that I’ve seen claim to be simple, but are way more complicated than I can manage. (My enthusiasm for crafting greatly exceeds my ability!) Sew Jewish is truly for beginners. The last chapter—which I actually started with—is a treasure trove of practical advice about choosing/cutting fabric, hand and machine sewing, appliques, and markings.

I loved that the instructions are clear and concise and each project has large, traceable patterns that make sense and are easy to use. 

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Because of my obsession with anything covered in fishes, this Hamsa design is my absolute favorite. How beautiful it would look on any wall of the home! For those who have almost no artistic ability, I’d suggest making the Dreidel Kits or Bridal Veil—definitely goof proof.

Sew Jewish is a book that belongs in the collection of every crafting enthusiast, particularly for those of us who are equally passionate about Judaism and art.