Jewish American Heritage Month Recommended Reading: Clifton Public Library List for Young Readers
May is Jewish American Heritage Month, a national celebration established in 2006 by President George W. Bush as part of a bipartisan effort to educate all Americans about the contributions and achievements of Jewish Americans nationwide. This year’s Presidential proclamation stated, “This month, we celebrate the enduring heritage of Jewish Americans, whose values, culture, and contributions have shaped our character as a Nation. For generations, the story of the Jewish people — one of resilience, faith, and hope in the face of adversity, prejudice, and persecution — has been woven into the fabric of our Nation’s story.” During May 2023, hundreds of organizations and Americans of all backgrounds will be able to discover, explore, and celebrate the American Jewish experience thanks to the Internet and media coverage. For more on Jewish American Heritage Month in Clifton, please read HERE.
The Clifton Main Memorial Library has curated a Jewish American Heritage Month reading list for The Clifton Times, featuring a wide range of books recommended for young readers, selected by Children’s Department Supervising Librarian Gloria Abero. We have included a link to each book’s publisher with a brief summary from the websites for the publisher, author, or PJ Library. You can stop by the Clifton Main Memorial Library to see their display and stop by either the Main Memorial Library or the Allwood Branch to pick up one of these titles. Patrons can also place holds on any of these books through PALS Plus. Please note: some of these titles are available at only the Main or Allwood Library, and some are available at both. Young Jewish readers can get free, award-winning books that celebrate Jewish values and culture from birth through 12 years old through PJ Library.
Gittel’s Journey : An Ellis Island Story - Leslea Newman. A heart-wrenching and heartwarming book, based on a true story, Gittel’s Journey offers a fresh perspective on the immigration journey to Ellis Island. Gittel and her mother were supposed to immigrate to America together, but when her mother is stopped by the health inspector, Gittel must make the journey alone, holding a piece of paper with her cousin’s address on it. But when Gittel arrives at Ellis Island, she discovers the ink has run and the address is illegible! How will she find her family?
Tia Fortuna’s New Home - Ruth Behar. A poignant multicultural ode to family and what it means to create a home. Estrella helps her Tía Fortuna say goodbye to her longtime Miami apartment building to move to an assisted living community. Tía explains the significance of her most important possessions from both her Cuban and Jewish cultures, as they learn to say goodbye together and explore a new beginning for Tía.
Osnat And Her Dove : The True Story Of The World’s First Female Rabbi - Sigal Samuel. Osnat was born five hundred years ago, at a time when women weren’t taught to read. Her father was a great scholar whose house was filled with books, and she convinced him to teach her to read. Osnat grew up to teach others, becoming a wise scholar in her own right and the world’s first female rabbi!
Some say Osnat performed miracles, but perhaps her greatest feat was to be an inspiration for other girls and boys. Her story reminds us that anyone who can learn can make a path that no one else has walked before.
My Name Is Aviva - Leslea Newman. Aviva’s classmates make fun of her name, so Aviva decides to change it to Emily. Her parents go along with her request, but after Aviva (aka “Emily”) learns about her great-grandmother Ada for whom she was named, she reconsiders. My Name Is Aviva is sure to inspire young readers to explore where their own names come from and what they mean.
Fascinating : The Life Of Leonard Nimoy - Richard Michelson. This moving biography of the late Leonard Nimoy, the iconic Spock from Star Trek, is a story that exemplifies the American experience and the power of pursuing your dreams. As a young boy, Leonard loved to sing and to act. His parents were immigrants who felt like aliens in America, and certainly didn’t understand Leonard’s drive to perform. “Learn to play the accordion,” his father told him. “Actors starve, but at least musicians can eke out a living.”
Lily Renée, Escape Artist: From Holocaust Survivor To Comic Book Pioneer - Trina Robbins. In 1938, Lily Renée Wilheim was a 14-year-old Jewish girl living in Vienna. Her days are filled with art and ballet until the Nazis march into Austria. Suddenly, her own country is no longer safe for her or her family. To survive, Lily leaves her parents behind and travels alone to England. Escaping the Nazis is only the start of Lily's journey. Will she find a way to have her own sort of revenge on the Nazis?
Brave Girl: Clara And The Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909 - Michelle Markel. When Clara Lemlich arrived in America, she couldn’t speak English. She studied English at night school, while she helped support her family by sewing in a factory during the day. Seeing the mistreatment of her fellow workers, Clara led the largest walkout of women laborers in the country’s history. Clara learned a lot from her short time in America. She learned that people need to stand together and fight for what they need.
Hammerin’ Hank: The Life Of Hank Greenberg - Yona Zeldis McDonough. The 1930s were a time when “outsiders” were not welcome in Major League Baseball. Henry Benjamin Greenberg began as one of those outsiders but went on to become Hammerin’ Hank, who dominated baseball from 1933 to 1948. He was eventually inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, as the first Jewish inductee.
Emma’s Poem: The Voice Of The Statue of Liberty - Linda Glaser. In 1883, Emma Lazarus, deeply moved by an influx of immigrants from Eastern Europe, wrote a sonnet that gave a voice to the Statue of Liberty.
"Give me your tired, your poor
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free . . . "
Lucky Broken Girl - Ruth Behar. In this unforgettable multicultural coming-of-age narrative—based on the author’s childhood in the 1960s—a young Cuban-Jewish immigrant girl is adjusting to her new life in New York City when her American dream is suddenly derailed by a terrible car accident.
The Golden Dreidel - Ellen Kushner. When Tante Miriam gives Sara a one-of-a-kind gift: an enormous, golden dreidel that spins miracles, Sara discovers there’s much more to the dreidel than meets the eye. Soon she spins a whole new world–one of magical princesses, riddles, and demons. Will she discover her wisdom and rely on her courage to help a new friend and to find her way back home?
Aviva vs. The Dybbuk - Mari Lowe. A ghostly dybbuk, that only Aviva can see, is causing mayhem and mischief that everyone blames on her. This suspenseful novel of a girl who seems to have lost everything, including her best friend Kayla, and a mother who was once vibrant and popular, but who now can’t always get out of bed in the morning, explores the contemporary Orthodox Jewish community.
Like A Maccabee - Barbara Bietz. Days before Hanukkah, ten-year-old Ben’s soccer team makes the league championships. The rival team’s best defender, Travis, is a bully who is tormenting Ben at school. As Ben begins to listen to his grandfather’s stories each night during Hanukkah, he realizes that he and his grandfather share many similarities, including a love of sports. Through his new relationship with his grandfather, Ben understands that playing “like a Maccabee”-being strong and doing your best, is the key to winning, especially against a bully!
If you know of other wonderful books for children that celebrate Jewish American contributions, spotlight Jewish American heritage, or share pieces of Jewish culture, please leave their titles and authors as a comment here for others to see.