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YA Eco Mysteries, Memoirs, Novels & Travel

Historical Novels

St. Thomas Synagogue Celebration

A Remarkable Bat Mitzvah in St. Thomas

“To keep our stories and our traditions alive, we should tell them to our children and our children’s children. In that way we can pass on the wisdom they contain.”

Claire Datnow, The Nine Inheritors

 

There are a host of heartbreaking, yet heartwarming true stories about ancient Torah scrolls that have traveled thousands of miles through war-torn Europe to find sanctuary in far-away lands. These Torahs have miraculously survived the Holocaust. When they are restored and find a new home, they continue the circle of tradition for the next generation.

Holocast Torah in St. Thomas jpg
Recently, by sheer serendipity, my family and I were connected to a Holocaust Torah at the Bat Mitzvah of my youngest granddaughter, Ellie Grace, celebrated at the Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas. This Synagogue bears the great honor of being the oldest in continuous use under the American flag and the second-oldest in the Western Hemisphere.

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Women's March Birmingham Alabama


Why Women Marched for All Americans

Why would an old grandma like me be marching down the street in the middle of thousands of protestors, in the middle of winter, in the middle of downtown Birmingham’s National Historic Civil Rights District? Because it is my responsibility to be there for my children, my grandchildren, for Americans from every walk of life, every race, every creed, every persuasion. Because it is my privilege to lend my support to the Women’s March, a worldwide protest in support of:

Women's March Januray 21, 2017
  • They Marched for Civil rights and Civil Liberties for All (Boris Datnow)
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Rosenwald Film a Jewish Philanthropist

Rosenwald documentary Connects Julius Rosenwald and Booker T. Washington

After viewing Aviva Kempner’s documentary “Rosenwald,” currently showing at the Edge 12, Crestwood Festival Center, in Birmingham, Al, I was moved to write a review.

Historical novel Blog
Historic Alabama Theater, Birmingham (Boris Datnow)

Kempner begins her documentary by asking, “Who is the white man prominently framed on the wall of numerous black schools located throughout the American South?” Most viewers will not recognize the man in the photograph, and therefore will be astounded by the magnificent legacy of former Sears & Roebuck CEO Julius Rosenwald, high school dropout, brilliant entrepreneur, and inspired philanthropist. 
Read More...

Women's Hall of Fame

Alabama Women's Hall of Fame
Our
midsummer jaunt with friends of the Cosmos Club began with a visit to The Alabama Women's Hall of Fame in Marion, Alabama, located on the historic campus of Judson College.
Visit to Judson College
Visit to Judson College, Alabama

As we stepped into the beautifully restored A. Howard Bean Hall, rows of
gleaming bronze plaques, honoring Alabama’s most outstanding women, welcomed us in. Pausing before the inscriptions on the plaques, we discovered the significant contributions each one of them have made to our state and nation. Read More...

Peace and War

The Common Good and Common Destiny
by Carl Schinasi

It is a privilege and pleasure to share Carl Schinasi's talk with you. His thought-provoking speech about how each one us can contribute to making peace in the world is well worth reading.

Imam Um’Rani, congregants, guests, and friends, thank you for inviting me to speak here this evening.  I must admit it also comes as a surprise. When Imam asked me to speak, I immediately suggested he contact someone at Temple Emanu-El.  I explained to him that someone there could speak more knowledgeably about Judaism.  When Imam assured me he wanted me to speak, I was thrilled.  I was thrilled because I realized his invitation amounts to a great honor. Here I stand, a Jew from New York speaking in a Mosque at a pre-Ramadan banquet in the Deep South. 

Arab Street Mosque Singapore
Arab Street Mosque, Singapore (Boris Datnow) Read More...

Fiddler on the Roof 50th Anniversary

About Tradition and Fiddler on The Roof

TNI cover

Can you believe that it’s the fiftieth anniversary of the Broadway musical Fiddler on the Roof ?

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Yiddish Language Movie Unzere Kinder

Our Children (Unzere Kinder) Poland 1948: Last Yiddish Language Movie

It was a privilege to attend the screening of UNZERE KINDER (OUR CHILDREN) sponsored by the Emmet O’Neal Library and the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center. I was also heartened to see a good number of students from surrounding high schools and colleges in attendance. Dr. Andrew Demshuk, Professor of History at UAB, led the discussion.

Cemetary Prague
Historic Jewish Cemetery in Prague

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Holocaust Education Makes a Difference

Holocaust Education Makes a Difference

Budapest tree
Holocaust Memorial, Budapest (for more information click on link)

Alabama is too often association with bigotry toward ethnic, racial and religious groups, or any group perceived to be different or foreign.  Yet good things are happening at West Blocton High School, and in schools around Alabama, thanks to outstanding teachers like Logan Greene, a member of the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center’s Teacher Cadre. 

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Advantages of Enhanced Electronic Books

How You Can Benefit from Enhanced Electronic Books
Imagine zooming far above the Atlantic Ocean, reading a fascinating book about the exploration of the ocean, when, magically, the author is sitting next to you, telling you what inspired him to write the book! This is no futuristic fantasy, it’s exactly what I experienced when reading Atlantic, an Enhanced eBook by Simon Winchester. Watching and listening to the video was an Aha moment for me! It brought home the power of Enhanced eBooks and inspired me to begin creating my own. To get a clear view of this new development let’s look at where we are right now. Read More...

How to Handle a Torah

When a Torah Tumbles to the Ground

I came across this article in the
Jewish Daily Forward, “When Torah’s Tumble to the Floor, What’s a Shul to Do?”  It immediately triggered a connection to a similar incident in which Leah Rosen, a tragic character in my historical novel, causes the Torah to drop to the floor:

“Leah shoved her way through the throng, unaware of heavy heels crushing her toes or sharp elbows jabbing into her ribs. When she reached her father, she tried to seize the Torah from him. With a strangled exclamation Hershel twisted sharply away from her outstretched hands, lost his grip on the Torah, and fell to his knees.” Read More...

Torah Dedication Mozambique

There are myriads of stories about Torahs that have traveled thousands of miles through war and peace. Many these Torahs miraculously survived the Holocaust. When they are restored and find a new home, in some way, they continue the circle of life for the next generation. Since publishing my historical novel, The Nine Inheritors—chronicling nine generations of one family and their ancient Torah scroll—stories about the journey and survival of Torahs have come my way. Read More...

Contemporary Holocaust Fiction

What Messages Do Holocaust Novels Convey?
 
This blog is an update to my review of books with Holocaust themes and my reflections on the messages they convey. I most recently read
The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman. The plot centers on Josef and Lenka, two young lovers, and how their lives are shattered by the Nazi invasion of Prague. Read More...

Munk Polish Holocaust Movie

"Perhaps we would not be seeing the resurgence of neo-Nazi criminal activity today if a better job had been done convicting and punishing perpetrators for their crimes during the Holocaust.”Dr. Efraim Zuroff, Simon Wiensenthal Center Chief Nazi Hunter Read More...

Holocaust Remembrance Message

Messages from The Holocaust

The Levite Jewish Community Center, Birmingham Jewish Federation, Birmingham Holocaust Education Center and N.E. Miles Jewish Day School hosted a touching and meaningful Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) program.
Read More...

German POWs in Alabama

It is an honor to introduce Ruth Beaumont Cook, author of Guests Behind The Barbed Wire, as our guest blogger. Ruth’s book chronicles the building and operation of Camp Aliceville in Aliceville, Alabama, the largest German prisoner of war camp in the United States. The book presents a never-more-relevant look into the nature of war, peace, and the principles of human dignity. Read More...

Broadway Musicals A Jewish Legacy

“Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy.” Highly recommended.

Watching the documentary, “Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy,” which explores the powerful influence of Jewish musical traditions on Broadway, reminded me of Aaron Rosen, the jazz musician, a character in my Jewish historical novel, The Nine Inheritors:

Read More...

Messages from Holocaust Memorials

Part 1. The number of memorials dedicated to the Holocaust now reach into the hundreds more to come.  What lessons do we as take away from these tangible testaments to the brutal events of the past? Do they serve to fuel hate against the collective perpetrators of evil, or as warning to never give in to hatred? Do they fill us with despair, or with hope for the future of humanity? What message do we take away from visits to Memorials?   Read More...

Messages from Holocaust Books

What Message do Holocaust Books and Memorials Send?

The number of books and memorials dedicated to the Holocaust now reach into the thousands with hundreds more to come. What lessons do we as take away from these tangible testaments to the brutal events of the past? Do they serve to fuel hate against the collective perpetrators of evil, or as warnings to never give in to hatred? Do they fill us with despair, or with hope for the future of humanity? 

A review of four novels and a memoir may help to tease out the answer.    Read More...

Prague Jewish Museum


History is repeating itself, Abraham thought and he felt the hairs of the back of his neck rise. He was escaping the fearsome menace of Nazism, but what would become of his friends?
The Nine Inheritors, Chap 20, p. 239
In one of the most grotesquely ironic acts of WWII, the Nazis seized control of the area that would eventually become the Prague Jewish Museum. Lonely Planet


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Raoul Wallenberg Holocaust Memorial Park

Great Synagogue (Dohány Street Synagogue)

[As a survivor] Bunka has dedicated his life . . . to immortalize the memory of the lost Jews of Lithuania. He has carved dozens of memorial sculptures , and erected them on the sites where the mass murders took place.
The Nine Inheritors by Claire Datnow, Chapter 44. p. 555
We stand craning our necks upward, gawking at the impressive facade of the Great Synagogue in Budapest. Opened in 1859, it is the second largest in the world—only Temple Emanu-El in New York is slightly bigger. Stepping inside, we marvel at the rich, glittering and ornate Moorish Revival architecture.
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Holocaust Memorial Budapest

Shoes on the Danube Holocaust Memorial
[The memorial] calls on us never to repeat the evils of the years gone by; it urges us to acknowledge that whatever our race, heritage or religion, we belong to the same human species.
The Nine Inheritors, by Claire Datnow Chapter 42
On a trip down the Danube you get caught up in the beauty of the land, the magnificence of the cathedrals and inviting public squares, the friendly people, the hearty food and tasty beer. Yet, somewhere along the way, like an electric probe, something is there to remind you of the Holocaust
Read More...

Family History Woven Around Inherited Objects

Inherited Objects Inspire Family History and Storytelling
When I came across a review of
The Hare with the Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance by Edmund de Waal, I was immediately struck by the book’s premise, so strikingly similar to my historical novel The Nine Inheritors: The Extraordinary Odyssey of a Family and Their Ancient Torah Scroll. Read More...

Experience Enhanced eBooks

HOW WILL READERS BENEFIT? Enhanced books enrich and expand the wonder and pleasure of the reading experience with fascinating and insightful videos:

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Enhanced eBooks

It was my privilege to serve on the e-reader panel at the Alabama Book Festival, Montgomery, Alabama,  April 21, 2012. Read More...

Jewish Historical Fiction Torah Travel

Readers Connect with Authors to Bring Their Stories to Life

“To keep our stories and our traditions alive, we should tell them to our children and our children’s children. In that way we can pass on the wisdom they contain.”

--Claire Datnow, The Nine Inheritors:  Read More...

Extraordinary Torah Journey

 In my historical novel, The Nine Inheritors, I created a fictional story about the journey of a family and their ancient Torah scroll. Recently, I came across the true account of a Torah’s Journey to Uganda, which begins in the early 1900s with an elephant hunter named Semei Kakungulu, connects with a 51-year-old Jewish physician from Plano, Texas, and ends with him delivering an ancient Hebrew text to a remote village in the foothills of Mount Elgon, a towering, dormant volcano in eastern Uganda. I swear I’m not making this up. To read more of this fascinating story, go to this link:
 
http://www.postandcourier.com/news/2011/jul/24/a-torahs-journey-to-uganda/?print

What Defines Jewish Historical Fiction? The Odyssey of a Torah

What Defines Jewish Historical Fiction? The Odyssey of a Torah
Jewish historical fiction explores themes that relate to the Jewish experience, primarily that of being an outsider in society, and an outsider as a Jew living among Christians. While Jewish historical novels have Jewish-historical content, Jewish fiction does not seek to proselytize. Authors of Jewish fiction do not need to be Jewish. Conversely, just because an author is Jewish does not make his or her book a work of Jewish fiction. Authors not only portray significant events in Jewish history, including the Holocaust, but also show Jews as fully functioning members of the society and times in which they happen to be living. As the Author of The Nine Inheritors: The Extraordinary Odyssey of a Family and Their Ancient Torah Scroll, I hope that my novel will serve to promote true empathy for Jewish history and experience.

Historical Novels about Nazi Propaganda and Torah Odyssey Novel

How Ordinary Germans were Swept up by Nazi Hysteria
Do we need another book about how ordinary Germans were swept up by Nazi hysteria? Yes, because they provide real insight into how ordinary people—like ourselves, our family, our friends and neighbors can easily be caught in a vicious web of deceit and destruction—if we are not vigilant. I recommend three books that tell a compelling story, which reinforces this powerful message. Read More...

Multicultural Literature and Historical Fiction and Torah Odyssey Novel

Multicultural Literature and Historical Fiction Multicultural literature helps readers connect with their own cultures and exposes them to other cultures. By reading these stories readers develop more positive attitudes towards different cultural, racial and ethnic groups. A good story does more than changing a reader’s mind—it can change a heart. Multicultural literature emphasizes the differences as well as the similarities across cultures. Let’s celebrate these differences and similarities!

Historical fiction window into the past and Torah Odyssey Novel

Historical fiction transport us to another time, opening a window onto lives governed by rituals, customs and beliefs fascinatingly different from their own. By entering imaginatively into the lives of others, we begin to empathize and to feel compassion for them; we glimpse differences between the people of their world and, at the same time, perceive that there are important things that human beings have in common.

Torah Dedication Ceremony

Torah Odyssey and Jewish Historical Fiction

Introduction of a Sefer Torah into a synagogue is done in a ceremony known as Hachnasat Sefer Torah (Hebrew: הכנסת ספר תורה‎, lit., ushering in the Torah scroll), which is often accompanied by celebratory dancing, singing, and a festive meal. Read More...

Jewish Historical Fiction and Torah Odyssey Novel

The story behind the cover
The Nine Inheritors: The Extraordinary Odyssey of a Family and Their Ancient Torah Scroll
TNI favicon copy

My husband Boris, photographed the ancient Torah scroll featured on the front cover, now housed in the Museum of the Jews of the Middle Ages, in Girona, Spain. Read More...