Category Archives: History

A Boy Named 68818 by Israel Stark

A Boy Named 68818, by Israel Stark, is an exceptional memoir of a little boy who survived the Holocaust.

A Boy Named 68818Geared for children 10 to 14 years old, this is a book that readers of all ages can learn from.

It is the true story of Srulek Storch, whose hometown of Podhoryan  was invaded by the Nazis when he was fourteen years old. Everything Srulek had known was stripped away from him. How this young boy survived, not only physically, but spiritually, is an awe-inspiring tale.

What makes this book unique is not just the inspiring story, but the way it is presented. With beautiful illustrations by Gadi Pollack and Alex Firley, maps, an extensive vocabulary section and an appendix that is as fascinating to read as the story, A Boy Named 68818 is meant to be an intensive, fascinating and engaging learning experience.

For a long time now, whenever I would run into the co-author, Miriam Stark Miller, she would tell me she was working on her father’s memoirs. I was delighted when we met earlier this year to hear the memoir was finally published. But it wasn’t until I held the book in my hands and started leafing through that I fully appreciated what a monumental task Mrs. Miller and her father had undertaken. It’s a stunning labor of love, designed to teach the next generations that it is possible to hold on to one’s emunah even in the darkest of times.

As Harav Israel Meir Lau writes in his haskamah, “Aside from telling the story of the author’s personal encounters throughout this era, A Boy Named 68818 teaches future generations an important lesson: How Jews sacrificed their lives in sanctification of G-d’s Name, as well as how they knew how to live in sanctification of His Name … even in the harshest situations… .”

The book also garnered praise from Harav Shmuel Yaakov Klein, director of publications at Torah Umesorah.

It’s hard to imagine teachers not falling in love with this book. To make their task even easier, the authors have set up a website with additional resources and suggestions to help teachers use the book in classrooms. Dr. Danny M. Cohen, Assistant Professor of Instruction at the Northwestern University’s School of Education noted that “what makes this book outstanding as an educational text is the extensive supplementary materials that can be found at the back of the book … The supplementary materials include maps, historical timelines, family photographs, primary documents, images of real artifacts, suggested classroom activities, and reader questions, which will no doubt make this book a pleasure to teach.”

The authors have created something really remarkable. This is really a Holocaust memoir unlike any other.

Buy now from Amazon.

Published by Feldheim

We received a review copy.


Rebbetzin Vichna Kaplan, by Rebbetzin Danielle S. Leibowitz with Devora Gliksman

Rebbetzin Vichna Kaplan, the Founder of the Bais Yaakov Movement in America, is a massive book in every sense of the word—and it ought to be required reading.

rebbetzin vichna kaplan coverThis biography of the founder of the Bais Yaakov movement in the United States is also much more than the story of one person’s life. Beneath the covers lies a tapestry of fascinating stories reaching back two hundred years.

Rebbetzin Liebowitz, who was one of Rebbetzin Kaplan’s early students, has us meet Vichna Kaplan in context. That is, she paints a portrait of the world in which Vichna Kaplan was born and raised, bringing to life the homes of gedolim of previous generations.

It is also a window into the daily lives of Yidden in Poland in the pre-war years, poor in material goods, perhaps, but immeasurably rich in ruchnius. We are not painted a false idyllic picture, however. The early Bais Yaakov teachers in Europe and in America faced challenges teaching Jewish girls that many modern parents, unfortunately, will relate to only too well.

Along with watching Vichna Kaplan grow up, we meet legends: Rav Elchanan Wasserman, the Chofetz Chaim, Sarah Schenirer, Dr. Judith Gruenfeld, Rav Aharon Kotler, Rabbi Yosef Yakov Herman, Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, among many others who shaped the young woman’s outlook on life.

The story of Rav Baruch Kaplan, Rebbetzin Kaplan’s husband and partner in building Bais Yaakov in America, is as interesting as hers. 

The authors make us feel the difficult move the young Rebbetzin Kaplan made, traveling to America to get married, leaving behind her large network of family and friends, knowing that many of them she would never see again.

And then, of course, there is the incredible story of how, together, Rebbetzin Kaplan and her husband built an entire educational movement from an initial group of four girls, some of whom didn’t even want to be there, meeting around a dining room table.

We get to meet these girls—and many others—throughout the years. There are moments of triumph, such as when we learn that people only started to take notice of the school when they realized that every single one of the graduates of the 1938-40 classes

The stories read like a novel but the material is so meticulously researched that it must have taken years to assemble. The copious footnotes indicate the authors’ uncompromising efforts to fact check and verify even the tiniest of details.

Don’t let the size of this book (579 pages) dissuade you. Beneath the covers lies a fascinating story, so meticulously researched that it must have taken years to write.

Buy now from Amazon.

Published by Feldheim.

We received a review copy from the publisher.



Culture Shock by C. Rosenberg

Culture Shock by C. Rosenberg is the tale of two friends, Yemima and Gittel who meet in Eretz Yisrael, after each flees the country of her birth.

FCulture shock by C Rosenberg coverrom the book’s publisher:

When the very heartbeat of life turns unfamiliarly hazy and gray, how does one distinguish between what is right, what is wrong, and what is simply “different”?  In the seething political cauldron of Eretz Yisrael post-1948, religious individuals struggle against the winds of the time and culture shocks they are not prepared for. …

Gittel: The daughter of a staunch Yerushalmi family who already suffered the loss of two sons – one to death and the other to patriotism – searches for acceptance among her peers in a setting where modern customs seem to have penetrated even the most guarded of enclaves. …

Tzachi: Having broken off contact with his family years ago, he’s overcome by pangs of homesickness and longing for his old home. Will he forever remain trapped in the shadows of his slain brother? …

Ezra: Interned in a transit camp in Yemen and then airlifted with his family to Eretz Yisrael during Operation Magic Carpet, he’s caught in the storm blowing across the land he has waited so long to call home. …

Yemima: An unusually bright, sensitive, and perceptive girl, she’s endured much suffering in her young life. Will she ever be given the chance to spread her own wings and begin anew in Eretz Yisrael, or does the instability of the times dictate a different reality?

Sounds like a heartwarming novel about a fascinating, turbulent era in our history.

From Israel Bookshop Publications.

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Lashon Hakodesh: History, Holiness & Hebrew by Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein

Lashon Hakodesh: History, Holiness & Hebrew by Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein is one of the most exciting and intellectually stimulating books I and the other reviewers at have read in a long time. Everyone here insisted on having a chance to read it.

Not to be blunt, but you should, too.

lashon hakodesh cover by reuven chaim kleinWe daven in Lashon Hakodesh every single day – but how much do we know about it?

Rabbi Klein takes what seems like a mundane topic – the Hebrew language – and in this ground-breaking work, blasts it open with questions that leave the reader reeling Why didn’t I ever ask that?

Here’s a sampler:

  • What language did Adam speak in Gan Eden? Out of Gan Eden?
  • What language were people speaking before the Tower of Babel?       At Har Sinai?
  • Why was Avraham Avinu called an Ivri? What was the original Hebrew script?
  • Does Lashon Hakodesh borrow from other languages or is it the other way around?
  • Are Arabic and Aramaic separate languages, or just corruptions of Lashon Hakodesh? Does Aramaic have kedusha?

For many of the questions, there are no definite answers. In fact, it’s shocking just how many different opinions and theories there are.

The sefer explores them in depth, occasionally reconciling them, sometimes not. It begins at Creation and moves on through history, contemplating what happened when Eliezer Ben Yehuda met Lashon Hakodesh, exploring how Modern Hebrew fits in, and considers “derivative” languages such as Judeo-Arabic and Yiddish.

Rabbi Klein takes a systematic, academic approach in the presentation of his material, with careful documentation of sources, while remaining firmly grounded in Torah sources. The writing style is clear and accessible. As an added bonus, the book is clearly laid out, with a beautiful cover, which makes the experience of studying it a really joyful experience.

When discussing foreign languages, Rabbi Klein even looks at why the Mishna chose the word afikomen rather than other possibilities.

There’s no doubt this remarkable sefer makes a fantastic afikoman gift for grownups.


Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein is currently a fellow at the Kollel of Yeshivas Mir in Jerusalem.

Published by Mosaica Press.

We received a review copy of this book.

Purchase now from Amazon.


Living On by Rabbi Daniel Yaakov Travis

By Naomi Elbinger

Living On: Messages, Memories and Miracles from the Har Nof Massacre is the brainchild of Rabbi Daniel Yaakov Travis, Rosh Kollel of one of the victims, a friend and neighbor of the four victims, and a fellow congregant at Kehilas Bnei Torah, the shul where the attack took place.

cover of Living On by Rabbi Travis


6:57 a.m. — 39 men daven at a neighborhood shul in Har Nof, Jerusalem.

7:08 a.m. — Four of them lie murdered
al Kiddush Hashem, following a massacre that rocked the Jewish world.


“I knew each of the four kedoshim personally and I davened at that shul every day for years,” said Rabbi Travis. “The idea for this book came during a Shabbos discussion with another Har Nof resident.

We felt that following such a tragic event, and in light of our personal connection to the kedoshim, something major had to be done to preserve the momentum that had been generated.

“By the next erev Shabbos, the book was already written, edited and on its way to print. Anyone who knows anything about the usually interminable process of book publishing acknowledges the Divine Assistance we merited.”

The book has three main sections: Miracles, which details the unfolding of the attack and its aftermath, and includes many incredible stories of salvation from survivors and eye-witnesses; Memories, which explores the special qualities of the four victims, as told by close family and others who knew them; and Messages, which delves into the inner meaning of this tragedy, which we must try to comprehend with the help of our Gedolim.

The concluding section, entitled Living On, explores how we can carry on, meaningfully changed, in the aftermath of the tragedy.

Notable contributors to the book include: HaRav Aharon Leib Steinman, shlita; HaRav Moshe Sternbach, shlita, Av Beis Din of Jerusalem, whose son survived the attack; HaRav Yitzchak Mordechai Rubin,  shlita, Rav of Kehilas Bnei Torah; HaRav Zev Leff, shlita, and many other Torah luminaries.

“Most of the news reports of the massacre were gruesome and depressing,” said Rabbi Travis. “But this book takes a completely different view. We explore the pain of the people involved but we also highlight the many miracles experienced on that day; the incredible faith of the widows and survivors; the outpouring of chessed that followed the attack; and the meaningful messages that emerged. This book seeks the true Jewish perspective. We showed the manuscript to the survivors and they agreed that it reflects the deeper message we should all be seeking.”

The challenge of taking such an atrocity and finding messages of hope within it seems formidable. But several survivors of the attack and relatives of the victims were extremely supportive of the project and helped provide the content.

“The first thing I said when I woke up was the Pasuk ‘Ashira laHashem bichayai – I will sing to Hashem with my life’ (Tehilim 104:33)” said Rabbi Shmuel Goldstein, who sustained severe head injuries after being attacked by one of the terrorists with a meat cleaver. He was interviewed extensively for the book. “Now I appreciate that so much more; that every second that Hashem gives me life, it’s not a onetime present, it’s a constant present that Hashem gives and keeps giving. Even though it is looked at as a very bad story, there are so many miracles that Hashem did.”

The book presents itself as a double chessed: it helps reader process this traumatic event in a positive way, while giving tzedakah to the widows and orphans. The publication was fully sponsored by generous donors, so 100% percent of proceeds from sales of the book will go to victims’ families.

Living On: Messages, Memories and Miracles from the Har Nof Massacre is available at or at Jewish bookstores.

Naomi Elbinger is one of the Jewish world’s leading experts on web marketing and business strategy and can be found at – The Jewish Business Blog.

Rabbi Travis is also the author of:

cover praying with joy by rabbi travistravis-shabbos








Miracle at El Alamein by Rabbi Zev T. Paretzky

Miracle at El Alamein: The Story of the Rabbis Who Stopped the Nazi Onslaught at the Gates of Eretz Yisrael by Rabbi Zev Paretzky reads like a thriller.

paretzky-alameinThis action-packed narrative keeps readers on the edge of their seats, turning pages far into the night to discover how things turn out. But although it has suspense, thrills and adventure galore, it is different from most such reads in once crucial respect – it is all true.

To be factual, Miracle at El Alamein is a history book. It covers a little known aspect of World War II: the Nazi advance on Eretz Yisrael. Not many people are aware that during the war, the Italian Air Force strafed Tel Aviv and bombed Haifa and that the famous Nazi General Erwin Rommel, the Desert Fox, had set his sights on Jerusalem.

There’s a widespread misconception that the Jews of Eretz Yisrael were unaffected by the war.  Baruch Hashem, they were indeed spared the fate of European Jewry, but it was a very close call indeed. The Nazis came within a hair’s breadth of conquering Palestine and implementing their detailed plan for the destruction of Jewry in the Middle East.

“Before El Alamein we never had a victory,” said Churchill. “After El Alamein we never had a defeat.”

What changed? What was it about El Alamein that turned around the entire course of World War II?

How the Nazis were thwarted is the tale Rabbi Paretzky relates in this fascinating book. The author vividly paints for us what it was like to live in the Yishuv in war time. He offers us rare glimpses of some of the greatest tzadikim of that era. The story he brings to life includes tragic events and details heroic undercover operations. There are some odd human touches – Rommel’s letters to his wife, written on the battlefield, for example. Inexplicable decisions made by military commanders. Many tragically doomed young soldiers.

But the real, hair-raising story of what turned around the seemingly unstoppable Nazi advance involves Rabbaim and mekubalim, Kever Rachel and a mysterious airplane flight around the borders of Eretz Yisrael.

Miracle at El Alamein may present itself as a history book, but woven within the historical tale is an essential lesson about prayer and Heavenly salvation that is vitally relevant for us today. This extraordinary book may forever change how readers view the earth-shaking power of tefilla and the insights of Gedolei HaTorah to change history – and by extension, our own lives.

From the cover:

The story of the rabbis who stopped the Nazi onslaught at the gates of Eretz Yisrael.

“All of Palestine was in a panic … This time, there seemed to be no way out.” — R’ Chaskel Besser

In 1942, as General Rommel led the German and Italian armies through North Africa toward Eretz Yisrael, terror gripped the Holy Land. It seemed inevitable that the entire Jewish population would fall into the Germans’ murderous hands.

This is the story of the holy tzaddikim of Eretz Yisrael who stormed the heavens with their prayers and brought Rommel’s progress to a stunning halt at El Alamein in Egypt. The events that took place there were nothing short of miraculous.

Published by Judaica Press.

Haskama from Rabbi Shmuel Irons, Kollel Institute of Greater Detroit

We received a review copy of this book.

Purchase now from Amazon.

Rabbi Paretzky is also the author of The Chida, which appears to be out of print, and:

Reservoirs of Faith by Rabbi Paretzky paretzky-alamein