Category Archives: True Stories

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.

 

 

A Doula’s Journey by Sarah Goldstein

A Doula’s Journey, Into the World of Birth, by Sarah Goldstein is a memoir.

A Doula's Journey cover

It is the story of a woman caught between raising her six children, caring for her ailing mother and also practicing a challenging vocation: that of helping other mothers bring new life into the world.

From the back cover:

Often torn between her life’s calling and her family, Sarah is further challenged by being in a “sandwich generation.” She is raising six children while caring for her degenerating Alzheimer’s mother. Yet with family support at the most trying of times, she experiences both the trials and triumphs of facilitating mothers in bringing their newborns into the world.

Self-published.

Buy now from Amazon.

Sarah Goldstein is also the author of Special Delivery (Targum) and More Special Deliveries.

 

Teens Talk by Malka Katzman

Teens Talk by Malka Katzman is a book about the inner-most secrets of friends you wish you’d had when you were in high school.

Teens Talk by Malka KatzmanIt took a while to be able to review this book, because my teens took it and wouldn’t give it back!

That should tell us all we need to know about it.

The true stories of twenty-two teenage girls are presented in a diary-like format. Each chapter is about a different girl and situation. Teens Talk offers an intimate exploration of the complicated issues young people must grapple with.

There’s the  girl who fears she’s got a terrible illness.

One of the girls, Malka, is leaving behind everything she knows to move to a new country.  Anyone who’s ever moved as a child will relate to what she’s going through.

Another is shocked when she learns why she’s lost her best friend.  What teen doesn’t have bumpy patches with friends?

The issues are the kind that can take over a teen’s entire world.  While learning how each kid faced her challenge, readers are bound to identify with much of what they are going through.

Teens Talk is an opportunity for teenage girls to read about people like themselves.  At this delicate developmental stage, it’s vital for them to see they aren’t alone, even when they have problems and fears that they might not have admitted to their best friend.

There aren’t many books specifically for frum teens, so this is an important contribution for a group of readers that could use a lot more attention.

I’d recommend the book to parents as well. It’s an important reminder of what it is like to be a teenager.  Carefree, it’s not.  Reading this may make us all a bit kinder, a bit more patient and understanding toward those sometimes challenging young people.

From Israel Bookshop Publications.

We received a review copy of this book.

Purchase now from Amazon.com