THE BRONFMAN HAGGADAH

Imagine a Passover Seder with participants clutching tablets and listening to the Haggadah being read aloud by soothing male and female voices.

Originally published in 2012, the print version of this very progressive Haggadah has been transformed into a fairly static app with a few animated features. Six short videos featuring the Jewish philanthropist/author and his wife, the illustrator, have been created, but they do little to transform this attractive book into an exciting app. Though there is a full, multivoiced narration, few of the watercolor paintings have been animated. The tiny basket holding Moses travels through the Nile’s waters, and some candle flames flicker, but there are no real interactive features. The illustrator incorporates design elements from various cultures into her nonrepresentational paintings, but perhaps her most original addition is a map showing several possible routes for the Exodus. A traditional rendition of the English version of “Chad Gadya” is sung aloud, and there is an adapted version of “Dayenu,” with English words centering on the modern creation of Israel. Like many in non-Orthodox families today, the author has selected parts of the traditional telling and added some original touches. He quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson and Frederick Douglass and includes a poem about matzo by Marge Piercy. Bronfman’s relation of the story of Moses includes the handing down of the Ten Commandments and a description of the holiday of Shavuot (not usually found in the traditional text). In line with the author’s personal beliefs, he states that “[i]n this Haggadah, ‘God’ is understood as ‘energy’—an energy that is both transcendent (beyond us) and immanent (within us).” Little Hebrew is used, and the traditional prayers are mentioned but not printed, even in English. Miriam’s cup, a feminist tradition, is included, and the custom of inviting the prophet Elijah has been inserted closer to the beginning of the Seder than is traditional. There are a few unfortunate typos that should be corrected in an update. Families who are interested in a contemporary, inclusive, nontraditional approach to the holiday may find this version useful for sharing with older children before the holiday (and techies may actually use it at the holiday feast itself). (glossary)          

 

Pub Date: March 9, 2014

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Bronfman Associates

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2014

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The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

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THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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A heartwarming portrait of a broken heart finding a little healing magic.

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IN FIVE YEARS

After acing a job interview and accepting a marriage proposal, Dannie Kohan has had the perfect day. That is, until she awakens to find herself five years in the future with a completely different man.

Just one hour in that alternate reality shakes Dannie to her core. After all, highly ambitious Dannie and her boyfriend, David, have plotted out their lives in minute detail, and the sexy man in her dream—was it a dream?—is most certainly not in the script. Serle (The Dinner List, 2018) deftly spins these magical threads into Dannie’s perfectly structured life, leaving not only Dannie, but also the reader wondering whether Dannie time traveled or hallucinated. Her best friend, Bella, would delight in the story given that she thinks Dannie is much too straight-laced, and some spicy dreaming might push Dannie to find someone more passionate than David. Unfortunately, glamorous Bella is in Europe with her latest lover. Ever pragmatic, Dannie consults her therapist, who almost concurs that it was likely a dream, and throws herself into her work. Pleased to have landed the job at a prestigious law firm, Dannie easily loses her worries in litigation. Soon four and a half years have passed with no wedding date set, and Bella is back in the U.S. with a new man in her life. A man who turns out to be literally the man of Dannie’s dream. The sheer fact of Aaron Gregory’s existence forces Dannie to reevaluate her trust in the laws of physics as well as her decision to marry David, a decision that seems less believable with each passing day. And as the architecture of Dannie’s overplanned life disintegrates, Serle twists and twines the remnants of her dream into a surprising future.

A heartwarming portrait of a broken heart finding a little healing magic.

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3744-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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