Dear Mendl, Dear Reyzl: Yiddish Letter Manuals from Russia and America

Imagine, esteemed reader: Your son has recently arrived in America from your shtetl, and you want to warn him about the temptations of the goldene medina. But how do you find the right words in the right order to remind him to keep shabbes and not spend too much time at the theater? You need a guide—a brivnshteler. And for those of us secure in our theater-going ways but still…

Why Alicia Silverstone Didn’t Give Her Son a Bris

It would mean “God made the body imperfect,” the actress argues in new book Alicia Silverstone, the latest celebrity mother to bring her Hollywood-tinted wisdom to the world in the form of a parenting guide, has attracted a lot of attention with her new book,The Kind Mama: A Simple Guide to Supercharged Fertility, a Radiant Pregnancy, a Sweeter Birth, and a Healthier, More Beautiful Beginning. She’s also gotten a fair amount…

The Golden Age Shtetl: A New History of Jewish Life in East Europe by Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern

The shtetl was home to two-thirds of East Europe’s Jews in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, yet it has long been one of the most neglected and misunderstood chapters of the Jewish experience. This book provides the first grassroots social, economic, and cultural history of the shtetl. Challenging popular misconceptions of the shtetl as an isolated, ramshackle Jewish village stricken by poverty and pogroms, Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern argues that, in its…

A Life of Her Own by Joan G. Hauser

This moving story of a girl’s quest for independence begins in a shtetl in Russia. After a tragedy, Minna Ruben and her family decide to flee to der goldener medina—the golden land—America—to seek safety, freedom, and success. Minna dreams of becoming a “real American” but the Rubens face many difficulties in their quest to succeed.  Eventually, they are forced to work at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. Minna, facing disapproval from a member of…

Uncle Sol’s Women by Simeon J. Maslin

“Uncle Sol’s Women” opens in Vilnius around the time of the Russo-Japanese War with the murders that motivate Sol’s father to leave the old country with his pregnant wife. The two children born to the couple in Boston are the mother and uncle of the novel’s protagonist, Justin, who later becomes Jacob. The relationship between Justin/Jacob and his uncle and their relationships with a series of very different and fascinating…

My Guardian Angel by Sylvie Weil

The streets are eerily empty, and everyone in the Jewish community is terrified of Peter the Hermit. His men, the Crusaders, are moving through the town on their way to the Holy Land. They have been known to batter down doors and burn Jewish houses, all in the name of religion.   This is not Nazi Germany but Troyes, France, in 1096, as seen through the eyes of funny, feisty,…