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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Univ Press publishes children’s books about High Holy Days

Published: October 3, 2014
Section: Arts, Etc.

With the passing of Rosh Hashanah and the approach of Yom Kippur, four new children’s books have come out. Written about both holidays, “Apple Days: A Rosh Hashanah Story” by Allison Sarnoff Soffe, “Rabbi Benjamin’s Buttons” by Alice B. McGinty, “Goldie Takes a Stand: Golda Meir’s First Crusade” by Barbara Krasner and “The Days Between: Blessings, Poems, and Directions of the Heart for the Jewish High Holiday Season” by Marcia Falk were recently released.

“Apple Days” depicts the story of a young child and her mother sharing the love of picking fresh apples and then cooking for Rosh Hashanah. This book also portrays the importance of not only celebrating Rosh Hashanah with a Jewish community but also having kids grow up in an ethnically diverse Hebrew school. In this book, the school’s rabbi is a woman, which is not common among other books for Jewish preschoolers.

“Rabbi Benjamin’s Buttons” is a light-hearted tale that talks about Rabbi Benjamin, who is well-liked in his community. His congregants regularly spoil him with all kinds of food during the holidays. In this book, they make him a special bright yellow vest that is decorated with Jewish holiday symbols. However, after the rabbi visits the sukkahs of different families, one of the vest buttons pops off. He then realizes that he has to slim down, so during the summer he decides to garden and hikes every day. Eventually, he loses so much weight that the vest begins to sag and looks terrible on him. In the end, the story concludes happily, with the congregants creating a new vest for Rabbi Benjamini for the upcoming New Year.

The third book, “Goldie Takes a Stand,” talks about Israeli political figures. This new release is a great way for children to learn about the early life of Golda Meir, the fourth prime minister of Israel and its first female prime minister. After realizing that there is a lot that could be improved in her community, Meir decides to fix it using the American Young Sister’s Society, which is an organization that she herself was president of. The society involves a group of Jewish immigrant girls, all of whom raise money to help provide textbooks for needy school children.

“The Days Between” was published by Brandeis University Press as part of the HBI series, which publishes a range of books by and about women in diverse contexts and time periods. The Brandeis University Press is a member of the University Press of New England, which publishes in a variety of scholarly and general interest fields. It has released poetry books, from “A Poetics of Trauma” by Ilana Szobel to “Woody on Rye” by Vincent Brook, all of which cover American Jewish history and culture books on Israeli studies and social issues concerning gender, culture, religion and law.

“The Days Between” is a series of reflections, readings, blessings and prayers for each day from Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur. The purpose of this book is to create a new perspective on Jewish liturgy by interpreting and recreating it from a non-hierarchical perspective. In most of the author, Falk’s, works, such as “The Book of Blessings,” she intends on revealing the deep frustrations with the patriarchal focus on traditional prayer. However, she also creates a whole new outlook of spiritual meaning in her poems. For example, she recasts Kol Nidrei (“All Vows”), a declaration terminating all oaths and vows from this Yom Kippur to the next, as “a different kind of preparation for the prayer”: “may their grip be loosened/ that we be present of mind and heart/ to the urgency of the hour.” In this poem, Falk interprets the prayer as an opportunity for people to let go of unfulfilling promises as well as open up prayer with a whole different perspective and create a new meaning to a traditional prayer.

Falk’s timeless truths and insights aim to reach out not just to Jewish people but to everyone because she believes that many people, regardless of beliefs, face the same universal struggles of life. She also wants to make sure that that her works touch people and enrich their paths through life.