Monthly Archives: January 2011

Book Review: Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum

Holocaust books written from the German point of view have become a growing genre recently.    Some examples are The Book Thief  by Markus Zusak and Blooms of Darkness by Aharon Appelfeld and Jeffery M. Green.  Another novel worth reading is Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum.  The themes of his page-turner about a mother and her daughter are shame and memory. The primary characters are Anna, the daughter of a Nazi lawyer, and her daughter Trudy.  Anna grew up in Weimar, Germany and reached adulthood just as the Nazis came to power.  Trudy came to the U.S. as a child and became a professor of German history at a university in Minnesota. 

            The story alternates between Anna’s horrendous experiences in Germany at the hands of a Nazi   official and Trudy’s efforts to learn about Germans during the Holocaust for research purposes.  Trudy’s strained relationship with her mother discouraged her from interviewing Anna.   At the same time, Trudy’s self-image was colored by her belief that her father (whom she never knew) was the commandant of a concentration camp.  Trudy’s embarrassment about her parentage and Anna’s haunting memories of this Nazi officer give this tragic story a tense and uneasy edge. 

            The book reveals that many Germans (but by no means all) disapproved of the Nazi regime and tried to resist the it.  The story uncovers some of the suffering and trauma that ordinary Germans endured during and after the Nazi era and shows that one cannot paint all Germans with the same brush.  The Holocaust changed relationships between family members, neighbors and acquaintances.  It created a new dimension that changed friends into enemies and vice versa.  Many well-meaning Germans were haunted by the millions of Jews who died in the Holocaust and also by their own inability to save them.  Those Who Save Us is recommended for academic, synagogue and public libraries.

Lee Haas



Filed under Book Reviews, Holocaust

Heather’s Picks for January

Thank you to Heather Lenson for putting together another fantastic list of websites.  

***Jewish Ideas Daily.

Each day, an original feature piece adds Jewish focuses on an issue of contemporary interest and enduring relevance.  Linda Silver’s suggestion.

 Jewish Family & Life!
A user-friendly site for teachers of young children. Regular and guest columnists create articles on health, food, travel, culture (music, movies, theater, etc), holidays, blessings and life cycle events. Avenues for entering into discussions and blogs also exist.

 Jewish TV Network.

Video clips of Jewish programs that contain music, movies, televison, education and entertainment.

 The Jewish Week.

An online newspaper out of New York that shares the latest in Jewish culture and news.        

An open-source online database of Jewish texts on social justice.


Filed under Heather's Picks

For The Trees

Tu b’Shevat is just around the corner.   Linda Silver has compiled a new list of books to help you celebrate.



15 Shevat 5771, Jan. 20, 2011

BEHOLD THE TREES by Sue Alexander.  Arthur A. Levine, 2001.  Ages 8-12.

Israel’s history is traced through its trees from ancient times to the present.  Stunning illustrations, some with images embedded in them, show destruction and re-birth.

DEAR TREE: A TU B’SHEVAT WISH by Doba Rivka Weber.  Hachai, 2010.  Ages 2-5.

A tree growing outside the synagogue is wished sunshine, birds, blossoms, green leaves, strong protective bark, deep roots, and all of Hashem’s other gifts by a little boy who promises to take care of it.

HONI’S CIRCLE OF TREES by Phillis Gershator.  JPS, 1995.  Gr. 3-7.

Honi is a character from the Talmud who plants carob trees, falls, asleep, and wakes many years later to discover that all the people he know are gone but trees he planted are bearing fruit.

IT’S TU B’SHEVAT by Edie Stoltz Zolkower.  Kar-Ben/Lerner, 2005.  Ages 2-4.

This simple board book follows a little boy as he grabs a shovel, digs a hole and plants a tree on Tu B’Shevat. As we watch, the boy and the tree grow older; he and his family picnic under its shade and enjoy the fruit it bears.  Illustrated in lush pastels and written in verse, the narrative flows easily.

THE KIDS’ CATALOG OF ANIMALS AND THE EARTH by Chaya Burstein.  JPS, 2006.  Ages. 8-12.

In her usually sprightly style, the author brings together facts, history, lore, legend, short stories, experiments, crafts and activities, a short encyclopedia and index to focus on Israel and Judaism.

LISTEN TO THE TREES: JEWS AND THE EARTH by Molly Cone.  UAHC Press, 1995.  Ages 8-11.

Torah says to care for the trees, the birds, beasts, and fish, and the earth – for all things are connected.  Children sampling this eclectic mixture of stories, cartoons, anecdotes, and quotations will discover the connection that exists between Jewish tradition and ecological values.

THE NEVER-ENDING GREENNESS by Neil Waldman.  Morrow, 1997.  Ages 7-10.

The narrator begins his story as a boy and ends it as an old man, telling of coming to Palestine with his parents as refugees from the Holocaust, his hopes of filling the land with trees, and the eventual fruition of the Zionist dream of making the dry places bloom.

NOAH’S TREES by Bijou LeTord.  HarperCollins, 1999.  Ages 4-7.

Noah is a steward of the earth who plants and tends trees until they grow into a huge forest. He intends to give the trees to his sons but God has other plans and obedient Noah must use his trees to make an ark. After the ark is finished and the animals have boarded, Noah carries in little green saplings from the trees he loved the most.

PEARL MOSKOWITZ’S LAST STAND by Arthur Levine.  Tambourine, 1993.  Ages 7-10.

Saving the last tree on their urban street becomes the mission of a diverse group of older ladies.  A young city bureaucrat has no chance when they overwhelm him with food, family photos, card games, and stories.

PEARL PLANTS A TREE by Jane Breskin Zalben.  Simon and Schuster, 1995.  Ages 4-7.

Pearl, a little sheep, and her grandfather plant an apple seed, nurturing it as it sprouts.  Delicate watercolor paintings of petals, leaves, and blossoms decorate the story, which is followed by a note about Tu b’Shevat and other tree planting ceremonies.

REMARKABLE PARK by Patti Argoff.  Feldheim, 2010.  Ages 3-6.

Walking through the park, a boy and girl notice all of the ways that nature sings God’s praises and realize that through nature, we can all draw closer to God.

SAMMY SPIDER’S FIRST TU B’SHEVAT by Sylvia Rouss.  Kar-Ben Copies, 2000.  Ages 3-6.

Similar to Yaffa Ganz’s A TREE FULL OF MITZVAHS, this addition to the Sammy Spider series shows a tree and the animals that benefit from it through all four seasons of the year.

SOLOMON AND THE TREES by Matt Biers-Ariel.  UAHC Press, 2001.  Gr.1-3

Drawing on legends about King Solomon and Jewish teachings about humankind’s responsibility to care for nature, this dramatically illustrated story stresses personal responsibility.


More information about all of these books and more about Tu b’Shevat can be found in the Jewish Valuesfinder,

Click TU BISHAVAT BOOK LIST to download a copy of this list.


Filed under Book Lists, Holidays, Tu b'Shevat, Uncategorized