History seems to always have a way of teaching the current generation, that is if they are willing to listen.
Talia Carner‘s 2019 novel, The Third Daughter: A Novel, was published last fall. In 1889, Batya is a fourteen year old Jewish girl trying to escape Europe with her family. The many pogroms that have turned her world upside down. Along the way to hopeful freedom, a handsome and wealthy man presents himself. He wants to marry Batya and give her a new life in America.
It seems like a fairy tale ending to what has been a horrific experience. But like many fairy tales, it is nothing but a sham. Batya is sold into prostitution or “white slavery” along with thousands of other young immigrant women in Buenos Aires.
As the years pass, she adjusts to her forced circumstances, but still dreams of the day when she will be reunited with her family. When an opportunity appears to become a Tango dancer, Batya takes it. It is also an opportunity to get justice for herself and the other women forced to earn their living on their backs.
Previous to reading this book, I thought white slavery was a story told to young girls to keep them chained to the patriarchy. To say that I was educated by the novel is an understatement. I thought that I knew almost everything there was to know about Jewish immigration around the turn of the 20th century. I was wrong.
I loved this book. It was well written, entertaining and educational without hitting the reader over the head.
Last night it was announced that US, UK and France successfully hit its targets in Syria. The airstrike was in response to the chemical attack on the citizens of Douma last weekend.
While the airstrike does it’s job in sending a message to the Syrian regime, there is a component missing that is ignored at least by the current administration: the Syrian refugees who are being prevented from entering the United States. So far this year, only 11 Syrian refugees have been allowed to enter the country.
Since you know who took office last year, the parallels to Nazi Germany have been spoken of frequently.
In May of 1930, the St. Louis sailed from Hamburg to Havana. Most of the passengers were Jews, looking for sanctuary from the destruction and prejudice they were experiencing in Europe.
To make a long story short, the ship was stuck in limbo. Only a handful of the passengers were allowed to disembark in Cuba. America refused to open her doors to those who were still on board. As a result, the ship has to return to Europe. While some of the allied countries took a few passengers, the rest were sent back to Germany. 254 of the passengers were killed in the Holocaust.
While I cannot disagree that we need to protect our borders, we need to open our country up to those who are suffering the most. Military strikes send a message, but so does opening the door and welcoming a people who have lost nearly everything.
But then again, this administration, like the one that turned away the St. Louis seems not to care.
Growing up seems to be a universal story. No matter where we are from or who we are, the process of growing and changing is not without it’s pitfalls.
Anita Diamant’s new book, The Boston Girl is the story of Addie Baum. Told from the perspective of an older Addie, she tells her granddaughter Ava the story of her life starting in 1915. In 1915, Addie Baum is the youngest child of Eastern European Jewish immigrants who are still not entirely sure that immigrating to America was the best decision. Exposed to the opportunities that America offers, Addie grabs the world by the tail and does not let go. Along the way, she makes friends, lives through life changing historical events and makes a few mistakes, but in the end, she looks back on her life with satisfaction.
I liked this book, but I like Anita Diamant as a writer. She knows how to write complicated, interesting human characters that the audience can relate to. Addie is representative of many young women of the first half of the last century, especially the American born children of immigrants. These young women, who are American by birth, are not burdened with the immigrant status that their parents and older siblings who were born in Europe have. The world is their oyster and they want to explore that world.
Glenn Kurtz had what many would consider a normal childhood. The grandson of Eastern European Jewish immigrants, he grew up in the security of post World War II America.
In 1938, Glenn’s paternal grandparents, David and Liza Kurtz embarked on a grand tour of Europe with their friends. Part of their trip included visiting the shtetl’s that their families called home for generations. They documented their trip on film. Years later, Glenn discovered the film in his parent’s Florida home. Not knowing the treasure he possessed, Glenn donated the film to the Holocaust Museum.
Several years later, he receives a very interesting telephone call. The woman on the other end of the telephone explains that one of the young boys whose image was captured in the film is her 86 year old grandfather. Maurice Chandler was given them name of Moszek Tuchendler at his birth. Mr. Chandler originated from Nasielsk, Poland, the town that Glenn’s grandparents stopped at during their trip. Mr. Chandler was the only one of his family to survive the war.
Glenn Kurtz’s new memoir, Three Minutes In Poland: Discovering A Lost World In A 1938 Family Film. The book follows Glenn as he meets survivors from Nasielsk and tries to piece together fragments of a world that no longer exists.
I loved this book. It drew me in immediately. Like Mr. Kurtz, I have familial origins in Eastern Europe. Unfortunately, due to time and the lack of information, many of us know only bits and pieces about lives our ancestors lived before World War II. I was drawn into his quest to find out more about Mr. Chandler, his fellow survivors and the lives they lived before it was brutally ripped from beneath their feet.