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Shalom and Good-bye to 2016 and Hanukkah and some Book Reviews

So tonight we lit the last light of Chanukah for this year, which coincides with the last night of 2016. Here on the West Coast, we have 4 more hours to 2016 and about 22 hours left to Hanukkah.

And I still have 3 books to review. Books that were sent to me by Kar-Ben Publishing company. These books were delightful reading for my grandchildren this past week.

First, the board book, Hanukkah Delight by Leslea Newman is a perfect book for bonding with a toddler. Here’s some of the text:

“Friends and neighbors to invite, Ancient blessings we recite, Gleaning candles burning bright, Crispy latkes taste just right…”

I will leave you in suspense about the ending! The language is a perfect fit for our 2-year old grandson who already loves words that rhyme with light, bright, and so forth. Seven syllables on every page keeps things predictable and the bunny rabbit characters celebrating Hanukkah were very creative and fun. I’m wondering why the illustrator chose bunny rabbits over other animals but my grandson loved pointing to the bunnies and the various objects and symbols of Hanukkah.

So, if you want to snuggle up with your toddler kid or love bunny, get this book and discover the cute and fun Hanukkah world of dreidels (tops), latkes (potato pancakes) and menorahs (candelabras).

Next, the graphic book Joseph, The Dreamer was a perfect book for this past weekend where we read about the dreams of Joseph in the weekly Parsha (Torah/Bible Portion). The book tells the story in pictures and graphics and my grandsons were excited to talk about the story at our Shabbat table this past Friday night. Becky Laff does a great job telling the story (using bunny rabbits again…hmmmm) of Joseph and his brothers. The artwork is excellent and well done. However, bunny rabbits pictures disturbed me in this particular book because I felt it cheapened the story in the Bible. When I gave it to my grandson to read, I made sure to tell him that in advance. Not that he woul think his favorite characters from the Torah were actually rabbits, but still…

Finally, the coloring book L’Dor VaDor a Keepsake Coloring book  uses as its title the Hebrew words (L’dor Vador) to express the theme of generation to generation how we pass on our values of spirituality from one generation to another. Judy Freeman does a superb job of creating art pieces that any age can fill in. From child to adult to middle-ager, anyone can benefit from the calm and relaxation from coloring in this book. Each picture stands on its own and can be colored, framed and displayed as a work of art. Trains, shells, turtles, valleys and more…. are some of the images in this coloring book.

So, as the holiday of Hanukkah and the year of 2016 wind down, let’s find some good books to read to our children and ourselves.


“To Fill the Sky With Stars” – A Book Review


Imagine having a group of women whom you admire – bloggers, writers, mentors, wives of rabbis, teachers, authors — all sitting in the same room and sharing their struggles and triumphs. I felt as if I had that group in my living room when I read my copy of Miriam Liebermann’s new anthology, To Fill the Sky with Stars: Women Explore Their Midlife Challenges and Triumphs. (Menucha Publishers, 2014).  The writers in the book span the entire spectrum of intellectuals and mentors in the orthodox community. Chanie Juravel, Dr. Miriam AdahanSarah Shapiro, Rebecca Feldbaum, Libi Astaire, Yitta Halberstam Mandelbaum, and  Rebbetzin Faigie Horowitz are a few names amongst the more than 60 writers featured.

When Miriam Liebermann asked me to contribute to her second anthology,  To Fill the Sky with Stars: Women Explore Their Midlife Challenges and Triumphs, I felt honored to be included amongst the “real” experts, some of my genuine role models.  I had read Miriam’s previously published book The Best Is Yet To Be, (Targum Press, 2011).  When Miriam compiled and edited that anthology, she was a pioneer in the topic of empty nest, women in midlife, and grandmother-hood musings, especially in the Orthodox Jewish world . I loved those stories, finding strength and honesty in the words of women who admit to being frustrated and sad about this new time in their lives, and taking that strength to start new careers and hobbies.

To Fill the Sky with Stars   takes the topics explored in her first anthology to another level.  We are past feeling the angst of empty nest. We already know we’ve been there and done that with  the child bearing stage. There’s less of the ambivalence every time we see someone who is expecting a child, or with a small child. (I’m talking about myself here!). There is the acceptance and contentment at this point, and rather than fight the reality, we now embrace it.

Embracing the reality of midlife challenges means tackling them head on. One women describes her struggle  while being caregiver for her elder mother who showed signs of dementia. Every time Mom yelled at her and ranted on and on in irrational ways, the daughter was faced with the sadness of watching her mother deteriorate before her eyes. And then her mom would have a flash of common sense and express something completely normal. The writer smiled at those moments. I felt for this woman who did not show herself to be a martyr but rather a normal human being facing the inevitable story of life.

The book is divided into various themes, as they relate to women in the midlife stage. Themes include:  Parenting adult children, caring for elderly parents, embracing new roles, connecting with a Higher Power, friendships, reinventing ourselves with new careers and hobbies, marriage, health issues and tips, loneliness, and death and dying are included. All sections have an overview written by Miriam Liebermann, giving the reader rich insights and interesting points of view. In addition, Miriam’s own stories are featured throughout the book in various sections.

One of my favorite stories is by a writer who describes her perceptions of being unloved by her mother her entire childhood. During her childhood, the narrator felt  that  she was being dismissed and misunderstood.  After  her mother died, she comes across some important things  while cleaning up her mother’s  house. She realizes that all along her mother did get her on some level, and that discovery and knowledge brings her peace and closure. So many of us have strained relationships with our mothers during our lives, and this story shows how often those feelings – real or imagined — can be resolved in some way.

To Fill the Sky with Stars is a smooth read, albeit long. The poetry is interesting, although I prefer the stories.  The book can be read in bits and pieces, as the stories are short and separate. 490 pages. Sold in Judaica books stores, on Amazon and on the publisher’s website.


Animals Aboard

Fresh off the press!

Israel Bookshop Publications ( has just come out with a brand new book – of interest to all ages.

Check it out at the Israel book shop blog: Click on the link below — and read about this new release. I’m going to get it next week; that is for sure!

JUST RELEASED! – Exploring the Wild World of Animals

As Long As I Live

This is truly a book that I cannot put down. I’m so excited to write about it, that I’m breaking the standard rule of book reviews: finish the book first. Actually you don’t need to bite into an apple to know if it is good, is how I feel about this book which details the life of Aharon Margalit, who suffered challenges and disabilities throughout his life, and never gave up. This is a man who held his head up high, recovered from every challenge, rose above it, and became a great man by anyone’s standards. He overcame a speech defect, survived living in a sanatorium with humor and wit, and learned to walk without crutches in spite of having polio as a child.

There are more amazing things this man accomplished, but I won’t write them here, mostly because I have not reached those parts yet in the book! (and also because I wouldn’t want to give away the ending!).

In any case, everyone should purchase this book written from the point of view of the protagonist, a man who has courage and strength that has inspired thousands of people around the world. The book was translated from Hebrew to English, and the original title was “Ethalech,” which means “I will go on…as long as I live” – a verse from Tehillim (psalms).

Have a wonderful weekend, full of inspiration and acts of courage.

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