An All-of-a Kind Seminar on Jewish Story
In a four-part series, Sheila Lewis reports on her experiences at the recent Seminar on Jewish Story, sponsored by The Whole Megillah LLC, together with the Association of Jewish Libraries.
The memoir panelists spoke of giving voice to those who can’t speak. In We Are Here: Memories of the Lithuanian Holocaust, Ellen Cassedy takes readers on an amazing journey. She told us the equally fascinating story of her firsthand research in a country where only 6% of the country’s 240,000 Jews survived the Holocaust. Though many questions may never be fully answered, like how do “successor generations, moral beings, overcome a bloody past,” still, Ellen felt there was some hope. “60,000 people came to a book fair where my book was featured.” A good memoir is “up close and universal…an intimate perch to cover a wider world…Art lies in blending the big and small.”
Nancy K. Miller’s What They Saved: Pieces of a Jewish Past starts as a detective memoir as the author attempts to piece together her family’s untold past from clues in a handful of objects, including a land deed found after her father’s death for a property in Palestine, and a postcard from Argentina. As a third generation New Yorker and assimilated Jew, Nancy’s journey back generations to Eastern Europe and Russia brings her some closure, peace of mind, and renewal, but not an end to questions, or journeys, as new connections evolve.
Tahneer Oksman’s graphic memoir is a fresh and academic twist on this genre, as Tahneer probes identity issues around Jewish women in the comics. She asks “how come boys get to keep their noses” (title of upcoming book) with tongue in cheek. I look forward to reading her keen and funny observations when the book comes out.
About Sheila Lewis
Sheila Lewis writes for children and has written educational curriculum for national organizations. She teaches meditation and related topics at the JCC in Manhattan, teaches in several Hebrew Schools, where she also runs Jewish children’s book clubs
Final installment in the series: Reportage on the fiction panel: Erika Dreifus, Yona Zeldis McDonough, and Nora Gold.