Two Toronto men have been arrested and charged with mischief and assaulting a police officer following a Dec. 17 pro-Palestinian protest in the Eaton Centre that included an alleged threat captured in a widely circulated video. In that chaotic moment from the protest inside the busy mall, a masked protester says “I’ll put you six […]
Picture book about family that celebrates Rosh Hashanah and Lunar New Year nabs top Sydney Taylor Jewish children’s book award
(JTA) — A lavishly illustrated children’s book about a Chinese Jewish family who celebrate both Rosh Hashanah and Lunar New Year is among the top winners of this year’s Sydney Taylor Book Awards for Jewish children’s books.
Meanwhile, the publisher of the imprint behind the popular Sammy Spider Jewish holiday books won an award for her lifetime of contributions to Jewish children’s literature.
Both prizes were revealed Monday as part of the American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards. Michelle Margolis, president of the Association of Jewish Libraries, made the announcement on a livestream from the ALA’s multi-day LibLearnX conference in Baltimore.
Named in memory of Sydney Taylor, the author of the “All-of-a-Kind- Family” series that is being made into a TV show, the Sydney Taylor Book Awards honor work that “exemplify high literary standards while authentically portraying the Jewish experience,” according to an statement by Aviva Rosenberg, chair of the Sydney Taylor awards committee.
“Two New Years” by Richard Ho, illustrated by Lynn Scurfield, took the top prize in the picture book category.
“The Dubious Pranks of Shaindy Goodman” by Mari Lowe won in the middle-grade category, marking the year in a row that Lowe has snagged the top prize in that category. Last year, her debut novel “Aviva vs. the Dybbuk,” like “Dubious Pranks” a story centered on an Orthodox girl character, won in the same age category.
And “The Blood Years,” by Elana K. Arnold, a stirring historical novel about a young Holocaust survivor from Romania, won in the young adult category.
In addition to the annual Sydney Taylor awards, the AJL awarded Joni Sussman its coveted body-of-work award, granted biennially “to an author or entity who has made a substantial contribution over time to the genre of Jewish children’s literature,” according to the AJL’s press statement.
Sussman is the publisher of Kar-Ben Publishing and the award-winning author of “My First Yiddish Word Book” and four Jewish-themed Sesame Street board books.
Sussman “has greatly increased the reach of Jewish children’s literature by producing a significant number of high-quality titles over an ever-expanding variety of Jewish topics,” In recognizing Sussman, the Sydney Taylor committee wrote that for the last 20 years at the helm of Kar-Ben. “Her efforts have put Jewish books in the eyes of the public and the hands of children on a new scale.”
Among Kar-Ben’s popular titles for readers of all ages is the best-selling Sammy Spider series, which depict a family of spiders learning about Jewish holidays from the family whose home they scurry about. More than 20 Kar-Ben titles have won Sydney Taylor awards.
“Two New Years” follows a Chinese Jewish family as they celebrate Rosh Hashanah in the fall and Lunar New Year in the spring. In straightforward, lyrical prose, Ho — whose own family observes both holidays — introduces young readers to Jewish and Chinese traditions for welcoming the new year. Scurfield’s brightly colored illustrations evoke the paper-cutting traditions of both cultures. Notably, the book adds to the growing list of books that reflect the wide range of diversity in contemporary Jewish life.
In “The Dubious Pranks of Shaindy Goodman,” readers meet Shaindy, a totally relatable, socially-awkward sixth grader in an all-girls Orthodox Jewish day school who yearns to fit in.
In spot-on self reflection and dialogue, Shaindy reveals that she feels like “a shadow. The girl no one notices,” at school, in her religious neighborhood or at summer camp, Lowe writes in this first person narrative.
As the new school year begins and the High Holidays approach, Shaindy is unexpectedly befriended by Gayil, the most popular girl in her class who lures Shaindy in to a series of seemingly harmless school pranks that target their classmates. When the pranks turn mean-spirited, Shaindy grapples with the search for identity and the meaning of friendship, as she comes to understand her own resilience and, the power of seeking forgiveness.
“The Blood Years” is Arnold’s poignant fictional story of 13-year-old Frederieke Teitler and her older sister, Astra, who, before the start of World War II, are raised by their mother and grandfather in the Romanian town of Czernowitz. When the war breaks out, their lives in the tight-knit Jewish community, are transformed with the invasion by the Soviet and Nazi Germany armies. Readers follow Frederieke as she is forced to make hard choices and navigates the harsh and sometimes brutal realities of survival.
The gripping story is based on the life of Arnold’s maternal grandmother, a Holocaust survivor. Maintaining accuracy about the historical events and honoring the victims and survivors was a priority for Arnold. “It was incredibly important not to sensationalize the Holocaust,” she told Publishers Weekly. An Author’s Note gives historical context and elaborates on her grandmother’s extraordinary life story.
The Sydney Taylor committee named 11 honor books; three were designated as notable. The manuscript award went to Marlaina Cockcroft for “Ava’s Golem.”
Among the other awards announced at the Youth Media awards by the ALA were the Caldecott, Coretta Scott King, Newbery and Printz awards. “The Blood Years” was a Prinz award finalist.
Neil Shusterman (“Game Changer,” “Bruiser,”), whom the Jewish Journal dubbed “a Jewish literary powerhouse,” won the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults. His most recent work, the graphic novel “Courage to Dream: Tales of Hope in the Holocaust,” was a finalist for a Sydney Taylor award, though his work has otherwise largely not focused on Jewish stories. Shusterman has spoken about the influence of his Orthodox Jewish grandmother on his writing and previously authored a book about mental illness based on his experience parenting one of his sons.
International Prosecutors Gather In Israel to Detail Hamas Crimes
A delegation of prosecutors from countries that had citizens murdered or kidnapped by Hamas on October 7 gathered in Israel on Monday, in what could be a precursor to a criminal case against the Palestinian terror group. The Justice Ministry announced the trip on Sunday, featuring representatives from the United States, Germany, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Bulgaria, Japan, Australia, and Denmark.
“Following the efforts that the Justice Ministry has been leading in the international legal arena since the events of October 7, the arrival in Israel of senior members of the legal and prosecution systems operating in the international arena is another pillar in the efforts to promote the use of enforcement measures against senior Hamas officials and operatives,” said the Director General of the ministry, Itamar Donnenfeld.
On the trip, the representatives toured kibbutzim that Hamas ravaged to see the scale of the damage, as well as conducted meetings with family members of those currently being held hostage in Gaza. Donnenfeld said it “will be an opportunity to present a clear, accurate and unmediated picture of the heinous crimes that Hamas has committed, not only against Israelis, but against all of humanity.”
The group also met with leading officials in the Justice Ministry, the government at large, and Israeli representatives from the International Court of Justice’s genocide case against the Jewish state.
On the same day, new Foreign Minister Israel. Katz participated in the Council of Foreign Ministers of the European Union meeting. The ministry said before the visit “Minister Katz will discuss with his counterparts the urgency of defeating Hamas and returning all hostages unconditionally.”
Katz added “We are continuing a diplomatic campaign to support the heroic IDF soldiers and defeat Hamas. At the meetings in Belgium, I will work to mobilize the European Union for pressure to return the abductees, to harm Hamas and to promote economic projects that will change the region.”
At the meeting, many of the European diplomats criticized Israel for its actions during the defense war against Hamas. Josep Borrell, Europe’s top diplomat, said “The humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip cannot be any more dire. We must start talking about clear plans for reaching a two-state solution… What other solutions are they thinking of? Getting all the Palestinians to leave? Killing them?” Representatives from France and Germany echoed Borrell’s calls for a two-state solution.
Hamas terrorists entered Israel on October 7, temporary taking over villages and military bases en route to their slaughter of more than 1,200 civilians and the kidnapping of more than 240 people from Israel and the countries represented in the meeting.
The post International Prosecutors Gather In Israel to Detail Hamas Crimes first appeared on Algemeiner.com.
100 Days: Life on the Israeli Home Front
More than 100 days have passed since October 7, when the world changed for Israelis and all Jews.
On that “Black Shabbat,” as we refer to it in Israel, I woke up expecting to celebrate my wedding anniversary and the holiday of Simchat Torah.
Within minutes, it became clear that what was unfolding was a day that would be seared into the Israeli psyche forever. We are still reeling from the shock, trauma, and grief of the barbaric massacre that took place on October 7, and every moment since, we have been grappling with desperation for our hostages, and the effects of a war that was forced upon us by the Iran-backed Hamas.
We Israelis wake up every morning with a sense of dread, checking the news to see the names of fallen soldiers that have been “cleared for publication.” Still living under the threat of rocket barrages, we are also in a state of constant anxiety about the possibility of an additional front escalating on our northern border.
Last Saturday night — Day 99 since the Hamas Massacre — I went to “Hostages Square” in Tel Aviv to demonstrate solidarity with the families of those being held captive in inhumane conditions in Gaza, without having had even one visit from the Red Cross. The next day, bringing to mind some kind of perverse reality TV show, Hamas began releasing “teaser” videos as part of their campaign of psychological warfare, taunting Israelis to guess which hostages were alive and which were dead. In a sick follow-up video, they revealed the results, blaming the IDF, of course, for the deaths of two men from Kibbutz Be’eri.
On Sunday — Day 100 — I met with fellow Israeli members of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) Jewish Diplomatic Corps to discuss the volunteer endeavors we have been engaged in. One person has been documenting testimonies of sexual assault that occurred on October 7th. Another had just been released after 70 days of reserve duty. Another has been involved in initiatives to help the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced Israelis who can’t return to their homes in the north and south of the country. These are just a tiny fraction of the heroic efforts of Israeli civil society in the wake of the war. Indeed, the resilience and solidarity demonstrated by the Israeli people has been a glimmer of light and hope in what is otherwise one of our darkest hours.
On Monday — Day 101 — as I was working away at my desk, my thoughts were interrupted by the sounds of ambulance and police sirens. A terrorist attack by two Palestinians from the West Bank had struck my suburban town of Ra’anana, killing one elderly woman and wounding 17 others, including children, just a couple of minutes away from my home.
My own children were placed in lock-down in their schools and kindergarten until the police gave us the all-clear that they could be picked up. That night, my husband and I comforted them, telling them that it was OK, that they are safe. But we exchanged a look, knowing that as much as we want to promise them that, there are no guarantees.
And all the while, the battles against Hamas in Gaza rage on — a just war if there ever was one, despite what malevolent actors and states around the globe contend. In my capacity as a member of the WJC Jewish Diplomatic Corps, every evening I compile a list of antisemitic incidents around the globe for security officials — a daily reminder that the war is not only being waged here in the Middle East.
And every day, throughout it all, one thought echoes continuously in my mind: We are living in an upside-down world. The fact that Israel is on trial at the International Court of Justice for alleged genocide, the most egregious of all crimes, as it is conducting a war of self-defense against an enemy that truly is genocidal, is a deliberate and malicious inversion of reality.
If the international community truly cared about the Palestinians’ plight for a sovereign state, they would be siding with Israel wholeheartedly, and certainly with not the oppressive terrorist regime who uses its own civilians as human shields, prevents their access to humanitarian aid, and educates its population — with the help of UN funding — to kill Jews wherever they are.
As long as there continue to be forces in this world who sympathize with terrorists, negate Israel’s right to defend itself against those who seek its destruction, and protest Israel’s very right to exist in so-called “pro-Palestinian” marches, the Palestinian leadership has nothing to gain from seeking a two-state solution. They have no incentive to embark on the arduous task of state-building and living alongside a Jewish state, if their wish to destroy Israel is backed by so many.
How can any well-meaning person advocate for a death cult that is supported by the world’s most abhorrent regimes, rather than for the liberal and democratic State of Israel? Is it due to willful ignorance? The success of a disinformation campaign? Plain old antisemitism?
A significant comfort of living here in Israel — even, and perhaps especially, during wartime — is being surrounded by people who “get it.” Jews, Arabs, Israeli citizens from across the political spectrum are painfully aware of who the enemy is and why it is so crucial to defeat them.
Although we disagree on plenty of things, we are united behind one cause, one truth: Israel, though perhaps imperfect, is our home and it must be defended. It is the homeland of all the Jewish people, and it must remain strong, especially in light of the skyrocketing levels of Jew-hatred we are witnessing around the globe. And it is strong.
Israeli society has proven time and time again just how strong, moral, and irrepressible it is. And that is why I know that “Together we will win” is more than just a wartime slogan — it is a promise, and it is our only option.
Ariel Rodal-Spieler is a member of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) Jewish Diplomatic Corps, a worldwide network of 400 members in 60 countries supporting the global Jewish community through diplomacy and public policy, under the vision and leadership of WJC President Ronald S. Lauder. Ariel is a translator and writer.