(JTA) – A Holocaust-themed novel by bestselling author Jodi Picoult was among dozens of books removed from a South Florida school district library’s circulation last month, in the latest example of books with Jewish themes getting swept up amid a larger conservative-led effort to police potentially inappropriate material in classrooms.
“The Storyteller” was removed from the library last month at a high school in Martin County, a southeast Florida district, owing to a parental complaint. According to a list of removed books published by local media. the novel was among several others by Picoult that were taken off the shelves. Other removed books by Jewish authors include the coming-of-age novel “Forever,” by Judy Blume, and “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” by Jonathan Safran Foer, which is about a boy whose father was killed on 9/11.
Nationwide, book removal campaigns have sought to purge schools and public libraries of what opponents have deemed “critical race theory,” “pornography” and “gender ideology.” Notable instances of Holocaust-themed books getting ensnared in such efforts include Art Spiegelman’s “Maus” being removed from a Tennessee middle school curriculum; a graphic novel adaptation of Anne Frank’s diary being briefly removed from a Texas district; and several young-reader histories about the Holocaust also being briefly removed from a Missouri district.
Florida in particular has required additional scrutiny of the books that are available to schoolchildren. While Gov. Ron DeSantis has denied that the state is banning books, activists say his “Stop W.O.K.E. Act” encourage parents and educators to take license in purging schools of material that could carry a hint of impropriety. Some districts have covered or removed their classroom libraries entirely to comply with the law, while other Florida districts have removed picture books that trigger concern, including one about Shabbat that was part of a diversity package and another about a Jewish family with two dads.
Blume’s and Foer’s books have been frequent targets of other school bans and removals, as have many other books on Martin County’s list — including Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” and Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.” But Picoult, who grew up in a secular Jewish household, told the Washington Post that this was the first time, to her knowledge, that “The Storyteller” has been targeted. She said the removal was “shocking, as it is about the Holocaust.”
First published in 2013, “The Storyteller” follows the Jewish granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor who learns that her neighbor is a former Nazi officer who served in concentration camps. Her neighbor also asks her to help him commit suicide.
The Post reported that most of the Florida district’s book complaints originated from one parent: the head of the local chapter of the conservative group Moms For Liberty.
“At this point, we believe we have challenged the most obscene and age inappropriate books,” the parent, Julie Marshall, told the Post.
Marshall did not immediately respond to a Jewish Telegraphic Agency request for comment on why she sought to remove “The Storyteller,” but she previously told the school board that the vast majority of her challenges were based on what she deemed sexually explicit content. The book contains several sexually graphic scenes, including depictions of sexual assault by Nazi guards.
Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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