We all remember cuddling up with a good book when we went to sleep at night or Shabbos afternoon when we weren’t hanging out with any friends. There is nothing in the world like a good old Jewish story to fire up the imagination and warm the soul. Especially those that touch on the rich nostalgia of Jewish history! Check out these great books!
Seeing the leaves falling in droves outside is a clear sign that winter isn’t far off. Long and cold nights (or afternoons for that matter depending on the day) might find your kids looking for something to do in order to relax.
Here is an awesome list of great authors and reads that you don’t pass up this winter season. Don’t forget to tell your boys too!
1. Avner Gold. Anyone who grew with this name knows it carries a lot of weight. I am amazed at how Avner Gold weaves a beautiful tapestry of Jewish history in the form of a fictitious story line, bringing the reader back into a world that once was in a most suspenseful and exciting way. His books mainly touch upon the time periods surrounding the Spanish Inquisition, the Cossacks, and Shabbesai Tzvi ym”sh. Here are some of the titles of Avner Gold’s historically engaging books that will have you begging for more. (Note: The below descriptions are taken from artscroll.com and Wikipedia. See websites for broader description).
- The Promised Child-The Promised Child is rich in Torah values and historical background, offering glimpses of the Maharal, the Maharsha, the Tosefos Yom Tov and the conditions of Jewish life in Poland in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It is a book that enriches even as it entertains.
- The Dream-A suspenseful story of hatred, revenge and a desperate race against time to avert the dual disasters looming over the Jewish community of Pulichev. It is a story of ingenuity, resourcefulness, courage and faith in the battle of good against evil.
- The Year of The Sword-This book depicts the early stages of the tragedy that befell the Jewish people during the years 1648-1649, known to Jewish history as “Tach v’Tat,” when a large portion of European Jewry perished at the hands of the Cossacks and their Tatar allies.
- Twilight-The story related in the expanded edition of Twilight is a direct continuation of The Year of the Sword, the third novel of the Strasbourg Saga. The story of The Year of the Sword came to a close in 1649 during the Cossack wars in Poland and Ukraine, and the original edition of Twilight picked up the story in 1658. The expanded edition follows the exploits of the popular characters of the Saga from the end of 1649 through 1658.
- The Imposter-This historic story is told through the eyes of the fictional Strasbourg and Tomashov families, who follow the dramatic events from Smyrna to Salonika to Cairo to Yerushalayim. Finally, the breathtaking story reaches its climactic conclusion in Constantinople where Shabbesai Tzvi attempts to take the imperial crown from the sultan’s head and place it on his own.
- The Purple Ring-A clandestine cabal of nocturnal schemers conspires to condemn the Jewish people of Pulichev as Turkish collaborators and accomplices in a plot to assassinate the leading general of Poland.
- Envoy From Vienna-This book is a fictionalization of the efforts of the local Jews to prevent their expulsion from Vienna (in 1758).
- The Marrano Prince-Leaving behind the Pulichever family almost entirely, this book follows the fictional Marrano Don Pedro Manuel Luis Domínguez de Monteverde y Saluria (the latter estate being fictional) through his arrest and prosecution by the Spanish Inquisition.
- Midnight Intruders-Midnight Intruders follows the parallel trajectories of Chacham Tzvi’s stormy life and insidious plots of Nechemia Chayun, an outspoken disciple of the messianic impostor Shabbesai Tzvi. The story reaches its harrowing climax when the two clash in Amsterdam, resulting in one of the one of the greatest communal uproars in the annals of European Jewry. Neighbor turns against neighbor, friend against friend and brother against brother as the raucous battles spill over from the synagogues into the streets. This fast-moving book features adventure, drama, mystery, conflict and, above all, a riveting and inspiring portrait of one of the greatest rabbis of modern Jewish history.
Many of these books have been recently reprinted in an updated format. For more information please click here.
2. Rabbi Marcus Lehmann ztz”l. Perhaps from the greatest authors of Jewish history to date Rabbi Meir (Marcus) Lehmann, ztz”l was instrumental in bringing great historical material to young readers in a time when the spiritual waters were quite stormy. His stories are beautifully told of the many personalities of our very rich history throughout the ages. So profound are these stories that their impact is felt until this very day. Here is a list of some of Rabbi Lehmann’s works. (Note: The below titles and description are taken from www.feldheim.com. See the website for prices and more details).
- The Family Aguilar. One of the most fascinating chapters in Jewish history is the chronicle of the Conversos in Spain and Portugal. Outwardly, they were Christians; secretly, they were Jews, with a singular devotion to the faith of their fathers. If caught and exposed, they faced the terrors of the Inquisition, yet they remained steadfast in their faith, with a courage beyond belief. In this historical novel, Rabbi Marcus Lehmann paints a panoramic portrait of eighteenth-century Spanish Jewry under the Inquisition, as well as one family’s drama and adventure, sorrow and lasting triumph. With a wealth of local color and amazing historical detail, the adapted version of The Family Aguilar has been a favorite for generations. This new translation, from the original German, is another jewel in Feldheim Publishers’ Living History series, sure to have pride of place on any Jewish bookshelf.
- The Count of Coucy. In the Count of Coucy, pirates and slaves, heroism and treachery come to life, straight through to its swashbuckling, heart-stopping ending. Woven through the wonderful writing are timeless Torah lessons and paradigms of strong faith in the face of painful challenges.
- Portrait of Two Families. Portrait of Two Families is the story of a family caught up in the Reform movement whose path crosses with a family deeply rooted in Torah tradition, for a complex, fascinating plot of downfall and triumph. Carefully researched and magnificently presented, this is a work of unparalleled literary delight!
- Rabbi Yoselman Of Rosheim. This powerful historical novel, rich with color and amazing detail, tells the story of the famed Rabbi Yoselman of Rosheim, great champion of the Jewish people during the first half of the sixteenth century.
- Akiva: The Story Of Rabbi Akiva And His Times. This breathtaking, historical novel tells the story of the life and times of the great sage, Rabbi Akiva. It is a classic literary tapestry woven with the details of life in Eretz Yisrael after the Destruction of the Second Temple. Meticulously researched and beautifully written, this book will captivate and inspire all audiences. Rav Meir (Marcus) Lehmann’s magnum opus, a favorite for generations of readers, is now presented in a newly translated and revised edition for contemporary readers to enjoy.
There are many more titles and excitement from this legendary author. Check out Feldheim’s website for more details.
3. A Treasury of Chassidic Tales. Originally published in Loshon HaKodesh as Sippurei Chassidim, Rav Sholom Yosef Zevin, ztz”l, a Chabad Chossid, talmid chochom and historian, preserved the legendary and holy stories of our Gedolei Hachasidus, ranging from the Ba’al Shem Tov until more recent times. While this one is geared more towards older readers (i.e. older teenagers and above), a young reader can also glean tremendous lessons and insights into the angels on Earth who lived only a few hundred years ago. A two-volume set is available; one of stories split up according to the Parshiyos HaTorah, the other split up according to Yomim Tovim. Artscroll gets all the credit for a beautiful and rich English translation for everyone to enjoy.
4. The Best Of Olomeinu. Oh boy! Who doesn’t remember the Olomeinu from way back when? Good times, my friends! Good times! The writers for the Olomeinu stories kept us intrigued and excited as we drank all the lessons of good midos, chashivus haTorah, and so much more. Series 1 and 2 are as available as ever!
Ain’t enough for you?! There is so much more out there than I can fit on these pages. Your kids won’t be able to get enough of it! Enjoy!
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