This list includes books about various Jewish communities that Senesh students are learning about in the classroom and that we are highlighting during Senesh holiday celebrations.
Ages 3 & Up
We Are Jewish Faces
We are brothers, sisters, grandparents, friends. We are smiling, laughing, crying, cheering. We are all ages, colors, lifestyles, and abilities. We are the face of Jewish life today.
Chik Chak Shabbat
When Goldie Simcha doesn’t joyfully throw open her door to welcome everyone into her apartment for a meal of her famouscholent, her neighbors wonder what could be wrong. Little Lali Omar knocks on the door to 5-A, only to learn that Goldie was feeling too sick on Friday to cook, and everyone knows you can’t make cholent in a hurry, right away, chik chak! But it just isn’t Shabbat without cholent. What can her neighbors do to save the day?
The Enduring Ark
In this Indian version of the Biblical tale, talented Bengali Patua scroll painter Joydeb Chitrakar leads the reader from a deluge of water to a rainbow of hope. A book that can be leafed through in the traditional way or unfolded out as an accordion, the vibrant illustrations and concise text provide a singular approach to an ancient, universal story.
Ages 4 & Up
Abuelita’s Secret Matzah
by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, Diana Bryer, Illustrator
Abuelita’s Secret Matzahs tells the fascinating and little-known story of the Crypto Jews, while illustrating the universal importance of faith for people of all religious denominations. Jacobo loves to visit his abuelita, his grandmother, especially at Easter time. But Abuelita has a big secret. During Semana Santa, Holy Week, his grandmother never makes bread, only tortillas made without yeast. She never eats pork, and she lights two candles on Friday nights. But whenever Jacobo asks her questions, she answers, “Ah, mijito, my child, it is the way of our family.” One day, Abuelita is finally ready to share her secret. “Sit with me on the porch. It is time to tell you the secret of our family . . .”
The Colors of Us
by Karen Katz
Seven-year-old Lena is going to paint a picture of herself. She wants to use brown paint for her skin. But when she and her mother take a walk through the neighborhood, Lena learns that brown comes in many different shades. Through the eyes of a little girl who begins to see her familiar world in a new way, this book celebrates the differences and similarities that connect all people.
Let’s Talk about Race
I am a story.So are you. So is everyone. Julius Lester says, “I write because our lives are stories. If enough of those stories are told, then perhaps we will begin to see that our lives are the same story. The differences are merely in the details.” Now Mr. Lester shares his own story as he explores what makes each of us special. Karen Barbour’s dramatic, vibrant paintings speak to the heart of Lester’s unique vision, truly a celebration of all of us.
Maccabee Jamboree: A Hanukkah Countdown
One by one, the Maccabees disappear as they wrap gifts, decorate and cook latkes for a Hanukkah party. The last Maccabee calls for his friends, and surprise… they’re together again!
Ages 5 & Up
Elan, Son of Two Peoples
“Always remember you are the son of two proud nations,” Elan’s parents tell him, when he turns 13. After celebrating his Bar Mitzvah in San Francisco, Elan, with his Jewish father and Native American mother, travels to New Mexico, where he takes part in a Pueblo manhood ceremony. Based on a true story.
King Solomon and the Bee
by Dalia Hardof Renberg, Ruth Heller, Illustrator
A retelling of the traditional tale about a bee that repays King Solomon’s kindness by helping him solve the Queen of Sheba’s riddle.
The Key from Spain: Flory Jagoda and Her Music
by Debbie Levy
When Flory’s ancestors are forced to leave Spain during the time of the Spanish Inquisition, they take with them their two most precious possessions–the key to their old house and the Ladino language. When Flory flees Europe during World War II to begin a new life in the Unites States, she carries Ladino with her, along with her other precious possessions–her harmoniku and her music. But what of the key?
Ages 6 & Up
Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas
by Pamela Ehrenberg, Anjan Sarkar, Illustrator
In this sweet and humorous picture book, Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas, a multi-cultural family (Mom’s Indian; Dad’s Jewish) celebrate Hanukkah while incorporating traditional Indian food. Instead of latkes, this family celebrates Hanukkah with tasty Indian dosas. To her brother’s chagrin, little Sadie won’t stop climbing on everything both at home and at the Indian grocery store, even while preparing the dosas. As the family puts the finishing touches on their holiday preparations, they accidentally get locked out of the house. Sadie and her climbing skills just may be exactly what is needed to save the day.
by Deborah da Costa, Gosia Mosz, Illustrator
When Isobel is invited to Aunt Luisa s for Hanukkah, she s not sure what to expect. Aunt Luisa has recently arrived from Mexico. At Aunt Luisa s you ll get to celebrate the Hanukkah Moon, Isobel’s father promises. Isobel s days at Aunt Luisa s are filled with fun and surprises a new camera, a dreidel piñata filled with sweets, and a mysterious late night visit to welcome the luna nueva, the new moon that appears on Hanukkah. An unusual Hanukkah story with a multi-cultural focus, this title celebrates a little-known custom of the Latin-Jewish community.
The Secret Shofar of Barcelona
by Jacqueline Dembar Greene, Doug Chayka, Illustrator
Musician Don Fernando longs to hear the sounds of the shofar on the High Holidays but, like the other secret Jews in Inquisition Spain, he must hide his religion. But when he is asked to perform a symphony celebrating the new world, he and his son Rafael devise a daring plan to usher in the Jewish New Year right in plain sight of the Spanish nobility!
What Makes Someone a Jew?
By Lauren Seidman
What makes a person a Jew? Is it the way that they look or the things that they do? Is being Jewish a matter of how you look, or how you live? Using everyday examples that children can relate to, this colorful book helps all young Jewish readers understand what it really means to be a Jew. A vibrant and fun way for children to develop a broader knowledge of Judaism and the Jewish People, this book gently guides children down their own path of Jewish spiritual discovery–and reminds us all that being Jewish is about our deeds, thoughts, and heart.
Mrs. Katz and Tush
Larnel doesn’t know his neighbor, Mrs. Katz, very well, until he asks her to adopt an abandoned kitten. Mrs. Katz agrees on one condition: that Larnel help her take care of the kitten she names Tush. When Larnel starts spending more and more time with Mrs. Katz to help with Tush, Mrs. Katz tells him stories about coming to America from Poland and about the good times she spent with her late husband. As Larnel grows to love Mrs. Katz, he also learns about the suffering and triumph black history shares with the Jewish heritage.
Rebecca’s Journey Home
by Brynn Olenberg Sugarman, Michelle Shapiro, Illustrator
Rebecca’s Journey Home opens as two young brothers eagerly await their mom’s return from Vietnam with their newly adopted baby sister Rebecca. The story follows the family through the baby’s arrival, her first Shabbat in her new home, and her visit to the mikvah as she is converted to Judaism.
In God’s Name
by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, Phoebe Stone, Illustrator
Multicultural, Nonsectarian, Nondenominational; Endorsed by Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish Religious Leaders; Finalist, Children’s Books of Distinction Award―Hungry Mind Review; A Children’s Book Council Not Just for Children Anymore! Selection; Recommended by Parent Council; Everyone and everything in the world has a name. What is God’s name?
Nonna’s Hanukkah Surprise
by Karen Fisman, Author, Martha Avil’s, Illustrator
Rachel loves visiting her Italian grandmother, even though Nonna celebrates Christmas and Rachel and her parents celebrate Hanukkah. Rachel plans to share Hanukkah with her whole family, so when Rachel’s special hanukkiah goes missing, Nonna steps in to save the day.
The Flower Girl Wore Celery
by Meryl G. Gordon, Holly Clifton-Brown, Illustrator
When Emma’s cousin Hannah gets married, Emma is thrilled to be the flower girl. However, nothing is quite as she expected it to be, from the ring bearer whom she expected to be a bear, to her celery-colored dress, which she expected to be covered in real celery, to the wedding’s two brides.
Ages 7 & Up
Joha Makes A Wish: A Middle Eastern Tale
by Eric A. Kimmel, Author, Omar Rayyan, Illustrator
On his way to Baghdad, Joha discovers a wishing stick. But how does it work? Joha makes some wishes, and the opposites come true. His old sandals disappear when he wishes for a new pair. He carries a donkey on his back after wishing for a donkey to carry him. And when the sultan gets hold of the stick, things really get out of control. How will Joha learn its secrets before he wishes himself into more trouble?
Benny Goodman & Teddy Wilson: Taking the Stage as the First Black-And-White Jazz Band in History
by Lesa Cline-Ransome, James E. Ransome, Illustrator
Teddy Wilson and Benny Goodman broke the color barrier in entertainment when they formed the Benny Goodman Trio with Gene Krupa. Here is the story of how two musical prodigies from very different backgrounds grew up, were brought together by the love of music, and helped to create the jazz style known as swing.
Around the World in One Shabbat: Jewish People Celebrate the Sabbath Together
Around the World in One Shabbat takes you on the colorful journey of a single Sabbath all around the globe. From Israel to Thailand, from Ethiopia to Argentina, we are invited to taste the diverse Sabbath traditions that come alive in Jewish homes and synagogues each Friday at sundown. Focusing on contemporary traditions, each spread is a window into the magic of Shabbat in one place. We begin on a Friday morning in Jerusalem as a young boy shops at the Mechane Yehuda with his grandmother for the evening Shabbat meal. AS the cycle of Shabbat progresses, we visit children all over the world preparing for the day of rest, lighting candles and singing songs, telling stories and sharing the blessings of good food and familyfinally ending with Havdalah as the first stars shine in the evening sky and a new week begins. Around the World in One Shabbat is a warm and engaging portrait of diversity in a tradition that makes all Jewish people one.
by Heidi Smith Hyde, Jing Jing Tsong, Illustrator
Fleeing the Holocaust in Europe, Marcus moves with his family from Berlin to Shanghai. With help from his new friend Liang, Marcus sets out to build a unique sukkah in time for the harvest festival of Sukkot.
Speak Up, Tommy!
by Jacqueline Dembar Greene, Illustrator, Deborah Melmon, Illustrator
Tommy’s classmates tease him about his Israeli accent and the way he speaks English. But his knowledge of Hebrew makes him a hero when a policeman and his dog come to visit Tommy’s school.
Day of Delight: A Jewish Sabbath in Ethiopia
Depicting a culture that is quickly vanishing, the story of the Ethiopian Jews is told through the eyes of a young boy as his family and friends prepare for the sabbath or “day of delight,” including their typical daily routine followed by preparation for and celebration of the Sabbath.
Ages 8 & Up
Elijah’s Angel: A Story for Chanukah and Christmas
Michael and Elijah are friends, but when Elijah gives Michael one of his special carved angels, Michael doesn’t know what to do. How can he possibly take home a Christmas angel, a forbidden graven image–especially on Chanukah? “A strikingly illustrated story that tenderly bridges the boundaries of age, race, and religion.”
As Good as Anybody: Martin Luther King and Abraham Joshua Heschel’s Amazing March Toward Freedom
by Richard Michelson, Raúl Colón, Illustrator
Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Joshua Heschel. Their names stand for the quest for justice and equality. Martin grew up in a loving family in the American South, at a time when this country was plagued by racial discrimination. He aimed to put a stop to it. He became a minister like his daddy, and he preached and marched for his cause. Abraham grew up in a loving family many years earlier, in a Europe that did not welcome Jews.
He found a new home in America, where he became a respected rabbi like his father, carrying a message of peace and acceptance. Here is the story of two icons for social justice, how they formed a remarkable friendship and turned their personal experiences of discrimination into a message of love and equality for all.
Always an Olivia: A Remarkable Family History
An elderly black grandmother passes on the story of the family’s Jewish origins to her young granddaughter, Carol Olivia. As family members flee the Spanish Inquisition, are kidnapped by pirates and eventually sail to America, one daughter in each generation is given the name Olivia, from the Hebrew Shulamit meaning ?peace, ? to honor the Jewish part of their ancestry. Critically-acclaimed author Carolivia Herron (Nappy Hair) shares this engaging, multicultural tale is based on her own family’s heritage.
Passover Around the World
Introduces children to the many different ways of celebrating Passover around the world, including customs that can be adopted for use in the child’s own family seder.
The Wisdom Bird: A Tale of Solomon and Sheba
King Soloman is wise, the wisest man in the world. One day, the Queen of Sheba–the wisest woman in the world–arrives at the gates of Jerusalem. She has come form a faraway land to see Solomon put this wisdom to work. “Name anything,” says the king. What the queen asks of Solomon is startling. To fulfill her request, he must change the birds of the sky–and change them forever. Soon the fate of every bird in the world rests with a small, colorful bird called the hoopoe. The roots of the story of Solomon, Sheba, and the hoopoe bird are deep. Versions of the story are found in the folklore of Israel, Yemen, and East Africa. Out of this folklore, Sheldon Oberman has fashioned his own moving version of the tale, while Neil Waldman’s stunning paintings reflect a blending of the tale’s Jewish and African traditions. This tale, which speaks to us of respect for different people and the different creatures of the world, is ancient and powerful.
Jews of the Wild West a Multicultural True Story
by Kay Miller
Teenage Jews, members of the Staab and Ilfeld families left Germany in the mid 1800s and settled in the Wild West. Julia Staab had a scary encounter with Billy the Kid. Hebrew was written in stone above a cathedral entrance. Ludwig Ilfeld landed a role in the movie, The Rattlesnake. There were rumors of a ghost at the Palace Avenue mansion. Hopi snake dancers, a horse named Maude, a President and a freed slave appear in this true story of family, friendship and adventure in New Mexico.
When I Left My Village
by Maxine Rose Schur, Brian Pinkney Illustrator
An Ethiopian Jewish family leaves their oppressed mountain village to make a difficult and treacherous journey in the hope of reaching freedom in Israel.
Ages 10 & Up
Passage to Freedom: The Sugihara Story
by Ken Mochizuki, Dom Lee, Illustrator
In 1940, five-year-old Hiroki Sugihara, the eldest son of the Japanese consul to Lithuania, saw from the consulate window hundreds of Jewish refugees from Poland. They had come to Hiroki’s father with a desperate request: Could consul Sugihara write visas for them to escape the Nazi threat? The Japanese government denied Sugihara’s repeated requests to issue the visas. Unable to ignore the plight of the refugees, he turned to his family. Together they made the crucial decision that saved thousands of lives. Passage to Freedom, based on Hiroki Sugihara’s own words, is one of the most important stories to emerge from the ruins of the Holocaust. It is the story of one man’s remarkable courage, and the respect between a father and a son who shared the weight of witness and an amazing act of humanity.
Daughters of the Ark
by Anna Morgan
A coming-of age story about two girls, separated in time by thousands of years, who are forced to leave their homes. In 1984, a young girl named Debritu and her two brothers set out by foot on a treacherous journey through the mountains of Ethiopia and the deserts of the Sudan. They must deal with bandits and famine before they ultimately reach Jerusalem, their ancestral home. 3,000 years earlier, during the rule of King Solomon, Aleesha and her family are sent from Jerusalem to join the Queen of Sheba in Ethiopia. Bridging the two eras is the story of an emerald stolen from the ancient Holy Ark in King Solomon’s Temple and brought to Ethiopia. As Debritu and Aleesha journey towards new homes and new lives, they encounter adventure and overcome challenges on their way to becoming independent and self-reliant young women.
Lucky Broken Girl
by Ruth Behar
Based on the author’s childhood in the 1960s, a young Cuban-Jewish immigrant girl is adjusting to her new life in New York City when her American dream is suddenly derailed. Ruthie Mizrahi and her family recently emigrated from Castro’s Cuba to New York City. Just when she’s finally beginning to gain confidence in her mastery of English and enjoying her reign as her neighborhood’s hopscotch queen, a horrific car accident leaves her in a body cast and confined her to her bed for a long recovery. As Ruthie’s world shrinks because of her inability to move, her powers of observation and her heart grow larger. She comes to understand how fragile life is, how vulnerable we all are as human beings, and how friends, neighbors, and the power of the arts can sweeten even the worst of times.
Legends of the Chinese Jews of Kaifeng
by Xin Xu
A collection of legends and stories from the oral tradition of this group of Jews who migrated to China long ago offers a look at their history and unique identity.
Fifteen-year-old Desta belongs to a small, isolated mountain community of Ethiopian Jews. She and her brother and sister leave their aunt and uncle and set out on the long and dangerous trip to freedom — an airlift from the Sudan to Israel, the Promised Land. They travel barefoot, facing hunger, thirst and bandits. “Vivid and compelling…Levitin’s tour de force is sensitively written.” BOOKLIST. An ALA 1987 Best Book for Young Adults.
Ages 11 & Up
My Basmati Bat Mitzvah
During the fall leading up to her bat mitzvah, Tara (Hindi for “star”) Feinstein has a lot more than her Torah portion on her mind. Between Hebrew school and study sessions with the rabbi, there doesn’t seem to be enough time to hang out with her best friend Ben-o–who might also be her boyfriend–and her other best friend, Rebecca, who’s getting a little too cozy with that snotty Sheila Rosenberg. Not to mention working on her robotics project with the class clown Ryan Berger, or figuring out what to do with a priceless heirloom sari that she accidentally ruined. Amid all this drama, Tara considers how to balance her Indian and Jewish identities and what it means to have a bat mitzvah while questioning her faith.
Ages 12 & Up
Chloe Leiberman (Sometimes Wong)
This is the deal with Chloe Leiberman (sometimes Wong):
- She lives, breathes, sleeps, eats and drinks fashion.
- She’s half Jewish (father) and half Chinese (mother).
- She has one bow-tie(like Tucker Carlson)-wearing brother.
- She’s stuck in the OC.
- She always knows the right thing to wear. And what you should be wearing, too.
- She is a senior in high school.
- She didn’t apply to college, even though her parents think she did.
- She has two best friends–Spring, 100% WASP, and Sue, 100% NOT.
- She’s talented but doesn’t know it yet.
- She dreams about going to design school in London.
This is her application.
Ages 13 & Up
Color Me In
by Natasha Diaz
Who is Nevaeh Levitz? Growing up in an affluent suburb of New York City, sixteen-year-old Nevaeh Levitz never thought much about her biracial roots. When her Black mom and Jewish dad split up, she relocates to her mom’s family home in Harlem and is forced to confront her identity for the first time.
Nevaeh wants to get to know her extended family, but one of her cousins can’t stand that Nevaeh, who inadvertently passes as white, is too privileged, pampered, and selfish to relate to the injustices they face on a daily basis as African Americans. In the midst of attempting to blend their families, Nevaeh’s dad decides that she should have a belated bat mitzvah instead of a sweet sixteen, which guarantees social humiliation at her posh private school. Even with the push and pull of her two cultures, Nevaeh does what she’s always done when life gets complicated: she stays silent.
It’s only when Nevaeh stumbles upon a secret from her mom’s past, finds herself falling in love, and sees firsthand the prejudice her family faces that she begins to realize she has a voice. And she has choices. Will she continue to let circumstances dictate her path? Or will she find power in herself and decide once and for all who and where she is meant to be?
Burnt Bread and Chutney: Growing Up Between Cultures – A Memoir of an Indian Jewish Childhood
“From the outside, no matter what the gradations of my mixed heritage, the shadow of Indian brown in my skin caused others to automatically perceive me as Hindu or Muslim. . . . Still, I trekked through life with the spirit of a Jew, fleshed out by the unique challenges and wonders of a combined brown and white tradition.”
Black White and Jewish
The Civil Rights movement brought author Alice Walker and lawyer Mel Leventhal together, and in 1969 their daughter, Rebecca, was born. Some saw this unusual copper-colored girl as an outrage or an oddity; others viewed her as a symbol of harmony, a triumph of love over hate. But after her parents divorced, leaving her a lonely only child ferrying between two worlds that only seemed to grow further apart, Rebecca was no longer sure what she represented. In this book, Rebecca Leventhal Walker attempts to define herself as a soul instead of a symbol—and offers a new look at the challenge of personal identity, in a story at once strikingly unique and truly universal.
The Girl from Foreign: A Search for Shipwrecked Ancestors, Forgotten Histories, and a Sense of Home
A search for shipwrecked ancestors, forgotten histories, and a sense of home
Fascinating and intimate, The Girl from Foreign is one woman’s search for ancient family secrets that leads to an adventure in far-off lands. Sadia Shepard, the daughter of a white Protestant from Colorado and a Muslim from Pakistan, was shocked to discover that her grandmother was a descendant of the Bene Israel, a tiny Jewish community shipwrecked in India two thousand years ago. After traveling to India to put the pieces of her family’s past together, her quest for identity unlocks a myriad of profound religious and cultural revelations that Shepard gracefully weaves into this touching, eye-opening memoir.
The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother
Who is Ruth McBride Jordan? A self-declared “light-skinned” woman evasive about her ethnicity, yet steadfast in her love for her twelve black children. James McBride, journalist, musician, and son, explores his mother’s past, as well as his own upbringing and heritage, in a poignant and powerful debut, The Color Of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother…McBride retraces his mother’s footsteps and, through her searing and spirited voice, recreates her remarkable story.
Becoming Eve: My Journey from Ultra-Orthodox Rabbi to Transgender Woman
The powerful coming-of-age story of an ultra-Orthodox child who was born to become a rabbinic leader and instead became a woman
Abby Stein was raised in a Hasidic Jewish community in Brooklyn, isolated in a culture that lives according to the laws and practices of eighteenth-century Eastern Europe, speaking only Yiddish and Hebrew and shunning modern life. Stein was born as the first son in a dynastic rabbinical family, poised to become a leader of the next generation of Hasidic Jews.
But Abby felt certain at a young age that she was a girl. She suppressed her desire for a new body while looking for answers wherever she could find them, from forbidden religious texts to smuggled secular examinations of faith. Finally, she orchestrated a personal exodus from ultra-Orthodox manhood to mainstream femininity-a radical choice that forced her to leave her home, her family, her way of life.
Powerful in the truths it reveals about biology, culture, faith, and identity, Becoming Eve poses the enduring question: How far will you go to become the person you were meant to be?
The Book of Jewish Food: An Odyssey from Samarkand to New York
A monumental work – the story of the Jewish people told through the story of Jewish cooking – The Book of Jewish Food traces the development of both Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jewish communities and their cuisine over the centuries. The 800 magnificent recipes, many never before documented, represent treasures garnered bu Roden through nearly 15 years of traveling around the world.