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Chanukah lockdown? Books to the rescue

Much like Passover, Shavuot, July 4th, Rosh Hashanah, Thanksgiving . . . you get it . . . Chanukah 2020 will also be like no other. Aside from a handful of in-person events — and many of these are menorah car parades keeping families safely isolated — much of our celebrating will take place in the virtual realm. What that means, despite rich online programming being offered from area synagogues, is that it will probably be a quieter Chanukah than usual. Factor in the cold winter temperatures rolling in, even a sprinkling of snow, and these eight days will be a good time to curl up with a good book.

Luckily, a whole host of new and recent books have been released from authors with decidedly Jewish stories to tell. Here’s a snapshot of some of the newer releases, compiled by JNS. And, consideringJews are often referred to as people of the book, there’s a good chance you may end up being gifted a book — perhaps even one of these below — this Chanukah


The Night Archer and Other Stories by Michael Oren: Perhaps best known as the former Israel ambassador to the US and a nonfiction author, Oren now has a fiction title on his résumé as well. With this collection of short stories, Oren explains in his introduction, “I could be a homicide detective or a Holocaust survivor, a conquistador or a hitman, a human or an animal. I could be an adult or a child, a woman or man, living today or thousands of years ago. What exhilarating freedom!” (Wicked Son)

Eli’s Promise by Ronald H. Balson: A National Jewish book award-winner for a previous novel, The Girl from Berlin, Balson returns with a new novel that follows businessman, husband and father Eli Rosen from 1939 Poland to a Displaced Persons camp in 1946, and eventually, Chicago in the 1960s. (St. Martin’s Press)

On Division by Goldie Goldbloom: Named the winner of the 2020 Association of Jewish Libraries Jewish Fiction Award earlier this year, On Divisiontells the story of 57-year-old Surie, a chasidic mother, grandmother and soon-to-be great-grandmother. Surie is also expecting a child of her own, but she’s not sharing that news with anyone in this multi-layered tale.

Set in the insular community of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, the book’s title, On Division, is a nod to a popular street in the heavily Orthodox neighborhood. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)


I’m Not the Boss: I Just Work Here by Howard Jonas: From the outside looking in, Howard Jonas seemed to have it all: a great family, a booming business with his IDT telecommunications company and incredible wealth. Inside, however, Jonas was battling depression and had even contemplated jumping to his death from the top of a bridge.

From his search for spiritual meaning in the 1960s to his choosing to live a Jewishly observant life to the creation of IDT and his battle with depression, I’m Not the Boss will inspire readers as Jonas recounts his story of overcoming challenges and shares some business wisdom along the way. This book is an updated and revised version of a previously released book. (Toby Press)


Kayla and Kugel’s Happy Hanukkahby Ann D. Koffsky: Kayla loves her dog, Kugel, but he has been known to get into mischief every now and then. With Chanukah fast approaching, she will have to show Kugel the best way to celebrate her family’s holiday. This latest installment of the picture-book series from prolific children’s author and illustrator Koffsky presents the holiday in a way that will resonate for kids. (Apples & Honey Press)

Honey on the Page: A Treasury of Yiddish Children’s Literature by Miriam Udel: Longing for tales from mamaloshen, but aren’t fluent in the Yiddish language? This collection of some 50 stories, fables, poems and more, translated into English, will likely make you smile. The book is divided into eight parts with titles like “Jewish Families Here and There,” “Allegories, Parables and Fables” and “Jewish History and Heroes.”

Culled from Yiddish works written from 1910 to 1970, these tales have been translated by Udel herself, a professor at Emory University in Atlanta, for the modern reader. (New York University Press)

Hanukkah: The Festival of Lights by Bonnie Bader and Joanie Stone: Fans of Little Golden Books rejoice! This Chanukah read from the beloved children’s publisher illuminates with easy-to-understand text and colorful illustrations of the traditions of the holiday — from eating latkes to playing dreidel and lighting the menorah. It also explains why the Jewish people celebrate the eight-day “Festival of Lights.” (Golden Books)


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