Friday, May 03, 2024

Where are the children's books about Jewish life in Israel for Jewish American Heritage Month?

May is Jewish American Heritage Month, and New York City public schools have lots of material to teach kids about Jews.

Looking at their list of recommended books, I do not see any that mentions or appears to take place in Israel.

Early Readers (3K–Grade 2)
Bubbe and Bart’s Matzoh Ball Mayhem, by Bonnie Grubman; illustrated by Deborah Melmon
Emma’s Poem: The Voice of the Statue of Liberty, by Linda Glaser
Emmy Noether: The most Important Mathematician You’ve Never Heard Of, by Helaine Becker; illustrated by Kari Rust
Feivel’s Flying Horses, by Heidi Smith Hyde; illustrated by Joana van de Sterre
Gittel’s Journey: An Ellis Island Story, by Lesléa Newman; illustrated by Amy June Bates
Hannah’s Way, by Linda Glaser; illustrated by Adam Gustavson
Kibitzers and Fools: Tales My Zayda Told Me, by Simms Taback
Mitzvah Pizza, by Sarah Lynn Sheerger; illustrated by Deborah Melmon
The People’s Painter: How Ben Shahn Fought for Justice with Art, by Cynthia Levinson; illustrated by Evan Turk
The Tower of Life: How Yaffa Eliach Rebuilt Her Town in Stories and Photographs, by Chana Stiefel; illustrated by Susan Gal 
Elementary (Grades 3–5)
All Three Stooges, by Erica S. Perl
The Book Rescuer: How a Mensch from Massachusetts Saved Yiddish Literature for Generations to Come, by Sue Macy; illustrated by Stacy Innerst
Going Rogue (At Hebrew School), by Casey Breton
Hammerin’ Hank: The Life of Hank Greenberg, by Yona Zeldis McDonough; illustrated by Malcah Zeldis
Hidden: A Child’s Story of the Holocaust, by Loïc Dauvillier; illustrated by Marc Lizano
Honey and Me, by Meira Drazin
How To Find What You’re Not Looking For, by Veera Hiranandani
I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark, by Debbie Levy; illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley
The Librarian of Auschwitz: The Graphic Novel, based on the novel by Antonio Iturbe; adapted by Salva Rubio; illustrated by Loreto Aroca
Osnat and Her Dove: The True Story of the World’s First Female Rabbi, by Sigal Samuel; illustrated by Vali Mintzi
Middle School (Grades 6–8)
Black Bird, Blue Road, by Sofiya Pasternack
Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword, by Barry Deutsch
The Length of a String, by Elissa Brent Weissman
Linked, by Gordon Korman
Lucky Broken Girl, by Ruth Behar
Music Was It: Young Leonard Bernstein, by Susan Goldman Rubin
This Is Just a Test, by Madelyn Rosenberg and Wendy Wan-Long Shang
The Trouble with Good Ideas, by Amanda Panitch
Turtle Boy, by M. Evan Wolkenstein
The Unfinished Corner, by Dani Colman, Rachel Petrovicz, Whitney Cogar, and Jim Campbell
Upper Grades (Grades 9–12)
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank
Bernice Sandler and the Fight for Title IX, by Jen Barton; illustrated by Sarah Green
Color Me In, by Natasha Díaz
Dissenter on the Bench: Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Life and Work, by Victoria Ortiz
It’s A Whole Spiel: Love, Latkes, and Other Jewish Stories, edited by Katherine Locke and Laura Silverman
Lucy Clark Will Not Apologize, by Margo Rabb
Recommended for You, by Laura Silverman
Someday We Will Fly, by Rachel DeWoskin
They Went Left, by Monica Hesse
The Way Back, by Gavriel Savit
I understand that this is meant to focus on Jewish Americans, but there are books about the Holocaust and others that take place in vaguely European Shtetl-type settings.

I remember as a child I had a book published in 1964 called Eli Lives in Israel, which is long out of print. And it appears that outside of Jewish publishing houses, the number of books that treat Jews as normal people living in Israel is very small.

This has been noticed by others. There is an unofficial boycott on publishing Israel-themed books, both for kids and in novels for adults. 

One reason appears to be that publishers don't want to deal with the anti-Israel crowd.

Then there was Haley Neil, a new Jewish young-adult novelist, who reportedly felt compelled to rewrite her first novel, debuting in February (2021). Why? Hostile critics left 1-star reviews on Goodreads, because the story was rumored to take place on a Birthright trip to Israel, a popular tour for young Jews to reconnect with their heritage. Bloomsbury’s director of publicity for children’s books emailed the Washington Examiner, “We don’t comment on specific changes made in the editorial process,” before adding, “It’s worth noting that early commentors were not responding to any draft of the book, as it was not released.”  
So even though nearly half of the Jews in the world live in Israel, kids don't know this - or they only see the Jews as aggressive soldiers through the distorted lens of Palestinians, who publish lots of children's stories that all include subtle or not-subtle anti-Israel components

The message is clear: Jews in Israel must be treated like monsters, or ignored altogether. They do not have their own lives independent of the conflict, their own hopes and dreams and struggles like kids worldwide.

This is the kind of antisemitism that Jews have to live through that is accepted by the enlightened world of book publishers, teachers and public school systems. 

(h/t Mattis)

Buy the EoZ book, PROTOCOLS: Exposing Modern Antisemitism  today at Amazon!

Or order from your favorite bookseller, using ISBN 9798985708424. 

Read all about it here!