Beneath the Surface – Chapter 12

June 30, 2011

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 12 of a new online serial novel, Beneath the Surface, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every Thursday or Friday. Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © 2011 by Israel Bookshop Publication

Chani finished the conversation with her sister and walked out of the room, passing the nurses’ station. True, she had seen the baby just an hour ago, but even that was too long for her. For her own peace of mind, she had to see how he was doing, up close. She entered the nursery, passing rows and rows of screaming babies.

One of the nurses greeted her at the entrance to the neonatal unit. “How are you Chani?” she asked. “Don’t come every minute! You’ve got to rest!”

“Not every minute…” Chani said with a wan smile as she peeked into the incubator on the left side. “It’s been fifty minutes since I was last here!”

“My, what a long time ago that was!” the nurse said with a laugh and moved out of the way. “Come as much as you want. For the baby, it’s excellent. The question is, what’s with you?”

“For me it’s also excellent,” Chani said and slipped inside. Most of the nurses here knew her well. After all, she’d parted from them tearfully just a year and a half ago.

She bent over the miniscule face, and a wave of love overwhelmed her. The tiny closed eyes twitched for a second, but didn’t open. “Sleep, darling, sleep well,” Chani whispered, stroking the thin wrist with her pinky. “You need to grow, and b’ezras Hashem you’ll have a lot of koach!”

“Oh!” Chani suddenly heard an exclamation to her right. An unfamiliar-looking nurse opened the drawer of cloth diapers. “Is that your son? He’s our ‘giant’ in the ward now! One kilo, eight-hundred-eighty grams—bli ayin hara!” Keep Reading…

Beneath the Surface – Chapter 11

June 24, 2011

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 11 of a new online serial novel, Beneath the Surface, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every Thursday or Friday. Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © 2011 by Israel Bookshop Publication

“Menuchi? Letter for you!” Miriam tossed the envelope onto the table. “Hey, it’s in English? Do you have a pen-pal from abroad?”

“If you would take a closer look, you would see that it’s not an international letter,” Menuchi said, glancing at the sender’s name. “It says here it was sent from Tzefas. The stamp is local and so is the postmark.”

“That’s all I need,” Miriam said, trying to sound plaintive, “to examine my sister’s mail…”

“I didn’t tell you to look at what’s inside,” Menuchi replied and tore the envelope open. A few stamps fell to the floor. “Just at the address on the envelope.” It was enough that by tomorrow morning four or five of Miriam’s friends would know that she had received a letter from Tzefas. She did not need them to know what it said. But what did it say? She extracted another sheet of paper from the envelope, forgetting about the stamps on the floor.

“And what’s this?” Miriam bent down. “Are you trading stamps with some anonymous person? I thought you’re too old for that. You gave me your collection, if you recall.”

“I didn’t forget,” Menuchi said as she folded the paper. She would read the note when she was alone in her room. “I didn’t forget at all. It shows, by the way, that I’m not such a bad sister, even if I don’t share every last one of my secrets with you, right?”

“Sure, but what about these stamps?”

Menuchi suppressed a sigh. She’d be better off giving an answer now if she wanted to get to her room in the next half an hour. “I lent someone money, and I guess she’s returning it.”

“Returning stamps? Very funny.”

“Not funny.” Menuchi fingered the paper in her pocket. “It’s a pretty accepted way to send money in the mail.”

Finally, she was sitting on the bed in the room she shared with Chaya’le and could read the letter. A dictionary rested on the bed near her, in case she wouldn’t understand something. But the words were quite simple.

Dear Menuchi,

English is not your mother tongue, nor is it my primary language, so I will be brief. I wanted to ask you something. If you remember, I mentioned on our trip (which I very much enjoyed in your company) that Judaism interests me recently and I have a lot of questions. Would you agree to answer me? If so, please send your letter to the address below. And before I forget, thanks for the bus fare. I hope the stamps arrived safely. Keep Reading…

Book Review – Learn Live Teach

June 23, 2011

Book review by C. B. Gavant

Imagine six seminary girls in Gateshead of the 1950s. It is the night of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, and they want to celebrate. Off they go to the recently opened kosher café in Newcastle for a cup of coffee, feeling very posh…only to discover, upon arriving, that they don’t have enough money for a piece of cake to accompany the coffee.

Modestly, humorously, Rebbetzin Esther Leah Avner regales us with tale after tale from her extraordinary life. Again and again, she surprises us with the strength of her personality and her unshakeable bitachon in Hashem, which shine through in the stories that fill her recently published book, Learn, Live, Teach: The Story of a Life (Brand Name Publishing, 2011).

But the story doesn’t start in England. Rebbetzin Avner was born in Belfast, Ireland, where her family was among the few Shabbos-observant Jews in town. She describes in vivid detail her personal introduction to anti-Semitism on the first day of public school as a lone 5-year-old Jewish girl in a class full of Irish Catholics, and the terrifying blitzkrieg period of World War II. She shares stories of her father’s earnest desire to bring Torah to the Jews in town, and of her gentle mother, the soul of honesty, who sought to protect her children from all harm, even at the expense of her own health.

Through a strange yet miraculous series of hashgachah pratis events that occurred when Esther Leah, at age 19, prepared to go to college, she found herself dispatched instead to the newly founded Gateshead Seminary, under the auspices of Mr. Avrohom Kohn.

Several years later, she married a Navardoker talmid learning in France. She didn’t discover, until after their wedding, that he spoke a fine English. Rabbi Gershon Liebman, their rosh yeshivah, had established the yeshivah immediately after the war, intent on educating young Jews in the Navardok style of minimal gashmiyus and complete bitachon. Esther Leah Avner immediately began to teach in the newly established seminary in Fublaines, putting her years in Gateshead to good use.

In one page-turning chapter after another, Esther Leah Avner faithfully records her adventures as the wife of a Navardoker traveling the world on behalf of the yeshivah. “Once I was accused of being a spy,” she announces with aplomb, and “I own only one precious photo of my chasan and myself, and it was a miracle that I procured even that one.”

Later in life, when Esther Leah meets Rav Avigdor Miller, zt”l, she feels an immediate affinity for this dignified, American-born rav, and she becomes an integral part of his communityan entire story on its own.

Rather than simply chronicling the past for posterity, Esther Leah Avner brings to life the people she’s known and the places she’s visited in a delightful, upbeat fashion. She retains her sense of humor despite many a difficult challenge and reveals facets to her personality that will resonate with her readers.

Learn, Live, Teach is a work that promises to inspire and uplift, educate and illuminate, just like its gifted author. It is a treat not frequently encountered in the library of Torah literature.

Click here to purchase online.

New Release – Circumstances

June 21, 2011

What is it about novels that have such a pull on people and their emotions?  Perhaps it is the break from everyday life that novels afford their readers. Or maybe it’s the enjoyment of gaining insight into other peoples’ thoughts and feelings, regardless as to whether those “people” are fictional or not, from the comfort and safety of one’s own living room couch.  Sometimes, though, there are novels that have the ability to open up new worlds and share a completely different perspective on something. These novels are no less captivating or entertaining, yet they impart a very profound message on all who read them.

Circumstances, by Chana Pincus, is one such novel.  It’s the story of an ordinary young woman who finds herself in a heartrendingly out-of-the-ordinary situation.  Shoshana’s a seminary graduate who lives in Eretz Yisroel with her husband and works in special education.  Typical enough, right?  But what even her neighbors and closest friends and relatives don’t know about her is that she is suffering in her marriage.

Her husband Elya isn’t a villain, which is what makes this book hit home so much more.  It’s not a wild fiction story where you will find out that Elya has some deep dark secrets.  Instead, we meet a man who is learning in kollel, but whose heart is in fact far away from that ideal. Unfortunately, Elya is determined to follow his heart—and he is too self-centered to ever consider his wife’s opinions and feelings along the way.

Their lives would have continued along this way, with Shoshana swallowing her tears and struggling to accept her lot, if not for one of her husband’s adventures that went awry, forcing her to really look at her life and decide that she could take no more. When she decides to divorce, she has to face a society that is slow to understand and quick to condemn.

I think if we are honest, we will all find bits of ourselves in the world the author presents in this book.  It’s eye-opening to look at the situation from Shoshana’s perspective.  There is nothing “empty” or “waste-your-time-while-you-read-it” about this novel. Besides for Circumstances being an interesting read, there is a whole lot to gain from it.

Click here to purchase online.

Beneath the Surface – Chapter 10

June 17, 2011

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 10 of a new online serial novel, Beneath the Surface, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every Thursday or Friday. Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © 2011 by Israel Bookshop Publication

“Jewish law and concepts have really begun to interest me in the recent past,” the foreign girl said slowly. “My fiancé comes from an Orthodox Jewish family. He himself does not observe Jewish law, but I would be interested in becoming a bit more familiar with his background. That is why I came for a visit here.”

“That’s a good idea,” Menuchi said, fumbling for what to say. “It really is.” She suddenly smiled. “I didn’t think you could be engaged already. You look so young!”

“I really am young…” The corners of the girl’s eyes crinkled when her broad smile crossed her face again. “I’m only twenty four. And you?”


The bus groaned as it chugged up the bottom of Shmuel Hanavi Street and Menuchi sought out someone who might be able to answer her question. “Excuse me,” she turned to a woman across the aisle. Something about the openness and self confidence emanating from the passenger on her left seemed to have rubbed off on her. “This girl needs to get to…” She peeked at the note the girl had given her, “Epstein’s Bakery in Meah Shearim. Could you tell me when she has to get off please?” Keep Reading…

Beneath the Surface – Chapter 9

June 10, 2011

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 9 of a new online serial novel, Beneath the Surface, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every Thursday or Friday. Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © 2011 by Israel Bookshop Publication

Half an hour later, a dark-haired figure walked through the entrance of the hotel. She went up to the third floor and knocked lightly at a door. Diana opened the door and proffered her hand. Lara scampered behind one of the armchairs.

“Lara,” Diana said sternly. The light-haired head shook behind the velour chair-back. “Lara, you’re not behaving politely. Miss Rosa only wants the best for you.”

Another movement from behind the chair was the only response. Diana sighed morosely.

“I’m sorry for the bother,” Rosa said, discomfited. “But if the child came back to you after having known you for all of half an hour, that says something. Children know how to recognize a warm heart.” She walked over to the velour armchair tentatively.

“Lara, it’s Rosa. I came to take you back.” She tried to make her voice sound smooth and soft, but a sudden hoarseness roughened it. “I’m waiting for you. Yesterday afternoon you played so nicely with Eva. If we get back early enough, you’ll have time to play some more.”

The child didn’t move.

Diana approached then. “This is not the way to treat guests, child,” she said very firmly, and pulled Lara in her floral dress out from behind the chair. “Miss Rosa is my guest. Tell her ‘hello’ with respect, please.”

The small back stiffened in defiance and the tightly pressed lips remained clamped shut.

“This is the way she’s been all week,” Rosa suddenly sobbed. “Since that dog left, she’s refused to speak to me or any other adult. She plays with the other children, but in almost complete silence.”

“She can stay here with me, until I return to London,” Diana said slowly, surprising even herself with the suggestion.

Rosa shook her head. “You’re really very kind and generous, Mrs. Mollis, but the child has to be among Jews. You understood that right away when you brought her to us. And besides,”—a small, crooked smile crossed her face—“Lara has an aunt. Someone from our office recognized the family name and was able to tell us that her mother had a sister who moved to Britain before the war. A few days ago, we sent a letter to her aunt and we are waiting for an answer. I wish all the children in our home would find relatives so easily.”

Rosa’s dark eyes rested pleadingly on Lara. “Won’t it be wonderful when your aunt comes to take you, Lara?” Keep Reading…

New Release! The Reporter

June 3, 2011

Another baal teshuvah story?

If that’s what you thought when you read the back cover of The Reporter, you’re both right and wrong. True, Koby Levy’s life story—which comprises Part 1 of the book—is the story of how he discovered Yiddeshkeit and what he did with that discovery. But you’re wrong on two account, because, number one, Levy’s “baal teshuvah” story is anything but “another baal  teshuvah story”—it is as atypical as it can get; and number two, what about the rest of the book??

Attention all readers out there: this book is chock full with the most amazing stories you’ve ever heard! Take, for example, the story of the Israeli soldier who, as a victim of a terrorist attack, has to live with a piece of shrapnel in his head—until something (we’re not telling what; that’s why you have to read the book!) forces it out… Or the strangest story ever about how a tzaddik of a person treated an emotionally unwell man…

I guess we should stop there, before we ruin the book for you… But take our word for it—this is one book that will provide you with hours of pleasure reading, and you’ll find yourself relating the stories to other people, too—until they decide to buy the book for themselves, as well…!

Click here to purchase online.

Beneath the Surface – Chapter 8

June 3, 2011

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 8 of a new online serial novel, Beneath the Surface, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every Thursday or Friday. Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © 2011 by Israel Bookshop Publication

Belgium, 1945

Rosa pulled back the polka-dotted curtain, and pale rays of sun beamed into the large room. “Good morning, darlings!” she chirped cheerfully, gently caressing a small cheek that was not yet dry from the night’s tears.

“How are you? How did you sleep?” She walked over to the second side of the room, partitioned off with a large cupboard. “Girls, it’s time to g—”  Her jaw dropped and then closed right away. The bed right behind the cupboard, which she had assigned to the new girl, Lara, was empty.

“She was here just twenty minutes ago!” Rosa murmured in puzzlement.

“She got up a few minutes ago. Suddenly, we heard barking from the window. She quickly got up and dressed and then left,” eight-year-old Evi whispered in a sleepy voice.

Rosa hastened out of the room and down the stairs. “Mira, please go up and help the little ones dress. One of my girls left!”

Thirteen-year-old Mira hurried up to the children’s room, while Rosa stopped on the ground floor, wondering where to go now. The door to the building wasn’t locked anymore, like it was at night, and she was afraid the girl had simply run away.

“Are you looking for that little girl? From your group?” elderly Mrs. Birenzweig asked from her perch near the table opposite the door, where she sat knitting. She served as the building’s de facto information officer, guard, first aid assistant, and a few other sundry positions. “She’s here, outside, with that huge dog. She promised me she’d stay near the entrance.”

Rosa walked out the door. “Lara?”

The girl did not raise her eyes. Rosa sighed and approached her. “You’re so quick, Lara! You got up and dressed so fast. Now come, we’re going to eat breakfast.”

Lara shrugged.

“Aren’t you hungry?” Rosa asked gently.

“He’s hungry,” the girl spoke for the first time, in a high-pitched voice.

“So come, we’ll go to the kitchen and ask the cook if she has anything for him. Would you like that?” Keep Reading…

NEW! The View from Ninveh

June 1, 2011

Hamodia and Binah readers adore her. With her unique style of writing—a rare combination of carefully crafted sentences, depth, and humor—she has found a place for herself in the hearts of all those who have a love for the written word. But up until recently, Batya Ruddell’s many fans had to suffice with just short stories, essays, and other individual pieces of their favorite author; she hadn’t ever come out with a book.

Enter Israel Bookshop, May, 2011 onto the scene—and the story (but not the style of writing!) changes. For just a few short weeks ago, Batya Ruddell debuted with her first book ever—The View from Ninveh, a captivating account of her experience while battling a horrific disease. As with all of her works, Batya’s medical drama, while poignant and tremendously inspiring, is far from depressing or morbid. Her delightful (and often downright whacky!) sense of humor is threaded through each of her many diary entries and emails, of which the book is comprised.

You’ll meet Mrs. Deborah Schechter, Batya’s editor-turned-friend/confidante, with whom she shares a unique long-distance relationship. (Actually, if you’re one of Batya’s avid Binah fans, you’ve probably already “met” Mrs. Schechter and discovered this zany but wonderful friendship between her and Batya!) You’ll get inside Batya’s head and heart, and will find yourself relating to her feelings as she is tossed about in a tempest of incredibly contrasting highs and lows during the most torturous seven months of her life.

Shavuos is a holiday of growth and joy. For those looking for a book that will provide them with all the right Yom Tov perspectives, as well as give them an immensely pleasurable reading experience, The View from Ninveh is the answer.

Click here to purchase online.

Here’s a little excerpt to whet your appetite:

From: Batya Ruddell
Sent: Sunday, November 22, 2009
To: Deborah Schechter

Good morning, dear,

Actually, you will still be sleeping (it’s 4:30 p.m. here) … I can never quite understand the concept of people across the world all doing different things at the same time.

I am very tired today and GREEN, like you can’t imagine. Keep reading…