The Cuckoo Clock – Chapter 68

August 31, 2020

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 68 of a new online serial novel, The Cuckoo Clock, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

“Is this the Potolsky residence? Is one of your parents at home? Okay, so please leave a message that Meir Rosenblit, the lawyer from Ramat Gan, called. Tell them that I found out some information on the subject… Yes, they know what I’m talking about, of course. So please tell them that after making some inquiries, I understand that Korman in Australia had a business partner who worked very closely with him on all his decisions. So they should try to speak to him, and perhaps he can shed some light on this whole matter. His name is…”


Dear Mrs. Hartstein,

As per your request, I continued making inquiries at the offices of the Jewish organization, U’shemartem, in the United States. I learned that the apartment that was raffled off is actually located in Jerusalem, and a family named Kushner, from Philadelphia, was the winner. From a perusal of the correspondence of the organization, I understand that the Kushner family agreed to keep the win a secret, because someone contacted the organization with the unusual request that they announce that the Potolsky family of Bnei Brak had won (without a raffle) a different apartment. This person’s name did not appear anywhere, and it was likely erased as part of his contract with the organization. In addition, there was no mention of the size of the donation that he gave the organization in exchange for their agreement to this. But from the information I have amassed, I learned that he is Australian, and he lives in Sydney. Based on the investigations I have done, allow me to venture that he is the former partner of Mr. Alexander Korman, whose name is…


“You, again?!” Emmanuel literally shouted. “Leave me alone, Potolsky! Just leave me already! Stop chasing me all day and all night. What do you want from me? I didn’t do anything bad to you!”

Chalilah,” Eliyahu said. He’d incidentally emerged at that moment from the elevator on the second floor of the senior citizens’ home. “We never said such a thing. And honestly, I didn’t plan to meet you here, Emmanuel, so you can’t say I’m chasing you, and certainly not all day and all night. We met totally by chance.”

“Chance, chance, chance,” the man sneered scornfully. Excited yipping from the bag that he held accompanied his words – but provided a rather discordant note. “So what are you doing here, huh?”

“I came with my father-in-law,” Eliyahu said, pointing with his chin to the room. “He spent the day with us, and now he’s coming back here.”

“Oh, you came with him? So where is he now?”

“He’s in his room already, with my wife. I was delayed downstairs, leaving a message at the receptionist for your in-house doctor.”

“So he was in your penthouse today, or what? Ingrates.”

Chalilah,” Eliyahu said. “We don’t mean to make light of what you did for us, Emmanuel. Because of those tickets you sold to my father-in-law, we won an apartment.”

“Yes,” Emmanuel said, slowly releasing his breath. “So you remember that.”

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NEW RELEASE: Bricks and Stones

August 27, 2020

Bricks and Stones

Tenth grade. Just hearing the words is enough to send PTSD symptoms to a person.

For the uninitiated, “tenth grade,” at least for many teenage girls, is synonymous with peer pressure, class politics, cliques, and all that fun stuff. On top of an incredible and stressful amount of schoolwork, of course.

Not the most pleasurable year for many.

Unless, of course, you’ve got your priorities straight and have some semblance of self-knowledge. Then you’re on a whole different track, and you could even skip this whole blog post.

But if you’re like many frum fifteen-year-old girls, you’ll likely find lots of comfort and familiarity in Rachel Ahuva (Rara) Brick, the protagonist in beloved author Ariella Schiller’s newest novel, Bricks and Stones. Rara is talented, adorable, and much loved among her family and friends in Brownsfeld…until her parents spring the news that their family will be moving. To hotsy-totsy Stonesworth, with its glamour and glitz and focus on externals. Oh, and with a certain Tamara Fine among its residents.

What follows is lots of action and angst and heart-wrenching decisions, and lots of painful lessons learned.

But if you know Ariella Schiller’s writing, you know that even the deepest DMCs and most poignant epiphanies and experiences in her stories are tempered by her humor, so that while your heart is bleeding for Rara’s sense of loss and confusion, you’re also grinning goofily at the Brick gang’s off-the-cuff quips and their escapades.

If you’re looking for a beautifully written book, with incredibly relatable characters, a great plot, and lots of deep lessons for life, look no further than the book that’s got it all: Bricks and Stones.

Just saying.


Click here to purchase online.

The Cuckoo Clock – Chapter 67

August 24, 2020

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 67 of a new online serial novel, The Cuckoo Clock, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

Magdiel, Israel 1949

Gustav gaped in fascination at the large bundle that the woman was holding. “Please,” she choked out. “They told me that here, at Lucius Jan’s orphanage, you will agree to take him. There’s payment here for you… He’s already two and a half, sir, and his name is Yosef Ludmir.” She gazed one last time at the bundle. Gustav rose up on his tiptoes, but he couldn’t see anything. “Ludmir.”

Theodore locked the gate and took the little boy, wrapped up in the blankets. Gustav lingered at the gate, and the woman remained standing on the other side. “You are a Jew,” she whispered to him. “And you promised to help watch him. You promised.” She fumbled in her coat and took out a piece of paper. “Give this to him, to my Yosef, after the war ends. His details are written here, along with the address of his uncles in Eretz Yisrael, in Magdiel. He should go to them.”

She waved the piece of paper in front of his eyes until it blocked Gustav’s entire field of vision, including Yosef’s mother. But he knew she was there. He heard her screaming: “Why didn’t you give it to him? Why didn’t you tell him?”

“I wanted to tell him!” Gustav cried, tossing in his bed in Magdiel. “But I couldn’t find him. And then…then…”

“Why didn’t you tell him?! Why did you go in his place?!”

The wind suddenly swirled around him, carrying the voice far away, and Gustav continued twisting and turning in his bed.

“Yosef?” The hand that suddenly rested on his forehead halted his tortured movements. The light that hung from the ceiling sent yellow rays directly into his eyes.

“Enough!” he said, covering his eyes with his hands. “Enough, enough!”

“Yosef.” Gershon hugged him. “Is everything okay?”

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The Cuckoo Clock – Chapter 66

August 17, 2020

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 66 of a new online serial novel, The Cuckoo Clock, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

“I’m having lots of different feelings, Abba.” Elisheva tasted the soup, nodded to herself, and rinsed the spoon. Her father sat at her kitchen table, after they had been to the orthopedist together. “When this good fortune began to smile on us, I was very surprised. I was happy, of course, and I thanked Hashem, and that was it. Then I began to suspect that something was going on, and after that I assured myself that I was just being suspicious. But then, after a day or two, I decided that my suspicions were actually very well founded. And I started to feel frustrated and annoyed that someone was playing around with us like this. Then I decided to look at the whole thing as just very funny.” She served her father a bowl of soup, with minimal salt as per his diet. “So what do you think, Abba?”

“It’s always good to laugh,” he said hoarsely. “It took me time to learn… Thanks for the soup.”

“You, Abba? Learned to laugh?” When had her father last laughed?

“No?” He was surprised at her answer.

She was quiet for a minute, thinking. “A bit,” she admitted. Her father was not, and had never been, very talkative. He certainly did not have a highly developed sense of humor. But…yes…he was almost always in good spirits. He was perpetually optimistic, and, come to think of it, he certainly had a very distinct laugh, whenever he allowed it to emerge. It was like a short, endearing burst of laughter, and even the children liked to imitate it.

“I began my life at the end of the war, you know,” he said suddenly. “I hardly remember what was before that.”

“During the war you were in a dormitory or something, right?” She knew so little about her father! And that was a lot compared to what he knew about his father. Or his mother. Or about himself. Nothing, and more of nothing.

“Yes. It was actually a Catholic orphanage. I had a friend there. A Jewish boy.” He breathed deeply. “The only other Jew besides me. We were smuggled out together.”

“To Janek and Ulush Cohen’s house?”

“Yes.” He turned the spoon over in the bowl, like a child refusing to eat. “Then we got separated.”


“A short time after they took us out of the orphanage. We each came to Israel alone.”

Elisheva nodded, treasuring these rare moments when her father, of his own accord, just sat and spoke, without her having to extract every detail and every word.

“And for me he was…the only one from the past.”

“Was he a relative?”

“I don’t think so.” He took a few spoonfuls of soup before he continued, “But he was my link to the past. When he left, I was just…” He surprised her with a metaphor which, although clichéd, was very apt: “Like a leaf without roots.”

“So why didn’t you try to meet? To keep up with each other?” Elisheva looked at her father, who had risen to put his bowl in the sink. She ignored the incessant ringing of both her house phone and her cell phone.

He didn’t respond; he just sat back down to make a brachah acharonah. “I thought he wouldn’t want to,” he said heavily, when he finished. “But maybe I made a mistake about that.”

“And you never traced any roots.”

“No. You know that.” He raised his head as though he wanted to tell her something else, and then lowered it again, apparently regretting it. And then he added in a low voice, “But my rebbi taught me to be happy this way, too. Because when a Jew does what he has to do, it doesn’t matter through which branch he draws his strength.”

“Because we’re connected to the ground this way, too.” She nodded, familiar with this idea, and then asked, “This metaphor, that the branch doesn’t really matter, also comes from your rebbi?”

“No. Ima, alehah hashalom, told that to me.”

“It’s nice.”

“Your mother was good with words like that.” And with that remark, a smile – and even a short laugh – he ended the conversation. He went into the little room, which would become his own private suite whenever he decided to officially move in with them, and Elisheva was able to check her phone.

“I have news that is more urgent than urgent!” That was one of the four messages that Blumi had left her, after three calls that had not been answered. “Get back to me right away, Elisheva!”

Elisheva went over to the vegetable drawer to get potatoes to cook up for mashed potatoes, calling Blumi as she went.


“What’s doing, Blumi?”

Baruch Hashem, baruch Hashem. Listen, they got back to me from the private investigator’s office. Did I tell you two days ago that I contacted them?”

“No. A private investigator? I didn’t mean for you to invest so much in this, Blumi.”

“Don’t worry about it. It’s chump change for me. I also didn’t ask for any serious investigation or surveillance, just for some answers to a few of my questions.”

“Which questions?”

“First question: exactly how lucid was Alexander Korman in his last year of life? Second question: were his deceased parents really named Peretz and Tziporah Genendel? And third question: were they killed in the war?”

Had the potatoes she was holding have been cooked, they would have long been turned to mush between Elisheva’s fingers. “Nu?!”

“First answer: not at all. Second answer: not at all. Third answer: not at all.”


Magdiel, Israel, 1949


Batya returned to Magdiel alone.

Gershon returned four days later, together with the boy.

He had remained at the feverish boy’s bedside for three days. During the day Gershon had paced around the room; on rare occasions he went into the hospital courtyard to smoke. At night he had dozed on the chair near the bed. On the third morning, the boy’s fever finally went down, the coughing eased, and toward lunchtime, his eyes began following Gershon as the latter paced around the room while keeping a close eye on the bed in the corner.

“You are not Janek…” the boy said in a hoarse voice, when Gershon returned to him.

“Janek?” Gershon pulled back the wooden chair that served him faithfully day and night. “Who is Janek?”

“The man from Bratislava…”

“Are you from there?”

The boy did not react. He closed his eyes again.

“Sir, are you from the orphanage?” A short male nurse entered the room. “The boy is being released tomorrow morning. Please tell the management that he needs good food and rest, and make sure that he gets it. Will you be able to give him a quiet room and some good care until he recovers completely? He came back pretty fast after last time.”

“I’m not from the orphanage.” Gershon stroked the boy’s cool forehead. “And I have no idea what they can do. But it is possible that I will be able to arrange a quiet room and good care for him. I need to speak to the director there about it.” He sat down on the chair and leaned forward. His fingers played with the edge of the boy’s blanket. The child – Yosef? – stared back at him. He wasn’t totally focused, but there was some alertness and interest in his gaze. The nurse left the room and Gershon shifted on the chair, rocking back and forth, humming quietly. Did Ernie, Hashem yinkom damo, also used to sing their father’s Kah Ribbon?

No reaction. The boy had closed his eyes weakly again.

What do you want? he chastised himself. Even if Ernie sang this song at home, and even if this Yosef is really his child, he was too young to remember the tune. True, music is something that penetrates very deeply, but if the boy was born in the middle of the war, which is likely, his father probably did not have time to sit and sing to him.

Nothing more happened that day; the boy did not make any sign that the tune was familiar, nor did he offer any more information. But by the next day, Gershon had obtained permission from the orphanage to take the boy home with him, and the two set out for the house in Magdiel.

“I couldn’t leave him there,” Gershon told Batya late that night, when the boy was safely ensconced in a soft, warm bed. Gershon had spread two thick woolen blankets on the wide wooden bench for himself. “And in the hospital they warned me not to burden him with anything that could slow his recovery. So I haven’t asked him anything yet, but—”  He tugged at his left ear. “He’s a sweet boy who is so alone…whether he is Ernie’s son or not. And my heart tells me that he is.”

Batya nodded. She didn’t point out that the country was full of sweet, lonely children. Why bother? Gershon wanted to take care of this boy for now, and if that would quiet some of his anguish, then of course she would support the idea.

A sharp cough came from the boy’s room, and Gershon abandoned his bench, letting the blankets slide to the floor.

The boy was lying there with his eyes open, staring at the figure that had entered the room. “You are from Bratislava,” he said in Slovakian. He looked more alert than any other time they had conversed.

“That’s right,” Gershon said, as he straightened the boy’s pillow.

“Do you know me?” The boy’s eyes shone, and his forehead was not burning up.

“I …I think I might know you.” Gershon spoke cautiously, following the boy’s reaction. “Or more accurately, your family.”

“My family?”

Gershon’s breaths became rapid. “Maybe…maybe your father.”

He sat up at once. “My father? Where do you know him from?”

“Maybe we’ll talk about it tomorrow. You should rest a bit more now…”

“No. Not tomorrow.” The boy reclined again. “Please tell me now.”

Gershon sat down on the edge of the bed and held the pale, thin hand in his own. “My name is Gershon Ludmir,” he said quietly, acutely aware that it might be better to do this in another day or two. But he just. Could. Not. Wait. And the boy, apparently, couldn’t either.

“Ludmir!” The boy’s eyes grew round. He stared at Gershon, and suddenly burst into tears. “Your name is Ludmir…” He gasped. “That’s why you said you know me? And…how did you know to come to the hospital?”

“Because you said…” Gershon whispered, noticing out of the corner of his eye that Batya was peeking into the room. “You said, ‘Yosef Ludmir.’ Do you remember?”

The boy didn’t react. He just sat there, sobbing hysterically. Slowly his weeping began to subside, until suddenly, he became totally silent and put his head back on the pillow. He lay with his eyes closed and breathed deeply, as though he had fallen asleep.

“Are you alright?” Gershon asked, stroking the child’s cheek with his finger.

The boy didn’t move. He just opened his eyes for a minute and then closed them again. “Ludmir,” he said.

“Do you know Yosef Ludmir?” Gershon softly pressed the boy’s palm. “Maybe…it’s you?”

A long silence hung in the room, which remained unbroken even when, an endless few seconds later, the boy nodded.

The Cuckoo Clock – Chapter 65

August 10, 2020

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 65 of a new online serial novel, The Cuckoo Clock, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

“I’ve hardly found anything, Mr. Ludmir.” Leonid had landed back in Sydney after spending eight days searching intensively in Bratislava. Within an hour, he was in Joe’s office. “Not about Edo and not about Gustav.”

“I thought that was the situation when you didn’t update me about anything. So, was it hardly anything, or nothing at all?”

“The only thing that I found was a list of the children in the institution, where these two names appear. Next to them is the same family name – Heinke.”

“Heinke? That means that…”

“No, they are probably not brothers. One of the directors there, or perhaps the assistant director—from the lists it was hard to figure out what his exact position was—was named Theodore Heinke. Apparently he wrote his family name for these two children, just for bureaucratic purposes.”

“I know that they are not brothers.” Joe Ludmir leaned his chin on his palm. Brothers… If only he would have had a real brother, everything would have been very different. Elisha was like a brother to him, true. He had been the first to emigrate to far-off Australia, and from there, in a genuinely brotherly fashion, he had invited Joe to follow. Until then, earning a living had been so difficult. Here, he had become Elisha’s partner in the first shoe store. Afterward Elisha had left Sydney and sold him the store with its inventory, and he had remained in the city together with his wife, Martha. This was where his success had burgeoned.

But perhaps Sydney had not been the beginning of his success. Perhaps success had begun to break through on that long-ago day, so many years earlier. The day when, without any warning, he had gone from being a lone child to a member of a loving family.

“There were no birthdates recorded, only the year when they arrived and their approximate ages. The boy named Gustav came two years before Edo, and he was then about three. Edo came a year before the war ended, and he was about two and a half, at least according to the estimate of the directors.”

“I know all that already. You didn’t find any information beyond that?”

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The Cuckoo Clock – Chapter 64

August 3, 2020

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 64 of a new online serial novel, The Cuckoo Clock, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

Magdiel, Israel 1949

The curtain with the embroidered flowers fluttered in the light morning breeze. Gershon Ludmir was smearing a bit of Batya’s apple jam on a slice of black bread when there was a knock at the door. Batya entered, pulling almost-three-year-old Elisha behind her. “He was crying again,” she said. “The teacher said I should take him home.” She sat the child onto her lap with a scowl on her face and sighed. “What can I do? Berta Greenberg will not be very pleased if I bring him to the sewing shop for the fifth day in a row!”

“I wanna go with Abba to the tractor,” the boy declared enthusiastically.

His father chuckled, and offered his son some jam on a spoon. “No, sweetie. We can’t do that. Tractors are dangerous for little boys.”

“Too bad summer vacation is over. When Miriam was home, there was no problem.” Batya stood up, went over to the pot of soup she’d left, and opened the lid. “If he doesn’t get used to nursery quickly, I won’t be able to go to work.”

“Maybe that will be a good solution,” Gershon said. “I’m not sure your salary is worth the whole thing. When you were sewing at home, alone, you earned more, didn’t you?”

“But how many people come to Magdiel for a private seamstress?” she murmured. “Berta Greenberg works with stores, so it’s better.”

“So you can work with stores also. We’ll buy lots of fabric, if you need it. And a new machine.”

“My Singer is excellent; we don’t need a new one.” Batya tapped her wooden spoon on the side of the pot, letting the thick droplets of soup fall back inside. Then she put the lid back on. “But to sew on an industrial scale, we would need a lot of capital. I mean, how much material can we afford to buy?”

He was quiet for a minute, before saying heavily, “We can take, for now…maybe as a loan, a little bit of Ernie’s money. Even if we take only a quarter of what he sent…”

She gaped at him. Not because he’d mentioned Ernie; the name came up a lot at home. But because of the very idea.

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