Book Selections by
the Dorothy Kaplan Book Discussion Group
June 20, 2013
1:00 - 2:00 pm
kripke jewish federation library
By ruth gruber
is the story of one thousand refugees brought to the United States as "guests" of the government by order of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Ruth Gruber was the person sent to Europe in 1944 while the war and the Holocaust raged with the mission to accompany the refugees to the United States. While on a Liberty ship bound for America, the group faced the ever-present danger of Nazi attack by air or by sea. Most of the refugees were Jews, but there were also many Protestants, Catholics, and Greek Orthodox who fled eighteen countries overrun by Hitler.
Upon their arrival in America they experienced the feeling of relief and the joy of freedom. But soon the refugees faced shock when they began their new lives in an internment camp behind a barbed wire fence. Ruth Gruber helped them deal with this initial shock and face many struggles, including that of getting the children enrolled in schools.
This is the inside story of the efforts of Roosevelt to circumvent the quotas on refugees that had been imposed. Haven
reveals the role of the State Department, Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes, Eleanor Roosevelt, Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, Jr. and Rabbi Stephen S. Wise in opening the doors of America to those ravaged by war.
In the telling, Ruth Gruber reveals the pains, the joys, and the mourning for
those who perished that she shared with the thousand refugees. The book captures the spirit of the people, their courage, resourcefulness, and indomitability. It is a story told with passion by the person who lived it.
Ruth Gruber is an award-winning Jewish-American journalist, photographer, and humanitarian. She was born in Brooklyn in 1911 and is the author of nineteen books, including the National Jewish Book Award-winning biography, "Raquela" (1978).
July 18, 2013
1:00 - 2:00 pm
kripke jewish federation library
A Thread of Grace
Mary Doria Russell
The date is September 8, 1943. The location is the Alps near Italy. The situation is that Italy has broken with Germany and signed a separate peace with the Allies. Fourteen year-old Claudette, suitcase in hand, is rapidly trying to learn Italian as she and her father and thousands of Jewish refugees are scrambling over the Alps toward Italy where they hope to find safety from the Germans. But Italy offers little safety. It becomes an open battleground for the Nazis, Allies, resistance fighters, Jews in hiding, and Italian civilians trying to survive.
It is in this background that Mary Doria Russell brings forth her first historical novel by tacing the lives of a handful of fascinating characters - a charismatic Italian resistance leader, a priest, an Italian rabbi's family, a disillusioned German doctor. Russell tells the little-known but true story of the vast underground effort of the Italian citizens who saved the lives of 43,000 Jews during the final phase of the war.
In one on-line reviewing service, The Thread of Grace received a 3.97 rating out of 5 stars from a total of 844 reviewers. One reviewer commented, "For once I was thoroughly able to enjoy a historical fiction book without wondering what was real and what was fiction. This is a character driven story and everyone in the book seemed genuine. I especially enjoyed the poignant sensibilities of the children and adolescents."
Mary Doria Russell is the author of additional novels, "The Sparrow" and "Children of God." She is trained as a paleoanthropologist (the study of ancient humans as found in fossil hominid evidence such as petrified bones and footprints) and has written scientific articles on subjects ranging from bone biology to cannibalism. She lives in Cleveland, Ohio, with her husband and their son.
August 15, 2013
1:00 - 2:00 PM
KRIPKE JEWISH FEDERATION LIBRARy
THE ZOOKEEPER'S WIFE
Polish Christian zookeepers Jan and Antonina Zabinski were horrified by Nazi racism. They managed to save over three hundred people - yet their story has fallen between the seams of history. In drawing from Antonina's diary, best-selling naturalist author Diane Ackerman vividly re-creates Antonia's life.
As "the zookeepers wife," Antonina became responsible not only for her own family and the zoo animals but also for their "Guests" - resistance activists and refugee Jews. Many of the Jews had escaped from the Warsaw ghetto. Ironically, the empty zoo cages helped hide scores of doomed people who were code-named after the animals whose cages they occupied. Others hid in the nooks and crannies of the house itself.
More than a story of refuge and protection, Ackerman's sensity to the natural world explores the role of nature in both kindness and savagery as she unravels the fascinating and disturbing obsession at the core of Nazism: both a worship of nature and its violation as humans sought to control everything that was a part of planet.
Ackerman is the author of the best-selling book A Natural History of the Senses and other nonfiction works as well as poetry. Her works have appeared in National Geographic, The New Yorker, the New York Times, Smithsonian, Parade, and elsewhere. She lives in upstate New York.
Meetings are on the third Thursday of every month in the Kripke Jewish Federation Library from 1:00 - 2:00 pm. There is no charge. New participants are welcome. Contact Shirly Banner at (402) 334-6462 or email@example.com
with questions or to make arrangements to obtain a book.