A Daugh­ter of Two Mothers

Miri­am Cohen; Sandy Bloom, trans.; Chana D. Sklar, ed.
  • Review
By – March 23, 2012

The title only hints at the length and breadth of this sto­ry, in which two shiny brass can­dle­sticks, a tallis, and a sewing machine, all rest­ing on a shelf in a Jerusalem home, sym­bol­ize an incred­i­ble loss. The read­er will learn what they rep­re­sent through the his­to­ry of Leah Fruchter. As a twelve-year-old, Leah is required to make a dif­fi­cult choice: should she con­tin­ue to live in the com­fort and secu­ri­ty she enjoys with the fam­i­ly that has adopt­ed her, or choose the pover­ty and strug­gle that she will face with the moth­er who gave her life and from whom she was tak­en as an infant. 

Although the title is true to the cen­tral event in Leah’s sto­ry, the book’s sec­ondary sub­ject is the tragedy of Hungary’s Jews, the destruc­tion of even more than those Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ties in which Leah spent her child­hood: Budapest the cap­i­tal city where she lived with her adop­tive fam­i­ly, and Sevlus, the shtetl in which she lived and worked beside her birth moth­er. The atten­tion to detail with which the dra­ma unfolds, the lov­ing depic­tion of each and every char­ac­ter, the dili­gence with which each scene is paint­ed seem to rep­re­sent the author’s long­ing glance back­ward at a com­mu­ni­ty that hatred wiped out. 

The writ­ing is flu­ent and expres­sive, but the flow of words is some­times too copi­ous. The fact that this mem­oir was ini­tial­ly a week­ly ser­i­al might explain its some­what repet­i­tive qual­i­ty. Old pho­tographs of peo­ple and places are sprin­kled through­out the book, as are notes about the ter­ri­ble fates that befell some of the wor­thi­est peo­ple one could hope to meet.

Claire Rudin is a retired direc­tor of the New York City school library sys­tem and for­mer librar­i­an at the Holo­caust Resource Cen­ter and Archives in Queens, NY. She is the author of The School Librar­i­an’s Source­book and Chil­dren’s Books About the Holocaust.

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