Alone Togeth­er on Dan Street

Eri­ca Lyons; Jen Jamieson, illus.

By – April 28, 2022

Mira and her fam­i­ly begin prepar­ing for Passover just as they have done every year, but they know this year will be dif­fer­ent from pre­ced­ing ones. In the past, extend­ed fam­i­ly and friends have joined Mira and her fam­i­ly at a live­ly, busy seder where they sang togeth­er, ate togeth­er, and cel­e­brat­ed their his­to­ry in a vibrant, live­ly atmosphere.

This year is dif­fer­ent. It is the first win­ter of the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic, and no one is per­mit­ted to social­ize or gath­er in groups; every­one must stay in their own homes. Mira real­izes that many of her neigh­bors live alone and, for them, cel­e­brat­ing at home with­out guests means cel­e­brat­ing in soli­tude. She moves her prac­tic­ing of the tra­di­tion­al Four Ques­tions out onto the bal­cony and begins talk­ing to the neigh­bors sit­ting out on their balconies.

Soon, a new seder plan emerges as each fam­i­ly invites oth­ers to con­sid­er the idea of bal­cony songs to be sung togeth­er from their own homes, yet some­how each as part of a com­mu­ni­ty. They can share their voic­es and their joy with oth­ers, singing with spir­it and verve, while show­ing their strong vibrant con­nec­tions with one anoth­er. This Passover may not be typ­i­cal, but it is very spe­cial and will be long remem­bered by the res­i­dents of Dan Street with a nos­tal­gic smile.

A note to fam­i­lies informs the read­er that this sce­nario occurred all over Israel dur­ing the pandemic’s first year. Rem­i­nis­cences abound about the way mem­bers of Israeli soci­ety reached out to the peo­ple around them that night, step­ping out onto their bal­conies and into their court­yards, singing and inter­act­ing with those under dif­fer­ent roofs but under the same sky. Song was heard that night in the cities and towns through­out Israel. This love­ly book, with its evoca­tive col­or illus­tra­tions of Israeli scenes, tells a heart­warm­ing and accu­rate sto­ry that encap­su­lates the spir­it of Israel and of Israelis who tru­ly know how to share and care.

Michal Hoschan­der Malen is the edi­tor of Jew­ish Book Coun­cil’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A for­mer librar­i­an, she has lec­tured on top­ics relat­ing to lit­er­a­cy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.

Discussion Questions

Young Mira is iso­lat­ed at home with her fam­i­ly on Dan Street in Jerusalem dur­ing the ear­ly months of the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic. Her usu­al activ­i­ties are sus­pend­ed – no school, no play­dates, no art class­es. Soon it will be Passover, but it doesn’t feel like it with no guests allowed. Mira, the youngest in her house, must start learn­ing the Four Ques­tions. Every room is occu­pied, so Mira goes out to the bal­cony to prac­tice. As she sings the ques­tions out into the emp­ty street, her elder­ly next door neigh­bor, Mr. Blum, starts singing with her from his bal­cony. Every day they prac­tice the Four Ques­tions together.

It is not long before Mira is think­ing about all the neigh­bors along Dan Street who are alone for Passover. She cre­ates an invi­ta­tion for each of them. Let’s sing togeth­er at our bal­cony seders” it says. At the appoint­ed time, all of Dan Street’s voic­es, young and old, loud and soft, are heard singing all over Jerusalem. No one was togeth­er, but no one was alone.”

Eri­ca Lyons’ ele­gant text cou­pled with Jen Jamieson’s evoca­tive draw­ings chron­i­cles a time when Judaism’s most uni­ver­sal hol­i­day tra­di­tion, the Passover seder, was moved onto bal­conies through­out Israel. Espe­cial­ly pow­er­ful is the agency Lyons gives to her young pro­tag­o­nist to be resilient, com­pas­sion­ate, and cre­ative in solv­ing a prob­lem for her community.