An Extra Seat

Shmuel Herzfeld
  • Review
By – September 14, 2017

An Extra Seat by Shmuel Herzfeld | Jew­ish Book Coun­cil

This sto­ry cen­ters around Sovi­et Jews’ strug­gle to leave the Sovi­et Union, against great odds, to find a bet­ter life in Israel, and the Amer­i­can Jews who ral­lied to sup­port them. 

In 1977, Ana­toly Sha­ran­sky (now known as Natan Sha­ran­sky), a leader among Sovi­et Jews in their fight to get to Israel, was arrest­ed due to an alle­ga­tion that he was col­lab­o­rat­ing with the CIA. A young rab­bi in New York, Avi Weiss, encour­aged his con­gre­ga­tion to plead for Sharansky’s release. Weiss set off a rip­ple effect: Sarah, a young girl in his con­gre­ga­tion set an extra place at her birth­day par­ty table for Sha­ran­sky. Soon, Sarah’s friends start­ed leav­ing extra seats at their Shab­bat din­ners and hol­i­day cel­e­bra­tions. Joseph, anoth­er con­gre­gant, wore a sil­ver bracelet with the name of anoth­er Pris­on­er of Zion,” as Jews impris­oned for Zion­ist activ­i­ty were called. Soon, stu­dents in his school followed. 

After Sharansky’s wife spoke about her husband’s hunger strike, Rab­bi Weiss also went on a hunger strike. In 1983, tens of thou­sands of peo­ple ral­lied in front of the Unit­ed Nations in sup­port of Sharansky’s cause. Final­ly, after nine long years of protests, in 1986, Sha­ran­sky was freed!

The sto­ry of Sha­ran­sky and the oth­er pris­on­ers of Zion, and the peo­ple that sup­port­ed them so pow­er­ful­ly, reminds us that every­one has the pow­er to change the world through ide­al­ism and activism. This book should be read in Jew­ish schools and youth groups across the coun­try to inspire chil­dren (and their par­ents!) to protest against injustice. 

The uplift­ing sto­ry is enhanced by col­or­ful illus­tra­tions. It is rec­om­mend­ed for chil­dren ages 7 – 12.

Sandy Lan­ton, a for­mer teacher, earned a BA in Psy­chol­o­gy and an MS in Ear­ly Child­hood Edu­ca­tion from Queens Col­lege. She is the author of Daddy’s Chair (Syd­ney Tay­lor Award), The Hap­py Hack­ers, Lots Of Latkes, Still a Fam­i­ly: A Young Child’s Book About Divorce (Git­tle Hon­or­able Men­tion), and The Lit­tlest Levine (named one of the best Jew­ish Children’s Books of 2014 by Tablet Mag­a­zine). Her work has appeared in mag­a­zines as well as sev­er­al antholo­gies. When she isn’t writ­ing sto­ries or vis­it­ing schools, Ms. Lan­ton likes to cro­chet, line dance, play bridge and pick­le­ball, spend time with her grandchil­dren, and read, read, read.

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