Jerusalem Maid­en

  • Review
By – August 25, 2011
Esther Kamin­sky is a young ultra-Ortho­dox girl liv­ing in Jerusalem dur­ing the dark and dan­ger­ous Ottoman rule of the ear­ly 1900’s. Her exis­tence depends on her ful­fill­ing her oblig­a­tions of mar­riage and pro­cre­ation to has­ten the com­ing of the Mes­si­ah. Each and every moment, action, and thought in her life is pre­or­dained, pro­scribed, and dic­tat­ed by the strict reli­gious para­me­ters of her com­mu­ni­ty, and Esther Kamin­sky feels trapped.

She is trapped by her faith, fam­i­ly, and adher­ence to her reli­gion. She is trapped by her pas­sion, sen­si­tiv­i­ty, and intel­lect. She is trapped by her oblig­a­tions. She is trapped by her sen­su­al­i­ty and artis­tic tal­ents. She is trapped by being born a female. The book chron­i­cles her inter­nal and exter­nal strug­gles with these issues through­out her life of tur­moil, love, and tragedy. She wres­tles end­less­ly with con­stant entice­ments while strain­ing to escape, explore, and expe­ri­ence the world out­side her faith.

Talia Carn­er uses beau­ti­ful lan­guage, exquis­ite sto­ry­telling, and detailed research to trans­port the read­er into the world of old Jerusalem. The city’s sounds, smells, and sights are woven into the nar­ra­tive. Read­ers of many gen­er­a­tions and back­grounds will be able to rec­og­nize and relate to the cus­toms, rela­tion­ships, and fam­i­lies that form the fas­ci­nat­ing set­ting for Esther’s life.

Jerusalem Maid­en is a saga, a his­to­ry, and a dra­mat­ic and hope­ful love sto­ry that also moves through the excit­ing art world of ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry Paris and mod­ern day Israel. It deals with women’s roles and rights, loves, mar­riages, chil­dren, and the ques­tion of how to live a rec­on­ciled life with­in a com­mu­ni­ty. This is a book to savor and dis­cuss while con­tem­plat­ing Esther Kaminsky’s choic­es as a Jerusalem Maiden.

Reni­ta Last is a mem­ber of the Nas­sau Region of Hadassah’s Exec­u­tive Board. She has coor­di­nat­ed the Film Forum Series for the Region and served as Pro­gram­ming and Health Coor­di­na­tors and as a mem­ber of the Advo­ca­cy Committee.

She has vol­un­teered as a docent at the Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al and Tol­er­ance Cen­ter of Nas­sau Coun­ty teach­ing the all- impor­tant lessons of the Holo­caust and tol­er­ance. A retired teacher of the Gift­ed and Tal­ent­ed, she loves par­tic­i­pat­ing in book clubs and writ­ing projects.

Discussion Questions