Pri­vate Joel and the Sewell Moun­tain Seder

Bry­na J. Fire­side; Shawn Costel­lo, illus.
  • Review
By – February 13, 2012
This unusu­al Passover book is a work of his­tor­i­cal fic­tion, based on research con­duct­ed by the author about a group of Jew­ish sol­diers in the 23rd Ohio Reg­i­ment of the Union Army dur­ing the Civ­il War. The char­ac­ters and events are based on an actu­al soldier’s diary entry. The sol­diers are keen­ly aware of the sim­i­lar­i­ties between the Exo­dus and what they were try­ing to accom­plish— defend­ing their coun­try and free­ing the slaves. The author even added African Amer­i­cans to her imag­ined Seder, to acknowl­edge their impact on the out­come of the war. None of the sol­diers had ever pre­pared for a Seder before, since that was the job of their moth­ers and sis­ters. The book explains how they did their best with what they had. This sec­tion of the book reaps the ben­e­fits of the author’s exten­sive research, and does a remark­able job of mak­ing the expe­ri­ence come alive for the read­er. The paint­ed illus­tra­tions add just the right amount of dra­ma to the sto­ry. The sol­diers knew that they could not make the Seder per­fect and instead focused on the greater mean­ing and sym­bol­ism of the Seder. As the author point­ed out, that night was cer­tain­ly dif­fer­ent from all oth­er nights and from all oth­er seders.” Ages 7 – 12.
Rachel Ros­ner is the Direc­tor of the Jew­ish Book Fes­ti­val in Rochester, NY. She also runs Jew­ish Fam­i­ly Pro­grams for the JCC, and has worked there since 1994. She holds a degree in Ear­ly Child­hood Edu­ca­tion from Syra­cuse University.

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