Rebekkah’s Jour­ney

Ann E. Burg; Joel Iskowitz, illus.
  • Review
By – December 19, 2011

In 1944, 982 dis­placed indi­vid­u­als from 18 dif­fer­ent coun­tries arrived at a vacant army base in Oswego, New York, invit­ed to stay until the con­clu­sion of the war. This book is a fic­tion­al­ized account of the real events that took place at the Fort Ontario Emer­gency Refugee Shel­ter that year. 

Rebekkah and her moth­er thought that their arrival in Amer­i­ca would be the end of their long jour­ney to free­dom. They escaped from the Nazis, with only a fam­i­ly pho­to and mem­o­ries of their father. They were giv­en food and a room to sleep in, but had to stay behind the fence at the shel­ter for most of the day. 

Rebekkah and her moth­er expe­ri­enced their stay at the shel­ter dif­fer­ent­ly. Rebekkah found sat­is­fac­tion in the small things she had been giv­en — food, shel­ter, and a brand new doll. Each day she tried to make her moth­er feel hap­py, but noth­ing worked. Her moth­er still did not feel free. 

The mut­ed illus­tra­tions take up whole pages fac­ing the text, and empha­size the for­lorn mood of the sto­ry. With the recita­tion of the she­hechyanu prayer and the back­sto­ry of escap­ing the Nazis, there is no ques­tion that the char­ac­ters in the book are Jew­ish refugees. But the book is not just about the Jew­ish expe­ri­ence. It is about the trag­ic expe­ri­ence of all refugees, even in the world today. At its heart, the book is not just a Jew­ish sto­ry. It is about tol­er­ance, kind­ness and the true mean­ing of free­dom. For ages 8 – 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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