Cel­e­brate Jew­ish Book Month with #30days30authors! JBC invit­ed an author to share thoughts on #Jew­Lit for each day of Jew­ish Book Month. Watch, read, enjoy, and dis­cov­er! 

Today, Rab­bi Rebec­ca Ein­stein Schorr, co-edi­tor of the Nation­al Jew­ish Book Award-win­ner The Sacred Call­ing: Four Decades of Women in the Rab­binate, writes about the impor­tance of see­ing her­self, as a Jew­ish Amer­i­can girl, in the books she read as a child.

When I think back on my child­hood, I remem­ber time spent in a lit­tle house on a mid­west­ern prairie, a secret gar­den in York­shire, and a quaint vil­lage on Prince Edward Island. My days were filled with sto­ries of lit­tle women, teen sleuths, and adven­tur­ous sib­lings. In not one of these sto­ries did I see myself.

As an Amer­i­can girl, I devoured the typ­i­cal titles of the day, and I loved them. But as an Amer­i­can Jew­ish girl, I yearned to read sto­ries that mir­rored my own expe­ri­ence and that of my family.

Odd­ly enough, I had to go no fur­ther than down­stairs. Because I grew up with a library in my own home!

When I was five years old, my father became the rab­bi of a new­ly-formed shul. Though the con­gre­ga­tion rent­ed a vari­ety of spaces for its class­es and wor­ship ser­vices, there was nowhere to house its bur­geon­ing library. And so, my moth­er became the syn­a­gogue librar­i­an and the book col­lec­tion took up res­i­dence in my father’s study at home.

Sud­den­ly, I had access to more books than any child could have want­ed. Now, in addi­tion to inhal­ing every Trix­ie Belden mys­tery, I shiv­ered in the frigid cold of the End­less Steppe, stole away to a farm­house attic in Hol­land, and left behind a pink rab­bit in Berlin. To this day, when­ev­er I eat a hot pota­to or crack­ers or pen­ny can­dy, I am remind­ed of five sis­ters on the Low­er East Side.

Jew­ish young adult lit­er­a­ture, in addi­tion to Jew­ish children’s lit­er­a­ture, was crit­i­cal for the devel­op­ment of my Jew­ish self. Along­side what­ev­er books I saw in the pub­lic sphere, sto­ries about chil­dren who cel­e­brat­ed MY hol­i­days and ate MY foods nor­mal­ized my life expe­ri­ence. Because as much fun as it must have been for Mary and Lau­ra Ingalls to play with a bal­loon made from the tail of the pig that their Pa had just slaugh­tered, I couldn’t place my five-year-old great-grand­moth­er in Kalusz in that scenario.

There were books about the immi­grant expe­ri­ence, Tsarist Rus­sia, the Holo­caust, and Israel. A lot of tragedy between those cov­ers. Too much? Per­haps. But for a young girl liv­ing in the safe­ty of late 20th cen­tu­ry Amer­i­ca, these sto­ries helped me under­stand how pre­car­i­ous Jew­ish life has been through­out the ages and to appre­ci­ate the free­doms afford­ed to us in a free society.

As a pre­co­cious read­er, my atten­tion soon turned to Potok, Wouk, and oth­ers. Bel­va Plain’s Ever­green series and Glo­ria Goldreich’s Leah’s Jour­ney series were the nat­ur­al suc­ces­sors to the immi­grant sto­ries of my youth. Even now, I grav­i­tate towards sto­ries of a Jew­ish nature or with a Jew­ish pro­tag­o­nist. That is not to say that I lim­it my selec­tions as any­one famil­iar with my Goodreads updates knows that I enjoy a steady diet of books writ­ten by and about peo­ple of all races, faiths, cul­tures, and coun­tries. In fact, I have set my per­son­al read­ing inten­tion for the past two years to focus on nar­ra­tives that are rad­i­cal­ly dif­fer­ent from mine in order to bet­ter under­stand the world in which I live.

And yet.

Some­times, after lis­ten­ing in to the expe­ri­ences of oth­ers, I’m just in need of the famil­iar. To remind myself of my cul­tur­al, eth­nic, and reli­gious home. And to know that I am not alone.

Ordained by the Hebrew Union Col­lege-Jew­ish Insti­tute of Reli­gion Rab­bi Rebec­ca Ein­stein Schorr is a CLAL Rab­bis With­out Bor­ders Fel­low a con­tribut­ing writer at Kveller​.com and for­mer edi­tor of the newslet­ter of the Cen­tral Con­fer­ence of Amer­i­can Rab­bis. A sought-after speak­er Rab­bi Schorr speaks reg­u­lar­ly about dis­abil­i­ty and the Jew­ish imper­a­tive for inclu­sion at such places as the 92nd St. Y the Acad­e­my for Jew­ish Reli­gion (NY) a vari­ety of syn­a­gogues and oth­er com­mu­ni­ty orga­ni­za­tions; she was also a mem­ber of the 2013 Lis­ten To Your Moth­er — Wilm­ing­ton cast and 2015 Lis­ten To Your Moth­er — Lehigh Val­ley cast where she spoke about the real­i­ty of rear­ing a child on the autism spec­trum. Writ­ing at her blog This Messy Life (www​.rebec​ca​e​in​stein​schorr​.com) Rab­bi Schorr finds mean­ing in the sacred and not-yet-sacred inter­sec­tions of dai­ly life. Engage with her on Twit­ter @rebeccaschorr.