New York, N.Y. 10013
Tel. (212) 925-9067
Fax: (212) 343-2553
Keeping Jewish Heritage Alive Through Literature
Bernard Otterman, Black Grass and other stories, Jewish Heritage, hardcover, $24.95

BLACK GRASS This collection of short stories inspired by the Holocaust and its aftermath marks the debut of a mature writer with unusual skill and vision. Black Grass will bring the author immediate recognition as a significant new voice in the literature of the Holocaust. And then in literature as a whole.

With the title story, Bernard Otterman turns to the rich tradition of magical realism to respond to the phenomenon of the Holocaust. The blackness that one day begins spreading out of the site of a death camp begins to envelope the world.

The author writes: ¡°As a child survivor, the Holocaust forced itself in the manner of an unwelcome relative into my writings .¡± His stories are set in the ghettos and camps and in the aftermath of the war against the Jews. The collection's dual perspectives, in the past and present, form a unity Dr. Otterman refers to as ¡°the ever - present past.¡±

Mr. Otterman worked patiently for ten years on this short story collection. Several stories have won competitions and have been published in literary magazines and quarterlies .

These finely crafted stories provide a riveting , tightly constructed reading experience. While taking his readers into uncharted regions, Otterman's authorial voice is a strong tether throughout, keeping the reader grounded. He writes with the deftness and moral complexity of Chaim Grade and Primo Levi, Ida Fink and Henryk Grynberg. When his imagination takes flight into the surrealistic regions, his work is akin to the crafted conceptual stories of Bruno Schulz and Franz Kafka.

Henryk Grynberg, Drohobycz, Drohobycz, Penguin. Winner of Koret Prize in Fiction, 2003

One of our most highly regarded Polish writers, Henryk Grynberg, here delivers thirteen authentic tales of the Holocaust, including the riveting title story, which reconstructs the assassination of the celebrated writer and artist Bruno Schulz. In each of these stories, it is not only the devastation of the Holocaust that resonates so clearly, but also the trauma that endures among its victims and survivors today. Going beyond individual crime and punishment, Grynberg explores collective guilt and the impunity of the twentieth century's two most genocidal political systems-Nazi Germany and Stalinist Soviet Union-in a profound investigation of bravery, baseness, and vulnerability.

Frank Ephraim, Escape to Manila, University of Illinois Press

With the rise of Nazism in the 1930s more than a thousand European Jews sought refuge in the Philippines, joining the small Jewish population of Manila. When the Japanese invaded the islands in 1941, the peaceful existence of the barely settled Jews filled with the kinds of uncertainties and oppression they thought they had left behind.
In this book Frank Ephraim, who fled to Manila with his parents, gathers the testimonies of thirty-six refugees, who describe the difficult journey to Manila, the lives they built there upon their arrival, and the events surrounding the Japanese invasion. Combining these accounts with historical and archival records, Manila newspapers, and U.S. government documents, Ephraim constructs a detailed account of this little-known chapter of world history.
"Ephraim has constructed a fascinating narrative from a rich mix of archival research, oral history, and autobiographical memoir. He offers us a stirring portrait of a community of resourceful, resilient, courageous, and compassionate individuals." -- Michael Shapiro, Director, Program in Jewish Culture and Society, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Frank Ephraim was born in Berlin in 1931 and fled to the Philippines with his parents in 1939. In 1946 he immigrated to the United States. After a career in naval architecture he served as director of program evaluation for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation.
Stanley Karnow is the author of In Our Image: America's Empire in the Philippines, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize.

Isidore Greengrass
Judaism is Indestructible 
Jewish Heritage, hardcover, $29.95, paperback, $18.95

As a young Rabbi in Poland, barely completed with his studies of the Talmud and Midrash, Isidore Greengrass suddenly found himself and his people in the most distructive era humankind has ever perpetrated. (...) With the publication of this book, Rabbi ISidore Greengrass, an 84-year-old teacher and spiritual leader, confronts the most plaguing question to have come out of the bearly complete distructon of European Jewry: If there is a God and he is all-knowing and all-powerfull, how could he have allowed the NAzi genocide, the unfantomable human suffering, the tyrannical rule of evil force over the best human nature, the distruction of many millions of human lives?

Isidore Greengrass was born into a devout Jewish mercantile family around the year 1012. He cannot be sure. He has no records. As Eastern Poland fell to the Germans, then the Soviets and then the Germans again, he tried to elude capture with his parents, their families and his own yourg wife and daughter. But to no avail. Before it was over, the entire family, but for Isidore, was distroyed in the genocide. For the past fourty-four years, Isidore Greengrass has lived and taught in New London, Connecticut.

Aline P’Nina Tayar
How Shall We Sing? A Mediterranean Journey Through a Jewish Family
Picador, $19.95

Fanning out from the tiny island of Malta and the least well-known Jewish community of the world, Aline Pining Tayar's family finds homes, acceptance and a kind of peace in an assortment of nations and cultures round the Mediterranean. They settle and thrive in Tunisia, France, Italy, Egypt. Even finally in Australia. The author, who describes herself as a Maltese, Jewish, Australian Englishwoman, brings to this saga of transplantation a wry, gentle humor, a brilliantly observant eye for cultural nuance and an unselfconscious compassion for her extraordinary ancestry.

In the English-speaking world, few memoirs have been published of the Jewish communities of the Mediterranean. In bringing 'How Shall We Sing?' to an American audience, Jewish Heritage aims to present a different picture of Jewish life, a counterpoint to the tragic histories of the Jews of eastern and central Europe. In this account of a family's migrations all round the Mediterranean, Aline P'nina Tayar tenderly and humorously evokes lives lived in search of peace, prosperity and a sense of belonging. Following the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, Tayar's ancestors established themselves in Venice, Livorno and Tripoli. Five generations ago they ended up on the island of Malta, once notorious under the rule of the Knights of the Order of Saint John for its hostility to Jews. The little known history of Malta's Jews is at the heart of Tayar's account. As is the author's quest for a place in which she can say she truly belongs. 'How Shall We Sing' is remarkable for the balance it maintains between skepticism, critique and nostalgia for a vanished world.

About the Author
Aline P'nina Tayar was born in Malta in 1948 and grew up in Israel and Australia. She has lived in France, Tunisia, Italy, Belgium and Portugal. For the past twenty-five years, her permanent home has been Bath from where her work as a conference interpreter takes her to Brussels and Strasbourg. Tayar is a published poet and from 1999-2000 was a member of the Editorial Board of the New York magazine 'Response'. 'How Shall We Sing?' is her first book. She is currently completing a novel recounting the experiences of immigrants in Australia in the 1950s and 60s.

The Jerusalem Post
Good-naturedly experiences Israel, Tunisia, France, Italy, Egypt, Australia, England...deeply concerned with transplantation and the nature of belonging. 

The Australian Review of Books
Lament for a vanished civilization. Sephardic courtship, love, rivalry, fear and hate in exotic settings...Journalism, travel-writing and fiction...

The Sunday Age, Melbourne
Jewish Maltese Australian Englishwoman traces her family's search for peace and prosperity...hidden history...Feasts, secrets and childhood pleasures.

Fannie Silver
Better Than Gold, An Immigrant Family's First Years in American, Jewish Heritage, hardcover, $24.95

A nostalgic evocation of the Jewish immigrant world of early-20th-century New York City, these 31 semiautobiographical stories, set in Brooklyn roughly between 1915 and 1919, is less sophisticated variation on Irving Howe's World of Our Fathers. Brooklyn-born Silver, who wrote these posthumously published tales from the mid-1960s until shortly before her death in 1987 at age 82, uses these unpretentious, unabashedly sentimental stories to evoke a Jewish milieu where resilient family and community ties act as a bulwark against America's competitive, atomizing individualism. "`World of Our Mothers" might be an apt title, because the dominating figure is outspoken, superstitious Rifka Rosenstein, lovingly overprotective mother of three boys and three girls. Through the inquisitive eyes of her dutiful adolescent daughter Frieda we see typical family life (paying the rent, an outing to Coney Island) but also unusual events like the haunting of a neighbor's apartment by a ghost or the trial of a woman accused of stealing a chicken. With titles like "The Revenge of the Klutzy Kid," "Things the Bubbe Taught Me" and "Hope Helps," these simply related tales, complemented by period photographs, are enhanced by their warmth, humor and authentic detail.

Janet Shafner
Women of Mystery
Men of Prophecy
hardcover, $29.95

Rabbi Jill Hammer, essay
With Shafner's Biblical characters, crusted salt cracks, the veil falls away, a live woman emerges and becomes real.

Ori Soltes, Georgetown University Art and Theology
Her images echo dark and light human experience, the soul, the Divine gifts to God's ultimate creation.

Book Description
Who are the mysterious women of the Bible who left us such important life messages? What was their wisdom and where did it come from? What are the messages for us today that were given to Biblical prophets and the men who spoke with God?

In this book, the contemporary American artist Janet Shafner, interprets events in the dramatic lives of our biblical foremothers and forefathers in a series of powerful oil paintings. She writes: "Everything that touches us deeply today has a parallel occurrence in the Bible - family jealousy, sexual obsession, enduring love and sacrifice, murder, rape, incest, man’’s inhumanity to his fellow, even ethnic cleansing - it is all there".

For all readers seeking to explore the deeper levels of meaning in these ancient texts through the unique medium of painting and the textual explication of Midrash, this book is a fascinating journey. We discover the real reason that Lot’’s wife turned into a pillar of salt, the story of the unnamed sister/brides of Cain and Abel, a fatal error of judgment that led to centuries of evil for the Jewish people, the convert whose daring made possible the royal family of Israel and the future Messiah. These and many other fascinating mysteries are revealed in a series of vivid, multi-paneled, shaped canvases.

About the Author
Janet Shafner attended Barnard College, Connecticut College and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. She lives and paints in New London, Connecticut. Her work has been shown in numerous group and solo exhibitions regionally and nationally, including Purdue University Gallery IN; The Housatonic Museum of Art, Cummings Art Center, Slater Museum, Lyman Allyn Art Museum, William Benton Museum, CT; The Museum of Fine Arts, Springfield, MA; Westmoreland County Museum of Art, PA and the Yeshiva University Museum, NY. She was a Yaddo Fellow and a fellow of the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture. Her work is held in many private and public collections. For thirty years, as the Director of the Adult Studio Art Program at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum in New London, she taught hundreds of students.

Since 1988, she has been working on a series of biblically inspired oil paintings, trying to relate the biblical texts to contemporary issues. In her words, " it is the longest running set of paintings on a common theme that I have done, and I find it still a rich and endless mine of inspiration and learning."


International Initiative in the Literature