Monday, March 25, 2013

Book Recommendation: Happy First Night of Passover!

Tonight marks the first night of the Jewish holiday of Passover, or Pesach. Over the course of the eight nights of Passover, we'll be posting a few book recommendations, good for those who celebrate Passover and those who want to learn more about the holiday. Our first recommendation:

written by Doreen Rappaport
illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully

Inspired by real events, The Secret Seder tells the story of a young French Jewish boy living during World War II who secretly observes Passover. Escaping the Nazi round-up of Jews in Paris, the boy and his parents fled to a small French village where, in order to keep safe from the Nazis who patrol their streets, they pretend to be Catholic. Though it is dangerous, they have not stopped practicing Judaism, but do so only in secret. Rappaport and McCully capture the constant tension and fear that plagues the family as the little boy practices The Four Questions (part of the Passover Seder) in whispered Hebrew and their neighbors are discovered to be Jews and taken away. Despite the threats that surround them, the boy and his father furtively make their way through their village, the woods, and all the way up a mountain to a secluded shack where they celebrate the first night of Passover. As those gathered tell the story of their ancestors who were slaves in Egypt, they are overwhelmed with grief at the dark times they face. But through remembering the story of the slaves miraculous freedom from bondage, hope alights in their hearts that the future will hold happier times for their people. This is an incredible story of the courage of people who, in order to survive, had to hide an important part of their identity, but never forgot who they were and continued to honor their traditions.  

For those who do not celebrate Passover, this book can serve as an introduction to the roots of the holiday, as well as a window into the experience of the Jewish people who lived in hiding during the Holocaust. Back matter offers more information on the Holocaust and Passover.

If you have any favorite books about Passover, please share them with us in the comments!

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