Nineteen twenty-three is a year of changes for the Levins. In their new home, the whole family is overjoyed at the birth of a baby sister. At school, though, being the only Jewish girl in her class is sometimes tough for Carrie. But through good times and bad, even when a terrible tornado strikes the whole town, their papa's love and faith help support them all.
|Publisher:||Penguin Young Readers Group|
|Product dimensions:||1.00(w) x 1.00(h) x 1.00(d)|
|Age Range:||8 - 12 Years|
Read an Excerpt
This was not the first time and it would not be the last, I thought, when my younger sister Doris and I began to pack the dishes. We were preparing for another move. Less than two years before we had the same job when our family moved from Indiana to Illinois. Now here we were packing again, and in a couple of days we would be leaving for Lorain, Ohio.
Doris handed me a soup bowl, and I reached for a sheet of newspaper in which to wrap it. The black borders and the headline caught my eye. Dated August 3, 1923, the paper was a week old. President Harding Dead! the headline said. I thought of how shocked we had all been by the news. One moment Harding was the president of the United States, and the next moment Coolidge was president because Harding had died.
"Death does not respect titles," Papa said.
"Carrie Levin! Stop reading the old newspapers!" Doris scolded me. "We'll never finish at this rate."
We were wrapping and packing the milk dishes. Across the kitchen at the other cupboard, our older sisters, Abby and Betty, who were seventeen and fifteen, were packing the meat dishes. Evie, who was only six and the youngest in the family, was helping Mama pack the clothing. I suspected that Evie wouldn't be much of a help, but at least Mama didn't have to worry about things smashing to bits on the floor. Evie liked to do whatever Doris and I did, but we were older so of course we could do things that she couldn't.
Mama moved slowly. Her body was swollen out of shape because she was expecting another baby. We weren't permitted to talk about it much because of Mama's superstitions. Sheworried about the evil eye, and so she thought that if no one spoke about the baby, which was due in just a few weeks, it would be better. Still, Doris and I sometimes wondered aloud if perhaps this time Mama would have a boy. Our family had five girls, and even though he never commented on it, we were sure that Papa would like to have a son. Having a brother would be nice. I liked the word and often said it to myself, practicing the sound. "This is my brother. . . . I have a brother. . . . My little brother. . . ." The baby would be something to look forward to when we got to Lorain.
"What's Lorain like?" I asked Papa.
"It's not so very different from here," he said. "About 50,000 people live there. Most of the men work in the steel mills or in the shipyards. The city is located right on Lake Erie," he added, pulling on his beard. "Learning new street names and meeting new people will seem a little strange at first, but before long we'll all feel at home." From his words, I knew he understood how I was feeling.
Since the day, two months before, when Papa and Mama told us that we would be leaving Rockford, my stomach had been in knots. It is hard to start over and over at new schools and to try and make new friends each time. Even though we had lived in five different places in my eleven years of life, the moving was always difficult.
"Are there many Jews?" Abby asked Papa.
"There are about 300," he said, smiling. "Many are shop owners. A few work in the mills. They don't all belong to the synagogue, but I'll see what I can do about that."
That was Papa's job. He was a rabbi, and it was the nature of his work that kept relocating our family every two or three years. I always had to explain to my Christian classmates that a rabbi is like a minister. Most of them had never heard of a rabbi before. "He marries people and conducts funerals and leads all the religious services at the synagogue," I would tell them. Then I had to stop and explain that a synagogue was like a church. Wherever we lived only a small percentage of people were Jewish. The Jewish customs and words always seemed strange to my classmates.
Of course, we were all very proud of Papa. It was an important honor, as well as a responsibility, to be a rabbi. "A rabbi has the hardest job in the world," Mama often said. "He has a hundred bosses."
"A rabbi should have only one boss," said Abby. "And that is God."
"You're right," agreed Mama. "But you are wrong."
Then she explained. "God is a good boss because he understands human nature and forgives errors. But on earth one has to answer to men as well. A rabbi is responsible to every member of his congregation. When he says Yes to one man, he may be saying No to another. Everyone has a different point of view, and it is hard to satisfy everyone at the same time."
I understood what Mama was saying. The idea was the same as in the Aesop's fable that I had read in one of my library books, the one about a miller and his son and a donkey. You cannot please everyone, and that was why Papa was forced to change jobs so often.
Poor Mama. If Papa had the hardest job in the world, then she had the second hardest. Each time we moved she had to supervise the packing and organize the actual departure while Papa went on ahead to find a place for us to live.
Sometimes, in the past, we had lived right in the synagogue building itself. That was awful, because we had to wear a freshly starched and ironed dress every day as if we were constantly having company. Luckily, the synagogue in Lorain did not have living quarters for us, and so Papa went on ahead and found a house on Brownell Avenue.The Rabbi's Girls. Copyright © by Johanna Hurwitz. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In the course of a year, a young girl experiences birth and death when her family moves yet again. The book raises interesting questions.
In Carrie¿s eleven years, the Levin family has moved six times. Her father¿s a rabbi, and they have to go where a congregation needs them. Carrie and her four sisters all hope that this time, they¿ll settle down.Nineteen twenty-three is a year of changes for the Levin¿s. In their new home, the whole family is overjoyed at the birth of baby sister. At school, though, being the only Jewish girl in her class is sometimes tough for Carrie. But though good times and bad, even when a terrible tornado strikes the whole town, their papa¿s love and faith help support them all.