Beyond Courage was privileged to win the Flora Stieglitz Strauss award for Non-fiction given out by the Bank Street Children’s Book Committee. I was away during the award ceremony but a live video of all the acceptance speeches are just a click away. R. J. Palacio won the Josette Frank Award for her debut novel, Wonder. J. Patrick Lewis won the Claudia Lewis Award for the best poetry book of the year for young readers, for his anthology National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry: 200 Poems with Photographs That Squeak, Soar, and Roar!
In Toronto every Hanukkah, Israel Cohen lights his “most original” menorah. It consists of eight glasses half filled with colored water. Olive oil rests on top of the water. Eight wicks are inserted in plastic floaters and lit.
Hanukkah will be here soon starting sundown on December 8, and my thoughts go in two directions this year. The first is that our family has decided that we will not be giving presents to the grandchildren this year. Hurricane Sandy has made all too vivid of how so many have lost so much, and we are pooling our money to give to some families caught in the aftermath of that horrendous storm.
Approaching Hanukkah has also taken me back to Israel Cohen in December 1943, a forced laborer in Kaufering IV, one of the Dachau sub-camps in Germany. I think every Hanukkah from now on will take me back to Israel’s story. In the nightmare of their imprisonment, Cohen and his fellow prisoners found a way to observe this holiday which meant so much to them.
The Candlewick Press team and I are thrilled and proud BEYOND COURAGE has been honored by both Publishers Weekly and Booklist! The book is on their prestigious Best Books for 2012 lists – children’s books nonfiction (PW) and on Booklist in the Religion category.
The Publishers Weekly citation on their site:
“In an ambitious and important work, Rappaport shares stories (some never before told) of real-life defiance, offering a heroic alternative to narratives that only portray Jews as helpless victims of Nazi genocide. Instead, she presents stories of dangerous and brave acts of resistance that speak to the human will to survive in the face of hatred and genocide.”
BEYOND COURAGE is one of four books honored as PW Best Books 2012 in this category. The others are:
Chuck Close Face Book – by Chuck Close (Abrams)
WE’VE GOT A JOB The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March – by Cynthia Y. Levinson (Peachtree)
One Times Square: A Center of Change at the Crossroads of the World – by Joe McKendry (Godine)
Many of my other books have been …
Sunday, October 14 marked the 69th anniversary of the escape from the Sobibór death camp.
I spent a good part of the day thinking about the ingenuity, daring and courage of the 365 Jews out of 650 prisoners who successfully escaped that day in 1943. Only forty-seven who escaped survived the Holocaust. The Nazis and their collaborators tracked down and executed the 318 others. The prisoners who had not tried to escape were shot.
My emotions are a bit raw each time as I write about this, but I want to share one memory about my visit to the former site of the Sobibór Death Camp in October 2006 with my husband, Bob Rosegarten, our friend, Rabbi Burt Schuman, and Anna Wiernicka, our guide.
We first visited the museum housed in a small cabin-like structure that served as the former living quarters of an SS officer. The exhibit was small but organized beautifully with a few artifacts, text and images that illuminate the history of the uprising. I gravitated immediately to the photographs of former prisoners. I searched hungrily among …
This September 26th marks the 79th anniversary of the remarkable escape by 230 Jewish prisoners from the Novogrudok Labor Camp in Poland – a story and escape I describe in my book and on this site.
Among those who worked round clock to dig a tunnel for the escape was fourteen-year-old Jack [Idel] Kagan, who had tried to escape the previous winter. On that night he had been forced back because of heavy snow and his frostbitten toes, which when he returned to the camp had to be amputated without the benefit of anesthesia.
But, that did not deter Jack from a second try at freedom.
And, on the moonless, windy and rainy night of September 26, 1943, he and the others made their escape. Of the 230 Jews from that escape, one hundred and seventy survived the war. In August of this year, Jack, his wife Barbara, their two sons Michael and Jeffrey, and their ten grandchildren went to the site of the labor camp, now in Belarus. Their group included other survivors, Riva Kaganovitz and Israel …
Today is a special day for me.
My book Beyond Courage is going out into the world and we are starting a conversation here on this new site.
Let’s begin with courage…
What is courage? How do we define who is a hero? In Beyond Courage: The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust, I celebrate the Jewish men, women and children who teach us what courage is. During the nightmare of the Holocaust, these individuals showed extraordinary daring, intelligence, and ingenuity.
Some led and participated in dramatic, militant actions such as uprisings, escapes, and rebellions from ghettos, concentration camps and labor camps. Others worked to find hiding places for Jewish children or smuggle them out of Nazi-occupied countries to neutral countries. They risked their lives to save others from death, and many lost their lives doing so. They risked their lives celebrating Jewish holidays in secret, keeping the flame of Jewish education and tradition alive in secret schools, and collecting historical material so if they did not survive, the world would know what life was like under the …
There’s a wonderful African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” It’s also true, “It takes a village to write a book.”
The photograph you are looking at is of the eleven people at Candlewick Press who helped me “raise my book.” They include my editor, who critiqued more drafts of Beyond Courage than even I want to think about, her wonderful assistant who gathered photo permissions, the graphic designer who exquisitely integrated the archival photographs into the text, the two copy editors, who clarified uncertain words and terms, the tech specialist who made sure the book was prepared for printing, etc. etc. etc.
But that doesn’t cover all the people in my village. In the Acknowledgments of the book, there’s a list of forty people who answered innumerable questions and clarified information and saved me from errors. And I don’t want to forget perhaps my toughest critics, the students of Elmsford High School in Elmsford, New York and of the Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School in Falls Church, Virginia, who critiqued the book in embryonic form. As …