18 Books with a Jewish Voice

With Hanukkah fast approaching, I’ve assembled a list of my most recommended books, with a Jewish voice, as a gift guide for the book lover in your life. This list contains a wide variety of genres, including mystery/thriller, romance, historical fiction, and non-fiction. Enjoy!

This page contains affiliate links. This means for any purchase made, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Fiction

Destiny By Design: Leah’s Journey by Mirta Ines Trupp

From the Back Cover:

Leah Abramovitz, a cossetted member of the upper echelons of Odessan society, has high hopes for a brilliant future—that is until Fate takes a hand. When confronted with alarming changes in political and societal mores, the family decide to flee and chart a course that will forever alter their lives. Will her dreams be washed away on the shores of Buenos Aires or will Leah finally achieve the freedom to design her own destiny?

Book Review – Destiny by Design: Leah’s Journey by Mirta Ines Trupp

By Mirta Ines Trupp Destiny by Design: Leah’s Journey is set in Imperial Russia, in the late 19th Century. Leah Abramovitz is the youngest of twelve children, coming of age in Odessa. Her upper class merchant family is suddenly faced with a challenging political climate which threatens their livelihood. Despite her opposition to the decision, […]

Jerusalem Stone by Susan Sofayov

From the Back Cover:

On September 15, 2008, Julie Wasserman’s life collapsed. In the morning, she lost her job at Lehman Brothers. That afternoon, she lost her twin brother, Jack, in a car crash. A year and a half later, she returns home to Pittsburgh to start a new job and live up to a pledge to visit her brother’s grave every day. With six weeks to wait before the start of the new job, she steps out of character and purchases a plane ticket to Thailand, the one place her brother dreamed of visiting. She arrives in Thailand, focused on trying to figure out how she is going to live in the world without her twin brother and best friend. But an interruption in the form of a sexy Israeli, Avi, distracts her from this goal. As he tries to make her see that their meeting was bashert, meant to be, she insists that she must return home to live up to her promise to Jack. Feeling responsible for Jack’s death, Julie believes that he wouldn’t want her to be happy, but would expect her to mourn for the rest of her life. Can Avi find a way to convince her they are bashert and Jack wouldn’t want her to stop living, or is Julie doomed to a life of guilt and unhappiness unless a higher power steps in?

Book Review Jerusalem Stone by Susan Sofayov

By: Susan Sofayov Julie Wasserman’s world has been turned upside down. She’s lost a job she enjoyed, with the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Then her twin brother is taken from her, in a car crash. She’s faced with returning to her hometown, of Pittsburgh, and her grief-stricken father, to start over in her new normal. […]

Hip Set by Michael Fertik

From the Back Cover:

Oscar Orleans is a Congolese refugee in Israel. He’s also the only Hebrew-speaking liaison to the African refugee community living in Tel Aviv’s worst slum. When his old friend Inspector Kobi Sambinsky of the Asylum Unit calls him early on Shabbat morning, he knows something is wrong.
A young South Sudanese immigrant has been found murdered in the city’s most iconic waterfront building and no one can quite place his origins. The only clue is his unusual name, Kinga, which he shared with another refugee from eight years earlier and a controversial political figure in South Sudan’s most dangerous warring faction.
Kobi and Oscar must venture into the heart of Tel Aviv’s Sudanese underground, Israel’s hyperviolent Russian mafia, and a mystery that has been dormant for years near the shores of the Dead Sea.

Book Review- Hip Set by Michael Fertik

By Michael Fertik Oscar Orleans is a refugee, living in Israel, serving as a liaison to fellow African refugees, living in a slum of Tel Aviv. Orleans is called in by his friend, Inspector Kobi Sambinsky, of the Asylum unit with the Israeli police, to assist when a young man, from South Sudan, is found […]

Nine Tenths of the Law by Claudia Hagadus Long

From the Back Cover:

Two sisters, their mother, and a Nazi thief.

In 1939, a beautiful enameled heirloom menorah was looted by the Nazis, grabbed from the hands of its young Jewish owner. Too beautiful to kill, Aurora herself was singled out by the SS for “special duties.”

Eighty years later, Aurora’s daughters Zara and Lilly discover the family menorah in a New York museum. Haunted by their mother’s buried memories, the sisters scheme to get it back—but their quest takes a dangerous turn when the menorah disappears, leaving a trail of murder and mayhem behind it.

Aurora’s memories, it turns out, are very much alive; and now her secrets can bind the sisters together or tear them apart.

Book Review: Nine Tenths of the Law, by Claudia Hagadus Long

By: Claudia Hagadus Long A trip to the Jewish Studies Museum, in New York, triggers a memory of a long lost family heirloom. Aurora, a survivor of the Shoah, recognizes an ornate menorah in an exhibit that bears a remarkable resemblance to family ring, worn by her daughter, Zara. Fast forward a few decades and […]

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Simon’s Wife: A Secret History by L. M. Affrossman

From the Back Cover:

Three decades have passed since the death of Jesus of Nazareth on a Roman cross, and Judea is teetering on the brink of apocalypse. Caught up in the horror that will inspire the Book of Revelation, a young woman is fighting for survival.

In the dark days that follow the Roman devastation of Jerusalem in AD 70, nineteen-year-old Shelamzion bat Judah finds herself captured and awaiting both her own execution and that of her husband, former rebel-leader Simon bar Gioras. Alone and forgotten, there seems little reason to go on living, yet a strange friendship begins to grow between Shelamzion and her austere, old Roman jailor, Fabius Cornelius Grammaticus.

With his pretensions to be recognized as an historian in the style of Livy, it is to her he turns to record the true version of events behind the insurrection in Judea that led to the destruction of her country. Time is running out, however, and unknowingly history is being rewritten by a traitor’s hand.

Book Review: Simon’s Wife by L. M. Affrossman

By: L. M. Affrossman Simon’s Wife is a work of Jewish historical fiction, set in 70AD Jerusalem. following the destruction of the city and the second temple. Shelamzion bat Judah has been captured and is facing execution. But could an unlikely friendship with her Roman jailer change her fate? This book really held my attention […]

Red Winter by Kyra Kaptzan Robinov

From the Back Cover:

It is the winter of 1920. While the peaceful remote city of Nikolaevsk-on-Amur in far Eastern Siberia is frozen from the world, a band of Bolshevik revolutionaries infiltrates the town and arrests the majority of the population: businessmen, bourgeoisie, foreigners and Jews. Luba’s husband, Ilya, a prominent newspaper editor and lawyer, is among those jailed and tortured. Overnight, her comfortable, upper class life is upended and Luba finds herself on the run with four small children and a mother-in-law. Pigsties…abandoned warehouses…opium dens–these are just a few of the places Luba is forced to seek refuge as she tries to elude capture and stay alive. Will her former servants, a Chinese cook and a Russian coachman, help or turn on her?The little-known history of this exotic time and place is seen through the eyes of a reluctant heroine grappling with adversity and loss during the dangerous political chaos following the overthrow of Tsar Nicholas II. Kyra Kaptzan Robinov has woven her family’s history into a fictional narrative. Having grown up hearing her father and grandmother tell of that winter, she felt compelled to capture it in writing. Though their accounts contained villains and executions, peril and pain, they always seemed more like escapades than reality. When Kyra started to research the actual historical events, the gruesome details she uncovered were in such contrast to the quaint tales she’d heard in her childhood that she didn’t know how to reconcile the discrepancy. Had her father misremembered? Had her grandmother blotted out the horrors of her past? How could she ever weave together the conflicting information? Red Winter is a story that resonates today where, again, one percent of the population controls all the wealth while dissatisfied masses are poised to revolt and over 60 million people are displaced worldwide, the highest number in history. Like Luba, any of our lives could be disrupted tomorrow; but would we have the grit to survive such a tumultuous turn of events?

Book Review: Red Winter by Kyra Kaptzan Robinov

By: Kyra Kaptzan Robinov Nikolaevsk-on-Amur was a peaceful, frozen hamlet in Eastern Siberia, isolated from the rest of Russia and its political unrest. Until the winter of 1920, when Bolsheviks found their way into the town, arresting opposition party members, business owners, foreigners, and Jews. This idyllic village was suddenly turned into a war zone. […]

Uri Full of Light by Holly Sortland

From the Back Cover:

Eighteen year old Hannah Hagen, an outgoing and rebellious gentile girl growing up in the shadow of her father’s terminal illness, meets 17 year old Uri Geller, a Modern Orthodox Jewish boy, at a football game one evening in 1996. Their meeting brings Hannah out of an abusive relationship, and into a spiritual and religious transformation. Soon, Hannah finds life in a Jewish community that gives her connection and meaning.

As years pass and Uri climbs the ranks of the Israeli Defense Force, he and Hannah attempt to make a life for themselves in Israel at the height of the terror attacks and suicide bombings of the early 2000’s. When Uri is called to serve on an elite, secretive squad dedicated to eliminating would be suicide bombers, the couple must navigate complexities of faith, death, and a string of life shattering events.

Book Review: Uri Full of Light by Holly Sortland

By: Holly Sortland Uri Geller is a high school junior, trying to adapt to life in South Dakota when his father chose to take a job in the local hospital, transferring his family from their Modern Orthodox community in Pennsylvania. It’s a challenging transition for him but all of that changed when he met Hannah […]

Shavlan by Eunice E. Blecker

From the Back Cover:

A biographical novel based on a true story.

Sarah Taube cowers in the bakery cellar clutching her three children, listening to the sounds of shooting by the White Cossacks during a pogrom. In order to survive, she enters into a bargain with the ruthless Commissar, Dimitri, an orthodox Jew transformed by tragedy into a high-ranking Bolshevik. Will Dimitri be able to protect Sarah Taube and her family? Will Sarah Taube be reunited with her wanderlust husband who leaves for South Africa to seek his fortune and find himself, and will she realize her life long dream to go to America?

This family saga is based on true events in the life of the author’s maternal grandmother spanning three continents and five decades. It tells of a woman’s journey to independence, while living through World War I, deportation from her village in Lithuania, the Russian Revolution, the Civil War, a pogrom, and Lithuanian independence.

As the story unfolds, the reader is witness to the struggles of Jews in the Pale of Settlement and the strategies they use in coping with Tsarist rule and the anti-Semitic society governing them. Some acquiesce, trying to adapt, some oppose the Tsar by joining revolutionary groups, and others by emigrating. The author weaves a matrix of emotions and ideas into her characters as they move in and out of her grandmother’s life. We learn how an uneducated, naïve young girl, raised in Shavlan, a Lithuanian shtetl, becomes an independent, strong-willed and forceful woman, schooled in the ways of the world––her education obtained by being a witness and participant in world-shaking events.

Book Review: Shavlan by Eunice Blecker

By: Eunice Blecker Based on true stories past down to the author by her maternal grandmother, Shavlan tells the story of Sarah Taube against the backdrop of life in early 20th century Russia. The story follows Sarah Taube’s life of love, loss, faith, and hope. Sarah Taube’s story is an important depiction of life for […]

#ShidduchCrisis by Penina Shtauber

From the Back Cover:

Welcome to the world of shidduch dating.

Like any world, it has its stereotypes. We’ve got the stingy guy and the superficial girl, the too-religious, the not-religious-enough and everyone in between. Those who are in it because they want to and those who are in it because their moms made them.

And mostly we’ve got the pressure. Pressure, pressure, pressure on all ends. 

Basically, it’s a lot of fun, a lot of tears, a lot of arguments and some love. 

I’m sure you’ll relate.

***

Shidduch dating: an Orthodox Jewish method of dating in which singles are introduced for the purpose of marriage. Also, an intense and short period of time in which said singles are expected to make a life-altering decision.
These short stories highlight some repercussions that may arise. A humorous, uncensored, thought-provoking perspective. 

Book Review #ShidduchCrisis by Penina Shtauber

By Penina Shtauber Shidduch dating is an Orthodox Jewish form of dating where singles are matched for the purpose of finding a spouse. It is an intense form of dating that occurs over a short period of time. #ShidduchCrisis is a collection of short stories told from the perspective of young Jewish singles in the […]

Kosher Butcher: A Lincoln/Lachler Mystery by Melvyn Westreich

From the Back Cover:

A killer is loose in lower Michigan and a local rabbi is one of the victims of the gruesome murderer. The team of Lincoln and Lachler help the FBI and Michigan State Police in their pursuit of the elusive culprit. Problem is … will Simon Lachler’s prowess as a detective and Dafna Lachler’s expertise as a computer genius together with Rabbi Kalmonowitz’s inspired insights be enough to catch the ‘Kosher Butcher’ before their upcoming marriage and before the murderer succeeds in killing them?

Book Review- The Kosher Butcher: A Lincoln/Lachler Mystery by Melvyn Westreich

By: Melvyn Westreich When a rabbi goes missing from an Ultra-Orthodox community in lower Michigan, the Rebbi asks Simon Lincoln to take the case. A former police officer and private detective, Lincoln reluctantly accepts the assistance of his fiancé, computer wiz, Dafna Lachler. When the case takes a turn, creating fear of a serial killer, […]

Hannah’s War by Jan Eliasberg

From the Back Cover:

Berlin, 1938. Groundbreaking physicist Dr. Hannah Weiss is on the verge of the greatest discovery of the 20th century: splitting the atom. She understands that the energy released by her discovery can power entire cities or destroy them. Hannah believes the weapon’s creation will secure an end to future wars, but as a Jewish woman living under the harsh rule of the Third Reich, her research is belittled, overlooked, and eventually stolen by her German colleagues. Faced with an impossible choice, Hannah must decide what she is willing to sacrifice in pursuit of science’s greatest achievement.

New Mexico, 1945. Returning wounded and battered from the liberation of Paris, Major Jack Delaney arrives in the New Mexican desert with a mission: to catch a spy. Someone in the top-secret nuclear lab at Los Alamos has been leaking encoded equations to Hitler’s scientists. Chief among Jack’s suspects is the brilliant and mysterious Hannah Weiss, an exiled physicist lending her talent to J. Robert Oppenheimer’s mission. All signs point to Hannah as the traitor, but over three days of interrogation that separate her lies from the truth, Jack will realize they have more in common than either one bargained for. Hannah’s War is a thrilling wartime story of loyalty, truth, and the unforeseeable fallout of a single choice.

Book Review: Hannah’s War by Jan Eliasberg

By Jan Eliasberg Dr. Hannah Weiss is a Jewish scientist, working in Berlin, in 1938, working on one of the most important scientific discoveries of the time. Splitting the atom. Already fighting an uphill battle of being a woman in a man’s world, she faces even greater challenges as a Jewish scientist living under the […]

Judenrein by Harold Benjamin

From the Back Cover:

Zack Gurevitz has had a checkered past. A Yeshiva boy, turned Green Beret, turned junkie, excommunicated by his one-time faith and now the potential savior of people he doesn’t even like.
As a white supremacist movement stealthily takes the reins of power in America, it is again the Jews who are made out as scapegoats. Stripped of wealth and citizenship, they are made to live in 21st century ghettos that hark back to a sinister and murky past that many had thought would never return.
But things are about to get much worse. With the revealing of a planned terror attack that will place the blame firmly at Jewish feet and condemn millions to death, Zack is contacted by Jewish leaders in Detroit, begging for his help.
Reluctantly he agrees and before long he is mired in a conspiracy that will have far reaching consequences for his country, the Jewish population and even his own sanity.
As the clock ticks down, can Zack find a way to avert a looming disaster? Who is behind the conspiracy? And can he really trust anyone?

Book Review: Judenrein: A Jewish Dystopian Thriller by Harold Benjamin

By: Harold Benjamin A white supremacist movement has taken over America. Jews have been rounded up, striped of their property and placed in ghettos. Zack Gurevitz is a former Green Beret with a difficult past who has turned his back on the faith that turned its back on him. Until his help is needed to […]

Caledonia by Sherry V. Ostroff

From the Back Cover:

Anna Issac’s choices are bleak. Suicide is more appealing than marrying the revolting Frenchman her spiteful brother has chosen for her. The only other option is to beg a man she barely knows, a Highlander, to help her run away. Escape would be a challenge for any fifteen-year-old, but it is particularly difficult for a Jewess living in 17th century Scotland. Anna’s tale would have remained a secret, except three centuries later the death of Hanna Duncan’s father on 9/11 unleashes a chain of events that leads her to an ancient key with a peculiar etching. Once deciphered, the clue points Hanna toward a safe deposit box in Edinburgh where Hanna uncovers Anna’s role in the creation of Scotland’s only colony. Caledonia promised to be the trading hub of the New World, but starvation, ship’s fever, and incompetent leadership dogged the 1,200 colonists from the moment they left Scotland. More than half would be buried at sea or in the colony’s muddy cemetery, and Anna would not be immune from the dreadful conditions. The outpost was deserted in less than a year.CALEDONIA is a tale of these two strong women separated by time but bound by mysterious circumstances. 21st century Hanna keeps uncovering evidence linking her to 17th century Anna. Both women experience romance, adventure, and tragedy as the reader witnesses them becoming more and more connected.

Book Review: Caledonia by Sherry V. Ostroff

By: Sherry V. Ostroff Anna Isaac is a fifteen year old Jewess living in 17th century Scotland. Her father is determined to see her settled before his poor health becomes worse so he tasks her angry and vindictive brother with choosing her groom. Faced with an impossible choice, Anna seeks the help of a visiting […]

The Book of Jeremiah by Julie Zuckerman

From the Back Cover:

Julie Zuckerman’s moving and engrossing debut novel-in-stories, The Book of Jeremiah, tells the story of awkward but endearing Jeremiah Gerstler–the son of Jewish immigrants, brilliant political science professor, husband, father.

Jeremiah has yearned for respect and acceptance his entire life, and no matter his success, he still strives for more. As a boy, he was feisty and irreverent and constantly compared to his sweet and well-behaved older brother, Lenny. At the university, he worries he is a token hire. Occasionally, he’s combative with colleagues, especially as he ages. But there is a sweetness to Gerstler, too, and an abiding loyalty and affection for those he loves. When he can overcome his worst impulses, his moments of humility become among the best measures of his achievements.

Spanning eight decades and interwoven with the Jewish experience of the 20th century, Julie Zuckerman charts Jeremiah’s life from boyhood, through service in WWII, to marriage and children, a professorship and finally retirement, with compassion, honesty, and a respect that even Gerstler himself would find touching.

Book Review: The Book of Jeremiah by Julie Zuckerman

By: Julie Zuckerman The Book of Jeremiah, a Novel in Stories, follows eight decades of the life of Jeremiah Gerstler. I really enjoyed the concept of this book. Zuckerman lays out each milestone of Jeremiah’s life as though it were a short story, jumping from past to present and back again. The book feels like […]

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Non Fiction

Chutzpah, Wisdom, and Wine: The Journey of an Unstoppable Woman by Jodi Samuels

From Johannesburg to Jerusalem, with a stopover in Manhattan, Jodi Samuel’s mission is to change the world, one small, unique step at a time. As an entrepreneur, international speaker, special needs advocate and super mom, on any given day you may find Jodi starting a new business, organizing a community event or conducting an interview with the Wall Street Journal while riding a camel in Morocco.

But if you’re one of the thousands who’ve attended her events, you may be surprised to learn that Jodi was once petrified to take the stage. Jodi’s ability to lead grew with experience, determination, faith and courage. Jodi recounts the seminal moments that shaped her life from being held up at gunpoint in South Africa to living under rocket attacks in Israel and the shocking diagnosis of Down syndrome for her youngest child that turned her into a passionate advocate for children with special needs.

Jodi shows us that with passion, resilience and humor, we can face life’s challenges and come out on top. Her inspiring journey, peppered with a dose of irreverence, is about learning to overcome fear, adapting to unexpected situations and applying time-honored Jewish values to everyday challenges. In short, it’s a story of playing — and winning — the hand you are dealt.

Book Review- Chutzpah, Wisdom, and Wine: The Journey of an Unstoppable Woman, by Jodi Samuels

By: Jodi Samuels Originally from South Africa, Jodi Samuels is a speaker, activist, author, and super mom. In her book, Chutzpah, Wisdom, and Wine, Jodi shares her inspiring mission to change the world. Her story is one of resilience and living Judaism in every way possible. Samuels’ memoir demonstrates the importance of living the Jewish […]

The Lucky One: A Memoir of Life, Loss and Survival in Eastern Europe by Sherry V. Ostroff

From the Back Cover:

Ita was born in the wrong place at the wrong time. The place was the former Pale of Settlement which was a large swath of land in western Russia where Jews were forced to live for centuries. The year was 1918 and Russia was in the midst of two revolutions. The first occurred with the abdication of the last tsar of Russia culminating in his execution. The second was the bloody civil war that ensued for control of the country. Ita was caught in the middle during this time of great political and social upheaval. Wave after wave of murderous anti-Jewish riots, or pogroms, descended upon Jewish shtetls, and the only chance for her survival was to escape. Escape was not easy. In fact, it could be deadly. In Ita’s own words, along with her daughter’s (Sherry V. Ostroff) historical and cultural background information, she describes her privileged life in Russia, the bloody pogroms, and her harrowing escape. Ita faces each roadblock with resolve, including a new country that doesn’t want her, and proves why she is, indeed, the lucky one.

Book Review: The Lucky One by Sherry V. Ostroff

By: Sherry V. Ostroff In order to do this story justice, I’m going to use the summary from the back cover to avoid any errors in the details: Ita was born in the wrong place at the wrong time. The place was the former Pale of Settlement which was a large swath of land in […]

A Place of Exodus: Home, Memory, and Texas by David Biespiel

From the Back Cover:

Acclaimed poet and memoirist David Biespiel tells the story of the rise and fall of a Jewish boyhood in Texas, and his search for the answer to his life’s central riddle: Are we ever done leaving home? Growing up in a family devoted to Jewish identity, Biespiel comes under the tutelage of the head rabbi of the largest conservative congregation in North America. After the rabbi kicks him out of the synagogue during a public quarrel, Biespiel leaves Texas and his religious upbringing behind. After a near-forty-year exile from Texas, he returns for a day to see home–and himself–in a way that changes his relationship to the world around him. Biespiel draws on a lifetime of writing to create this memoir, an essential companion for anyone who has journeyed far from home. 

Book Review: A Place of Exodus by David Biespiel

By: David Biespiel In A Place of Exodus, author David Biespiel shares the story of his experience growing up in a tightly knit Jewish community outside of Houston, Texas. But an argument with his rabbi causes him to move away from his idyllic childhood community. The book explores Biespiel’s journey as a self-proclaimed “retired” Jew […]

Hiding in Plain Sight: The Incredible True Story of a German-Jewish Teenager’s Struggle to Survive in Nazi-Occupied Poland by Betty Lauer

From the Back Cover:

It is 1938. Berta Weissberger, twelve years old, lives in Hindenburg, Germany, with her mother and older sister. Her father has already left for America, and the family is awaiting the arrival of their American visas.

These hopes and plans are destroyed at the end of October 1938, however, when Jews are rounded up, loaded onto trucks, and driven to the Polish border. They are forced to cross a river into Poland and ordered, “Keep walking and do not turn back. Anyone attempting to turn back will be shot.”

So begins Bertel’s six-year terrifying odyssey in Nazi-occupied Poland. While living a life of constant vigilance and fear, Bertel grows into womanhood. Again and again, Providence steps in and saves her, guiding her to the right person or place.

It is Betty Lauer’s abiding faith in a higher power that enabled her to survive while hiding in plain sight, during the dark night of Nazi Germany, and to tell this remarkable story of great evil and of the nobility of the few who dared to defy the evildoers. An extraordinary story of strength, resilience, hope, and salvation.

Book Review: Hiding in Plain Sight by Betty Lauer

By Betty Lauer Hiding in Plain Sight is the true story of one young woman’s survival in Nazi-occupied Poland. While waiting for their visas to America, in order to rejoin her father, Betty, along with her mother and sister, were rounded up and expelled from Germany, to Poland. This began a six-year ordeal of living […]

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