Shtetl Dreams

by Raaya Admoni



Book Details

Language : English
Publication Date : 8/31/2015

Format : Softcover
Dimensions : 6x9
Page Count : 510
ISBN : 9781503509818
Format : Hardcover
Dimensions : 6x9
Page Count : 510
ISBN : 9781503509825
Format : E-Book
Dimensions : N/A
Page Count : 510
ISBN : 9781503509801

About the Book

Sarka is only thirteen when her mother suddenly tells her one day, “I dreamed that you got married . . . to the rabbi.” These words inform the young girl that she will marry a sixty-five-year-old widower and her fate will be determined by her mother’s dream. Sarka’s parents remain adamant that she will marry the rabbi whereupon all her youthful dreams of eventually marrying for love are quashed. Little Shaime is only ten when both his parents die, leaving him and his four siblings not only orphaned but penniless. While homes are found for his younger brothers and sisters, there is no family ready to adopt an older boy, and his grandparents have no room for him. So he is sent away to earn his keep as a saddler’s apprentice in Lublin. The Krakowski family treat the orphan heartlessly, feeding him leftover scraps and making him sleep alone in a mouldy basement. Yet Shaime clings to his dream of one day having a childhood like any normal boy. The Second World War arrives, and when the carnage is over at last, very few survive. But both Sheindel, Sarka’s daughter, and Shaime are among them, and their paths cross. Will fate prove kinder to them than the nightmares of the tragic losses that haunt their sleepless nights? Even before their fate was sealed by the Nazi invasion, the Jews in the little Polish town of Belzitz faced great adversity. Yet there were always dreams, some bringing consolation and others shaping their destinies. In this sweeping historical novel, Admoni traces a riveting family saga through three generations. The personal stories of Sheindel and the orphaned Shaime are interwoven into a rich tapestry of a Jewish shtetl—breathing life into an entire world of language, culture, and customs—a world of which hardly a trace has survived. It is often said that reality surpasses imagination; hard as it may be to believe, everything described in Dreams really did take place. None of the names of the main characters have been changed, and their descendants are among us today. Raaya Admoni—a veteran radio editor and presenter at Kol Israel, Israel’s Broadcasting Authority—has written many radio plays and stories which have garnered considerable success. In Dreams, written after extensive research, Admoni’s vivid characters are lovingly infused with the breath of life. Raaya Admoni’s book for children, Mother Says It’s Late was published in 2001.

About the Author

In most novels, it is customary to say either at the beginning or at the end that any resemblance between the characters in the book and between living people, or people who once lived, is completely coincidental and that all events related in the story are merely the author’s imagination. In this case, the opposite is true. The central characters that are described in this novel did indeed live, and their names have also been kept unchanged. The whole novel started with a guided study tour, one of the many that the Israel Broadcasting Authority used regularly to offer its staff. During the long coach journey, my friend and colleague Menachem Peri told me of an incident from the life of Sarka, his maternal grandmother. He said that when she was only thirteen years old her family forced her to marry an elderly widower, the rabbi from the little town of Belzitz, where they lived. It had come about only because her mother had a dream in which her eldest daughter married the rabbi. This tale of the young girl’s plight gave me no rest. In my imagination I entered into this poor child’s thoughts and feelings, and I knew that there would be no peace for me until I had written the story. As I began to write, I was drawn to other stories from the Peri-Friedman family. I would grill Menachem again and again, wanting to know any details he could remember. This was how this narrative, written over the course of several years, took on its flesh and bones. I felt a moral obligation not to change the names of the main characters, and to make this book into a memorial for them for generations to come. I hope that my writing has not harmed them at all, but rather, how they have been described has done them the justice they surely deserve.