Learning from Children’s Literature

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by Sarah Ganton, Reference Services Research Intern, Center for Jewish History

The ways in which we preserve history for future generations are particularly relevant during holiday seasons, when we remember traditions and objects that mark special days. We might save our grandmother’s menorah, or pass down the secret family recipe for hamentashen. The yearly Sukkah is, of course, too big to save for future generations, but, nonetheless, we remember many happy times during Sukkot.

While looking through archival items housed at the Center for Jewish History that pertain to Sukkot, I stumbled upon three children’s books. All are sweetly illustrated and fun to read, but they represent something much deeper than nostalgia for childhood. These books, with their Sukkah-building bears and prayer-chanting children, are essentially teaching aids, helping to introduce young children to their Jewish heritage and the traditions of Jewish culture. 

One of the books, The Sukkah and the Big Wind by Lily Edelman, was published in 1956 by the United Synagogue Commission on Jewish Education and features a discussion of decorating the Sukkah, children singing a Hebrew song of welcome to their friends, and a nightly Hebrew bedtime prayer.

Similarly, Leo and Blossom’s Sukkah, by Jane Breskin Zalben, depicts two baby bears building their own Sukkah next to that of their parents, and shows the family equating the harvest feast of Sukkot to American Thanksgiving.

Succos Time with Fishele and Fraydele, self-published by author Faige Shain, is part of a series of books that show an observant family as they celebrate Sukkot, buying the appropriate decorations and attending services together. Succos Time in particular includes many Hebrew Sukkot-related words that a Jewish child might need to know, such as s’chach, the material used to make the roof of a Sukkah, and arba minim, the Four Species of plant that are waved in a traditional Sukkot ceremony.

To search the Center partners’ collections for these books and others like them, click here. To view other Sukkot-related materials, click here.

Books referenced:

The Sukkah and the Big Wind, by Lily Edelman. United Synagogue Commission on Jewish Education, 1956. YIVO Archives 000131676

Leo and Blosssom’s Sukkah, by Jane Breskin Zalben. H. Holt, 1990. AJHS Archives BM695.S8 Z3 1990

Succos Time with Fishele and FraydeleI, by Faige Shain. Self-published, 1974. AJHS Archives PZ7.S4 S8

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