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Faygala, Yiddish Refugee Review by Renee Knoblauch

Betty Baker with Irene McKinney, PhD
Olive Press Publisher

Faygala, Yiddish Refugee from Olive Press Publisher is a heartfelt story that is based off a true story. It’s rich in the Jewish culture and has several of the beautiful Jewish liturgy (prayers) that I love. As a messianic believer in Yeshua (Jesus), I was delighted to read this story. It is written by the daughter-in-law of Faygala who is also a believer in Yeshua. It is also a story of courage, faith, persecution, and immigration.

The story is fairly short, but rich with details. There are seven chapters in this story. You are going to be introduced to some prayers that are transliterations in Hebrew. Some of the prayers are 3,000 years old. The culture is authentic throughout the story. If you’re unfamiliar with the Jewish culture and Yiddish words don’t worry as it is explained in a simple yet elegant way. In the back of the book you have a glossary of the Yiddish words, pronunciation guide, and an epilogue. The illustrations are pencil drawings that are very detailed.

The story is based off a young Jewish girl living in Russia in the early 1900’s. It’s a time of unrest in Russia when men are being forced into the army by the Czars officers. Many Jewish men are fleeing to America and leaving behind loved ones until they can save up the money to bring them to America. Then you have the Cossacks who are ruthless going into the villages and ransacking them. The Cossacks have no respect for young maidens and misuse them.

Faygala is one of those young maidens who is able to escape the Cossack soldiers before they hurt her. She is forced to leave her beloved village, family, and a young man with whom she hopes to marry one day. Faygala’s father is already in America. He has been trying to save up money to bring his whole family to Ohio. Faygala is no longer safe in her village from the Cossack soldiers. Her family decides to send her to America immediately. She travels to the coast with her neighbors who are going to America.

Faygala endures the hardship on the ship to America. Interesting details about the immigration process at Ellis Island, and Faygala’s impression of being in America and the culture shock of it all.

The story reads fairly fast. I read it in an hour. I would recommend this story to older elementary kids and up due to some of the topics. My son has read the story and it has been easy for him to read. He is already familiar with the Hebrew transliterations, prayers, and the culture. I don’t foresee this being a hard story to read even if you aren’t familiar with the culture and all the elements around it. Like I mentioned that everything is explained throughout the story. My son enjoyed the story and felt that it was an intriguing story.

A warning if you don’t want to expose your children to certain elements: There is mention in the story when the Cossack soldiers find Faygala alone and grab her hair and toss her around grabbing at her skirt and petticoat. It doesn’t go further than that. There is another segment that briefly mentions that Jewish girls are being misused by the Cossack soldiers. There are no details other than what I mentioned.

This book is a great addition to your family library. This would be a wonderful story if you’re learning about immigration or maybe you want to learn about a culture. This is a realistic story of the Jewish culture. Many of the things you read in the story are done today in Jewish families.

I recommend this heartfelt story. It’s a story that has imprinted itself in my mind of what the Jewish people have endured throughout history. The whole process of what many immigrants did to come to America so they could be free to worship and for a better life in America.

You can purchase Faygala, Yiddish Refugee in both a printed and e-book format.

- Product review by Renee Knoblauch, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, February, 2018