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Book Review: In the Promised Land
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2005 blog


Jewish Children's Literature
In the Promised Land

delivers on promises
books file, March 24, 2005

Doreen Rappaport, In the Promised Land: Lives of Jewish Americans, HarperCollings Publishers, 32 pages illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu, $15.00

Reviewed by Donald H. Harrison

What can be more satisfying than finding a book tending to confirm your favorite theory? My theory is that "there is a Jewish story everywhere" and the children's book that was sent to me for review was Doreen Rappaport's In the Promised Land: Lives of Jewish Americans.

Rappaport chose 13 subjects—7 men and 6 women—for this book written for children ages 5-9. In a few deft paragraphs she described a quintessential moment in each of their lives, moments that we their co-religionists can take pride in.

She wrote about Ernestine Rose, a 19th century advocate for women's rights, addressing legislators of New York State, presumably in Albany. Additionally, she described and artists Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu illustrated the following figures in American Jewish history:

• Photographer Solmon Nunes Carvalho on an expedition to snow-bound Utah, and also pictured

• Tailor Jacob W. Davis inventing what would become Levi jeans in Reno, Nevada; 

• Magician Harry Houdini emerging unchained from the Mississippi River near New Orleans

• Track and field star Lillian Copeland winning a gold medal for the discus throw in the Amsterdam Olympics; 

• Resettlement worker Ira Hirschmann greeting Romanian Jewish refugees off the coast of Turkey; 

• Doctor Jonas Salk creating a polio vaccine utilizing antibodies from the children of  Leetsdale, Pennsylvania; 

• Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg tying for first place as a graduate of Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Mass. 

•Astronaut Judith Resnick performing an experiment in space, and

• Movie maker Steven Spielberg in Hollywood creating the character E.T: The Extra Terrestrial.

Three other stories were set in a place that we have become accustomed to to reading about Jews: New York City—or, as immigrant Asser Levy from Recife, Brazil,  knew it in 1654, Nieuw Amsterdam.

Author Rappaport told of Levy successfully petitioning Nieuw Amsterdam's anti-Semitic governor Peter Stuyvesant for the right to stand guard duty rather than to be automatically taxed for that obligation.

Rappaport also told of social worker Lillian Wald helping Jewish refugees who crowded New York City's Lower East side, and labor union organizer Pauline Newman helping immigrant girls and women who worked in New York City's garment factories,