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Please Say Kaddish For Me

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~~~~~~~~~Jewish persecution under Russian Czar!~~~~~~~~~ 1899 Russia under the cruel Czarist rule is not a good place to be a Jew!

Russia under the diabolical Czarist rule is a very bad place and a very bad time to be a Jew. Fair game to marauding peasants and government militia alike, the random slaughter of entire Jewish families is commonplace rather than a rare occurrence. It is, however, a time for brave men. And brave women.

Barefoot, wearing only a flimsy nightgown, sixteen-year-old Havah Cohen alone escapes the brutal massacre by the Czarist tyranny that destroys her home and slaughters her family on a frigid November night in 1899.

Love ignited, lost and found, insurmountable struggles and challenges, Kishinev's Jewish pogroms and all odds against them, Havah and her soul mate, Arel, withstand the storms of life in this unforgettable story of a time and place rarely spoken of, and romance and courage so profound as to be rarely experienced.

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370 pages, Kindle Edition

First published January 1, 2015

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Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

12 books1 follower

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Displaying 1 - 12 of 12 reviews
Profile Image for Jeanie Loiacono.
165 reviews1 follower
October 15, 2015
To read Please Say Kaddish For Me is a journey into enlightenment. I had no knowledge of the Jewish Pogroms until I read this book. Nothing is ever taught of this in school. Like the Holocaust, such atrocities are swept under the rug and regarded as something that ‘happened to the Jews.’ No, it is still happening to yet another race, gender, religion. Thank you, Rochelle, for re-minding me of what will never end, but what we can do something about, starting in our own thoughts, words and actions.
Profile Image for Lisa Regan.
Author 28 books2,412 followers
September 28, 2015
Beautifully written

This is a fast-paced read, a disturbing glimpse into the lives of Jewish families in Russia at the turn of the 20th century. Very sad and horrific the violence and tragedies these characters endure. At its heart though, this book is a moving, poignant love story that reminds us of our own precious humanity, no matter what our race, religion or ethnicity. I can't wait for the sequel. I need to know what happens to these extremely well-known characters.
Profile Image for Sarah Potter.
Author 2 books34 followers
August 18, 2015
This novel, set in the Czarist Russia of 1899, was a real eye-opener for me. Before I read it, I knew very little about the appalling treatment of Jews in the Country at that time. Labelled as "Christ Killers", whole families were brutally murdered or lived in constant terror of thugs storming into theirs homes or workplaces to treat them to violence or finish them off.

Against this backcloth, the author paints a most vivid and detailed picture of daily Jewish life and the importance of family, bound in tradition, ritual observation, and obligation: the concept of extended family ingrained into them in a way that outsiders might misunderstand as exclusivity and use as an excuse for persecution.

The main character in the novel is Havah, the daughter of a Rabbi. After her family is murdered and her village razed, she is adopted into another family. She's feisty and sometimes pigheaded, often fighting against the traditional female role expected of her, which includes women not reading and instead tending to household chores, especially the preparation of meals. In this novel, there is so much about cooking and the rituals surrounding mealtimes! On the face of it, this might not sound interesting but the author describes it in such as to makes it fascinating.

Although the story is centered around Jews, it is very much about the human condition: the delicate balance between order and chaos; the push-me-pull-you between love and hatred, and the grey areas in between. Thus, it's a story that's worth reading, whatever your religious or non-religious background.

I have one little criticism, or rather suggestion to the author if she plans a second edition of the novel, and that is the construction of a family tree in diagram form at the beginning of the book. The names would all be familiar for a Russian Jew from 1899, but not so for the likes of modern English-speaking readers. I got in a terrible muddle about names and about who was related to who. But don't let this put you off reading this most worthy and illuminating work, just have a pen to the ready, and jot down who is who on a scrap of paper to keep as your bookmark, then you won't get lost.

On a closing note, Rochelle is an artist as well as a writer, and is responsible for her own cover art by kind permission of her publisher.
Profile Image for Dale Rogerson.
104 reviews3 followers
October 16, 2015
I wish I could have uploaded the picture of the book! Oh well.
It has been a while since a book capture my attention so deeply. I couldn't put it down and forfeit cleaning house for reading!

My Yiddish is so-so (thankfully my father was a "goy mit a yiddishe kopf", so I knew quite a few of them though I cannot guarantee my pronunciation ~ in my head ~ was right!) but in most cases, the English translation was given.

Horrid time for Jews in Russia under the Tsarist (Czarist) regime. The horrors this people were dealt were beyond appalling and Rochelle describes them in all their gory detail. Kudos to her for shining a light on a most difficult time.

I fell in love with Havah Cohen, the main heroine of the story. There are a lot of characters and it takes a good bit of concentration to figure out who is who and what their relationships are to each other but Havah's story touches on each one to paint a clear picture.

Not for the faint of heart but definitely for anyone who enjoys historical fiction. You don't need to be Jewish to appreciate this story but an open mind and heart is definitely a must.
Profile Image for HalKid2.
540 reviews
February 8, 2019
Somewhat interesting not very well written. I consider the three stars awarded on Goodreads is a bit of a gift.

After beginning my own genealogy work, I started looking for an historical novel that would give me a richer sense of what it was like to live through the “pogroms”, the brutal persecution which motivated the exodus of literally MILLIONS of Jews from Eastern Europe between 1880 - 1910. Many of them, including my grandparents and the author’s, wound up in the United States. My Google search for “historical novels + pogroms” turned up this suggestion. So, I jumped right in.

It’s the story of a large extended Jewish family living in Czarist Russia in the late 1880s. (In fact, there are so many members in this family that I found it difficult to keep track of who was related to whom and how.) Early on in the book a teenage girl, Havah, witnesses a horrific act of violence and flees one small Jewish settlement for another. There she is taken in by this large extended family.

The next 80% of the book is much more focused on daily Jewish life-- making meals, arranging marriages, studying the Torah. There is much effort put into documenting the speech patterns commonly attributed to Jews. I found, after a while, that this stepped over the line into stereotyping, and did not add to the narrative of the novel.

There are also storylines that portray less that admirable aspects of everyday life. Marriages without love, domestic abuse, petty jealousy, and general unkind behavior — all of which have little to do with the main plot. So that it did not, for me, paint a very favorable picture of many in the family.

On the other hand, I did get the sense of the poverty and limited opportunity available to Jews at this time. And there are a few random acts of intimidation and discrimination. I understood that there was always the threat of more serious acts of violence, keeping Jews always on their guard. And it was clear they had no recourse or could count on fairness or support from local officials. Some of the people in the story do demonstrate loyal and close connections. And there is one non-Jew whose empathy for the plight of Jews brings him into the orbit of the family.

About 85% into the book, there is another horrific act of violence — the one which finally prompts many family members to emigrate.

I found the writing downright amateurish. There is no logical story arch and so, no steady building of tension. The novel’s construction is clunky, with too much detail given to many UNimportant events and some important events skipped over much too quickly. Characters too often become caricatures, lacking believable motivations for their actions. 

Do I have a better sense of Jewish life during the pogroms? A bit. But I plan to look for a different novel, one that hopefully provides more perspective on why the pogroms occurred when they did, what was going on in the minds of the perpetrators, and what was the nature of relations between Jews and non-Jews during this period. If you have any suggestions, I’d welcome them.
Profile Image for Diane Yates.
Author 6 books13 followers
September 11, 2015
From the first sentence, Wisoff-Field’s writing transported me to Russia just before the turn of the twentieth century. I became the young Jewish girl, Havah, struggling to survive amid extreme prejudice, hatred and conflict. I felt Havah’s grief, anguish, strength, determination and grit. I feasted on the words of the Torah, as well as the Holy prayers and wondered who would be the lucky man to stand beside her as her husband. Would that decision be hers to make or would the elders make it for her? Filled with suspense, beauty, love, and true-life horror, Please Say Kaddish For Me is a riveting read.
Profile Image for Jeanie Loiacono.
165 reviews1 follower
January 22, 2016
To read Please Say Kaddish For Me is a journey into enlightenment. I had no knowledge of the Jewish Pogroms until I read this book. Nothing is ever taught of this in school. Like the Holocaust, such atrocities are swept under the rug and regarded as something that 18happened to the Jews. 19 No, it is still happening to yet another race, gender, religion. Thank you, Rochelle, for re-minding me of what will never end, but what we can do something about, starting in our own thoughts, words and actions.
405 reviews
May 1, 2016
heartbreaking and uplifting all in one! Thanks Sissy for this signed book from your friend's cousin!
3 reviews
February 21, 2019
This was the first eBook I have read in a few years. And it was novel to be able to dip in and out of this book on my phone wherever I was, whenever I had a spare five minutes. The ability to dip in an out of this book is poignant as the story dips in and out of the characters' lives. And what a cast of characters. No... what an extended family. This theme of family extends from this book in a way that is both heartwarming and heart-aching. Right from the first chapter, where the heroine, Havah, flees for her life, you know you are in the hands of a capable storyteller.

The tone of narration has a familiar feel to it, which I think is due to the psychic distance of the omniscient viewpoint, where we always remain close to the storytelling character's viewpoint, and never slip into the author's viewpoint, which can jar and, if done too frequently, can jerk a reader out of the fictive dream.

There is no jarring or jerking in this prose. The narration feels smooth, despite the hardships heaped upon Havah and those she cares for. She is a true survivor, and indicative of the spiritual backbone of the Jewish faith. Don't get me wrong, this is not a religious book, but there is a quiet strength of faith about this story and in the delivery of this story, that I was often left with a sense of peacefulness whenever and wherever in my busy day I found time to read more.

The other thing I enjoyed about this book were the topics tackled: from the graphic portrayal of amputation, to the loveliness of child birth; the beauty of love, to the tragedy of death; the passion of true love to the duty of love unfound and unfounded. There are so many human emotions all bundled up believably in this story, and overarched by loss. And yet, as typified in Fruma Ya'el, who literally breathes love, there is always hope.

This theme of hope, this trust that things will turn out for the best, no matter what the hardship, is the main theme I loved. One that even now, still brings a tear to my eye.
Profile Image for Laurie Bell.
Author 6 books25 followers
July 1, 2018

A powerful, raw, emotional book. In a nut shell this book is a must read.

Family is love and love makes family. This is a book that centers on family. Havah, the main character, suffers so much in her life, but amongst the tragedy and pain she somehow manages to find moments of happiness.

The world is a nightmare, the religion strict, the life hard. And yet there are glimmers of hope in hair not cut, in learning to read, in playing a piano. In Havah’s bravery against impossible odds.

Tragic events occur in the blink of an eye and are devastating in their consequences. Author Rochelle Wisoff-Fields is able to describe these brutal events simply but in a way that have profound impact on both the characters and the reader.

As a reader I think, how could this have happened? It could not happen now and yet… That is why books like these are so important. Reading a book like this is important. Family is important. Love is important.

I found this an emotional read and a brilliant book. I’ve already bought book two.
Profile Image for Trent McDonald.
Author 6 books1 follower
March 5, 2018
his is the story of Havah, you young Jewish woman growing up in early 20th century Russia. If you've The Fiddler on the Roof, you might have some idea of the setting. There are some similarities to that musical. They both have themes of love that goes beyond the bounds of tradition, and they both have pogroms and expulsion as defining moments. In Ms. Wisoff-Fields' book, though, the antisemitism is even darker and bloodier. The book is full of interesting characters, not all of them good people. All of them, though, are drawn as human, with the good people having faults and the bad redeeming qualities. OK, for the most part, those participating in the violence are only briefly seen, and there only the bad side, but for those characters that appear on more than a handful of pages, there are humanizing qualities.

Overall it was a very good read about a very bad time.
Displaying 1 - 12 of 12 reviews

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