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A Day of Small Beginnings    by Liza Pearl Rosenbaum order for
Day of Small Beginnings
by Liza Pearl Rosenbaum
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2006 (2006)

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

In 1906, a fourteen-year-old boy in a small village in Poland was forced to flee when a mishap occurred and someone died. He, being a Jew, was blamed. And so Itzik Leiber came to America. His son Nathan changed the family name to Linden so as not to be identified as a Jew.

On a scholar's trip to Poland, something draws Nathan to his father's village of Zokof. There he finds the last remaining Jew, Rafael, who is determined to stay there to represent what went before. In so doing, Nathan meets a woman, Friedl Alterman, who died a year before his father fled Poland. This specter drives him to pray for the first time in his life.

Nathan's daughter, a choreographer, accepting a chance to present a new program of her own creativity in Warsaw, is also visited by the specter. Going to the village of her grandfather's youth, she too meets the last Jew and tries to embrace the religion she is bound to but has never practiced.

A Day of Small Beginnings is a compelling novel of a woman's search not only for her genetic roots but for her religion. In trying to understand what she is a part of, Ellen takes her readers on a journey of discovery of the meaning of Judaism and how it could affect her and her beliefs. She also discovers for the first time the awful plight of Polish Jews before and after World War II. This is a powerful book written with grace and elegance not to be skimmed through.

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