Facing Tefillah, Community, and Family as a Couple Struggling with Fertility Dr. Karen Wasserstein Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It is a time of reflection, a time of spirituality. For many people, tefillah, community and family feel like a warm embrace. To others, such as those experiencing infertility, these can feel…

Facing Tefillah, Community, and Family as a Couple Struggling with Fertility

More Secrets Towards a Happier Marriage Sarah Pachter An acquaintance of mine, Judy, opened up about her strained marriage. I told her about a book entitled The Empowered Wife, by Laura Doyle. Doyle’s personal story sounded similar to Judy’s, and she had made this the…

Torah Musings: More Secrets Towards a Happier Marriage

Dear readers, When I was a teenager, and we would form teams to play sports, I generally allowed the other captain to pick the better players. This meant he had the better team and was expected to win. My team, on the other hand, was…

Dear Readers..

Pink Challah Bake Hosted by Sharsheret Yehudis Litvak Sharsheret, a national non-profit organization offering support to Jewish women facing breast and ovarian cancer, hosted a Pink Challah Bake and Women’s Health Education Discussion, held at the Bais Yaakov of Los Angeles. Over 30 local women…

Pink Challah Bake Hosted by Sharsheret

Dor Yeshorim Does More for Klal Yisrael Specialized family testing is only one way Dor Yeshorim preserves generations. You may know Dor Yeshorim as a compatibility test, ensuring that you or your children would never have to experience the pain of genetic disease, R”L. You…

Dor Yeshorim Does More for Klal Yisrael

Valley Riders Help Chai Lifeline Raise Over $10 Million Dollars Two Valley Village bike riders, Dr. Jan Moore and Moshe Kinsbursky, joined with 575 riders from across the U.S., Mexico, and Canada to participate in the tenth annual Bike4Chai August 14th-15th. Bike4Chai is a two-day 180-mile…

Valley Riders Help Chai Lifeline Raise Over $10 Million Dollars

Jewish Residential Treatment Program for Women to Open This Fall Yehudis Litvak The substance abuse and addiction epidemic has hit the Jewish community hard, with too many heartbreaking cases of fatal overdoses. Addiction treatment programs are life-saving, but most of them are not Jewish and…

Jewish Residential Treatment Program for Women to Open This Fall

Dear readers, It’s counterintuitive: We are not permitted by the Torah to allow our animals to do work for us on Shabbos, yet if our one-year-old turns the light on, we don’t have to stop them. The same thing regarding damages to another person’s property:…

Dear Readers..

What teens wished we knew part two “When I’m a parent, I’ll never…” Sarah Pachter As a teen, I found myself saying, “When I have children, I’ll never _____,” so many times I lost count. Call it modeling or human nature, as parents most of…

Torah Musings: What teens wished we knew part two

How to Avoid a Spiritual Crash Rabbi Dov Heller, LMFT Silvia, 25, was soaring after her discovery of Judaism in Jerusalem a year ago. A new world of exciting possibilities had opened up for her. She had never felt so happy in all her life.…

Emotional Health: How to Avoid a Spiritual Crash

Dear readers, A few weeks ago, my wife was reading our four-year-old a book describing how we all have two voices inside us, one pulling down and one pulling up. It describes in detail the things the yetzer tov says and the things the yetzer…

The Prophetess by Evonne Marzouk (Bancroft Press 2019)

book review

Reviewed by Rebecca Klempner

Given the dearth of YA fantasy novels in Jewish literature, I was excited to learn of the upcoming publication of The Prophetess, by Evonne Marzouk. This new novel—more magic realism than fantasy, really—hits all the right YA notes while remaining entrenched in a Jewish worldview.

The Prophetess centers on Rachel, a 17-year-old girl living in contemporary Baltimore. After her grandfather’s death, she develops crippling migraines accompanied flashes of light. It soon becomes apparent to Rachel and to us that these are more than headaches. While under their sway, she catches glimpses of other people, experiencing events in their lives as if she were them.

Zaide’s death brings another change to Rachel’s life: While her grandfather and uncles remained firmly Orthodox, Rachel’s mother left the world of Torah and mitzvos before her marriage. The family keeps kosher in order to please Zaide and make him feel welcome. They attend Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services at Zaide’s Orthodox shul. However, that’s pretty much the extent of the family’s religious practice. Rachel attends public school, goes to parties with boys, and has a crush on a non-Jewish classmate.

Following Zaide’s death, the family must choose whether to keep their kitchen kosher and whether they will continue to attend Zaide’s synagogue. Rachel and her mother find themselves at odds with her father and her sister, Beth. Rachel begins praying regularly from the children’s prayerbook that Zaide had given her, inscribed with the message, “May she grow into all of her gifts.”

When Rachel and her mother end up at the shul on Yom Kippur, Rachel spots a strange visitor—a visitor who can explain Rachel’s mysterious headaches and visions. Under his tutelage, Rachel unlocks the key to the gifts Zaide always told her she possessed. What follows is a fantastic journey to the Holy Land and back—and then again to the Holy Land.

The world of Jewish publishing has a poor track record with YA novels in general, largely because many of the frum book world’s gatekeepers are concerned with some of the genre’s conventions. YA books often center on teens’ emerging interest in the opposite sex and their questioning of adult role models and social values. Jewish books with teen protagonists tend to be “aged up” and slid into the adult section, minus many traditional YA internal struggles, or “aged down” into gentler middle-grade or tween fare. This is to the detriment of Jewish teens—as teens often use YA’s on-page psychological struggles to sort out their real-life ones.

Fantasy novels do a little better in Jewish publishing. While references to avodah zarah, necromancy, and divination are largely avoided, portal magic and other sub-genres are acceptable—yet hey have yet to be fully embraced, forcing frum fans of fantasy books to turn to secular books.

While I hesitate to recommend The Prophetess for the small subset of frum readers who do not read any books referring to dating outside the shidduch system, romantic feelings, and so on, I do heartily suggest it to those teens who are already reading YA novels with such content and to adult readers who enjoy YA books. The book is never prurient, contains no foul language (twice, a questionable word is abbreviated to an inoffensive form), and the messages are overall wholesome. My suspicion is that most Jewish YA readers will embrace The Prophetess as a reflection of their heritage and a fun read. It’s scheduled for release in October but is available for pre-order on Amazon right now.

Tomchei LA’S Golf Classic  Tova Abady Tomchei LA’s Annual Golf Classic, held July 1st at Trump National Golf Club in Rancho Palos Verdes, was by all accounts a truly spectacular event. The event was launched five years ago to help continue the vital work of…

Tomchei LA’S Golf Classic