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 

What Our Teens Wish We Knew Sarah Pachter As a parent with a preteen, I am on the cusp of a new and challenging stage: the teenage years. Brimming with curiosity, and attempting to prepare myself for the next phase, I have casually interviewed teens…

Torah Musings: What Our Teens Wish We Knew

Dear readers, Love is one of the most confusing and misunderstood words in our vocabulary. We start off our lives with a very primitive, selfish love—we enjoy food, for example. We feel a connection to a food item with a flavor that pleases us and…

Dear Readers..

New Sefer Torah for Children is Dedicated at Kol Avrohom Yehudis Litvak For the past six years, Congregation Bais Bezalel on Pico Boulevard has hosted a children’s minyan named Kol Avrohom. Headed by Rabbi Zalmy Hecht, Kol Avrohom offers lively and inspiring davening for boys…

New Sefer Torah for Children is Dedicated at Kol Avrohom

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Chai Lifeline Young Leaders Gather for 5th Annual Summer Soirée Over 100 members of Chai Lifeline West Coast’s Young Leaders Initiative gathered at the home of Marilyn and Jaime Sohacheski on June 17th for an evening of fun and inspiration at Chai Lifeline West Coast’s…

Chai Lifeline Young Leaders Gather for 5th Annual Summer Soirée

Eight Ways Our Feelings Help Us Grow Rabbi Dov Heller, LMFT Feelings are information. In order to grow, it is essential to listen and learn from them. Here are eight ways that feelings help us actualize our vast potential. Growing in self-care Identifying and meeting…

Emotional Health: Eight Ways Our Feelings Help Us Grow

Dear readers, The story of Korach’s challenge to Moshe Rabbeinu’s leadership has many lessons. Most partisan attacks begin with raw jealousy. It is then enclosed in reasoning to enflame the masses. The complainer usually wants the same thing they’re railing against. In this case, Korach…

Dear Readers..

The Los Angeles Premier of Soon By You at The Community Shul Yehudis Litvak Soon By You, an award-winning Jewish comedic web series, premiered the first episode of its second season at The Community Shul in Los Angeles. Mostly hilarious, yet at times heartbreaking, Soon…

The Los Angeles Premier of Soon By You at The Community Shul

Mishnayos Baal Peh Prizes at Cheder Menachem Los Angeles On Sunday 13 Sivan, talmidim of Cheder Menachem Los Angeles, together with their Mechanchim, parents, grandparents, relatives and friends  gathered together to mark the culmination of over two months of learning Mishnayos and Tanya Baal Peh,…

Mishnayos Baal Peh Prizes at Cheder Menachem Los Angeles

Waking Up is Hard to Do Sarah Pachter I recently attended a class given by older rebbetzin who had raised six children, now grown. She described a scene from her younger years when her children spanned the ages of six months to 16 years old.…

Torah Musings: Waking Up is Hard to Do