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Shabbat Shalom and גאָט בּענטש אַמעריקע

Here in the United States of America, we will soon celebrate the 246th anniversary of our independence. And as a grateful immigrant, I will soon celebrate my 60th year in this great nation. The blessings are boundless; a deep sense of pride and patriotism continues to fill my heart.

I come from a long line of immigrants. I wish I could trace my lineage with some level of accuracy beyond that which I know: Russian Jews that settled in Argentina thanks to Baron Hirsch and the Jewish Colonization Association. My family later immigrated to the U.S. and I’ve spent a life time explaining, to all who ask, why there are blue-eyed Jews that speak Spanish.  I try to explain the diaspora. I try to explain the complex history of our immigration. I try to explain that there have been Jews in South America since 1492… “when Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” Quite often, this fact is met with shock. Quite often, this fact only brings up the next question: So how long have Jews been in the good ol’ USA?

As a history buff and a great fan of historical fiction, these questions—for the most part—please me. It is a subject near and dear to my heart! But it is for that very reason, that these questions are also bittersweet. Most people have some understanding, or knowledge, of the massive wave of immigration in the early 20th century. Stories of Ellis Island have been made popular and encompass the history of many peoples that came to these shores. But the story of Jewish immigration doesn’t begin with familiar scenes from “Fiddler on the Roof” or “Yentl.” Here’s a fact for you: There is documentation of practicing Jews in colonial America. In fact, it is estimated that there were approximately 2,000 Jews living here and at least seven Sephardic (Iberian Peninsula Jews) congregations. Congregation Shearith Israel was founded in New York City in 1655. Rhode Island’s Yeshuat Israel in Newport began 1658. Congregation Mickve Israel served the people of Savannah, Georgia as early as 1733.

These Jews were from all across Europe. Their list of reasons for leaving hearth and home were the very same that other immigrants could enumerate. They sought freedom. They sought prosperity. They sought peace of mind. And when the colonies united against England, these Jewish immigrants answered the call in some form or fashion.

Haym Salomon rendered immeasurable service to the Revolution by providing financial support in desperate times. His service to this nation should be heralded by all. Aaron Lopez of Newport and Isaac Moses of Philadelphia also had the means to assist the cause. Risking their source of revenue, as well as their lives, these merchants sailed their own ships past British blockades and brought clothing, guns, and food to deprived soldiers. Many other Jewish patriots took up arms. In South Carolina, for example, one troop had so many Jewish soldiers, they were dubbed the “Jews’ Company.” In 1776, Francis Salvador, the first Jewish State Legislator of South Carolina, was killed fighting against Loyalists and their Cherokee allies.  In 1777, Lieutenant Solomon Bush discovered a spy in George Washington’s headquarters. The lieutenant was taken prisoner by the British, although he was later released.

Needless to say, women also supported the cause. Abigail Minis was a prominent businesswoman in Savannah, Georgia during the American Revolutionary War. Her financial support and hospitality gained her fame and admiration amongst the troops. There is even some notion that Mrs. Minis met George Washington in 1791 when he was in Savannah; unfortunately, that can’t be confirmed. Her daughter, Leah, however did meet with the president years later. Mrs. Abigail Minis was 91 years of age at the time. She was surely kvelling at that honor, as any mother would!

The Mill Street synagogue was a central anchor for the Jewish community in the city of New York since its founding in 1730. In 1766, Gershom Mendes Seixas became the hazzan, or cantor, of the congregation. Although he was not an ordained rabbi, he lead the Jewish community and encouraged their integration into their new society. He was an ardent patriot and supported the cause; and when the British captured New York, Mendes Seixas led the congregation to its temporary home in Philadelphia.  

In the Post-Revolutionary period, Mendes Seixas wanted to undergird the patriotism in the Jewish community by reinforcing their significance in the fabric that made up America. He wrote President Washington and asked for a statement of recognition and reassurance from the new government.

Deprived as we heretofore have been of the invaluable rights of free Citizens, we now (with a deep sense of gratitude to the Almighty disposer of all events) behold a Government, erected by the Majesty of the People—a Government, which to bigotry gives no sanction, to persecution no assistance—but generously affording to All liberty of conscience, and immunities of Citizenship: deeming every one, of whatever Nation, tongue, or language, equal parts of the great governmental Machine

In probably one of the most important presidential letters in American history, Washington wrote back.

It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support. . .

May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants—while everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.

May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy...”

This important message highlights an extraordinary moment in history and for American Jewry. Here, in this great country, we were given freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of enterprise. And as an immigrant, I know that freedom is rare and fragile. On this Shabbat, and on this anniversary of independence, I simply wanted to acknowledge that fact and say thank you. God Bless America.

גאָט בּענטש אַמעריקע,
לאַנד װאָס איך ליבּ,
שטײזע בּײַ איר,
מַדְרִיךְ זײַ איר
איבּראל לײַכט א שטראל אונז צוליבּ
פון די בּערג בּיז
צו די פּרײריעס
בּיז די יאמן װײַס מיט שױם
גאָט בּענטש אַמעריקע,
מײַן זיסע הײם
גאָט בּענטש אַמעריקע,
מײַן זיסע הײם
God bless America,
land that I love.
Stand beside her
and guide her,
through the night with a light from above.
From the mountains
to the prairies
to the oceans white with foam,
God bless America,
my home sweet home,
God bless America,
my home sweet home.
Irving Berlin
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Mazal Tov! Celebrating a Jewish Regency Romance novel~

Welcome June and mazal tov to all! Most likely, you know this common Hebrew phrase. We usually say mazal tov in place of “congratulations” or “best wishes,” but are you familiar with its other esoteric meaning? The word mazal means “drip from above” and it relates to the zodiac signs which are called mazalot. In Jewish tradition, the constellations direct our destinies; therefore, one could say that mazal drips down from the stars.

All of this, of course, is in keeping with my book; and to commemorate the anniversary of Celestial Persuasion, I will be hosting giveaways and participating in book tours throughout the month. Keep your eye on the lovely reviews! It’s all happening on Instagram. Readers across the globe are discovering Jewish Regency Romance and (lucky for me) they’re loving it!

Such is the life of an indie author. Writing a novel is one thing; promoting the book is on another level! Join me in getting the word out, won’t you? Here’s what’s up for grabs:

💙 Signed copy of Celestial Persuasion

Or

💙 Gift from a “Jane Austen” Etsy shop (value $15.00)

Or

💙 Free eBook copy of “Celestial Persuasion”

Or

💙 Amazon gift card (value $15.00)

To enter:

1) If you haven’t already done so, sign up to receive this blog

2) Add Celestial Persuasion to your Goodreads “Want to Read” list

3) Like and share the Instagram post. Use #JewishRegencyRomance and don’t forget to tag me!

The rules of this giveaway are as follows:

1) Must be over the age of 18 to enter
2) US and Canadian residents only 3) This giveaway is not sponsored by Instagram, Goodreads, or any of their affiliates
4) Giveaway ends on 6/30/22 at 11:59 pm EST.

Best of luck & thanks for participating!

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A Salute to Mothers~ With Love, a Jewish Regency Author

It’s been a while since I’ve added to the blog. I thought long and hard on what I could present to this group of well-informed and clever people. In keeping with my modus operandi, I knew that I needed to combine my cultural heritage with my love for all things Austen; and so, I looked to the calendar and found my mark.

It’s May, and here in the United States, we just celebrated Mother’s Day—but not so in other parts of the world. Let me persuade you to take a turn about the globe with me. It’s so refreshing!

Cassandra Leigh Austen

Naturally, I will begin in England! Jane Austen would have been familiar with the festive occasion known as Mothering Sunday. Usually occurring during the season of Lent, it was a day for church, as well as acknowledging one’s matriarch. Even servants were given the day off, so that they could visit with their own mothers and perhaps share a token of their love. I did a little research on Jane Austen’s mother and found that Mrs. Austen was considered witty and quite talented herself with a quill and a bit of foolscap. It is generally acknowledged that the Rev. Austen supported his daughter’s love for reading and writing. However, it appears that Jane might have inherited her talents from her mother. I can easily imagine Mothering Sunday in the Austen household. After church, our dear girl would very likely read from her latest scribblings to honor her mother. Then perhaps, they would have tea with iced cakes or some such. They certainly didn’t head out for brunch or to the nearest salon for a mani-pedi!

In the United States of America, Mother’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday in May. It is considered a secular holiday; but when first established by Anna Jarvis on May 10, 1908, it was celebrated during church services—at St. Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia, to be exact. I read that Jarvis was critical of the commercialization that quickly took over the occasion and continued to encourage all to reflect upon and honor the important contributions of mothers.

In my native country of Argentina—where Catholicism is the State religion—Mother’s Day originally coincided with the Feast of the Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, celebrated in October. The feast day was later moved to January, which coincided with summer picnics and family gatherings at the beach. Argentines, however, decided that Mother’s Day would continue to be celebrated on the third Sunday of October. Needless to say, there is a plethora of spring flowers, cards and gifts to help celebrate the occasion.

In Israel, the commemoration of Mother’s Day came along with its own brand of controversy. It all began when the newly founded country couldn’t decide on which day to celebrate the occasion! The Ezra Society, headed by Sarah Herzog, the mother of then-president Chaim Herzog, established the first Mother’s Day on April 6, 1947. However, the city of Haifa initiated its own version when the mayor proposed that the day be linked to the Maccabean matriarch, Hannah. The mayor’s wife was also named Hannah. Hmm? In any event, Haifa celebrated Mother’s Day for many years during the Hanukkah season. Towards the end of 1951, the newspaper Ha’aretz Shelanu declared its own Mother’s Day initiative—perhaps hoping to settle the issue definitively. The editors asked its young readers to suggest a date to honor all Israeli mothers.

Side Note: Sorry! My mind took an unexpected detour. I was suddenly reminded of two other times when young writers responded to newspaper editorials. In October 1860, eleven-year-old Grace Bedell of Westfield, New York, wrote to presidential candidate, Abraham Lincoln. She urged Mr. Lincoln to grow a beard because “all the ladies like whiskers” and believed he would have a better chance at winning the election! In 1897, eight-year-old, Virginia O’Hanlon wrote to The Sun and asked whether Santa Claus was real. The newspaper’s response was published anonymously in September of that year. Due to its popularity, it was republished every year during the Christmas season until 1950, when the paper ceased publication. Now back to my story in Israel…

Eleven-year-old Nechama Frankel, responded to the newspaper query and suggested a date to honor the memory of Henrietta Szold, founder of Hadassah. Although childless, Szold had run an organization that rescued 30,000 Jewish children from Nazi Europe. The suggestion was easily accepted; but on a final note, Mother’s Day recently became known as Family Day. At 72 years of age, Nechama Frankel (now Biedermann) didn’t appreciate the change in the name and wrote her local newspaper—again! She asked that the “lost dignity of Mother’s Day be restored.” Sounds very much like her American counterpart, Anna Jarvis, don’t you think?

Me and my beautiful mom

All these meanderings have brought me to this point: Words have the power to effect change, to stir passions, and to alter the paths of women and men who otherwise might not take action. The importance of a well-written missive is not lost on us Janeites, whether it comes from a loved one across the ocean or a gentleman across the room.

My own mother, of blessed memory, wrote more letters than I can recall. They crossed back and forth from Argentina to our home here in the United States. They were filled with every possible emotion, from the simplest piece of gossip to the greatest despair. But these letters kept us united with our family half way around the world and that was her life-long goal. I am grateful to my mother for the many lessons she taught me. I miss her, and think of her, every. single. day.

In my novel, Celestial Persuasion, Miss Abigail Isaacs also receives a life-altering communication. I hope you enjoy the following excerpt.



“Might you share the letter?” Mrs. Dashwood enquired. Long accustomed to having her young friend’s housekeeper-cum-companion present in times such as these, she handed Mrs. Frankel some tea and cake.

Abigail nodded slowly and proceeded to read her letter aloud. She had no wish to hide the contents of Captain Wentworth’s message; and in fact, she was curious to hear the ladies’ opinions. “And there you have it. Papa and Jonathan are gone from this world.”

“Whatever shall you do?” Mrs. Dashwood asked.

“I am a woman alone, with little means of support and head full of impractical aspirations. In truth, I have no idea at present.”

“You might do well to follow Jonathan’s example,” murmured Mrs. Frankel, setting down her plate of seed cake. “You might apply to the Royal Navy.”

“Never say so!” Mrs. Dashwood cried. “Has the Crown gone through all our fine men and boys, that we are now enlisting young ladies to battle the French?”

“No, no.” Abigail shook her head in gentle reproach. Mrs. Frankel ought to have known better than to mention such a radical scheme.

“For some time now, Miss Isaacs and I have been following the news of an extraordinary woman by the name of Mary Edwards,” Mrs. Frankel, now a little recovered, continued unabashed. “The London paper had a full story on her work as a computor for the British Nautical Almanac. She is one of a very few women paid by the Board of Longitude.”

“But what is her work?” insisted Mrs. Dashwood.

“It is rather intriguing,” supplied the housekeeper. “With her mathematical talent and computational skills, she is tasked to calculate the position of the sun, moon, and planets at various times of day. I have no doubt that our dear girl could do the same.”

“Whatever for? I am sure I have never heard of such a thing!”

However sensible Abigail was to her own sad mental state, it did not follow that the dear lady ought to be left to feel bewildered, so she provided further explanation.

“They use the information for nautical almanacs, Mrs. Dashwood. According to The Times, Mr. Edwards took on piecework to supplement the family’s income. After his death, it was revealed that Mrs. Edwards had done most of the calculations. It all came out into the open when she asked that they continue supplying her with work. She had to support herself and her daughters, you see, and they happily complied. This is what Mrs. Frankel was referring to when she suggested that I apply to the Royal Navy.” Abigail saw at once that her friend was aghast at the mere suggestion and waited patiently for her reply.

“I have always thought your education seemed rather …excessive,” offered Mrs. Dashwood. “As your poor mother was no longer with us and able to voice her concerns, I daresay your father was pleased to provide you any pleasure.”

Abigail smiled at the memory of her father’s affection and shrugged her acquiescence.

“You were the light of his life, and I told him so many a time. He was quite amused at my observations and went so far as to explain that your name, Avigail, means a father’s joy in the language of your ancestors. I must say, my dear, they chose your name wisely.”

“Avigail Yehudit—such noble names!” Mrs. Frankel exclaimed. “Such fine examples of female wisdom and valor.”

“Papa prevailed with his first choice,” said Abigail, “but Mama was appeased with the second. Judith was her favorite biblical heroine— or so I have been told. But it was all for naught, for Jonathan had wished for a brother and thought the names too feminine! I simply became Avi to him. But it is of no consequence. Whichever name I choose, be it the English version or that of my ancestors, Isaacs will remain the same.”

Mrs. Dashwood would not have any of it. “But my dear, you are young yet. Might you not consider marriage? Mr. Green has shown great interest in you…”

“Mr. Green, ma’am, is a widower with three children. His only interest in me is knowing that I would make a proper physician’s wife, and I have begun to believe that I am not meant for love. I am intelligent and have received an excellent education, thanks to my doting father and my…my brother’s enthusiasm.” Abigail paused and sipped her now-tepid tea while she attempted to compose herself.

“You might apply to Sarah Guppy and ask for her advice,” Mrs. Frankel insisted. “She too has worked for the Royal Navy. You have yourself informed me of her numerous creations and inventions. Of course, the patents were secured through her husband—”

“My dear…” Mrs. Dashwood set down her tea things with trembling hands.

“Pray forgive Mrs. Frankel. I believe she is merely attempting to call my attention to various alternatives, unconventional though they might be,” Abigail quickly added. “In truth, ma’am, the day’s events have taken their toll. I am pained knowing that Jonathan will not return to us. He was my beloved brother, but he was also my partner, my teacher and confidant. My friends, I am lost. I am drifting at sea without the North Star to guide me.”

“Might you not receive a pension for your poor brother’s service? What would your good mother have thought?”


I’ll sign off now with an amended version of my mother’s famous salutation: With Love, A Jewish Regency Author~

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Mr. Darcy’s Declaration of Love~ A Poignant Scene From a Jewish Austen Fan Fiction

There are those among us that could recite the so-called Hunsford Proposal—dismal and pathetic as it might have been—verbatim and with great flare. Mr. Darcy’s declaration of love is etched into our souls. Scenes from our favorite film adaptations—every raised brow, every clenched fist, and heaving breast—are easily recalled.

My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”

At this juncture of Austen’s novel, Mr. Darcy and Miss Elizabeth Bennet are yet at odds with one another. Although he is besotted with the young lady, Mr. Darcy can’t see beyond his pride. His sense of Miss Bennet’s “inferiority,” her family connections and other obstacles are degrading in his view. Still, he feels strongly enough to forge ahead with the alliance and is certain that the lady will throw herself at his feet! However, our dear girl does nothing of the sort.

Although Lizzy’s reaction is in keeping with the insulting proposal, her own view of the gentleman is not without fault. Her sense of pride has been wounded since she overheard Mr. Darcy’s first words at the Meryton assembly and his unexpected declaration only served to further sanction her ire.

Austen’s work is often characterized as lovesick fiddle-faddle; however, the truth of the matter is the author is more a sociologist than romance novelist. What happens after the failed Hunsford proposal can only be called brilliant, because it is here, where Austen’s sharp observations of the highs and lows of human nature come into play. And when our dear couple finally find themselves thrown together once again, the results are as satisfying as a resolving chord after several measures of dissonance and tension.

My affections and wishes are unchanged; but one word from you will silence me on this subject for ever.”

In my J.A.F.F, The Meyersons of Meryton, I introduce a new family to the Bennets of Longbourn. Thanks to his alliance with Mr. Gardiner, Mr. Moses Montefiore and his brother-in-law, Mr. Nathaniel Rothschild, Rabbi Meyerson comes to Hertfordshire to establish a synagogue for the small Jewish community. But there is more to the story as the good rabbi is withholding some important facts. His dear wife will be shocked at his disclosure. The Bennet family will also have to deal with the consequences—none more so than Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy.

Their wedding is postponed, and the unexpected (and undesired) arrival of Mr. and Mrs. Wickham causes the anxious bride to have more than her fair share of the jitters. The following scene finds Elizabeth sharing her troubling thoughts with her betrothed.

“What is the matter, Elizabeth? You have not been yourself. Pray, tell me, what have I done?”

She winced at his concern, feeling penitent and undeserving. Still, she owed him some reply. “You have done nothing, sir. I feel…that is to say—I feel that I am ill prepared, Mr. Darcy.”

“Are we back to mister, again?” he whispered.

His sweet murmuring sent shivers down her spine, but she hardened herself and would not succumb to his charm. “A woman has so few opportunities to decide for herself, Mr. Darcy. Pray allow me to reconcile my doubts. A woman ought not to enter the matrimonial state half-heartedly.”

“I was not expecting such a practiced homily, certainly not at a time such as this.”

“I am my mother’s daughter,” she said, lifting her chin with a decisive flair. “I am outspoken and given to fits of impertinence—and well you know it. You witnessed my unpardonable display with Lydia, did you not? Lady Catherine accused me of being lost to every feeling of propriety and delicacy. Perhaps she was right.”

“Good God, Elizabeth! What does my aunt have to do with any of this?”

“Under the circumstances, one cannot help but be sensible to the lady’s objections. Already you have had to intercede on my family’s behalf, thanks to Lydia’s passionate and foolish nature. Now our wedding must be postponed due to my father’s involvement in espionage and heaven knows what. In reviewing my own behavior, I cannot help but find myself wanting of those talents which, surely, Mrs. Darcy of Pemberley should possess. Seen in this prodigious light, can you not acknowledge that Lady Catherine might have good reason to object to your connection to Longbourn?”

Is that our dear girl? Is that the Lizzy we’ve grown to know and love? Some readers have found the protagonist of my variation to be untrue to Austen’s vision. In my defense, I can only say that I followed Austen’s example of observation and delved a bit deeper into this beloved character. We know Elizabeth Bennet enjoys long walks and appreciates nature. She is lively and a brilliant conversationalist. Unfortunately, she is also a bit proud and not a little prejudice in her own right. And under certain, dire circumstances, Miss Elizabeth Bennet can be riddled with a common, ugly human flaw: self doubt.

In keeping with Pride and Prejudice, a series of events take place that find our dear couple thrown together after a brief separation. Much like Austen, I created a scene where Mr. Darcy bares his soul—again. But this time Elizabeth believes.

I hope you enjoyed the post and take a chance on The Meyersons of Meryton! If you like the video, please give it a thumbs up on YouTube. Until next time~

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A Letter to Captain Wentworth~ A Snippet From a Jewish Regency Romance

For those of us who have read Austen’s Persuasion, there can be no doubt. Captain Wentworth’s letter to Miss Anne Elliot is exquisite. It is a pivotal moment which brings tears to our eyes and returns hope to our bruised hearts.

But have you ever given any thought to what might have occurred before the good captain returned to England? The man was distraught! He was possessed by bitterness, regret, and a profound sense of grief. Did he pour out his heart? Did he attempt to contact his one true love and see if he could secure her trust and affections? No. No, he did not. The brave and battle-born sea captain dug in his heals and refused to give quarter! When he finally returns to England, he shows Anne Elliot no mercy and our hearts cry on her behalf. It’s not until the very end of the story that our injured souls truly begin to heal, and that is principally due —in my humble opinion—to Austen’s finest work: Captain Wentworth’s letter.

But what brought on the change in his behavior?

In “Celestial Persuasion,” Miss Abigail Isaacs and Captain Wentworth are thrown into a relationship that would have been considered quite rare during the Regency era. In fact, they become correspondents—pen pals, if you will, thanks to Jonathan Isaacs’ plotting and planning.

Abigail undergoes a series of trials; and as we usually discover in novels such as these, our protagonist finds her way through some dark and troubling times. Along the way, she shares her thoughts and experiences with her new friend. In her final letter, Abigail urges the captain home to England and back to his Anne. It remains to be seen if he was easily persuaded…

With love,

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Jewish Regency Romance~ Book Tour

I had the pleasure of participating in a week-long Book Tour over at Romance Me With Books. I hope you stop by and take a look.

To be honest, I was a bit skeptical when I first landed on the page. I had followed a lead on Instagram—another author recommended the marketing services of this particular site. After perusing the page, it seemed apparent that Amy’s audience was a much younger set and certainly more inclined to read modern-day love stories. Would my Jewish Romance novel—a clean read with Jewish protagonists—garner any attention? However, the home page stated “all tropes and genres of Romance are welcome” and Amy’s professionalism, creativity, and generous spirit won me over. I took a chance and I’m so glad I did!

Over the course of the week, a team of readers reviewed my book, Celestial Persuasion, and shared their thoughts to their own group of followers. In the meantime, Amy continued to provide social media exposure and personalized graphics to help promote my tour.

Needless to say, it did wonders for my ego!

One of the many gratifying “take-aways” from this experience was reading the feedback from women who had no previous exposure to a Regency-era novel, let alone one with a Jewish story line. Here are a few examples:

Okay y’ all, I know this is not my typical book, but I do not for one second regret reading it. This book was incredibly well researched and depicts not only the struggles of women at the time, but also the prejudices against religion.” ~ Carissasbooksncoffee

Celestial Persuasion by Mirta Ines Trupp was a beautiful story. I really enjoyed everything about it. This book talks about important historic topics, and I loved how the author conveyed the message. Read Celestial Persuasion to go back in time and get the experience of your life!” ~ eat_sleep_read21

Celestial Persuasion is not my typical read and the first historical type book I have read since high-school. However, despite my reservations I very much enjoyed this book. I suggest you give it a try. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!“~ elsiequailwrites

Trupp absolutely nailed it with this book. Such a wonderful and powerful story. This story was able to suck me in immediately and had me feeling like I was in a different place and time. The authors writing was very detailed and vivid, helping to make the story an amazing read. I feel like the Jewish element and the history in this book was well researched, along with the style of Austen’s writing. I would definitely recommend this book to other readers.” ~ devonsbookcorner

There aren’t many sites out there that promote Jewish Romance novels. Kveller and HeyAlma have a couple of links; while over at Forward, a blogger asks, Why so few Jews in romance novels? Like everything else having to do with Judaism, it’s complicated. I certainly don’t have an easy answer! All I know is that my up-and-coming Jewish Regency Romance is holding its own and finding its way into people’s hearts. You’ll forgive me if I kvell just a little bit! Thanks again to Amy and Romance Me with Books for a great book tour!

With love,

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The Majesty and Mystery of Nature; Spring in the Southern Hemisphere

As we turn the corner on another winter here in the Northern Hemisphere, and look forward to the next season, I can’t help thinking of my native country. November in Buenos Aires is a sight to behold! While Spring officially starts there in September, the Jacarandás are in full bloom by the time we—here in America, anyway—have taken down the sukkah and have turned our thoughts to all things turkey.

The majestic Jacarandá is native to South America, but it was late in the 19th century when city planners officially introduced the foliage to Buenos Aires. The trees were planted in the city’s Bosques de Palermo in 1875, specifically placed in the Plaza 3 de Febrero to commemorate two famous victories, including the Battle of San Lorenzo (you can read about that particular event in my novel).

Plaza de San Martin

They can still be found there and throughout the capital, especially in and around Plaza de Mayo, Avenida Roque Saenz Peña and Plaza San Martin.

The English Tower in Buenos Aires

Legend has it that Jacarandás are associated with an Amazonian moon goddess. She symbolizes wisdom and ethics and the blossoms represent good fortune and rebirth. It is no wonder that the trees have become synonymous with the vibrant city of Buenos Aires.

My novel takes place in the Regency era of the Viceroyalty of Rio de la Plata, nearly 65 years prior to the dedication of the famous plaza in Palermo. In Celestial Persuasion, Miss Abigail Isaacs has her first glimpse of the beloved foliage as she approaches her new home in the province of Santa Fe.

A hedgerow of trees, striking in their billowing lilac color, marked the borders of the entire property.”

Of course, once Abigail arrives, she is not only drawn to the spectacular foliage. Curiosity wins out and she is compelled to ask…


As she followed Tati to the granary, she could not help but take notice of a particular fragrance. It was slightly pungent, a sweet scent that had a touch of earthiness. She looked about their surroundings, trying to isolate the origin of the distinct aroma.

“It is the jacarandá, madam.”

“Pardon me?”

“That musky fragrance—it comes from the jacarandá,” offered Tati, pointing to the lilac blossoms.

“I noticed them when we arrived,” replied Abigail. “In truth, one could hardly not take notice. They are quite striking. I cannot imagine what they must look like in full bloom. But pray forgive me, for their name is quite unfamiliar.”

“It is not a Spanish word, it is Guarani—as am I. And you are most astute, madam. The summer foliage is nothing to the blossoms in the spring. Their color changes depending on the sunlight. One moment they appear light blue and the next, they are like a vibrant amethyst.”

“You are a native of this land, then?”

“Yes, madam, but my ancestors were from a place farther north. My people settled here when my grandfather was still a child. I call this place home.” She paused as they came upon the granary. Taking hold of the ladder, she peered upward before turning to face her mistress.

“Madam, I am unable to assist you in this effort. Are you certain you can manage?”

Abigail laughed. “Dear Tati! My brother taught me how to climb trees when I was a young girl. And if you had seen me on the ship as we crossed the great Atlantic, you would not doubt me now! Lead the way, my girl!”

The women made quick work of ascending the ladder; and when Abigail crossed the threshold, she was overcome by the intoxicating scent of wheat that had been recently harvested and stored away. But they had not reached their destination yet. Tati led the way, climbing not one, but two other levels. Abigail had never doubted that her father had been a visionary. That he would have dreamed of living in such a place, surpassed her every imagining. The transformation of the granary into an astronomer’s observatory was incredible, to be sure. The vista was a luxury that surely even Caroline Herschel had not been afforded.

“I shall see every star shining in the night’s sky tonight!” Abigail exclaimed.

“You are truly arandu,” whispered Tati.

“Another word of the Guarani?”

The young woman nodded. “It means one who understands the message of the stars.”

Abigail smiled. “I fear I do not qualify, not yet at any rate. I am seeking to understand, but I am far from anything that would warrant such an accolade. Tell me, for I am curious to know more of your language, what does Tati signify?”

“My true name is Yasitata. My mother spent more than two days in travail before giving birth to me. It was only after she pleaded to the gods and made solemn oaths that I was finally delivered. There was a bright moon that night, causing the stars to shine down upon us. My name pays homage to Yasy, the moon goddess.”

“What a compelling tale. Your mother was a brave woman. No doubt you are as well.” Abigail paused and gave her next words some thought. “I feel that calling you Tati somehow diminishes your noble heritage.”

“Not at all, madam. It is a sobre nombre, a name given in the friendliest of terms. My mother is known as Estella, though her true name is Mbyja, which means “star.” We are quite content to be known by these mundane names, for it does not change how we are known amongst our wise men or our gods.”

They were interrupted by the sounds of the approaching men. The telescope, such as it was, had been mounted on a cart. They would bring up the various parts and assemble the instrument under Abigail’s watchful eye. She recognized the need for furnishings too late. She began creating a list in her mind of everything she would require in order to establish herself properly in her new laboratory. A long table, and a chair or two, would do to start. Naturally, she would require her books and writing materials. It was becoming quite an undertaking, but it would be well worth the effort in the end. Another thought came to her as the men scrambled down the ladders for another load.

“Tati, your people seem to have quite a relationship with the heavenly bodies. It would please me to learn your people’s stories and compare them with my own.”

“Do the English have different stories from those of the Spaniards?”

“I fear much of their wisdom, which stems from peoples of various nations, has been lost over the course of the years. Perhaps lost is not quite accurate. It has diminished or, at the very least, it has been transformed. And Tati, although I was born in England, I am a Jew. My people’s story varies greatly from my Anglican brothers and sisters.  Even our calendars are different, we mark the passage of time based on the cycles of the moon, not of the sun. Tomorrow night, we will celebrate the appearance of the new moon. The celebration of Rosh Chodesh ushers in a new month.”

“Then we have that in common, madam, though we call it Yasy Pyajhu. The concept of a calendar is new to my people, but we have always watched the heavens to understand the passage of time. Our wisemen know after twelve full moons have come and gone, the same climate cycle will return. In the month called June, Eichu appears on the eastern horizon as a great cluster of stars, and my people know that the rains will return. We have a grand celebration known as Arete Guazu in preparation for the planting season.”

“A great cluster of stars? In June, you say?” Abigail’s enthusiasm would not be denied. “But that must be what we call Pleiades. What more? Pray tell me more!”

Tati shrugged, uncertain what exactly to say. It was impossible to relate an entire culture with a few, simple anecdotes. Still, she wanted to please the new mistress who took notice of her and told her the names of the moon phases and the story of the Mborevi Rapee. “My ancestors tell the tale of a nocturnal animal, the tapir, who treads the same path between its den and its food source night after night. The tapir tramples on dry leaves as he treks back and forth. We, here on earth, can see his path as the light of the moon illuminates his tracks. You will surely see The Way of the Tapir this very night; and I promise, you will not require your tools to witness the sight.”

Abigail was astonished. “I thank you for sharing your ancestral wisdom, Tati. The Way of the Tapir must be what we call The Milky Way. And you are correct. I will not need my instruments, for I have witnessed the phenomenon with my own eyes. I have seen it on the ship that brought me here and I have seen it at home in Exeter. And I will gladly observe it from this very spot tonight. One never can tire of seeing God’s magnificent creation.”

“What magic is this? You have seen The Way of the Tapir from your family’s home?”

“It is not magic. It is the same sky, though I was in the north and we are now in the Southern Hemisphere. Our position on earth will change what we can see above, depending on the season and other variables…” Abigail paused and contemplated her words carefully. “Tati, it is not magic. I will teach you, if you wish to learn.”


I hope you have enjoyed this excerpt and the images I’ve shared. Stunning, aren’t they? I never tire of contemplating the majesty and mystery of nature. But did you know, that there wasn’t a word for “nature” in biblical Hebrew? Not being a theologian, I never gave it much thought. However, there has been an ongoing debate on the subject! Apparently, two medieval Jewish luminaries, Rabbi Yehudah ha-Levi and Maimonides, chimed in on the concept of a natural order and the word teva טבע was adopted into the Hebrew lexicon.

This Chabad site provided some interesting information; and so, I read on. Maimonides said, “G‑d is the eternal rock.” Another interpretation of this quote is “G‑d is the form of the world.” The idea was further developed by Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi who taught that every creature, even a rock, has a soul. The soul of a rock, he explained, is the divine spark that brought it into existence in the first place. In retrospect, it appears, that we did have a Hebrew word for nature all along. It is a name of G‑d.

The post goes on to discuss the matter at length, but what are your thoughts on the subject? Let me know in the comments below.

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Keeping it Kosher (lite)

As some of you may know, I set out to write Celestial Persuasion when I came across this painting of Mariquita Sanchez de Thompson. This scene depicts the moment when the Argentine national anthem was sung for the very first time.

The image of ladies and gentlemen in Regency attire was far from what I had expected to find in colonial Argentina. To tell the truth, I would have expected full crinoline skirts and impressive peinetas, such as we find in the satirical work of Cesar Hipolito Bacle.

By delving into the aftermath of the May Revolution of 1810, I discovered that the aristocracy of Buenos Aires was more inclined to follow the fashion trends of Paris or even London. The influence coming from across the pond was not to be denied!

I began connecting the dots and weaved a tale that included English noblemen and naval officers, along with the liberator of Spanish America: Jose de San Martin. Establishing a friendship in between Jane Austen’s Captain Wentworth and my own fictional character, Jonathan Isaacs, was the next step in the process.

Next, I began looking to incorporate that bit of yiddishkeit that is so crucial to my work. For example, I wanted to ensure that the Jewish holidays mentioned throughout the novel occurred in accordance to the Hebrew calendar. In the prologue, Abigail Isaacs writes to her brother, describing their father’s passing—just prior to his favorite holiday: Pesach (Passover).

I must assume that you have not received my news from home, and knowing how you are impatient with all but the essentials, allow me to put it to you in words so familiar they could be your own: our dear papa died on March 26th on the eve of Rosh Chodesh—sadly a little more than a week before his favorite holiday. He had been looking forward to leading the Passover seder this year; but then again, he had been unwell for several months and refused to change his habits.

Rosh Chodesh is mentioned several times throughout the novel, as are other holidays, such as the High Holy Days and Chanukah. I suppose I could have picked any date when these events “usually” occur; but it was important to be accurate, particularly when it came to a certain battle that took place on February 3, 1813. Hopefully, the following snippet helps to explain…

“San Martín plans to engage with a Spanish royalist force in one month’s time,” he muttered beneath his breath. “When do you expect to travel to witness your monumental natural event?”

She grimaced at the small sound emitting from her lips. “I must be in residence at the beginning of the month, though I do not believe it is any of your concern.” Rethinking her statement, Abigail’s voice grew with enthusiasm. “Mr. Gabay!” she exclaimed, “has he chosen the exact date?”

“You cannot imagine that I would share that information, Miss Isaacs.”

Vehemently she shook her head. “I care not for your confidences, at least for the reasons you may suspect. I only ask that you heed me, sir. I must be in Rosario for Rosh Chodesh. There will be a new moon on the first of February. The night’s sky will be sufficiently darkened to allow for maximum visibility of galactic activity. Do you understand my meaning?”

The Battle of San Lorenzo was a turning point for the rebels fighting the Spanish crown. If I wanted to showcase the event in my story—and have it coincide with Rosh Chodesh—it had to be… kosher. I knew I had to get it right! First, I researched the status of the moon phase in February 1813. I found that information here and here. Then, I checked to see if the Gregorian calendar aligned with the Hebrew calendar. I found that here and here. It worked out!

Throughout the story, we follow Abigail as she celebrates Shabbat and Havdalah. Granted, her family is no longer as pious as when her mother lived. Nevertheless, when Abigail is called to London to meet Lord Fife, she ensures to take her ritual items. And when she and Mrs. Frankel find themselves aboard a frigate sailing across the Atlantic, I made sure to incorporate an every day nautical item into a pivotal scene.

Wrapping up warmly in her darkest cape, Abigail reached for the lantern perched above the dresser. It was the same lantern she and Mrs. Frankel had been instructed to use for the Sabbath, for it came equipped with a sliding shutter to darken the room without extinguishing the candle. Abigail smiled, recalling the cabin boy’s shock at their request to kindle the Shabbos candles whilst aboard the ship. He had gone on for nearly a quarter of an hour outlining the hazards and noting the fire stations that equipped every passageway in the event of a crisis...

Abigail had been correct in her estimation. The men were gallivanting en masse at the forecastle and she could remain in peace to the aft. She allowed herself to be guided by the lantern’s light but closed the shutter when she reached her chosen destination and waited for her eyes to grow accustomed to the darkness. In truth, it was a perfect night for stargazing as they had just entered into the new moon phase. Without the moonlight, the galaxy’s core was visible in all its splendor, and Abigail stood immobile in awe of the spectacle before her.

How many minutes had transpired, she could not say for certain. She felt tears trickle down her cheeks, but she could not be bothered to wipe them away. How she longed to share the moment with Jonathan! Not to scribble down the longitude and latitude of their location. Not to calculate or measure, but simply to stand and observe the immensity of it all and to understand her place in the universe. Her tears had dried where they had fallen, but with the wind picking up, she could once again feel bits of salt water on her cheeks as the waves began to swell. It was not until she heard the men shouting and witnessed the crew running hither and thither that Abigail was obliged to return to her room.

She retraced her footsteps to find the ladder once more. The descent, she hoped, would prove to be easier; but as she stepped down off the last rung, the wind and waves combined and exerted such a force on the ship that Abigail lost her balance. With flailing hands she attempted to seize hold of something that would steady her feet; but the action cost her dearly, for the lantern slipped from her grasp and the candle was extinguished. She crept along the passageway, holding on to the walls, helpless in the dark, until the ship pitched suddenly and she felt herself tumble forward.

As my outline began unfolding, I found that I quite liked the town of Exeter for the Isaacs family. The obvious problem was that I knew next to nothing about Devonshire as it related to Jews. Imagine my delight when I came across the wealth of information located here and here. Actually, there are pages and pages of data relating to the Jewish history in this particular county. I not only discovered the location of Exeter’s synagogue, but its officiant as well. Naturally, I had to showcase Abigail’s relationship with her rabbi and her place of worship.

In addition, this map created by Braun & Hogenberg in 1617 helped me visualize the Isaacs hometown.

Approaching the mile mark, she passed St. Thomas’s chapel and the many farms that dotted Byrd’s Lane. Abigail was flooded with bittersweet memories and recalled walking toward the synagogue, her small hand held by her mother, while Jonathan raced ahead and her father followed behind at a leisurely pace. They would meet friends along the way, and the adults would catch up on the weekly gossip before entering the house of worship. Ezekiel and Kitty Jacobs, her parents’ closest friends, had been amongst the founders of the synagogue, for they applied to St. Mary Arches Church to lease the ground for its erection. Whenever Jonathan would complain of the rabbi’s lengthy sermons, Mr. Jacobs would tell the story of the synagogue’s consecration.

Lastly, I wanted my story to lay the foundation for the establishment of the Jewish Colonization Association. Headed by financier and renown philanthropist, Baron Maurice von Hirsch and his wife, Baroness Clara, this organization was created decades after Argentina’s declared independence. However, had it not been for such forward thinking individuals such Wilhelm Loewenthal, a Romanian doctor conducting research in the area, Rabbi Zadoc Kahn, Chief Rabbi of Paris, or my fictional Lieutenant Gabay with his pipe dreams, who is to say if the seeds of change would have come to fruition.

The Battle of San Lorenzo took place in 1813 in the province of Santa Fe. A little over 70 years later, a group of Jews escaping pogroms and persecution in Imperial Russia settled in a town about three hours away from that battlefield. They named their new home Kiryat Moshe, or Town of Moses, to honor Maurice Hirsch. The land agent, who may or may not have been of French origin, registered the name to his own liking and the town became known as Moisés Ville. The inhabitants, these so-called Jewish gauchos, were the first to create a Jewish agricultural colony in Argentina. Of course, my characters had no notion of what was to come, but they had hope.

Captain Wentworth, my last piece of news may be the greatest surprise of all. Mr. Gabay and I shall not reside in Buenos Aires for long. When the fight for independence has been won, my Mr. Gabay—who never intended to make the military his career—will resign his commission. We shall repair to my father’s property in Rosario, where I will be at liberty to continue my research and Mr. Gabay will begin his work in helping the Jewish communities of the Russian Empire. Santa Fe is a wide and open land. Refugees of all faiths and backgrounds may surely make this place their new homeland and dwell in peace without persecution. Praise God, everything does indeed happen for a reason.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoyed the post!

Until next time,

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The Association of Jewish Libraries

The Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL) has launched a new podcast entitled, “Nice Jewish Books.” A leading authority on Judaica librarianship, this AJL series focuses on adult Jewish fiction.

Host, Sheryl Stahl is the director of the Frances-Henry Library on the Jack H. Skirball campus  of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. She is an avid reader herself; and after serving the AJL in various capacities, she has now taken on the role of Podcaster. Stahl’s background comes into play as she interacts with authors and provides a platform to discuss their work. The premise for the show is to talk about Jewish literature, although her preference is not to include books based on war, political thrillers or Holocaust-related works. That, of course, was what drew my attention! Here— at long last— was a place to discuss my passion for Jewish historical fiction.

Do me a favor, won’t you?

Make yourself a nice cup of tea and tune in!

I am honored and delighted to announce that I was a guest author on the program. Please follow the link and listen in. Leave a comment on the website for Sheryl and the AJL community of readers and bibliophiles. I’d be so proud to know you stopped by. Happy reading (and listening)!

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December’s Jewish Book Carnival

Organized by the Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL), the Book Carnival is hosted by a different participant’s site on the 15th of every month. It’s my turn and I’m delighted to welcome you to my blog.

I hope you enjoyed the Chanukah festivities in your corner of the world. What with the candle lighting, dreidel spinning and gift giving—not to mention the making of latkes and sufgenyiot—did you find some quiet time to enjoy a good book or two? If you are looking for more reading material, you’ve certainly come to the right place! Check out these amazing links and entries:

Continuing the Hanukkah spirit, this month on gilagreenwrites author Marcia Berneger, author of A Dreidel in Time discusses diversity in children’s books.

Please note that the Association of Jewish Libraries started a podcast, “Nice Jewish Books,” and launched it featuring Talia Carner and her novel, THE THIRD DAUGHTER (finalist in the National Jewish Book Council Award in the book Club category)

Also, The NJ Jewish Ledger ran a profile of author Talia Carner in connection of her appearance at the National Council of Jewish Women.

On her blog, Book Q&As with Deborah Kalb, Deborah interviewed Helaine Becker about her new children’s picture book, The Fabulous Tale of Fish & Chips.

Heidi Slowinski recently reviewed Roy Hoffman’s Chicken Dreaming Corn. Hoffman’s book is literature depicting life as this historical fiction novel explores the Jewish experience in the south.

Barbara Bietz interviews Jeff Gottesfeld about his new picture book, THE CHRISTMAS MIRACLE, a story of faith, friendship, and community.

The Book of Life Podcast pairs Red and Green and Blue and White by Lee Wind with The Christmas Mitzvah by Jeff Gottesfeld. These two 2021 holiday picture books are both based on true stories of allyship and they have a lovely synergy. 

The Sydney Taylor Shmooze is a mock award blog that brings you reviews of Jewish kidlit that is potentially eligible for the Association of Jewish Libraries’ Sydney Taylor Book Award. Check out this month’s reviews

The new Storytime Solidarity website offers quality resources for getting your storytimes started or boosting them to the next level. A guest post on their blog, “If Hanukkah Is Not the Jewish Christmas, What Is It?” by Heidi Rabinowitz, explores Hanukkah and its context within the U.S. 

Shiloh Musings reviewed a real “cliffhanger,” The Devil’s Breath by Tom Hogan, which a very different sort of Holocaust story. A Jewish couple imprisoned in a concentration camp are asked by the camp head to discover who’s pilfering the stolen gold.

A Jewish Grandmother finds herself in a dilemma reviewing Why We Fly”  in which she finds one of the subplots problematic. Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal’s book is for youth and depicts a religious and ethnically mixed American community in which Jews dating non-Jews doesn’t raise eyebrows. One of the two main characters is Jewish, and she’s very idealistic.

Reuven Chaim Klein just posted 5 book reviews at the Rachack Review. Do take a look!

Each week, Erika Dreifus’s My Machberet blog curates links from the world of Jewish books and writing. Here’s one recent example.

And lastly, please take a look at my eye-opening interview with author, Valerie Estelle Frankel. I’m sure you’ll find it fascinating!