Ashes by Sharon Gloger Friedman is a beautiful written, emotional book. It is an example of a deep love for family, for tradition, and the right we have to stand up for ourselves, even when it is scary. I feel like I learned some things through reading this book. I learned about how Jews were treated horribly by some neighbors and people in their community. People they had considered friends, looted and attacked them. I learned about Jewish traditions and I learned about how sometimes you have to fight for the rights of yourself and others. And even when it is so very hard, you have to dig deeper sometimes to keep going. This is a book that will stick with me. There were a couple of times I had to put it down because what I had read was so much to take in. The words that are written are powerful. I hope others read this book. Maybe if more people do, our world, as a whole, will all be a little more kind. I urge you to read this book. It was so good. Miriam’s story will be with me for many years to come. Absolutely 5 stars ~Janell
Ashes begins March 30, 1903. Miriam, age 13, Meyer and Sadie Raisky’s daughter, wakes to her Mom calling for her. They have a lot to get ready for Passover. As the family is preparing to celebrate, there is something brewing in their city. Meyer, his son Eli, and Meyer’s best friend, Yuri have all heard that there could be trouble coming to the Jews living in Kishinev, Russia. They are very concerned about this, and Meyer remembers trouble for the Jews when he was a child. He is sad to remember his childhood home in flames when he came running home to tell his parents about hearing of possible trouble coming. Even more devastating, his parents were both dead. He will always be grateful to Yuri’s family for taking him in and raising him, even though it was dangerous to them, since he was a Jew. Now, as adults, Meyer and Yuri work together at Meyers store.
As talk in town continues, Meyer becomes even more concerned. Rumors are that people will be allowed to attack and plunder Jewish homes and businesses without interference from Authorities. He and a group of men go to ask for Police protection. Authorities believe there will not be any attacks.
There are attacks, they are brutal and the destruction is beyond repair. There are deaths, there are injuries. Business and homes are destroyed. Three deaths significantly impact their family. How can they go on after this? They feel lost, they are grieving the life they had.
They make the difficult, dangerous and very costly decision to go to America. This is not an easy thing to do, and after the very long journey, they finally arrive. Sadie’s tears flow as she sees the Statue of Liberty. They are filled with joy when Sadie’s sister Malka and her son, Avrum are there to meet them. They will stay with Malka, her husband Lazar, and their children until they can find jobs and get their own apartment.
Lazar is a very hard man. He is not happy that they are there and he makes it known. Sadie, Meyer and Miriam see how Malka and the children fear Lazar. They have seen how hard he is on everyone and know they must get away soon, as they are causing more upset in the home.
Meyer comes up with a way to start working and makes a new friend, Oscar. Sadie helps Malka with sewing jobs to help make money. Soon, they have enough money to look for an apartment. Miriam becomes busy in a class to learn English and soon has a new friend, Rivka. Miriam excels in school and learns quickly.
Difficult weather comes and unexpected difficulties arise for the family. Miriam makes the decision to leave school and sets out to help her family by getting a job. She starts to work at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. Miriam and the others work in poor conditions but continue to work for the meager pay to help their families. How can they continue to work in these conditions?
At a chance outing, Miriam meets someone who will change her life. Are the things he talks about possible? Can teenage Miriam help herself and her co-workers to have better lives?
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