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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JUNE 7, 2013 Picoult ta00es on the Holocaust in 'The Storyteller' By Sandee Brawarsky New York Jewish Week Early on in Jodi Picoult's new novel "The Storyteller" (Atria), Josef Weber com- ments that Sage Singer doesn't say much in their grief support group, but when she does speak up, she's a poet. She answers firmly that she's no poet, but a baker. His response--"Can a person not be two things at once"--foreshadows this story of Nazis, Holocaust victims, survivors and the second and third genera- tions. "The Storyteller," which reached the top of The New York Times bestseller list just after itwas published, is Picoult's first novel to touch upon the Holocaust. She's the author of 21 novels, many of them bestsellers including "Lone Wolf," "House Rules" and "Change of Heart." "I write what I feel is the right story to tell," Picoult says. "This was important to me: It had its roots in big questions about good and evil. Could you do something really bad and wipe away that stain? And, and on the flip side, if you consider yourself PAGE 11A a good person, what could tip you over to do something really bad?" Picoult went back and reread Simon Wiesenthal's "The Sunflower"--when he writes of being in a concen- tration camp and brought to the deathbed of an SS of- ricer, who sought forgiveness from a Jew--and thought to update that. "Genocides are happening every day. Evil is happening every day," she says. "With so many survivors dying, it's important that this story not get lost." Her story, set in a small New Hampshire town, is actually several intertwined stories, with several sto- rytellers. Sage, the young baker, is the granddaughter of Minka Singer, a concen- tration camp survivor--the reader hears both of their stories (and Minka is telling Sage of her nightmarish ex- perience for the first time), as well as that of Josef, who has buried his own secret past, and Leo Stein, who works for the FBI searching for Nazis. Josef turns to Sage, a Jew who doesn't particularly embrace that identity, to confess his past and ask a favor, presenting her with a moral quandary. Baking and mourning run through all of the stories: Sage is a baker who works through the night, in the shadows of her mother's death, and she's able to open up and speak most honestly when her hands are busy kneading dough or shaping rolls. Minka's father was the town baker before his murder, and in her 90s she still bakes several loaves of bread every Friday in order to give it away. Every day, Josef comes to the bakery where Sage works, and shares his roll with his dog. Picoult's writing, un- veiling and connecting these strands of stories, is energetically paced. The Holocaust is new ground for the novelist, who grew up in Nesconset, on Long Island, and lives with her husband and children in Hanover, N.H. There are no survivors in her own family, and her family didn't grow up talking about the Shoah. "We had a high school unit on it and that was about as much as I knew about it," she recalls. In her writing, Picoult is "committed to accuracy." Her mother, who splits her time between Long Island and Arizona, helped to track down some survivors for her to interview. In order to understand the com- plex history, she turned to experts, including Peter Black, senior historian at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and Eli Rosenbaum, director of strategy and policy for the Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section of the Department of Justice. (Her character Leo Stein is based on Rosenbaum's career.) About the survivors Pi- coult says, "I write fiction and I can't imagine the real stories they have lived." She explains that she was purposeful in making Sage a non-practicing Jew, to un- derscore the more universal moral responsibility. "The Holocaust isn't just a Jewish issue. Six million Jews were killed, but also five million non-Jews. There's an unfortunate tendency to think this is a religious problem. It's a human rights problem," she says. "This is not to say that Jews don't deserve to feel a critically important part of that history. I'm arguing that it should be a critically impor- tantpartofeveryone's history." Picoult's own background is Jewish but she doesn't identify as such. She's quick to point out, "I don't consider myself Jewish. I grew up with parents who are Jewish. We celebrate Passover and Eas- ter, Chanukah and Christ- mas, for cultural reasons and to spend time with family. That's our personal choice." Did writing this book change her? "Not on a re- ligious level," she says. "It made me realize how lucky I am. It also recommitted me at a certain level to some- thing I do try to do when I write: to deflect hate." Reflecting on the idea of forgiveness, she says, "I don't know what I would do. I don't know if I would do what Wi- esenthal did. I support his decision. He had to make it." "I believe there's some- thing to be said for forgive- ness. It allows you to let go of the hold someone else has on you. If you can't forgive, they are still hurting you. If you can, you have the balance of power." For her readers, she says, "My goal is not to tell you what to think but to tell you to think about social issues." Picoult gets about 200 emails a day from readers. She answers every one of them and says that it's "very rare that I get a question that I haven't answered before." One way to annoy her is to call her "a woman's writer." For one, she says that 47 percent of her correspondence is from male readers. She's upset by the way fiction is categorized as literary or commercial, and that her novels, like those of many female writers, are considered to be the latter. "This is what I know: I'm a really successful, lucky writer, I write the best book I can. I want to entertain people, and I want to edu- cate. I don't care if you call it literary or commercial. I just want to write the story that needs to be told." After beginning her career on Wall Street, she worked in textbook publishing and copy- writing, taught creative writ- ing, and then got a master's in education from Harvard. "I still think of myself as a teacher," she says. "My classroom is huge." Sandee Brawarskg is the book critic for The New York Jewish Week, from which this article was reprinted by permission. Read the Jewish Week at www.thejewishweek.com. To haredim, Klles ;et member Lipman now a turncoat By Ben Sales counterparts, who often He noted that increasing TEL AVIV (JTA)--Dov Lipman has staked his budding political career on his reputation as a moderate haredi Orthodox leader, someone uniquely positioned to broker com- promise between Israel's increasingly polarized secular and religious com- munities. The problem is that Is- rael's haredi leaders say he's not actually haredi. Once seen as a possible bridge between Israel's growing haredi community and the secular majority, Lipman, a freshman mem- ber of Knesset from the centrist Yesh Atid party, has weathered a torrent of criti- cism aimed at discrediting his haredi bona fides since his election in January. "He calls himself haredi and advocates positions that are universally rejected by the leading halachic representatives of the com- munity and the community at large," said Jonathan Rosenblum, a columnist for the haredi Mishpacha magazine. "It's very hard for me to understand some- one who is haredi being part of a party that signs off on these positions on [Jewish] conversion and homosexual marriage." Lipman supports a num- ber of laws now being formulated that would roll back privileges long enjoyed by haredim in Israel, no- tably exemption from the military draft and the pub- lic funding of their schools. He favors the creation of an egalitarian prayer section at the Western Wall and belongs to a party that ad- vocates the legalization of same-sex marriage. And on top of all that, he wears a blue suit--not the traditional haredi black. The attacks, Lipman says, show that haredi leaders are Miriam Alster/Flash90/JTA Haredi leaders say Knesset member Dov Lipman, addressing the Knesset in March, is not actually haredi. more interested in leveling personal attacks than de- bating policy. Laws under discussion--including one mandating the teaching of some secular subjects in haredi schools--benefit the haredi community, he says, without posing a threat to its way of life. "It's not a question of who's haredi or not haredi," he told JTA. "Let's talk about the issues. Why should an ultra-Orthodox male not have math and English and enter the workforce?" Lipman was a teacher and principal in Cincinnati and Maryland before moving to Israel in 2004 with his wife and three children. The Lipmans settled in Beit Sh- emesh, a Jerusalem suburb where simmering tensions between haredi and secular Jews erupted in 2011 after haredi men harassed an 8-year-old Modern Ortho- dox girl they believed was not dressing in a sufficiently modest manner. Taking on the role of peacemaker, Lipmanworked to find common ground be- tween the sides. But local haredi leaders, the city's mayor among them, be- lieved he was opposing Belt Shemesh's haredi sector. In 2012, Lipman joined Yesh Atid, a new party that galvanized the Israeli middle class, in part with its promise to end the longstanding haredi draft exemption. For the party, Lipman's membership was a pow- erful symbol, a sign that Orthodox opposition to the draft was not universal. But Lipman's support for the Yesh Atid agenda led to charges that he was being disingenuous and not truly a member of the community he claimed to represent. "I ask one thing from MK Lipman," Knesset member Yaakov Asher, of the hare- di United Torah Judaism party, said in parliament on May 1. "Don't speak as a haredi when you're not really. Don't make a joke out of people when you entered Knesset just because someone made a mistake and thought that because of how you look, you're haredi." Lipman has said his ultimate goal is for Israeli haredim to adopt the life- style of their American gain some secular educa- tion and work full-time jobs. But even American haredi leaders have lashed out at him. Rabbi Aharon Friedman, who heads the Baltimore haredi yeshiva Ner Yis- roel where Lipman was ordained a rabbi, called him "wicked." And though Feldman apologized soon afterward, he has been unsparing in his criticism, calling Lipman "extremely misguided" and accusing him of eroding the holiness of the haredi community by compelling its students to study secular subjects. "You attack the people who look like you the most," said Menachem Friedman, an expert on the Israeli haredi community at Bar- Ilan University. "The most similar political opponents are seen as the biggest threats." Rosenblum, the colum- nist, said that what works in the United States won't nec- essarily succeed in Israel. numbers of Israeli hare- dim have been joining the army and the workforce of their own accord, and that compelling them to do so by law would push them into a defensive posture. "If they see the govern- ment coming to change the haredi way of life, that's a frontal attack," he said. "When [politicians] seem to be in a mode of not simply coming to facilitate changes that are already taking place, the historical reaction is to resist with full force." Lipman hopes that once haredim deprived of govern- ment subsidies are forced to work, they will see the benefits of their changed circumstances. He acknowl- edged, though, that given the animosity he has faced, continued intransigence is at least as likely. "The change will happen when they go to work and have education," he said, adding, "It might take a generation or two." .................................................. Your ........... in ............................................................................................................................................ Orlando Real Estate!!!! 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