Welcome to my newsletter, Abbe’s Ruminations. I mull, contemplate, ponder – old and new experiences, finding what I call the joy and laughter of repetition or the abandonment to not knowing.
The year is 2023, and I’m going to be seventy-one. Why is this important? You wrote a book in 2008 called, People of the Book. I would not have understood the depth of emotions that your fictionalized historical story told, until this year.
World experiences collide. You would think that being Jewish would give me more insight into the past and yet it is the present that strikes me down.
When I was just ten, I read Anne Frank and sobbed. When I traveled to Israel and Jordan in 2016, I slowly saw the holes and complexity of the journey of religions. Walking the paths of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and the crossroads of the Palestinians surviving within the Walls of the West Bank, I ached at everyone’s misunderstanding. And still, I would not have understood your book.
Add to my wanderings, Egypt, New Zealand, Croatia, Bosnia, and the other Adriatic countries, along with Nepal this year. This ripened me for when your book fell into my lap. The war in Sarajevo fresh in my mind, the shelled buildings, the disappointment of horrors that occurred in a place known for its multiethnic tolerance, the story of the found Sarajevo’s Haggadah pulled me in.
Geraldine, you reveal the human side of history and take us back centuries to understand the value and significance of this first illustrated Sedar to the world. Your imagined characters gave me perspective and balance.
At the center were individuals like the Muslim-Librarian, who braved shelling to rescue the Haggadah during the Bosnian War, another who saves the Haggadah in WWII against the Nazis. Traveling further back it is a Jewish doctor with weaknesses who causes damage to the book, a Catholic priest who saves it from burning. A scribe who completes the text in 1492 before the Jews were expelled from Spain. In 1480, the love story of the black artist and slave, who paints herself into the Seder illustrations, swirls the prejudice and confounds the odds.
With deep appreciation and hope, I view the present-day conflicts in Israel and Ukraine as a repeat of the past. I search for those humans who will cross over, and show a heroic side, one of sharing humanity, where all life and records are valued.
Geraldine, thank you for your thorough journalistic background that brought you to write this novel. I thank you for risking your own peace, so I could read this book and pull together my conflicting allegiances to my own history—pogroms, survival, and the horror I feel at today’s human devastation.
I find solace in your characters, even their weaknesses, as there are those in my life who exhibit the same flaws.
With warmth and compassion, I wish you the best as you parse these conflicts out in your writings and everyday life. Best always, abbe
And this is my gift to to my fellow readers. One of my recent paintings. I wish you all warmth, friendship, health, and peace for the holidays.
I’d love to hear from you. http://www.abberolnick.com