Meet the author: Menucha Chana Levin

I’ve asked some of the authors of the books in the book list to tell us a little bit about themselves and how they wrote their books.

Introducing: Menucha Chana Levin, whose books The Youngest Bride and The Castle Builders appear in the Jewish history section.

I have connections to three continents – born in Africa (Cape Town), raised in North America (small towns in Canada) and now live in Asia (Jerusalem).

At school my favorite subjects were English (creative writing, not grammar)and history.

I still read everything. When I’m desperate I’ll read the backs of cereal boxes, shampoo bottles, even the sports page. Now living in Israel, though my Hebrew reading is far from great, I have taught
myself to read ads posted at bus stops and in magazines.

Although I started writing stories at age five, I only got published after making aliyah 23 years ago. As the old Yiddish saying goes, ‘When you change your spot, you change your luck.’ I began with short stories and articles, then graduated to a novel. I didn’t have a computer back then, so wrote it all by hand in several notebooks.

Although that story ‘Someone for Elisheva’ was not published as I first wrote it, several years later I transplanted some of the characters into my novel ‘A Family for Frayda.’

While recuperating from hepatitis, in six weeks I wrote my novel called ‘The Youngest Bride’. It was based on an old family story about my great-grandmother who was married as a child to save her young husband from being conscripted into the Russian army. For a short time they did not draft married men, no matter how young they were. The story always intrigued me. How did my little ancestor feel when she grew up and realized she was already married? Unfortunately that part of the story did not get handed down so I had to fictionalize it, plus add other family stories I’d heard from my mother.

A few years later, I wrote ‘The Castle Builders’ about four women friends, all Holocaust survivors, who find it too painful to discuss their horrific pasts.

‘The Castle Builders’ was written in tribute to those who managed to survive and rebuild their lives and in memory of my grandparents, among the six million kedoshim, who sadly did not. My own father zt’l escaped from Europe one month before World War Two. If he had not, I would not be here writing my novels.

Thank you!

Thank you to everyone who sent me information about books to add to the list! I will be working on that and, G-d willing, will post an updated list in a month or so. Meanwhile, I’ll be posting additional book recommendations and information here.

If any of your friends and family are also looking for good books to read with their children or students please email them this link so they could download the guide and book list and receive updates:

Teaching Torah through Literature: Guide and Book List

Is there anything specific that you would like to see addressed on this blog? Please hit reply and let me know! Or comment on the blog post.

Thank you!
Yehudis Litvak

Book recommendation: A Stranger to My Brothers

“It was knowing that he had once been Jewish that set Martin apart.” Thus begins the novel A Stranger to My Brothers by Henye Meyer. It is historical fiction, set during the First Crusade. Martin, the main character is a fifteen year old Jewish boy who was taken from his family and raised by non-Jews in a small English village. Martin, who doesn’t identify as a Jew, gets involved in the First Crusade, witnesses its horrible consequences for the Jews, meets a Jewish survivor, and learns more about what it means to be Jewish.

Like Henye Meyer’s other books, the novel is based on extensive research and provides vivid details. The main character travels from England to Constantinople (present day Istanbul), and we readers travel with him and learn about the locations he passes and the time period overall. The book accurately portrays the terrible predicament of Jews in European communities, hunted and massacred by blood-thirsty and gold-thirsty crusaders. The descriptions might be too gory for younger or especially sensitive children, though they are, unfortunately, true to history. According to the description, the book is recommended for ages 12 and up. My older children and I enjoyed the book tremendously and learned a lot.

The book is available both as a paperback and as a kindle book. Click on the link above to buy it on

If you’re enjoying the Teaching Torah through Literature e-book please let your friends and family know about it! For a limited time, it is available free of charge here.

Have a wonderful week!
Yehudis Litvak

The Guide and Book List is ready!

Teaching Torah through Literature: Guide and Book List is ready to download! If you’ve already subscribed to this blog watch your inbox for download info.

To subscribe, and receive the Guide and Book List free of charge, click here.

Hope you find it helpful!

My apologies

I’m so sorry — I said that I would have the Teaching Torah through Literature: Guide and Book List ready this week, but I ran into some technical difficulties. G-d willing, it should be up next week. Meanwhile, here’s a sneak peak at the introduction. Have a wonderful Shabbos!


“Come! It’s history time!” Brother calls Sister as he speeds through the living room and flops on the couch.
“History! Yay!” Sister joins Brother on the couch, where Mother is sitting with an open book, a content smile on her face.
“Who can remind me where we left off yesterday?” she asks.
“Me!” Brother and Sister reply in unison.
Mother chuckles. “Let’s take turns. Youngest first.”
Brother launches into a detailed narrative of the historical events they had read about the day before. Then sister fills in the gaps.
“Great!” Mother says. “Let’s continue then.”
She begins reading as Brother and Sister listen attentively.

Sounds idyllic? Unrealistic? Welcome to the world of literature-based homeschooling!
As a disclaimer, I should add that homeschooled children throw tantrums, bicker, and annoy their siblings just like school children do. Homeschooling does not guarantee constant bliss. Yet, homeschooled children, on average, tend to enjoy learning more than children who attend school, due in part to closer relationships among the family members and in part to the engaging literature-based curricula on just about any subject available to homeschooling families.

Book Recommendation: And Rachel Was His Wife

In honor of Sefiras Haomer, I am reading And Rachel Was His Wife with my children. It was written by an anonymous author and published by Feldheim in 1990. It is the story of Rabbi Akiva and his wife, Rachel, through the eyes of Rachel’s close friend, Leah. Leah is a fictional character, but she is typical of her time period. Full of personality, and with a sense of humor, Leah shares her thoughts about the state of affairs in Eretz Yisrael towards the end of the second Beis Hamikdash. As many young women in that time period, she has conflicting feelings about the Romans, who brought material improvements to the land, along with their culture. She also struggles to understand Rachel, who seems perfectly content living in abject poverty and not seeing her husband for twenty four years. Through Leah’s eyes, we watch the simple shepherd Akiva transformed into a scholar and a leader.

We just finished part 1. It’s been a while since I read the rest of it. So far, we’ve really enjoyed it. My kids are begging me to keep reading whenever I suggest moving on to another activity.

Hope you enjoy it! Click on the link above to purchase the book on

Inspiration from Pesach seder

Hope everyone had a nice Pesach and is now back in the swing of things.

The Pesach seder is the ultimate teaching and learning experience. The approach is to first arouse the children’s curiosity (why do we dip the vegetable into salt water? so that you’ll ask, of course), then make the experience personal (if G-d hadn’t redeemed us we would have still been slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt), and then tell the story of our birth as a nation (come and learn). When conducted properly the Pesach seder is an unforgettable lesson for any child.

As parents and teachers, we strive to create powerful learning experiences the rest of the year. May the Pesach inspiration stay with us and help us make Torah learning come alive for our children and students!

Coming soon: Torah through Literature Guide and Book List! G-d willing, it will be posted on the website,, later this week. Have a great week!