Itamar Makes Friends A Children's Story of Jewish Brotherhood
By Josh Hasten
Illustrated by S. Kim Glassman Gefen Kidz, 2011
Reviewed by Anna Dogole - November 21, 2011
Itamar is an eight-year-old boy who lives in Israel on a Yishuv. A Yishuv is a rural village where people farm, raise sheep and goats, and the children go to school and play games, just like children everywhere. Itamar's favorite game is soccer and he always played with his cousins, but now they've moved away to the city and he misses them very much. While they live far away, it is not all that far, and one day Itamar and his older sister take a bus to the city to visit their cousins. There Itamar meets some city boys that tease him and make fun of him for being from the country. But when Itamar gets hurt, the city boys see the error of their ways and make friends with Itamar. Soon all the boys are playing soccer, and eventually the city boys come out to the Yishuv to see Itamar and to experience life in the country.
This is a short synopsis of Josh Hasten's moving children's book, Itamar Makes Friends: A Children's Story of Jewish Brotherhood. It is a book that helps children to explore the many facets that make us different from one another, and the many facets that unite us. In Israel today, and in many other parts of the world, we are witnesses to the phenomenon where Jews from one background have become enemies to Jews from another background. This senseless and baseless hatred (sinat chinam) between fellow Jews has reared its ugly head before, most notably, in the Talmud where it is stated that sinat chinam was the primary reason that G-d allowed the destruction of the Second Temple and why Jews were sent into exile. If we would be more like Itamar and his new city friends, we would see that while their might be surface differences between one Jew and another, deep down, we have much in common and should strive to love our fellow Jews (Ahavas Yisrael) no matter any difference or disagreements that might exist, both for the good of the nation and our/your own spiritual development.
Itamar Makes Friends is a book that should be in every Jewish home and in school libraries. The story teaches a valuable lesson without preaching, and children will enjoy reading this story on their own, or having it read to them. The book also includes informal, yet dynamic, illustrations by S. Kim Glassman that provide a visual interpretation of the story. Hasten has included a letter, at the back of the book, for parents, that discusses the lessons to be learned in the book and the dangers of sinat chinam.
Hasten also explains that Itamar was named after the town of Itamar, where the Fogel Family lived, and where five members of the family were massacred by Islamic terrorist in March of 2011. Hasten is giving a portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book to charity (tzedakah) in the memory of Udi (aged 36), Ruth (aged 35), Yoav (aged 11), Elad (aged 4), and Hadas (aged 3 months) Fogel, whose lives were callously, and senselessly, snuffed out by terrorists.
A New Boy, by Eve Tal.
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A picture story book about Jennifer, a first grader who discovers that she is the only Jewish student in her class and as a consequence, founds the Only One Club.