We Are Jewish Faces Mirrors Today’s Diverse Reality

We Are Jewish Faces, a new picture book from Apples & Honey Press, uses simple words and strong images to show children the emerging reality of today’s Jewish community. “Photos have the immense and unique power to communicate positive ideas across divides in ways that are not always possible through words," according to Ann D. Koffsky, art director at Apples & Honey Press. "They can connect us to our history. To experiences around the world. They can reach into us, draw out our empathy, and allow us to feel common cause and connection. They imprint on our memories in ways words do not.”

Author Debra Darvick shares her thoughts on Jewish diversity and unity, and the value of children seeing themselves in images.

It’s a different era from just 2009, when the first iteration of We Are Jewish Faces was published under the title I Love Jewish Faces. This reimagined edition, with all new photos and a nearly complete rewrite of the text, enters at a time of an unfortunate, and rising, divisiveness in our country. 

It is a sad irony that after so many decades of celebrating diversity, our country seems to be fracturing into individual identities as we define ourselves by what separates us — race, sexual identity, political stripe, religious belief — instead of what might still unite us. Diversity, crucial to the health of nations and ecosystems, shares a prefix with less uniting words: divisive, divided, divergent.  It seems a difficult tension to manage — acknowledging, honoring, and respecting our differences while also being mindful to work together to honor, preserve, and strengthen what unites us. 

I was inspired to write this book because I wanted Jewish children to see themselves and families like theirs in their books, whether their roots were Eastern European or African American, whether they were adopted from Asia, South or Central America or right here in the United States.  I also believe that the Jewish community continues to need a bit of consciousness raising. I welcomed the opportunity to create We Are Jewish Faces in hopes putting out to pasture the dismissive and divisive quip, “Funny, you don’t look Jewish.”


My photo research for this book was an exciting and illuminating quest. Day schools across the country post photos of their classes, events and celebrations online, allowing me to spend weeks steeped in a vibrant segment of today’s Jewish educational life.  There is a richness of experiences portrayed on every school’s page — lives snakes and other creatures visiting science classes, cute first grade fingers tracing Hebrew letters in shaving cream, and hallway banners extolling derech eretz. I can’t recall one school whose photos did not portray at least some racial diversity. 

Most of all what I hope comes through to readers of We Are Jewish Faces is the beautiful and vibrant truth of racial diversity in our Jewish community today. Twinned with that hope is the prayer that we cherish this diversity within the greater unity of Am Yisroel.