The story of Regina Jonas, the first woman ever ordained as a rabbi, and her life in Germany under the Nazis. Kirkus starred review: "Evocative, inspiring, and uplifting"
National Jewish Book Award Finalist, Children's Literature
Starred Review, Kirkus
This true story of the first woman ever ordained as a rabbi — in Germany in 1935 — will inspire children to pursue their creams and to persist in the face of challenges. Written by Rabbi Sandy Sasso, the first Reconstructionist woman rabbi in the United States, the book also features an Afterword with historical context about the Nazi Germany setting and about the female ordinations in the various Jewish movements.
STARRED REVIEW: Regina Jonas was determined to become a rabbi, but she faced nearly insurmountable opposition.
While other girls played house, she played rabbi, pretending to read Torah to her toy animals. She took every opportunity to learn, studying first with her father and then with the rabbi of her synagogue. She kept on studying, but at the last moment she was prevented from taking the examination that would allow her to achieve her goal. At every step she was cautioned to concentrate on domestic skills or told to stop causing trouble. As a schoolteacher, she taught Jewish girls about Miriam, Esther, and Deborah, strong Jewish women in the Bible, and never gave up on her dream, although she continued to be denied the opportunity to take the needed tests. But her impact on the Jewish community was recognized, and in 1935 she finally succeeded in becoming a rabbi, the first woman rabbi in the world. All of this took place in Berlin, where life for Jews was becoming more and more restricted and then impossible. Sasso, a rabbi herself, tells Regina’s story with great admiration and compassion. In an afterword readers are told of Regina’s deportation to Theresienstadt and then her death at Auschwitz. Lucas’ sepia and soft earth tones beautifully capture Regina’s strength in her facial expressions and body language as well as the time period and setting.
Evocative, inspiring, and uplifting. (author’s note, note to readers, photograph) (Picture book/biography. 7-12)
"These days, when Jewish-American kids attend synagogue during the High Holidays, it’s not that unusual to have a female rabbi leading the congregation. Older kids may be fascinated to learn about Regina Jonas, the German Jew who in 1935, against many odds and strict gender roles, became the first woman ordained as a rabbi.
In this illustrated biography, which garnered a starred review from Kirkus, Sandy Eisenberg Sasso traces how Jonas persisted until religious authorities finally allowed her to take the exam to become a rabbi. Margeaux Lucas’ illustrations capture the period, with drawings of Berlin life. Several scenes convey the young Regina as a kind of Disney-like Belle, greeting peddlers at the market, and clutching a book, daydreaming, as she crosses the street.
The afterword tells of the tragic ending of Jonas’ life in 1944, where she was killed in the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz. It would be nearly 40 years later until another woman, the American Sally Priesand, is ordained, in the Reform movement. Today there are nearly 1,000 women rabbis around the world, among them the book’s author, who herself was a trailblazer as the first woman to be ordained as a rabbi in the Reconstructionist movement. Eisenberg Sasso also is the award-winning author of the best-selling children’s book God’s Paintbrush."
— Jewish Telegraphic Agency
"Charming illustrations and straightforward text deliver the story of the first woman ever ordained as a rabbi. Regina Jonas achieves her goal through clearly demonstrated persistence. The place and time are far away and long ago for the picture book crowd -- Berlin, Germany in the early 20th century, but the gender issue makes this biography relevant now. Regina’s path was hard, lined with obstacles from people who should have been for her, respected people who witnessed her capabilities and knew her worthy, but urged her to cook and sew.
Readers can follow the difference between Regina’s 1930’s success story and her earlier memory
flashbacks by watching the color illustrations turn to sepia. The illustrations promote the woman and the plot; they are warm, mobile, and attractive with changing fonts as well as changing colors. The apt subtitle of this volume is “An Untold Story.” This is a story that should have been and could have been told earlier. Some say the facts promoting Regina as the first female rabbi were hidden for years because the Holocaust in which she perished and the division of Germany prevented discovery of the written documents, while others fault those who knew of her achievements. This picture book biography of a lovely role model is sweet, sad, and enduring."
— Association of Jewish Libraries Reviews