Reb Chaim der Shochet
"A Strong Hand and an Outstretched Arm"
If you look closely at the boy sitting third from left in the second row, you can see my father holding a live chicken at the Rodeph Sholom Purim masquerade contest in 1954. Not quite 1938 like in the story, and my dad was not a "vilde chaya" (wild beast) like Jeremiah was as a child, but the image of him in this costume has stayed with me. And unlike Jeremiah in the story, my father carried a real shochet's knife.
Like Jeremiah, my maternal grandfather, A. Charles Cohen, served in the Signal Corps in the European theater in World War II. He was a married man, had an active law practice, and was about to start a family, but he enlisted in 1943, arriving in Glasglow in May 1944 and taking part in Operation Fortitude (a propaganda campaign to convince the Axis powers that the big Allied invasion would be in Norway). He arrived on the mainland at Utah Beach, about a month after D-Day, and then spent time all over France, Belgium and Germany, laying cables and working as a radioman. He wrote to my grandmother every day. His brother, my Uncle Sam (also from Troy, NY, like the original), was an infantryman.
Rebuilding in New Orleans
My father-in-law and sister-in-law traveled to New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina to help rebuild houses, as Jeremiah contemplates in "Emeritus." Unlike Jeremiah, however, my father-in-law regularly spends his spare time volunteering in his community and in other places. I think he's at his happiest when he combines physical labor with helping a community in need.
Treating the Enemy
"The Dutiful Daughter"
The Israeli cousins that Molly and Hannah meet in Haifa are based on my real life cousins Yitzhak z"l and Shula Shpergel. Yitzhak was my grandfather's first cousin, and during the Israeli War of Independence, he served as a medic with the unit that secured Eilat. He's pictured here in the back row, third from left. In his memoir, he talked about treating the Egyptian soldiers and trading cigarettes with them once it was clear the battle was over.
Featured in The Book of Jeremiah
What’s five more guests when she’s cooking for twenty? An extra potato kugel, a few more kneidelach, a larger brisket.
- From "A Strong Hand and an Outstretched Arm"
1 c. matzah meal
1 tsp chopped parsley
1/4 c. cold water
1/2 c. vegetable oil
Salt & Pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients, chill for a couple of hours, mold into balls and drop into boiling water/soup. Cover pot and cook on low for 30-45 minutes.
“Remember those chocolate peanut butter bonbons mother used to make? Did she ever teach you how to make them?”
- From "MixMaster"
Chocolate Peanut Butter Bonbons
1/2 c. butter, melted
1 1/2 c peanut butter
16 oz powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
12 oz dark chocolate
Combine butter, PB, sugar and vanilla in large bowl and mix until smooth. Shape into 1 inch balls and freeze on a baking sheet for 1 hour. Melt the chocolate (may be combined with a few teaspoons of vegetable shortening). Dip frozen balls halfway into the melted chocolate. It's less messy if you use a toothpick! Return to freezer until ready to serve.
“A good woman,” Jeremiah said, biting into a brownie. “Sometimes I don’t know why she puts up with me.” He laughed at himself.
- From "Transcendental"
6 oz dark chocolate, melted
1 c sugar
1/2 c canola oil
1/4 soy milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 c cocoa
1 c flour
Melt chocolate, and then mix everything together, starting with the wet ingredients and adding the flour last. Line a square pan with baking paper, and bake for 30 min at 350.
“I guess I should have told you,” her son said. “I don’t eat veal anymore. Tess doesn’t either. It’s not humane, the way they treat the animals.”
She frowned and rolled her eyes. “More for us, then,” she said, letting the serving spoon make a loud scraping noise as she placed a helping on Jeremiah’s plate.
- From "Birthday Bash"
Veal in White Wine
2 1/2 lb boneless veal, cubed
1 1/2 TBSP flour
3 TBSP olive oil
3 onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 c. green pepper, chopped
1/4 lb mushrooms
1 c. chicken broth
1/2 c. white wine
2 TBSP lemon juice
Oregano, thyme, salt & pepper to taste
Sprinkle flour, salt & pepper over veal, then saute in olive oil until lightly browned. Separately, saute onion and garlic, then the green pepper and mushrooms. Add the veal back to the pan, adding remaining spices, chicken broth and white wine. Simmer at a low heat until boiling
Several of the stories in The Book of Jeremiah, particularly the ones that take place in the 1930s - 1970s, sent me down paths to learn more about particular events. As the daughter of a former American history teacher, I loved this aspect of the writing, and I encountered many events about which I'd previously known nothing.
Three Strikes, 1932
Box score from Game 4 of the World Series (Yankees 13, Cubs 6)
Calhoun, Ricky-Dale. (2007). Arming David: The Haganah's Illegal Arms Procurement Network in the United States, 1945–49. Journal of Palestine Studies. 36. 22-32. 10.1525/jps.2007.36.4.22.
Al Schwimmer, father of Israel’s Air Force, dies, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, June 12, 2011
Tough Day for LBJ, 1964
Mystery of the Three Missing Civil Rights Workers Is Clouded in Controversy and Contradiction, The New York Times, July 5, 1964
Graves at a Dam; Discovery Is Made in New Earth Mound in Mississippi, The New York Times, Aug. 5, 1964
Forces Enlarged; Stevenson to Appeal for Action by U.N. on ‘Open Aggression’, The New York Times, Aug. 5, 1964
The President's Address: Transcript of LBJ's Press Conference, The New York Times, Aug. 5, 1964
Slain Rights Workers Mourned By Thousands at Services Here, The New York Times, Aug. 10, 1964
Skunks, Bogies, Silent Hounds, and the Flying Fish: The Gulf of Tonkin Mystery, 2-4 August 1964, by Robert J. Hanyok, Cryptologic Quarterly, 1998. Unclassified by NSA, 2007