In our modern society, it can be difficult for parents to educate their children about important aspects of religion. As a Jewish child who grew up in a multi-denominational community, there were many times when I wasn’t sure how to navigate through a situation or relate to my friends who weren’t Jewish.
Almost A Minyan is a children’s book that caters to helping Jewish youth grow into their own in a more modern world.
When you’re coming into your own as a young Jewish person, there are instances in which
your faith trumps your social desires. You can’t attend events that are scheduled during Shabbat, your diet is a little different because of your religious practices, and you have to study for your bar or bat mitzvah instead of going to parties or out to movies with friends.
Education and Understanding for Everyone
The book is the combined work of author Lori S. Kline and illustrator Susan Simon. Kline’s beautiful words of wisdom and deep meaning mixed with Simon’s traditional Jewish artistry make Almost A Minyan a masterpiece full of love and inspiration.
Almost A Minyan, which was chosen Children’s Book Pick for 2017 by the Jewish Women’s Archive, tells the story of a family who works to preserve traditions that are directly linked to their faith.
By using characters like a father and daughter, the book doesn’t just educate children, but also causes adults to look back at how they were raised and compare it to the new generation that will one day be responsible for continuing these traditions.
The children’s book uses Yiddish phrases and Hebrew words sprinkled throughout, all in the form of a friendly rhyme. A glossary is included in the back for unfamiliar words. Even though the book is written for a Jewish audience, its universal themes speak to children (and adults) of all ages!
How This Children’s Book Came to Life
Debra Winegarten is a book publisher who runs Sociosights Press. She dedicates her career to helping inspirational works like Almost A Minyan come to fruition. She chooses to work exclusively with a specific type of author, and Kline fit the bill. “There has to be a chemistry between the work I’m sent and my intuition,” says Winegarten. “The book also has to fit my company’s mission: ‘Transforming society, one story at a time.'”
When Winegarten met with Kline to discuss this particular children’s book, it definitely met her criteria. The publisher does not take her responsibility lightly, was brought to tears after she read it and was immediately on board.
Winegarten offered Kline a contract on the spot. “I’ll give you a contract right now. Shake my hand,” she told Kline. “And she did. And we did. And two-and-a-half years later, her dream is this gorgeous reality.”
There have always been educational materials that are made for specific niches. They don’t always connect on an emotional level, and they sometimes lack the marriage between informational and inspirational. Almost A Minyan breaks those barriers, and the hard work of the three women behind it made it all possible.
Reactions From the Jewish Community
The children’s book isn’t just popular among kids and parents, but religious outlets have also responded overwhelmingly well to it. Rabbi Gail Swedroe, Assistant Rabbi of the Congregation Agudas Achim in Austin, TX calls Almost A Minyan a “beautiful coming-of-age story for the 21st century, reminding us of the power of tradition, community, and memory.”
If we implement books like Almost A Minyan alongside other tools to teach the fundamentals of Judaism to the next generation, we will be able to carry the older traditions that have been around for centuries into the coming era.
In a society where faith is no longer at the forefront, it is important that we continue to teach the history of who we are, the importance of our beliefs, and our relationship with God. We are finding better ways to help younger people find their way in Judaism, and this book is just scratching the surface.