By Jerry Marcus
Shoshana's Song was a finalist in the 2013 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards, Religious Book Category.
The New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards is the largest non-profit cooperative organization
featuring New Mexico and Arizona books, publishers, and authors.
In Shoshana's Song, Jerry Marcus brings readers a perceptive and unforgettable story of how a young woman faces the clashes between her faith, freedom of thought, and observing the traditions she loves. Marcus portrays Shoshana's difficult choices with charm, humor, understanding, and dignity - all contributing to her spiritual growth, and the power of the story.
A captivating, sensitive, and meaningful coming of age story about feminist teenager Shoshana Rosen, raised in a strict Orthodox Jewish home, who is determined to observe all the sacred traditions of her faith - but wants the independence needed to have a career and choose her own husband.
Shoshana's life drastically changes when she rejects her father's wishes for an arranged marriage, and questions why she must decide between her love of Judaism, and her dream to pursue a college education and professional fulfillment. She makes the bold and painful decision to leave her home and community in New York and move to Chicago, where she rents an apartment with two young women. One of her roommates, Kate Shannon - an Irish Catholic - joins Shoshana on her journey, and shares her search for intellectual freedom, a successful career, happiness, love and marriage - balanced with the intense desire to keep their respective faiths and traditions.
Marcus uses his background and understanding of the human condition - and his storytelling skills - to delve deeply into the complex emotions and struggles of an observant teenager who is on the brink of womanhood. Shoshana loves and respects her religion and the traditions of her ancestors. But she also rejects the concept of arranged marriages and the teachings that would restrict her thirst for knowledge.
In Shoshana's Song, Marcus' ever-popular Laughing Angels - evil demons locked in an eternal battle with the Righteous Ones, who sit at God's throne - are joined by the gentle spirit of Chana Rochel, also known as the holy Maiden of Ludomir. Born in 1815 in the Ukrainian town of Ludomir, Chana Rochel Verbermacher was a legendary Hasidic leader and teacher who is believed to be the only woman in the more than 300-year history of Hasidism to function as a "rebbe," a charismatic teacher and leader. Chana Rochel died in 1892 in Jerusalem. To this day, her life represents a challenge to many orthodox Jewish views about the role of women.
The Laughing Angels and the Righteous Ones made their first appearance in Marcus' 1982 debut novel, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Zev. This controversial book was hailed by The Chicago Tribune as "Original and compelling," and recommended by the American Jewish Congress as "An important addition to books about the Holocaust and Jewish people."
Excerpt from Chapter 1 of Shoshana's Song
Boro Park, Brooklyn
At the age of fourteen, I was considered a very good student at the yeshiva high school I attended. Beth Jacob was an all-girls school. I was comfortable there. It was a time in my life that I thought everything was possible. My classmates and I were eager for the beginning of each day. We were constantly dreaming about our futures, seeing our lives from one reality to the next.
Our dreams allowed us to entertain possibilities that were not always encouraged by our teachers or parents. Like many young women our age, we tried to come to terms with our faith and our developing sexuality. Our private discussions before classes and during lunch allowed us to be heard in an environment where our opinions were valued. At least that was true for now. Soon many of us would become victims to all those who had plans for our futures. Not the normal desires parents have for their children, but the conditional rewards for observing the commandments and rituals. By the time we reached the ages of sixteen and seventeen, many of us were exposed to the matchmaker and all that went along with a tradition we were expected to follow without question.
Many of my friends and classmates eagerly looked forward to this tradition, and loved the idea of everything being planned for them. My best friend Malka and I found it stifling and disheartening. We did not look forward to a sheltered existence that allowed no breathing room for our own desires and needs. We were not willing to masquerade in wedding gowns with yeshiva boys at our side who appeared to know little about real life decisions and choices. To be under their authority was something we would not tolerate. Wedding gowns began to represent an obstacle to our freedom, an idea that was not shared by most of our classmates. They had a different agenda.
Review from Mary Lou Henneman, "Congregational Libraries Today," Church and Synagogue Library Association, February 2013
This masterfully told coming-of-age story follows Shoshana as she matures both intellectually and spiritually...Jerry Marcus interweaves discussions of faith, marriage, intellectual freedom, and the roles of women throughout their lives. Marcus's characters get involved in lively and thought-provoking debates.
Shoshana's Song is a fantastic crossover book for young adults and adults.
It will help both young and mature readers explore how women gain strength in their faith journey. To read the entire review, click here...
Review from Dr. Yaakov Fogelman, founder and director of TOP, The Torah Outreach Program (Jerusalem, Israel), January 7, 2013
Jerry Marcus has, in previous books, explored in great depth, the lives of self proclaimed religious leaders,
who were basically phony exploiters, looking for their own power and fame.
In Shoshana's Song, the heroine, Shoshana Rosen, is an outstanding graduate of a Beit Yakov seminary;
she is expected by her rabbis, parents and community to marry early to a great Talmudic scholar, and totally support his career.
She is defiant of the demands to ignore her own commitment to torah scholarship and finally runs off to Chicago,
where she lives with a pious Catholic girl who has similar problems of conflict between her deep involvement in her faith,
together with a deep and questioning humanistic mind. While a good example of the un-crushable human spirit of a true devotee of our tradition,
Marcus also puts [Shoshana's] tale in a universal cabalistic setting, where pious people are aligned with cabalistic forces in the world,
e.g. the laughing angels, who treat all life and human aspirations as a tragic joke and the righteous ones,
whose views of good only seemed to give aid and comfort to the powerful and rich...
Those, like me, enthralled with Marcus' tale, might also enjoy a recent award-winning Israeli film, Fill The Void by Rama Burshtein.
[NOTE: Rama Burshtein was trained in the secular Sam Spiegel Film & Television School in Jerusalem.
"Fill The Void" tells the story of eighteen-year-old Shira, the youngest daughter of an Orthodox Hassidic family from Tel Aviv.
Shira is about to marry a young man – described as the “man of her dreams.” When her 28-year-old sister dies while giving birth,
Shira must decide whether to resist tradition, and the efforts of her mother and community,
who want her to marry her sister’s widower and raise their child.]
Click here to download an interview with Jerry Marcus about Shoshana's Song
About the Book Cover Design & Illustration
When designing the cover for Shoshana’s Song, Shawn Biner (Biner Design) was meticulous in representing the coming of age story of Shoshana Rosen. The dark blue of the sky represents the way Shoshana feels about the prospect of an arranged marriage and her fear of spending a lifetime under the authority of a husband who may not recognize her desires for a fulfilling career and to contribute to society as a whole. The books she tightly holds in her arms are symbolic or her thirst for knowledge about Shoshana's faith, as well as the world around her. In the dimly lit distance is a street from Shoshana's neighborhood, representing her foundation of faith and community, both of which are important to her. The stained glass window in the synagogue glows, just like the strong faith of her ancestors’ - represented by the Star of David - glows within her soul. Shoshana’s face is illuminated by the light of the moon, representing her spirituality. And her expression is one of quiet determination, which is guided throughout the story by Shoshana's heroine, the legendary Chana Rochel. (Biner Design is located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.)
The illustrations for this dramatic book cover were created by Shawn Costello, an illustrator, portrait artist, and landscape painter, who also teachers art workshops and classes. As shown in her portrait of Shoshana, Shawn captured an impression of this young woman that conveys emotion and her inner spirit. Shawn has a BFA from the Maryland Institute of Art and received her Masters Degree in Art Education from Towson University near Baltimore. She also studied at the Schuler School of Fine Art and with portrait artist, Daniel Green, and is a member of the Portrait Society of America. Shawn lives and paints in Maryland and Downeast Maine. Her outstanding landscapes and portraits may be seen at www.shawncostello.com.
Praise for Novels by Jerry Marcus
The Murder of Basketball Star Jack Molinas
Editor and Senior Writer
"Besides writing a gripping tale of a powerful, rich, highly competitive industry,
Marcus delivers a high-impact, no holds barred, picture of modern social
establishments - both religious and secular..."
Rabbi Yaakov Fogelman
Torah Outreach Program
"Jack would have loved how you portrayed him"
1951-52 NBA Co-Rookie of the Year
The Last Pope
"A creative and provocative...suspense-filled novel."
The Chicago Tribune
"A wonderful premise...a great plot."
Naples Daily News, Florida
Rabbi Yaakov Fogelman
Torah Outreach Program
"An intriguing story...An intellectual thriller."
Marquee, San Diego
"A provocative tale that kindled my imagination..."
Mary Harris, Minister, United Church of Christ
Chicago Columnist ANNE GERBER said Marcus' 1997 book has a "gripping premise"
and compared it to The DaVinci Code, which was published AFTER
The Last Pope.
The Salvation Peddler
"A master of the suspense novel."
Abilene Reporter-News, Texas
"I enjoyed The Salvation Peddler."
President Bill Clinton
Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Zev
"A significant and moving novel...An important addition
to books about the Holocaust and Jewish people."
American Jewish Congress
"Original and compelling."
The Chicago Tribune
"An extraordinary book...that deals with the agony of morals."
Dorothy Fuldheim, News Analyst
Scripps-Howard Broadcasting Company
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