cover of the book shows a hand closing a door
“Two Among the Righteous Few” by Marty Brounstein

Tales of survival and the Holy Land in new books by locals

Author! Author! is a monthly-ish roundup of new books by Bay Area Jews.

“When I was a boy in the land known as Palestine, before it became Israel, Jews and Arabs lived side by side, in peace.”

from the heart book cover

So begins Alejandro Modena’s memoir “From the Heart,” which recounts his childhood in a Palestinian town under British rule during World War II. Located next to a British army base, the town was divided into two sections —Jewish and Arab — with the local school, post office and market in between. However, there was some blending: Modena’s family lived in a mixed apartment building, where he met his best friend, an Arab boy.

Now a grandfather living in Menlo Park, Modena writes with simplicity; “From the Heart” shares one boy’s view of life in Palestine — both happy and sad — before the family immigrates to Cuba.

From the Heart” by Alejandro Modena with Colin Ingram (119 pages, Robert D. Reed Publishers)


Screen Shot 2017-03-01 at 3.51.35 PMAnother locally authored book about the Holy Land is Rabbi Sheldon Lewis’ “Mini Adventures in Jerusalem,” a book for young readers.

Lewis, the rabbi emeritus at Congregation Kol Emeth in Palo Alto, says the book “has been incubating in me for many years. I began imagining stories for my own four children when they were little, and then I told them for years in my congregation and out into the community.”

His collection of stories “combines my love to write for kids and my passion for peacemaking and embracing the other,” he notes.

The book is for readers ages 8 to 11 or younger children who can be read to, according to Lewis, who adds: “I believe children are our greatest hope for a more peaceful future.”

Mini Adventures in Jerusalem” by Rabbi Sheldon Lewis (52 pages, Hadassa Word Press)


San Mateo author Marty Brounstein, a regular on the local synagogue book-talk circuit, has issued a second edition of “Two Among the Righteous Few: A Story of Courage in the Holocaust.” Brounstein updates his 2011 book — a true story about a Christian couple who saved Jews from certain death during the Nazi-occupation of the Netherlands.

Brounstein, who is married to a woman saved by the couple, has revisited the Netherlands several times over the last several years, and brings readers up to date on some of people featured in the book.

Two Among the Righteous Few” by Marty Brounstein (224 pages, Tate Publishing)


cover of love and luckEva Levi has dodged death several times in her long life — surviving nearby bombings and deadly epidemics and, most important, escaping Berlin with other Jews in 1939, immigrating to Shanghai, China.

Still very much alive in San Francisco, Levi is the subject of “Love and Luck: A Young Woman’s Journey from Berlin to Shanghai to San Francisco.” Her determination — as well as optimism — helped her to persevere.

The book, which is sprinkled with photos of Levi at various stages of her life, is written by her daughter Karen Levi. The author admits that her mother was not always easy to live with, but “Love and Luck” helps explain the many facets of Eva Levi’s challenging, complicated life.

Love and Luck” by Karen Levi (146 pages, self-published)