Book Review – Pepper Silk & Ivory

Pepper Silk & Ivory    By Rabbi Marvin Tokayer and Ellen Rodman, Ph.D

What an interesting book!!!

Normally I don’t write a review for a book before I finish reading it, but in this case, since it is such a good book, and because I’m such a slow reader, I don’t want to wait any longer.

According to my Kindle, I only read 60% of the book. However, the amount of information and the number of real-life stories I already read about phenomenal Jews and gentiles, could fill at least two interesting books. Luckily I’m just in the middle so there is plenty more to read.

Rabbi Marvin Tokayer spent many years in Japan and the Far East. During this time he met with many Jews and gentiles who lived, or passed through, this area. He listen to their stories, interviewed them, and remained their friend. In this book Rabbi Marvin Tokayer shares these stories with us and I’m grateful that he decided to do that.

When we think about Jewish history, we mostly focused on Israel, Europe, and the US. Very few of us look at the Far East for information. Yet, when the Nazis hunted down Jews in Europe, and when the rest of the world turned its back on them, the Jews had nowhere to go but to places like China and Japan. Places that had very little exposure to Jews before, and which were strange places for orthodox Jews from eastern Europe to live in. The unique circumstances of the time is the backdrop of some amazing real-life stories, I never heard before.

The book is not only about Holocaust survivors. It is also about Jews who arrived as traders from the Middle East and built communities in these areas. Some of them built financial empires. Others tried to survive in places where they were completely isolated from other Jewish community.

If you are interested in learning about a part of the Jewish history that is not that familiar, you should read it. The book is written as a collection of independent short stories, told from the point of view of the persons who lived them. For that reason, portions of some stories are told twice, from two point of views, as people paths crossed each other. This make the book even more interesting as the reader gets a more complete picture of the event.

The book is available for download on Amazon.

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