By Deb Silverthorn
The Tycher Library of the Center for Jewish Education of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas will host its 2022 Spring Read, featuring “The Yellow Bird Sings” and author Jennifer Rosner, beginning at 7 p.m. on April 12 via Zoom. At 10 a.m. Monday, April 4, the book will be featured during the Tycher Book Club meeting as well, also online.
“The Yellow Bird Sings,” inspired by the true stories of Jewish children hidden during World War II, is Rosner’s debut novel. A tribute to how hope holds people together in even the most difficult times, the story highlights the bond between a mother and her daughter who — though apart physically — remain linked.
“We’re honored to present the Spring Read with this very special book, a real treasure,” said Karen Schlosberg, CJE coordinator of Projects and Administration. “Held in memory of our dear Judy [Tycher’s late librarian, Judy Borejdo] — who was such an integral part of the Tycher Library from its start — the Spring Read carries on her love and respect for the written word and that of our people.”
The Tycher Spring Read, offered in association with the JCC’s Margot Rosenberg Pulitzer Dallas Jewish BookFest and Jewish Book Council, is dedicated to Judy Borejdo, of blessed memory. One of Tycher Library’s first librarians, who also served on the JCC’s BookFest and Jewish Film Festival of Dallas’ committees, Borejdo read hundreds of books and screened many dozens of films. She had people reading subjects and authors they’d never consider without her recommendation.
“Judy was a classy woman who so engaged life and who you could never say ‘no’ to,” said Schlosberg. “If Judy said it was good, it was great. By the example first of Judy and Joan [Gremont], and in the years since with Linda [Blasnik] and Mollye [Fleschman], our team continues to serve the community with passion.”
Borejdo’s husband, Julian, remembers the Texas Jewish Post’s Harriet Gross saying his wife “presided over the little haven” for readers.
“Judy loved every one of her books; they were an extension of her family,” he said. “Her discussions were always of the highest level.”
Away from the library, Borejdo always made reading together a priority with her sons Ariel and Daniel. “Mom loved learning and culture, and reading was a way to learn and travel without physically going anywhere. She wanted to share that passion and joy with anyone and everyone,” said Ariel. “As an adult I even more appreciate her passion and I know that, as important as the Tycher Library was to her, she would be proud that this event continues in her memory.”
A longtime friend, who became family, of Borejdo’s, Anna Segal spent many hours discussing much about life and sharing a love for literacy.
“Judy and I, with a common family history, bonded from the moment we met,” said Segal, who will lead the Book Club discussion and Spring Read interview with the author. “She was a voracious reader who fiercely identified as a Jew. She believed our stories needed to be told so history couldn’t be minimized and to not allow anyone to forget.
“‘The Yellow Bird Sings’ is about the will to survive coming through whatever our trials,” said Segal. “The love of mother and daughter, the sacrifices made and the heartbreaking choices that had to be made for survival are incredibly moving.”
Born in Connecticut, Rosner is the daughter of Stanley Rosner, of blessed memory, and Bunny, and the sister of David, Elisa and Adam. She formally studied opera but once she was at Columbia University, her heart and mind were turned toward philosophy courses. After she earned a Ph.D. at Stanford University and teaching philosophy, first at Stanford, then at Mount Holyoke College, her writing career brought an added and unexpected future.
“My husband Bill [Corwin] and I, both hearing, had our first daughter Sophia, and then Juliet followed, who were both born deaf. In researching our family history, we found that my husband and I each have a recessive gene for deafness, and I had aunts — generations ago — who were deaf. We moved from California to Massachusetts, where we found, for us, the best resources and schools for our girls.”
With her previous professional writing experience editing the anthology, “The Messy Self,” Rosner found herself journaling. In doing so she ended up publishing, in 2014, a children’s book “The Mitten String,” about a child whose deaf mother ties a string between them at night so she’ll know if the child has awakened and, in 2018, “If A Tree Falls: A Family’s Quest to Hear and Be Heard.”
It was at a book signing for her memoir that Rosner met a woman who shared her own story of being a hidden child during World War II. While Rosner had just spoken about how as a mother, she tried her best to help her children be heard, this woman’s mother had been forced to keep her child quiet.
Rosner then met with many hidden children, including a man, now a Nobel Prize winner, who was hidden in an attic and entertained by his mother reading an atlas, and another person who was hidden and carried in a suitcase. In the stories of lives persevering under extraordinary circumstances, she heard about strength, grit and grace.
“There is nothing rational about how you get through war,” said Rosner. “It’s all incredibly complex and the situation is fraught.”
In “The Yellow Bird Sings,” which has been published in a dozen countries and translated into Bulgarian, Hebrew, Polish, Spanish, and Turkish, Rosner scored her life through the backdrop character of music. With a love of songs embedded in her since early childhood, she remembers her mother listening intently as she sang, and her father was a violinist. Just as his instrument was a nod to his ancestors, the young girl in her book, when separated from her mother, hopes the sound of music in her connects them.
“I went into barns, visualizing the size and space and how one would hide,” said Rosner, who researched the project by going to Poland with her daughter Sophia, and to Israel, where she was joined by both daughters and her husband. “We went to a forest where partisans camped; in Israel I met with [Violins of Hope founder] Amnon Weinstein and he taught me of his process to restore violins lost during the war, of how the next player ‘brings back the voice’ of the original owner. My book, I hope, brings back voices.”
Rosner is finishing her next novel, “Once We Were Home,” about abducted children during and after the war. “Historical fiction can teach important lessons, to take us into a time and make us aware,” she said.
The Tycher Library’s mission, “to inspire lifelong Jewish learning through programming and resources that provide a rich understanding of Jewish life and culture,” has served the community since its founding in 2009. Last fall, the library introduced its virtual platform with more than 100 e-books and audiobooks in addition to its print materials with appointments open to visit the library base at the Aaron Family JCC. Books can also be checked out online and picked up in the J’s lobby.
“The Tycher, and events like our Book Club and Spring Read, are a wonderful chance to bring people together, to explore something in common,” said Tycher Librarian Mollye Fleschman. “I’m grateful for opportunities to share our Jewish literacy and to affect our community.”
To register for the April 4 Book Club or April 12 Spring Read, visit jewishdallas.org/tycherlibrary, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 214-615-5206.