Jewish Values: Runaway, The

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144 p.
Joey and Jake Bergson live on the Lower East Side of New York. It’s 1925, and they are getting ready to sell newspapers. When a bully starts up with eleven-year-old Joey, a stranger intercedes and soon becomes a friend. Danny Gold is fifteen, but he is not as knowledgeable in Jewish subjects as Joey and thirteen-year-old Jake. Although the family is struggling financially, the boys invite Danny to join them for meals and live in the stable behind their apartment building. Soon Danny is also selling papers and figuring out a way for them to make more money. He attends classes with Rabbi Isaacson, and while at first, he challenges the rabbi, soon he enjoys the classes. He helps Joey overcome his fear of heights, and he contributes his earnings to the family. One of the reasons they are poor is because Mr. Bergson will not work on Shabbos. But soon Danny’s secret is out – he is really Danny Goldenheim, the son of a wealthy textile manufacturer. Danny ran away to the Lower East Side because he hated the boarding school he was attending. He really wanted to learn and practice Judaism. Mr. Goldenheim soon understands why his son ran away, and he gives Mr. Bergson a job as a plant manager in Brooklyn. While historical fiction about the Lower East Side (and its romanticization) abound, this one stands out. Obviously, there is a strong sense of place, and the characters are well-developed. The classes with the rabbi allow for the infusion of lots of Jewish wisdom. All the boys develop and mature over the course of the story, and although real life in that time and place was much grittier, the happy ending of this “boy” book (that everyone will enjoy) is satisfying.
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