RECENT BOOKS

The history of some 30 Russian Jewish immigrant families who in 1907 began to buy land in the Ellsworth Hills above Sharon, CT, where they attempted to become dairy farmers.
Three generations of strong-­minded Rosens have gone their own ways, repairing the world while keeping a safe distance from each other, when Peter Rosen, a widowed refugee from Nazi Germany and retired German professor, takes a bad fall in the snow and a call from Spooner Street prompts his estranged daughter, Marlene Rosen, to spend a long stretch in Madison with her ailing but difficult father.
Ten-year-old Eva Hoffman's family, Austrian refugees, have found precarious safety in Topeka, Kansas. It is 1951, the year of the landmark desegregation case. As the rising river inundates the town, the Hoffman's open their home to refugees from the flood, and Eva learns the complexities of prejudice - and courage - both within and outside her family.
Memoir
"A second generation chronicle that offers rich intellectual insights while stiring our deepest feelings." Leo Spitzer, author of Hotel Bolivia "Pursing her story across two continents, Ascher, the daughter of a Vienese psychoanalyst, explores the unsettling legacy of Nazi persecution on her complicated immigrant family and ultimately on herself, in this probing, well-written memoir." - Alix Kates Shulman
Biography
Writer, intellectual adventurer, fighter for personal and political freedom, feminist, and intimate companion to Jean-Paul Sartre for over fifty years, Simone de Beauvoir emerges from this at times highly personal book of philosophical and literary criticism as a woman who plays a major role in the lives of men and women today, and one of the most stunning and provocative thinkers of this century.
Illuminating how work on a subject transforms both the work and the author, this edited collection is an effort toward building a feminist theory of biography.

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Just Released! A CHANCE FOR LAND AND FRESH AIR: Russian Jewish Immigrants in Sharon and Amenia, 1907-1940


The exhibit, A Chance for Land and Fresh Air: Russian Jewish Immigrants in Sharon and Amenia, which was on display at the Sharon Historical Society between October 2016 and April 2017, will be permanently installed at

Congregation Beth David
October 7th
11:30am - 2pm
3344 East Main Street
Route 343
Amenia, NY 12501

A Chance for Land and Fresh Air: Russian Jewish Immigrants in Sharon and Amenia, 1907-1940, expands on an exhibit that as on display at the Sharon Historical Society between October 2016 and April 2017, and is now permanently installed at Congregation Beth David in Amenia, New York, a synagogue that was built by these immigrants.

The book, A Chance for Land and Fresh Air, adds several new families--including Rothsteins and Tempkins--as well as additional historical material to the three-room exhibit at the Sharon Historical Society. One of Ascher's exciting findings was that, not only did important Russian Jewish student movements (Am Olam and Biliu) offer agriculture as a solution to anti-semitism, but, as Jews fled the pogroms of Russia, American Jewish farmers as well as early Zionists in Palestine were fed by both student movements. Indeed, while two Osofsky brothers came to Sharon to farm, their sisters made new homes in Palestine.

"These are my roots This book put me in touch with the resilience and determination of people like my grandparents, Harry and Anna Marcus. Their hard work and resourcefulness made it possible for those of us who came behind them to do well. As a historian, it helped me understand better how ordinary immigrants enriched American life, sometimes overcoming discrimination and other barriers in doing so."

~ Martin Klein, Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto

Carol Ascher is the author of seven books, including biography, memoir, and fiction. Her stories and essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Hartford Courant, The Nation, Ms. Magazine, and in a number of literary magazines, as well as locally in The Lakeville Journal and Main Street. She has received literary awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the New York State Foundation for the Arts, and the National Foundation for Jewish Culture.

Purchase A Chance For Land and Fresh Air

A Chance for Land and Fresh Air, book launch, July 30, 2017


The book launch for A CHANCE FOR LAND AND FRESH AIR took place at the Sharon Historical Society on Sunday, July 30th. Expanding on the exhibit by the same name, the book tells the history of some 30 Russian Jewish immigrant families who in 1907 began to buy land in the Ellsworth Hills above Sharon, where they attempted to become dairy farmers. The area was isolated and the land stony, and by the 1920s most of the farmers moved to Amenia, New York, less than ten miles away, where they ran kosher hotels and boarding houses, turning Amenia into a Jewish resort in the years before the Catskills became the Catskills.

Over one hundred people attended the book launch, which was filled with descendants of the early Russian Jewish farmers, friends, and newcomers, all drawn by their interest in how and why Jewish farmers had come to the Sharon area, and what their lives had been like in both Sharon and Amenia in the early years of the twentieth century.

For more information on A CHANCE FOR LAND AND FRESH AIR, or to order a copy, please visit the website of the Sharon Historical Society.

ABRAHAM'S DAUGHTERS, AN INTERFAITH CONVERSATION


Three of Abrahams Four Daughters, photo taken at a presentation at Hartford Seminary
Carol Ascher, Eileen Epperson, Nancy Latif and Vjosa Qerimi, women of Jewish, Christian and Muslim backgrounds, share their personal religious journeys, and what they cherish in their faiths.

Abraham's Daughters has been presenting interfaith conversations in churches, synagogues and other venues in northwest Connecticut and New York. Our aim is to help our audience become comfortable with discussions that involve differences in tradition and belief.

Check back for upcoming dates to be announced.


A Chance for Land and Fresh Air, Opening October 22nd, 2016

I came upon this hidden history of some 30 Jewish families who beginning in 1907 became dairy farmers in the Ellsworth Hills, where I live, above Sharon, CT. I examined the town’s land records, which, in turn, led me to census data and the archives of the Center for Jewish History in Manhattan, and back to Sharon and Amenia, to conduct interviews and collect family photographs, and other documents. This has led to my role as guest curator of a new history exhibit, A Chance for Land and Fresh Air: Russian Jewish Immigrants in Ellsworth and Amenia, 1907-1940.

The exhibit highlights several families who continue to have farms in the area, including the Gorkofskys, Osofskys, and Paleys.

The exhibit opened with a reception on Saturday, October 22, 2016 and will remain through March 2017.

Marge Smith, Sharon Historical Society Curator, has been instrumental in designing the exhibit. Joel Osofsky, whose grandfather settled in Ellsworth in 1907, has assisted with photographic reproduction and mounting.

For more information, please visit Sharon Historical Society Website or contact Marge Smith, Curator, at curator@sharonhist.org telephone 860-364-5688; or Carol Ascher, at ascher.carol@gmail.com.

The image is of Gershom and Sarah Rotschtein, their children, and Sarah's sister Basha, in Slutsk, Belarus.

 
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In 1907, the first of thirty Jewish families settled in the Ellsworth hills above Sharon to try their hand at dairy farming. Most of the immigrants purchased land with mortgage assistance from the Jewish Agricultural and Industrial Aid Society, funded by the Belgian Jewish philanthropist, Baron Maurice de Hirsch. The Russian Czar had forbidden Jews to farm, and Hirsch hoped that farming would enable Jews to become productive and fully-respected citizens in America. But the hills were too stony for dairy farming, and most families subsidized their incomes by taking in city Jews wanting kosher vacations in the fresh air.

In the 1920s, as their children reached high school age, the immigrants began moving down from the hills, many to Amenia, New York, a town directly on the train line, where the high school was more welcoming. For the next several decades, these families built Amenia into a busy resort with kosher boarding houses, small hotels and a synagogue.

This important and moving story of Jewish rural life in the early decades of the twentieth century is drawn from photos and interviews with a dozen families whose descendants remain in the area, including the Epsteins, Gorkofskys, Marcuses, Osofskys, Paleys, Rothsteins and Temkins, as well as from land records, census data and other historical documents. Thanks to funding from Baron de Hirsch, similar settlements of Russian Jewish farmers took place in other rural communities in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York, as well as throughout the United States and Canada.

“This book is not just about Ellsworth and Amenia, nor is it just about a dozen Russian immigrant families adjusting to America. It is about all immigrants who flee, arrive, and struggle to assimilate into a strange new land, learn a new language, take up an altogether new way of life.” - Norman Osofsky, descendant

“The detailed scholarship and memorable stories that make up this book offer today’s reader insight into the refugee experience and leave the reader inspired by these stories of struggle and achievement – Mary Donohue, author of Back to the Land: Jewish Farms and Resorts in Connecticut, 1890-1945

The cover features one of the earliest Russian Jewish immigrants who came to the Ellsworth Hills above Sharon to buy land and work as a dairy farmer. Called Naftali Merkin in Russia, he became Harry Marcus in the United States

 
My latest novel, A Call From Spooner Street is available at Amazon. Like my novel, The Flood, and my memoir, Afterimages, A Call from Spooner Street explores the ongoing legacy of World War II on Jewish refugees and their children--this time through the fraught relationship between a retired German professor at the University of Wisconsin and his adult daughter, a sociologist and single mother.

REVIEWS:

Heartwarming and Moving, December 15, 2015

Poignant, Heartfelt, and Beautifully Told, September 8, 2015

A beautifully crafted novel that moves the heart, provokes thought..., September 9, 2015

An absorbing, well written, powerful story, September 30, 2015

I was born in Cleveland three weeks after my parents arrived as refugees from the Nazi regimes of Central Europe. Our home was bilingual, with German the language of nostalgia, frightening memories, as well as intimacy... [Read full biography...]

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