Review: The Christmas Mitzvah
The Christmas Mitzvah
by Jeff Gottesfeld, illustrated by Michelle Laurentia Agatha
Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Rachel J. Fremmer
The Christmas Mitzvah by Jeff Gottesfeld nearly brought me to tears. More than once. Inspired by the real-life Al Rosen of Milwaukee, this book tells the story, in simple but effective language, of how this Jewish man volunteered to take over work for those celebrating Christmas on Christmas Eve. He worked all sorts of jobs, mostly unskilled, and passed the tradition down to his children and grandchildren, as well as inspiring people around the world to substitute for others on their holy days. In a nice touch, the fictitious version of Al continues his mitzvah for exactly 36 years - twice chai (18), the Hebrew number associated with life.
The brightly colored illustrations complement the text beautifully, showing a truly diverse city. The illustrator does not shy away from depicting the physical effort required by some of the jobs Al takes on. The text, too, acknowledges those who do these jobs, noting that they are “[a]ll the folks easy to dismiss in a world that mistakes wealth for worth” but who we depend on every day.
The Christmas Mitzvah is certainly an outstanding book that authentically portrays the Jewish experience and as such, is a contender for the Sydney Taylor Book Award.
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