Review: A Synagogue Just Like Home

A Synagogue Just Like Home

by Alice Blumenthal McGinty, illustrated by Laurel Molk

Candlewick, 2022

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Cynthia Levinson

Rabbi Ruben, a tousle-haired young man who wears sneakers and is accompanied everywhere by his adoring dog (who really wishes someone would play ball with him!), loves his cheery synagogue. However, the kitchen sink leaks. The floors creak. And the windows are so drafty, wind blows out the Shabbat candles. No problem! Rabbi Ruben can take care of everything to make the synagogue feel the way it should--like a happy home. But, alas, he can't do it all by himself, and he makes matters even worse when he tries to fix everything alone. Fortunately, the choir director, the Weinstein girls, and other members of the congregation pitch in, literally mopping up after Rabbi Ruben and repairing the leaks, creaks, and drafts. By the end, everyone realizes that a synagogue can indeed feel like a home--because a home is about helping, sharing, and caring.

The mostly pastel illustrations and smiling characters convey a sweet charm to the text. The congregants are a racially diverse bunch of convivial, energetic, and clever kids and adults who clearly admire their rabbi and feel a warm connection to their synagogue. Rabbi Ruben himself has light brown skin.

A Synagogue Just Like Home meets the criteria for the Sydney Taylor Book Award. It is nicely written with an appropriate story arc, including dilemmas that are a bit worrisome but also amusing. The story and illustrations work together to show an inclusive synagogue with a mixture of members who care about each other, their leader, their worship, and their building.

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Reviewer Cynthia Levinson writes nonfiction for young readers that focus on social justice. Her books have been Sydney Taylor Notables and a Finalist for the National Jewish Book Award.