Review: Heroes with Chutzpah

Heroes with Chutzpah: 101 True Tales of Jewish Trailblazers, Changemakers, and Rebels

by Kerry Olitzky and Deborah Bodin Cohen

Ben Yehuda Press, 2024

Category: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Amy Blaine

Buy at

Collected biographies for young people are hot right now, and Heroes with Chutzpah is a unique and timely addition to options for middle grade and young adult readers. The biographies, covering people who have lived within the last 125 years, are not organized alphabetically or chronologically; instead, they cleverly lead into one another with a short sentence linking one personality to the next. From the book’s first profile of comedian Sarah Silverman to a later look at student activist for gun control Naomi Wadler, this collection contains a great mix of knowns and unknowns and includes Jews of differing practices, ages, races, genders, abilities, and identities. The digital illustrations, manipulations of the subject’s image, provide a clean, bold, colorful, and engaging portrait of each person.

At 226 pages, Heroes with Chutzpah is a highly browsable book, one that can be dipped back into again and again. A helpful index at the back provides names in alphabetical order and also by occupation or subject (e.g., Jewish Thought Leaders or Interfaith Relations). Photo and art credits are included, which I feel is important as a model for young authors and researchers. A clever addition is a space for the reader to write a biography of their own hero.

Remarkably, this book began as a Kickstarter project, hence the list of sponsors at the back. I’d say investors got their money’s worth with this celebration of Jewish lives. A perfect gift for the bar/bat mitzvah in your life, addition to a school library (secular or Jewish), or for any young person looking for inspiration.

Are you interested in reviewing books for The Sydney Taylor Shmooze? Click here!

Reviewer Amy Blaine has been a librarian for over twenty years, and is currently a National Board Certified Teacher and public school librarian. She enjoys children's literature, as well as adult literature with a Jewish focus. She blogs at