A Woman of Valor is a monumental family saga that is in effect a history of the Jews in the 20th century. It centers around a heroine who grows up in Bialystok, survives the Holocaust fighting in the Underground, and rebuilds her family in Israel.
The Lefkovitzes are a well-to-do Bialystok family operating a textile factory that employs 100 Poles and Jews. The five brothers and sisters and fifteen of their sixteen children occupy a family-owned three-story building in the middle of the city. The sixteenth child lives in Palestine. Emma Lefkovitz, the first grandchild, is born in September 1920 in Independent Poland a month after the Russians are driven out.
The children grow up in an often hostile environment but the family flourishes. Rivka studies agronomy and teaches in Warsaw University as a single mother. Chana becomes a pediatrician in residency at Bialystok’s Jewish Hospital, where she meets her husband. Eliezer marries Sarka and manages her father’s movie theater. Emma becomes an ardent Zionist, joining the socialist Hashomer Hatzair movement. Some of the other cousins are employed in the factory.
Then the war breaks out and the Germans arrive and now the long nightmare begins.
When the ghetto is liquidated in August 1943, Emma and her husband fight in the uprising, but it is easily suppressed and they flee to the forest to join the partisans. The rest of the Lefkovitz family, numbering over sixty members now, are murdered, mostly in Treblinka, Auschwitz, and Poniatowa. After the war, Emma and her husband, Yoel, gather up Eliezer, Sarka, and their children on the farm where they have hidden and two years later they all arrive in Palestine.
In the 1948 war, Emma fights in the Old City of Jerusalem. Emma gives birth to a boy. One day a familiar-looking young woman approaches her in the kibbutz where she lives. It is Faiga, Rivka’s daughter, who survived the war hidden away by a Polish family. She has come to Israel to study agronomy like her murdered mother.
Eliezer and Sarka move to Tel Aviv and after a few years, Emma follows suit. Faiga marries a fellow scientist and gets her doctorate in Rehovot as the three women go about rebuilding the Lefkovitz family.
Emma has two more children, Sarka and Faiga four. After the 1967 war, the family continues to grow, experiencing the joys and sorrows of ordinary people. Emma dies at the age of 80. Someone counts the family members at the graveside. The number comes to 150. These are, in one form or another, the Lefkovizes in the year 2000.
This is a unique and profoundly moving story. Rarely has ordinary family life been depicted with such verisimilitude, and certainly not in the shadow of horrendous war. The triumph of the Lefkovitzes is not only the triumph of a family. It is also the triumph of a nation.
Fred Skolnik was born in New York City and lives in Israel. He is the author of six previous novels, three under his own name (The Other Shore, Death and Basic Forms) and three under his Fred Russell pen name (The Links in the Chain, Rafi’s World, and The Nightmare: A Sci-Fi Fantasy), along with two collections of stories. He is also the editor in chief of the 22-volume second edition of the Encyclopaedia Judaica, winner of the 2007 Dartmouth Medal.
Imprint: Addison & Highsmith Publishers
650 pp., 6 x 9 in. (229 x 152 mm)
Date of Publication: October 4, 2022