David Weintraub, executive director of The Dora Teitelboim Center for Yiddish Culture, lists among his organization’s goals “making the old language new again” and “fostering Jewish cultural continuance over the generations.” To this end, Weintraub and Rae Ann Harris, a onetime publicist who passed away in 2002, developed “Sereena’s Secret: Searching for Home,” a Yiddish-English children’s book.
The story, which is intended for American Jewish children ages 6 to 9, describes the adventures of a green bird named Sereena. Forced to leave her home and immigrate to a new one, she confronts issues of her identity. As Sereena attempts to find her place in her new home, she comes to realize who she truly is beneath her green coat of feathers. The story is designed to mirror the experiences of the Yiddish-speaking immigrant, or “Greena” (for “Greenhorn”), struggling to adapt to life in the new world.
Despite difficulty finding a publisher willing to juxtapose English and Yiddish text, the book sold more than 2,000 copies in its first month.
According to Weintraub, the story’s message is that we must appreciate who we are and where we came from. “Sometimes taking a step forward is really taking a step back in time,” he said.