Authors: Malka Drucker and Michael Halperin
Age Level: 4-6
Jacob’s Rescue, written by Malka Drucker and Michael Halperin, is a Holocaust story set in Warsaw, Poland. Jacob, the novel’s protagonist, once lived in a beautiful house with his father, grandmother, aunt and brothers. He went to school and played outside much like children nowadays. But, everything changed in 1939 when the Nazi soldiers invaded Poland and began killing all of its Jewish citizens. As a result, Jacob’s father fled the country, in an attempt to stay alive, leaving his family behind. As such, Jacob, his grandmother, his aunt and his brothers moved to a ‘ghetto’ where they grew weaker and hungrier. One afternoon, eight-year-old Jacob was introduced to his new ‘uncle’, Alex Roslan, a heroic Christian man, who kindly offered to hide him safely with his family throughout the war. The Roslan’s, Alex, his wife Mela, and his children Yurek and Marishka, risked their lives each day protecting Jacob. They had to move houses, pay doctors and buy UV lamps to keep Jacob safe and alive. Throughout their journey however, Jacob and the Roslans became very close. Eventually, Jacob’s brothers stayed at the Roslan’s house as well. At the end of the war, the brothers were reunited with their father, who had fled to what was then known as Palestine. This novel clearly illustrates the harsh realities of the Holocaust and the hardships faced by Jewish people throughout World War II.
Element 3 - Exploring Issues of Social Justice:
Jacob’s Rescue offers students an opportunity to experience the various hardships of Jewish life during the Holocaust and World War II. I believe this novel clearly demonstrates Element 3 as it explores Anti-Semitism, religious intolerance and oppression caused by one specific community, the German Nazis. This book helps students understand how this oppression impacted the lives of Jews and others, like the Roslans, and how diversity wasn’t embraced like we try to practice today. Additionally, Jacob is around the same age as my 4th grade students, so it is easier for them to empathize with his feelings of fear, sadness, and anger. This book definitely opens eyes and minds to the horrors of the Holocaust and allows students to identify with a child suffering from the intolerances of German soldiers.
We are currently reading Jacob’s Rescue in my fourth grade classroom and this novel has sparked wonderful discussions about injustice, intolerance, and diversity in our world. As an introductory lesson, we had the students analyze the difference between the words "famous" and "hero". The students gave examples of people who fit into each of the categories. Later, the students explained how the word "hero" is often misused to describe people who are simply famous or popular. As we finished Chapter 9 this week, the students already made the connection that the Roslan’s are heroes because of their courageous efforts when hiding Jacob and his brothers.