Local Bookshelf | Author, author: New books by Bay Area writers

With the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht on Nov. 9 and 10, it’s appropriate we begin with a new book about the Holocaust.

Leon Rajninger brings us “Black Days and Nights: The story of my childhood as a Holocaust survivor.” A slight twist on the theme: Rajninger, of San Francisco, was born in Romania, and tells how the lives of Jews in his city of Chernowitz drastically changed during the war years. It began with the Russian occupation in 1939, when Rajninger was 8. In June 1940, most of the city’s Jewish leaders were exiled to Siberia, he writes, where many of them died. But the true horror for Rajninger and his family began after the Nazi killing squads stormed into the city in July 1941.

Rajninger’s stark, first-person account speaks for itself, while Al Bernzweig’s simple, black-and-white sketches deepen the impact of the narrative.

“Black Days and Nights” by Leon Rajninger (68 pages, Gefen Publishing, $17.99)


Myer Rush was a gangster. He grew up in Toronto, a kid with street smarts who sold newspapers on the corner at age 5 and eventually went on to criminal pursuits.

Bruce Farrell Rosen tells Rush’s story. An investment adviser by day, the  San Francisco resident wrote a 2011 memoir about the unraveling of his marriage and is also an avid writer of essays.

“Bombed in His Bed: The Confessions of Jewish Gangster Myer Rush” reveals the juicy details of the notorious globetrotting gangster’s life. How did Rosen corner a man who so detested the press, and get him to share his stories?

Rush happens to be Rosen’s uncle, and found his nephew to be a trustworthy vehicle to get out his “true” story, “for the record.” His tales tumbled out over many interviews he conducted many years ago, during his uncle’s visits to San Francisco.

“Bombed in His Bed: The Confessions of Jewish Gangster Myer Rush” by Bruce Farrell Rosen (278 pages, Alma Rose Publishing, $16.95)


Penny Rosenwasser tackles a difficult, complex topic in her book “Hope Into Practice: Jewish Women Choosing Justice Despite Our Fears.” The author, a founding board member of Jewish Voice for Peace and a member of Kehilla Community Synagogue in Piedmont, admits in the book that for much of her life, she did not want to “look” Jewish. She was an assimilated Jew who did not want to stand out because of her Jewishness.

Her book is about not only recognizing and shattering self-hating inner dialogues, but transforming them. “Simply put,” she writes, “when we transform self-hatred, we accept and like who we are, and we treat others better, too.  … Anchored in Jewish ethical tradition, we bolster our capacity to create a just world: for Jews, for all the disenfranchised and abused on U.S. shores, as well as in the Congo, in Haiti, in Palestine.”

A book launch will be held at 7 p.m.  Nov. 18 at Kehilla.

“Hope Into Practice: Jewish Women Choosing Justice Despite Our Fears” by Penny Rosenwasser (417 pages, self-published, $21.95)