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I am Hava: A Song's Story of Love, Hope & Joy recounts the history of this Jewish anthem beginning with its roots as a niggun in Sadagora, Ukraine in the 1800’s. Its journey around the world is described, always acting as a antidote to hardships the Jewish people faced.


I hope I have brought the song’s history to life. It is the sound track to Jewish lives and celebrations. It’s been recorded hundreds of times and also made its joyful way to sports and the Olympics. Although Hava Nagila is as Jewish as chicken soup, its melody floats across borders, religions and cultures. Today it embraces everyone.

Written by Freda Lewkowicz, Illustrated by Siona Benjamin, Published by Intergalactic Afikomen

Kirkus Review

" The origin of the beloved song “Hava Nagila” is fascinating and somewhat mysterious.

The song tells its own tale in the persona of Hava, a magical, blue-skinned woman wearing a blue-and-white robe that represents the colors of Israel and Judaism. She floats above the events as a gentle, benevolent spirit spreading hope and joy as a blessing, her mitzvah, for the Jewish people. The song evolves from a niggun, a wordless melody that was hummed in a village synagogue in the Ukraine. Many Jews escaping a difficult and dangerous life, including some from this shtetl, migrated to Jerusalem, their ancient home, where the melody was heard by a renowned musicologist. He is believed to be the most likely creator of the Hebrew lyrics known today. Hava declares the powerful words of “Hava Nagila” a miracle, a gift from Hashem, God, for they speak of rejoicing and celebrating, no matter the trying circumstances of life. Hava travels across the ocean to America accompanied by the dance Hora, a fellow blue spirit. There, the song is embraced and recorded by many, sometimes-unlikely, singers, reaching a wide audience. Benjamin’s lovingly rendered illustrations move and dance across the pages with the music.

The essential Jewishness of the song and its amazing longevity and universal appeal across nations and cultures resonate throughout the tale.

Come and rejoice and sing out the heartfelt words to this anthem of hope." 

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School Selfies: Teachers,Parents,Students and Bandwagons is the book that teachers should have read in teachers' college. This is the straight-shooting handbook that should be essential reading for parents, teachers, students and administrators. 

As a teacher with 39 years of experience I know the tales of terror and tragedy from the trenches. I understand the unfiltered truth about parents, students, teachers and bandwagons, and it’s not always pretty.  I learned all this from my experiences as a full-time, esteem-busting, red ink-stained educator (as opposed to a politically correct purple ink-stained educator). I  came. I saw. I conquered sometimes and sometimes I didn’t. These are my straight-shooting credentials.

It is important to paint a realistic picture of public education that is free of gobbledygook. How else can we fix what’s broken, an increasing concern in the 21st century, if we cannot be frank about school problems? Enough of endless research studies by those who know little about kids, classrooms, teachers or parents. These theorists, who may not have stepped into a classroom in years, cannot accurately describe the smartboard jungle and what occurs behind school doors.  

I can. I do.


Review by Felix Gelbart, Administrator, Teacher,Learner


In her new anthology, "School Selfies: Teachers, Parents, Students and Bandwagon”, Freda Lewkowicz has told a great many truths, and told them brilliantly.  She does not mince words, nor does she attempt political correctness. Instead, she simply tells the truth as seen through her eyes; the eyes of a master teacher with several decades of practice in her profession. She has chronicled the arrival of the hovering helicopter parents, the scared to do anything controversial administrators, the lies, the sucking up, and the total avoidance of the pachyderm in the playhouse..... What has become of learning, of respect, of basic values be they educational/grammatical, political or personal?


This is a powerful book which explains in depth what is happening in education today, and what must be done to repair it for the good of all, be they teachers, administrators parents or students.  Are there still good students and bright ones...yes! Are there many who feel entitled and superior, and have no need to follow rules, do assignments, or act with grace and class, again Yes! Are there many parents allowing and even encouraging this? Also yes.  Sadly so. Freda has many illustrative examples in her book to prove the point. And the point is, EDUCATION IS WORTH SAVING, FOR THE GOOD OF US ALL! 


And sadly, it is dying: under the weight of ill thought out and educationally bankrupt government initiatives, cutbacks and reforms...(the emperor’s new clothes), Administrations which no longer seem capable of maintaining order or backing teachers by holding people other than teaching staff accountable - including themselves; by parents who lie and cover for their children; and by the children whose feelgood awards for breathing air and participating in life will mean less than nothing in the economic realities of tomorrow.


There are no participation or feelgood awards in the struggle for jobs. You get it or you don't. That's reality. Nobody gives you a prize for trying...similarly you either can write intelligibly and comprehend what you have read or not. At some point life itself will hold us all accountable. Freda is accountable. She has accepted her role. She tried to stem the rise of banality and political correctness, and got into trouble for it. Let us learn the main lessons in her book. It isn't yet too late, but midnight is fast approaching. 


Felix Gelbart, [B.A.,Ed. Cert., Spec. Ed. Cert., M.Ed., Ed Admin Cert. 1 & 2]

(The reviewer is a lifelong learner, an educator for over 40 years as a teacher, vice principal, principal, advisor, and now Student Supervisor for teacher’s college candidates. He holds degrees in Education, Special Education, Literacy teaching, and Graduate certificates in Educational Administration.)

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