New Review – Dirty Jewess

Elka Weber ● Segula Magazine

This sweet, tough, and charmingly amateurish memoir is the story of a tenacious woman. Sylvia Fishbaum grew up in Slovakia after World War II. Her parents braved anti-Semitism and maintained a traditional Jewish lifestyle in a country where Jews were nearly extinct.

After the rise of Communism, life became harder both materially and emotionally, but Fishbaum’s irrepressible confidence served her well. As a young woman, she sewed clothes and sold them on the black market in the Ukraine to finance her escape to the United States.

A chance meeting with a Jewish family on its way to Israel alerted Sylvia to the existence of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society in Rome. After careful, clandestine planning, Fishbaum left behind an apartment and a job,made her way to Rome, and eventually moved to New York. There she married a co-owner of an iconic kosher pizzeria in Manhattan, raised two sons, and lived the American dream.

After her husband’s early death from heart disease, Sylvia dedicated herself to reviving Jewish life in Slovakia. Fishbaum’s wellsprings of willpower and self-deprecating humor make for a compelling read.

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