A Tree Grows in Brooklyn


Recorded: 11/8/2023

Facilitator: Hindel Levitin

Hindel Levitin is the program director of The Chabad House, a synagogue located in the heart of Palm Beach. She shares the joys of Judaism with all ages in varied ways, from producing musicals with the very young, to teaching preschool and high school classes. She is also the director of the Jewish Women’s Circle of Palm Beach providing social, artistic, and intellectual programming for women. She and her husband Rabbi Zalman Levitin live on Palm Beach and are the grateful parents of nine children.

From the moment she entered the world, Francie Nolan needed to be made of stern stuff, for growing up in the Williamsburg slums of Brooklyn, New York demanded fortitude, precocity, and strength of spirit. Often scorned by neighbors for her family’s erratic and eccentric behavior―such as her father Johnny’s taste for alcohol and Aunt Sissy’s habit of marrying serially without the formality of divorce―no one, least of all Francie, could say that the Nolans’ life lacked drama. By turns overwhelming, heartbreaking, and uplifting, the Nolans’ daily experiences are raw with honestly and tenderly threaded with family connectedness. Betty Smith has, in the pages of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, captured the joys of humble Williamsburg life―from “junk day” on Saturdays, when the children traded their weekly take for pennies, to the special excitement of holidays, bringing cause for celebration and revelry. Smith has created a work of literary art that brilliantly captures a unique time and place as well as deeply resonant moments of universal experience.
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