Juliene Berk


So much remains to be understood and appreciated about the resilience and adaptability of Jewish immigrants to the South in particular that Juliene Berk's book is very welcome. "Call Her Blessed," in whatever genre to which it belongs, is a handsome addition to the literature of Southern Jewry
and of the Florida past in particular.
Stephen J. Whitfield
Department of American Studies
Brandeis University


The story kept me enthralled. I couldn't sit down...
I couldn't stop to get my spectacles... when she has the epiphany of self realization, her early life as the "good girl" and maturing into an understanding that life is what it is but in order to become whole you must tell it as you see it and feel it. There are insights here that can bring clarity to many women... The author writes much more than a historical narrative..."
Dora Beerstein, Santa Cruz, California

"I loved CALL HER BLESSED... I couldn't put it down...At times it seemed like a work of fiction -- other times I felt I was there with them."
Karin Hoenig, New York, NY

"I read CALL HER BLESSED first. I didn't do anything else until I had finished it. It was wonderful. I am so ignorant about the Jewish faith and culture... I learned a lot and it has piqued my interest to learn even more... it has so enriched my life. The smaller book of short stories I also loved...(GLIMPSES OF SOUTHERN JEWISH ROOTS). I greatly appreciate your glossary of Yiddish terms..."
Joan E. Hayes, Portland, Oregon


"A fun book for battling the blues...a humorous down-to-earth approach."

"Valuable healing lessons."



Today, at epidemic proportions, mental depression affects more than 350 million people worldwide. It is twice as common in women as in men. Up to 60% of those who suffer from clinical depression or mood disorders commit suicide--including many teenagers and soldiers--more of whom kill themselves than are killed in battle. Less severe forms, called “the blues” or “downers,” affect almost everyone and can ruin relationships and devastate lives. Many clinicians, neurologists, and researchers have written about depression in theoretical/​clinical terms, but this book is different. It is written from the point of view of the sufferer.
Sir Winston Churchill, himself a sufferer, once referred to depression as “the black dog”–Samuel Johnson’s term for his own depression. Even Abraham Lincoln had severe bouts of depression most of his life and struggled with it as he was struggling with a disintegrating Union.
Written by a woman who learned on her own hide how to beat depression, The Down Comforter offers practical ways to help yourself in a humorous, witty style. You’ll chuckle (a help in itself) as you read the insightful stories and breakthrough understandings which the author personally carved out of her own pain. Her unique weapons can be used by themselves or in conjunction with other therapies.
Some of the top mental health professionals all over the country have found The Down Comforter of great interest and value and have given this book their unqualified approval and recommendation, some examples:
“Profound psychological insights which overwhelm one all the more because of their deceptively simple formulations.” Bertram Schaffner, M.D. William Alanson White Institute of Psychiatry
“An enormously perceptive book which moves easily from the ‘how to’ to profound exposition which suits the lay person and the clinician as well.” Beryl Lovitz, M.D., P.A.
“A light touch on a heavy subject by one who understands the depth of despair and who counsels with wisdom.” Dr. Leon Salzman, Prof. of Clinical Psychiatry Georgetown University Medical School; author of The Obsessive Personality; Obsession to Kill; Developments in Psychoanalysis.
“I recommend this book to colleagues, friends and patients.” Leah Davidson, M.D.
“Anyone whose depression will allow them to read this book will no doubt find some part of it beneficial.” Dr. Jan Fawcett, Professor and Chairman, Dept. of Psychiatry, Rush Medical College and Rush Presbyterian/​St. Luke’s Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois.
“… This is the best first aid on what to do until the psychoanalyst gets there.” Dr. Edward J. Hornick, Chief of Clinical Psychiatry, Manhattan Psychiatric Center, Professor of Clinical Psychiatry, Einstein College of Medicine.


JEWISH CURRENTS September-October, 2008
Carol Jochnowitz

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ONE DAY NEAR the end of her life, Lara Berk asked her daughter, Juliene, "Why don't you write my story? It's very interesting."
"I can't write your story, Mama," her daughter replied. "Only you can." The result of this exchange was a handwritten sixty-seven page manuscript the older woman gave her daughter two weeks later. Juliene Berk took her mother's memoir and surrounded it with a reconstruction of the events they described to create CALL HER BLESSED.
The mother's writing is spare, blunt, matter-of-fact; the peculiarities of her spelling and punctuation provide a visual analogue of her accented English. The daughter's narrative is fluidly readable, essentially re-creating her mother's life as a historical novel -- but one carefully grounded in reality.
Lara Moskovitz and the young man she would marry, Bercu Bercovici, were born in Iasi, Romania in the last decades of the 19th century, into poverty and hunger of more than one kind.
Impossible for Jews to survive in Romania, Lara's family moves to the New World. Because of an earlier emigrant from Iasi whose letters home become part of the local folklore, they choose to settle in Florida.
Lara's jaw drops open the day she sees black people for the first time, a whole railway car full of them. ("I never even knew such people are in existence!") Later, an account she hears of a public hanging literally sickens her with its brutality. It's an experiece she will remember years later when she reads of Leo Frank's lynching in Georgia.
Her marriage endures for over fifty years. The children come, and with them, at last, the joy of her life. She has seven in seventeen years, one more beautiful than the next. A studio photograph displays the first five in Victorian stepladder style, youngest to tallest, all in spotless white.
Lara and Bercu, her husband, move into a modest bungalow. The family increases and its fortunes rise, until one day Lara is able to design the house of her dreams -- the peak moment of her life, outside of the births of her children.
"You get what you Build. That's my life." are Lara's words ending the book. Hers was a life spent meeting exhausting demands with honor. The account chronicling it, without being slick, feels much shorter than its 450-odd pages. The author is a natural, and why she had to self-publish this book is beyond me.

JONATHAN KAUNITZ, Santa Monica, California:
Most stories involving American Jews involve some aspect of the Holocaust, whether it is escape from Hitler’s Germany, the recounting of its horrors, or of post-war angst and guilt. Few books address pre-World War II Jewish life, and even fewer the life of Romanian Jews in early 20th century Florida. Juliene Berk’s new book, Call Her Blessed, chronicles the life of Romanian Jewish immigrants. Centering on the author’s mother Lara, and based on her diary written in what must be heavily accented English, the book develops into a gripping saga of life in the South in the early 20th century. Beginning in Iasi, Romania, the author gradually and painstakingly develops the story which centers around the author’s mother, whose courage, beauty, grace, strength, stamina, wisdom, patience, and big heart makes me wonder how so much goodness could be found in one person. Through this portrait, Ms. Berk provides a backdrop of the urbanizing South which is surprising in its seeming ethnic tolerance and progressive outlook. Woven into the tale are two world wars, both of which directly affected the family, the deadly 1918 flu epidemic, the tragic lynching of Leo Frank in Atlanta, and the deadly, barbaric pogrom in Kishinev. Embellished with photographs and extrapolations based on the recollections of relatives and friends, Ms. Berk spins a compelling tale of cultural assimilation, idiosyncrasies, hardship, and success. Her family, despite numerous business successes and failures, and personal triumphs and tragedies, perseveres, multiplies, and prospers. CALL HER BLESSED is in essence a paean to Lara, whose love for her family and her family’s love for her suffuses the book with a warm glow. For anyone who shares my Jewish Romanian background, this book is an absolute must. For those curious about lesser-known aspects of the early 20th century south, or for those interested in pre-World War II southern Jewish life, or about Jewish immigrant culture, it is highly recommended.

American Jewish Historical Association:
"...a delightful collection of vignettes...

Daytona News-Journal:
"... collection of short stories about real people
and events involving Jews who arrived in the South 100 years ago. Also included in the book is 'Yankel In
Amerikeh,' a group of vignettes told in the voice of one of the immigrants speaking his new language in a distinctive way..."

Florida Today
"...collection of 22 charming stories..."

Las Vegas Israelite:
"... true stories about how it was in America when Eastern European Jews were fleeing pogroms and poverty. Hardships are combined with humor as the extended Bercovici-Berkovitz-Berk family adapted to their new country. ...Yankel in Amerikeh comments on what he sees, thinks and feels much in the manner of Sholem Aleichem's Tevye except that now it is Yankel who is facing a curious, sometimes dangerous and always perplexing New World..."

The Reporter, The Jewish Federation of Broome County
Binghampton, NY :
"... The adjectives that came to mind while reading these works were pleasant and charming... Berk's loving descriptions makes it easy to see that she truly cares about these people, and readers may find themselves feeling the same. And then there's Yankel, the funny elder who has almost disappeared from the American scene. I found his monologues on life amusing... If you laugh or groan with pleasure, you'll find yourself liking Yankel."


Creative Non-Fiction
e.g. Fiction, History, Magazine Articles, etc. goes here
Short stories and vignettes based on family members in CALL HER BLESSED
The world-renowned lover returns in the being of an irresistible cat.
Based on a true story set in America's South and Havana, Cuba at the beginning of the 20th century which deals with an Eastern European Jewish tradition of "special women."
Hugo von Hofmannsthal is credited with creating the greatest female character ever to tread the operatic boards--Marie Therese (Die Marschallin in the opera DER ROSENKAVALIER). She was his Muse, his Goddess, his ideal woman. He created his GALATEA according to patriarchal culture which not only put a female Muse at the beck and call of the artist, but also dictated that ALL incarnations of Aphrodite--all females --be innately subservient to males. In this play the artist's creation comes to life as a vibrant, seeking, uncertain, loving human being who is now free to be her SELF and to love whomever and however she chooses. This famous myth is stood on its heels breaking tradition by regarding it from the matriarchal point of view.

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