Judith Fein’s THE SPOON FROM MINKOWITZ: A Bittersweet Roots Journey to Ancestral Lands

How to crack the mystery of who we are, why we love, 
and where we came from can be the greatest mystery of all.

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Title: THE SPOON FROM MINKOWITZ: A Bittersweet Roots Journey to Ancestral Lands

Author: Judith Fein with Photographs by Paul Ross

ISBN:     978-0-9884019-3-8

Publisher: GlobalAdventure.us

Paperback    Pages: 256   Price:     $18.95 Discussion Guide Included Pub. Date: Jan. 5, 2014 (is available in all book and e-book formats.)

Discussion Guide

Award-winning international travel writer Judith Fein’s newest book, THE SPOON FROM MINKOWITZ: A Bittersweet Roots Journey to Ancestral Lands comes out January 5, 2014, and early reviews are unanimously Thumbs Up! Fein dives beneath the surface of her Russian Jewish American heritage–pushing past all obstacles to find the truth behind the shrouded story of where she came from, what the Old World was like, and what remains of the places so many of our ancestors left behind when they came to America.

We accompany this passionate woman who will not take “No” for an answer as she treks through graveyards, has a private audience with the Gypsy Baron of Moldova, meets the last Jew standing, communes with the dead, quaffs cognac with Russians, wanders among ruins, and hears the call of the ancestors, driving her on.

Ultimately, it is our story too, as we experience the legacy of what was handed down to us in our families, relationships, beliefs, fears and longings—and we are invited to listen for the voices of our ancestors.


     Suddenly, I felt as though there were people behind me, following me. I turned around, but no one was there. I continued walking. Again, I felt the presence of a lot of people in my wake. I spun around and was greeted by a chorus of voices. Although I didn’t see anybody, I heard the Eastern European ancestors of many people like me calling out. “Remember us. Don’t forget us. Our story needs to be heard. Write our story. Write your story.”
Judie.Paul.Wedding Photo
     When Paul told his parents we were getting married, his father offered us something very meaningful and personal: the only thing left from the shtetl. It was a soup spoon that his parents brought with them as they sailed in steerage from the old country to America.  I held it, patted it gently, and treasured it because it made our ancient connection so real to me…
     The ceremony started, and I have only two distinct memories of it: We recited our own wacky vows, and we made a place of honor under the chupa, on a satin pillow, for the spoon from Minkowitz.

“What’s the spoon for?” my mother whispered. “Are you using it for cough syrup?”




THE SPOON FROM MINKOWITZ:  A Bittersweet Roots Journey to Ancestral Lands ©Judith Fein

Advance Praise for The Spoon from Minkowitz

“AS TENSE AS A THRILLER AND AS TENDER AS A LOVE STORY Judith Fein’s story of her quest to connect the dots of her life will have readers laughing, crying and, most of all, cheering her on.”
—CATHARINE HAMM, Travel Editor, Los Angeles Times

“FROM SIX CLUES PROVIDED BY HER GRANDMOTHER, JUDITH FEIN DISCOVERS HER DEEP JEWISH ROOTS IN A UKRAINIAN VILLAGE. More than that, she finds her spiritual center and lets readers share her heart’s journey. This is a compelling book that moves well beyond the borders of Judaism and even beyond Holocaust history to a universal story of love.”
—BILL TAMMEUS, former Kansas City Star Faith section columnist, former President of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and co-author of They Were Just People: Stories of Rescue in Poland During the Holocaust

“JUDITH FEIN’S SEARCH FOR MINKOWITZ, THESHTETL HER GRANDMOTHER LEFT WHEN SHE WAS 17, IS UNLIKE ANY OTHER BACK-TO-ROOTS BOOK. It is deeply, idiosyncratically personal, driven by the author’s almost mystical quest to recover the past. Her curiosity, openness and passion take us along on a journey that turns out to be ours as well.”
—ZELDA SHLUKER, editor of Hadassah magazine

“FIRST YOUR EYES WILL ROLL, THEN YOUR JAW WILL DROP. The popular multi-dimensional travel writer Judith Fein’s persistent curiosity does more than open doors: it seemingly tears the fabric of space-time. This is such a great story. It’s as if Joseph Conrad took his journey up the river into deepest darkest Minkowitz. And the best part: for many of us, this is our story, too.”
—DANNY RUBIN, screenwriter, Groundhog Day

Additional Praise:

“Judith Fein’s book is like an account of my own story. She tells with wit, wisdom and grace about a longing for a place she never knew that mirrors my own feelings growing up. The book reads like a detective story and is a real page-turner as Fein follows the few clues she had from childhood and encounters people who show up, like characters in The Wizard of Oz, to take her underneath the surface of the world so many of us came from. Above all, Fein is a master storyteller. If you ever wondered about what the “old country” was like, and how it would feel to go back, you must read this book. It is the best thing short of actually making the trip. And if you ever plan to make such a trip you will be inspired and have your heart opened to the surprises and emotions that you will encounter.”

“The Spoon from Minkowitz is the latest fascinating offering from Judith Fein, celebrated travel writer and storyteller, a champion of the quest, who “lives to leave.” Fein’s prose is delicate and poignant, and her journey is one that affects the reader on a spectrum of interwoven levels. This book is about discovering one’s self, and one’s own heritage, as much it is about discovering the lands beneath one’s feet. I recommend it highly and believe that magic aplenty lies within.”
—TAHIR SHAH, author of The Caliph’s House, In Arabian Nights

“This spell-binding book is a cross between Alex Haley’s Roots, a detective story, and the wittiest works of Nora Ephron. It provides an invaluable understanding of the power of our ancestors, and how, even though they are long gone, they continue to impact our lives. Fein invites readers of all backgrounds on a page-turning adventure into the hearts and minds of those who came before us. It’s so riveting, it would make a smash movie.”
—DONNA ROSENTHAL, author of the best-seller, The Israelis

“Judith Fein has created a deeply moving and highly informative testament to the power of memory and love.”
—RICHARD ZIMLER, author of The Warsaw Anagrams and The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon

“The Spoon from Minkowitz is a spiritual excavation, mining a sense of self and place in history through Fein’s search for her Jewish roots. Her book speaks to our universal need to belong, and Fein’s voice is exquisite.”
—SUZETTE MARTINEZ STANDRING, syndicated columnist and blogger, Patriot Ledger, GateHouse Media

“Judith Fein is an extraordinarily gifted storyteller who evokes sweet laughter and bittersweet tears, sympathy and empathy, unending curiosity, and deepest love. Her search for her ancestral home becomes a spiritual journey filled with deep poignancy, great joy, and profound learning. We are the happy companions who travel with her, join her in her quest, and exult in her discoveries, as Judith teaches each of us how to become both a devoted descendant, and, eventually, a worthy ancestor.”
—RABBI WAYNE DOSICK, Ph.D, author of Living Judaism and The Real Name of God

“Although nothing is better than a first- hand trip to find documentation of your ancestors’ lives, Judith Fein’s description of her journey is a very close second. Judith’s writing is so descriptive that I could almost hear the conversations she relates in her narrative. The emotions she reveals, her painstaking work digging ever deeper to get to the bottom of the few stories she knew, reminds me of my own adventures seeking my ancestral roots, and makes me want to get on a plane and again head for Eastern Europe to find out more! A must-read for anyone interested in finding their roots.”
—DR. JANETTE SILVERMAN, JewishGen Ukraine Coordinator

“Judith Fein pulls the reader into her passionate journey for her maternal roots by telling her story (which she calls “emotional genealogy”). She shares her childhood fears, abuse and anger that became adult insecurities and traumas, and places them in the context of her excursion to the Ukraine to walk in the steps of her ancestors. Her journey has a divine guidance because the right people always seem to appear at the right time. She works tidbits of her life and the lives of her family into the larger history of the Jews in the Ukraine—not just the pain and devastation, but also the hope and joy in rebuilding and reconnecting in the now. By the end, she realizes it is not just about Minkowitz; it is about the total experience of the people from whom she came.”
—BENNETT GREENSPAN, President, Family Tree DNA (familytreedna.com)

“In this deliciously written memoir, Judith Fein manages to evoke hilarity and pathos, provide juicy bits of history and cultural insights, and remind us that no matter how rootless we may feel we all come from somewhere, and our ancestors matter. We matter. Judith’s journey connected to my own rich and hidden Eastern European Jewish ancestry for the first time. What a gift!”
—MIRABAI STARR, author of God of Love: A Guide to the Heart of Judaism, Christianity & Islam

“Judith Fein is a travel writer of the soul. As she reveals hers, she takes us on a journey that calls forth our own inner travels. In her intimate voice that challenges us to explore the hidden landscapes within, we hear how one’s story encourages all stories. Fasten your seatbelt and get ready to discover unexplored territory for her and for you.”
—RABBI MALKA DRUCKER, author of PEN award-winner White Fire: A Portrait of Women Spiritual Leaders in America

“Humans aren’t trees; yet we do have roots. Our roots are made of story, memories recalled or concocted, and place both real and virtual. Our roots are imaginal and yet no less life giving than those of a tree. Judith Fein’s The Spoon from Minkowitz is a powerful reminder of roots, and a compelling invitation to find your way to them.”–RABBI RAMI SHAPIRO, author of Perennial Wisdom for the Spiritually Independent“The Spoon from Minkowitz held my rapt attention from start to finish. Like a harmonic piece of music, it flowed delightfully from major to minor moods and authentic emotions, sprinkled with solid information from a seasoned travel writer. Each chapter surged with both pathos and humor and drew me deeper and deeper into the search for Minkowitz, both in its geographical ambience and its inner depths of meaning. It reminds me of Everything is Illuminated in its multi layers of both resistance and fascination with one individual’s historical and psycho-spiritual roots. It left me with a greater sensitivity to family dynamics and at the same time a sense of wonder about the mystery of it all. Definitely a satisfying, worthwhile, and even transformative read.––YEHUDIS FISHMAN, scholar and teacher of Torah and Hassidic writings

“Each chapter brings to life a piece of my past, and with it a sense of spiritual healing and fulfillment. While healing the body is what I have done throughout my life as a physician, I have now been able to heal my own heart and soul, as I have finally been able to bridge the chasm that existed between my present life and my familial roots. Her journey is a must-read for anyone whose roots arise from Eastern Europe, for she brings your heritage right to your doorstep. Hers is simply an amazing true story of courage and persistence.”—CHARLES POSTERNACK, MD, FACP, FRCPC Chief Medical Officer, Boca Raton Regional HospitalAssociate Dean of Academic Affairs, Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, Florida Atlantic University

“The author’s passion for uncovering the past will appeal to a diverse array of ethnicities. I see my own family reflected in the mirror of Minkowitz. Shaped by wars, pogroms, expulsions, loss, poverty, and immigration, Judith Fein is the keeper of the wisdom, humor, mysticism, superstitions and synchronicities of her ancestors. I still taste and smell the chicken soup. The author took me on a journey to find herself and I emerged with a deeper appreciation of who I am and where I come from.”
––ANDREA CAMPBELL, psychologist who consults with ancestors in her practice.


Life is a TripJudith Fein is an award-winning international travel journalist who lives to leave.  She resided for more than ten years in Europe and North Africa and has a passion for adventures that are exotic, authentic, quirky, historic and immersed in local culture. She has written travel articles for more than 100 magazines, newspapers and internet sites, including The L.A. Times, National Geographic Traveler, The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe, Sierra, the Utne Reader, Hemispheres (United Airlines), Travel Age West Magazine (for travel agents), Robb Report, Art and Antiques, Intermezzo, Continental, The Denver Post, New Mexico Magazine, The Dallas Morning News, Executive Traveler, Dreamscapes, TravelandLeisure.com, Just For Canadian Doctors, Hadassah Magazine, Wine Enthusiast, Organic Spa, Native Peoples, Islands, MSN/UK, AAA Traveler, The Christian Science Monitor, ConsumerTraveler.com.

© GlobalAdventure.us 2014