From Bomboloni to Bagel: A Story of Two Worlds

by Jacqueline Semha Gmach

Book, 2014



Call number



Jerusalem, Israel : Gefen Publishing House Ltd., 2014


This is the story of Jackie Semha, a young girl born in Tunisia to a loving family and community, yet one in which only boys are celebrated. Her journey from Tunisia, to France, Israel, Canada and finally the United States forces her to confront the disparity between the land of her birth and the land of her mature years. Her transition -- from a learning-handicapped tomboy sheltered in the womb of a loving community to a successful professional in a foreign land with an unfamiliar language and alien customs and values -- is heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time. The words of her teacher, Madame Sabban: Si tu veux, tu peux -- If you want to succeed, you can succeed -- gave Jackie strength and inspired her to help others find the faith in themselves to achieve greatness. Jackie's story is brought to life through a collection of superbly written vignettes with the help of the writer Hillary S Liber.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member mel927
I was anticipating a very interesting story, but was met with a disjointed tale. It could have been an interesting story, but it was told in such a manner that found myself not caring after having read 150+ pages.
LibraryThing member beckyhaase
FROM BOMBOLONI TO BAGEL: A Story of Two Worlds by Jacqueline Semha Gmach and H S Liber
This interesting and informative book detailing the life of a Jewish woman born and raised in Tunisia and finally living in America is written in a series of vignettes. The order of the vignettes wanders from
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Tunisia to France to Canada to Israel and America and back again. The reader often wishes the order were more chronological, but the tales are interesting and follow a thematic message.
The structured life of a very sheltered and privileged family is detailed although the effect of WWII is glossed over initially. When the author moves to France for university we learn more of her life and the life of her future husband as the Shoah (Holocaust) shatters Jewish life in Europe and North Africa. The structured life of observant Jews is detailed and made interesting for the general reader.
Finally the author lives out the advice of her first “real” teacher – If you want to succeed, you can – and finds a fulfilling and very successful life in America, the land of the bagel.
4 of 5 stars
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LibraryThing member Jillian_Kay
I enjoyed this book quite a bit. From Bomboloni to Bagel is a book about a Tunisian of Jewish descent coming to America via Paris and Canada. Some of the chapters were hard to relate to, being a bagel child myself, but overall the stories were very enjoyable. Each chapter was very short, and I
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found this to be the perfect book to keep in my purse and read at odd moments.
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LibraryThing member muddypaws845
Educational & inspirational. The story of a Jewish Tunisian woman who whose life takes her to San Diego, via Paris and Montreal. Leaving a close extended family, she just adjust to life in the US with a dispersed nuclear family, learning a new language and culture. Through emotional and spiritual
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trials, she becomes an important leader in her American Jewish community. She pays forward her life lesson of "if you want, you can" to those whose lives she touches, as well as to readers. Throughout, she teaches the benefits of tolerance and acceptance of others who, by virtue of their differences, hold powerful lessons for all of us.
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LibraryThing member bakersfieldbarbara
I enjoyed author Jacquilini Semha's journey from Tunisia to France, Israel, Canada and finally to the United States. She had to adjust, as we all would, to the great cultural differences along the way from the land of her childhood to her ultimate adulthood home. I found some sections that she
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wrote critical of America. When I moved to and lived in Europe for ten years, I was a guest , not there to change THEM but to learn, adapt and assimilate with them. I didn't agree with all of their culture and other foreign ideas, but it was their way of life, not my childhood. I didn't write a book and criticize their way; I , at age 60, learned the difficult language and ways to shop and interact. I understand the challenges immigrants experience, as does my Dutch husband. Again, having been "there, and done that" I find criticizing America, who has many open borders and legally accepts anyone who wishes to be a part of our country, as wrong, just as if any of us would do the same in their country.. She asks us to try to know them, to learn about their traditions and to take into our culture what is good from theirs. I ask the author to look around; the Chinese, the Mexicans, and all others have traditions and cultures that are integrated into the USA. America is a melting pot for many races and nationalities. I ask the author to not ask what we can do for her, but what can she do to learn about her new country?
I recommend this book, with an open mind, to learn about other cultures and traditions, and to understand why some of those who come to America are wanting US to change, not them.
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LibraryThing member jurai2
What a brave and fascinating person Jacqueline Smach is! I loved reading about her life and seeing her experiences and perceptions about each of the places she has lived. Parts of the book made me sad (The biggest thing that stuck out in that regard was when she wrote about being a teacher and
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someone writing an anti-Semitic statement on the chalkboard. This new experience of being personally targeted because she was Jewish was a learning experience to say the least. The take-away that affected me was “Judaism is not all about anti-Semitism, because we don’t define ourselves by how others define us. However, we must accept, or even embrace, the reality that anti-Semitism and the Shoah are part of our Jewish identity.”), while other parts made me cheer. I also enjoyed the many photos that are included in the book. Where can I get a bomboloni?
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LibraryThing member rentie
Engaging read
LibraryThing member chutzpanit
I loved reading the book. I love reading about Jews from all the different parts of the world. This was interesting because the author has really spent time in many different parts of the world, from Tunisia to France to Canada, back to France and finally to San Diego. Her family's journey, while
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unique, also speaks to the journeys of many Jewish families, especially from countries like Tunisia.

I would definitely recommend this book for anyone who is looking to learn about a foreign Jewish community.
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