In the book Bread Givers portrays the life of Sara Smolinsky, a Jewish immigrant who migrated from Poland with her parents and her sisters. The book follows the hardships the family faces living in New York; they live in poverty and often have very little food or are without jobs. One of the main themes of the book is poverty and money; the Smolinsky family of six lives in a small apartment and often struggle making the rent. In the household the daughters are the ones that work and bring in the income to support the family. Money is a topic of conflict throughout the book and follows as Sara attempts to reach financial stability in her adulthood.
Another overarching theme of the book is religion; Sara’s family is Jewish, however, her father is the one who practices Judaism more fiercely. Sara’s father is very conservative and strictly practices his religion, he also does not work and passes his days studying the Torah. While reading the book her father was a provocative character he was very proud and never took responsibility for anything. He saw himself as better than everyone else and he viewed himself as holy, in reading I found his “holiness” rather annoying because he always used it as an excuse for everything when he made mistakes and also to not do things such as working. One thing that I noticed while reading the book was that in comparison to the other readings we’ve done so far we saw how they used religion as a way to maintain ties to their native lands but we say how they remained loyal to the religion they practiced. However, in Bread Givers Mother begins to question religion and turns her back on it at times. I think part of the reason for this was that Mother was the one who had taken all the hardships and had dealt with them while Father never lost his faith because he was always studying the Torah and at the Synagogue and never had to actively work through the struggles that Mother and the girls had to.
Another point to make is that Sara is Jewish American, while she was born in Poland and migrated to New York with her parents she grew up in America. This is noticeable because it differentiates her from her family especially her sisters, while the women in the family find it intolerable to live with Father they put up with living with him (for the sisters until they get married) because it is their role as women to live under the father and serve him until they are married; however, Sara leaves home which is unheard of because a woman cannot live on her own and away from her father according to tradition. In the book they use the term ‘Americanerin’ which describes someone who is Americanized. Sara is called an Americanerin because she leaves home, she wants an education to further herself, and she doesn’t believe that a woman’s purpose is to serve a man.