Judaica/Chapter Book: A Shofar Story for the Jewish New Year

Chapter book cover of Avram's Gift, a shofar story for the Jewish New Year


Prices: $12.95 (Paperback, full color) 

$6.99 (Kindle, full color)

$6.99 (Paperback, black and white)

Pages: 58 pages (Paperback • full color); 63 pages (Paperback • black and white)
Age Range: 7 - 11 years
Size: 8.5 x 8.5 inches (Paperback); 5.25 x 8 (Paperback)
23 illustrations
978-0962416637 (Full-Color Paperback)

978-0999446348 (Black-and-White Paperback)

Amazon |  Barnes and Noble |  


A shofar story for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur for readers ages 7-11, Avram’s Gift is an endearing tale about discovering one’s roots and making dreams come true. Award-winning illustrator Laurie McGaw brings the story to life with appealing and realistic images throughout the book.

Eight-year-old Mark has two wishes: To become a shofar-blower—just like his High Holiday hero—and to make that photograph of his great-great-grandfather Avram disappear from the hallway in his new home. When the family gathers for Rosh Hashanah, though, Mark discovers that his own desire to blow the shofar is actually linked to a hope that the unsmiling man in the photograph once had. Avram’s Gift is a charming portrait of a family and how their lives—past and present—mingle to make wishes come true. 

"A Notable Book for Younger Readers" —Sydney Taylor Book Awards, Association of Jewish Libraries

Look Inside "Avram's Gift"


Association of Jewish Libraries

Grandpa Avram says goodbye to Morris at Russian train station in Avram's Gift, a shofar story

Avram’s Gift is a Rosh Hashanah story, an immigrant story, and a story about contemporary Jewish life all in one beautifully illustrated chapter book bursting with Yiddishkeit.” —Rachel Kamin

Children's Literature

Mark and Ari play with train set after Yom Kippur in Avram's Gift, a shofar story

"[A] touching and intriguing story . . . McGaw’s pictures are flawless. . . . it’s sure to spark questions about . . . legacies left to future generations." —Judy Chernak


Morris and his family celebrate Shabbat dinner in Avram's Gift, a shofar story

"Connections across generations also come clear in a story that's as sweet as honey used for dipping apples." —Stephanie Zvirin

The Canadian Jewish News

High holiday hero Gary Stein blows shofar at B'nai Israel Congregation in Rockville, Maryland

"Delightful, moving . . .  teaches how each individual can deeply affect future generations. Exquisite watercolor illustrations."

Jewish Book World

Aaron Stein blows shofar in scene from Avram's Gift, a shofar story

"Librarians will do children, parents, teachers, and clergy a favor by connecting them with this affirmative book." —Linda Silver

Jewish Kids Books Circle Maven

Mark helps his mom bake apple cake for Rosh Hashanah lunch in scene from Avram's Gift, shofar story

"Avram's Gift is among the books I am saving for each of my children, who will hopefully share them with their own children one day."

The Story Behind "Avram's Gift"

Rosh Hashanah lunch scene from Avram's Gift, a shofar story

By Margie Blumberg

A shofar story for Rosh Hashanah: It all started with a smile. Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) had arrived and my great-uncle Morris had come over for lunch to celebrate. In addition to talking and eating, I hoped that this would also be a day for reminiscing, for I’d always wanted to know about the man in the portrait that had been hanging in the hallway for years.

“Who was that man and what was he like?” I asked as my great-uncle brought the large portrait closer.

With his glasses now up on his forehead, he was face-to-face with a man he hadn’t seen in 88 years—his own beloved grandfather Avram, whom he’d left at the train station in Russia so many years ago. That photograph, which I had always found a bit mysterious, was making my uncle Morris beam. For an instant, I could swear that Avram smiled back. And in that moment, this shofar story for the Jewish New Year was born.

How to Blow a Shofar

From the Afterword to "Avram's Gift"

The shofar blower in our book Avram's Gift is based upon a real person named Gary Stein. Forty-two years ago, when Gary was studying to become a bar mitzvah, he heard that his shul, B’nai Israel Congregation, was looking for young people to participate in the service. Gary decided to volunteer. A student of the trumpet, he thought it would be fun to learn how to blow the shofar. And with Cantor Jacob Friedman’s help, he did.

About fifteen years into his career as our shofar blower on Rosh Hashanah, Gary began sounding the shofar at the end of Yom Kippur as well. As described in the book, this portion of the service is truly magical. But it isn’t easy to blow that note. So here are some helpful tips from Gary to keep in mind:

“Before you begin, find a spot to stare at. No matter what’s going on around you—no matter how many children are sitting at your feet, tugging at you—you must have complete concentration; otherwise, you won’t be able to hear the note when it’s called out. Once you have absolute concentration, you will be ready to take a deep breath—a very deep breath. Next, position the end of the shofar at the center of your mouth. (Some people are more comfortable blowing it from the side of the mouth.) Your lips will be pressed tightly against it and your tongue will be pressed out between your teeth at the edge of the opening of the shofar. It’s from this position that you will blow air into the shofar. As you do so, remember to pace yourself. Start by blowing softly so that as time goes on you’ll have enough breath to finish. And be sure to maintain your mouth’s position so that all your breath goes into the shofar."

Does Gary ever fear that only air, rather than sound, will come out? No. And that’s because he has confidence. And how does he gain such confidence? By practicing! By the way, each time you finish, you will probably notice a crease down the middle of your mouth from having pressed the edge of the shofar so hard against it. That’s normal. It happens to Gary every time.

Honey Cake Recipe

Honey cake from Avram's Gift, a shofar story


1 tsp |  5 mL instant coffee granules
1 cup |  250 mL hot water
1/2 cup | 125 mL raisins
1/2 cup | 125 mL crushed walnuts
1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp | 140 mL canola oil
3/4 cup | 175 mL packed brown sugar
1/4 cup | 50 mL sugar
3 eggs
1 cup plus 1 tbsp | 265 mL liquid honey

3 cups | 750 mL all-purpose flour
1 tsp | 5 mL baking powder
1/2 tsp | 2 mL baking soda
1 tsp | 5 mL cinnamon
1 tsp | 5 mL ginger
1/2 tsp | 2 mL allspice
1/2 tsp | 2 mL salt
1 tsp | 5 mL vanilla
sliced almonds (optional)


• Preheat oven to 350º F (180º C).
• Prepare a 10-inch (4 L) tube pan with a nonstick cooking spray with flour or, in the alternative, use a nonstick tube pan.
• Stir the instant coffee granules into the hot water.
• Add the raisins and the walnuts to the coffee and set aside.
• In a bowl, mix the oil and the sugars together with a spoon.
• Beat in the eggs and the honey.
• Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and salt.
• Strain the coffee from the raisins and the walnuts into a cup.
• Alternately mix the sifted ingredients and the coffee into the honey mixture.
• Add the vanilla.
• Stir in the raisins and the walnuts with a spoon.
• Pour the batter into the pan.
• Sprinkle the top with sliced almonds.
• Bake for 60-70 minutes (until the cake tester inserted into the cake comes out clean).

Credit: Honey Cake Photo by Michael Latil

Shana Tova (Happy New Year)

A lovely song for the new year. Thank you, 92nd Street Y.


©2016 Written and Produced by Michael Hunter Ochs

May this be a year of love and kindness

May strangers come to be friends

May truth and compassion always guide us


May this be a year of hope and healing

For all of those in need

May all of our deeds be a blessing


A new year

A good year

A chance to start all over.

A new year

A sweet year

A chance to bring us closer.

May this be a year of selfless giving

May this be a year of peace

And may we forgive and be forgiven


A new year

A good year

A chance to start all over

A new year

A sweet year

A chance to bring us closer

A new year

A good year

A chance to start all over

A new year

A sweet year

A chance to bring us closer

Closer to the ones we love

A world that we can be proud of

Long as there are stars above

There comes a new year