Miriam Chaikin, 90, children’s book writer who loved Israel

Miriam Chaikin.
Miriam Chaikin.

Miriam Chaikin, a children’s book writer and longtime Westbeth resident, died on April 19, surrounded by family and friends who loved her. She was 90.

Born in Jerusalem in 1924, Miriam came to the U.S. as a small child. She remained a staunch supporter of her country of birth throughout her life, and held both U.S. and Israeli passports.

Coming from very humble beginnings in Brooklyn, she was a self-made and self-educated woman.

As a young woman, she worked for the American branch of Irgun, fighting for Palestine’s independence from Britain. She often reflected on this as her life’s most meaningful chapters.

She later worked for several members of U.S. Congress in Iowa and in Washington, D.C. She eventually began a career in publishing, specializing in children’s literature. She worked for several large publishing houses, and began writing children’s books.

Her books’ themes derived from her life and values. Most focused on Jewish history and culture, including the “Yossi and Molly” books that reflected her Brooklyn childhood in the 1930s. Author of more than 35 books, she received acclaim for her writing, including the Sydney Taylor Award from the Association of Jewish Libraries, the Notable Book designation, American Library Association and the National Jewish Book Award for illustrated children’s book, 1988, for the beautifully written and illustrated “Exodus.”

In addition to her writing for children, she was a prolific poet who especially loved haiku and tanka. She recently published an edited volume on Jewish wisdom for everyday life. Her final book, “Jerusalem: An Informal Biography of the City,” is in press, and will appear posthumously.

She was preceded in death by her parents and brothers, noted playwright and director Joseph, and Israel ben Zion. She is survived by sisters Shami Chaikin, of New York, and Faye Pearl, of California, and nieces, nephews and cousins. She will be buried in Israel. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Simon Wiesenthal Center in her memory.

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