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'Shabbat and Sunday Dinner': New children's book promotes cultural understanding

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NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — At the C. Waldo Scott Center in Newport News, Candace Bazemore reads her book from cover to cover to children.

“Who here likes learning about cultures? Raise your hand,” Bazemore said before reading.

In April, Candace and Gabrielle Spatt published their children’s book, Shabbat and Sunday dinner.

Shabbat and Sunday dinner

“It’s really cool. It’s a black Christian boy and a young Jewish kid and they actually share their family dinner traditions,” Candace said.

“The book follows these two sweet boys through their elementary presentations on how to teach their family traditions. And the traditions are based on my family tradition and Candace’s,” Spatt said.

The two characters are David and Malcolm.

David celebrates Shabbat and Malcolm celebrates Sunday Dinner.

“In Judaism, we celebrate Shabbat every week. Some people say it’s the holiest holiday because it happens every week,” Spatt said. “It’s a commandment to stop, disconnect, forget the previous week, welcome a fresh new week, and be with those you want to spend time with.”

Read Shabbat and Sunday Dinner books

The book contains the Shabbat ritual and traditional dishes that people who celebrate Shabbat can prepare.

Eric Bazemore, Candace’s brother, illustrated the book. He said he reflected on his childhood memories when he portrayed Sunday dinner in the book.

“For the Sunday dinners when I was growing up, I just remember all the good food my grandma used to cook,” he said. “My grandmother used to make excellent mashed potatoes, the veggies, sweet potato pie.”

The book also includes a recipe for challah and fried cornbread.

Candace lives in Newport News but formally lived in Atlanta where she met Spatt. The two authors and friends learned that they were both members of Atlanta’s Black Jewish Coalition.

The coalition was founded in 1982. The late Congressman John Lewis co-founded the organization.

Spatt said the group was created to bring together the black and Jewish communities. She said she and Candace participated in a retweet with other black and Jewish people to learn about each other’s cultures, build friendships and discuss tough topics.

Black-Jewish Relations page with a photo of Rabbi Abraham Heschel and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“This is the result of an experience Candace and I had where we learned more about racism and more about anti-Semitism and one of the photos in the book is that we devoted a page to black Jewish relationships from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rabbi Heschel walk hand in hand,” Spatt said.

The duo came up with the idea for a book at the end of 2020.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta awarded the authors a $2,000 grant to self-publish the book.

“We want to encourage those reading the book to continue those conversations, to ask the hard questions and we hope that this will help them form new relationships with the person sitting across from them at the table,” Candace said.

“It’s really about making friends over breaking bread, and that’s where the really special conversations happen, around the dinner table,” Spatt said.

Although Shabbat and Sunday Dinner is a children’s book, they hope adults learn the message it contains.

Demetrius Farr, a 9-year-old, listening to Candace read the book, shared with 10 on Your Side his takeaways.

“You can share your cultures and people will respect you and want to know your cultures because you love their cultures,” he said.

Click here to learn more about the book.