“Restitution,” Janet Lee Berg’s book, will be the focus of the Jewish Center of the Hamptons’ virtual book club on November 12, from noon to 1 p.m. Berg will discuss the book with Rabbi Debra Stein, cantor of the Jewish Center.
“Restitution” is the riveting, multigenerational story of Sylvie Rosenberg, a Holocaust survivor traumatized by the memory of her art dealer father forced to trade paintings with the Nazis in an attempt to save their large extended family. Sylvie’s adult life in 1970s New York is plagued by survivors’ guilt and bitterness. But when her self-destructive ways threaten to upend the life of her Vietnam-vet son, Sylvie finally needs to face her demons. She returns to Holland to confront her past and fight the Dutch judicial system for the return of the masterpieces, but the battle proves far more difficult than Sylvie imagined.
Weaving in tragic true events from her own family history, Berg shares a sensitive story of history, romance and humor along with details from the extensive research of Lynn H. Nicholas, the world’s leading expert on art pilfered during WWII. Berg has said she felt a sense of privilege to continue telling the story of her family through Sylvie’s character.
“A Jewish boy, Bruce Berg, and a Catholic girl, Janet Marino, started dating when I was 15 and he was 16,” said Berg of the beginnings of her relationship with the man who eventually became her husband. “I looked at our similarities more than our differences. A sense of adventure enveloped me — two rebels at a time when interfaith relationships were more frowned upon.
“Even at a young age, I had always wondered why people needed to ‘label’ each other. I needed to understand, so I guess that is why I chose to write about connecting people, despite different ethnic groups, religions, cultures, or parental prejudices,” she added. “My husband said his mother never really talked about those days — they were the silent generation of kept secrets. I feel six million stories should be told. I like to think that my one story represents many.”
Participants are invited to use their Suffolk County Library card to download the eBook version on Livebrary! or purchased the book at BookHampton or online stores. To join the book club, visit jcoh.org/bookclub.