Bright Young Collectors: Micaela Beigel
Where are you from / where do you live?
Originally, I am from Brooklyn in New York City. That is where I grew up, and it shaped my identity in a very impactful way. Now I live in Baltimore, where I attend school. However, when I started actively seeking the books in my collection I had been living in Israel for a year volunteering with a youth movement. I had been doing education for kids who are refugees, and I was thinking a lot about the history of my family when it all came together in a serendipitous turn of events to create my collection.
What do you study at University? What do you do now for an occupation?
I am currently still an undergraduate in College. I am sophomore at Goucher College near Baltimore City. I am a peace studies major, with a minor in creative writing. I wanted something which would reflect my desire to take ownership over creating tangible solutions to various social conflicts in American society and peace studies has definitely been a good fit for that.
Please introduce us to your book collection. What areas do you collect in?
I collect books about Jewish resistance during the Holocaust. I was raised in a Jewish household, but I always really struggled to connect with Judaism through observational methods and thus have always been far more drawn to Judaism through its history and culture. While I was living abroad I started to uncover a whole section of Jewish history which is not really taught in mainstream Jewish education and I became intensely fascinated by narratives of Jews who resisted, in various ways, Nazi oppression during World War II.
Right now I have about thirty books. I also keep a variety of films, art, and collectible objects in addition to the books.
What was the first book you bought for your collection?
A Surplus of Memory: Chronicle of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising by Yitzhak Zuckerman was the first book in my collection. I bought it when I was twelve. I'm 21 now, so that was almost ten years ago. Written by a leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the largest armed revolt led by Jews during The Holocaust, this is an extremely informative novel about the power of collective responsibility. Published upon Zuckerman's death it gives truth to a legacy shrouded in shame, guilt, and pain for Jewish revolutionaries who survived to tell the tale of the uprising.
How about the most recent book?
The most recent addition to my collection is Knight Without Fear and Beyond Reproach: The Life of George Maduro 1916-1945 by Kathleen Brandt-Carey. I bought this book at the Jewish Museum in Amsterdam. It is about a man named George Maduro who was a major figure in the Dutch resistance. I had never heard of him before finding this book. That is something I will really try to do. This is a story which deserves to be known, and I want to collect as many different voices as possible. The next book I will be adding to my collection is Justyna's Narrative which is the incomplete autobiography of Gusta (Tova) Davidson Draenger, code-name Justyna, who was a resistance fighter in the Krakow Ghetto. This is very exciting for me, because I have been trying to track down the identity of this author for a few years.
Choosing a favorite really feels like choosing a favorite child, because I associate these books so strongly as being apart of one large family. If I was forced to choose two (which I know is still cheating) I would say it would be In the Days of Destruction and Revolt by Zivia Lubetkin and Spiritual Resistance: Art from the Concentration Camps 1940-1945. These two books are both so special to me. Zivia's book is so deeply touching, and as a Jewish woman I really identify with her narrative of fear and courage during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Spiritual Resistance is just the most amazing, far reaching collection of art. A lot of the work available in the book does not exist anywhere else as they are drawn from museums and private collections all over the world. It brings together the voices of authors who otherwise may never have been known for their work.
Best bargain you've found?
A lot of my books were bargains, especially at the beginning of the collection process (there are exceptions of course). Most of these books are not, in general, highly sought after and non are particularly old. I would say that maybe the best bargain I ever got was when I got a lot of five books on ebay for about fifteen dollars. Almost all of them related to the collection and I felt very blessed by my luck.
How about The One that Got Away?
Last year i was able to travel to Amsterdam, and while I was there I had a lot of books I was interested in getting but for various reasons I really had to limit the amount of books I brought home. This was particularly sad for me because when I went to the Anne Frank house I had a very hard time deciding what book to bring home with me. In the store at the Anne Frank house they have so many interesting and beautiful copies of The Diary of Anne Frank and I wanted all of them. I ended up picking up a book titled Outside its War: Anne Frank and her World by Janny van der Molen which is a children's illustrated version of Anne's story. I chose that one because I wanted something new to add to the collection. But every book I left behind in that shop is really my "one that got away" at the moment.
What would be the Holy Grail for your collection?
My holy grail for the collection is a set of books, not just a single work. Ever since my collection began I have had a goal to collect every book written by a leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. I have still not managed to complete this set. I hope to collect the remaining few books by the end of the year. Budget permitting, of course.
Who is your favorite bookseller / bookstore?
I have two top picks. In America I would definitely go with Powell's in Portland, Oregon. They have an amazing section on Jewish history. I was completely unprepared when I stopped in on a whim last year while I was visiting a friend in Portland. I actually had to buy another bag so I could get everything home with me. My other pick is Halper's Books. This is an english language used bookstore in Tel Aviv. This bookstore is amazing, and 100% a must visit if you ever happen to be on, or around, Allenby Street in Tel Aviv.
What would you collect if you didn't collect books?
Magnets. I actually do already collect magnets, and I really started because of my book collection. I bought a magnet for the collection and loved it so much that I started picking them up everywhere. Now it's a bit of a tradition for me to pick up magnets whenever I am somewhere new, or to commemorate a special event in my life. I love my magnets very much.