Retracing Jewish Roots on the North Dakota Prairie

Stories and Lessons about Life, Family, and Faith with Rebecca Bender

Monday, September 13, 2021, 4:30 - 5:30 PM
Quad 264, Saint John's University 

Image of the book, StillIn 2013, Rebecca Bender and her son visited the remote North Dakota Jewish cemetery where her great-grandfather is buried. Her son asked about the Jewish immigrants who escaped Russian pogroms to become North Dakota farmers in 1905. With few answers, Bender retraced this history of Jewish pioneers on the Dakota prairies, ultimately leading to the publication of the book Still  (North Dakota State University Press, 2019), co-authored with her father, Kenneth Bender. Still is a history of five generations of a family we meet first as they flee Odessa and later as they make their ways as American Jews and as Dakota farmers, as students and storekeepers, as soldiers and lawyers, and even as a teen in an international competition who stands face-to-face with Benjamin Netanyahu. In the process, the Benders answer the question recently posed to Rebecca by a newspaper reporter: Are you still Jewish? In this program, Rebecca Bender will share inspiring stories she learned in the process of writing this book, which combines research with her father’s memories. Not only is Bender’s project remarkable, but it may inspire listeners to retrace their own family histories and find future guidance from stories of their past. 

Photo of author Rebecca BenderRebecca Bender is co-author with her father, Kenneth Bender, of the book Still (NDSU Press, 2019), Independent Press Award Winner in the Judaism category in 2019 and the Midwest Book Award Gold Medal Winner in the Religion and Philosophy category in 2020. She practiced law as a securities litigator in Minnesota for 18 years after graduating from the University of Minnesota Law School. Her prose and poetry have appeared in the Journal of the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia, Paper Brigade Daily (Jewish Book Council), North Dakota Quarterly, and The Forward.

Sponsored by
Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning at Saint John's University 

with generous support from 
Jay and Rose Phillips Family Foundation of Minnesota