Jacqueline Semha Gmach has spent a lifetime dedicating her energies to the furtherance of Jewish culture.  A native of Tunisia, Mrs. Gmach is the curator of several San Diego-based Jewish events, among them the renowned San Diego Jewish Book Fair.  As the Book Fair Director, she herself became a source of inspiration to authors and helped sprout new national literacy events.   Some of her own writings have appeared in newspapers and magazines— (i.e. The Bird, A Bomboloni Story, is in the San Diego Jewish Journal, The Gilberta Story is in Yitta Halberstam’ Small Miracles.)
 A recipient of the 2008 Marla Bennett Humanitarian Award and of the 2010 San Diego KPBS/Union Bank Hero for Jewish Education Month, Mrs. Gmach is currently Project Director A Sephardim and Mizrahim Collection: 50 Testimonies of Jews in Arab Countries During the Shoah (Holocaust), a Project of USC Shoah Foundation - The Institute for Visual History and Education.
jacqueline gmach
Hillary Selese Liber has written professional for not-for-profits for 35 years, and has taught creative writing to children and teens in public and private schools and to adults in recreational settings and community colleges. Her work has been published in The Toledo Blade, The Heritage, the San Diego Union Tribune and the San Diego Jewish Journal. She is also a contributing author to three books: Shine the Light: Sexual Abuse and Healing in the Jewish Community (2003), Touched by Adoption (1999), and Motivation, Career Striving and Aging (1982.) hillary Jackie

It is 1942. We are in the middle of World War II. The Germans have invaded Tunisia. In Le Bardo, a small town near Tunis that is world famous for its mosaics from the period of Queen Didon, the Germans are building a concentration camp. The Jews live in fear. Some Jews have converted to Catholicism. Others have taken refuge in Bizerte. The rest of us have remained in Tunis, but we are very careful.

In Tunis, my father is Doctor Edouard Nataf is a VIP, a renowned and respected dental surgeon. His clinic is at 1 Rue de Rome, the main street in Tunis. A copper plate on the door to his office identifies him as a dentist, but the truth is that the plaque is unnecessary. Everyone in Tunis knows my father.


Today is an exceptionally hot summer day. It is Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, and we have finished eating lunch. Even though we are religious, my father has gone to his clinic. This is his habit every Shabbat afternoon. As soon as our meal is finished, my father takes a nap and we children must be very quiet so as not to disturb his rest. Then, he goes to his building, strips to his white underwear and raffia slippers, and organizes and cleans his office.

He is working away in his private world when suddenly, around 3:00 p.m., the doorbell rings. Papa thinks it is my mother and walks to the door to let her in. Standing in front of him are two German officers, one strong and overpowering, the other in a weakened physical condition. As he stands in their presence, my father is overwhelmed by the fear a Jew feels when confronted by a Nazi. His undressed state makes him feel even smaller and more powerless. He tries to send them away.

“I am not working today,” he tells them in his rudimentary English, the only language he shares with the German officers. He starts to explain that he is just cleaning and organizing his clinic, but before he can get the words out of his mouth, the stronger German points a gun in his face.

“You will do!” the officer orders.

The two men enter the office and they try to communicate the problem to my father. The weaker man has a terrible dental abscess which requires immediate emergency care. This is obvious to Papa. However, the man is a hemophiliac. During any operation, there is bleeding. But for this man, a man with hemophilia whose blood lacks the ability to clot, bleeding can mean death. 
The Germans have chosen wisely. Papa is the best dental surgeon in Tunis. However, the best dentist in the world might not be able to stop the bleeding of a patient with hemophilia. My father, the great Dr. Nataf, is terrified. What will become of him if the patient does not recover? What will happen to the Nataf family if the German soldier dies?

Papa does not want to operate, but the healthy officer makes it clear that he has no choice. The great Dr. Nataf reminds himself that he is a professional and that he must behave as a professional should behave. Outwardly, he appears calm and in control; inwardly, he is near panic. How can he prepare for this potential disaster? Can he possibly prevent a calamitous result?

Papa consults with each of his colleagues. Each dentist offers his advice, but they also caution him that even the best surgeon may not be able to stop the bleeding and save this patient’s life. Everyone is aware of the danger that my father is in.
Then, he remembers a story from his past, and he realizes there is a solution to this dilemma.
Years ago, my father had as a patient a teenage girl with terrible eczema. Danielle had suffered from this horrible skin condition since she was eight years old. Even though he was not a dermatologist, my father was so troubled by her appearance that he went everywhere and asked everyone if they knew of a cure for her disease.

Finally, he asked an old woman in the shuk (the marketplace). She took him into her house and told him what he must do. Papa went to the girl’s mother and told her, “Your daughter must urinate on a cloth and put it on her neck. She must do this every day.” The young girl was desperate to improve her appearance. The old lady’s instructions were disgusting to the girl, but she did what she had been told to do. Unbelievably, her skin cleared just as the old lady had predicted.
Now, with the Germans demanding a cure, Papa is even more desperate than the girl with the eczema. Suddenly, he knows what to do to save the soldier. From his days in the shuk, my father has recalled an old Tunisian “recipe” to control bleeding. He thinks to himself, a bird can save us. 
He makes one more telephone call, this last one to his mother. Mémé Semha is illiterate, but Mémé knows how to survive without education. She has no training in nutrition or medicine, but she knows that we need to drink orange juice every day to be healthy. And she has other age-old home remedies to rely upon.
“Yes,” she tells my father when he calls. “You are correct. A bird is what you need.”  Papa leans out the window, and calls to a teenager in the street who is always available to do errands for him—for a price, of course.  Papa tells him, “You must go immediately to the shuk. You must purchase a bird. You must bring it to me,” he demands. “Go. Go now. And be quick.” When the teenager returns from the market with the bird, the great Dr. Nataf begins the operation under the critical eyes of the healthy German. As soon as he makes his first cut into the abscess, blood gushes from the wound, a fast flowing deep red blood. To the German officer's horror, Papa turns from his bleeding patient to the boy holding the bird.
"Kill the bird and give it to me immediately. Hurry!" Papa orders. He takes the bird, still warm from its death, and places its leg muscle against his patient's wound. The blood stops flowing. Papa completes the surgery and stitches the hole closed.
However, the patient is very pale and weak. Papa turns to the man's companion. "You must bring him back to his room. He must rest for a long time. But he will recover."
The officers leave immediately. Papa prays that they will follow his directions and that the young man will be alright. He fears that the wound will open, the blood will flow again, and the man will weaken or bleed to his death.
Papa knows that he must hide, just in case something bad happens to the patient, so he leaves to spend a few weeks with my aunt. Papa's days and nights are haunted by the fear that he might reappear one day, and that this will be the end of Papa or even our entire family. The German officer never returns. We have survived another shear disaster.

“A heartfelt memoir told by a real mensch.”  Anita Diamant anita diamant
“Jackie Gmach is a remarkable story teller and she has a remarkable story to tell.       Her book BOMBOLONI TO BAGEL is a wonderful addition to works explaining    the modern Jewish condition.  Jackie has lived in two worlds and when you finish reading her book you will understand those worlds as well.”  Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, author of Jewish Literacy telushkin


“Jackie Gmach teaches her students – if you want to succeed you can succeed. This charming book is proof of her success in life and in storytelling.” Rabbi David Wolpe, Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, author of “Why Faith Matters” david wolpe

"The history rang through the halls of the museum temple in Jackie's book!" José Aponte, San Diego County Library Director

jose aponte;

I have long been interested in stories of people overcoming depression and life’s circumstances and then bouncing back with such resilience and spirit that they go on    to help others live full and meaningful lives.  I was impressed to learn that Jacqueline Gmach has written a book about her life which includes these very topics in such         a moving way. This autobiography has the potential to resonate and inspire a large audience.  Susan Polis Schutz, Writer/poet/filmmaker, and Publishing Company Executive     


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