A late-in-life career change isn’t so unusual. A mathematician who devotes his life to klezmer music. A full-time mom who starts her own business. But even in that context, what Betty Rosenberg Perlov has done is pretty unusual. Or, we should say, when she’s done it. Perlov just published her first book. At age 96.
Perlov’s parents were stars of the Yiddish theater in its heyday, nearly 100 years ago, so she was privy to all the behind-the-scenes action. Her new picture book, Rifka Takes a Bow, tells the story of a little girl who explores the theater with her father, watches the actresses put on makeup, plays with props like a golden crown and a pile of money, and then accidentally wanders onstage during one of her parents’ shows. The colorful illustrations from Cosei Kawa give the book an air of nostalgia and fantasy mixed together.
Plucked from Perlov’s own memories and childhood, the book brings to life the exciting world of Yiddish theater for an audience that might never have known its thrills were it not for her late-in-life decision to write this adorable book.
Watch classic Yiddish theater songs: