Hands of Gold examines the impact of immigration, identity, prejudice, antisemitism, Yiddish and the Holocaust on Jewish families in the 20th century America. Why do you think these issues still attract so much interest today? Which ones are most important to you?
What are the multiple meanings of the title, Hands of Gold, and how are they metaphors for life.
What secrets are revealed in the novel? Which are the most damaging and why?
There are many different characters depicted in the novel. With whom do you most relate? Who reminds you of someone in your own family? Explain your answers.
Which of Sam’s adventures or dramatic experiences resonate with you the most? Why?
Do you think it’s important to leave your life story for your children and grandchildren in some form? Why don’t more people take the time to do this or have their children or grandchildren record this history? For example, did you know some baby journals for new parents have spots to record family genealogy and history?
Compare and contrast immigration from 20th century America to immigration today. How were immigrants treated differently than now
Should parents from a different country continue to speak their native language and preserve their former country’s culture at home so it’s passed down to the next generation? Or is total integration into the new country preferable? Explain your answers.
Should Sam have swapped the gold watch for an opportunity to go to America? Should he have abandoned his family in Europe? Should he have tried harder to get them to come with him?
What do you think it was like for families in America hearing about relatives who died in the Holocaust?
What role does guilt play in the novel and in Jewish life in general, even today?
Do you agree with Sam’s decision not to tell his wife and family about the trolley accident? What do you think their reaction would be if they found out? Should Sam have done more for the family of the victim?
Should Sam and Hannah have kept their secret from their children? What do you think their reaction would be?
Did Sam’s personality or view on life change from the beginning of the novel to the end? Did your perception of him change? Explain your answers.
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