Mystery

Teacher, successful entrepreneur and social activist turned author.

Sandra Tankoos has been a teacher and a successful entrepreneur. She has served on the boards of several organizations within the Jewish Community. She was Vice President of the Association of Reform Zionists of America and a Vice President of American Zionist Movement. She was President of a synagogue in Long Island and, thus, is familiar with the dynamics at play among congregants with similar objectives but varying opinions on how to achieve their goals. Ms. Tankoos has also been involved in organizations that are concerned with human rights and was a board member of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism for several years. She has always had a desire to write and now, as a senior and a retiree, has written her first novel. She currently lives with her husband in Boca Raton, FL.

Read our review of her mystery novel, Two Jews = Three Shuls here.

Your biggest literary influences:

Pearl S. Buck, Susan Sontag, Herman Wouk, Leon Uris, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Chiam Potok, Margot Adler, Elie Weisel, Anita Diamant

Last book read:

The Orchard by Yochi Brandes

The book that changed your life:

Exodus by Leon Uris didn’t change my life; however, it did influence me in an important way. It was published while I was in college. I had been raised in a traditional Jewish home. Before reading Exodus I knew about Hitler and  concentration camps, but it wasn’t something people spoke about. I understood that the State of Israel was good for the Jewish people, but I can’t say that I understood why. Exodus tugged at my heart probably because I could identify with the people involved … I was one of them. I understood that, but for the grace of God and the good sense my grandparents had to escape before Hitler took over most of Europe, it could have been me. I can still remember Exodus in greater detail than many books that I’ve read more recently. After reading Exodus I became involved in B’nai Brith. I have been active in Jewish organizations, particularly with regards to Israel, since that time

Your favorite literary character:

The best book I have read in recent years is The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish. The two female protagonists are my current favorite literary characters. Ester Velasquez and Helen Watt lived 300 years apart. Their lives were very different but the challenges they faced were similar. Ester Velasquez was a scribe for a blind Rabbi who yearned to be part of the philosophical issues facing the Jewish people at that time. Helen Watt was a college professor and historian. The lives of these women become intertwined when Helen is requested to look at a cache of Jewish documents found by a former student in his home. The documents had belonged to Ester Velasquez. Both women faced intellectual challenges, came to grips with matters of the heart and had sickness to cope with. Their ability to handle the difficulties of the world they lived in was nothing short of inspirational.

Currently working on:

A second book, Grown Women. I’m developing a novel about three women who were childhood friends. One of the women has a breakdown, and mental illness is a major theme of the book.

Words to live by: 

Always follow your dreams.

Advice for aspiring authors: 

It’s hard to gain acceptance. Believe in yourself and don’t give up.

Testimonials:

“A readable and engaging stew of murder mystery, synagogue politics (with which any reader engaged in their house of worship will chuckle with recognition and cringe with frustration), tensions over the role of women in Jewish religious life and the impact of the Holocaust on the lives of survivors and their children. Tankoos has woven this together beautifully.”
— Rabbi David Saperstein,  Former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom and co-author, Jewish Dimensions of Social Justice

“The first word that came to mind when I finished this book is ‘smart.’ This is a very smart book. It understands the language and culture of Jewish Long Island. It understands the inner workings — with all of the warts — of suburban synagogue life. Sides are drawn, irrationality hides behind faith and petty jealousies abound. Smart. The reader cares about the search for the perpetrator of a dark deed. Mysticism meets love, and love unleashes memories of pain and of horrendous loss. The author’s voice is authentic — and smart. Highly recommended.”
— Rabbi Stanley M. Davids, D.D. Editor of “Deepening The Dialogue” (CCAR Press, 2020)

“A Jewish whodunnit. Sandy Tankoos includes all the right Jewish elements of gossip, guilt and ghosts (though Jewish law prohibits us from conjuring them up — but in this case it was the rabbi reaching out to his congregation’s president.)  There’s even the prototypical Jewish mother … the rabbi’s mother, who of course believes it was her daughter-in-law who killed her son. Can there be anything more Jewish and mysterious? This is truly a delightful read with wonderfully written Jewish characters that everyone can appreciate.”
— Rabbi Robert A. Silvers, Senior Rabbi at Congregation B’nai Israel in Boca Raton, FL