Mindy Avra Portnoy

Photo provided by author.

Mindy Avra Portnoy is the author of several books, including Where Do People Go When They Die? and Matzah Ball: A Passover Story. She is a graduate of Yale University and was ordained at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. She is the Rabbi of Temple Sinai in Washington, D.C.


What was your favorite book when you were a child?

Blue Willow (by Doris Gates); also All-Of-A-Kind Family (Sydney Taylor); Anne Of Green Gables and Cherry Ames series.

What’s your favorite line from a book?

“It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.” (Charlotte’s Web).

Who are your top three favorite authors or illustrators?

Adult: George Eliot; Jon Hassler; A.B. Yehoshua. Children: Ezra Jack Keats, Leo Lionni.

Why did you want to become an author or illustrator?

I became an author because of the topics I saw missing in the Jewish children’s book world: those about contemporary Jewish children’s experiences in America. Many of these experiences I have witnessed as a rabbi in a large congregation as I interact with many people and officiate at many life-cycle events. I wanted the children I knew to see themselves in Jewish books.

Do you have any advice for future authors or illustrators?

To future authors and illustrators: write about what you know, or what you’re passionate to research. In order to write children’s books, you have to be able to put yourself in a child’s mind, to see with a child’s vision.