Summer 5767/2007 Vol. 25, Number 2
JEWISH BOOK WORLD Contents
Editor’s Note Jewish Book Council Events National Jewish Book Awards Authors Write In Book Group Forum Whine and Ink JBW Book Club Recommendations Books of Note Now in Paperback Contributors Index
Jerome Groopman Reviewed by Paul Arnold
Pesach For The Rest Of Us: Making The Passover Seder Your Own
How Doctors Think
DEPARTMENTS 2 4 4 17 20 20 21 78 83 84 87
Marge Piercy Reviewed by Maron Waxman
Men of Silk: The Hasidic Conquest of Polish Jewish Society
Sophie Judah Reviewed by Ruth Seif
Folktales Of The Jews, Volume 1: Tales From The Sephardic Dispersion
AMERICAN JEWISH STUDIES Getting Our Groove Back: How To Energize American Jewry
In Their Own Image: New York Jews In Jazz Age Popular Culture
Scott A. Shay Reviewed by Liel Liebovitz
Ted Merwin Reviewed by Norman Fedder
BIOGRAPHY/MEMOIR I. F. Stone; Karl Weber, ed. Reviewed by Noel Kriftcher
Walter Isaacson Reviewed by Juli Berwald
Lover Of Unreason: Assia Wevill, Sylvia Plath’s Rival and Ted Hughes’ Doomed Love
The Best of I.F. Stone
Einstein: His Life And Universe
The Ministry of Special Cases
Nathan Englander Reviewed by Daniel Schifrin
Will Eisner’s New York: Life In The Big City
Will Eisner Reviewed by Wendy Wasman
The Heebie Jeebies At CBGB: A Secret History Of Jewish Punk
A History of the Jews in the Modern World
Steven Lee Beeber Reviewed by Bill Wilson
Days of Deliverance: Essays on Purim and Hanukkah
Elisabeth Sussman et al. Reviewed by Martha Sparks
The Girl with the Gallery: Edith Gregory Halpert and the Making of the Modern Art Market
A Living Lens: Photographs of Jewish Life from the Pages of the Forward
Jonathan Wilson Reviewed by Maron Waxman
Paul Goldman: Press Photographer, 1943-1961
Ricki Rosen; with an essay by Micha Odenheimer Reviewed by Liel Liebovitz
Lindsay Pollock Reviewed by Rachel Sara Rosenthal Alana Newhouse Reviewed by Noel Kriftcher
Shlomo Arad Reviewed by Liel Liebovitz
The Fight For Jerusalem: Radical Islam, 59 The West, And The Future Of The Holy City Dore Gold Reviewed by Rachel Simon
Eva Hesse: Sculpture
Transformations: From Ethiopia To Israel
The Art Of Aging: A Doctor’s Prescription For Well-Being
Howard Jacobson Reviewed by Phil Sandick
Howard M. Sachar Reviewed by Abraham Edelheit
CONTEMPORARY JEWISH LIFE
Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik Reviewed by Wally Greene
Yehuda Koren and Eilat Negev Reviewed by Penny Metsch
Sherwin B. Nuland Reviewed by Ruth Goldston
Dan Ben-Amos, ed. Reviewed by Cheri Karo Schwartz
Glenn Dynner Reviewed by William Liss-Levinson
FICTION Dropped From Heaven
Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature: Winner, Choice Awards, and Honorable Mentions One Writer’s Opinion: Glenn Frank on Jimmy Carter Reviews Judaism and the Visual ArtsCurrent Books A Conversation with Nathan Englander
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Jewish Book World
EDITOR’S NOTE e have a winner. In fact we have many winners—the actual winner, the finalists, and the reading public. For with this, the inaugural Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, which recognizes and honors the impressive new wave of Jewish literary creativity—a phenomenon not seen since the days of Philip Roth, Saul Bellow, and Bernard Malamud—we go public. The Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature was two years in the making. Until it was unveiled, in simultaneous announcements in newspapers in Switzerland, Germany, France, Israel, and the US, we at the Jewish Book Council referred to it as the Sod (Hebrew for secret) Award. For it was a surprise 80th birthday present for Sami Rohr, a gift from his children and grandchildren, and we were under strict instructions not to breathe a word about it to anyone, not even our spouses or significant others, until it was unveiled. It worked: On the morning of his 80th birthday, April 4, 2006, Mr. Rohr opened the pages of the Miami Herald, as he does every day, and first saw the announcement of the prize. Hundreds of books were examined by the advisory committee, dozens read by the judges. The process opened everyone’s eyes to the exciting reality that there is a significant resurgence of brilliance and creative energy in the realm of Jewish literature. In this, the inaugural year of the prize, the focus has been on Jewish themed fiction; fiction will alternate with nonfiction each year. There is a distinguished precedent for honoring literary achievement in the Rohr family. Several years ago Mr. Rohr sponsored a monumental project of recorded Yiddish books in honor of his mother’s love of Yiddish literature. This CD set is available with a generous grant to qualifying institutions (see “Special Projects” on our website, jewishbookcouncil.org). By creating this award for emerging Jewish writers, now his children and grandchildren are
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honoring their father and grandfather’s lifelong love of Jewish literature. It has been beyond exciting—exhilarating—to witness and participate in a small way in the creation of the Sami Rohr Literary Prize. But the real credit goes to George Rohr, Sami Rohr’s son, who conceived of the project, and to Geri Gindea, director of the Prize, who ran with the idea and created its structure out of whole cloth. The Rohr family, which has a distinguished record of philanthropy in furthering many areas of Jewish life, including Chabad and many Jewish causes in the former Soviet Union, has chosen now to focus on Jewish continuity as expressed in Jewish themed literature. By creating not only this award but the Rohr Institute—a “think tank” that will meet biennially and enable writers— winners, finalists, judges—to convene and commune. Of this year’s finalists—two are British, two are Israeli, only one is American—none had ever met before. Frankly, no one anticipated the international character of the winners’ circle. Upon meeting, every one of the authors expressed the feeling that they were thrilled to meet. In fact, they bonded immediately, getting together on their own time when not on “official” time, and eager to read each other’s books. This bodes well for the future of the prize and the Institute. As one might expect with a 21st century literary prize, word has traveled fast— bloggers, online publications and online versions of print publications have picked up on the news and it has spread like wild fire. Google “Rohr Prize” and see for yourself. It’s even on Costco’s website! Also see the other expressions of creativity in this issue, such as the visual arts spread on page 24—Jewish creativity is not limited to words; the Authors Write In section, about their sources of inspiration; also see Book Group Forum section, about a reading group-in-formation of recent college graduates. Read on.
Jewish Book World is published four times a year by the Jewish Book Council, 520 8th Avenue, 4th floor, New York, NY 10018, (212) 201-2920; www.jewishbookcouncil.org; email: jbc@ jewishbooks.org. The Council is a not-forprofit organization founded in 1943 to promote the publishing, writing, and reading of quality books of Jewish interest. In sponsoring Jewish Book World the Jewish Book Council aims to meet the need for a journal devoted to providing thoughtful reviews of new Jewish books. It is our hope that Jewish Book World will be a valued resource in navigating today’s exciting Jewish literary scene. The Council is also the sponsor of Jewish Book Month, the National Jewish Book Awards, the Jewish Book NETWORK and other programs and activities. Subscriptions to Jewish Book World are available from the Council at $36.00 annually. An advertising rate schedule is also available on request. Carol E. Kaufman Lisa Silverman Sean Kennedy Naomi Firestone
Editor-in-Chief Children’s Book Editor Art Director Managing Editor
Lawrence J. Krule Harry I. Freund Judith Lieberman Mimi S. Frank Alan J. Wiener Henry Everett (z”l)
President Vice-President Vice-President Secretary Treasurer Honorary Chairman of the Board Carolyn Starman Hessel Director Geri Gindea Director, Sami Rohr Prize Miri R. Pomerantz Program Director
Jewish Book Council
Steven D. Burton Edith Everett Paul A. Flexner Ellen Frankel Sharon Friedman Samuel G. Freedman Stephen H. Garrin Matthew F. Golub Ari L. Goldman Shelley Goldseker Blu Greenberg Rae Gurewitsch Miriam Holmes Altie Karper
Francine Klagsbrun Warren Kozak Myra Kraft Carmel R. Krauss Ruth Legow Dan Levine Stuart Matlins Marcia W. Posner Julie Potiker Steven Siegel Livia S. Straus Joseph Telushkin Bernard Weinflash Jane Weitzman
Board of Directors
Stephen H. Garrin Altie Karper Michael Monheit
Marcia W. Posner Nessa Rapaport Arlene Soifer Ted Solotaroff, ex officio
For information about advertising in this publication, please contact Naomi Firestone at 212-201-2920 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
SAMI ROHR LIBRARY Sami Rohr R Y B Ad THE OF ECORDED
Now available from the Jewish Book Council
This historic compilation of Yiddish classics, read aloud by native Yiddish speakers at Montrealâ€™s Jewish Public Library, preserves complete, unabridged books on CD. Thirty titles are now available, including works by: Sholem Aleichem, Sholem Asch, I.L. Peretz, Mendele Moykher Sforim, and I.B. Singer, among others.
The complete 30-book set (216 CDsâ€”a $1,200 value) is available to qualifying libraries and institutions at the special institutional rate of only $240 plus $40 shipping, made possible by generous grants from the Rohr family of 80% of the retail price. For more information, call 212-201-2921 or email email@example.com
JEWISH BOOK COUNCIL EVENTS
Joseph Telushkin—Jewish Book of the Year Award Everett Family Foundation
Dan Ben-Amos—Sephardic Culture Mimi S. Frank Award in Memory of Becky Levy
Daniel Mendelsohn—Biography and Autobiography
2006 NATIONAL JEWISH BOOK AWARD WINNERS The authors appearing here accepted their awards in person at the 56th National Jewish Book Award ceremony held in New York City in March, 2007 Ellen Sucov—Contemporary Jewish Life and Practice
Jon D. Levenson—Scholarship Nahum M. Sarna Memorial Award
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Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett—Anthologies and Collections
Marci Shore—Eastern European Studies Ronald S. Lauder Award
JEWISH BOOK COUNCIL EVENTS
David Cesarani—History Gerrard and Ella Berman Award
Deborah Bodin Cohen—Jewish Family Literature In Memory of Dorothy Kripke
Esther Schor—American Jewish Studies Celebrate 350 Award
Faydra Shapiro—Education and Jewish Identity
Mordicai Gerstein—Illustrated Children’s Books Louis Posner Memorial Award
Shaye J.D. Cohen—Women’s Studies Barbara Dobkin Award
Shuly Rubin Schwartz—Modern Jewish Thought Dorot Foundation Award in Memory of Joy Ungerleider Mayerson
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JEWISH BOOK COUNCIL EVENTS
Scenes from the 56th National Jewish Book Awards Pre-Ceremony Dinner Celebration
Dr. Jonathan Sarna enjoying a conversation with award winner Shuly Rubin Schwartz
Board member Matthew Golub
L to R: Board members Altie Karper, Carmel Krauss, and Francine Klagsbrun with author Jonathan Rosen
L to R: Ellen Frankel, CEO, Jewish Publication Society, with Board member Edith Everett
Board member Jane Weitzman and Guest
Award winner Daniel Mendelsohn and his mother Marlene
L to R: Daisy Maryles, executive editor of Publisherâ€™s Weekly, with Jewish Book Council staff Carolyn Starman Hessel and Geri Gindea
Fiction award winner Dara Horn with husband Brian Shulman
L to R: Award winner Shuly Rubin Schwartz, Robert Rifkind, and Board member Francine Klagsbrun
Awards judge Karen Moss with Edith Everett
L to R: Guest George Rohr, Everett award winner Joseph Telushkin, and Dvorah Telushkin
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JEWISH BOOK COUNCIL EVENTS
Board member Rae Gurewitsch with winning author Shaye J.D. Cohen
Noel Kriftcher and wife speaking with Jewish Book World editor, Carol Kaufman
L to R: Jeff Lasday and Eliot Spack of CAJE, and Edith Everett
L to R: Board members Blu Greenberg and Edith Everett with Rabbi Meyer Kripke
The New York Times friends Ari Goldman, Sam Freedman, and Joseph Berger
L to R: Sandee Brawarsky, Jewish Week Book Critic, with Jewish Book Council Program Director, Miri Pomerantz
Publicist Shira Dicker with her husband, Ari Goldman, co-host of the National Jewish Book Awards
Board member Marcia Posner
President of the Jewish Book Council Larry Krule and daughter Miriam Krule
L to R: Jewish Book Council staff Naomi Firestone, Assistant Program Director, with Program Director Miri Pomerantz
Jane Friedman, Chief Executive Offficer of HarperCollins
L to R: Benjamin Telushkin, Dvorah Telushkin, and Everett Family Foundation award winner Rabbi Joseph Telushkin
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AUTHORS WRITE IN JBW ASKS AUTHORS... It’s an age-old question: How do authors access the deep sources of their fiction? Here three writers shed light on the wellsprings of their creativity—at any rate, the conscious ones.
Why I Write What I Write By Sophie Judah From Jabalpur to Bar-Ilan have often been asked why I write what I write. The answer is very simple. I write about that which is closest to my experience and tell about things which I think need to be told. I want to write about the Bene Israel Jewish community in India, its traditions and unique history, before it ceases to exist. There are four Jewish communities in India: the Cochin Jews, the Bene Israel, the Bagdadi Jews, and the Bene Menashe. I belong to one of the more ancient ones, the Bene Israel. I am not the best spokesperson for my people because I lived much of my life in India away from its Jewish communities. My father was an officer in the Indian army and we moved around from place to place depending on where he was transferred. Whenever he was posted to an area where the family was not allowed to join him we returned to Jabalpur, the home town of both my parents. This city had a few Jewish families including a schochet and a mohel. During the festivals everybody gathered in the front two rooms, verandah and porch of the big house the Judah family had. A ‘Reader’ from one of the synagogues in Bombay was paid to come and conduct the religious services during the High Holy Days. Although they were found in every profession the Jews were always an insignificant minority in the land of India. Many Indians have never even met a Jew. In the absence of rabbis, who are required to oversee divorces and conversions, these two institutions did not exist. The marriages were all religious because two of the elders signed the ketubah
as witnesses. A person who married a gentile was lost to the community and the offspring never accepted. This was one of the main reasons for its small numbers. Widows never remarried as it was just not done; perhaps it was the influence of Indian culture. When the Jews of the world returned home once more after two thousand years of exile many Bene Israel joined their co-religionists and made aliyah to Israel. The boys and young men were the first to leave. The majority left for idealistic reasons but many left because it was difficult to find work. The girls were stranded as their parents would not let them emigrate to a different country where they would have no parental supervision. Western culture was considered decadent in that it allowed its female population too much freedom; these girls could bring dishonour to the family if they were not properly controlled. As time passed it became more difficult to find a Jewish bridegroom for the daughters. Another problem was that girls tended to study whereas the boys went out to work and help support the family. An educated girl wanted an educated husband. Subsequently a number of girls began to marry into different communities. This was hardly heard of before the emigration to Israel began. As a result some families left to ensure this did not happen. The Jews who came to Israel ‘to build a new Jewish Nation’ did exactly that; their children married into other Jewish communities. In Israel the Bene Israel customs and traditions are slowly and surely being forgotten. The few Jews left in India have begun to assimilate. Soon there will be no Jews left there. Today, Jabalpur has only four Jews. All are well past fifty and the oldest is in her eighties. As children, my siblings and I were constantly reminded of our Jewishness. We
were told time and again that we would have to marry within the community. Certain foods were forbidden and although we went to school and to work on Shabbat, we did not cook, garden, cut hair or nails, etc. Israel became the fantasy where Shabbat would really be the day of rest. After reading The Diary of Anne Frank at age eleven and Exodus and Mila 18 several times before age fourteen, I began to search for books on Jews and Jewish life. All I could find were those that were set in Europe or the USA. There was no fiction about Jewish communities in the Far East or in Africa. In Israel, after my children were old enough not to need my constant presence at home, I joined the undergraduate program for English Literature in the Bar-Ilan University. In the library I found many books on the Indian Jews but all were anthropological; our long history and unique customs were examined as if under a microscope. The human touch was missing. When the university offered a graduate MA course in creative writing, I suddenly realized I had the opportunity to do something for my people. I could record their human side even if only in fiction. The writing program was a learning experience unlike any other in my life. The greatest advantage was that the students learned to overcome their fears about criticism of the work they had done while learning to appreciate the work of others. Like other students in the class, this fear had held me back from writing seriously and I had never shown anybody the stories I wrote just for the sake of writing. There were three intensive workshops that all the students feared in the beginning. We were asked to give a copy of a story we had written to each of the other
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AUTHORS WRITE IN students. The next week our peers returned it with their comments. We discovered that it was not all that terrible. When somebody missed the point we were trying to make, we analyzed the part that was misunderstood, edited, and rewrote it. Our teachers taught us to use imagery to employ all the senses to describe a situation in order to make it more immediate and real to the reader. I usually described the visual and auditory while neglecting the tactile and olfactory. I also had a tendency to explain too much because I wrote about Jewish life in India where the traditions and customs are sometimes very different from those of Jews from other countries. As we developed our skills in the second and third workshops we read and analyzed short stories to try and understand why they were so successful. We learned about motifs that ran through a story and how the end has to be a logical tying up of strings throughout the story. In one assignment we had to write about something from our childhoods. Each of us relived part of our lives and wrote about it. We dug into our pasts and brought out memories that we thought we had forgotten. The results were wonderful. We discovered that we did not have to be shy about our experiences. Each of us had a treasure house we could explore. The best part of studying in the Bar-Ilan program was that we had to take Jewish Studies courses as well. This helped immeasurably in understanding where we come from and why we think and write the way we do. The discussions in these classes were often reflected in the Jewishness of our work. At the end of the first year the student chooses his or her advisor and begins to prepare the required thesis. The thesis can be a collection of short stories, part of a novel or a novella. Of course, I chose to write about my community and I continue to write about them. The time spent at Bar-Ilan has taught me to write and enabled me to move ahead with confidence. Although I enjoy writing and I take great pleasure in my development as a writer it is my hope that perhaps by writing about the Beni Israel, the community will be remembered even after it dissolves into our Israeli nation.
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Welcome Visitations From the Author's Unconscious By Glenn Frank here do I get my ideas and how do I get them down on paper? When an idea for a book arrives, it comes to me nearly whole. A beginning and an end already exist, and the structure is reasonably evident. The characters have all their quirks and fit, fairly snugly, with the narrative. No extended germination period is required; the unearthing of hidden twists is rarely necessary, and the narrator already has a voice and a journey waiting to unfold. Once this happens, my heart beats a little faster; my senses heighten and just a bit of adrenaline flows. Without notice, I know what the next year or two (or longer) will be like. There is nothing I can do. This has happened three times, and I’m forty-eight years old. Now I do not want to give the wrong impression. For years I kept a journal, forcing myself to jot down the basics for a sinister scheme or a convoluted conspiracy each night before falling asleep. I had an idea about a meteor hitting earth years before Bruce Willis ever made a movie about it, and there were environmental terrorists and serial killer mathematicians—phantoms all, always lurking in my imagination (schlock as personal bedtime story). Not a single word was ever going to be written about any of these preposterous plots. Still, there were those three wonderful occasions when it seemed like the forces of nature took over and I was powerless to do anything but succumb to the task. When I was thirteen and standing in our foyer after a visit to my great grandmother, Abe Gilman and his quiet journey to rejoin the world came to me in an epiphany flash. It would be many years before the story was complete but there was no question—at least in my mind—that I would someday reach “Abe Gilman’s Ending.” In the middle of my father’s eulogy, reading from the bimah, staring at my sister
Julianne who until her transgender surgery five years earlier had been my brother Jeff, it happened again. My “Walter Mitty” quirks, Julianne’s unveiling to friends and family, and the utter pandemonium of the shiva were destined to be chronicled and it was a foregone conclusion I’d be “Cleaning Out My Closet.” And last year again, while sitting in my brother-in-law’s kitchen, as crisis piled upon tragedy, farming and family catastrophes coalesced into a coming of age saga for my teenage niece—a thirteen year old narrator in my mind, fated to tell the soon to be completed The Tyler Farm. Epiphanies notwithstanding, if I make the process seem simplistic here, I do a great injustice. While the outlines and foundation seem to come from heaven, putting words to paper is tantamount, to me at least, to constructing a 500,000 piece pictureless jigsaw puzzle. There is only one way to make all the pieces fit, and finding it requires long hours of painstaking work—intriguing work, but very difficult. Coffee helps. For me, working early in the morning is usually most productive, and having several editors I trust is imperative for when I get off track. Anyway, that is how it occurs, and I’m praying it happens again.
AUTHORS WRITE IN Unexpected Warmth from Cold Quarters By Lisa Pearl Rosenbaum ow do you know who you are if you don’t know where your family came from? For many Americans this is a difficult question to answer. So many of us have been cut off from our roots and our family memories. Wrestling with the question moved me to set my novel, A Day of Small Beginnings, in Poland, where my family originated. But when I visited that country in 1995 to research the book, I was surprised to find Poles asking another question: Who were these Jewish people who used to live among us? I traveled with my in-laws—Betty, Jack, and their friend Sarah. Although they were all born and raised in the town of Zwolen, they had not returned there since the War. Now, in their late seventies, they wanted to show their grown children where they had come from. It was not an easy visit. They had lost their Polish world—families, friends, and community. There are no Jews in Zwolen anymore. We arrived acutely aware of Polish hostility toward former Jewish inhabitants, whose property was appropriated without restitution. (Poland is in the only country in Eastern Europe, besides Belarus, which has not legislated reparations.) As we made our way around the main square, no one greeted us or smiled. The three elders among us
stopped at an open half-door. “It’s Rappaport’s pharmacy,” Betty said. The new owners eyed us suspiciously. Our presence seemed to be creating tension, in us and in the Poles, until a woman, carrying a basket of eggs, stopped at the sight of Betty. “Brania!” she said. “Anna!” After fifty years, the Jew and the Catholic embraced without hesitation. Betty seemed to lose her command of English. Hand in hand, like the two little girls they had once been, they walked the streets chatting in Polish, until Anna delivered us to the house where Betty had grown up. The next door neighbors watched us from behind closed gates. “Our furniture is in there,” Betty said. She spoke to them through the barrier. “I told the old man I saw him at Auschwitz,” she told us. The stooped Pole, clearly senile, stared at her uncomprehendingly. Betty addressed his grandson. “He hid my father,” she explained. “He saved my father’s life.” The grandson seemed shocked by this, surprised to learn that Jews once made up half the town’s population of ten thousand. It was a heightened moment, but perhaps because it was too fraught with questions, the grandson let it pass without comment, and Betty finally turned away. Fortunately, this was not our final
impression of Zwoleners. Minutes later, a man invited us into his house. With great care, he showed us mezzuzahs, prayer books, business registers, and even a broken piece of a gravestone. He had made it his business to collect and to preserve every item of Jewish life he could find, even if he wasn’t sure what to do with them. For me, these small signs of Polish wonder at the Jewish world they, too, have lost were powerful because they were so unexpected. But I soon saw other indications of Polish fascination for a people with whom they have shared a thousand year history. In Warsaw, there is a Yiddish Theater where Polish actors perform, in Yiddish, to mostly non-Jewish audiences. Krakow’s summer Jewish Cultural Festival routinely attracts crowds of over 10,000 to a city of almost no Jews. And if you ask, Jacek Luminski, director of the Silesian Dance Theatre, will explain how he researched the Hassidic movements buried in his modern dances. Without doubt, antiSemitism is still widespread in Poland. But I left that country having discovered another story: that two peoples, who have historically appreciated each other little, are beginning to find their way back to their common history through memories of one another—truly A Day of Small Beginnings.
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FEATURE: BOOK GROUP FORUM
WHINE AND INK By Josh Edwin This installment of Book Group Forum presents a group of recent college grads who are in the process of forming a reading group they’re calling Whine and Ink. We’ll update you on their progress in a future issue.
e knew from the outset that there would be obstacles to overcome in getting our post-college book club off the ground. The major components were in no short supply. Between the Strand, the eighty-six branches of the New York Public Library, and the myriad Barnes and Noble locations, we could get plenty of books, and, we felt, no shortage of people, as we counted ourselves among a rather large group of friends, all recent graduates of good schools with strong interests in literature. But we knew obstacles would present themselves nonetheless. There would be arguments over the books themselves—All those in favor of Don DeLillo, say aye; those in favor of Jonathan Safran Foer, cry a little; those in favor of Dan Brown, please leave quietly. There would be spats about the time allotted to read the books— You don’t think one week is enough time for The Brothers Karamazov? What are you, illiterate? There would be disagreements over the host-
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ing duties—All right, Rachel and I will host, but I hope six people will be comfortable sharing our futon with the cats. They live there too, you know. There would be debates over what day and time to hold meetings—Well, I’m sorry, Jeff, those of us who aren’t grad students just can’t make it next Wednesday at midnight. There would be conversations about blending the book club calendar with the religious calendar—Yes, I think it’s OK to have a meeting during Passover. We’ll put out brie and matzo. We were even prepared for problems of discipline—You only read the CliffsNotes!? No more brie and matzo for you! These questions challenged us, but they did not daunt us. We wanted lively conversations about good lit-
erature, and we weren’t about to be dissuaded by a few minor bumps in the road. There was only one truly major concern, one problem to give us pause: how do we get people to show up? We needed a foolproof method for convincing our young, busy, mildly irresponsible group of friends to show up at the appointed time and place, well thumbed books in hand. We hemmed and hawed. We considered holding the book club in a bar, but decided there would be too much noise. We thought about combining the book club with a companion movie night, but that seemed to confuse our purpose. Then we hit upon it—an agent sure to loosen tongues, a magnet certain to draw those seeking out excitement, the house where truth itself resides: wine. The simple addition of wine shifted the entire perception of our proposed salon. We would not be some stuffy collection of stiffs, coughing into our chests and cursing mildly at our paper cuts; we would be a sophisticated group of young intellectuals, a regular Algonquin Round Table, enjoying the finest of the world’s literature and wine. Truly, this was our breakthrough idea, the watershed moment that convinced us that we had the brains, the ingenuity, and the moxie, to make this book club work. We set the first meeting for April 8th. We bought three bottles of red and three bottles of white. We sure hope some people show up.
Josh Edwin lives in New York City. He has been a bibliophile since age 3. He is not a doctor, but his parents love him anyway.
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AUTHORS WRITE IN
REVIEW OF PALESTINE: PEACE NOT APARTHEID By Glenn Frank Perhaps it takes a novelist to fully appreciate the power a book can have. Even though we don’t generally publish negative reviews, we decided to run this piece submitted by Glenn Frank (Abe Gilman’s Ending) dealing with the potential influence a high profile figure like Jimmy Carter can wield through the written word.
onsidering the number of times the work of the Carter Center is mentioned in Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, Jimmy Carter could be criticized for attempting to do little more with this book than shore up his own legacy, a legacy tarnished by what is widely considered a failed presidency. The book could be further criticized for being neither innovative, insightful nor, in the end, particularly useful. What is most disturbing, however, is how Mr. Carter attempts to explain away the current impasse between the parties. His account is tinged with a rather shocking view of the motivations and mindset of the Jewish community, and despite his recent protests otherwise, his pages are flush with disturbing racial discrimination. These thought processes would be troubling on their own, by anyone. Emanating from a powerful public figure whose voice still resonates throughout the world community, they are nothing short of dangerous. Mr. Carter’s basic thesis in this work is that Israeli policies, alone, have curtailed the peace process. Were Palestinians not imprisoned behind the barrier built by Israel, he says, cutting off their access to economic prosperity, land ownership, and political self determination, a lasting peace
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could be negotiated by states standing on equal footing. Instead, he argues, Israel, by its actions and misuse of power, holds all the cards, and therefore has no incentive to sit at the table with its neighbors, particularly the Palestinians. Mr. Carter goes on to criticize American political involvement in the crisis, implying that the Jewish lobby in this country is severely shortsighted. To reach his conclusions, Mr. Carter briefly provides his readers with a chronology of Middle East history, and a review of the parties to the conflict and their points of self interest. It would serve no utility to be critical of Mr. Carter’s deliberate brevity in his overview (though notably, Thomas Friedman gave a much more detailed and erudite description of Middle East politics and history in From Beirut to Jerusalem). The dangerous inferences resulting from his efforts to be concise, however, are very troublesome and echo dark voices from the past. In the 1930’s, using the infamous Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion as evidence, Nazis convinced the populace that conspiratorial Jewish leaders were out to co-opt their political processes, monopolize financial markets and eradicate their culture, and the backlash against Jews came in a steady crescendo. Blame for a failed war machine and the subsequent economic depression and ruin was comfortably laid at the feet of the Jewish community, and when blame turned into resentment, violence against Jews became an accepted and politically sanctioned practice. In Mr. Carter’s book—though perhaps unintentioned—the refrain may be the same. Despite centuries of violence, Mr. Carter now implies that all the Middle East’s problems can be traced back to the UN’s establishment of statehood for Israel in 1948, and what he deems to be the subsequent calculated oppression of the Palestinians by Jews. Israelis, he avers, have “colonized” Palestinian land, “confiscated” their water, and violated inter-
national law with illegal detentions. Palestinian goods are purposely deprived of markets, provocations against Israeli soldiers are met with overwhelming responses that destroy entire ways of life, and Israeli Arabs are denied access to the democratic process. Begin was ill tempered. Sharon could not be trusted. Netanyahu was intractable. Apartheid. And all this as Palestinian negotiators stand at the ready. No one would argue with Mr. Carter’s contention that Palestinian citizens overwhelmingly desire a peaceful resolution to the conflict, and that a vast majority of the population is moderate in its views. It is therefore even more unconscionable for him to employ inflammatory and racially stereotyped language with respect to the other party to the conflict, the Jewish community. What can this do other than turn a pilot light of prejudice into a conflagration, particularly since it is a former president of the United States pouring gasoline on these sparks? Bernard Harrison in his new book The Resurgence of Anti-Semitism asks: How has it come about that the “anti racist“ liberal Left finds itself currently up to its neck in the oldest form of racism? His answer is simple: Anti-Semitism is, in essence, a response, by holders of a highly moralized world view, to situations in which that worldview appears to be seriously under threat. It is indisputable that the Middle East problem involves a situation so complex, so ingrained in thousands of years of tribal infighting, and so full of pervasive abuses on both sides that peace has been confounded for not just sixty years but six thousand. Nevertheless, by espousing his message, Mr. Carter gives weight and an institutional approval to prejudice harvested from frustration of years of failed policies. David Duke, the infamous anti-Semite and former politician, was once widely discredited for his book Jewish Supremacism: My Awakening on the Jewish Question, in which he argued essentially that Jews and Zionism are responsible for all the ills on the world stage. Jimmy Carter should consider both his message and who is listening. The author has the benefit of the bully pulpit that is a perk of being a former president. Those tuning in as if every word was fact should carefully reconsider.
REVIEWS: CARTER PIECE
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Current Books on Judaism and the Visual Arts
Here we present an array of current books that display some of the range and depth of Jewish visual imagination.
THE ARTS EVA HESSE: SCULPTURE
THE GIRL WITH THE GALLERY: EDITH GREGORY HALPERT AND THE MAKING OF THE MODERN ART MARKET
he story is familiar: a prosperous Jewish family in 1930’s Germany, mother, father, and two young daughters. They watch their fortunes change, the destruction of their synagogue, arrests of their neighbors. The family escapes to America. But then the story becomes singular. The mother, after struggling for years with manic depression, commits suicide. The younger daughter becomes a star of the 1960’s art scene until a brain tumor ends her sparkling career. She is 34 years old. Eva Hesse, Repetition Nineteen III, 1968, latex and filler over canvas No wonder that many critics stuffed with polyethylene sheeting, rope, and unidentified materials. view Eva Hesse’s sculpture through the lens of her biography. Eva Hesse: Sculpture, the catalogue to the 2006 exhibit at the Jewish Museum, nods to this critical tradition with curator Wasserman’s “Building a Childhood Memory,” a summary of Hesse’s childhood as told through her father’s meticulous scrapbooks. Although this entry appears late in the volume, readers unfamiliar with Hesse’s work should read it first, as the remaining chapters allude to her life without explaining the events to which they refer. The other contributors address the formal aspects of Hesse’s oeuvre and the movements into which it fit. Written by scholars, for scholars, these essays will likely be incomprehensible to readers without a working knowledge of 1960’s art and art criticism. Which brings us back to Hesse’s art and the raison d’etre of the book: crisp color images of the sculpture and drawings displayed at the exhibit. Hard and soft, rough and smooth, translucent, yet solid: the photographs capture the opposing forms that characterize Hesse’s work. We pay her the utmost honor when we respect her wish to be treated not as a woman artist, not as a Jewish artist, but simply as an artist. Eva Hesse: Sculpture allows us to do just that. Illustrated, index, notes. MS
THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART, NEW YORK, GIFT OF CHARLES AND ANITA BLATT, 1969. (C) THE ESTATE OF EVA HESSE. HAUSER & WIRTH ZÜRICH LONDON. DIGITAL IMAGE (C) THE MUSEUM OF MODERN ART / LICENSED BY SCALA / ART RESOURCE, NY
Elisabeth Sussman et al. The Jewish Museum and Yale University Press, 2006. 174 pp. $50.00 ISBN: 978-0-87334-200-1
Lindsay Pollock PublicAffairs, 2006. 504 pp. $30.00 ISBN: 978-1-58648-302-9
PHILADELPHIA MUSEUM OF ART, GIFT OF HELEN HESSE CHARASH, 1979. (C) THE ESTATE OF EVA HESSE. HAUSER & WIRTH ZÜRICH LONDON
ollock’s biography is a lively and engaging examination of Edith Gregor Halpert’s role in the American art movement. Her exhaustive treatment of Halpert’s life and work never grows tedious, and the book remains interesting and accessible to the lay reader throughout. Pollock focuses on Halpert’s major achievement, the establishment of the Downtown Gallery, one of the first galleries for modern American art in Greenwich Village. She describes her subject’s entrance into the art world in New York, deftly exploring how financial uncertainty, which followed Halpert’s family from Odessa to New York, made a lifelong impression on the young woman. Pollock’s skillful storytelling integrates ordinary details from Halpert’s life into the larger picture of art history, humanizing her historical research with amusing but relevant anecdotes that feature some of the best-known figures in American art. Indeed, as an art dealer, Halpert represented Jacob Laurence, Stuart Davis, Georgia O’Keefe, and Arthur Dove at a time when modern American art was only beginning to be valued by collectors and museums. The Girl with the Gallery will engage anyone interested in modern American art, the Jewish immigrant experience in New York City, or Jewish women in America. Bibliography, credits, index, notes, photography. RSR
Eva Hesse, Schema, 1967-68, latex.
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MARC CHAGALL Jonathan Wilson Nextbook/Schocken, 2007. 256 pp. $19.95 ISBN: 978-0-8052-4201-0
or the reader who knows Chagall only through his work, this book is a good introduction to the artist. Jonathan Wilson, a novelist and professor of English at Tufts University, provides a solid foundation for Chagall’s itinerant life and a broad appreciation of the artist’s achievement. Born as Moishe Shagal in 1887 in the poor Jewish section of Vitebsk, a substantial town in Belarus, Chagall left the town as soon as he could to pursue his studies, but he never left Vitebsk emotionally. Wilson astutely points out that Chagall painted in Yiddish, the only language he comfortably
spoke, literally translating the luftmensch— intellectual “airman”—and other fabulous creatures of Yiddish folklore into fanciful flying images. Chagall first went to Paris in 1910 and settled there in 1923, absorbing the artistic energy and influences of the city and working furiously. Chagall’s professional and social world was the great stage of art—literature, theater, music—not the narrow world of East European Chasidism with which he is often identified. His dealer was Ambroise Vollard, who also represented Renoir, Picasso, Gauguin, Van Gogh. Chagall’s work sold well, and over his long life he gained commissions for churches, opera houses, ballets, synagogues from Chicago to Jerusalem to New York to Paris. Wilson is strongest dealing with the tensions in Chagall’s life and work. He rescues Chagall from the sentimentality of Fiddler on the Roof and places his nostalgic, biblical, and folkloric inspiration in a universal
FROM MY GRANDPARENTS, MY PARENTS AND I: JEWISH ART AND CULTURE (C) 2006 PRESTEL PUBLISHING
Introduction to the Jewish Theatre, 1920 by Marc Chagall
VISUAL ARTS MY GRANDPARENTS, MY PARENTS AND I: JEWISH ART AND CULTURE Edward van Voolen Prestel Verlag, 2006. 192pp. $60.00 ISBN: 978-3-7913-3362-5
his oversized volume rewards its readers with its striking jacket and full-color plates handsomely matching the text. Leading artists’ works are not the familiar ones, for the author is a long-time curator of the Joods Historisch Museum Amsterdam; his selections are fresh, drawn from museums worldwide, with emphasis nevertheless on New York, Israel, Amsterdam, and Germany.
setting. He explores Chagall’s conflicting personal and artistic identities: Fueled by Chasidism, Chagall lived a secular, politically engaged life; a painter of joy and luscious color, he frequently turned to the image of the crucified Jesus, sometimes wearing a tallit, to express the suffering of the period he lived through. A volume in the Nextbook/Schocken Jewish Encounters series, Marc Chagall is not intended as a full-scale biography. Wilson does not discuss Chagall’s professional dealings or the origins and execution of his large-scale projects. Chagall’s emergence from poverty to wide recognition speeds by; a bibliographic note suggests further sources. But the reader’s greatest frustration is having to read about, not see, Chagall’s work, proving that one picture would indeed be worth a thousand words. An index would also have been helpful. Bibliographic note, chronology, and illustrations. MLW
A six-page timeline, 2000 BCE-2005 CE, follows the clearlywritten introduction, “Jewish Art and Jewish People between Israel and Diaspora.” The book then moves into essays, which often include references to architecture and to other artists working at the same time. Each major classification—The Image of Judaism, Jewish Emancipation and Art, Holocaust and its Remembrance, and Jewish Art in the Modern World—includes an introduction. Following the discussions and illustrations of early manuscripts and artifacts, artists ranging from Oppenheim, Lissitsky, Kahlo, happily mix with Pissarro, Liebermann, and Chagall, and move on to Zadkine, Safdie, and then the modernists, such as Shahn, Rivers, LeWitt, for a total of nine plates to the 18th century, and 60 artists, 19th century to 2005. Both as a handsome starter book and/or a gift for the knowledgeable, My Grandparents, My Parents, and I has a place on any bookshelf. Acknowledgement, bibliography, illustration credits, introduc- A Difficult Passage in the tion. ABS Talmud, 1900.
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FROM MY GRANDPARENTS, MY PARENTS AND I: JEWISH ART AND CULTURE (C) 2006 PRESTEL PUBLISHING
A LIVING LENS: PHOTOGRAPHS OF JEWISH LIFE FROM THE PAGES OF THE FORWARD Alana Newhouse W.W. Norton & Company, 2007. 352 pp. $39.95 ISBN: 978-0-393-06269-4
lana Newhouse’s beautiful collection of archival photographs from the Jewish Daily Forward, compiled with the aid of Chana Pollack, selectively reveals over a century of Jewish life in America. Much as the Forverts, as it was known to its Yiddish speaking readers, illustrated both the America of the neighborhood, as well as the one that lay beyond one’s imagination, these photographs juxtapose the holy and the profane, the tragic and the celebratory,
FROM A LIVING LENS: PHOTOGRAPHS OF JEWISH LIFE FROM THE PAGES OF THE FORWARD (C) 2007 W.W. NORTON & COMPANY
Jim Braddock, the former heavyweight boxer turned sports director at the Hebrew Home for Boys, teaching youngsters how to deal with bullies the profound and the mundane, in the lives of ordinary Jews. The sheer sweep of its subjects tells much about how Jews immersed themselves in America, both as a distinct minority and as an assimilated group who influenced America as much as they were influenced by American culture. The thoughtful essays which accompany these photos appear in chronological groupings. Their subjects reflect key
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aspects of the 20th century Jewish diaspora: gious tradition this means we will be. the Lower East Side; the Labor movement; Wieseltier’s essay both chastens and comthe entertainment industry, including Yid- mends us for doing what we could not dish Theatre; the Holocaust; Israel; and a avoid if we were to become fully accepted changing Jewish identity. These are among as Americans. The Forverts mirrored the past and the great signposts for the American Jewish community, or at least that portion which, newly urbanized, settled on the East and West coasts, but the range of subjects is what makes these essays so thoughtprovoking. They are original, their insights are based on personal experience, and they care deeply for the people about whom they are writing. The photographs often cast light on the essays rather than having the essays explain these largely personal, candid snapshots. New- The leaders of the Soviet Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, the Yidhouse invites the viewer to peer dish poet Itzik Fefer (left) and the director Solomon Mikhoels of inside a diverse community, the Moscow State Theater, meeting with Albert Einstein at his Ne which such essayists as Nathan wJersey home during their 1943 visit to America Glazer, Alan Dershowitz, Roger Kahn, and Deborah E. Lipstadt lovingly analyze. sought to unify Jewish life in the present. In For example, Leon Wieseltier notes in its second century, with a complex future “Holy Hollywood” that it was immigrant ahead, the Forverts is optimistic, embracing Jews who created the movie industry. They new religious directions emerging in the came to America and displayed their “tal- Jewish community. Heeding Santayana’s ent for cultural intuition” by explaining warning about learning from history, one America to Americans. What chutzpah! What genius! Wieseltier discusses the uninviting quality of “neediness” in many American Jewish men which movies reveal. Photos of Woody Allen, and Arthur Miller with Marilyn Monroe, accompany his words, as if to say, “We need not apologize for this revelation because after all, we’re the ones who dish out the ridicule to ourselves and that’s okay.” And as Jews, history’s exiles, have adopted the char- Folksbiene Yiddish Theater actors’ ensemble photo acteristics of whatever host culture in which we find ourselves, it is must revisit a past which these photonatural for American Jews to adapt by graphs and essays illuminate. A Living Lens becoming just like the majority, however serves to prepare us to face an uncertain uncommitted to serious study and reli- future, bravely. NNK
FROM A LIVING LENS: PHOTOGRAPHS OF JEWISH LIFE FROM THE PAGES OF THE FORWARD (C) 2007 W.W. NORTON & COMPANY
AMERICAN JEWISH STUDIES
FROM A LIVING LENS: PHOTOGRAPHS OF JEWISH LIFE FROM THE PAGES OF THE FORWARD (C) 2007 W.W. NORTON & COMPANY
VISUAL ARTS PAUL GOLDMAN: PRESS PHOTOGRAPHER, 1943-1961
he Budapest-born Goldman was one of very few photojournalists working in Palestine in the 1940’s. Although he was largely unknown for most of his life—the norm at the time was not to publish photo credits—Goldman’s work nonetheless attracted a number of admirers, many of whom, such as David Rubinger, went on to become celebrated Israeli photographers themselves. His striking photographs, mostly depicting the day-to-day life of pre-state Israel, were never archived anywhere, but stored in simple plastic bags in Goldman’s apartment and serendipitously discovered, after the photographer’s death, by one of his friends. Looking at Goldman’s work today, one understands instinctively why Goldman’s work was forgotten: There is something wonderfully un-modern about his work, a quality that appears sweet and naïve in today’s media culture, in which paparazzi lurk around every corner and the extreme close up is the favored aesthetic. For one thing, Goldman never gets too close to his subjects. Unlike the generation of photojournalists who would follow him, Goldman, one senses, was too much of a gentleman to shove a lens in anyone’s face. Instead, he keeps his distance, and, as many of his subjects were Israel’s Founding Fathers—from David Ben Gurion to Menachem Begin—that distance translates perfectly into respect. Here, for example, is Ben Gurion, shirtless in a black bathing suit, doing gymnastics on the Tel Aviv beach. Get too close and you run the risk of offending the leader or, even worse, of portraying him too flatteringly, as an icon of virility and strength, an outcome desired by the propagandist but reviled by the journalist. Get too far, and the magic of the moment—the elderly statesman frolicking— would be lost. Goldman, just a few steps away, strikes just the right distance. This supreme sensitivity makes Goldman’s photographs a small miracle in today’s world of telephoto lenses and eliminated distance, and they make for interesting, almost prosaic constructions, rich with tensions between public and private. But just as importantly, perhaps, and just as striking, is Goldman’s refusal to infuse the moment with metaphor, or embellish it in any other way. Unlike, say, the atmospheric shots of Henri Cartier Bresson, Goldman’s contemporary, Goldman is less interested in “the decisive moment,” that elusive fragment of time that captures both the instant and the timeless in one grand swoop. Rather, he is, as much as possible, an objective shooter, ever more the reporter than the artist, interested in beauty but never at the expense of his best estimation of the truth. His photographs, therefore, may not be as moving as Bresson’s, but they are instructive; anyone wishing to get a keen sense of what life in Palestine was like during the restive pre-state years is very likely to find it here, not in broad, inspiring strokes but rather in small, quiet and elegant works. On a lighter note, the book showcases not only Goldman’s touching subtleties but also his impeccable timing: His photographs are a celebration of being in the right place at the right time, such as the King David Hotel shortly after it was bombed by Begin and his men. The pictures go beyond telling the wordless story of Israel’s early years. They succeed, by straddling the line between journalism and art, in capturing the mindset and sensibilities of the young nation, a mindset that now looks so familiar yet so far away. LL
PAUL GOLDMAN PHOTOGRAPHER FROM THE COLLECTION OF SPENCER M. PARTRICH
Shlomo Arad Keterpress Enterprises, 2004. 111 pp. $25.00 ISBN: NB31510013
PAUL GOLDMAN PHOTOGRAPHER FROM THE COLLECTION OF SPENCER M. PARTRICH
Prime Minister and Defense Minister David Ben-Gurion performing a headstand, Shron Hotel Beach, Herzliyah, 20 September 1957.
PAUL GOLDMAN PHOTOGRAPHER FROM THE COLLECTION OF SPENCER M. PARTRICH
Immigrant boat “the Jewish State” anchors at Haifa port, October 1947. The immigrants were deported by the British to detention camps in Cyprus.
Ploughing, Kibbutz Ramat Yochanan, 1943
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Ricki Rosen; with an essay by Micha Odenheimer Reality Check Productions, 2006. 100 pp. $45.00 ISBN: 978-9652293770
he logic behind photographer Ricki Rosen’s captivating new book, Transformations: From Ethiopia to Israel, is one of contrasts. Rosen, a photojournalist who followed the Ethiopian immigration to Israel for the past two decades, divides each one of the book’s spreads into two parts: On the left-hand page, she portrays Ethiopia’s Jews shortly before, during, or after their moment of immigration during Operation Solomon in 1990; on the right, the same people, a decade and a half later. On the left is Ethiopia, its earthen-brown arid landscapes a perfect backdrop for the shimmering white of the traditional Ethiopian robes; on the right, Israel, a modern, Western country illuminated by a panoply of colors. The contrasts are often stark. Woovsrah and Haimonot Kalemwort, for example, appear on the left page as two young girls, wrapped in traditional garb. Photographed as they disembarked from the plane that carried them from Ethiopia to Israel, the two stare at the camera with frightened, haunting looks; although they are walking down the stairs to the airport’s runway, they appear frozen with dread. But there they are again on the right page, this time as young Israeli women, students of nuclear physics no less. One of Kalemwort Sisters, Woovsrah and Haimonot: Arrival at them is wearing a pale pink top and a bubblegum-colored scarf, the other a khaki skirt and Israel's airport 1990 a button-down shirt. In the background, a well-manicured lawn gives rise to an ultramodern building. As the eye hops from one end of the spread to the other, from the airport scene in 1990 to the campus idyll in 2004, a strong and clear emotion gushes up the throat, one of instinctual, tribal pride. This, after all, is the strongest imaginable visualization of the idea of Israel as the Promised Land: A shelter that could take in a pair of scared children, driven out of their native country by persecution, and give them the fertile ground they need to thrive and be happy. But the true strength of Transformations lies in its refusal to succumb to such rosy, uncomplicated, and, ultimately, false views of the Ethiopian exodus. As Rosen understands only too well, immigration—any immigration—is a painful and thorny process, one that frequently fails and, even when it succeeds, exacts a costly price. That price is reflected in the face of Tagenya Kabadeh; pictured in a serpentine line outside the Israeli embassy in Addis Ababa in 1990, Kabadeh’s sunken eyes are dim, his expression one of profound sadness. He looks like a man without joy, without luck, without hope. Fourteen years later, he is photographed standing outside a mall in Rehovot, Israel. He is holding shopping bags in his hand, a plain brown shirt having replaced the white robe. But his expression remains the same. Kabadeh, one senses, is now driven to despair not by Ethiopia’s existential dangers but by Israel’s more mundane but equally pressing hardships, its fast-paced commercialism and escalating cost of living. As he stands next to a colorful billboard, Kabadeh’s struggle is silent but inescapable. And this, precisely, is the virtue of Rosen’s book: From its very first pages—a series of haunting candid shots documenting the actual immigration process, accompanied by an insightful and illuminating essay by Rabbi Micha Odenheimer—Rosen combines the artist’s piercing eye with the journalist’s unmitigated honesty, giving us a panoramic view—at times inspiring, at others heartbreaking—of one of Mogus Yakov Family: Shlomo's Bar Mitzvah at home in the most seminal moments in contem- Kalemwort Sisters, Woovsrah and Haimonot: UniversiKiryat Malakhi 2004 ty students at Rehovot campus 2004 porary Jewish life. LL
PHOTO BY RICKI ROSEN FROM TRANSFORMATIONS: FROM ETHIOPIA TO ISRAEL (C) 2006 REALITY CHECK PRODUCTIONS
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PHOTO BY RICKI ROSEN FROM TRANSFORMATIONS: FROM ETHIOPIA TO ISRAEL (C) 2006 REALITY CHECK PRODUCTIONS
TRANSFORMATIONS: FROM ETHIOPIA TO ISRAEL
PHOTO BY RICKI ROSEN FROM TRANSFORMATIONS: FROM ETHIOPIA TO ISRAEL (C) 2006 REALITY CHECK PRODUCTIONS
Visual Art Books of Note BECOMING JUDY CHICAGO: A BIOGRAPHY OF THE ARTIST Gail Levin Harmony Books, 2007. $29.95 ISBN: 978-1-4000-5412-1
orn to Jewish radical parents in Chicago in 1939, Judy Cohen grew up to be Judy Chicago—one of the most daring and controversial artists of her generation. Becoming Judy Chicago is the only biography of the woman who revolutionized feminist art and fundamentally changed how we view women’s contributions to the art world and society at large. Early to reject the modernist move from content in art, Chicago first mastered and then transcended modernism’s formalist austerity before blazing a trail to the new esthetic now known as postmodernism.
Judy Chicago (née Judith Sylvia Cohen) produced and exhibited drawings for a series of lithographs in 1974 called “Compressed Women Who Yearned to Be Butterflies.” One of these focuses on Mme. Deronda, who grapples with her genius in George Eliot’s 1876 novel, Daniel Deronda, in which a family of characters called “Cohen” features. On her drawing, Chicago transcribed Mme. Deronda’s bitter protest: “You are not a woman. You may trybut you can never imagine what it is to have a man’s force of genius in you, and yet to suffer the slavery of being a girl. To have a pattern cut out—this is the Jewish woman! This is what you must be; this is what you are wanted for; a woman’s heart must be of such size and no larg- Installation view, Wing Three, featuring Anne Hutchinson, Sacajawa, and Caroline Herschel place settings er, else it must be pressed small, like Chinese feet.” Chicago conceived and executed her major work, “The Dinner Party,” with the help of many, mainly voluteers. Inspired by images of the Last Supper, which was, of course, the Passover Seder, “The Dinner Party” features thirty-nine place settings around a triangular table, representing women from myth and history of whom only one is Jewish: Judith of the Bible. More Jewish women, however, figure among the 999 names inscribed on the porcelain-tiled Heritage floor, from Rachel and Sarah in the Bible to Golda Meir to Henrietta Szold in modern times. More importantly, Chicago made the plates on the third wing rise up physically “as a symbol of women’s struggle for freedom,” echoing the Seder’s theme of the Jews’ passage from slavery to freedom. By Gail Levin
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FROM THE BOOK, THE DINNER PARTY BY JUDY CHICAGO, MERRELL PUBLISHERS, 2007 C. JUDY CHICAGO, PHOTO BY DONALD WOODMAN, COLLECTION, BROOKLYN MUSEUM, A GIFT OF THE ELIZABETH A. SACKLER FOUNDATION.
Judy Chicago and the Passover Seder
Visual Art Books of Note caust, and the founding of the State of Israel, as well as the dispersal of Jewish artists around the country and the rise of feminism and spiritualism in the late-20th century.
ten by Joan Acocella. Discussing artists including Stefan Zweig, Simone de Beauvoir, Susan Sontag, Primo Levi, and Philip Roth, Acocella explores the making of art and the courage, perseverance, and, sometimes, dumb luck that it requires.
THE FUTURE OF ART IN A DIGITAL AGE: FROM HELLENISTIC TO HEBRAIC CONSCIOUSNESS Mel Alexenberg Intellect, 2006. $59.95 ISBN: 978-1-84150-136-9
his text offers a prophetic vision of art in a digital future. Expanding upon the artistic prospects made possible by digital technology, it explores the directions in art that have arisen between the planes of science, technological development, and cultural expression.
THE SUBJECT IN ART: PORTRAITURE AND THE BIRTH OF THE MODERN Catherine M. Soussloff Duke University Press, 2006. $79.95 ISBN:0-8223-3670-7
hallenging prevailing theories regarding the birth of the subject, Catherine M. Soussloff argues that the modern subject did not emerge from psychoanalysis or existential philosophy. Rather, it was first visualised in the theory and practice of portraiture in early 20th century Vienna.
JEWISH ART IN AMERICA: AN INTRODUCTION Matthew Baigell Rowman and Littlefield, 2006. $79.00 ISBN: 0-7425-4640-3
n this first book-length study of Jewish art in America, Matthew Baigell explores works from the early settlers of America to the present. Baigell concentrates on Jewish subject matter employed by artists as they illustrated aspects of their religious and ethnic heritage and as they responded to major events over the decades, including the Great Migration, the Great Depression, the Holo-
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UNWANTED BEAUTY: AESTHETIC PLEASURE IN HOLOCAUST REPRESENTATION Brett Ashley Kaplan University of Illinois Press, 2006. $35.00 ISBN: 978-0-25203093-3
ortrayals of the Holocaust in literature, paintings, and architecture have aroused many ethical debates. How can we admire, much less enjoy, art that deals with such a horrific event? Does finding beauty in the Holocaust amount to a betrayal of its victims? Brett Ashley Kaplanâ€™s Unwanted Beauty meets these difficult questions head on, analyzing a wide range of Holocaust representations in order to argue that a more careful understanding of aesthetics and its relation to history can best address the anxieties raised by Holocaust art.
TWENTY-EIGHT ARTISTS AND TWO SAINTS: ESSAYS Joan Acocella Pantheon Books, 2007. $30.00 ISBN: 978-0-375-42416-4
wenty-Eight Artists and Two Saints is a compilation of thirty-one essays writ-
Devorah Press AD Summer 5767/2007
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REVIEWS: AMERICAN JEWISH STUDIES AMERICAN JEWISH STUDIES
GETTING OUR GROOVE BACK: HOW TO ENERGIZE AMERICAN JEWRY Scott A. Shay Devora Publishing, 2007. 312 pp. $24.95 ISBN: 978-1-9326-8785-9 Jewish Week Cultural Editor Liel Liebowitz offers his thoughts about Scott Shay’s agenda for re-energizing American Judaism.
s the crisis addressed in this book, that of the dwindling, depleted, and confused American Jewish community, is an existential one, let us begin with the bottom line: Scott Shay has written a striking and important book, one that, while offering nothing but practical solutions to concrete problems, is nonetheless visionary and inspiring. Let us now retrace our steps. The problem, as Shay eloquently states in the book’s introduction, is one of being versus nothingness: “American Jewry,” he writes, “is facing its most significant crisis in the 350 years since the first Jews arrived in New Amsterdam,” a crisis that runs deep and wide, with institutions and individuals alike plagued by a host of maladies, from escalating intermarriage to dwindling enrollment in Hebrew schools. Unless something is done, Shay warns us, the American Jewish community may be no more, at least not in its present, proud state. To ameliorate the situation, Shay, a Wall Street banker with a long record of volunteering in various Jewish organizations, presents ten achievable solutions to ten pressing problems. Take Hebrew school, for example. Shay begins his treatment of the topic with a fantasy: As a child, he recalls, he would escape
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the ennui of Hebrew school by wishing for a kindly gentleman to appear and promise to replace the tedious lessons with free hockey sessions at a nearby rink if only he and his classmates vowed to learn their bar mitzvah Haftorahs. Shay then proceeds to turn his childhood daydreams into a serious synopsis for change: Instead of following an educational model that was largely unchanged since it was designed eight centuries ago, Hebrew schools should seek out creative and engaging ways to revitalize both staff and curriculum. But Shay is not one for platitudes. Whereas the same topic, like all of the ground covered in this book, was tread before by writers of a more ephemeral disposition, Shay approaches the task at hand as one might a balance sheet, realizing that whenever much is at stake, only concreteness will do. In the Hebrew school section, for example, he provides several examples of success stories the nation over, and then embarks on a fivepronged plan to save the dimming institution and boost sagging enrollment rates. The same occurs throughout the book; judiciously peppering his prose with charts, statistics, and surveys, Shay succeeds in framing the Big Picture with smaller, specific and sensible solutions, making even the most daunting of problems appear imminently solvable. And, as much of an effective
■ ...whenever much is at stake, only concreteness will do.
■ writer as he is an insightful analyst, Shay weaves into his clear and simple narrative the occasional carefully selected literary quote or well-placed visual aid: To emphasize the dangers facing the American Jewish community, to name but one instance, Shay juxtaposes a graph demonstrating the liquidizing of an ice cube as temperature rises with one showing the projected percentage of Jews in the total U.S. population. The message is clear: “Complacency,” as Shay himself puts it, “means defeat.” LL
THE HOUSING DIVIDE: HOW GENERATIONS OF IMMIGRANTS FARE IN NEW YORK’S HOUSING MARKET Emily Rosenbaum and Samantha Friedman New York University Press, 2006. 304 pp. $45.00 ISBN: 978-0-8147-7590-5
ocation! Location! Location! Where one lives has a dramatic effect on one’s life chances for many generations, according to sociologists Emily Rosenbaum and Samantha Friedman, authors of The Housing Divide: How Generations of Immigrants Fare in New York’s Housing Market. Ethnicity and race play a crucial role in determining where immigrants live and this in turn determines the schools their children attend, the quality of the housing and the nature of the resources in their neighborhoods and ultimately their future success. Immigrants of African ancestry, including black Hispanics, tend to reside in the most deteriorating neighborhoods with the least resources because of persistent racial discrimination. White immigrants fare very differently. They are often welcomed in middle class communities. The authors cite the case of the Soviet Jews who started arriving in the 1970’s and whose numbers “mushroomed” to 13,260 in 1990–94 and to over 20,000 in 1995–96, thereby becoming the largest single immigrant group arriving in New York City in that year. As whites, Soviet Jews were welcomed in many communities and had other advantages. They were identified as “refugees” and as such qualified for federal assistance. In addition, established Jewish agencies helped them by providing services to them and “steering” them into aging Eastern European Jewish neighborhoods such Brighton Beach, Rego Park, and Mid-
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REVIEWS: AMERICAN JEWISH STUDIES wood where the housing stock was in fairly good condition. This “effectively helped to reinforce patterns of racial segregation in the city,” the authors report. The authors appear to emphasize the negative consequences of the “steering” of Soviet Jews. However, the actions of the Jewish agencies seem quite appropriate. The mission of these agencies is to help needy Jews. Fostering the settlement of these new immigrants into supportive Jewish ethnic enclaves is an important mechanism to facilitate their adjustment. In fairness to the book, this is not a major concern of the authors. The major concern of the book is providing an analysis of immigrant housing patterns and providing strategies “to eliminate the inequalities that differentially expose certain groups to restricted opportunities for social and economic advancement.” For the average reader, this book will be difficult reading but it will be fascinating for policy makers and scholars concerned with housing patterns and racial discrimination. Emily Rosenbaum is professor of sociology at Fordham University. Samantha Friedman is assistant professor of sociology at Northeastern University. Appendices, bibliography, index, notes. CP
IN THEIR OWN IMAGE: NEW YORK JEWS IN JAZZ AGE POPULAR CULTURE Ted Merwin Rutgers University Press, 2006. 215 pp. $23.95 ISBN: 978-0-8135-3808-2
t is a commonplace to assume that the children of immigrants do their utmost to throw off the foreign identity of their parents and fully assimilate into American
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culture. This is thought to be especially so when this second generation aspires to a show business career, where to attain popularity would necessitate being anything but ethnic. Ted Merwin, in exploring the success of New York Jewish entertainers in the 1920’s, convincingly refutes this perception. He begins by demonstrating that the vaudeville comedy at the turn of the 20th century thrived on ridiculing immigrant groups, while establishing ethnic characters as a staple of entertainment. But, when these stereotypes had had their day, a new type of ethnic comedy came into being—one in which Jewish entertainers prospered: notably Fanny Brice, Eddie Cantor, Georgie Jessel, Al Jolson, and Sophie Tucker. While these performers did their share of general American entertainment and were ambivalent about their ethnic identity, a considerable and well received extent of their material was decidedly Jewish: Fanny Brice became famous with her Yiddish accented songs (although she couldn’t speak Yiddish!)—for example, “Second Hand Rose,” which is essentially a song about the second generation Jewish experience; Eddie Cantor thrived with his Jewish garment industry skit, “A Belt in the Back;” Georgie Jessel’s signature act was his telephone conversation with his classically Jewish mother; Al Jolson starred in the first “talkie” film, “The Jazz Singer,” derived from his background as the son of a cantor; and Sophie Tucker’s most popular song was “My Yiddishe Mama.” Merwin further pursues his thesis with an examination of Jewish themed comic strips—such as Harry Hershfield’s “Abie the Agent;” stage plays, such as “Abie’s Irish Rose”—one of the longest running shows on Broadway; and popular films, such as “Humoresque,” “His People,” and “The Kibbitzer.” While clearly yearning to be more than “second hand” citizens and wholly accepted as “first hand” Americans, these Jewish entertainers—Merwin thoroughly illustrates—never forgot, indeed celebrated, their ethnic origins; and, in doing so, not only affirmed their own unique “image,”
but also did their part in shaping that of their nation. NJF
JEWS AND BASEBALL: ENTERING THE AMERICAN MAINSTREAM, 1871–1948 Burton A. Boxerman and Benita W. Boxerman; Martin Abramowitz, fwd. McFarland & Company, 2006. 232 pp. $39.95 ISBN: 978-0-7864-2828-1
his book is a double or triple, not a home run. There are too many routine errors— seventy eight doubles for Jonah Goldman in 1930 would have been a big-league record, but the real total was eighteen. “Subway Sam” Nahem becomes “Broadway Sam” in a caption. The authors also have a tendency to gush: There’s nothing “amazing” about Morrie Arnovich hitting .324 in 1939 (fifth in the league), but the feat is described as such. And it’s problematic to see Wikipedia cited so often as a source in the Moe Berg article, particularly since the myths surrounding the catcher-turned-spy are more than a little overblown. Still, there is no denying the book’s appeal. The Boxermans have chased down some delightfully obscure characters and made an effort to focus on all aspects of the game—players, owners, journalists, umpires, statisticians. It is always great to see a concise description of Hank Greenberg’s Hall of Fame career, but it’s also fascinating to see how many players worked so long and hard to play a mere handful games in the majors— or even just one. The authors’ love of baseball carries the day and makes this a worthwhile read for fans of the sport. Bibliography, footnotes, and index. DC
REVIEWS: BIOGRAPHY/MEMOIR BIOGRAPHY/MEMOIR
THE BEST OF I.F. STONE I. F. Stone; Karl Weber, ed. Public Affairs, 2006. 368 pp. $23.95 ISBN: 978-1-58648-463-7
ALL GOVERNMENTS LIE: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF REBEL JOURNALIST I.F. STONE Myra MacPherson Scribner, 2006. 576 pp. $35.00 ISBN: 978-0-684-80713-3
problem for the reviewer: Whether to begin by reading I.F. Stone’s own writings, as presented in a collection of the best of his collected essays, or to start with MacPherson’s biography of this legendary journalist? Both approaches are defensible, but ultimately, the decision was made to absorb how Stone himself perceived important events and then to use his beliefs as a check against his biographer’s examination of his life. I.F. Stone’s Weekly, a one-man newsletter published between 1953 and 1971, was as independent of outside influences as Stone: suspicious of governments and the spin they put on events, fiercely intolerant of demagoguery, fearful of man’s potential for causing nuclear disaster, and although a philosophical
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supporter of Zionism, critical of the State of Israel. In his weekly analyses, Stone illuminated these issues, challenged popular ideas, and engaged his devoted readers to refine their beliefs and identify heroes. Karl Weber, editor of The Best of I.F. Stone, chose and annotated a series of essays written by Stone over three decades, including some originally published elsewhere. Organized by theme, these works illustrate Stone the conversationalist, the occasional satirist, but always the polemicist who is committed to exposing sacred cows and to supporting human rights. Stone’s basic philosophy may be understood by reading a 1949 essay: “...you cannot have freedom without the risk of its abuse. The men who wrote the Bill of Rights were willing to take their chances on freedom...everything we know from the past teaches us that suppression in the long run provides an illusory security, and this is why, though I am a socialist, I am also a libertarian.” Stone’s unintentionally prophetic words provide insight for different eras, and certainly for our own. Stone’s position on Israel-as-politicalentity was more complicated and controversial. Although passionately identified with the right of Jews to survive after facing “the authenticated horrors of the Nazi internment camps and death chambers,” Stone opposed the seizure of Arab-owned lands. He detested the American government’s equivocation when they had a chance to save Jews (although he exonerated Roosevelt from blame) and decried the way Jews viewed the Arabs with “contemptuous superiority,” while acknowledging the Arabs’ intransigence at their unwillingness to accept a Jewish state in Palestine. Yet he ultimately expected Jews to observe a higher moral standard: “...if Jews, after all their experience of suffering, prove no better once in the majority than the rest of mankind, what hope for a world as torn apart as ours is by tribalism and hate.” Izzy Stone’s writings illuminated the important issues of his age. This explains the popularity and resilience of his weekly newsletter. His richly-nuanced essays were entertaining and provocative. They reveal Stone, the man, as we confirm by reading Myra MacPherson’s comprehensive biography, All Governments Lie.
This is a readable, interesting depiction of Stone’s personal and professional life. MacPherson conveys her admiration for her subject, but by unintentionally embracing the iconography of Stone—the-independent, the courageous maverick, the early supporter of civil rights and opponent of Vietnam policy, she yields more insights into how similar she and Stone are, politically, than into the dimensions of Stone’s richly nuanced arguments. Fearful of having his judgment compromised by being too close to Washington’s decision-makers, Stone courted neutrality as he did most things, passionately, which MacPherson underscores by contrasting him with Walter Lippmann, the ultimate insider to the Washington establishment. Yet, while this serves her purpose of elevating Stone to heroic stature by placing him squarely on the side of the voiceless who encounter injustices which need to be righted, the effect often is to offer Stone as merely an emblematic figure, thus mitigating his complexity. This may be a problem with attempting to dissect an idol. One’s eye may move too
■ Izzy Stone’s writings illuminated the important issues of his age.
■ close to the magnifying glass. But MacPherson is consistent in her view of her subject, and her thorough research assists her in conveying to the reader a fully-formed, knowable human being. This contrasts with the encomia offered upon his death by former critics, who pulled Stone “into the realm of the respectables,” in the words of Alexander Cockburn of the Nation. Izzy Stone died precisely two weeks after troops suppressed the Tiananmen Square uprising. This event would have given him much to write about since he earlier had supported the pro-democracy demonstrations, as MacPherson indicates. Seventeen years after both events, books are still being written about this unique journalist. Attention must be paid. NNK
REVIEWS: BIOGRAPHY/MEMOIR inherited from her father, a successful comedy writer. Book lovers and other readers will find in this memoir a refreshing plunge into an unfamiliar aspect of the book business, as well as a succession of eccentric and sometimes famous characters. Acknowledgments, index, list of publishers. CR
Even for its completeness, the biography is not heavy-handed. Isaacson’s depiction of Einstein’s development of the general theory of relativity in 1915 almost reads like a thriller. His command of both the science and the historical context are brilliant. This is a magnificent work: a tribute to Einstein’s life and his universe. Bibliography, index, notes. JMB
AN ALPHABETICAL LIFE Wendy Werris Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2006. 336 pp. $15.95 (pbk) ISBN: 978-0-7867-1817-7 (pbk.)
here are many links in the chain that connects writers to readers. Like all manufactured objects books must be sold by their makers, or their existence as the center of a profitable enterprise will be threatened with extinction. Thus after editing and printing them, publishers place their books in the hands of marketing and sales staffs which promote them and introduce them to bookstores and libraries. This memoir describes the life of a publisher’s representative, or “book rep,” one of a lively and rollicking bunch of sales people with an important mission: to sell booksellers on the value of the books whose publishers they represent. In this jaunty story of her career in the book world, Werris describes her accidental journey from a temporary job at the famed Los Angeles Pickwick Bookshop into the male dominated world of wholesale book selling where she found adventure and success, and many notable characters. Her life as a rep was peopled with her career comrades, the other book reps, as well as the buyers for bookstores and the authors she met and often assisted. Adding shape and meaning to this memoir are Wendy’s family and friends, whose influence and failings and support led to her sometimes lonely and somewhat raucous life style. All are portrayed with loving attention to the details and quirks that bring their characters to life. A nice Jewish girl in a competitive man’s world needs all the help she can get, and her principal resources were her Brooklyn Jewish background and the comic view she
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EINSTEIN: HIS LIFE AND UNIVERSE Walter Isaacson Siimon & Schuster, 2007. 704 pp. $35.00 ISBN: 978-0-7432-6473-0
hroughout this most-encompassing biography of Albert Einstein, Walter Isaacson continually returns to a theme that pervaded Einstein’s life: that of unification. Einstein was compelled to explore ways to bring together disparate parts of science. His theory of general relativity connected the dissimilar ideas of gravity and electromagnetism. His theory of the photovoltaic effect, for which he won the Nobel Prize, brought together ideas of quanta and the nature of light. Similarly, Einstein’s politics were based on the idea of creating and empowering a one-world government. Following this overarching theme of Einstein’s life, Isaacson’s book is a unifying force in our understanding of Einstein. Relying scrupulously on primary sources, Isaacson details the ideas, pressures, relationships, and political context that surrounded Einstein. An astounding number of paragraphs in the text contain first-person quotes or references to personal correspondence. Included in the reams of documentation for this book are personal papers that have only recently been released and which inform Einstein’s early years.
A FAMILY OF STRANGERS Deborah Tall Sarabande Books, 2006. 260 pp. $24.95 ISBN: 978-1-932511-45-1
he sudden death of Deborah Tall’s father and a few newly discovered mangled pictures salvaged from behind a dresser drawer will serve to move this elegiac poetic memoir to its bittersweet ending. A chance call from a cousin one year later provides this gifted poet-writer with the needed link to connect the few existing dots in the virtual reconstruction of her family, the Talesnicks, an all but dispersed Jewish family whose struggle to survive pogroms and world wars ultimately brings them from the Ukraine to the United States. We learn that a comfortable suburban childhood in Levittown, Long Island in the 50’s brought with it a post-war requirement of silence and conformity, the layered evasions now muzzling even further her family’s 19th century shtetl terrors and sorrowful losses and secrets. Fascinated, we watch as Tall fastidiously labors to uncover “the hidden,” her profound and beautiful language and sense of urgency propelling us. Her magnificent retelling is at once poetic, multileveled, and interspersed freely with quotes from Susan Sontag, Brian
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REVIEWS: BIOGRAPHY/MEMOIR Friel, Shakespeare, Irving Howe, and Adrienne Rich, to name but a few who have also struggled to uncover beguiling memories and haunting images of past lives, voices that now function “akin to a Greek chorus.” Deborah Tall’s memoir was twelve years in the making; the “poetic prose,” as she chooses to call it, is what resulted in changing her style, which compelled her over time to discard several hundred pages in favor of a minimalist narrative of concision and understatement. Deborah Tall died as I was completing the first reading of this profound and moving memoir. Sadly, at book’s end, Tall, finding herself sitting in the Jewish Ukrainian cemetery in Ladyzin surrounded by tombstones of her family where she had wrenchingly tracked them down—in death—is “rendered cubist, any reflection of myself distorted...composed of fragments, ragged as the shattered edges of these gravestones.” She is comforted that she “can steer [her] own ship, now. Like Odysseus, I [have] been struggling for decades to find [my] own way back.” Coming across Tall’s obituary, I reread A Family of Strangers and wept anew, reading her final words, “A story encompasses us, justifies our stay, prepares our leaving.” Notes. RS
FIVE GERMANYS I HAVE KNOWN Fritz Stern Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006. 560 pp. $30.00 ISBN: 978-0-374-15540-7
ritz Stern, perhaps the greatest living historian of modern Germany, has produced a fascinating memoir that meditates
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on the profound changes he witnessed in Germany and helps us understand that nation’s complex and tortured past. Through his own story, presented in a lucid and engaging narrative that often reads like a good mystery novel, we are treated to rare insights into the forces that moved the 20th century by a scholar superbly qualified to make sense of his own experiences. Readers of this important book are thankful that as a young man Fritz Stern did not listen to the advice given to him by Albert Einstein: to study medicine and not history. The “German Question” haunts the modern world. How could this civilized, cultured, and advanced nation be responsible for the most horrific genocide in history? Stern addresses this question through his own life experiences. Born in the Weimar Republic, victimized by National Socialism,
■ ...a fascinating memoir that meditates on the profound changes Stern witnessed in Germany and helps us understand that nation’s complex and tortured past.
■ finding a refuge in the United States in 1938, he became a leading historian of modern Europe at Columbia University, a commentator on the German-Jewish symbiosis, and a prolific public intellectual who became part of the conversation itself. He both interpreted history and helped make it. In this lively book that fuses memory and history, Stern illuminates the five Germanys he experienced: Weimar, the Third Reich, post war West and East Germanys, and the unified country after 1990. His friendship with leading German intellectuals and politicians, and their American counterparts like Richard Holbrooke, as well as his scholarly acumen, give him unique insights into Germany’s struggle to create a liberal democracy. Stern shows how the history of the five Germanys can be read as a text that reflects on the fragility of democratic liberties and the ease with which
they can wither and die if left unprotected. This book is rich in detail, perspective and historical wisdom, as well as reflections on the trauma of the German-Jewish refugee experience, and the resilience of many who were able to forge productive and dignified lives. MND
GEORGE GERSHWIN: HIS LIFE AND WORK Howard Pollack University of California Press, 2007. 901 pp. $39.95 ISBN: 978-0-520-24864-9
t is a pleasant impossibility for a reviewer to do justice to this definitive biography of Gershwin’s life and work. It is both complex and fascinating, beginning with his birth in 1898, through his tragic death (at the age of 38) in 1937. Throughout more than 700 pages of analysis and documentation, Pollack reveals the incredible variety and scope of the composer’s achievements in every facet of popular, theatrical, and classical music. The entire history of American music from the beginning of the 20th century becomes a part of his story, as well as of his fellow composers, such as Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Aaron Copland, and dozens of others. Aside from acknowledging his debt to previous biographers, Pollack has drawn from a trove of manuscripts, letters, interviews, articles, and recently discovered scores to fashion an insightful glimpse into what made Gershwin so memorable. After reading this biography it would seem appropriate to paraphrase one of George and Ira’s songs by singing, “It’s very clear...his music’s here to stay.” SG
HOUSES OF STUDY: A JEWISH WOMAN AMONG BOOKS Ilana M. Blumberg University of Nebraska Press, 2007. 160 pp. $24.95 ISBN: 978-0-8032-1367-8
lana Blumberg’s moving memoir begins with her experiences learning at a women’s seminary in Jerusalem after high school, and comes to a close with her reflections on the
challenge of raising her daughter to be a committed Jewish woman. The author struggles throughout her work to make peace with traditional Judaism and modern notions of women’s equality. Her experiences confirm and elucidate the complex negotiations in which any woman must engage in today’s society. Blumberg’s narrative sometimes meanders, but her writing conveys a sense of uncertainty so common to those living in between the religious and secular worlds. And although frequent use of italics can be distracting, the changes in setting from religious to secular places of learning are artfully done. While this title certainly belongs in a generalist’s collection, Blumberg’s work will also strengthen libraries that focus on gender, autobiography, and Jewish women’s role in modernity. RSR
LOVER OF UNREASON: ASSIA WEVILL, SYLVIA PLATH’S RIVAL AND TED HUGHES’ DOOMED LOVE Yehuda Koren and Eilat Negev Carroll and Graf Publishers, 2006. 384 pp. $27.95 ISBN: 978-0-7867-1861-0
othing in this biographical account of Assia Wevill, her relationship with poet
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REVIEWS: BIOGRAPHY/MEMOIR Ted Hughes, and all the other members of their families, extended families, friends and the ever-present ghost of Sylvia Plath is reasonable. Even knowing from the start the final, worst moment of Wevill’s life, we turn each page in wonder at the tumultuous lives and the familial circumstances that brought the players to live the way they did. The insecurities, insensitivity, outrageous flirtations, assumptions of acceptable behavior, and actual tragic actions are meticulously researched and recounted chronologically with great tension. It is true, as stated on the book cover, that one does not need a great curiosity about poets Sylvia Plath or Ted Hughes to appreciate the story. The authors have skillfully integrated the time span between the late 30’s until Wevill’s death with important historical events, literary trends, and notable people. Bibliography, index, notes. PGM
SOPHIE SCHOLL AND THE WHITE ROSE Annette Dumbach and Jud Newborn Oneworld Publications, 2006. 256 pp. $14.95 (pbk.) ISBN: 978-1-85168-474-8 (pbk.)
ophie Scholl and the White Rose was first published as Shattering the German Night (1986). This revised and expanded edition includes appendices which reprint the incendiary leaflets distributed by the White Rose, as well as the charges in the trial indictments of these heroic German students who opposed the Hitler regime. All told, there were five trials between February 22, 1943 and October 13, 1944 which led to mostly death sentences for the twenty-nine defendants. Dumbach and Newborn have written a
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comprehensive history of the students at the University of Munich who, along with a few faculty, issued pamphlets that called on the German people to defy a regime that was bogged down fighting a losing battle at Stalingrad, an event that was the turning point in the history of the German war effort. The authors place the White Rose within the context of the “other Germany,” the over one million Germans who opposed Hitler and passed through the concentration camps and prisons for their political opposition to the Third Reich. This opposition reached its climax in 1944 with the failed attempt to assassinate Hitler by political and military personalities in the upper echelon of the Third Reich. Led by Hans Scholl, his sister Sophie, and Christoph Probst, the White Rose group consisted of idealistic students and faculty who operated in a clandestine manner to distribute anti-Nazi leaflets which attacked the policies of the Third Reich. Within a matter of months, however, from November 1942 to early January 1943, the White Rose operation had expanded into a network that was spread through southwest Germany, up to the Saarland, and was making inroads into the north, including Berlin, when the Gestapo arrested its leaders and broke up the organization. The Scholls were both sentenced to death and subsequently guillotined. Hans Scholl, among others in the White Rose who interned as medical students on the Russian front, viewed the horrors of the war. Aware of the atrocities committed against the Jews, and other Nazi victims, they conveyed their outrage at the policies of their government in the dissemination of leaflets which decried the evils of the Hitler Germany. “Today, Germany is completely encircled just as Stalingrad was. Will all Germans be sacrificed to the forces of hatred and destruction? Sacrificed to the man who persecuted the Jews, who eradicated half the Poles, and who wanted to annihilate Russia? Sacrificed to the man who took away your freedom, peace, domestic happiness, hope and joy...this must not happen! Hitler must fall so that Germany may live...” The persecution of the Jews was one of
the many grievances that led the White Rose to openly defy their government, a courageous act at any time in a dictatorship, but especially heroic during wartime. The price they paid was death and for a while they were shunned as traitors to Germany. Today, the White Rose holds a special place in the new Germany. This wellwritten and informative history of the group brings them back to life. JRF
TALES OF A THEATRICAL GURU Danny Newman University of Illinois Press, 2006. 312 pp. $29.95 ISBN: 978-0-252-03164-9
or anyone needing an inspirational guide to both living and exploiting one’s cultural life to the fullest, I recommend this entertaining, informal autobiography by Danny Newman. Publicist, press agent, personal representative, theatrical manager, his experiences in the world of opera, theatre, musical comedy, as well as the Yiddish stage have given him more than seventy years of interesting stories and adventures with some of the greatest performers in show business. Each of the thirty-three chapters revolves around anecdotes that connect the author to the famous personality being discussed, such as George Balanchine, Sam Goldwyn, Danny Kaye, Yul Brynner, Richard Tucker, Maria Callas, Milton Berle, and others. But this is much more than a “and then I met” collection of stories. Newman’s work with the Chicago Goodman Theatre and the Lyric Opera of Chicago was emulated by many other companies throughout the United States, especially in the field of ‘subscription series.’
The most personal and interesting part of this autobiography deals with his Jewish identification throughout his professional life. The sections describing his continuing involvement with the Yiddish stage and its performers, as well as his forty-year marriage and professional association with the Polish- American actress Dina Halpern, are charming and heart-warming. SG
paralyzed as the Nazis closed in. And finally, it forces us to consider questions no family should ever have to ponder: Are we better off as a single family unit, or should we split up? How should we try to escape? In the end, it did not matter. Piera was the only member of her family to survive the concentration camps. In writing this book, sharing her personal story, she has given a hand and a face to her parents, brothers, and sisters, and added another authentic voice to the Holocaust literature. PMA
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THIS HAS HAPPENED: AN ITALIAN FAMILY IN AUSCHWITZ Piera Sonnino Palgrave MacMillan, 2006. 224 pp. $21.95 ISBN: 978-1-4039-7508-9
ver the past sixty years, documentation of the Holocaust has taken many forms, including straightforward histories, biographies, psychological analyses, and even novels. But one form of literary genre, the personal story, has greatly enhanced our knowledge of this tragedy and put a human face on all the statistics and cold numbers. Some of those works have become well known, including those of Elie Wiesel and Primo Levi. These agonizing tales have added personal details and emotion to the detached descriptions of authors who were not there. To this canon should be added This Has Happened: An Italian Family in Auschwitz by Piera Sonnino. This slim volume is important for several reasons. It details the fate of an Italian family in the concentration camps, reminding us that Polish and German Jews were not the only Holocaust victims. It is also told from a woman’s point of view, and describes how her family, like Spiegelman’s Mice, became progressively
THE ZURAU APHORISMS OF FRANZ KAFKA Franz Kafka; Roberto Calasso, ed.; Michael Hoffman and Geoffrey Brock, trans. Schocken, 2006. 160 pp. $15.95 ISBN: 978-0-8052-1207-5
he author’s 109 philosophical aphorisms were written during the eight months he spent in Zurau between September 1917 and April 1918. Though they were originally published shortly after Kafka’s death in 1924, the fragments were not ordered or phrased correctly. When the Italian critic Roberto Calasso found Kafka’s original notes in a folder at Oxford’s Bodleian Library, he restored Kafka’s wording from these notebooks, and retained the layout Kafka had designed: each aphorism sits alone on the page, surrounding by a swath of white space. Kafka wrote his aphorisms while recovering from tuberculosis, in a countryside house he shared with his sister. He spent most of his time in a state of reflective piety, contemplating both the end of his life and the possible repercussions of eternity.
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REVIEWS: CONTEMPORARY JEWISH LIFE While his fragmented contemplations are both experimental and abstract, Kafka manages to touch on a number of topics: religion, women, marriage, guilt, family, and an afterlife. His thoughts on paradise are particularly poignant, perhaps because Kafka repeatedly mentions the graphic images of heaven and hell. Both a philosophical guide and an intimate window into Kafka’s thought process, the work offers a unique perspective on a man most famous for his mystical fiction. Afterwards and notes. MK
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coped with aging and its challenges, from the famous heart surgeon Robert DeBakey, now in his nineties, to ordinary people who have found ways to live their later years in a productive and satisfying way. Perhaps the most touching chapter in the book is a presentation of a correspondence Nuland undertook with a woman from India who wrote to him asking why she should continue to live her life in the face of physical disabilities and losses. Their encounter, over several years, was as revealing to Nuland as it was to her. Chapters on ethical issues (what impact will it have if we find ways to live for two or three hundred years?) and the nature of wisdom add further dimensions to this topic. Nuland’s writing is thoughtful and vibrant, and the advice he offers is well worth taking. Index. RBG
THE ART OF AGING: A DOCTOR’S PRESCRIPTION FOR WELL-BEING Sherwin B. Nuland Random House, 2007. 320 pp. $17.95 ISBN: 978-1-4000-6477-9
ith baby boomers approaching retirement and with rapid advances in medical technology, more people than ever before will live well into their seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, and even eleventh decades. The quality of life that we can expect to experience during these years has improved dramatically too. Sherwin Nuland, the retired surgeon who wrote the eloquent and educational How We Die, has explored the subject of aging from a number of perspectives, and shares these in his new and very readable book. This is not a tome of research findings and statistics. Rather, Nuland describes, in non-technical language, what aging means in physical terms, and then introduces his readers to a number of people who have successfully
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In the ten essays in this volume are themes inherent in Hanukkah and Purim, excavated and analyzed as only the Rov could. Brilliant insights abound. This book is to be studied and savored, not just read. Voltaire, Sophocles, Thomas Carlyle, and Virgil are cited alongside the Talmud, Maimonides, R. Judah Halevy, and R. Mendel of Kotzk. The eternal destiny of man is a theme visited often in the Rov’s analysis of the Purim story. Esther’s tale forms the backdrop for understanding the human condition and God’s relationship to the Jewish people. The Purim story has contemporary relevance since it shows the fragility of the human condition. Universal lessons are also drawn from the story and laws of Hannukah. His original exegesis of the liturgical texts and his homiletical imagery provide reflective insights. The Rov focused on the spiritual aspects of the military victory and drew parallels to contemporary Israel. Days of Deliverance is a welcome addition to the Rov’s bibliography, a mature, sophisticated, and theologically exhilarating journey of understanding with a master pedagogue and thinker as your guide. WG
DAYS OF DELIVERANCE: ESSAYS ON PURIM AND HANUKKAH Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik KTAV, 2007. 224 pp. $25.00 ISBN: 978-0-8812-5944-5
abbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (1903–1993), a towering intellect, shaped what today is called modern Orthodoxy. His rigorous analytical skills made him the pre-eminent Talmudist of the 20th century. Descended from great scholars in a direct line from the school of the Gaon of Vilna, he was known simply as “The Rov,” the rabbi-teacher par excellence. This singular distinction however is only a part of his greatness. He earned a Ph.D. in philosophy, was a gifted orator in Yiddish and English, a brilliant writer, a theologian, and an educator who ordained thousands of rabbis during his more than four decades at Yeshiva University.
HOW DOCTORS THINK Jerome Groopman Houghton Mifflin Company, 2007. 230 pp. $26.00 ISBN: 978-0-618-61003-7
he life of the 21st century doctor has grown ever more hectic. There are increased malpractice worries, insurance hassles, reimbursement cutbacks, and an overall emphasis to do more for patients with less time and fewer resources. Because
REVIEWS: CONTEMPORARY JEWISH LIFE of these external pressures, physicians may be more prone to diagnostic errors. Most of the time, the correct diagnosis is reached, but at important junctions, doctors may reach an erroneous conclusion, leading to an adverse outcome. In his most recent book, How Doctors Think, Dr. Jerome Groopman offers insight into how medical decisions are made. Using case histories, Groopman enlightens on how physicians think in real time, the thought processes involved, and how as a patient the reader can help the physician arrive at the correct diagnosis. The reader is shown how doctors make mistakes, either by making snap judgments, having inadequate information, or ignoring important diagnostic clues. The book also shows how patients can get the most out of their encounters with their physician, by asking intelligent questions, accurately describing all their symptoms, and taking an interactive role in their medical care. It seems that as the author encourages the patient to participate in his/her own care, and the physician to take extra time so as to not make a mistake, he is extending a concept from a Mishna from Hillel: “A bashful person cannot learn, and a quick, impatient person cannot teach.” PMA
JEWS, SPORTS, AND THE RITES OF CITIZENSHIP Jack Kugelmass, ed. University of Illinois Press, 2007. 248 pp. $60.00; $20.00 (pbk.) ISBN: 978-0-252-03082-6 ISBN: 978-0-252-07324-3 (pbk.)
ack Kugelmass, director of Jewish studies at Arizona State University, has selected
eleven essays, based on conference presentations, to illustrate the role of sports in determining cultural identity. The essays found in Jews, Sports and the Rites of Citizenship illuminate what seems to be a contradiction: why do we celebrate physical prowess, yet the Bible conveys that “Jewish lineage is traced through Jacob, not Esau”? We know that physicality was prized in Europe, as evinced by Jewish boxers, gymnasts, and football (i.e., soccer) players, and it also served as a response to anti-Semitism and exclusion. And this led to the
LOVING EVERY CHILD: WISDOM FOR PARENTS
Janusz Korczak; Sandra Joseph, ed.; Ari Goldman, fwd. Algonquin Books, 2007. 84 pp. $12.95 ISBN: 978-1-56512-489-9
These essays are based on history and anthropology but they also offer a compelling analysis of modernity.
s Ari Goldman writes in the forward to this lovely small volume, most people learn about Janusz Korczak at museums
■ modern Maccabiah Games, with its dual function: offering a sports competition and smuggling Jewish immigrants beyond the mandated quota into Palestine. These essays are based on history and anthropology but they also offer a compelling analysis of modernity. For example, in his discussion of Arab attendance at soccer games in modern Israel, Tamir Sorek proposes that the bleachers encourage integration through “extensive use of Hebrew, the ungrudging attitude towards the Jewish players, and the exclusion of Palestinian symbols.” Using language and adopting the dominant culture’s symbols provide similarities with how Jewish children acculturated in America, and suggests why Abraham Cahan encouraged immigrant parents to let their children learn American games such as baseball, lest they become “foreigners in their own country.” Sports serve as a vehicle for social mobility, and for integration vs. exclusion. Their role determines a people’s perception of itself, and how those outside the group regard them. Citizenship and nationhood cannot be divorced from both the physical and the intellectual attributes of a group, which these authors clearly convey. NNK
Afn Shvel Ad
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REVIEWS: CONTEMPORARY JEWISH LIFE commemorating the Holocaust. Korczak was born in Warsaw in 1878 and had an illustrious career as a pediatrician there before World War II. He was also a writer, and his disarming children’s book, King Matt the First, was as famous in Poland as Alice in Wonderland is here. He firmly believed that adults can learn from children by listening to them, a revolutionary theory in a time when children were supposed to be seen and not heard. During the Holocaust he took over the Orphans’ Refuge in the Warsaw Ghetto, and it was there he wrote his Ghetto Diary, shortly before marching with two hundred orphans onto a train to certain death at Treblinka. Loving Every Child is a book that will make new parents relax and experienced parents smile. “I never realized that a child is capable of remembering so well and of waiting so patiently,” is one eureka quote. Other bits are gems of solid advice: “When is the proper time for a child to start walking? When he does. When should her teeth start cutting? When they do. How many hours should a baby sleep? As long as they need to.” For a new parent, it is like someone giving permission to exhale. This is a refreshing little book that parents will find a great comfort after endless debates over sleep schedules, eating habits, age appropriate playtime suggestions and behavior modifications that have injected so much anxiety into modern parenting. Reading Loving Every Child, one realizes that it’s best not to over think every detail: The easiest way to learn to be a parent is to simply listen to your child. SLS
MOSES AND THE JOURNEY TO LEADERSHIP: TIMELESS LESSONS OF EFFECTIVE MANAGEMENT FROM THE BIBLE AND TODAY’S LEADERS Norman J. Cohen
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Jewish Lights Publishing, 2007. 240 pp. $21.99 ISBN: 978-1-58023-227-2
cholar and teacher Dr. Norman Cohen presents solutions to many of the challenges leaders must face—by drawing on biblical accounts of how Moses resolved the problems he confronted from the time of his birth in Egypt until he reached the border of the Promised Land, where he reluctantly turned over the leadership of the Israelites to Joshua. He then cites cases where contemporary corporate or government leaders were faced with analogous problems and shows how Moses’ approach remains applicable today. Among the many issues Cohen deals with are overcoming inertia, dealing with self-doubt, team building, setting and clearly communicating objectives, delegating authority, taking disciplinary action, and preparing for succession. Contemporary examples are drawn from the experiences of such leaders as Winston Churchill and Michael Bloomberg, as well as corporate executives such as Fred Smith of FedEx, Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines, Bill O’Brien of Hanover Insurance, Anita Roddick of The Body Shop, and even Red Auerbach, the famed coach of the Boston Celtics. Business executives who give little or no thought to reading the Bible and clergy who have little or no understanding of business will find that they can learn much from one another and that Moses remains an excellent model for them both. Notes, suggestions for further reading. PR
NUCLEAR WEAPONS, NUCLEAR STATES & TERRORISM Peter R. Beckman, William Paul Crumlish, Michael Dobkowski, and Steven Lee Sloan Publishing, 2006. 393 pp. $35.00 ISBN: 978-1-59738-006-5
ince 9/11 the fear of a nuclear-armed terrorist group striking America has leapt from the pages of overwrought Hollywood screenplays into scholarly works dealing with a credible threat. The lack of ideas for how to counter such an elusive attack, or to organize it into the pantheon of nuclear policy, has been answered by four professors from Hobart and William Smith Colleges. Nuclear Weapons provides a survey course on the history of nuclear weapon development, political theory and its usage in World War II all the way through what the authors call the Second Nuclear Age—the post-Cold War period of a sole superpower, nuclear proliferation, and the growing Islamic terrorist threat. They provide a series of essays which can be read separately or together that spell out the evolution of how states deal with these two issues: nuclear weapons cannot be uninvented, and there is a powerful taboo against ever using them again. Clearly written though somewhat plodding, the book is designed for an undergraduate survey course or for the curious armchair political theorist. The title somewhat overstates the contents of the book—most of it deals with the history of nuclear weapons in light of current events, and only one chapter actually delves into the specific issues of nuclear terrorism. Still, this is an accessible and unfortunately compelling read for this age of rogue states like Iran, Al Qaeda, and the ongoing tensions with India and Pakistan. Epilogue, glossary, index. ZT
PESACH FOR THE REST OF US: MAKING THE PASSOVER SEDER YOUR OWN Marge Piercy Schocken, 2007. 304 pp. $22.95 ISBN: 978-0-8052-4242-3
REVIEWS: CONTEMPORARY JEWISH LIFE or the past twenty years poet and novelist Marge Piercy has led a seder for a core group of family and friends at her small Cape Cod home. Using a Haggadah she has compiled over the years and recognizing that Judaism is ever-changing, Piercy strives to draw out contemporary meanings and interpretations for the participants— adults and children with varied religious and secular backgrounds. Piercy goes through the Haggadah stepby-step, providing much historic, personal, and anecdotal information to enrich the meaning of the Pesach symbols. Her own poems and original blessings also broaden the message by drawing contemporary parallels to the traditional themes of freedom, redemption, slavery, subjugation of the weak. Among the more striking are Piercy’s preamble to Dayenu, “It will not be enough,” a reminder that the world does not end at our threshold, and her expansion of “Pour Out Your Wrath,” in which the names of concentration camps are recited. A seder is also a festive meal, and Piercy shares a wealth of seder and Pesach dishes, from both Ashkenazic and Sephardic, as well as original recipes. Personal, thoughtful, stimulating, and as work-free as possible, Piercy invites you not to her seder but to your own, inspired by her example. The only requirement is that you finish the evening with “a sense of renewal and rededication.” Bibliography, index of poem titles, recipes. MLW
THE WAY INTO THE VARIETIES OF JEWISHNESS Sylvia Barack Fishman Jewish Lights Publishing, 2007. 250 pp. $24.99 ISBN: 978-1-58023-030-8
his reference book, from “The Way Into” series, teaches us about the historical and religious reasons for the many varieties of Jewish identity from the biblical period through today. According to the author, Jews have described themselves as members of a social group with common ancestry, a distinct religion, and common culture. A link to the biblical land of Israel created a sense of peoplehood. Circumcision, avoidance of pork, and observance of the Sabbath were instrumental in separating Jews from others. Although Judaism evolved into such diverse groups, with the majority living in the Diaspora, the ability and desire to transmit Jewish culture to the next generation by all groups ensures its continuity. Professor Fishman makes a fascinating, intensive study of all the Jewish groups in each period. Among the topics discussed only in the first chapter are the Israelite patriarchal tribes, the biblical kingdoms, Judaea and Israel, the Temple period, Diaspora Judaism, Hellenizers and Hasmoneans, Pharisees and Sadduccees, the ascetic Essenes, Maimonides, Rabbinic Judaism and the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds, and Early Christianity. We continue to read about life in Sephardic and Ashkenazic communities, the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition, Messianism, Hasidim and Mitnagdim, European Reform Judaism, Haskalah, and Zionism. Four chapters are devoted to the remarkable “kaleidoscope” of American Judaism. I loved the descriptions of today’s Orthodox communities. The differences between Centrist, Modern, and various types of ultra-Orthodoxy are explored. Reform, Conservative, Egalitarian, Reconstructionist, Renewal, and Kabbalah Judaism are elucidated. A chapter is devoted to Judaism by choice. I found the book a bit daunting at first, but was quickly hooked into reading the engaging description of the evolution of my identity as a Jew. I would have enjoyed reading about modern Sephardic communities. Included are extensive notes, glossary, index, and suggestions for further reading. MBA
YOU NEVER CALL! YOU NEVER WRITE! A HISTORY OF THE JEWISH MOTHER Joyce Antler Oxford University Press, 2007. 304 pp. $27.50 ISBN: 978-0-19-514787-2
hat’s the difference between a rottweiler and a Jewish mother? Eventually the rottweiler lets go.” Joyce Antler’s fascinating book, You Never Call! You Never Write! A History of the Jewish Mother, elucidates the social forces that have contributed to the malevolent stereotyping of the Jewish mother. Jewish humor, honed in the stand-up comedy acts in the Jewish Catskills and in the mass media, served to make Jewish mother stereotypes ubiquitous. Antler carefully traces how these Jewish mother images have changed over time and reflect the critical issues faced by the Jewish community, especially those dealing with tensions regarding acculturation and modernization, parent-child struggles over autonomy, and gender role imbalances. In the mid-1920’s, the immigrants’ ambitions portrayed “my yiddishe mama” as a “source of strength and nurturance,” not very different from the biblical “woman of valor.” This was followed by the “manipulative but kindhearted” Molly Goldberg who was the “quintessential” Jewish mother. In the 50’s, Jews faced the turbulence associated with entering mainstream America and the tenacity and protectiveness of the Jewish mother gets inverted. Jewish popular culture begins to portray the Jewish mother as a backward, crass, and manipulative puppeteer. The ambivalence of the Jewish community with new-found affluence and success in the
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REVIEWS: FICTION 1960’s generates a new set of images, that of the JAP (Jewish American Princess). In these jokes, Jewish women are depicted as spoiled, materialistic, self-serving, and shallow. The Jewish mother imagery begins to change with the women’s liberation movement when Jewish feminist writers, such as Robin Morgan and Shulamith Firestone, seek to positively connect daughters and mothers in their writings. Finally, it is the work of Jewish feminist academic scholars, such as Joyce Antler and Paula Hyman, that debunk the ugly stereotypes and document their pernicious effects on Jewish life. Today’s Jewish humor and literature reflect the latest cultural changes. Pernicious misogynistic and anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jewish women are no longer acceptable to most Jews. It is also true that it is no longer accurate to portray the Jewish group as a culturally homogenous population. Antler reports that one recent study found “at least 20 percent of the Jewish population is racially and ethnically diverse, including African American, Asian, Latino, mixed race, and Sephardic Jews.” This includes Jews by choice, adopted members, and children of intermarriage between people of color and Ashkenazi Jews. Jamaica Kincaid, the Caribbean-born author, is a Jewish mother. She converted after marrying a secular Jew and has served as president of the synagogue in her Vermont town. Lesbian Jewish mothers is another group that cannot be subsumed within previous stereotypes. Jewish comedy and literature are beginning to reflect these changes. Popular comedian Judy Gold, a Jewish lesbian mother of two, provides a much more nuanced and sympathetic view of Jewish mothers in her stand-up comedy acts. New books, such as Ima on the Bima by Mindy Avea Portnoy, serve to depict positive views of careerist Jewish mothers, including those who become rabbis. Joyce Antler identifies another interesting pattern, which serves to highlight the positive consequences of Jewish mothering. In this age when over fifty percent of American Jewish marriages include a non-Jewish partner, it is the families in which the mother is Jewish that the children are most likely to be raised as Jews and to feel connected to their Jewish identity.
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Cultural images of Jewish mothers and women have changed for the better. You Never Call! You Never Write! helps the reader understand how and why these changes have taken place. The highly readable quality of the writing will delight both the scholar and the average reader including those who are Jewish mothers, daughters, fathers, and sons. Joyce Antler is the Samuel Lane Professor of American Jewish History and Culture at Brandeis University. CP
ing Lamed Vavniks before it is too late. This latest DaVinci Code clone is not particularly exciting. The characters are onedimensional and the plot is trite. Public libraries with an audience for this type of material may consider The Book of Names, but academic and synagogue libraries do not need it. BMB
THE CIRCUMCISION Gyorgy Dalos; Judith Sallosy, trans. Marion Boyers Publishers Ltd, 2006. 140 pp. $14.95 (pbk.) ISBN: 978-0-7145-3123-6 (pbk.)
THE BOOK OF NAMES Jill Gregory and Karen Tintori St. Martin’s Press, 2007. 320 pp. $19.95 ISBN: 978-0-312-36632-2
rofessor David Shepherd is a troubled man. A childhood accident has come back to haunt him and he finds himself writing names of people he does not know and realizing that they are significant in some way. Visits to a therapist and Hassidic rabbi in Brooklyn help him discover that he has a copy of The Book of Names. According to Kabbalah, Adam wrote down the names of the Lamed Vavniks, the thirty-six righteous souls who keep the world intact. If all of them were to die, the world would end. The current generation of Lamed Vavniks is rapidly perishing of unnatural causes. As they die, the world becomes unstable, ravaged by war and natural disaster. David, assisted by a beautiful Israeli scholar, battles the Gnoseos, a secret religious cult with plans to take over the world once the righteous disappear. They must save the remain-
welve-year-old Robi Singer has not yet been circumcised—not an uncommon state of affairs in mid-1950’s Hungary, but now, with his bar mitzvah approaching, the pressure is on. A self-proclaimed Hungarian Communist Jew-for-Christ, Robi lives during the week in a spare, chronically underheated Jewish school located within a state orphanage. On Fridays he returns home to the shabby two-room apartment that he shares with his eccentric, communist grandmother and his agoraphobic, hyper-hypochondriacal mother—seventeen illnesses at last count—whom he accompanies to The Brotherhood of Jews for Christ on Sunday mornings. Day after day, Mother and Uncle Moric conduct their secret love affair in the bedroom of the small apartment while at her job at the Kerchief Dyers’ Cooperative, Grandmother schemes to make ends meet. Robi himself has started writing love poems for a fourteen-year-old cousin. And always, the circumcision lurks in the background. Plainly, with affection and gentle irony, author Gyorgy Dalos paints a warm comic
REVIEWS: FICTION picture of Jewish life in Budapest during the Stalinist regime of Matyas Rakosi. Gyorgy Dalos was born in Budapest in 1943 and now lives in Germany. In 1968 he was arrested for “activities against the state” and banned from publication for the next nineteen years. Hungarian-born translator, Judith Sollosy, lives in New York. JF
DROPPED FROM HEAVEN Sophie Judah Schocken Books, 2007. 256 pp. $23.00 ISBN: 978-0-8052-4248-5
eading Sophie Judah’s book of stories, Dropped From Heaven, is arresting for any number of reasons, not the least of which is that she is new to us as a writer, having recently received her degree in creative writing from Bar Ilan University in Israel, where she now lives. Intriguing as well, Judah’s stories are of an ancient Jewish ethnic group heretofore almost unexplored in fiction, the Bene Israel from her native India—presented chronologically in this collection, enabling us to intimately glimpse three recent historical periods and their impact on this unusual group. Thus we have “My Friend Joseph,” in which two young men in the early 20th century return from fighting in an Indian unit in the Boer War in South Africa who accidentally discover that they are both Jewish, then forging a friendship for life, their immediate commitment now to find themselves Jewish wives . In the next period, after 1930, in “My Son Jude,” Judah presents in graphic detail some of the hideous human tragedies between Hindus and Moslems that followed the 1947 partition of India and the impact on the horrified,
empathic tiny Jewish community which can only stand by helplessly. The period is also marked by Judah of the 1948 creation of the State of Israel, now providing a place for the beginning emigration of the Bene Israel with all its ensuing challenges—the wrenching resistance to leaving families behind, the inevitable bending of traditions and changing gender roles. In the last time frame, one that fast-forwards to the 21st century, in a story “The Funeral,” we see the problems of maintaining continuity between the new Israeli grandchildren and the aging few who have chosen to remain behind in India. This reviewer had the good fortune to witness the tiny but vibrant vestige of that oncethriving people, which can still be found though in small numbers in Bombay and Thana, a suburb of Bombay. The common thread interwoven throughout this rich tapestry of nineteen stories reveals Judah’s focus on this remote community once her own, its isolated origins in the southwest corner of India, which remarkably retained its commitment to the traditional Jewish laws of circumcision, kashrut, Shabbat, the ongoing problems of finding suitable Jewish mates for marriage. Judah’s strengths are her keen eye, her ear for dialogue, and her love for her Bene Israel heritage. One suspects also, that her interest in historical detail may give way in time to writing in other genres. Short story writing may be just the first glimpse of her many talents. RS
FOLKTALES OF THE JEWS, VOLUME 1: TALES FROM THE SEPHARDIC DISPERSION Dan Ben-Amos, ed. The Jewish Publication Society, 2006. 600 pp. $75.00 ISBN: 978-0-8276-0829-0
olktales of the Jews, Volume 1: Tales From the Sephardic Dispersion is a monumental, National Jewish Book Award-winning masterwork of memory, history, and minhagim. These seventy-one tales, edited by Dan Ben-Amos with Dov Noy, are gems from the rich repository of the Israel Folktale Archives (IFA). The IFA, named in honor of its founder, Professor Dov Noy, is the master collection of over 23,000 Jewish folktales culled from worldwide immigrants into Israel, telling the story, beyond history, of K’lal Yisroel. Noy gleaned a first English sampling in Folktales of the Jews (University of Chicago Press, 1963). Since then, scholars, educators, rabbis, and storytellers have drawn from this wellspring to tell our Jewish story. Numerous authors/storytellers, notably Barbara Rush, Peninnah Schram, and Howard Schwartz, have compiled influential and engaging anthologies and recordings, advancing the stories’ life and evolution. As Noy states in the Preface, the stories “...represent the endless creativity of the Jewish imagination.” A majority of the treasured IFA tales have not been translated into English. With the publication of this first volume (of a projected five volumes) in the series Folktales of the Jews, this long-awaited fifteen year project commences with Sephardic folktales. Four sections reveal their breadth and scope: Legends, Moral Tales, Folktales, and Humorous Tales. There are normative Jewish themes of tzedakah, prayer, and righteousness, with more specific emphasis on Sephardic motifs of cleverness, miracles, and survival. Subjects and themes interweave, forming a rich and enriching mosaic tapestry of Sephardic everyday life, concerns, traditions, history, culture, and dreams. The stories showcase both the similarities and the unique shadings of Sepharad, opening new perspectives on Jewry. Unlike Ashkenazi Jewish history, the beginnings of the Jewish settlement in Spain “are shrouded in legend, tangled in invented traditions, and fabricated by fake documentation” while the Expulsion is well documented. Stories are gathered from Greece, Turkey, Serbia, Bulgaria, Morocco, Jerusalem, and
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REVIEWS: FICTION beyond. Characters include Maimonides, King Solomon, the Ari, the trickster Djuha, and, surprisingly, the Eastern European Baal Shem Tov! Many tales have female heroes. The reader is immersed in the lands of Spanish Diaspora, not only learning fascinating and revealing stories, but also their context: the narrators and collectors, folktale motifs and types, literary background, and further bibliographic resources. One brief tale can have pages of notes, commentary, and cross-referencing of motifs, all essential aspects of the stories. Educators, rabbis, and storytellers will find gems for imparting living knowledge and experience of cultures, history, holidays, customs, values, and lifecycles within the tales in this treasure-trove collection. Not all
■ We are, after all, the people of the story, whenever and wherever we have lived.
■ of these tales are tell-able in their present form. They are, after all, traditional retellings from informal “narrators,” exclusive of the orality/polish of professional storytellers and literary renditions. However, they contain intriguing glimpses into the life and spirit of the Sephardic communities. The anthology’s first story, “The Tenth for a Minyan,” for example, includes Jerusalem history, Elijah, Yom Kippur, halachot, minhagim, mitzvot, and a miracle! A sampling of themes serves to show the breadth of these fascinating tales. “The Rich Man and His Two Sons” (Turkey) imparts ethical teachings. “The Pregnant King” (Italy) humorously shows healing through diversion. “An Old Man’s Advice” (Turkey) is a turning of a known Near Eastern Jewish and Moslem tale. “This Too Shall Pass” is a Moroccan version of the famous Solomon story. “Letter from the Angel of Death” (Israel/Greece) has Jewish variants from eight other countries. Folktales of the Jews is a profoundly valuable collection, a resource of living history,
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extending our knowledge of K’lal Yisroel through the medium of our stories. We are, after all, the people of the story, whenever and wherever we have lived. Abbreviations, bibliography, collectors, indexes, and narrators. CKS
KALOOKI NIGHTS Howard Jacobson Simon & Schuster, 2007. 464 pp. $26.00 ISBN: 978-1-4165-4342-8
JAMES STURM’S AMERICA: GOD, GOLD, AND GOLEMS James Sturm Drawn & Quarterly, 2007. 192 pp. $24.95 ISBN: 978-1-897299-05-0
sing the themes of faith, greed, and entertainment, this new compilation of three previously published graphic novels by James Sturm, founder and director of the Center for Cartoon Studies, offers readers a unique view of American history. The Revival takes place in the early 1800’s, during a time when religious sects flourished in the shifting boundaries of the American frontier. The second story, Hundreds of Feet Below Daylight, takes place in the late 1800’s, and shows the effects of greed on the lives of miners who have lost everything to find gold. The final story in the trilogy, The Golem’s Mighty Swing, is the only one with any Jewish content. Originally published in 1998, it follows a traveling baseball team, The Stars of David, on their journey through Midwest America during the 1920’s. Faced with growing anti-Semitism, a broken bus, and no money, the captain of the team, Noah “The Zion Lion” Strauss, agrees to try a promotional stunt. By suiting up their only African-American player as a golem, the team’s gimmick not only draws crowds, but also violence stemming from fear and prejudice. Notes and sources for further reading round out this interesting trilogy. WW
n the opening of Howard Jacobson’s superb novel, Kalooki Nights, the narrator, Max Glickman, reunites with his childhood friend, Manny, who has committed a terrible crime. What follows is not just a heartbreaking investigation into Manny’s illicit act, but also the story of their shared childhood, growing up in a British suburb in the 1940’s. Political debate, discussions about Jewishness, and card-playing were at the center of Max’s family life, which includes a memorable cast of characters coming in and out of the Glickman home, while Manny grew up as an Orthodox Jew in a strict household. The common thread that connected the boys had always been their love for Jewish history. Years later when they meet again, Manny and Max are still consumed by considerations of Jewish identity, and Jacobson continues to explore how different domestic upbringings helped to inform their futures. As a cartoonist who dramatizes events from Jewish history (his opus is entitled Five Thousand Years of Bitterness), Max employs a melancholic sense of humor in his work. To some extent, Jacobson is surely playing with his own reputation as, first and foremost, a comic novelist. Yet many of the other characters have relevant and philosophical things to say as well, and Jacobson juxtaposes the comedic and the profound with ease. Chapter epigraphs include quotes from Rembrandt to Groucho Marx, and Wittgenstein to Jerry Siegel (co-creator of Superman). Although consistently and boisterously entertaining, this
REVIEWS: FICTION novel is not merely a romp through a recollected past; through Max’s insights on cartooning, and his investigation into Manny’s crime, questions of Jewish identity and the legacy of the Holocaust persist. PS
LOVE AND OTHER IMPOSSIBLE PURSUITS Ayelet Waldman Doubleday, 2006. 352 pp. $23.95 ISBN: 978-0-385-51530-6
n Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, Ayelet Waldman subtly challenges readers to ponder some easily overlooked questions burgeoning with deep social implications: Are maternal instincts innate in every female? When and how does an adult female develop maternal instincts? Does every female necessarily develop them by virtue of simply being female? Does giving birth make a woman a mom or a mother, and is there a difference? When lead character and attorney Emilie Greenleaf marries an older, established partner at her swanky Manhattan law firm following their torrid affair and his subsequent acrimonious divorce, she instantly gains another title: step-mother. William, Jack Greenleaf’s five-year-old son, is inquisitive, intelligent and understandably distraught by his parent’s breakup and the new woman in his father’s life. William’s mother Carolyn, a popular Manhattan gynecologist whose screechy, disdainful attitude stereotypes “the woman scorned,” consistently undermines Emilie’s attempts to establish a relationship with William by beseechingly tattling to Jack about anything Emilie does that might seem the least bit questionable.
For example, when Emilie picks William up from preschool at the 92nd Street Y after forgetting an umbrella on a cold, rainy day, Carolyn accuses her of doing so purposely to get William sick. Complicating matters is that Emilie still grieves the recent death of her two-day-old daughter, Isabel. Jack, a pragmatic man with an agonizingly annoying ex-wife, a precocious young son who has spent a great deal of time in therapy for various difficulties Carolyn insists were brought on by Emilie’s intrusion in their lives, and a demanding law practice, is too busy to express his grief outwardly. By having to parent, or at least interact with and supervise William while Jack and Carolyn toil endlessly at their respective professions while she is still mourning Isabel, Emilie is unwittingly thrust into an incredibly difficult and nearly impossible quandary: how to parent and mother when those instincts have not only not yet kicked in, but have been severed by a sudden and irreversible trauma. Waldman’s sometimes humorous, painstakingly accurate portrayal of parenthood, lost dreams and the gravities and realities of life, love and family make for a dynamic read that is not only entertaining but thought-provoking, as well. TKM
MATCHMAKER, MATCHMAKER Joanne Sundell Five Star, 2006. 302 pp. $26.95 ISBN: 978-1-59414-411-0
n her first published book, Joanne Sundell takes us back to mid-19th century America, telling a story about the struggle to survive and find romance while facing cultural and religious prejudices. Zoe-Esther Zundelevich and her father, Yitzchak, new immigrants from Russia, travel from Philadelphia to the Colorado Territory, hoping that the dry weather out West will cure Yitzchak’s tuberculosis. Having just graduated from medical school, Zoe-Esther defies gender and religious stereotypes and attempts to set up a life in the Wild West. There she meets Jake, an owner of a local saloon who drinks, gambles, and most
problematic for Zoe-Esther, is not Jewish. She knows that he cannot be her beshert; in addition to not being Jewish, Jake was not the name given to her by the matchmaker of her eventual match. Matchmaker, Matchmaker provides an enjoyable plot, while exposing the reader to the hardships and prejudices experienced by Jewish immigrants over a hundred years ago. Embedded within the cultural narrative is a story of an intriguing, forbidden romance. Sundell is careful to provide English translations and explanations for all Yiddish, Hebrew, and Jewish references, enabling readers of all backgrounds to fully comprehend the story. SK
THE MINISTRY OF SPECIAL CASES Nathan Englander Alfred A. Knopf, 2007. 339 pp. $25.00 ISBN: 978-0-375-40493-1
n his long-awaited follow-up to the story collection For the Relief of Unbearable Urges, Nathan Englander has written a strange and moving novel about a Jewish family in Buenos Aires during the country’s “Dirty War.” By turns comic, grotesque and tragic, The Ministry of Special Cases tells the story of the Poznan family—the father Kaddish, son of a prostitute, who is hired by wealthy Argentine Jews to erase the gravestones of their criminal ancestors; the mother Lillian, from a more wholesome family, who keeps hoping Kaddish will leave his job for something more respectable; and the son Pato, sweet and naive, who becomes a “disappeared” victim of Argentina’s paranoid military junta. Kaddish and Lillian’s quest to find Pato
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JBW TALKS TO NATHAN ENGLANDER By Daniel Schifrin Daniel Schifrin, a columnist for New York Jewish Week, and currently a visiting scholar at Stanford University, spoke with Nathan Englander about his new book, The Ministry of Special Cases.
DS: The Ministry of Special Cases, your first novel, is propelled by a middleaged couple searching for their “disappeared” son during Argentina’s dirty war. The father, Kaddish, makes a lot of noise and tries to go around the system. The mother, Lillian, is quieter, and wants to work with the government. These decisions seem to echo larger Jewish choices about whether or not to rock the boat when there is trouble in the societies in which they have lived. NE: “I’m interested in the kinds of decisions Jews are forced to make as a community. There’s always this epic tension over whether it’s better to be confrontational or diplomatic. If you want historical examples, I’d say Purim and Channukah cover the two poles. The story of Purim is one of finesse and Chanukkah is about conflict. And as much as Kaddish and Lillian may embody the two sides of the argument, for me the book is less about how a community deals with the outside world in times of crisis than about how a community deals with itself. The novel is very much about the role of the outsider. And I think you’d agree, Kaddish can’t be any further on the outside.” DS: Your first book, the story collection For the Relief of Unbearable Urges is a staple of Jewish book groups and library collections around the world. Had you expected to have a strong Jewish focus when you started the novel? NE: “There are a lot of Jewish elements in the book. At first I thought there wouldn’t be a dominant Jewish thread (despite the fact that the Poznans were Jewish), and in that way the novel would be a departure from the stories. It’s hard to explain, but I often feel like people want me to objectify my characters, to see them as Jewish in a way that I find limiting, and I was responding to that. In the end, my characters are my characters. And once I understood what was takes them to police stations, cemeteries, a plastic surgeon’s office, and the fictional but terrifyingly real Ministry of Special Cases. Kaddish, with one foot in the underworld, is always pressing for an off-thebooks approach. Lillian, more comfortable with the world of laws and protocol, tries to work the system. These conflicting choices echo the decisions of persecuted Jews
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happening, the book really began to take shape. The stories, in the end, were about the divide between religious and secular, the tension between those two worlds.The novel is very much about community and identity. As the story developed, the Jewish themes really made their way in. As for my initial intentions, they don’t much matter. A novel eventually makes its own demands.” DS: Would you agree that The Ministry of Special Cases is, in some deep way, a moral and political novel? NE: “That’s part of what drew me to Argentina as a setting—the pervasive role that politics plays in daily life. Things may be different now, but when I was growing up in America, politics didn’t really affect us. My friends don’t say ‘My life was never the same after Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.’ It’s very different for Argentines. And it’s very different for Israelis. I lived in Jerusalem, and it’s a real struggle to live the life of an individual when history and politics, when questions of life and death, are part of your day to day. And that’s why I focus on one family in the novel. It’s about living the life of a family when that also becomes the life of a nation.” DS: How was writing a novel different than working on stories? NE: “There can be a perfect short story that rests, more or less, on story alone. A big fat novel has to be about character. The center of gravity is different. I say this as if it’s obvious, though it took me the better part of a decade to learn.” DS: How did you do the research for the book? NE: “I work in reverse. I have a great fear of authority, and knowing too much historical detail would be limiting for me. Once I have the idea, and whatever random and disparate facts that I need, I set to work. As for accuracy, it sounds a bit ‘sincere,’ but I do believe if you spend enough time dreaming it, and writing it, if you put enough time into it, what you imagine will be true. I want things to form as they need to for the novel. And then, when it’s done, I reverse engineer it. Anything that the novel demands, whether it’s inventing a ministry or a cemetery, is, by virtue of its necessity, true. And then anything else— and I mean anything, I become a true madman about it—I check, and re-check, and fix. So I’ll invent a Ministry of Special Cases and build a novel around it, but when Kaddish brings home ice cream for his family, the flavors better be right.
over many centuries and continents, and in Englander’s voice reflect both the metaphysical absurdity of Kafka and the political absurdity of Gogol. Displaying Englander’s typical wit, The Ministry of Special Cases is full of unexpected scenes, many of them offering strange twists on Jewish identity. For instance, Kaddish fears his son will be arrested merely for
having political books in his bedroom, so he burns them in the bathtub—not a prelude to burning bodies, as in Nazi Germany, but an attempt to stop it. Englander also gives Lillian and Kaddish perfect nose jobs. But instead of these beautiful new noses being a repudiation of the past—the usual goal— Lillian and Kaddish realize they no longer look anything like their missing son. They
REVIEWS: FICTION have symbolically erased both the connection to their past and to their future. There is not much grace for the Poznan family, except for small moments. When the uneducated Kaddish, already at odds with his son about so much, finally starts burning his books, he “found it calming, this nice warm light, blue and then yellow. He enjoyed this window of time when he’d done what needed doing, and there wasn’t yet any harm. He’d never expected a happy life, only moments of joy to carry him through. This he would cherish. For one perfect moment the book was on fire and did not burn.” The image of these books, as well as Kaddish and Lillian’s noses, disappearing into thin air offers a key to understanding one of the book’s main arguments—how easy it is for lives, especially Jewish lives, to be erased. DRS
are enduring cold and near starvation. Galloping to the rescue is the brilliant and brave hero of this fascinating novel, Vesuvia Adelia Rachel Ortese Aguilar of Salerno, Sicily. Adelia is a true oddity for her time, a female doctor who is an expert in examining the dead. Once she reaches England, she cannot be known as a doctor, lest she be declared a witch and sent to her death. With her Muslim bodyguard pretending to be the doctor and Adelia his assistant, she commences the adventure of navigating the culture and the details of a complex case. Author Ariana Franklin deftly combines historical fiction, mystery, a feminist treatise, and an unlikely romance into a great read. NT
MY OWN VINEYARD: A JEWISH FAMILY IN KRAKOW BETWEEN THE WARS MISTRESS OF THE ART OF DEATH Ariana Franklin Putnam, 2007. 400 pp. $25.95 ISBN: 978-0-3991-5414-0
he scene is Cambridge, England in the year 1171. Children are being murdered and the superstitious locals are convinced that a Jew is to blame for the crimes. A prominent Jew has already been murdered in revenge and a petition has been sent to King Henry II requesting that all Jews be banished from the kingdom. Ahead of his time, the king is a rational man. He doubts the guilt of the Jews and needs the taxes he collects from their community. To calm the local populace and for their own protection, the Jews of Cambridge have been locked up in a castle, where they
Miriam Akavia Valentine Mitchell, 2006. 340 pp. $23.50 ISBN: 978-0-85303-519-0
rakow, Poland, from the beginning of the 20th century to the eve of the German occupation in September 1939 is the setting for this gripping novel by Miriam Akavia. The author, herself a Holocaust survivor, weaves an intriguing tale of three generations of a Jewish family and their tribulations as they struggle to keep their dignity during those difficult times. Military service, assimilation, economic success and failure, and immigration to Eretz Israel are just a few of the complex challenges that this motherless family of eight children face. What makes My Own Vineyard unusual is that it is set in Krakow rather than Warsaw, Poland. BSC
OVERTURE Yael Goldstein Doubleday, 2007. 304 pp. $24.95 ISBN: 978-0-385-51781-2
verture is a romantic story about great musical talent, but no musical literacy is required to thoroughly enjoy this debut novel, which describes three generations of mother/daughter relationships, student/mentor interactions, artistic temperaments, composing vs. performing, fulfillment and heartbreak, self-sacrifice and selfishness. Natasha Darsky, “the most famous violinist since Paganini,” is quite a celebrity. We are privy to the glamour in her whirlwind life, as Goldstein describes her world-wide competitions and performance tours. We read about Natasha’s loves—her manager/parents, the artistic men in her life, and her daughter, Alex, who grows to surpass her mother’s creative genius in music. The story takes place in New York City, on American college campuses, and on foreign musical stages. MBA
PRELIMINARIES S.Yizhar; Nicholas De Lange, trans; Dan Miron, fwd. Toby Press, 2007. 289 pp. $24.95 ISBN: 978-1-59264-190-1
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REVIEWS: FICTION Yizhar’s final novel reveals a boy’s loss of innocence growing up in a farming community in Palestine and then in the young city of Tel Aviv. Told from the retrospective viewpoint of the narrator in 1991, events from the character’s past in the early 1900’s–1930 unfold. Through stream of consciousness, S. Yizhar explores the hardships and frustrations the boy experiences as the child of a pioneer. The novel is also the tale of men and women who devoted their lives to create a new land in times of hardship. S.Yizhar died in 2006 at the age of 90. A recommendation: Read the introduction by Dan Miron, who has insight into S.Yizhar’s work. A glossary would have been useful to briefly explain the allusions to newspapers and other written work. SPS
New York: The Big City, the first piece in the book, is a series of vignettes giving a portrait of a city which, as Eisner writes in the introduction, “is in the crevices on its floors and around the smaller pieces of its architecture, where daily life swirls.” He chooses to show his city from the bottom up, from subway grates and stoops to the ongoing theater of life as seen in the windows of apartment buildings. City People Notebook, the third component of the book, is also a series of small portraits; Eisner organizes his notebook around what he deems the “major environmental factors that characterize the city,” which are time, smell, rhythm, and space. Eisner inserts himself into many of these snippets, which resemble pages torn from a sketchbook.
■ This compilation of four graphic pieces, created between 1981 and 1992, is a satisfying serving of some of the best Eisner has to offer. Each of the four parts is filled to the brim with memorable characters and remarkable drawings that defy the stereotypes of typical comic books.
■ WILL EISNER’S NEW YORK: LIFE IN THE BIG CITY Will Eisner W.W. Norton, 2006. 448 pp. $29.95 ISBN: 978-0-393-06106-2
n a career stretching from the birth of the comic book industry in the 1930’s to the wild popularity of graphic novels in the last few years, Will Eisner was an inspiration to many authors, including Michael Chabon, whose prizewinning novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is based in part on Eisner. This compilation of four graphic pieces, created between 1981 and 1992, is a satisfying serving of some of the best Eisner has to offer. Each of the four parts is filled to the brim with memorable characters and remarkable drawings that defy the stereotypes of typical comic books.
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The other two works in the compilation, The Building and Invisible People, are more traditional graphic novels in that they tell stories with developed characters. The Building opens with four ghosts standing outside a building; Eisner goes on to relate how each of them was associated with the building before it was torn down. Invisible People explores how ordinary people can live and die without making much of an impact on the world around them. Both stories do an excellent job of showing the isolation that can exist within big cities. With new illustrations and introductions, as well as “out-takes,” this collection of graphic pieces is an admirable companion to last year’s The Contract with God Trilogy, and both are destined to become classic examples of one man’s extraordinary career. WW
THE YIDDISH POLICEMEN’S UNION Michael Chabon HarperCollins, 2007. 432 pp. $26.95 ISBN: 978-0-00-714982-7
alk about your alternate universe! Michael Chabon has come up with a wild surprise. In his new, alternate-history novel, Chabon postulates a world in which Israel did not succeed in becoming an independent state in 1948. European Jews, desperately seeking refuge, were resettled instead into a strip of the Alaska coast. Jews being Jews, their society grew with all the complexities Jewish communities develop wherever they take root; tensions between the Jews and the native Indians, tensions between the black hat Jews and their modern co-religionists, crime, recreation, romantic entanglements and all. This post-war Alaskan Jewish world is richly imagined and painstakingly detailed with life unfolding for its inhabitants as life tends to do, in a messy, exciting, vibrant manner. Then Chabon, using this unique setting, further sets all expectation on its head. He has created a novel that completely transcends genre, borrowing from, satirizing and thoroughly milking them all. He plays with the concept of genre, stretching it, riffing on it and clearly having fun creating something new. What we have here seems at first to be a gritty detective story and just as one settles in to enjoy it, it becomes a romance, no—a historical fiction, no—a Jerusalem-syndrome thriller, no—a sociology text, wait—it’s a comedy! The only genre left out is sci-fi! Each style is bounced off the other with a definite tongue-in-cheek approach synergizing into a readable pageturner along the way.
REVIEWS: HISTORY The cast of character is a motley yet endearing crew. In addition to our detective hero, there’s his partner, half Tlingit Indian, half Jew with a distinct personality legacy from each side. There’s the hard-boiled softie who’s our detective hero’s current boss and ex-wife. There’s a rebbe crime-boss, of course, and an otherworldly Messiah candidate who has met an untimely end. Where could one possibly find such a conglomeration of offbeat characters? Well, in Jewish Alaska, of course, where else? We have come to expect masterly writing from Chabon, and this novel doesn’t disappoint. Most of his characters speak Yiddish to one another, so he seamlessly flavors his English with an unmistakable Yiddishe taam. And some of the writing can cause you to positively catch your breath. From a paragraph on waiting with despair in a hospital room: “The clock on the hospital wall hummed to itself, got antsy, kept snapping off pieces of the night with its minute hand.” From a paragraph about the evergreen yearning of Jews for their ancient homeland: “They are standing in a desert wind under the date palms, ...in flowing robes that keep out the biblical sun, speaking Hebrew and they are all friends and brothers together, and mountains skip like rams, and hills like little lambs.” Michael Chabon has created something original. That’s something that doesn’t happen very often. Don’t miss it. MHM
the Final Solution from 1939 to 1945. Both chapters attempt to place the assault on Jewry into a broader Nazi racial and political context, while also retaining an understanding of the uniquely Jewish aspects of Nazi policy. In this respect, the two chapters are a summary of, and good complement for, Benz’s brief The Holocaust: A German Historian Examines the Genocide (1999). I have one criticism of the book: Benz added an introduction for the American edition that adds some of the needed German history background that most readers in this country will need to place the Nazis into their proper German context. Albeit, this eight page excursus and the eleven page prologue that follows (detailing the fall of the Weimar Republic) are too cursory to be of any real use. If Benz sought to explain how the Nazis managed to wrest control of Germany in 1933, he should have devoted an entire chapter to that subject. AJE
Steven Lee Beeber Chicago Review Press, 2006. 259 pp. $24.95 ISBN: 978-1-55652-613-8
A CONCISE HISTORY OF THE THIRD REICH Wolfgang Benz University of California Press, 2006. 331 pp. $35.00 ISBN: 978-0-520-23489-5
olfgang Benz’s sixth book is an overview of the history of Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. Fifteen well written and nicely translated chapters cover Nazi state and society in a thematic and broadly chronological fashion. The Holocaust is covered in two chapters: chapter nine, dealing with the persecution of German Jewry from 1933 to 1939, and chapter thirteen, reviewing
together with a final element crucial to Jewish culture–family. In no other place is this more apparent than in the story of The Dictators, outerboro punks fronted by Handsome Dick
■ ...self-loathing and guilt are very much a part of Jewish life.
■ Manitoba, whose borscht-belt, irreverent comedy between songs endeared him to the early audiences and to Epic Records. But when the first album tanked, The Dictators rebranded themselves as a more “serious” band, and their glow slowly faded...their thunder seized by the Ramones. From Lou Reed to John Zorn, author Beeber weaves an intriguing tale, with each chapter pulling the covers off some of the most famous and infamous punks and showing how their Jewish heritage and experience made them, and they made the music. BW
A HISTORY OF THE JEWS IN THE MODERN WORLD Howard M. Sachar Knopf, 2006. 848 pp. $22.00 (pbk.) ISBN: 978-1-4000-3097-2 (pbk.)
THE HEEBIE JEEBIES AT CBGB: A SECRET HISTORY OF JEWISH PUNK
hen Heebie Jeebies crossed my desk, I was intrigued by the premise: how Judaism as a faith and tradition influenced the people responsible for making my scene what it was. Anyone who’s seen a Woody Allen movie can tell you that self-loathing and guilt are very much a part of Jewish life. What’s also a part of that same culture is the ability to use art, music, and dark humor to survive and transcend. Punk is a culmination of all of those things, tied
he eminent Jewish historian Howard M. Sachar has returned to his roots for his seventeenth book: a comprehensive survey of modern Jewish history. The book is both less and more than what it appears to be. At its core it is a thoroughly rewritten version of Sachar’s earlier The Course of Modern Jewish History (which first appeared in the late 1950’s). Sachar has not only added sections that bring Jewish history to the end of the 20th century, but he has revised much of his previous text in light of new scholarship. Particularly impressive is Sachar’s attempt to reintegrate the modern history of Sephardi and Latin American Jewry into the mainstream of his narrative. This is a useful book, encyclopedic in scope but easily read. AJE
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KABBALAH: AN INTRODUCTION TO JEWISH MYSTICISM Byron L. Sherwin Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2006. 264 pp. $79.00 ISBN: 978-0-7425-4363-8
KABBALAH: A LOVE STORY KABBALAH: THE MYSTIC QUEST IN JUDAISM
Lawrence Kushner Broadway Books, 2006. 208 pp. $17.95 (pbk.) ISBN: 978-0-7679-2412-2 (pbk.)
THE QUILTING PATH: A GUIDE TO SPIRITUAL DISCOVERY THROUGH FABRIC, THREAD AND KABBALAH
David Ariel Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2006. 256 pp. $17.95 (pbk.) ISBN: 978-0-7425-4564-9 (pbk.)
Louise Silk Skylight Paths Publishing, 2006. 200 pp. $16.99 ISBN: 978-1-59473-206-5
JUDAISM AND JUSTICE: THE JEWISH PASSION TO REPAIR THE WORLD KABBALAH: A BRIEF INTRODUCTION FOR CHRISTIANS Tamar Frankiel Jewish Lights Publishing, 2006. 176 pp. $16.95 ISBN: 978-1-58023-303-3
MICHELANGELO IN RAVENSBRÜCK: ONE WOMAN’S WAR AGAINST THE NAZIS Countess Karolina Lanckoronska Da Capo Press/Perseus, 2007. 368 pp. $26.00 ISBN: 978-0-3068-1537-9
ountess Karolina Lanckoronska, a wealthy landowner and professor of art history, watched the Soviet Army march into Poland. Although she was descended from Germans on her mother’s side, and the family had spent many years living in
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Sidney Schwarz Jewish Lights Publishing, 2006. 352 pp. $24.99 ISBN: 978-1-58023-312-5
Austria, she strongly identified as a Pole, and shortly after the invasion of Poland, had joined the Resistance. This woman was a devout Catholic; her religion helped greatly to sustain her. After her arrest and imprisonment in Ravensbrück, where her treatment varied from privileged to punishment, she taught art history in the camp and comforted as many women as she could. Her observations are extremely interesting, stemming as they do, from a Polish Christian, not a Jew. In the beginning of the Occupation, the Countess had much
THE SOUL OF THE STORY: MEETINGS WITH REMARKABLE PEOPLE David Zeller Jewish Lights Publishing, 2005. 288 pp. $21.99 ISBN: 978-1-58023-272-2
more to fear from the Russian invaders who begrudged “capitalists,” and especially from their Ukrainian puppets who hated the Poles, than from the Germans. Worried about the fate of the missing Polish intelligentsia, the Countess challenged the German commander as to their whereabouts and condition, soon to find herself in a cell, as well. In the beginning, her quarters were quite good, but as she refused to cooperate and challenged her captors, conditions degraded and the camp commander, Hans Krüger, continued to pressure her, suspect-
REVIEWS: HISTORY here is something ironic about today’s popularization of Kabbalah. For over a thousand years Kabbalah was the most esoteric of concepts in Judaism. The study of Kabbalah was permitted to only an elite few. To enter the world of the Kabbalist was to enter a secret, closed society. Kabbalah and the few Kabbalistic texts that existed were shrouded in secrecy. Today Kabbalah books are found in airports, on the street corners of major cities, and in New York City subways. This once guarded concept, so hidden from the masses that its mystique was in itself mystifying, has gone mainstream. Beach-goers, soccer moms and pop music enthusiasts are dabbling in Kabbalah. Madonna, a far cry from the longbearded decipherer of Kabbalistic secrets, has become today’s patron of Kabbalah. It is hard to believe that not very long ago it was nearly impossible to find a single newly-published book in English on Kabbalah. Today, there are hundreds of books and not surprisingly, most of them are either too simple or too inaccurate to have any real value. Taking the most esoteric of concepts and popularizing it is a challenge. The secrets of Kabbalah are found in the words themselves. The words are in Hebrew and Aramaic and not easily understood even to those who know the languages, let alone to those who can avail themselves only of English translations and who have no knowledge of the depth and the foundation upon which the worlds themselves are constructed. Learning Kabbalah without a foundation in Judaism is like running before crawling. Traditionally one had to be forty years old before even opening up the basic Kabbalah text called the Book of Zohar,
ing that she was in the Resistance. Although this book is about the way Christian Poles suffered, she notes that the Jews were just murdered wholesale (and after the war offered to testify against Krüger, former Chief of the Gestapo in Stanislawow. Poland, charged with the mass mur-
which has been loosely translated as the Book of Light, the Book of Splendor and the Book of Iridescence. The Zohar itself is a commentary on the Five Books of Moses. There are two classic works on the Kabbalah, Gershom Scholem’s Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism published in 1946 and Moshe Idel’s Kabbalah: New Perspectives published in 1988. Scholem was the first. He was a giant. He translated the concepts of Kabbalah and then Idel followed and expanded Scholem’s remarkable insight into the hidden mysteries of Kabbalah. These books are the benchmark against which every other book on Kabbalah and every author who undertakes to write another book about Kabbalah must be measured. The books we are about to look at now are an interesting array of titles. From the mainstream secular press to Jewish presses, from the history of the development of Kabbalah to the people who study Kabbalah and the customs surrounding Kabbalah, these works are all directed at beginner devotees of Kabbalah. As an example of how widespread interest in Kabbalah has become, there is a book out on quilting and spirituality. At first, I laughed, but then I thought about it. Why not? Quilting is one of those chores that lends itself to thoughts that can be especially peaceful and those thoughts can lead to the development of a closer relationship with God. The Quilting Path: A Guide to Spiritual Discovery Through Fabric, Thread and Kabbalah by Louise Silk fits perfectly into the category of practical Kabbalah. Also in the category of practical Kabbalah is The Soul of the Story: Meetings with Remarkable People, by David Zeller. This work is a retelling of situations and encounters that moved Rabbi Zeller der of Jews). Eventually she was released to the International Red Cross and allowed to stay with her brother in Switzerland. Of everything in her memoir that impressed me, I marked her musings about German scholarship of the past, which follow: “I thought about German scholarship, to
along his own path toward mystical spirituality. It is a very personal work and is filled with humor. The last book in the category of practical Kabbalah is Judaism and Justice: The Jewish Passion to Repair the World, by Sidney Schwarz. This book is less about Kabbalah per se and more about the objectives and implications of Kabbalah. It is about the Jewish obligation to fix the world. On the more classical side, David Ariel has produced a wonderful description and explication of Kabbalah in his work Kabbalah: the Mystic Quest in Judaism. Byron Sherwin does the same in his exceptional work, Kabbalah: An Introduction to Jewish Mysticism. These two authors, each in his own way, examine the aura surrounding Kabbalah, demystifying the ancient lore and making it a more accessible bank of information for the interested and curious reader. Tamar Frankiel shoots for a very different approach in her new book Kabbalah: A Brief Introduction for Christians. This is a popular and easily read survey of Jewish mysticism written in terms familiar to followers of all religions. Lawrence Kushner enters the world of Kabbalah from an entirely different direction. Kushner has written a novel entitled Kabbalah: A Love Story. In the novel he introduces the reader to the wondrous elements of Jewish mysticism. This book is a story of Kabbalah, not a text about Kabbalah. The reader is introduced to Kabbalah from the inside rather than from a scholarly point of view. For centuries the curious and the learned were drawn to the secrets of Kabbalah. For better or for worse, today Kabbalah draws the masses. Readers beware. MDH which I myself owed so much...And now these same Germans, by their very existence were disgracing the humanity to which they belonged. Who would be blamed for what was happening today? In this one camp, how many Krügers are there (men and women), not to mention the missions of pas-
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REVIEWS: ISRAEL STUDIES sive Germans who, by their indifferent attitude, not only make possible but effectively support these unseen crimes?” Appendices, index of names, notes, photos. MWP
sober and patient tracing of the vicissitudes of Communist Party and Socialist party politics, as well as fascism’s factional advocates, he sprinkles brief bios of many familiar (to older readers) notables who may have had anything to do with his so-called “antifascist crusade.” Wald’s intellectual peep show feature may have slightly more reader interest than the heavier background portion, but the entire product is a garden of reader delights. Acknowledgments, index, notes, and sources. SIB
it is recorded. Indeed, Bigsby’s chapter on Anne Frank’s diary and the ramifications of its various iterations and interpretations in book, stage, and film is worth the purchase of this book alone. Although a familiarity with some of the writers described in Bigsby’s work will help the reader, Bigsby’s own intimate knowledge of the texts he describes makes them accessible even to the novice. The book is not light reading, but extremely valuable to those who value Jewish history and its preservation. JBK
HOLOCAUST STUDIES ISRAEL STUDIES TRINITY OF PASSION: THE LITERARY LEFT & THE ANTIFASCIST CRUSADE
ARAB-ISRAELI MILITARY FORCES IN AN ERA OF ASYMMETRIC WARS
Alan M. Wald University of North Carolina Press, 2007. 344 pp. $34.95 ISBN: 978-0-8078-3075-8
Anthony H. Cordesman Praeger, 2006. 432 pp. $89.95 ISBN: 978-0-275-99186-9
his readable and informative volume of technical research is volume two of a trilogy covering the lives and careers of several generations of American left wing writers working against the existing system, to a greater or lesser extent. In the present volume, most of the writers entered the literary business in the latter half of the 1930’s. Wald determined to dig into the “trajectories,” i.e., outward bound movements, involving “lit-
nthony Cordesman is one of the foremost military analysts of the early 21st century, a retired U.S. Army general, television and radio commentator, and the author of more than a dozen books on international security. He has already dealt with the Middle East in detail in such works as The Military Balance in the Middle East (2004) and The Israeli-Palestinian War: Escalating to Nowhere (2005). In his present book, Cordesman seeks to assess the impact that America’s “global war on terrorism” has had in the Middle East. Two issues are of particular importance: First, Cordesman attempts to explain and contextualize the new technological and doctrinal perspectives that surround what has come to be known as Fourth Generation Warfare (also known as NetCentric Warfare) for Middle Eastern armies. Second is the rise of a potent antidote to this new style of warfare—known in military circles as Asymmetrical Warfare, which uses irregular forces, guerilla tactics, and terrorism to counter the advantages of Net-Centric militaries. Although the best example of this warfare is in Iraq, combat in Lebanon and Gaza during the summer of 2006 also falls into this category. Cordesman’s chapter
■ ...a trilogy covering the lives and careers of several generations of American left wing writers working against the existing system.
■ erary, personal, and political” interests, in what he calls the period of the “‘antifascist crusade,’” which they pursued with blind zeal. Jewish figures are referred to throughout the book, and Jews are also given three separate chapters. One of the commendable features of Wald’s treasure trove of information here is that, embedded throughout his
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REMEMBERING AND IMAGINING THE HOLOCAUST: THE CHAIN OF MEMORY Christopher Bigsby Cambridge University Press, 2006. 416 pp. $35.00 ISBN: 978-0-521-86934-8
igsby explores the blurred line between memory and the literature of the Holocaust terrain in what begins as an elegy to W. G. Sebald (Austerlitz, The Emigrants), whose works walk the same line between fact and fiction. Bigsby devotes a chapter apiece to a seemingly diverse group of writers on Holocaust themes, including Anne Frank, Primo Levi, Arthur Miller, Tadeusz Borowski, and Elie Weisel. Along the way, Bigsby explores such vital questions as whose memories are to be given over for posterity; what defines a “true” memory; who retains the right to pass on his or her memories; and whether the integrity of any memory, especially of such an unforgettable, indescribable set of experiences such as the Holocaust, can be truly preserved as
REVIEWS: ISRAEL STUDIES on Israel is likely to be of special interest to readers of Jewish Book World. Cordesman argues that Israelis are making a major error in trying to copy (on a smaller scale) the current ethos of the US military. The IDF, he writes, is erring in its American style focus on using high-tech equipment that lacks staying power in order to avoid casualties. Casualty avoidance in the short term generally brings with it an avoidance of decisive military action that results in much greater casualties in the long term. AJE
places as the students themselves: Bukhara, Ethiopia, Hungary, India, Iran, Kurdistan, Libya, Morocco, Poland, Romania, Russia, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen. I learned about different Shabbat foods and possible reasons for the havdalah spice box tower shape, about holidays unfamiliar to me such as the Ethiopian Sigd, the Moroccan observance of Mimouna–Isru Chag Pesach (the day after Passover) and different communities’ celebrations of Purim Sheni (second Purim). Bibliography, footnotes, glossary, photo credits. MBA
THE STATE OF THE MIDDLE EAST: AN ATLAS OF CONFLICT AND RESOLUTION Dan Smith University of California Press, 2006. 128 pp. $19.95 (pbk.) ISBN: 978-0-520-24868-7 (pbk.)
A MOSAIC OF ISRAEL’S TRADITIONS: UNITY THROUGH DIVERSITY Esther Shkalim; Diana Schiowitz and Frieda Horwitz, eds. Devora Publishing, 2006. 280 pp. $34.95 ISBN: 978-1-9326-8756-9
his beautiful reference book, a project of the AMIT educational network in Israel, teaches us about the Jewish holidays and the customs and traditions practiced by different Jewish communities around the world, some authentically Jewish, others which developed under the influence of the local environment. Each chapter begins with an explanation of the holiday, biblical references, and its place in Jewish history and geography. AMIT students were asked to describe an aspect of how their immigrant family celebrated the holiday in the “old country,” sometimes with a comment on how that practice differs from their observance since the family’s aliyah to Israel. Many of the descriptions are accompanied by photos of ritual objects, clothing, or food. The author then explains the background for the customs presented. The fascinating traditions come from as many
his book includes text, maps, and photographs, divided into three parts, followed by glossary, sources, and index. The first part, “The Shaping of the Middle East,” provides a short survey of Middle Eastern history, mainly from the Ottoman period onwards. The second part, “Arenas of Conflict,” discusses various conflicts regarding geographical entities, the Kurds, and the Gulf wars. The last part, “The State of the Nations,” focuses on broader problems (e.g., ethnicity and language, religion, health, population, water, education, economy, refugees, gender and human rights). The sources include official reports and electronic resources in addition to books and articles. The use of side bars for chronology, diagrams, and maps is helpful. This is a useful publication, though not without certain errors and inconsistencies, for example, Smith’s definition of “Middle East” excludes Sudan and Turkey but includes the Maghreb, though in the text he finds it necessary to include Turkey. Moreover: why does the map on Jewish migration to Israel exclude Libya? There is hardly any reference to the Lebanese Hizballah and its foreign supporters; PKK is the Kurdish, not Turkish, abbreviation of the party’s name. RS
THE FIGHT FOR JERUSALEM: RADICAL ISLAM, THE WEST, AND THE FUTURE OF THE HOLY CITY Dore Gold Regnery Publishing, 2007. 384 pp. $27.95 ISBN: 978-1-59698-029-7
ore Gold, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, examines the position of Jerusalem in the three monotheistic religions and its current role in the Arab-Israeli conflict and world politics. He shows that while Jerusalem remained central for Judaism since King David made it the capital city of his kingdom, its position in Christianity and Islam was usually marginal, and it temporarily took center stage only as a result of political developments within the two latter religions (e.g., during the Ummayad period in Islam and during the Crusader Wars of Christianity). The first three chapters analyze the role of Jerusalem in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. This is followed by an examination of the diplomatic struggle over Jerusalem, its position among the Palestinian Arabs and under Hashemite rule, and the role of Jerusalem in the Arab-Israeli peace process. Gold then examines the role of Jerusalem in radical Islam, showing how the conquest of Jerusalem is regarded as a preliminary step toward the conquest and Islamization of the West. Elaborating on the failure of Muslim regimes and international bodies to guarantee freedom of worship and movement in Jerusalem, Gold concludes that these freedoms can be guaranteed only by Israel. He believes that giving parts of Jerusalem to a Muslim regime will not guarantee peace and security; on the contrary, this will be regarded as victory on the
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THE MYSTICAL ORIGINS OF HASIDISM Rachel Elior; Shalom Carmy, trans. Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2006. 258 pp. $45.00 ISBN: 978-1-874774-84-6
MEN OF SILK: THE HASIDIC CONQUEST OF POLISH JEWISH SOCIETY Glenn Dynner Oxford University Press, 2006. 306 pp. $65.00 ISBN: 978-0-19-517522-0
n reviewing two scholarly books on Hasidism, one is immediately confronted with a world that is complex, intensely spiritual, mystical, and other-world focused—a far cry from the Chelm-like dancing Hasidic world often portrayed in the movies. But it is also a world that is very typical for any new “movement,” and thus is also different
way to a universal Islamic state. While strong in its well documented historical analysis, the book is vague regarding the implementation of the desired outcome. Illustrations, index, maps, and notes. RS
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from the always pious and psychologicallyinsightful image often conveyed from classic Hasidic tales we are used to reading or hearing from countless Jewish speakers. Rachel Elior’s The Mystical Origins of Hasidism grapples with not only the historical and sociological milieu of the development and growth of Hasidism, but most importantly focuses on its theological and mystical foundations. Framed within a perspective of the earlier Kabbalists and the rise and fall/apostasy of Shabetai Tsevi with its enormous and far reaching impact on world Jewry, Elior gives the reader a glimpse into the world of Hasidism as conceptualized by the Baal Shem Tov, Dov Baer of Mezhirech, Elimelech of Lyzhansk, Jacob Joseph of Polonnoye, Shneur Zalman of Lyady, Nachman of Bratslav, The Seer of Lublin, and Menahem Mendel of Kotzk to name but a few. Chapters on the Hasidic concept of language, the unity of opposites, and transcending being are particularly complex. One wonders whether these perspectives were ever really part of the day-to-day inner thinking of the “average” Hasid. Elior’s perspectives on the development of the role and functions of the Tsadik as the two-way bridge between the mundane and the spiritual (the community and G-d) are fascinating. Her chapter “Mystical Spirituality and Autonomous Leadership” gives profound insights into the threat that Hasidic thinking posed to the established traditional/mitnagidic authorities. And views from well-known and highly regarded Hasidic masters of the 18th and 19th centuries that Elior cites on such issues as: autonomy of judgment; our ability to ascertain “truth”; who has real knowledge of the Divine will; and, change in traditions and traditional interpretations in response to communal needs
SCHOLARSHIP THE FAMILY BOOK OF MIDRASH: FIFTYTWO JEWISH STORIES FROM THE SAGES Barbara Diamond Goldin
and the current times might well sound shockingly modern and compatible with non-Orthodox denominational approaches to tradition and Halacha. Glenn Dynner’s book focuses on the historical development of Hasidism in Central Poland from the mid 18th century into the mid 19th century. The enormous range of the documents available to him from Hasidic, non-Hasidic, anti-Hasidic and Polish, nonJewish sources of this period helps Dynner paint a fascinating portrait of Hasidism and its prominent zadikkim, one that is quite a bit less “other-worldly” focused than Elior presents. Here we see power brokers and community builders, successfully battling assaults from their non-Hasidic co-religionists as well as from the anti-religious Maskilim—and succeeding on many levels. You’ll read with wonderment about how key Hasidic figures fought off attempts to block their development of synagogues, study houses, or informal “synagogues” without having obtained prior appropriate regulatory approvals. They rallied as well against assaults claiming everything from unholy and/or raucous behavior to excessive focus on snaring the coffers of far-too vulnerable adolescents and young women. Dynner has fascinating sections on the abilities of Hasidic leaders to gain support with both the Jewish mercantile society and within the non-Jewish, Polish governing authorities. Varying approaches to creating dynasties, succession strategies, and facilitating the most important marriages for themselves or their children to strengthen and/or create claims for important Yichus, are also discussed. Dynner even delves into the dominant role that the printing of Hasidic texts had on the overall face of Jewish printing and publications during this period. Appendices, bibliography, glossary, indexes, and notes. WLL Rowan & Littelfield Publishers, 2006. 128pp. $17.95(pbk.) ISBN 13: 978-0-7425-5285-2 (pbk.)
ow wonderful it is that Goldin’s retold tales of heroic rabbis, biblical characters,
REVIEWS: WOMEN’S STUDIES and individual men and women from the Talmud and Midrash are back in print. This paperback edition faithfully reproduces all stories and decorative page borders from The Child’s Book of Midrash, also published as The Family Book of Midrash, in 1990 by Jason Aronson Publishers. Classic selections emphasize kindness and faith; miracles are celebrated, and strong plots reinforce moral and ethical values. Goldin’s collection fleshes out wellknown tales, such as Solomon’s battle of wills with the demon king Asmodeus and Rachel’s belief that her shepherd husband Akiva can become a scholar. Historical research and good storytelling also bring alive less widely circulated characters, such as Elisha who, challenged by a Roman guard, opens the hand where his forbidden prayer box lies hidden to find a feathered surprise. Barbara Diamond Goldin won the Sydney Taylor Body-of-Work Award from the Association of Jewish Libraries in 1997. With naturalness and warmth, she offers plenty of old-time adventure, suspense, drama, and humor here. Once the stories have been shared aloud—there are enough for each week of the year—21st century children will want to return to reexperience them for themselves. Bibliography, glossary. SE
ent and then every year on the yahrzeit, the anniversary of the death. In The Mystery of the Kaddish: Its Profound Influence on Judaism, author Leon Charney unveils the history of this universal prayer. The verb l’kadesh means to sanctify or to make holy and the Kaddish itself does not ever contain the word “death” in any text. Rather, the prayer exalts and glorifies God and God’s role in the creation of man. Charney traces the history of the Kaddish from the Bible to the Crusades to the Middle Ages through the Holocaust to its recitation in our modern synagogues. Charney brings life and meaning to the Kaddish by explaining how it has been adapted through time to meet the needs of changing Jewish cultures and communities around the world. MDH
blessing of Esau. Opening this discussion, Klitsner immediately notes a parallel between the language used at the Akaida [lit. “the binding” of Isaac] and the language used when Isaac invites Esau to receive a blessing (both episodes use the word hineini, while one uses avi [lit. “my father”] and the other bni [lit. “my son”]). This echo of a previous dialogue sets the tone for Isaac’s intended blessing of Esau—“in order that my soul bless him before I die”—which tragically is misunderstood by Isaac’s wife, Rachel, as if Isaac wanted to confer upon Esau the Abrahamic blessing of G-d, or in her retelling of his conversation “and I will bless you before God.” All of this transforms this episode into a tragic misunderstanding between husband and wife, which Klitsner develops with great skill and precision, drawing upon a wealth of classic and contemporary commentaries. Rabbi Klitsner is a master teacher whose knowledge and ability have created a scholarly work that will be of great value to bible scholar and layman alike. But even more, in this work he presents a paradigm of how to read a biblical text that can be applied to other texts beyond the scope of this current study. LAM
WRESTLING JACOB: DECEPTION, IDENTITY AND FREUDIAN SLIPS IN GENESIS
Shmuel Klitsner Urim Publications, 2007. 182 pp. $23.95 ISBN: 978-965-7108-93-2
oo many Biblical commentaries today consider anomalies within the text of the Torah from either one of two extremes: as problems needing to be resolved, or as mistakes needing to be dismissed. In this fascinating new work, Rabbi Shmuel Klitsner proposes following a third approach: to consider these anomalies of syntax or grammar as the way that the Torah communicates both text and subtext. This approach, which the author ties to Freudian interpretation of language, allows Klitsner to find new meaning and motivation in the Genesis narrative. One brief example of this method is found at the beginning of Klitsner’s third chapter, where he analyzes the episode of Jacob’s
THE MYSTERY OF THE KADDISH: ITS PROFOUND INFLUENCE ON JUDAISM Leon Charney Barricade Books, 2007. 224 pp. $22.95 ISBN: 978-1-56980-3004
addish, the Jewish prayer recited for the dead, is the quintessential expression of mourning in Jewish tradition. It is recited for eleven months after the death of a par-
JEWISH WOMEN PIONEERING THE FRONTIER TRAIL: A HISTORY IN THE AMERICAN WEST Jeanne E. Abrams New York University Press, 2006. 304 pp. $39.00 ISBN: 978-0-8147-0719-7
his detailed history traces the experiences of Jewish women from immigra-
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REVIEWS: WORLD JEWRY tion to settlement in the American West. Abrams describes the journey from Europe to America and explores the reasons Jewish women left the major Jewish centers on the East Coast for the western states and territories. She focuses on their accomplishments, particularly the development of Jewish institutions, charitable organizations, and businesses that contributed to the establishment of prosperous families and communities. Jewish Women Pioneering the Frontier Trail benefits greatly from the author’s extensive work with primary materials from the lives of Jewish women out West. Although the meticulous research at times distracts from moving the narrative forward, Abrams’ scholarship has certainly provided a strong foundation for future researchers in this field. The exhaustive bibliography and helpful notes will be of particular interest to researchers, whether of Jewish women’s history or the history of the American West. However, the casual reader will also appreciate this outstanding reference resource. Bibliography, index, notes. RSR
the founding generation of Polish intellectual Communists. Presenting the lives of a group of Jewish writers and poets, the author endeavors to immerse the reader in the background, ideologies, and polemics in order to understand Marxism as it was experienced by the generation of East European Jews in the first part of the 20th century. These Marxists were disputing the future well before Marxism meant the imposition of Soviet occupation in Poland. Spanning the years from the early 1920’s to the end of the 1960’s and using archival materials from Poland and Russia, as well as from Ukraine and Israel, Shore—an assistant professor of history at Indiana University—delves into the fate of these intellectuals. This is a story about making choices in history, and how lives took different twists and turns, sometimes ending in imprisonment and death. Beautifully written and well researched, this is a scholarly work recommended for all academic libraries. Index and notes. SS
FEAR: ANTI-SEMITISM IN POLAND AFTER AUSCHWITZ
CAVIAR AND ASHES: A WARSAW GENERATION’S LIFE AND DEATH IN MARXISM, 1918–1968 Marci Shore Yale University Press, 2006. 480 pp. $40.00 ISBN: 978-0-300-11092-0
his book, the winner of the 2006 National Jewish Book Award for European Studies and a finalist for the Koret International Jewish Book Award in Jewish Thought, takes the reader into the lives of
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Jan T. Gross Random House, 2006. 320 pp. $25.95 ISBN: 978-0-375-50924-7
n his previous book, Neighbors (2001), which was a National Book Award nominee, Jan Gross, who teaches history at Princeton University, described the brutal manner in which 1,600 Jews of the Polish town of Jedwabne were murdered in June 1941 by their Polish neighbors. What was startling about this atrocity was that the newly occupying German army did not compel the massacre in a town where osten-
sibly the Jewish and Polish inhabitants had previously enjoyed amicable relations. Fear returns to the subject of Gross’ earlier work, only this time his focus is on the question of why Polish anti-Semitism continued to be endemic throughout the country after the war when most of the country’s 3.5 million Jews had already been annihilated by the Nazis. Although much of his investigation focuses on the more widely known Kielce pogrom in July 1946, he notes that earlier attacks against the remnants of the Jewish population had occurred in Rzeszow in June 1945, and Krakow in August of the same year. In all, anti-Jewish violence accounted for the killing of between 500 and 1,500 Jews (Gross accepts the more widely accepted number of 1,500 murdered by the Poles.) Gross argues that the violence against the Jews was driven by the widespread collusion of the Poles with the Nazis in the plunder of Jewish property and the fear that the remaining victims of the Holocaust would return and demand that their property be returned. He rejects the argument that Polish hatred toward the Jews was due to their association with the Soviet regime that was imposed on the country after the war. Using convincing documentation, Gross shows how few Jews were members of the Communist Party in post-war Poland, and that those who did become communists did so because they were prohibited from joining more mainstream Polish political organizations both prior to and after the war where, with the exception of the Zegota organization that befriended Jews during the war, most Polish resistance groups were as antiSemitic as they were anti-Nazi. The author rejects the contention that the post-war pogroms in Poland is the story of frenzied mobs, moved by tales of Jewish ritual murder, which the Polish Catholic Church went to pains not to deny, or the association with communism, but rather by the “widely shared sense in Polish society that getting rid of the Jews, by killing them if necessary, was permissible.” Gross can only account for the virulent postwar anti-Semitism in Poland because it was embedded in the society’s opportunistic wartime behavior. “Jews were perceived as a threat to the
material status quo, security, and peaceful conscience of their fellow citizens after the war because they had plundered what remained of Jewish property as well as Jews’ social roles, which had been assumed by their Polish neighbors in tacit and often opportunistic complicity with Nazi-instigated institutional mass murder.” For Gross, therefore, the pogroms against the Jews were motivated not by acting out “their vampire fantasies of ritual murder or their Judeo-Communist fantasies,” or by beliefs inculcated by the Nazis, but by defending their material interests, quite often premised on murky deals or outright criminal behavior. Fear makes for riveting reading and provides a great deal of insight into the prevalence of anti-Semitism in Poland, and by extension the hatred of Jews even in countries that no longer have Jewish populations. If there is a criticism of Fear, it can be found in the short shrift Gross gives to the Christian anti-Jewish animus of one of Europe’s most Catholic countries. Although Gross details the role the canard of “ritual murder” played in spreading the pogroms, centuries of the Polish Catholic Church teaching contempt for the Jews and the charge of deicide, are ignored as factors in the tacit permission that Poles received to murder Jews. JRF
JEWISH RESISTANCE IN WARTIME GREECE Steven Bowman Vallentine Mitchell, 2006, 136 pp. $65.00 ISBN: 978-0-85303-599-2
he resistance movement in the village, the neighborhood, extended family, and individual fighter has been meticulously
researched. The four-year Nazi occupation resulted in the destruction of the Greek Jewish population, not at the hands of Greek Christians or even the collaborationist government in Athens. Some Greeks sought to hide their Jewish friends and colleagues or help them escape to safety, but only several thousand Jews sought refuge in the mountainous areas
■ Some Greeks sought to hide their Jewish friends and colleagues...
■ controlled by resistance groups, and the decimation of Salonika was so rapid, they never had a chance. Sixty thousand perished in the extermination camps of Auschwitz and Treblinka; only 10,000 Greek Jews survived. Questions include: Did the resistance organizations actively encourage Jews to seek protection in guerrilla-controlled areas? Which groups were more forthcoming and why? Why did relatively few Jews take advantage of the opportunity to escape to the mountains and what were the characteristics of those who did? What were their contributions to the resistance movement? Most of the evidence had to be gleaned from memoirs, recollections, and interviews conducted years after the war. There are many fascinating stories about help from the retreating Italians, about the heroism of Greek Jews in rebellions of Sondercommandos in the Warsaw Ghetto, Auschwitz, and elsewhere, but also—a fascinating section about Greek Jewish women in the resistance. Attempts were made to save the Greek Jews by politicians in other countries, but were ineffective. In addition to copious notes after each chapter, there is an “Afterword” about Joseph Matsas and the Greek Resistance. Appendices include: abbreviations, 25 pages listing names of Greek Jews who fought against the Nazis in Warsaw and Auschwitz during August and October,1944; a list of Greek Jews who fought in the Sondercommando revolt in Birkenau (Auschwitz II) in October, 1944; a bibliography on Jewish sources on resistance, Greek sources on resistance, and Greek assistance to the Jews plus an Index. MWP
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THE TEN COMMANDMENTS IN JEWISH CHILDREN’S LITERATURE By Lisa Silverman
uring Shavuot (May 22–24, 2007 this year) , we recount the greatest event in Israel’s history—the acceptance of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. With this event begins the covenant between the Jewish people and God and the foundation upon which Israel is to build a life of justice and holiness. Most of us learn about the Ten Commandments as children; we can recite them from an early age. They are:
1. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt. 2. You shall have no other gods before me. 3. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. 4. Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. 5. Honor your father and your mother. 6. You shall not murder. 7. You shall not commit adultery. 8. You shall not steal 9. You shall not bear false witness. 10. You shall not covet.
Living up to these Ten Commandments has certainly been a great challenge to our
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people but we proudly take credit for being the first cultural group to make ethical rules a part of our religion. we Naturally endeavor, as parents and moral teachers, to teach these principles to our children. But it is a complex prospect to explain murder, coveting, and false witness to a child. Surely, there is an easier way. I am the director of the library at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and a former children’s librarian. I knew that there had been few books written for young Jewish children on the subject of the Ten Commandments, but when I went to the shelf I was able to locate only seven titles. I discounted the small, old-fashioned, spiral booklet that was published in 1961 as no l o n g e r appealing to kids of today, and eliminated three of the other books for various reasons. I was left with three Jewish children’s picture books that dealt specifically with the Ten Commandments as rules God gave us to live by. These books target an audience of 3–6 year olds. So, I wondered, how do these children’s authors attempt to explain these difficult rules to young children? One of the picture books is called No Rules for Michael by Sylvia Rouss, author of the successful Sammy Spider series. Her audience is pre-school children and she has
decided to avoid the specific Ten Commandments altogether in favor of a childcentered story. Her book begins,
“Michael’s class was learning about the Ten Commandments.” ‘When the Jewish people received the Torah,’, his teacher said, ‘they received the Ten Commandments, God’s special rules that show us how to live. We should not hurt others, we should not steal, we should honor our parents,’ Miss Sharon explained. ‘We also have special rules here at our school,’ she continued. ‘Can you think of some rules we have in our classroom?’” The children come up with various rules such as “You should share toys” or “You shouldn’t hit anyone” until Michael, obviously the little rebel, states unequivocally that he “doesn’t like rules” and “School would be more fun if we could do whatever we wanted. School would be the best place if we didn’t have any rules.” “All right,” says Miss Sharon, “Tomorrow we won’t have any rules in our classroom. Then you can decide if you like to have rules.” “Yippee,” shouts Michael, and the stage is now set for a disastrous day of total anarchy and frustration. After Michael learns about the importance of rules the hard way, Miss Sharon states, “That’s why God gave us the Ten Commandments. And that’s why we have rules here at school. We need to treat others the way we want to be treated.” Ok, it’s not great literature, but it gets the point across. Miriam Nerlove, a well-known Jewish picture book author, wrote and illustrated The Ten Commandments, a lovely book with muted watercolor illustrations and simple explanations of the commandments in child-like language. Nerlove also tells the story of how Moses
received the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, thereby making the text appropriate for ages 5 and up. Finally, a parent looking for something to share with the 3 to 4 year-old child still has one book left that should be in every Jewish library housing a pre-school. Parents want to, and should, teach their 4 yearolds about the Ten Commandments, but naturally tend to have difficulty explaining adultery, false witness, and murdering. So, when in doubt, SIMPLIFY. Tell them in language they can understand, but tell them. And then, make sure to listen to yourself telling them. Use the words of the last book on my unfortunately short list: Susan Remick Topek’s clever picture book entitled, Ten Good Rules, which has recently been re-issued by Kar-Ben Publishers:
UP and RUNNING...
1. I am the one and only God. 2. Do not pray to other gods. 3. Do not say bad words. 4. Celebrate Shabbat. 5. Love your father and mother. 6. Do not hurt anyone. 7. Married people should love each other. 8. Do not take anything without asking. 9. Do not tell lies. 10. Be happy with what you have.
Bibliography of picture books about the Ten Commandments:
1. No Rules For Michael by Sylvia Rouss. Kar-Ben, Minneapolis, MN, 2003. ISBN: 1580130445 2. Story of Moses and the Ten Commandments by Patricia Pingry. Ideals Children’s Books, Nashville, TN, 1989. ISBN: 0824984188 3. Ten Good Rules by Susan Remick Topek. Kar-Ben, Minneapolis, MN, 2007. ISBN: 158013209X 4. The Ten Commandments for Jewish Children by Miriam Nerlove. Albert Whitman, Morton Grove, IL, 1999. ISBN: 0807577707 5. Who Knows Ten—Children’s Tales of the Ten Commandments by Molly Cone. UAHC, NY, 1998. ISBN: 0807400807
The Jewish Book Council website has been completely renovated to include information on all of our programs and helpful links to connect you to all of our services. You can now purchase books you see in Jewish Book World through the Jewish Book Council website.
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game at season’s end. The family’s Orthodoxy is an interesting subplot that does not interfere with the non-Orthodox reader’s enjoyment of the sports theme, but another sub-plot involving a relationship Reuven has with a baseball-loving young woman is not very realistic. This book, while in manuscript form, was the winner of the Association of Jewish Libraries’ Sydney Taylor Manuscript Award for best unpublished children’s book of Judaic interest. Ages 9 and up. SF
ties and creating reading games with the 30 sight words. Ages 3–5, grades Pk–K. DLR
T.S. Yavin; Craig Orback, illus. Kar-Ben, 2007. 160 pp. $15.95 ISBN: 1-58013-211-1
well-written novel for pre-teens, this is the story of two brothers whose first love is baseball, and their attempts to excel in the game. In addition, it is a coming-of-age saga of brothers reconciling themselves to working together as a team, while in competition with each other. Reuven is in ninth grade. He is organized, competent, an excellent student, and very shy. He is focused on becoming an even better pitcher than he already is. He is willing to go against his father’s advice not to practice new strategies in the journey to improve his game. Younger brother Avi is in eighth grade, and is an outstanding catcher who has a more happy-go-lucky personality than his brother. For example, he often leaves his schoolwork until the last moment. Both characters are well developed and believable. Each brother has many strengths, but the differences between them, in addition to the zeal they bring to playing baseball, make for an intense sibling experience. There is a tremendous amount of jealousy between the two as they each excel in different areas. Reuven and Avi are part of a close and loving family. Both parents assist and guide the boys through their challenges and their lives. Their father, in addition, acts as their regular baseball coach on Sunday mornings. The family is Orthodox, and the brothers attend a day school for boys. Because of their religious commitments they are forced to miss three games held on the Sabbath during the season. This is an issue of great concern to each boy, as each carries the dream of being picked to be in the All-Stars
David & Max
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Gary Provost and Gail Provost Stockwell JPS, 2006, 163 pp. $14.95 ISBN: 0-8276-0837-3
All That We See, Say and Do Beth Intro; Robin Skolsky, illus. Author House, 2006. 32 pp. $9.00 ISBN 1-4259-3604-0
hen the author’s father died, her fouryear-old daughter had questions about God. This book, written in rhyme and from a traditional perspective, describes how Hashem is part of our daily lives and can be found all around us in beauty, love, kindness and thankfulness. Translating these ideas into a format that is suitable for very young children takes a deft touch, and this book is not entirely successful. Although the book expresses ideas about where we find God and deals with feelings and actions appropriate to preschoolers, some of the rhymes are awkward and do not flow well. The illustrations are childlike—puff-painted, white stick figures and simple drawings of flowers, hearts, suns, moon and stars on colored backgrounds. There is a possibility this would appeal to young children, but it is unlikely to interest the adults reading it to them. The illustrations trivialize the subject rather than expand it to stimulate the young reader’s imagination. Even though the book was inspired by a death, it does not touch on the subjects of death or loss. This paperback book is sold as a kit, which includes a bookmark and a simple parent’s guide for doing activi-
his beautiful book, originally published in 1988, has been newly updated and revised. None of the compelling style of the original edition has been lost. On the surface, this is a story of a special relationship between a 12-year old boy that loves basketball and his grandfather, Max. The two share many experiences together. In reality, it is also an opportunity, through Max and David’s shared experiences, to make the Holocaust real and to create real people living rich and full lives prior to the coming of the Nazis. On a vacation to coastal Massachusetts, Max thinks he has seen an old friend who he thought had been killed during World War Two. David is the only one who believes that Max may be correct, and attempts to help him find this friend, whose art is exhibited in a local gallery. While they are attempting to locate his grandfather’s old friend, David begins to learn about the Holocaust and about his grandfather’s background for the first time. This book is replete with wonderful values of friendship and family and honesty, and serves as an introduction for preteens to this horrific period in Jewish history. The revised edition has several updates, which succeed in making the story more appealing to contemporary readers. For instance, David has seen the documentary, Paper Clips, which had not been created twenty years ago. Highly recommended for ages 10–13. SF
REVIEWS: CHILDREN’S mation set off by a different colored paper. There is also a prodigious amount of reference material listed: appendix, chronology, notes, bibliography, further reading and index. For ages 11–15. MWP
per the dialogue throughout this engaging novel. Ages 12–16. AK
Elie Wiesel: Messenger for Peace Heather Lehr Wagner (Modern Peacemakers) Chelsea House publishers, 2007. 112 pp. $30.00 ISBN: 0-7910-9220-8
hen Elie Wiesel was 15 years old—a sheltered, studious adolescent, his life changed radically. This was Hungary; its head of state was an Axis partner who had refused to turn over his Jews to Hitler, although Hungary had plenty of its own Nazis. Still, when the family was offered hiding by their faithful housekeeper, they politely refused her help; his father thinking that the trouble would pass and the war would soon be over. Not soon enough, for the Hungarians, although the last to die, were shipped to the slave labor and killing camps as fast as Eichmann could manage it. Several of Wiesel’s family members were killed immediately. Wiesel spent 11 months at Auschwitz, where he experienced torture, abuse, violence and where his father died. It took 10 years, however, for Wiesel to write about his experiences in the famous memoir, Night. Since then, Wiesel has found his métier as a spokesperson against injustice, serving as a powerful voice for victims of racism, hatred and repression throughout the world. He has been chairman of the President’s Commission on the Holocaust and a winner of the Nobel Prize. What is exceptional about this book is that not only does it cover all of Wiesel’s accomplishments but also contains a humanized portrait of the man, with a format that is attractive to young readers. The print is slightly larger; there is ample white space between lines, lots of photographs (both black and white and colored) with highlighted infor-
Emily Goldberg Learns to Salsa Micol Ostow Razorbill, 2006. 208 pp. $16.95 ISBN: 1-5951-4081-6
igh school senior Emily Goldberg has a perfect summer planned, the highlight of which is a cross-country road trip with her two best friends before they head off to separate colleges. But her plans are drastically altered when her maternal grandmother dies suddenly and Emily’s family must fly to Puerto Rico to attend the funeral. Emily experiences culture shock when she finds herself in a crowded Catholic church with hundreds of relatives she didn’t even know she had, including a cousin her own age named Lucy. When Emily’s mother decides to remain in Puerto Rico for the rest of the summer to cope with her grief, Emily can’t refuse her father’s request that she stay with her. Feeling like an outsider (and the Jew from New York whom cousin Lucy refers to as “the nuyorican,”), Emily intends to quietly suffer through two months in a world so different from her own. But when Emily’s mother finally opens up about her long unspoken past, Emily begins to reach out to her new relatives, and discovers the importance of connecting to both sides of her heritage. Emily’s voice is authentic and witty, and her thoughts and observations will ring true with teens. Spanish words and phrases pep-
Fragments of Memory: From Kolin to Jerusalem Hana Greenfield Gefen, rev.ed. 2006. 167 pp. $9.95 ISBN: 9-6522-9379-2
his collection of stories written by Greenfield over a period of years, and collected from various publications, is divided into three sections: “A World Disintegrates,” “Pieces of the Shattered Puzzle,” and “The Need To Remember.” Greenfield, who lives in Israel, was born in Kolin, Czechoslovkia, from where she was deported first to Terezin, then to Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, and finally to a slave labor camp in Germany from which she was liberated. As memories struck her over the years, she wrote about them. The brief vignettes that precede the Bialystock episode are so poignant—the parting from friends: “Alice,” a friend known only because their normal world had fallen apart, and Vera in “Saying Goodbye” whose letter reflects her intuition that they will never meet again; and “Pen Pals,” when Michael, a first love whose arrival in Terezin she waits for anxiously, only to find soon after his family arrives, he will die from a burst appendix; and her friend, the fragile Esti, for whom she finds extra food in Terezin, but who dies in Auschwitz. Greenfield’s description of Auschwitz as “The Gate to Hell” in unforgettable as is her story of her last day in Bergen-Belsen when, on the day her group is destined for the gas, she wants to be loved before saying goodbye and climbs up to a top shelf where five men are sleeping
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★★★ STARRED REVIEWS ★★★
Escape!: The Story of the Great Houdini Sid Fleischman Greenwillow Books, 2006. 210 pp. $18.99 ISBN: 0-06-085094-9
arry Houdini’s showmanship made him a standout among magicians. Author Sid Fleischman uses the same technique to stand out in the crowded field of Houdini biographies. Escape! captures readers with its flamboyant vocabulary, humor, insider understanding, wonderful photographs with excellent captions and a clearly stated theme which shapes the details of an exciting life. Fleischman organizes this rags-toriches tale around Houdini’s shameless vanity that supported his “megaphone self-promotion” of his self-made legend: sharing that Houdini doctored facts and photographs. Fleischman analyzes Houdini’s family relationships, evaluates his career and lasting fame, and explains them to youngsters as part human flaw,
■ From the clever table of contents to the sad postmortem, this book overflows with fun facts...
■ part the need to escape anti-Semitism, and part the drive to trump all competitors and fakes. The self-taught Houdini never had a magic lesson. Loyalty to fellow magicians keeps author-magician Fleischman from revealing Houdini’s methods, although his bibliography includes books that tell all. Hungarian Jewish immigrant Ehrich Weiss, searching for a way to financially aid his poor family, finds vaudeville and his stage name, The Great Houdini. Ironically, Houdini later unmasks his youthful idol and name inspiration, Robert-
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Houdin. This biography dramatically recounts what Houdini got out of: handcuffs, milk cans, straight jackets, jail cells, frozen rivers and coffins. It also spotlights what he got into: airplanes and first-flight records; entertaining troops during World War I; supporting the sons of rabbis, who like himself, performed on the stage; movies; the Encyclopaedia Britannica; the Library of Congress and a crusade bashing phony spiritualists. Fleishman’s rich, intimate account is possible from two special boosts to normal biographical research. He had access to material published privately for magicians and he knew Houdini’s widow, Bess, who gave him information and photographs. From the clever table of contents to the sad postmortem, this book overflows with fun facts delivered by out of the ordinary colorful language proving reading can be magic. A treat for readers age 9–adult. EC
Five Little Gefiltes Dave Horowitz Putnam, 2007. 32 pp. $12.99 ISBN: 978-0-399-24608-1
ive little smiling Gefilte fish balls wearing top hats (one is always whistling) greet us on the cover of this amusing parody of the “Five Little Ducks” song. They go out daily from their jar to experience city life, bouncing down the wrought iron fire escape, “taking in a play”, swimming in the bay, “crashing the deli buffet” and getting “shlepped away” in a big yellow taxi. Unfortunately for Mama Gefilte, one less gefilte returns each day, causing her to cry out “OY VEY” in consternation, until they all return happily to where the babushka-wearing Mama fish ball sits on her park bench. She stops kvetching, and now kvells with happiness. The funny asides on signage and within the illustrations are clever inside Yiddish jokes for the older crowd, but the book stands on
its own as a delightful frolic through New York’s Jewish scene. This book needs to be sung—the zanier the better! Share with some little kids ASAP—just avoid serving Gefilte fish to those who won’t appreciate it! LJS
Hitler’s Canary Sandi Toksvig Roaring Brook Press, 2007. 160 pp. $16.95 ISBN: 1-59643-247-0
his middle-grade novel begins on the day the Germans invade Denmark, in April 1940. Ten-year-old Bamse, the youngest son of an actress and an artist, has grown up surrounded by theater people; his mother’s response to the German’s arrival in Copenhagen is “we must change at once.” Bamse and his best friend, Anton, a Jew, amuse themselves playing tricks on the German soldiers. The situation quickly becomes more serious when his older brother, Orlando, joins the resistance and is increasingly involved in more dangerous activities. Bamse’s father, on the other hand, remains cautious of getting involved. One year after the Germans invade, the British refer to the Danes as “Hitler’s Canary,” implying that they will “sing any tune he wants.” But as the war in Europe escalates, Bamse and his family learn that passive resistance is no longer an option. This inspiring story of an ordinary Danish family rallying together to save the lives of Danish Jews is based on the author’s father’s experience during
REVIEWS: CHILDREN’S the war, and in her novel, Sandi Toksvig brings to life a cast of captivating characters that will remain with the reader long after the final chapter. She expertly balances the seriousness of the situation with humor and adventure, as she depicts the war through the eyes of a remarkably brave boy. Ages 10–14. AK
The Secret of Priest’s Grotto: A Holocaust Survival Story Peter Lane Taylor with Christos Nicola Kar-Ben Publishing, 2007. 64 pp. $8.95 ISBN: 1-58013-261-8
wo authors, a cave expert and a photographer, tell this almost unbelievable story of how thirty-eight Jews from a village in the Ukraine survived the Holocaust. They clung tenaciously to life in two different caves for over one
and makes love with the young doctor who was kind to her when she first arrived. The most heartbreaking is the story of the 1,196 children from the Bialystock ghetto who were being nursed back to health in the Terezin ghetto, since they were going to be sent to Palestine in trade for German prisoners. They are accompanied by the camp’s doctors and nurses, including the author’s own mother, for the trip—except that the mufti of Jerusalem told Hitler he didn’t want them growing up to populate Palestine, and Himmler had them all gassed. Greenfield has the talent to catch the affecting, telling and heart-breaking moments in each of her true stories. This previously published but now revised, slender paperback (most stories are only 2 1/2 pages) is one of the most significant books on the Holocaust I have read. Illustrated with drawings from Terezin and photographs. For mature teens and adults. MWP
year, and somehow managed to come out of the experience physically, mentally, and emotionally intact. We feel admiration and empathy for these determined people who risked everything in order to stay together. The story of the caves is interwoven with the story of these people’s survival. The authors conducted extensive interviews and consulted the memoir, We Fight to Survive, written in 1960 by Esther Stermer, the matriarch of one of the families. This book reads like an adventure story with a suspense-filled plot and fascinating characters. However, this is brutal fact, not artificial fiction. Generous margins, gorgeous photos of the people and places involved, accurate maps and fascinating sidebars make for a handsome book. The only elements lacking are an index and bibliography. One of the survivors, Shulim Stermer, states: “Everyone has it inside of them to survive.” Peter Taylor wondered if he would be capable of the same will to fight for his own family’s survival. The Secret of Priest’s Grotto brings us face to face with this difficult question. Ages 10-14, AD
life theatrics, Houdini has gone down in history as the world’s most famous magician. With a legacy of amazing escapes and illusions and featured in six Hollywood films magicians today still ponder over his tricks. As a young boy of four Harry immigrated with his family to the United States. When the family moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Harry’s father took him to see the gruesome entertainer, Dr. Lynn, whose final act was to dismember a man and then put him back together again. At age six, young Harry was hooked for life and devoted the rest of his life finding ways to amaze an audience in the art of illusion. In his own words, Houdini comments, “Never try to fool children. They expect nothing and therefore see everything.” Harry was full of adventure and fun and was always young at heart; with this rule of thumb; he kept the mind of a child close at hand and his magic always remained a mystery as well as delightful entertainment for the whole family. This tile, the seventh of the “Snapshot Biography series” presents an up-close, personalized view of the life of a great man who has changed the face of magic. Large, oversized illustrations, many black and white photographs, a detailed timeline, a great index, and a list of actual places to find out more about Houdini will engage youngsters and make this a sure winner. For ages 8–13. DG
Harry Houdini: A Magical Life Elizabeth MacLeod Kids Can Press, 2005. 32 pp. $16.95; $7.95 (pbk), ISBN: 1-55337-769-9 ISBN: 1-55337-770-2 (pbk)
orn Ehrich Weiss in Budapest, Hugary 1874, Harry Houdini was the poor immigrant son of a rabbi. Due to his “death defying stunts” which ranged from making an elephant disappear to his “Milk Can Escape” and bigger than
Hidden on the Mountain: Stories of Children Sheltered from the Nazis in Le Chambon Deborah Durlans DeSaix, Karen Gray Ruelle Holiday House, 2006. 275 pp. $24.95 ISBN: 0-8234-1928-2
his non-fiction book is a unique collection of real-life accounts from individu-
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REVIEWS: CHILDREN’S als who as children were sheltered during the Nazi era in the mountains of Southern France in a town called Le Chambon. This work is quite admirable, as individuals interviewed recall their experiences in journal form. The stories attest to the heartbreak and the realistic dangers of the times, but provide an added sense of hope and an appreciation for those who rose up against evil. Each entry is followed with an epilogue that gives the reader the satisfaction of knowing what has become of each child. The stories are not without pain and great loss, but what shines through is the righteousness of the citizens of La Chambon. The Jewish children who were sent to La Chambon, a Protestant community, were separated from their parents. In the face of trauma, the children were warmly welcomed into their new community. The children attended school, worked on farms, and participated in activities with other children. The uniqueness of La Chambon was in the sense of duty the entire community had in protecting the Jewish children. Many of the individuals discuss their Judaism, including the struggle to make sense of their religious identity. The “Note to Readers” in the beginning of the book, clearly details the research process and the care taken by the authors to share these stories with authenticity. The authors’ passion for the project is felt throughout the book. For ages 11–16. BB
final goodbyes. A young girl and boy experience parallel visits with their respective friends; observant readers will notice that they are staying in adjacent houses. Orthodox Jewish dress and practices are depicted throughout, but the point of the story is etiquette, not religion. We see the children playing nicely, acting considerate, and speaking politely. While there is no real narrative, this is a pleasant and gentle book on a topic not often seen in children’s literature (bad guests, like the Cat in the Hat, being more common!). The illustrations, likewise, and pleasant and functional. The book will be embraced in families and libraries where the Orthodox lifestyle is familiar. Preschool–K HE
It’s Hot and Cold in Miami Ice Cream Town Rona Arato Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2006. 204 pp. $11.95 ISBN: 978-1-55041-591-9
or young Sammy Levin, leaving Poland for America means gaining access to the finer things in life: stickball, matinees, and a regular supply of ice cream. Unfortunately, attaining his desired lifestyle drives him to join a Jewish gang, with kids whose moral standards continually diverge from Sammy’s own. A prankster with a good heart, Sammy now finds himself expected to skip cheder and participate in various acts of thievery. Conflict between Sammy’s desire live up to his father’s moral and academic expectations and his need to belong fuel this story, and lead him to employ creative solutions for his dilemma. This novel is based loosely on the life of the author’s father. Some of the colorful descriptions—such as
I Go Visiting Rikki Benenfeld Hachai, 2007. 32 pp. $10.95 ISBN: 978-1-929628-33-9
imple rhymed couplets describe a sleepover at a friend’s house, from arrival to
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how to play stickball—contain details that bring the time alive for readers. The question of how traditional Sammy’s Judaism will remain in his new country is integrated with veracity into the more universal moral issue of stealing, which layers the novel with the multiplicity and complexity of challenges newcomers have faced. Themes of the New York immigrant story, such as Ellis Island inspections, garment worker’s sweatshops, prejudice, or tough street life are not new to the genre, but told with a lively flair. Experienced readers of the Sydney Taylor books will get a grittier and more realistic side of immigrant life from child’s point of view. For grades 4–6. NBM
Nicole Rubel Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2006. 202 pp. $17.00 ISBN: 0-374-33611-3
icole Rubel, a twin and author of Twice as Nice, an informational book about twins, here fictionalizes the downside of being a identical twin and ups the ante by placing the girls into an unsupportive Jewish family environment. Though the author has provided distinctively quirky illustrations and numerous funny, though stereotypic, eccentricities of Rachel’s extended family, we experience through Rachel’s eyes one vignette after another in which adults feed her feelings of inadequacy and failure. No wonder she suspects her academically gifted twin Rebecca of prenatally stealing more than her share of brain. Of course, it doesn’t help to have a gorgeous, recurrently rude and depressive mother who’s obsessed with Rachel’s weight; grandparents who relate to her chiefly through food; a traveling salesman father who’s mostly away; an abusive-
REVIEWS: CHILDREN’S ly critical fifth grade teacher; and anti-Semitic neighbors. When Rachel’s own unique artistic talents are recognized, first by a perceptive teacher in her Hebrew School, and
■ When Rachel’s own unique artistic talents are recognized...she finally begins to overcome her feelings of defeat and resolve her relationships within the family.
literature and for schools where conversational Hebrew is taught, as well as for bilingual families. It is unclear how the book will “foster positive bonds between Englishspeaking families and Israel” as stated in the publisher’s mission statement, but this inaugural offering by Milk and Honey Press shows promise. K–3. RK
concentration camp mark. Other than that the book is not overtly Jewish, but the major themes of compassion for those in need, responsibility for visiting the sick, and being a moral person are the backbone of this novel and speak directly to those looking for a book that exemplifies those mitzvot without preaching. Ages 10–14. SD
■ then by a supportive substitute teacher who replaces ancient Miss Bunker, she finally begins to overcome her feelings of defeat and resolve her relationships within the family. This Floridian version of AmericanJewish environment and the wryly humorous angst of Rachel’s self-criticism may be entertaining and familiar to some young readers, although those looking for books with more traditional Jewish values should look elsewhere. For ages 9–11. RBF
Jonathan and the Waves (Yonatan v’ha-Galim) Sheri Shira Milk & Honey Press, 2007. 32 pp. $14.95 ISBN: 0-9790656-1-5
his is a sweet story in both English and Hebrew of a young boy coming to terms with his understanding of God while facing his fear of the water. The simplistic but colorful illustrations complement the tone and mood of the text but the lengthy discussion between the boy and his mother weighs down the story. The Israeli setting and the parallel Hebrew text make this a unique book for both libraries looking to expand their collection of Hebrew children’s
Lon-Lon’s Big Night (Ha-Lila Ha-gadol Shel Lon-Lon) Miri Leshem-Pelly Milk & Honey Press, 2007. 32 pp. $14.95 ISBN: 0-9790656-2-3
Leap Jane Breskin Zalben Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2007. 261 pp. $15.99 ISBN: 978-0-375-83871-2
eap is a perfect name for this novel about adolescents coming of age and making painful transitions in their lives. The story is told in two voices, Krista and Daniel’s. These characters used to be inseparable until puberty got in the way. Now Krista has a crush on Daniel’s one time best friend, Bobby, the school “hunk.” In the summer before middle school, Daniel has a seemingly minor operation and ends up paralyzed. Bobby’s father performed the operation, so Daniel and Bobby are no longer even speaking to each other. The book explores the themes of friendship, loyalty, and empathy as Daniel begins to heal from his injury and his friends rally to help him. Once he is on the road to recovery, his mother decides to leave the family to explore her own individuality, taking her own “leap.” The characters are well drawn and the plot of the book is compelling. The situations the adolescents find themselves in accurately depict real life for middle school students. The characters do briefly refer to themselves as Jewish. In one incident in the novel, Krista refuses to get a tattoo because of her grandparents’
hrough this adventure of a little sandfox who wanders too far from his Negev dessert home, readers are introduced to a hedgehog, a jerboa, a long-eared bat, an eagle owl, and a hyrax. The book is written in both English and Hebrew on the same page. Lon-Lon becomes a little wiser to the ways of the outside world through contact with the other animals. He learns the “outside world” is not such a friendly place, when a menacing owl swoops down to catch and perhaps devour him as he narrowly escapes into a gap in a rock. He meets a friendly and helpful hydrax who compliments him for his escape technique and helps him locate his burrow by the acacia tree and reunite with his worried mother, his loving father, and his brother and sister who want to know all about his adventures in the “outside world.” LonLon will tell his tale, only after he has gone to sleep for the rest of the day. This book was read in both languages to a class of 5year-olds with a very positive reception. The ten children in the class were totally enthralled by the story. The English speakers listened to the Hebrew, as well, and visa versa for the Hebrew-speaking students. The soft, pencil illustrations are lovely and beautifully depict the desert scenery. How-
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REVIEWS: CHILDREN’S ever, a map of Israel and an endnote providing additional information about the wildlife of the Negev desert would have added value. For ages 4–7. EH
The Miracles of Passover Josh Hanft; Seymour Chwast, illus. Blue Apple Books, 2007. 24 pp. $15.95 ISBN: 1-5935-4600-9
Mendel’s Accordian Heidi Smith Hyde; Johanna Van Der Sterre, illus. Kar-Ben Publishing, 2007. 30 pp. $16.95; $7.95 (pbk.) ISBN: 978-1-58013-212-1 ISBN: 978-1-58013-214-5 (pbk.)
his sweet picture book tells the typical immigrant story through the experience of Mendel, a klezmer musician. In the old country, Mendel plays his accordion in a klezmer band, making people laugh with his happy music and cry with his sad music. But when things get bad in the old country, Mendel takes his accordion and boards a ship for America. On the long ocean journey, Mendel joins some other musicians to entertain the passengers, who laugh and cry to the music. In New York the musicians all get day jobs, but form a klezmer band to play music in the evenings and on weekends. Mendel gets married, has children and grandchildren. Styles in music change, and Mendel’s accordion is put away. Years later, Mendel’s greatgrandson Samuel finds the accordion in the attic. It is worn and dusty and in need of repair, but Samuel has it repaired, learns to play and starts a new klezmer band. This lovely little story can be read aloud as a simple tale or read for information about this special kind of music. Johanna Van Der Sterre’s folksy, watercolor illustrations beautifully describe the feelings and movement of the story. The last page of the book offers interesting historical facts about klezmer music and about the accordion. For ages 5–8. DLR
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ike a real scrapbook, this volume is stuffed with photographs and captions. The photos vary widely in quality from amateur snapshots to professional photography. Synagogues and congregants from across America (and a few from other countries) are shown during prayer, study, and celebration. Topics covered include the functions of synagogues, ritual objects, who we see in synagogue (notably absent are librarians!), what people do, wear, and eat there, and even some of the greetings that are used on special days such as Shana Tova, Chag Sameach, etc. Each section asks readers to add their own thoughts or drawings. Although mostly white Jews populate the photos, goofy multiethnic Jewish cartoon children decorate the pages to provide a touch of inclusiveness. Oversimplified text and wide-open questions make this a book that will be most useful with guidance from an adult. The workbook-like design and many blanks to fill in make it a poor choice for libraries, but it may be useful in religious school classrooms or in the homes of active congregants. The dress style of the people in the photographs makes the book most appropriate in nonOrthodox settings. For ages 4–8. HE
his book offers a straightforward retelling of the Passover story for young children with eager hands. Illustrations are colorful and the “lift-the-flap” element offers delightful visual surprises. A double page spread of the fleeing Jews at night is compelling, and when Moses’ staff turns into a snake just to eat the magician’s staff, the result is indeed miraculous in composition and humor. However, the story is recalled in a neutral, omniscient voice, which does not give the reader any emotional sense of the dramatic story. After retelling the story of the Exodus from Egypt, Hanft uses the last pages to explain some of the history of Seder and the special foods on the Seder plate. He concludes with the traditional wish, “We wait for the time when Elijah will announce the day of peace for everyone. We end the seder with these words, NEXT YEAR IN JERUSALEM.” For ages 3–6. SA
A New Boy (Yeled Hadash) Eve Tal; Ora Shwartz, illus. Milk and Honey Press, 2006. 21pp. $16.95 ISBN: 0-9790-6560-7
lthough there is a real need for bilingual Hebrew-English books, this story suffers from some harsh translations, occasionally using words that are inappropriate for a picture book. Boris, a recent Israeli immigrant (“ole hadash”) from Russia does not yet know Hebrew. The children in his new school speculate on what an “immigrant” is and some are friendly, but the narrator,
A My Synagogue Scrapbook Hara E. Person & Faye Tillis Lewy z”l; Dahlia Schoenberg-Lam, illus. URJ Press, 2006. 32 pp. $11.95 ISBN: 0-8074-0990-1
REVIEWS: CHILDREN’S another boy from his class, calls him a “dummy” among other names, and gets into physical altercations with him. (Another boy in class cries after being called a “show-off”, and in another instance, the word “vomit” is used instead of the proper translation of the Hebrew word, “magil”, meaning “disgusting”.) The conflict is resolved when the narrator’s father goes away to army reserve duty and the young boy realizes that Boris was being hostile because he was unhappy. Unfortunately, he welcomes Boris by throwing pebbles at him. The idea of how to welcome a new student is a universal childhood experience, but the way this situation is handled in this book is not the model most teachers or parents would like our children to emulate. Ages 5–7. SD
gaggle of real and invented characters enrich the story line. Interwoven into the story are Monk Eastman, an authentic Jewish gangster and Jacob Riis, the reformer whose famous photographs today provide us with visual evidence of that long disappeared time. The book pulls no punches in describing life on the street where Sam sells newspapers and in the home, where Sam’s father works on piecework to survive. The story is captivating and informative and should have particular appeal to reluctant young readers (e.g. boys) looking for action and excitement. For ages 9–12. NHF
Passover Around the World Tami Lehman-Wilzig; Elizabeth Wolf, illus. Kar-Ben, 2007. 48 pp. $15.95 ISBN: 978-1-58013-213-8
The Notorious Izzy Fink Don Brown Roaring Brook Press, 2006. 150 pp. $16.95 ISBN: 1-59643-139-3
reacly depictions of 1890’s life on the Lower East Side are shattered in this reality tale of juvenile delinquents, ethnic rivalries and Jewish gangsters. Viewed through the eyes of 13-year old Sam Glodsky, half-Irish and half-Jewish, readers are immersed into the gritty and sometimes violent world of immigrants trying to find their way in America. The depicted violence and sometimes-rough dialogue are not gratuitous. They only enhance the harshness of the time. Sam’s own mother is inadvertently killed during a gang battle. Young Sam and his nemesis, Izzy Fink, are thrown together in a plot to retrieve a carrier pigeon from a cholera-infested ship in New York harbor. A
fter briefly telling the story of Passover: a celebration of freedom, and devoting a double-page spread to the special foods and objects which go on every Seder table worldwide, Lehman-Wilzig explores different Passover customs in eight countries around the world. There is a boxed paragraph of facts about each country, and individual stories showing families following their traditions in: America, Gibraltar, Ethiopia, Morocco, Turkey, India, Iran, and Israel, with a Seder on a kibbutz. She includes Passover recipes from around the world, such as “Diane Ben -Efraim’s Kneidels” from Israel, “Good Morning Matzah Brie,” “Yummy Mashed Potato Kugel”, and “Granny Fanny’s Cold Egg Soup,” from America, as well as “Savta Mazal’s Stuffed Dates” from Morocco, and “Madre’s Burmelos” from Turkey. A section called Passover Potpourri provides more interesting brief information about different Passover customs in Egypt,
Hungary, Poland, Ashkenazi customs from Europe, and customs practiced by possible descendents of Crypto Jews in Texas and Mexico. Handsomely illustrated with colorful maps and gently muted paintings which support the informative, well-organized text, the book ends with a glossary in which most of the words are translated from Hebrew, as well as Yiddish, Farsi, and Spanish. This can be used by teachers with their classes, and by parents to give them new ideas for recipes and traditions to add to their Passover celebrations. For ages 8–12. ALD
Penina Levine is a Hard-Boiled Egg Rebecca O’Connell; Majella Lue Su, illus. Roaring Brook Press, 2007. 147 pp. $16.95 ISBN: 1-59643-140-7
enina Levine is one of only two Jewish sixth graders in Mrs. Anderson’s class in public school. The class has been given an assignment to write letters “from the Easter Bunny” to kindergarten kids in the nearby Holy Family School. Penina strongly believes she should not write the letter because she is Jewish and she “doesn’t believe in the Easter Bunny”. Her teacher and others in the class feel she is making a big deal out of something minor, but Penina has no trouble with being different, and she is quite determined that others see things her way, so she holds her ground. She doesn’t tell her parents about the assignment because she feels they don’t listen to her and favor her younger sister, Mimsy. (This perception of favoritism is another aspect of Penina’s willful personality.) She does tell her grandmother however, when they are preparing the meal for the
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REVIEWS: CHILDREN’S Passover Seder. Her grandmother says she is like a hard-boiled egg because when you boil it, it gets hard, just like the Jews: “When the heat is on, we don’t turn to mush—we get tougher.” Her grandmother is proud of her for sticking up for her beliefs and not writing the letter. Eventually Penina tells her parents about the assignment and they tell the principal, who then talks to the class about diversity. Mrs. Anderson, Penina’s teacher, apologizes and Penina and her family invite her to a Shabbat dinner. The story moves along briskly and Penina is an appealing and feisty Jewish character with much humor. The simple black and while line drawings are spaced well and complement the text. This engaging character will grace future middle grade novels relating the modern Jewish experience for children. For ages 9–12. BS
transliteration for each. She provides parts for a reader and chorus to tell the story of Moses and Passover at the Seder. The book ends with the search for the Afikomen; an original little song called “Crunch Goes the Matzah” (sung to the tune of “Pop Goes the Weasel”), a blessing for after the meal, a brief explanation of Elijah’s Cup with an accompanying song, and a transliterated Dayenu. No music notation is included for any of the songs. Kahn’s vividly colored cut-paper illustrations add a lively touch to the informative, young child-appropriate text. The author explains the ten plagues as “ten bad things made by God to change Pharaoh’s mind about letting the Jewish people leave.” She includes text and illustrations for four of the plagues: frogs, lice, wheat-eating locusts, and darkness, but does not explain the last plague—killing the first-born—in deference to book’s young audience. This would be excellent to use at a family Seder with young children, and at model Seders for the youngest classes at school. For ages 3–6. ALD
Slangman Kids: Learn Hebrew Through Fairy Tales Cinderella (level 1) ISBN-13 9781891888-922
Goldilocks and the Three Bears (level 2) ISBN-13 9781891888-939
Sammy Spider’s First Haggadah Sylvia A. Rouss; Katherine Janus Kahn, illus. Kar-Ben, 2007. 32 pp. $5.95 ISBN: 1-58013-230-8
n this third Passover title added to Sammy Spider’s First Passover and Sammy Spider’s Passover Fun Book from the popular Sammy Spider series, Rouss tells the story of Passover and explains the holiday in terms that young children can understand. She includes little songs with melodies suggested by Sammy, such as singing “Make Room for Matzah” to the tune of “On Top of Old Smokey” and “Fill the Seder Plate” to the tune of “London Bridge” There is a checklist of what belongs on the seder table, illustrated with the objects named in the list. Then she has Sammy teach the answers to the four questions, in English, and the prayers over the candles, wine, matzah, bitter herbs and charoset, in English and Hebrew, with the
JEWISH BOOK WORLD
Say-Hey and the Babe Neil Waldman Holiday House, 2006. 32 pp. $16.95 ISBN: 0-8234-1857-x
wo connected stories about a group of boys growing up in New York and their love for stickball and baseball is complemented by text-boxes and sidebars that provide interesting tidbits and historical background. Heavy on nostalgia, the audience is limited to baseball fans who grew up in New York in the 1950’s and possibly their grandchildren. And while all of the characters have Jewish names and the Yiddish word mensch is defined, the Jewish content is limited. For ages 7–10. RK
Beauty and the Beast (level 3) ISBN-13 9781891888-946 David Burke; Migs Sandoval, illus. Slangman Publishing, 2006
he Slangman Kids Foreign Language Through Fairy Tales series uses familiar stories to introduce basic vocabulary for a variety of languages; the Hebrew editions are those under review here. The three fairy tales in the series, Cinderella, Goldilocks, and Beauty and the Beast, introduce Hebrew words, provide context for them, and offer opportunities for repeated use of each term. For instance, Cinderella begins “Once upon a time, there lived a teenage girl [yaldah] named Cinderel-
REVIEWS: CHILDREN’S la who was very pretty [yafah]. The yaldah, who was very yafah, lived in a small house [bayit] with her stepmother and two stepsisters.” Each level builds on the one before by using words learned in earlier stories along with new words. The Hebrew words appear in transliteration, although the first incidence of a new vocabulary word is accompanied by the Hebrew spelling. Each level introduces approximately 20 new words. Level 4 (Pinocchio) and level 5 (Jack and the Beanstalk) will be published soon. Over-the-top cartoon illustrations in bright candy colors add an element of mischievous fun. A CD accompanies each title, with a pleasant-voiced female narrator reading the story aloud. Background music and sound effects help to set the scene and mood. Although the pace of the readaloud may be challenging for some, the CD’s enhance the fun cartoon atmosphere of each story. And of course, hearing the pronunciation of the vocabulary is very helpful. While the stories themselves have no Jewish or Israeli content, their familiarity to English speakers makes them ideal vehicles for introducing vocabulary in an amusing, easy way. The series will make a highly useful addition to Hebrew language classrooms and to libraries that support such programs. Ages 5–10. HE
ter in Poland for girls who have been deemed candidates to become perfect Aryans. Milada, who is not Jewish, resents her blond hair and blue eyes, knowing these are the reason she is chosen. Upon reaching the Nazi center, Milada’s name is changed to “Eva” and she and the other girls are forced to speak German. During her stay at the center, “Eva” makes a friend, but also sees girls who fall under the spell of the Nazi brainwashing. She must summon all of her emotional strength to remember her real name and family. “Eva” secretly wears a pin given to her by her Grandmother with the warning “Remember who you are. Always.” This book shows an aspect of the Nazi regime that is not commonly portrayed in children’s literature. It is a chilling account of the psychological control the Nazi’s had over their youngest victims. Milada has never met a Jewish person, so the Jewish content is limited to sympathetic references to the impact of the Nazi regime on the Jewish community. Someone Named Eva reveals evil through the innocence of a child’s eyes. This is not a Jewish Holocaust story, but would make a formidable addition to any Holocaust collection. For ages 10 and up. BB
excerpts in both English and Hebrew. These are followed by a page of Rabbi Isaacs’ comments about understanding the story and then several pages from various Torah commentators. The final page in each section offers questions for thought provoking discussions, many of which raise important issues for our lives today.. The comments chosen shed light on the text and the questions move readers to ponder values and motivations in our lives. The Torah text used is the accessible JPS recent translation. Readers are introduced to traditional commentators through gray boxes, highlighting one per section. A full who’s who of commentators both historical and modern, is appended at the end. Further resources are also listed. The pages are nicely laid out and easy to follow. This book will be very useful for pre and post Bar-Bat Mitzvah students in Torah study classes and for family education either in groups or at home. Rabbi Isaacs’ questions validate approaching Torah with many viewpoints, and naturally lead to further study. This is a book to savor and return to again and again. Ages 12 and up. NSK
Ten Good Rules: A Counting Book Susan Ramick Topek, Tod Cohen Kar-Ben, 2007. 22 pp. $7.95 ISBN: 1-58013-209-x
Someone Named Eva
A Taste of Torah: An Introduction to Thirteen Challenging Bible Stories
Joan M. Wolf Clarion Books, 2007. 208 pp. $16.00 ISBN: 0-618-53579-9
Rabbi Ronald H. Isaacs UJR Press, 2006.136 pp. $14.95 ISBN: 0-8074-0813-1
ilada, a gentile girl living in Czechoslovakia in 1942, is turning eleven on her next birthday. When the Nazi’s converge upon her town, she is separated from her family and taken to a Lebensborn cen-
abbi Ronald Isaacs uses his considerable talent as a teacher to bring Torah into our lives through introducing us to thirteen of his favorite challenging biblical stories. Each story is presented with choice
ll Jewish children should be taught the Ten Commandments, but their complex and mature wording makes them rather difficult to introduce to a younger audience. This book makes teaching the Ten Commandments to young children effortless and effective. The simple, carefully worded language and the bright and engaging color photographs capture the essence and concept of each “rule.” In addition, certain commandments have been
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REVIEWS: CHILDREN’S modified using positive language in lieu of negative language in order to make this book age-appropriate, and allow for easier comprehension. The exciting, full-color pictures in the typical Tod Cohen fashion draw the audience in. With the introduction of a new rule, the children in the photographs are shown demonstrating it. For example, for rule number 4, “celebrate Shabbat” the children are shown enthusiastically lighting wooden Shabbat candles, making Kiddush and HaMotzi. The choice of photos is appealing, and the children who are depicted represent a multicultural group that could be seen at any pre-school in the nation. Overall, Ten Good Rules is an exciting, simple, and effective way to introduce the Ten Commandments to young, pre-school age children, as it is perfect for use both at home and in the classroom. Ages 3–6. KF
life once more. This gentle story of loneliness and friendship strikes an honest chord. Each old man is depicted as an individual, who might be someone’s “zayde” going to “daven” at the old “shul”. Who has not seen a nearly abandoned synagogue in the city’s downtown core? The watercolor illustrations by Gary Clement complement the text with plenty of humorous details. Ten Old Men and a Mouse is sure to enchant young and old alike. Ages 4–7. AD
climbing and casino gambling. The volume chronologically unfolds his life, often making parallels with Adolf Hitler who once lived near the Frankl home in Vienna. Marvelous family portraits and wonderful old postcards of Vienna set the scene and recapture the era. Warm moments discuss Frankl’s family life, his two marriages and one daughter. If only title and chapter fonts had followed suit; they are frenetic, slanted and tacky. These are small quibbles in a well written book that, though text bookish, overflows with clearly explained information about heavy topics: competing psychiatric theories, discipline of logotherapy, Nazi rise to power and targeted destruction of Jews. For ages 12 and up. EGC
Viktor Frankl: A Life Worth Living Anna Redsand Clarion Books, 2006. 150 pp. $19.00 ISBN: 0-618-72343-9
or those curious about the man behind the famous book Man’s Search for Meaning, this solid, serious biography chronicles an inspiring life. Austrian Jew, Viktor Frankl, was a practicing psychiatrist and creator of logotherapy. His new treatment differed from Sigmund Freud’s and Alfred Adler’s, giants who began as his mentors and ended as his angry competitors. Frankl spent two and a half years in four concentration camps during the Holocaust. He believed people could exist on their inner strength. Using his previous experience doctoring suicide patients, he helped many fellow inmates survive. Upon liberation, he wrote one of the first camp exposés, Man’s Search for Meaning, one of the ten most influential books in America, according to the Library of Congress. More than a personal story, Frankl analyzed the situation as a psychiatrist connecting it to his logotherapy, which finds meaning in action, creation, and suffering. Frankl, a prankster as a child, grew into a man with a flair for risk; his favorite activities included brain surgery, mountain
Ten Old Men and a Mouse Cary Fagan; Gary Clement, illus. Tundra Books, 2007. 32 pp. $18.95 ISBN: 0-88776-716-8
his delightful picture book tells the story of ten old men who come to pray at the synagogue every morning and evening. One day, a mouse takes up residence among the holy books. What should the men do? After a half-hearted attempt to catch the mouse, the men begin to enjoy their new pet. After all, they haven’t had a new member for thirty-five years! They coddle the mouse until one day they realize that he is a she, who has given birth to ten babies. The men release the mouse family into the country, but soon miss their pet. Not to worry. The mother mouse returns to the synagogue, ready to take up her cozy
JEWISH BOOK WORLD
What is Peace? Etan Boritzer; Jeff Vernon, illus. Veronica Lane Books, 2006. 36 pp. $14.95 ISBN: 0976274345
his book reads like a collection of the author’s thoughts and questions on the subject of peace. Each page opens with a word like “how,” “maybe” or “what if,” encouraging the reader to form her own opinion. The simplistic illustrations on the facing pages are multicultural, featuring people in a variety of settings, wearing everything from turbans to denim. The verses are surrounded by the word “peace” in 32 languages. Each page starts out with simpler issues, like being afraid in a dark room. By the bottom of the page, the issues are broadened and more difficult, like being afraid because someone hates your religion or the language your parents speak. The concrete examples bring meaning to the concept of peace in a very accessible way.
REVIEWS: CHILDREN’S The Jewish value of shalom is for people of all faiths and backgrounds, as is the target audience for the book. Boritzer defines praying as trying to hold on to your peace. He also offers the suggestion to pray to send love to others who might be afraid of losing their peace. This is the latest in a series which includes, What is Love?, What is Death? and What is God?, among others. Ages 7–10. RR
The Whirlwind Carol Matas Orca Book Publishers, 2007. 128 pp. $8.95 ISBN: 978-1-55143-703-3
t is 1941. Ben, his sister and parents are able to flee Germany for the United States with his father’s brother, Issac, as sponsor. But why didn’t his father listen to Ben’s grandmother when she begged him to flee much earlier? Now Ben’s grandparents, his beloved cousin Elizabeth and her family are unable to leave Germany and they soon stop hearing from them. After experiencing horrible anti-Semitism and beatings by former schoolmates in Germany, Ben cannot shake off desperate feelings of danger and insecurity, even in the United States. These increase when his only friend, a Japanese-American boy, and his family are sent away to an internment camp after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and Ben is being bullied by antiSemitic American schoolmates who look like Nazis. Ben falls victim to fear, afraid that it is all happening again. This book tackles the important issue of prejudice within America during the war years. Another winner from the talented Matas, whose previous Holocaust themed novels have proven popularity among YA readers. Ages 12 +. MWP
Who Was Anne Frank? Ann Abramson; Nancy Harrison, illus. Grosset & Dunlap/ Penguin Young Readers, 2007. 103 pp. $4.99 (pbk.) ISBN: 978-0-448-44482-6 (pbk.)
his book is a simply told story about Anne Frank’s life with large text, ample white space between lines, and an almost graphic book illustration style. On the inside pages, simple, well-drawn pencil illustrations, some with a comic book quality—especially facial expressions—expand the text and make it accessible to young readers. Maps and diagrams provide historical and visual reference. The book is quite effective and could be recommended to a third grade child, hoping that it would not substitute for later reading of the authentic Anne Frank diary. Ages 9–12. MWP
JEWISH BOOK WORLD
BOOKS OF NOTE Please note that all blurbs have been taken from information provided by the publisher.
ABRAHAM EPSTEIN: THE FORGOTTEN FATHER OF SOCIAL SECURITY Pierre Epstein University of Missouri Press, 2006. $39.95 ISBN: 978-0-8262-1681-6
PAST PERFECT Susan Isaacs Scribner, 2007. $25.00 ISBN: 978-0-7432-4216-5
In Past Perfect, Susan Isaacs gives us bright, buoyant, and borderline luscious Katie Schottland. Katie seems to have the ideal life: a great husband, a precocious and winning tenyear-old son, and a dream job; however, when Katie gets a surprise call from a former CIA colleague who promises to reveal the truth about why Katie was unexpectedly fired fifteen years earlier, she embarks on a quest back into the dark intrigues of the past.
SAUL BELLOW: NOVELS 1956–1964 Saul Bellow; James Wood, ed. The Library of America, 2007. $35.00 ISBN: 978-1-59853-002-5
In this one volume are three of Bellow’s greatest works, novels that established him as one of the most brilliant and vital writers of the postwar period and won him a receptive audience.
JEWISH BOOK WORLD
explanation of the methodology used, and a table delineates typical ways that God language is handled, with sample verses.
Abraham Epstein was a major figure in American social reform during the first half of the 20th century. His name and his theories appear in almost every book written on Social Security and the New Deal, but a full account of his life has never been made. Epstein’s son, Pierre, now secures his legacy in this book that tells for the first time the story of his father’s role in the conception and enactment of Social Security and sheds new light on the inner workings of the Roosevelt administration.
ALBERT MEETS AMERICA: HOW JOURNALISTS TREATED GENIUS DURING EINSTEIN’S 1921 TRAVELS József Illy, ed. John Hopkins University Press, 2006. $29.95 ISBN: 978-0801884573
In Albert Meets America, József Illy presents a fascinating compilation of media stories of Einstein’s tour to America to campaign for public awareness and support of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. These stories cover his science, his Zionism, and the anti-Semitism he encountered. This exciting collection gives readers an intimate glimpse into the life of one of the world’s first modern celebrities and a unique understanding of the media’s power over both its subject and its audience.
BEYOND THE BORDER: THE GERMAN-JEWISH LEGACY ABROAD Steven E. Aschheim Princeton University Press, 2007. $27.95 ISBN: 978-0-691-12223-6
In Beyond the Border, Steven E. Aschheim analyzes how the German-Jewish legacy has continued to permeate Western thought and sensibility. He also examines how German-Jewish intellectuals have achieved iconic status in contemporary society.
THE CONTEMPORARY TORAH: A GENDER-SENSITIVE ADAPTATION OF THE JPS TRANSLATION
COVENANT OF CARE: NEWARK BETH ISRAEL AND THE JEWISH HOSPITAL IN AMERICA Alan M. Kraut and Deborah A. Kraut Rutgers University Press, 2006. $37.95 ISBN: 0-8135-3910-2
Newark Beth Israel Hospital is a distinguished modern medical institution in New Jersey whose history opens a window on American health care, the immigrant experience, the religious impulse for health care, and urban life. Alan and Deborah Kraut tell the story of this important institution, illuminating the broader history of voluntary nonprofit hospitals created under religious auspices, initially to serve poor immigrant communities.
David E.S. Stein, ed. Jewish Publication Society, 2006. $28.00 ISBN: 978-0-8276-0796-5
This adaptation of the JPS translation of the Torah (1962) will appeal to readers who are interested in a historically based picture of social gender roles in the Bible, as well as those who have become accustomed to gender-sensitive English in other aspects of their lives. In preparing this new edition, the editors sought language that was more sensitive to gender nuances, to reflect more accurately the perceptions of the original Bible readers. David Stein’s preface provides an
THE DREAM OF THE POEM: HEBREW POETRY FROM MUSLIM AND CHRISTIAN SPAIN 950–1492 Peter Cole, trans. & ed. Princeton University Press, 2007. $50.00 ISBN: 978-0-691-12194-9
Hebrew culture experienced a renewal in medieval Spain that produced what is arguably the most powerful body of Jewish poetry written since the Bible. This body of poetry fuses elements of East and West, Arabic
BOOKS OF NOTE and Hebrew, and the particular and the universal; this verse embodies an extraordinary sensuality and intense faith that transcend the limits of language, place, and time. Peter Cole’s translations reveal this remarkable poetic world to English readers in all of its richness, humor, grace, gravity, and wisdom.
is best known for his translations of Hebrew poetry. The present volume contains Friend’s version of nineteen Hebrew poets.
THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF JEWISH MYTH, MAGIC, AND MYSTICISM
THE GOLDFISH WENT ON VACATION: A MEMOIR OF LOSS (AND LEARNING TO TELL THE TRUTH ABOUT IT)
Rabbi Geoffrey W. Dennis Llewellyn Publications, 2007. $24.95 ISBN: 978-0-7387-0905-5
This comprehensive treasury of Jewish teaching and lore drawn from sources spanning Jewish scripture, Talmud, the Midrash, the Kabbalah, and other esoteric branches of Judaism, is exhaustively researched and includes over one thousand alphabetical entries, from Aaron to Zohan Chadesh, with extensive crossreferences to related topics.
FOUND IN TRANSLATION: MODERN HEBREW POETS
Patty Dann Shambhala Publications, 2007. $18.00 ISBN: 978-1-59030-428-0
Sooner or later, all parents face the question of how to talk to their children about death. What do you say when someone dear to them dies? Do you lie about it or tell the truth? Patty Dann found herself faced with this dilemma when her husband was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and given just a year to live. In this spirited and startlingly honest memoir, Dann takes us on her journey with her three-year-old son—a journey that cycles through grief and anger, but also through humor, joy, empowerment, and ultimately acceptance.
Robert Friend, trans. The Toby Press, 2007. $14.95 ISBN: 978-1-59264-174-1
The American-born Robert Friend, who died in Jerusalem in 1998, was a distinguished poet and translator. He translated some eight hundred works first written in Hebrew, Yiddish, Spanish, French, and Arabic, but
Rick Kuhn’s Henryk Grossman is the definitive study of the life and work of this renowned economist, activist, and intellectual. In tracing Grossman’s experiences, from Krakow to New York, and offering a detailed account of his ideas, the biography provides an intimate account of key events in 20th century history, including the politicization of East European Jewry, the World Wars, the rise of Stalinism and Nazism, and the Cold War.
HENRYK GROSSMAN AND THE RECOVERY OF MARXISM Rick Kuhn University of Illinois Press, 2007. $60.00 ISBN: 978-0-252-03107-6
HIDING IN THE OPEN: A YOUNG FUGITIVE IN NAZIOCCUPIED POLAND Zenon Neumark Vallentine Mitchell, 2006. $23.50 ISBN: 0-85303-633-0
This is the story of Zenon Neumark’s experiences as a Jewish teenager in Nazi-occupied Europe. It is a story about betrayal by friends and rescue by strangers; about a constant fear of being recognized as a Jew; the struggle for lodging, work, and blending in with the local population; a story of a double life working for opposing Resistance groups; and opportunities to help others survive.
THE HISTORY OF THE JEWS IN THE NETHERLANDS J.C.H. Blom, R.G. Fuks-Mansfeld, and I. Schoffer eds. The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2007. $39.95 ISBN: 978-1-904113-55-3
The ten eminent scholars who contributed to this book each describe Jewish life in a particular period, from the Middle Ages to the present. In doing so they consider the strains caused within the Jewish community by the effort to play a full part in Dutch society while maintaining Jewish culture, setting the discussion in the context of trends and tensions within Dutch society in the period in question.
HISTORY OF THE TURKISH JEWS AND SEPHARDIM: MEMORIES OF A PAST GOLDEN AGE Elli Kohen University Press of America, 2006. $64.00 ISBN: 978-0-7618-3600-1
In History of the Turkish Jews and Sephardim Elli Kohen explores the cultural synthesis resulting from the interaction of the various elements co-existing near the shores of the Bosphorus. This comprehensive work explores the early Ottomon period, the Sephardic period, and concludes on the eve of the Sabbastian upheaval.
JEWISH BOOK WORLD
BOOKS OF NOTE HOW THE HOLOCAUST LOOKS NOW: INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVES
THE JEWS OF MEDIEVAL WESTERN CHRISTENDOM: 1000–1500
Martin L. Davies and Claus-Christian W. Szejnmann, eds. Palgrave Macmillan, 2007. $74.95 ISBN: 978-0-230-00147-3
Robert Chazan Cambridge University Press, 2006. $29.99 ISBN: 978-0-521-61664-5
The essays in How the Holocaust Looks Now discuss the historical culture the Holocaust has engendered in Europe, Israel, and the USA; the politics of its reception and representation since the 1950’s; and the motivations for and effectiveness of commemorating it. This book explores the idea that even though the tenets of Nazism— racism, dictatorship, expansionism—have become unacceptable in the Western world, little has actually changed.
In the first new synthesis of medieval Jewish history to be published in ten years, Robert Chazan discusses the Jewish experience in Europe between 1000 and 1500 CE, a period of profound change for the Jewish people and of unprecedented engagement between Latin Christendom and the Jewish communities it harbored. As well as being the story of medieval Jewry, the book simultaneously illuminates important aspects of majority life in Europe during this period.
IN THE SHADOWS OF THE HOLOCAUST AND COMMUNISM: CZECH AND SLOVAK JEWS SINCE 1945
JEWISH INTELLECTUALS AND THE UNIVERSITY
Alena Heitlinger Transaction Publishers, $39.95 ISBN: 0-7658-0331-3
Marla Morris explores Jewish intellectuals in society and in the university using psychoanalytic theory. Morris examines Otherness as experienced by Jewish intellectuals who grapple with anti-Semitism within the halls of academia.
Alena Heitlinger’s book sheds light on identity and community formation among Czech and Slovak Jews who grew up in the first two decades of the Communist system. She knits together a coherent picture of the life of “second generation” Czechoslavak Jewry, which had to fight for a positive identity under the double pressure of the Holocaust and Communist policy.
Marla Morris Palgrave Macmillan, 2006. $69.96 ISBN: 978-1-4039-7580-5
JEWISH BOOK WORLD
With studies of Jewish communities in port cities ranging from 16th century Livorno to modern Singapore, this book develops and extends the concept of the port Jew using a blend of conceptual innovation and original research.
JEWS AND PORT CITIES 1590–1990: COMMERCE, COMMUNITY AND COSMOPOLITANISM
kosher wine. L’Chaim includes the history of wine, lists of the best kosher wines, food pairings, ways to cook with wine, along with wine wisdom. Rosenberg answers such questions as what makes a wine kosher, the health benefits of wine, the difference between Chablis and Chardonnay, and what wine goes with gefilte fish.
A JOURNAL OF SIGNIFICANT THOUGHT AND OPINION: COMMENTARY MAGAZINE 1945–1959 Nathan Abrams Vallentine Mitchell Publishers, 2007. $75.00 ISBN: 978-0-85303-663-0
Launched in 1945, Commentary developed into the premier postwar journal of Jewish affairs, attracting a readership far wider than its Jewish community origin. This book is the first detailed and critical study of Commentary magazine during its formative years. Abrams traces the development of the key issues that have occupied its first fifty years: the construction of a new American Jewish identity, Judaism, the Holocaust, the State of Israel, and the Cold War.
L’CHAIM: USER’S GUIDE TO KOSHER WINE 1.0
David Cesarani and Gemma Romain, eds.
Vallentine Mitchell, 2005. $75.00 ISBN: 0-85303-681-0
Maurie Rosenberg Book Surge Publishing, 2006. $17.99 ISBN: 1-4196-3574-3
Maurie Rosenberg’s L’Chaim conveys the joys and uses of
LESSONS AND LEGACIES VII: THE HOLOCAUST IN INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVE Dagmar Herzog, ed. Northwestern University Press, 2006. $89.95 ISBN: 0-8101-2370-3
This volume of Lessons and Legacies emphasizes a number of crucial issues that are just now beginning to receive serious scholarly attention. Among them are: greed and theft motives for Holocaust perpetrators and bystanders; sexual violence and what it tells us about the experiences of both victims and perpetrators; collaborations with Nazis among the local populations on the ever-moving eastern front; the durability of anti-Semitism after 1945; and the perspectives of the Soviet military and Soviet leadership on Nazi crimes.
LITURGY, TIME, AND THE POLITICS OF REDEMPTION Randi Rashkover and C.C. Pecknold, eds. Eerdmans, 2006. $30.00 ISBN: 0-8028-3052-8
Liturgy, Time, and the Politics of
BOOKS OF NOTE Redemption advances timely conversation about the place of “religious reasoning” in public discourse by attending to the way the scriptures are liturgically performed in Jewish and Christian communities. It includes diverse examinations of liturgy and brings Jewish and Christian thinkers into conversation, showing parallels in these traditions’ liturgical reasoning and opening new possibilities for Jewish-Christian relations.
classic work of 1767, the Phädon. The “modern Socrates” of the German classical period, Mendelssohn has created a beautiful translation; an elaboration of Plato’s Phädon led to a revolution in thought, and a subsequent renaissance in Germany.
SADDUCEES, ESSENES, AND QUMRAN Hillel Newman Brill, 2006. $143.00 ISBN: 90-04-14699-7
In this work, Hillel Newman discusses four sectarian group in the Hellenistic and Roman period in Israel. He examines these groups’ values, lifestyles, ideology, and halakhah, highlighting how they were affected by their proximity to central powers of the time.
A PLAUSIBLE GOD: SECULAR REFLECTIONS ON LIBERAL JEWISH THEOLOGY
LONE STARS OF DAVID: THE JEWS OF TEXAS Hollace Ava Weiner & Kenneth D. Roseman, eds. University Press of New England, 2007. $34.95 ISBN: 978-1-58465-622-7
Lone Stars of David uncovers the history of Jews who ventured to Texas before the battle of the Alamo; who fought for the confederacy; who herded cattle up the Chisholm Trail; who struck it rich in the oil business and spent lots at the luxurious Neiman-Marcus specialty store. Lone Stars of David defies the stereotypes of Jews and explores the stereotypes of Texans.
Mitchell Silver Fordham University Press, 2006. $70.00 ISBN: 0823226824
Mitchell Silver evaluates the new “liberal” conception of God, compatible with a thoroughgoing naturalism, by analyzing the theology of three recent Jewish thinkers—Mordechai Kaplan, Michael Lerner, and Arthur Green—and compares faith in the new “liberal” God to disbelief in any Gods. He reveals what is at stake in the choice between naturalistic liberal theology and nontheistic naturalism without gods.
PHÄDON: OR, ON THE IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL Moses Mendelssohn; Patricia Noble, trans Peter Lang Publishing, 2006. $29.95 ISBN: 978-0-8204-9529-3
This is the first modern translation of Moses Mendelssohn’s
PROXIMITY TO POWER AND THE JEWISH SECTARIAN GROUPS OF THE ANCIENT PERIOD: A REVIEW OF LIFESTYLE, VALUES, AND HALAKHAH IN THE PHARISEES,
REDEFINING JUDAISM IN AN AGE OF EMANCIPATION Christian Wiese, ed. Brill, 2006. $134.00 ISBN: 90-04-15265-2
Based on a comparative and interdisciplinary approach, this volume for the first time interprets the biography and philosophy of the German Jewish thinker Samuel Holdheim (1806–1860), shedding new light on a neglected phenomenon of 19th century Jewish intellectual history—the radical Reform movement that started in Germany and culminated in the American Jewish Reform ideology.
ROGOV’S GUIDE TO ISRAELI WINES Daniel Rogov The Toby Press, 2007. $19.95 ISBN: 978-1-59264-171-0
This comprehensive guide to Israel’s rapidly developing wine industry includes up-tothe-minute information about every Israeli winery and the wines they produce. Reviews of 1,400 wines, information about which of Israel’s wines are kosher and what makes a wine kosher, as well as the best Israeli wineries and wines are all included in this guide.
SACRED STORIES: RELIGION AND SPIRITUALITY IN MODERN RUSSIA Mark D. Steinberg and Heather J. Coleman, eds. Indiana University Press, 2007. $70.00 ISBN: 978-0-253-34747-3
Sacred Stories brings together the work of leading scholars writing on the history of religion and religiosity in late imperial Russia during the critical decades preceding the 1917 revolutions. Embodying new research and new methodologies, this book reshapes our understanding of the place of religion in modern Russian history.
JEWISH BOOK WORLD
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SECRET INTELLIGENCE AND THE HOLOCAUST David Bankier, ed. Enigma Books, 2007. $23.00 ISBN: 1-929631-X
This fundamental collection of research studies digs deeply into the sensitive topic of how the Allies found out about the Holocaust and the intelligence sources that delivered the information. Bankier sheds new lights on the realities of code breaking and provides an understanding of what was happening in Nazi-occupied Europe during the Second World War.
SILENT NO MORE: SAVING THE JEWS OF RUSSIA, THE AMERICAN JEWISH EFFORT,
1967–1989 Henry L. Feingold Syracuse University Press, 2006. $45.00 ISBN: 978-0-8156-3101-9
Henry L. Feingold offers a fresh look at the Russian/Soviet Jewish emigration phenomenon by chronicling the Soviet Jewry movement in its full historical context, highlighting the significant effort of the American Jews to extricate the Jewish community from the Kremlin’s grasp. This book will be of interest to scholars of American Jewish history, the cold war, Israeli studies, and American ethnic and immigration history.
SHALOM IN THE HOME: SAVVY ADVICE FOR A PEACEFUL HOME Rabbi Shmuley Boteach Meredith Books, 2007. $14.95 ISBN: 978-0-696-23507-8
In his new book, Shalom in the Home, Rabbi Shmuley provides an in-depth, behind-thescenes look at his work with ten families featured on his TLC television show of the same name, delving into problems such as adultery, teenage sex, self esteem, toxic relationships, sexual intimacy, divorce, cultural pressures, and the effects all these issues have on the family.
WAR OR REVOLUTION: RUSSIAN JEWS AND CONSCRIPTION IN BRITAIN 1917 Harold Shukman Vallentine Mitchell, 2006. $65.00 ISBN: 0-85303-707-8
During World War I, 30,000 Russian Jews of military age in Britain faced a terrible dilemma: to enlist for the carnage of the Western Front or risk everything by returning to Russia. Nearly 4,000 chose to go back. How they fared and how they struggled to return to Britain is the story of War or Revolution.
NOW IN PAPERBACK BEATING AROUND THE BUSH Art Buchwald Seven Stories, 2007. $17.95 ISBN: 1-58322-7503
The University of Chicago Press, 2006. $12.00 ISBN: 0-226-10024-3
BEYOND CHUTZPAH: ON THE MISUSE OF ANTI-SEMITISM AND THE ABUSE OF HISTORY Norman G. Finkelstein University of California Press, 2007. $15.95 ISBN: 24989-9
THE BOMB IN THE BASEMENT: HOW ISRAEL WENT NUCLEAR AND WHAT THAT MEANS FOR THE WORLD Michael Karpin Simon & Schuster, 2007. $15.00 ISBN: 978-0-7432-6595-9
ETHICS DURING AND AFTER THE HOLOCAUST: IN THE SHADOW OF BIRKENAU
Michelle Goldberg W.W. Norton, 2007. $14.95 ISBN: 978-0-393-32976-6
Michael J. Bazyler and Roger P. Alford, eds. New York University Press, 2007. $21.00 ISBN: 978-0-8147-9904-8
LIPSHITZ SIX, OR TWO ANGRY BLONDES T. Cooper Plume, 2007. $14.00
THE IMPACT OF THE HOLOCAUST ON JEWISH THEOLOGY
THE SECOND COMING OF MAVALA SHIKONGO Peter Orner Little, Brown and Company, 2007. $13.99 ISBN: 978-0-316-06633-4
SUITE FRANCAISE Irene Nemirovsky Vintage, 2007. $14.95 ISBN: 978-1-4000-9627-5
Steven T. Katz, ed. New York Univesristy Press, 2007. $23.00 ISBN: 978-0-8147-4806-0
LOCKER ROOM DIARIES
John K. Roth Palgrave Macmillan, 2005. $27.95
Leslie Goldman De Capo Press, 2007. $14.95 ISBN: 978-0-7382-1095-7
THE TIME OF THE UPROOTED Elie Wiesel Schocken, 2007. $14.00 ISBN: 978-0-8052-1177-1
INTUITION Allegra Goodman Dial, 2007. $13.00 ISBN: 978-0-385-33610-9
FEAR: ANTI-SEMITISM IN POLAND AFTER AUSCHWITZ
Random House, 2007. $15.95 ISBN: 978-0-8129-6746-3
Michael Lavigne Random House, 2007. $13.95 ISBN: 978-0-8129-7332-7
THE JEWS OF EASTERN EUROPE, 1772–1881
THE GREAT LATKEHAMANTASH DEBATE
TO HEAL A FRACTURED WORLD: THE ETHICS OF RESPONSIBILITY Rabbi Jonathan Sacks Schocken Books, 2007. $14.00 ISBN: 978-0-8052-1196-2
Israel Bartal; Chaya Naor, trans. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006. $22.50 ISBN: 0-8122-1907-4
Ruth Fredman Cernea, ed.
JEWISH BOOK WORLD
CONTRIBUTORS MIRIAM BRADMAN ABRAHAMS (MBA) lives in Woodmere, NY, and is a mother of three, an avid reader, Hadassah Nassau Region Education committee member, Hadassah Nassau Region Book chairlady. PAUL M. ARNOLD (PMA), MD, is professor of neurosurgery and director, Spinal Cord Injury Center, at the University of Kansas.
SARAH ARONSON (SA) holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College. She currently works for Jewish Lights Publishing in Sales and Marketing. Her first novel, Head Case, will be published by Roaring Brook Press in Fall 2007. SAMUEL I. BELLMAN (SIB) is professor emeritus at California State Polytechnic University of Pomona. He has been writing on Jewish American writers since 1959.
NATASHA BERGSON-MICHELSON (NBM), MLIS, is the librarian at the Hirschberg Family Children’s Library at Peninsula Temple Sholom in Burlingame, CA. Previously, she was librarian for Niehaus Ryan Wong, Inc. and The McKenna Group, both in Silicon Valley. Natasha also writes for the online tutorial Googleguide.com.
JULI BERWALD (JMB), Ph.D. is a science writer and avid reader living in Austin, TX. She is also one of the chairs of the Austin Jewish Book Fair. BARBARA M. BIBEL (BMB) is a librarian at the Oakland Public Library in Oakland, CA; and at Congregation Netivot Shalom, Berkeley, CA.
BARBARA BIETZ (BB) is a Jewish educator and freelance writer. Her work appears in numerous magazines and websites. Barbara’s first children’s book will be published in October, 2006.
BARBARA S. COHEN (BSC) is a trial attorney in Los Angeles who specializes in child abuse cases. She is a member of NAMI and a supporter of NARSAD, and is an advocate for those who suffer from mental illness. She is
JEWISH BOOK WORLD
in the process of writing her first book.
DAVID COHEN (DC) is a professional copy editor from Cherry Hill, N.J., and the husband of Deborah Bodin Cohen, a 2006 National Jewish Book Award winner. ELLEN G. COLE (EGC), the librarian of the Levine Library of Temple Isaiah in Los Angeles, frequently reviews Jewish books for children and adults.
ANDREA DAVIDSON (ALD) is the librarian of The Temple-Tifereth Israel in Beechwood, Ohio. She holds an M.L.S. from the University of Michigan and is a former member of the Sydney Taylor Book Awards Committee.
MICHAEL DOBKOWSKI (MND) is a professor of religious studies at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. He is co-editor of Genocide and the Modern Age and On the Edge of Scarcity, both published by Syracuse University Press; the author of The Tarnished Dream: The Basis of American Anti-Semitism; and the coauthor of The Nuclear Predicament.
SUSAN DUBIN (SD) was the first librarian honored with a Milken Family Foundation Jewish Educator Award. Ms. Dubin is the owner/director of Off-the-Shelf Library Services and Library Instructional Consultant at Valley Beth Shalom Day School.
ABRAHAM J. EDELHEIT (AJE) is assistant professor of Middle Eastern History at Kingsborough Community College of the City University of New York. A frequent contributor to these pages, he is working on his twelfth book—an inquiry into the history of Jewish resistance during the Holocaust.
SHARON ELSWIT (SE) is Head Librarian at Rodeph Sholom School and author of The Jewish Story Finder: A Guide to 363 Tales Listing Subjects and Sources.
HEIDI ESTRIN (HE) is librarian for the Feldman Children’s Library at Congregation B’nai Israel in Boca Raton, FL. She is a past chair of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee for the Association of Jewish Libraries.
NORMAN J. FEDDER (NJF), Ph.D., is University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Theatre, Kansas State University. He is currently Associate Director/Academic Coordinator in the Interdisciplinary Arts Program of Nova Southeastern University.
SHELLY FEIT (SF) has an M.L.S. and a Sixthyear Specialist’s Certificate in Information Science. She is currently the library director and media specialist at the Moriah School in Englewood, NJ. JUDITH FELSENFELD’S (JF) stories have appeared most recently in The Southwest Review, The Chicago Review, The Blue Mesa Review and on NPR’s ‘Selected Shorts.’ She is completing a collection of stories.
NORMAN H. FINKELSTEIN (NHF), a retired public school librarian, is a long-term instructor at Boston’s Hebrew College. He is the author of thirteen nonfiction books and the recipient of the Golden Kite Honor Award for Nonfiction and two National Jewish Book Awards. His most recent book is a biography, Ariel Sharon (Lerner Publishing Group). JACK FISCHEL (JRF) is professor emeritus of history at Millersville University, Millersville, PA.
RITA BERMAN FRISCHER (RBF), retired director of Sinai Temple Blumenthal Library and a past chair of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee for the Assoc. of Jewish Libraries, has reviewed adult and children’s books for Jewish periodicals and newspapers, judged children’s book awards and published chapters on children’s books in various bibliographic works.
KENDRA FUCHS (KF) is a mother and a Jewish educator. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and her two young children.
SHIMON GEWIRTZ (SG) is a cantor, composer, playwright who has lectured on Jewish music at various universities and elderhostels around the country. His original songs and translations ( from both Hebrew and Yiddish) appear in many anthologies. Can-
CONTRIBUTORS tor Gewirtz has a Masters Degree in Theatre Ed. from N.Y.U.
DEBRA GOLD (DG) has been a children’s librarian for over 20 years in the Cuyahoga County Public Library System. An active member of the ALA, she has served on many committees including the Caldecott, Newbery and Batchelder committees. RUTH BERGER GOLDSTON (RBG) is a licensed psychologist in Princeton, NJ and a longtime havurahnik.
WALLACE GREENE (WG), Ph.D., is the director of Jewish Educational Services for the UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey.
MICAH D. HALPERN (MDH) is a columnist and a social and political commentator. He is the author of What You Need To Know About: Terror, and maintains The Micah Report at www.micahhalpern.com ELAINE HARRIS (EH) has been a pre-school teacher at South Peninsula Hebrew Day School in Sunnyvale, California for 15 years.
RACHEL KAMIN (RK), M.L.S., is librarian of Temple Israel in West Bloomfield, MI. She is currently the chair of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee of the Association of Jewish Libraries.
TAMI KAMIN-MEYER (TKM) is an attorney and writer in Columbus, OH. Her byline has appeared in Columbus Monthly, Columbus CEO and Ohio magazines. She is also a contributor to several Jewish newspapers in Ohio and the Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s online news service.
ALISON KELLY (AK) holds a B.A. in American History from Northwestern University and an MLIS from UCLA. She is a librarian at Stephen S. Wise Temple Elementary School.
JEFFREY KOBRIN (JBK) is the headmaster of the Rabbi Haskel Lookstein Middle School of Ramaz in Manhattan. He has taught Judaic studies and English literature. He lives in Riverdale, NY with his wife Michelle Green-
berg-Kobrin and their three daughters.
MELODY KRAMER (MK) is spending the year on a fellowship at National Public Radio. She lives in Washington, DC.
NANCY S. KRAUS (NSK), a retired public and Jewish day school librarian, was on the 2003 Newbery Award Committee.
NOEL N. KRIFTCHER (NNK) is a professor and administrator at Polytechnic University in New York City. Previously, he served as superintendent of the high schools in Brooklyn and Staten Island.During the 1980’s, he was Principal of Seward Park H.S. on the Lower East Side, just a few blocks from the Forverts building.
SHIRA KURTZ (SK) is a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at Fairleigh Dickinson University.
LIEL LEIBOVITZ (LL) is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School and a veteran of the Israeli Army. He regularly writes for Jewish Week, Hadassah, B’Nai Brith, Moment and other publications and is the author of the new book Aliya (St. Martin’s Press).
WILLIAM LISS-LEVINSON (WLL) is vice president, chief strategy & operations officer of Castle Connolly Medical Ltd., a consumer health research, information and publishing company. He has a Ph.D. in education and has been exposed to a wide range of formal and informal approaches to Jewish education over the course of his life. MICHAL HOSCHANDER MALEN (MHM) is a librarian and editor of reference books.
LEONARD A. MATANKY (LAM), Ph.D., serves as associate superintendent of the Associated Talmud Torahs of Chicago, director of its Morris and Rose Goldman Computer Department for Jewish Studies, dean of Ida Crown Jewish Academy, and rabbi of Congregation K.I.N.S. of West Rogers Park (Chicago). PENNY METSCH (PGM), MLS, formerly a school libraian on Long Island and in New
York City, now does early literacy programs in Hoboken, N.J.
CAROL POLL (CP) is a professor of sociology and chair of the social sciences department at the Fashion Institute of Technology of the State University of New York. Her areas of interest include the sociology of race and ethnic relations and the sociology of marriage, family, and gender roles. MARCIA W. POSNER (MWP) is librarian and program vice-president of The Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County. DIANE LEVIN RAUCHWERGER (DLR) is librarian for Congregation Beth Am, Los Altos Hills, California, and a children’s librarian for the Sunnyvale Public Library. She is author of a series of children’s picture books published by Kar-Ben Publishing.
RACHEL SARA ROSENTHAL (RSR) is an associate in the litigation department of Goodwin Procter LLP. She graduated from Duke University and Columbia Law School. She lives in Washington, DC.
RACHEL ROSNER (RR) is the director of the Jewish Book Festival in Rochester, NY. She holds a degree in early childhood education from Syracuse University.
PETER ROTHHOLZ (PR) headed his own Manhattan-based public relations agency and taught in the Business and Liberal Arts (BALA) program at Queens College. He now lives in East Hampton, NY and Santa Monica, CA and is a frequent contributor to Jewish publications.
CLAIRE RUDIN (CR) is a retired director of the New York City School Library System and former librarian at the Holocaust Resource Center and Archives in Queens, NY. She is the author of The School Librarian’s Sourcebook and Children’s Books About the Holocaust.
PHIL SANDICK (PS) is a graduate student in the MFA fiction program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is originally from Fresh Meadows, New York.
JEWISH BOOK WORLD
CONTRIBUTORS DANIEL SCHIFRIN (DRS), former Director of Literary Programs for the National Foundation for Jewish Culture, is a visiting scholar at Stanford University. He writes a column on arts & culture for New York Jewish Week, and his essays and reviews appear in the San Francisco Chronicle, the Los Angeles Times, and other publications. He is the editor of Across the Great Divide: The Selected Essays of Abraham Coralnik, and has just completed his first novel. CHERIE KARO SCHWARTZ (CKS) is a storyteller/author/educator living in Denver, Colorado. She has shared storytelling performances and workshops for three decades across the country and abroad. Cherie has written three books and produced numerous recordings and articles: www.hamsapubs.com.
RUTH SEIF (RS) is a retired high school chairperson of English, Thomas Jefferson High School, New York City Board of Education. Served as administrator in the Alternative High School division, designing and implementing educational programs at Rikers Island, “Job Corps”, and Middle College High School at La Guardia Community College. SONIA SILVA (SS) obtained a MLIS from the University of Montreal. She is a children’s librarian at the Jewish Public Library in Montreal and the Liaison Librarian for Jewish Studies at McGill University.
BARBARA SILVERMAN (BS) has an MLS from Texas Woman’s University. She worked as a
children’s librarian at the Corpus Christi Public Libraries and at the Corpus Christi ISD before retiring. She now works as a volunteer at the Astor Judaic Library of the Lawrence Family JCC in La Jolla, Ca. LISA SILVERMAN (LJS) is the Children’s editor of Jewish Book World and the librarian at Sinai Temple.
RACHEL SIMON (RS), a librarian at Princeton University, does research on Jews in the modern Middle East and North Africa, with special reference to Libya, Ottoman Empire, women and education.
SHERRY SMITHER (SPS) has been teaching senior high school students to appreciate literature and to hone their writing skills. She also teaches learning disabled students learning strategies. As a freelance writer, she focuses on people of interest in the Jewish community and beyond. She serves on the Board of Education at her synagogue, Adath Israel Congregation. Sherry lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada with her husband and three children.
ARLENE B. SOIFER (ABS) earned degrees in English, and has had many years of experience as a free-lance writer, editor, and public relations professional. Most recently, she worked for an art museum in public information, and served part time in a similar capacity at a Holocaust education center.
MARTHA SPARKS (MS) is a Ph.D. student in clinical psychology. She lives and studies in New Jersey.
SARA LEOPOLD SPINNELL (SLS) lives in Manhattan with her husband and daughter. She enjoyed a career in book publishing for over 15 years, most recently as director of publicity for Oxford University Press. Spinnell now freelances and writes fiction.
ZACHARY THACHER (ZT) is a screenwriter, marketing consultant and community organizer living in Manhattan. He leads the Kol haKfar minyan in downtown New York.
NAOMI TROPP (NT) is the Ann Katz Festival of Books Coordinator at the Indianapolis JCC.
WENDY WASMAN (WW) has been a professional librarian since 1988. She is currently working in the libraries of Anshe-Chesed Fairmount Temple and The Temple-Tifereth Israel, both in Beachwood, OH. MARON L. WAXMAN (MLW), retired editorial director, special projects, at the American Museum of Natural History, was also an editorial director at HarperCollins and Bookof-the-Month Club, specializing in informational books and book development. She also leads editorial workshops.
BILL WILSON (BW) is the founder and President of Blackout! Records, the highly respected independent rock music label. He is a regular columnist and contributing editor for the Indiehq weblog. He lives in Hoboken, NJ with his girlfriend and Lola, the world’s most cuddly American Pit Bull Terrier.
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JEWISH BOOK WORLD
INDEX Title, Author, BR, CBR or BN
Title, Author, BR, CBR or BN Future of Art in a Digital Age: From Hellenistic to Hebraic Consciousness,
BR = Book Review
Mel Alexenberg, BN
CBR = Children’s Book Review
George Gershwin: His Life and Work, Howard Pollack, BR
BN = Books of Note
Getting Our Groove Back: How to Energize Amreican Jewry, Scott A. Shay, BR
Girl with the Gallery: Edith Gregory Halpert and the Making of the Abraham Epstein: The Forgotten Father of Social Security, Pierre Epstein, BN Albert Meets America: How Journalists Treated Genius During Einstein’s 1921 Travels, Jozsef Illy, ed., BN All Governments Lie: The Life and Times of Rebel Journalist I.F. Stone, Myra MacPherson, BR All That We See, Say and Do, Beth Intro; Robin Skolsky, illus, CBR All*Star Season, T.S. Yavin; Craig Orback, illus., CBR Alphabetical Life, Wendy Werris, BR Arab-Israeli Military Forces in an Era of Asymmetric Wars, Anthony H. Cordesman, BR Art of Aging: A Doctor’s Prescription for Well-Being, Sherwin B. Nuland, BR Becoming Judy Chicago: A Biography of the Artist, Gail Levin, BN Best of I.F. Stone, I.F. Stone; Karl Weber, ed., BR Beyond the Border, Steven E. Aschheim, BN Book of Names, Jill Gregory and Karen Tintori, BR Caviar and Ashes: A Warsaw Generation’s Life and Death in Marxism, 1918–1968, Marci Shore, BR Circumcision, Gyorgy Dalos; Judith Sallosy, trans., BR Concise History of the Third Reich, Wolfgang Benz, BR Contemporary Torah: A Gender-Sensitive Adpations of the JPS Translation, David E.S. Stein, ed., BN Covenant of Care: Newark Beth Israel and the Jewish Hospital in America, Alan M. Kraut and Deborah A. Kraut, BN David & Max, Gary Provost and Gail Provost Stockwell, CBR Days of Deliverance: Essays on Purim and Hanukkah, Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, BR Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain 950–1492, Peter Cole, trans. & ed., BN Dropped From Heaven, Sophie Judah, BR Einstein: His Life and Universe, Walter Isaacson, BR Elie Wiesel: Messenger for Peace, Heather Lehr Wagner, CBR Emily Goldberg Learns to Salsa, Micol Ostow, CBR Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic, and Mysticism, Rabbi Geoffrey W. Dennis, BN Escape! : The Story of the Great Houdini, Sid Fleischman, CBR Eva Hesse: Sculpture, Elisabeth Sussman, et al, BR Family Book of Midrash: Fifty-Two Jewish Stories from the Sages, Barbara Diamond Goldin, BR Family of Strangers, Deborah Tall, BR Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland After Auschwitz, Jan T. Gross, BR Fight for Jerusalem: Radical Islam, the West, and the Future of the Holy City, Dore Gold, BR Five Germanys I Have Known, Fritz Stern, BR Five Little Gefiltes, Dave Horowitz, CBR Folktales of the Jews, Vol. 1: Tales from the Sephardic Dispersion, Dan Ben-Amos, ed., BR Found in Translation: Modern Hebrew Poets, Robert Friend, trans., BN Fragments of Memory: From Kolin to Jerusalem, Hana Greenfield, CBR
Modern Art Market, Lindsay Pollock, BR
Goldfish Went on Vacation: A Memoir of Loss (and Learning to Tell 78
the Truth about It), Patty Dann, BN
Harry Houdini: A Magical Life, Elizabeth MacLeod, CBR
36 66 66 38
Heebie Jeebies at CBGB: A Secret History of Jewish Punk, Steven Lee Beeber, BR
Henryk Grossman and the Recovery fo Marxism, Rick Kuhn, BN
58 44 29 36 78 48
Hiding in the Open A Young Fugitive in Nazi-Occupied Poland, Zenon Neumark, BN
History of the Jews in the Modern World, Howard M. Sachar, BR
62 48 55
Hidden on the Mountain: Stories of Children Sheltered from the Nazi’s in Le Chambon, Deborah Durlans DeSaix, Karen Gray Ruelle, CBR
History of the Jews in the Netherlands, J.C.H. Bloom, R.G. Fuks-Mansfeld, and I. Schoffer, eds., BN
History of the Turkish Jews and Sephardim: Memories of a Past Golden Age, Elli Kohen, BN
Hitler’s Canary, Sandi Toksvig, CBR
House of Study: A Jewish Woman Among Books, Ilana M. Blumberg, BR
Housing Divide: How Generations of Immigrants Fare in New York’s Housing Market, Emily Rosenbaum and Samantha Friedman, BR How Doctors Think, Jerome Groopman, BR
How the Holocaust Looks Now: International Perspectives, Martin L. Davies
78 66 44
I Go Visiting, Rikki Benenfeld, CBR
Ice Cream Town, Rona Arato, CBR
78 49 38 67 67 79 68 24
In their Own Image: New York Jews in Jazz Age Popular Culture, Ted Merwin, BR
and Claus-Christian W. Szejnmann, eds., BN
In the Shadows of the Holocaust and Communism: Czech and Slovak Jews Since 1945, Alena Heitlinger, BN
It’s Hot and Cold in Miami, Nicole Rubel, CBR
James Sturm’s America: God, Gold, and Golems, James Sturm, BR
Jewish Art in America: An Introduction, Matthew Baigell, BN
Jewish Intellectuals and the University, Marla Morris, BN
Jewish Resistance in Wartime Greece, Steven Bowman, BR
Jewish Women Pioneering the Frontier Trail: A History fo the American West, Jeanne E. Abrams, BR
Jews and Port Cities 1590-1990: Commerce, Community and Cosmopolitanism, 60 38 62 59 40 68 49 79 67
David Cesarani andn Gemma Romain, eds., BN
Jews of Medieval Western: 1000–1500, Robert Chazan, BN
Jews, Sports, and the Rites of Citizenship, Jack Kugelmass, ed., BR
Jonathan and the Waves (Yonatan v’ha-Galim), Sheri Shira, CBR
Journal of Significant Thought and Opinion: Commentary Magazine 1945–1959, Nathan Abrams, BN
Judaism and Justice: The Jewish Passion to Repair the World, Sidney Schwarz, BR
Kabbalah: A Brief Introduction for Christians, Tamar Frankiel, BR
Kabbalah: A Love Story, Lawrence Kushner, BR
Kabbalah: An Introduction to Jewish Mysticism, Byron L. Sherwin, BR
Kabbalah: The Mystic Quest in Judaism, David Ariel, BR
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INDEX Title, Author, BR, CBR or BN
Title, Author, BR, CBR or BN
Kalooki Nights, Howard Jacobson, BR
L’Chaim: User’s Guide to Kosher Wine 1.0, Maurie Rosenberg, BN
Leap, Jane Breskin Zalben, CBR
Lessons and Legacies VII: The Holocaust in International Perspective, Dagmar Herzog, ed., BN
Christopher Bigsby, BR
Sacred Stories: Religion and Spirituality in Modern Russia, Mark D. Steinberg
Sammy Spider’s First Haggadah, Sylvia A. Rouss; Katherine Janus Kahn, illus., CBR 74
and Heather J. Coleman, eds., BN
Lone Stars of David: The Jews of Texas, Hollace Ava Weiner and Kenneth D. Roseman, BN
Rogov’s Guide to Israeli Wines, Daniel Rogov, BN
Living Lens: Photographs of Jewish Life from the Pages of the Forward, Alana Newhouse, BR
and Kabbalah, Louise Silk, BR Redefining Judaism in an Age of Emancipation, Christian Wiese, ed., BN Remembering and Imaging the Holocaust: The Chain of Memory,
Liturgy, Time, and the Politics of Redemption, Randi Rashkover and C.C. Pecknold, eds., BN
Quilting Path: A Guide to Spiritual Discovery Through Fabric, Thread
Saul Bellow: Novels 1956–1964, Saul Bellow, BN
Say-Hey and the Babe, Neil Waldman, CBR
Lon-Lon’s Big Night (Ha-Lila Ha-gadol Shel Lon-Lon), Miri Leshem-Pelly, CBR
Secret Intelligence and the Holocaust, David Bankier, ed., BN
Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, Ayelet Waldman, BR
Secret of Priest’s Grotto: A Holocaust Survival Story, Peter Lane Taylor
Shalom in the Home: Saavy Advice for a Peaceful Home,
with Christos Nicola, CBR
Lover of Unreason: Assia Wevill, Sylvia Plath’s Rival and Ted Hughes’ Doomed Love, Yehuda Koren and Eilat Negev, BR Loving Every Child: Wisdom for Parents, Janusz Korczak, BR
Marc Chagall, Jonathan Wilson, BR
Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Joanne Sundell, BR
Men of Silk: The Hasidic Conquest of Polish Jewish Society, Glenn Dynner, BR
Mendel’s Accordian, Heidi Smith Hyde; Johanna Van Der Sterre, illus., CBR
Rabby Shmuley Boteach, BN
Silent No More: Saving the Jews of Russia, The American Jewish Effort, 1967–1989, Henry L. Feingold, BN
Slangman Kids: Learn Hebrew Through Fairy Tales, David Burke; 74
Migs Sandoval, illus., CBR Someone Named Eva, Joan M. Wolf, CBR
Sophie Scholl & The White Rose, Annette Dumbach and Jud Newborn, BR
Soul of the Story: Meetings with Remarkable People, David Zeller, BR
Miracles of Passover, Josh Hanft; Seymour Chwast, illus., CBR
State of the Middle East: An Atlas of Conflict and Resolution, Dan Smith, BR
Mistress of the Art of Death, Ariana Franklin, BR
Subject in Art: Portraiture and the Birth of the Modern, Catherine M. Soussloff, BN
Mosaic of Israel’s Traditions: Unity Through Diversity, Esther Shkalim, BR
Tales of a Theatrical Guru, Danny Newman, BR
Michelangelo in Ravensbruck: One Women’s War Against the Nazis, Countess Karolina Lanckoronska, BR Ministry of Special Cases, Nathan Englander, BR
Moses and the Journey to Leadership: Timeless Lessons of Effective
Taste of Torah: An Introduction to Thirteen Challenging Bible Stories,
Management from the Bible and Today’s Leaders, Norman J. Cohen, BR
My Grandparents, My Parents and I: Jewish Art and Culture, Edward van Voolen, BR
Ten Good Rules: A Counting Book, Susan Ramick Topek, Tod Cohen, CBR
My Own Vineyard: A Jewish family in Krakow Between the Wars, Miriam Akavia, BR
Ten Old Men and a Mouse, Cary Fagan; Gary Clement, illus., CBR
This Has Happened, Piera Sonnino, BR
My Synagogue Scrapbook, Hara E. Person & Faye Tillis Lewy z””l;
Rabbi Ronald H. Isaacs, CBR
Transformations: From Ethiopia to Israel, Ricki Rosen, BR
Mystery of the Kaddish: Its Profound Influence on Judaism, Leon Charney, BR
Trinity of Passion: The Literary Left & The Antifascist Crusade, Alan M. Wald, BR
Mystical Origins of Hasidism, Rachel Elior, BR
Twenty-Eight Artists and Two Saints: Essays, Joan Acocella, BN
New Boy (Yeled Hadash), Eve Tal; Ora Shwartz, illus., CBR
Unwanted Beauty: Aesthetic Pleasure in Holocaust Representation,
Notorious Izzy Fink, Don Brown, CBR
Nuclear Weapons, Nuclear States & Terrorism, Peter R. Beckman, et al., BR
Viktor Frankl: A Life Worth Living, Anna Redsand, CBR
Overture, Yael Goldstein, BR
War or Revolution: Russian Jews and Conscription in Britain 1917,
Passover Around the World, Tami Lehman-Wilzig; Elizabeth Wolf, illus., CBR
Past Perfect, Susan Isaacs, BN
Way into the Varieties of Jewishness, Sylvia Barack Fishman, BR
Paul Goldman: Press Photographer, 1943–1961, Shlomo Arad, BR
What is Peace?, Etan Boritzer; Jeff Vernon, illus., CBR
Pesach for the Rest of Us: Making the Passover Seder Your Own, Marge Piercy, BR
Whirlwind, Carol Matas, CBR
Penina Levine is a Hard-Boiled Egg, Rebecca O’Connell; Majella Lue Su, illus., CBR
Who Was Anne Frank?, Ann Abramson; Nancy Harrison, illus., CBR
Will Eisner’s New York: Life in the Big City, Will Eisner, BR
Dahlia Schoenberg-Lam, illus., CBR
Phadon: Or, On the Immortality of the Sul, Moses Mendelssohn; Patricia Noble, trans., BN
Plausible God: Secular Reflections on Liberal Jewish Theology, Mitchell Silver, BN
Preliminaries, S. Yizhar; Nicholas De Lange, trans; Dan Miron, fwd., BR
Proximity to Power and Jewish Sectarian Groups of Ancient Period:
JEWISH BOOK WORLD
Harold Shukman, BN
Wrestling Jacob: Deception, Identity and Freudian Slips in Genesis, Shmuel Klitsner, BR
Yiddish Policemen’s Union, Michael Chabon, BR
You Never Call! You Never Write! A History of the Jewish Mother, Joyce Antler, BR
A Review of Lifestyle, Values, and Halakhah in the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, and Qumran, Hillel Newman, BN
Brett Ashley Kaplan, BN
Zurau Aphorisms of Franz Kafka, Franz Kafka, BR
JBW Spring 2007