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Fall 5771/2011 Vol. 29, Number 3

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See what's developing for the 2011-2012 Jewish Book Network author tour season! Meet the 2011-12 NETWORK authors; read reviews of new Amoz Oz stories, Joseph Heller and Leonard Bernstein bios, and much more!

Fall 5771/2011

FEATURES 4 Jewish Book NETWORK Authors

Vol. 29, Number 3

46 What We Brought Back: Jewish Life After Birthright–Reflections by Alumni of Taglit-Birthright Israel Trips Wayne Hoffman Reviewed by Jaclyn Trop

AUTHOR/BOOK PROFILES 34 The Great Jewish American Pastime Joshua Platt

38 Jew Hu Jaclyn Trop

47 FICTION 48 Folktales of the Jews, Volume 3: Tales From Arab Lands Dan Ben-Amos, ed. and commentator; Jacqueline Teitelbaum, trans.; Dov Noy, consulting ed.; Ira Shander, illus. Reviewed by Sharon Elswit

56 Critical Perspectives on Modern Jewish Literature Philip K. Jason

72 JBW Talks With Neil Waldman Marcia W. Posner


Joshua Cohen Reviewed by Samantha White

REVIEW HIGHLIGHTS 32 AMERICAN JEWISH STUDIES 32 The Jews of Capitol Hill: A Compendium of Jewish Congressional Members Kurt F. Stone Reviewed by Jeffrey Bogursky


50 The Last Brother Nathacha Appanah; Geoffrey Strachan, trans. Reviewed by Erika Dreifus

50 The List Martin Fletcher Reviewed by Bob Goldfarb

The SPHAS: The Life and Times of Basketball’s Greatest Jewish Team Douglas Stark Reviewed by Edward S. Shapiro

52 Scenes from Village Life Amos Oz; Nicolas de Lange, trans. Reviewed by Bob Goldfarb

36 AUTOBIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR 36 Good Eggs: A Memoir Phoebe Potts Reviewed by Dani Crickman

36 BIOGRAPHY 40 Just One Catch: A Biography of Joseph Heller Tracy Daugherty Reviewed by Bill Brennan



40 CONTEMPORARY JEWISH LIFE 42 Breaking the Silence: Sexual Abuse In the Jewish Community David Mandel & David Pelcovitz, eds. Reviewed by Steven A. Luel

46 Reform Responsa for the Twenty-First Century Mark Washofsky, ed. Reviewed by Barbara M. Bibel

Vaclav & Lena Haley Tanner Reviewed by Michal H. Malen

54 HISTORY 54 The Colors of Zion: Blacks, Jews, and Irish from 1845 to 1945 George Bornstein Reviewed by Henry L. Carrigan, Jr.

Leonard Bernstein At Work: His Final Years, 1984–1990 Steve J. Sherman Reviewed by Bob Goldfarb

A Heaven of Others


Gender and Jewish History Marian A. Kaplan and Deborah Dash Moore, eds. Reviewed by Maron L. Waxman

58 Sacred Trash: The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza Adina Hoffman and Peter Cole Reviewed by Jeffrey Bogurksy

59 HOLOCAUST STUDIES 59 The End of the Holocaust Alvin H. Rosenfeld Reviewed by Seth J. Frantzman

59 ISRAEL STUDIES 60 Twentieth Century Jews: Forging Identity in the Land of Promise and in the Promised Land Monty Noam Penkower Reviewed by Susan M. Chambré

61 MODERN JEWISH THOUGHT & EXPERIENCE 61 Biblical Seductions: Six Stories Retold Based on Talmud and Midrash Sandra E. Rapoport Reviewed by Barbara Andrews

61 The Cambridge Introduction to Emmanuel Levinas Michael L. Morgan Reviewed by Paul Marcus

63 POETRY 63 God’s Optimism Yehoshua November Reviewed by Eleanor Ehrenkranz

63 SCHOLARSHIP 63 Between Rashi and Maimonides: Themes in Medieval Jewish Thought, Literature and Exegesis Ephraim Kanarfogel and Moshe Sokolow, eds. Reviewed by Pinchas Roth

64 The Sages: Character, Context & Creativity Vol. 1: The Second Temple Period Rabbi Binyamin Lau; Michael Prawer, trans. Reviewed by Mark D. Nanos

64 VISUAL ARTS 64 The Washington Haggadah: A Fifteenth-Century Manuscript From the Library of Congress Joel ben Simeon; David Stern, trans. Reviewed by Maron L. Waxman


DEPARTMENTS 2 Editor’s Note 30 JBW Book Club Recommendations 31 Emerging Voices: Haley Tanner Jaclyn Trop

65 Children’s 70 Barbara Bietz Chats with Barb Rosenstock 73 Booknotes 77 Contributors 80 Index

Fall 5771/2011

Jewish Book World


Jewish Book World



n 1883, the new Brooklyn Bridge opened up the exurbs of Brooklyn to the masses of Jewish immigrants living in the cramped tenements of the Lower East Side of New York City, hard by the docks and ships that brought them to America. By 1923, Brooklyn’s Jewish population—approximately 740,000—exceeded Manhattan’s. And through the mid-20th century, Brownsville, Canarsie, Flatbush, Midwood, Crown Heights were the by–words of the American Jewish experience. The stories were no longer of Jews leaving Europe but Jews settling, building, creating and assimilating in America—Henry Roth’s Call it Sleep, Michael Gold’s Jews Without Money, and Alfred Kazan’s memoir A Walker in the City. Inevitably, with education, money, and the Long Island Expressway, many Jews not anchored by Brooklyn religious institutional life moved up and out to the suburbs, and for the more daring, California, Florida, and all the rest of the United States. But what we are seeing now is young, strongly identified if secular Jewish authors returning to the borough in increasing numbers—and with new guideposts— Clinton, North Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Red Hook, Greenpoint, and Park Slope. The how and why of the Brooklyn renewal have been well chronicled by the media. High Manhattan rents, gentrification of historic manufacturing cum artist loft space and the cachet of downtown glass towered condominiums built during the real estate boom that imploded in 2008, drove thousands of young artists across the Bridge. But the what of it, both the density and the diversity, is something to experience. The “new” Williamsburg is perhaps most striking. Bedford Avenue was once exclusively the shared turf of Satmar Hasidim and an impoverished underclass. And while kosher bakeries and butcher shops still abound at the southern end, for blocks on Bedford’s northern end the streets are crowded—as stoops were—with the young and arty. Open air coffee shops share sidewalks with art galleries, specialty cheese stores, and neighborhood pubs with upscale wine lists, micro brewed beer, and jazz quartets. It brings to mind Greenwich Village of the 1960’s. And just as the energy of the Village fueled the artistic explosion of the 60’s, the energy of this new Brooklyn is the creative cauldron for the new Jewish writer. One of these up and coming writers is Austin Ratner of Brooklyn Heights. Ratner is


Jewish Book World

Fall 5771/2011

the winner of the 2011 Sami Rohr Prize for Literature for The Jump Artist, his extraordinary book about the Holocaust photographer Phillippe Halsman. Another is Joshua Cohen, whose first novel, A Heaven of Others, written when he was only 23, is reviewed in this issue. In A Heaven of Others, Cohen brings us a plot as provoking as it is absurd—a 10 year old Israeli, Jonathan Schwartzstein, is blown up by a 10 year old Palestinian bomber and finds himself in Heaven—but not his Heaven, rather a Muslim Heaven. With this early novel, Cohen already began to be compared to Kafka. This talent for the absurd is seen even more developed in WITZ, Cohen’s 2010 800-page tour de force, in which Cohen brings to life Benjamin Israelien, the last Jew living, who by a quirk of fate revives a Judaism in his unwilling image. Cohen’s work is provocative and original. He’s one to read, and to watch. One of the organs of the Jewish Book Council is the Jewish Book NETWORK. Through this arm, the Jewish Book Council sends writers of Jewish interest on tour to Jewish book programs and communal organizations across the country. The writers who make up this year’s NETWORK authors, over a dozen reside in Brooklyn—joining fellow writers Nathan Englander, Nicole Krauss, and Jonathan Safran Foer. In its earliest days, the Brooklyn Bridge brought a broken Jewish immigrant population to a new beginning. In our day that same bridge is returning to the world the polished, exciting prose of the grandchildren and great grandchildren of those immigrants. Through the NETWORK and with our quarterly publication of Jewish Book World and through many other efforts, we at the Jewish Book Council are our own bridge to Jewish culture. We are a connection to the Jewish writer. Jews have changed. Jews have moved. But Jews have never lost the yearning to understand who we are and to share, through writing, what we discover. When our NETWORK writers fan out across the country they’ll meet audiences eager to hear about the enormous varieties of Jewish experience, whether the old Brooklyn, the new Brooklyn or Kalamazoo. We at the Jewish Book Council are proud of our contribution. We hope you enjoy this issue.

Jewish Book Council is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1943 to promote the publishing, writing, and reading of quality books of Jewish interest. In sponsoring Jewish Book World the Council aims to meet the need for a journal devoted to providing thoughtful reviews of new Jewish books and features on the author and literary scene. 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, the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, and other programs and activities.

Staff Carol E. Kaufman Naomi Firestone-Teeter Lisa Silverman Barbara Goelman Sean Kennedy

Editor Managing Editor Children’s Book Editor Editorial Assistant, Children's Books Art Director

Jewish Book Council Lawrence J. Krule Harry I. Freund Judith Lieberman Mimi S. Frank Henry Everett (z”l)

President Vice-President Vice-President Secretary Honorary Chairman of the Board Carolyn Starman Hessel Director Miri R. Pomerantz Dauber Program Director Naomi Firestone-Teeter Director of Publications Joyce Lit NETWORK Associate Dani Crickman Artistic Director Sharon Bruce Program Assistant Intern William Sudry Alyssa Berlin Intern

Board of Directors Tracy Brown Steven D. Burton Edith Everett Paul A. Flexner Ellen Frankel Samuel G. Freedman Ari L. Goldman Shelley Goldseker Matthew F. Golub Blu Greenberg Stephan Gross Rae Gurewitsch Miriam Holmes Altie Karper Francine Klagsbrun Warren Kozak

Myra Kraft (z”l) Carmel R. Krauss Ruth Legow Dan Levine William Liss-Levinson Stuart Matlins Deborah Miller Marcia W. Posner Julie Potiker Steven Siegel A.A. Steinberger Livia S. Straus Joseph Telushkin Jonathan Tepperman Alan J. Wiener Bernard Weinflash Jane Weitzman

Editorial Board Altie Karper Michael Monheit Marcia W. Posner

Nessa Rapaport Arlene Soifer Ted Solotaroff (z”l), ex officio

Jewish Book World (ISSN: 1083-8341) is published quarterly by the Jewish Book Council, 520 8th Avenue, 4th floor, New York, NY 10018, (212)201-2920;; email: The subscription rate is $36.00 a year or $12.50 for an individual issue. Copyright © 2011, by Jewish Book Council. Postmaster: Please send address changes to Jewish Book Council, 520 8th Avenue, 4th Floor, New York, NY 10018. The articles and opinions expressed herein do not necessarily represent the view of the Editorial Board, Board of Directors, or any member thereof or any particular editor or Staff member. Advertising in Jewish Book World does not necessarily imply editorial endorsement. To advertise in Jewish Book World, please call (212) 201-2921 or email Claims on orders that have not been received must be made within two months of the date of publication.

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lue, A $1200 va 5 CDs, 30 titles, 21 lus only $160 (p is a perfect shipping)! It y ones. Or, wh gift for loved t if as a g not donate it synagogue to your local izen or senior cit home?

The historic compilation of Yiddish classics, read aloud by native Yiddish speakers at Montreal’s Jewish Public Library, and presented by the National Yiddish Book Center, preserves complete, unabridged books on CD. Thirty titles are now available, including works by: Sholem Aleichem, Sholem Asch, I.L. For more information, call 212-201-2920 or email

Peretz, Mendele Moykher Sforim, and I.B. Singer, among others.

This project is supported by a generous grant from the Rohr family of Miami.

Jewish Book NETWORK Authors 2011–2012 Jewish Book Council created Jewish Book NETWORK to heighten awareness and promote the reading of quality Jewish interest books. In the past few years, Jewish book fairs and year-round book programs have become a major force in the Jewish community. Below is a preview of some of the “hottest” new authors to hit the Jewish literary scene for the 2011–2012 season. (The book summaries have been compiled from material provided by the respective publishers.)

Lorraine Abramson

Izzeldin Abuelaish

Marc Agronin




DBM Press, 2010. $27.95 ISBN: 978-0-9816102-3-8 The memoir of a gifted Jewish athlete growing up under the apartheid system in South Africa.

Walker & Company, 2011. $24.00 ISBN: 9780802779175 The story of a Palestinian doctor who, rather than seek revenge after witnessing his three daughters’ deaths by Israeli tank shells, continues his humanitarian call for the people of the region to come together in understanding, respect, and peace.

Da Capo Lifelong Books, 2011. $25.00 ISBN: 978-0-306-81853-0 Drawing on moving personal experiences and in-depth interviews with pioneers in the field, Agronin looks at what aging means today—how our bodies and brains age, and the very way we understand aging.


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Fall 5771/2011

Ted Axelrod

Arthur Ainsberg

Jim Axelrod

Ezra Barany




St. Martin’s Press, 2010. $24.99 ISBN: 978-0-312-64870-1 One of the most devastating illnesses affecting the Jewish people is diabetes. Breakthrough tells the fascinating story of the discovery of insulin.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011. $26.00 ISBN: 9780374192112 When Jim Axelrod—once among the most watched correspondents on network news— discovers his late father’s decades-old New York Marathon finish times, he sets a defining challenge: “Can I beat him?”Along the way, Jim confronts his listing marriage, a career upset by the television news industry’s seismic changes, excruciatingly painful shin splints, and the worst-timed kidney stone possible.

© Renée Comet

Dafkah Books, 2011. $12.99 ISBN: 9780983296010 A reclusive atheist computer programmer realizes his name is encoded in the Book of Genesis, and that his landlord is part of a secret society bent on driving him to fulfill a dangerous Biblical prophecy, forcing him to confront a difficult truth: God exists and there’s more to Her than it seems.

Allison Amend Mitchell Bard

Louisiana State University Press, 2010. $18.95 ISBN: 9780807136171 A 2011 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature finalist, Allison Amend’s first novel, steeped in the history and lore of the Oklahoma Territory, tells an unforgettable multigenerational—and very American—story of Jewish pioneers.


Jenny Anderson and Paula Szuchman

© Kael Alford


Anna Badkhen

PEACE MEALS: CANDY-WRAPPED KALASHNIKOVS AND OTHER WAR STORIES Free Press, 2010. $25.00 ISBN: 9781439166482 The memoir of a young woman who travels as a war correspondent to the most dangerous places of the past decade and brings back with her refreshing, readable memories of the people she met, the strife they faced, and the food she ate with them.


Lisa Baron © Sven Bannuscher

Random House, 2011. $26.00 ISBN: 978-0-385-34394-7 Szuchman and Anderson present a radical new idea: Every marriage is its own little economy, a business of two with a finite number of resources that need to be allocated correctly.

Ken Ballen

TERRORISTS IN LOVE: THE REAL LIVES OF ISLAMIC RADICALS Free Press, 2011. $25.00 ISBN: 9781451609219 A leading terrorism expert profiles six terrorists to offer an astonishing new portrait of our enemies and takes readers behind the headlines and into the minds of Islamic terrorists.

HarperCollins, 2011. $27.99 ISBN: 978-0061726019 This is the first book to challenge the idea that an all-powerful Israeli lobby controls U.S. Middle East policy and demonstrate that a countervailing Arab lobby exists and is actually more powerful.

LIFE OF THE PARTY: A POLITICAL PRESS TART BARES ALL Citadel, 2011. $14.95 ISBN: 978-0806534152 A political memoir based on an undereducated, over-dressed, drinking, swearing, Jewish girl’s eight years working side-by-side with Ralph Reed, a Christian icon.

Fall 5771/2011

Jewish Book World



Mira Bartók

Jeremy Ben-Ami

Marilyn Berger




Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. $26.00 ISBN: 978-0230112742 Ben-Ami, founder of the new political action committee J Street, explores how our current policies toward Israel are largely based on a handful of assumptions that do not hold up against the current realities. Ben-Ami highlights the urgent need for a pro-Israel agenda that includes compromise and engagement with the opposition.

Harper, 2011. $14.99 ISBN: 978-0-06-175955-0 As a modern Orthodox Jew, Rick Hodes believes that to save one life is to save the entire world and by his example, he demonstrates the joy that comes in giving to others and in creating miracles. One of those miracles occurred when Rick credited the author with saving a life, a story which is threaded through the narrative of a grievously sick street boy from Ethiopia who was cured and now is a healthy nine-year-old living in New York City.

Free Press, 2011. $25.00 ISBN: 9781439183311 The Memory Palace is artist Mira Bartók’s gorgeous, visceral, memoir about the impact of her mother’s schizophrenia on her life.

Judith Baumel

THE KANGAROO GIRL GenPop Books, 2011. $15.00 ISBN: 978-0-9823594-3-3 Starting with a photo, Baumel shows us new ways of understanding family, history and the Jewish family in history. Baumel detects religion at the scene of many crimes: from the great disasters of the past—Edward I’s edict of expulsion of England’s Jews in 1290, the War Between the States, the Shoah, the catastrophes of 20th century Europe—to the small calamities of Jewish American life in the ethnic neighborhoods of New York City.

Avrom Bendavid-Val

THE HEAVENS ARE EMPTY: DISCOVERING THE LOST TOWN OF TROCHENBROD Pegasus Books, 2010. $25.95 ISBN: 978-1-60598-113-0 The Heavens Are Empty tells the story of the life and death of one of the most unusual and unknown shtetls in Eastern Europe. An imagined Trochenbrod was the setting for Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel, Everything is Illuminated.

Karen Bergreen

FOLLOWING POLLY St. Martin’s Press, 2011. $14.99 ISBN: 978-0312573584 When Alice Teakle decides to follow her college dorm mate, Polly, to learn how to be a winner, Polly ends up dead and Alice is accused of her murder. Bergreen, a Harvard-educated lawyer-turned-comedian-turned novelist, uses her fierce intelligence and sharp wit to create an entertaining social satire (and mystery).

Ilene “Gingy” Beckerman Algonquin Books, 2011. $14.95 ISBN: 97815651253773 A story of the author’s grandmother, who, along with her husband, ran a candy/stationery store on Madison Avenue. Beckerman recalls Ettie’s conversations with fancy Upper East Side customers, with FDR’s mother, with God, and with her always difficult husband.


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© Scott Wallace


THE LONGEST WAR: THE ENDURING CONFLICT BETWEEN AMERICA AND AL-QAEDA Free Press, 2011. $27.00 ISBN: 978-0-7432-7893-5 Bergen offers an eye-opening, comprehensive history of the war on terror and its evolution from 9/11 to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to the conflict in Pakistan and beyond—its failures and successes, the major players on both sides, and its likely future, including an analysis of the Obama administration’s current strategy and vision.

William Berkson

PIRKE AVOT: TIMELESS WISDOM FOR MODERN LIFE Jewish Publication Society, 2010. $28.00 ISBN: 978-0-8276-0917-4 In the new JPS commentary on Pirke Avot (Sayings of the Fathers), William Berkson casts a deeply appreciative but critical eye on both the Sages and modern psychology, and reveals insights from both that can help our lives today.

© David Franco


David Bezmozgis

Molly Birnbaum

Joseph Braude




Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011. $26.00 ISBN: 9780374281403 The Free World follows the Krasnanskys, a family of Russian Jews who, in the summer of 1978, have escaped through a crack in the Iron Curtain. With their story, Bezmozgis illuminates a chapter of Soviet emigration history absent from most diaspora histories— the layover of many Russian Jews in Italy as they waited to learn whether they would be going to the United States, Canada, or Israel.

Ecco, 2011. $24.99 ISBN: 9780061915314 Shortly before starting at the Culinary Institute of America, Birnbaum was hit by a car, an accident that broke many bones, and destroyed her ability to smell. Season to Taste is the story of what came next: how she picked herself up and set off on a grand quest to understand and overcome her condition. Birnbaum explores the science of olfaction, pheromones, and Proust’s madeleine.

Spiegel & Grau, 2011. $26.00 ISBN: 978-0-385-52703-3 Braude, a young American journalist with Iraqi Jewish roots, is granted rare embedded access to a unit of the Moroccan police at the nexus of drug trafficking, terrorism, and organized crime in North Africa. When confronted with a case file that reeks of a coverup—the murder of a night watchman at a warehouse owned by a shadowy Jewish businessman by a member of Morocco’s newest security task force—Braude launches his own investigation, leading him deeper into the shadows of this legendary Arab capital.

Jill Bialosky

HISTORY OF A SUICIDE: MY SISTER’S UNFINISHED LIFE Atria, 2011. $24.00 ISBN: 978-1-4391-0193-3 Bialosky has lived with the grief, guilt, questions, and confusion unleashed by her sister’s suicide. Now, she re-creates with unsparing honesty her sister’s inner life and the events and emotions that led her to take her life on that particular night. Bialosky explores human fragility and strength, through familial relationships and issues of faith in relation to suicide prevention, with attention to how Judiasm and its tenets for honoring the deceased have sustained her through periods of grief.

Arthur Boehm and Geila Hocherman

KOSHER REVOLUTION: NEW TECHNIQUES AND GREAT RECIPES FOR UNLIMITED KOSHER COOKING Kyle Books, 2011. $29.95 ISBN: 9781906868536 Kosher Revolution’s unique techniques, based on simple food chemistry and ingenious ingredient substitutions, promise a limitless kosher repertoire while fostering creativity and independence from recipes.

Daniel Byman

A HIGH PRICE: THE TRIUMPHS AND FAILURES OF ISRAELI COUNTERTERRORISM Oxford University Press, 2011. $34.95 ISBN: 9780195391824 A High Price reveals Israel’s counterterrorism history, describing important historical events such as the Entebbe raid and offering a comprehensive review of the second intifada and the struggle against Hezbollah.

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Jewish Book World



Thanassis Cambanis

Max and Linda Ciampoli

Felice Cohen




Berkley, 2010. $9.99 ISBN: 9780425229750 Churchill’s Secret Agent recounts Max Ciampoli’s World War II experiences as he barely escapes death while fulfilling dangerous covert missions for Winston Churchill in Nazi-occupied Europe.

Dividends Press, 2010. $10.00 ISBN: 9780615372884 What Papa Told Me is the story of Murray Schwartzbaum, whose courage and sheer will to live as a young Polish Jew helped him survive eight different labor and concentration camps, start a new life in America, and keep a family intact in the aftermath of his wife’s suicide.

© Robbie Michaels

Free Press, 2011. $27.00 ISBN: 9781439143612 Cambanis offers the first detailed look at the surprising cross section of people who are willing to die for Hezbollah movement: not just unemployed young men, but middleclass engineers, merchants, even nurses.

Ruchel Louis Coetzee


Talia Carner

JERUSALEM MAIDEN HarperCollins, 2011. $14.99 ISBN: 978-0062004376 In 1911, in the ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem under the backward Ottoman rule, a young woman sets out to challenge God, sending her to secretly explore worlds outside her religion, city, and the Holy Land.

Heroides Publishing, 2011. $21.95 ISBN: 978-0-982-98030-9 Pulani’s journey from the princess gates of childhood to teen pregnancy and early adulthood is set against the South African veld with its endless sky, native tribes, a mix of Boer and British cultures—and a growing climate of cultural mistrust, racial injustice, violence, and murder as society falls apart. Pulani must learn very early what it means to be strong.

Linda Cohen

1,000 MITZVAHS: HOW SMALL ACTS OF KINDNESS CAN HEAL, INSPIRE, AND CHANGE YOUR LIFE Seal Press, 2011. $16.00 ISBN: 978-1-58005-365-5 When her father passed away in 2006, Linda Cohen’s busy life as a mother, wife, and entrepreneur came to a screeching halt. She took a spiritual sabbatical to work through her grief, and she came out of it resolved to embark upon a project: perform one thousand acts of kindness—mitzvahs—to honor her father’s memory.

Avner Cohen

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011. $28.00 ISBN: 9780547195612 Jerusalem, Jerusalem uncovers the ways in which the ancient city became a transcendent fantasy that ignites religious fervor unlike anywhere else on earth. Tracing the intertwined threads of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim history, Carroll illuminates the mounting European fixation on a heavenly Jerusalem as spark of both anti-Semitism and racist colonial contempt.

Columbia University Press, 2010. $35.00 ISBN: 978-0-231-13699-0 Israel has created a special “bargain” with the bomb. Israel is the only nuclear-armed state that does not acknowledge its possession of the bomb, even though its existence is common knowledge throughout the world. It only says that it will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons to the Middle East. Cohen offers a bold and original study of this politically explosive subject.


Jewish Book World

Fall 5771/2011

© Courtesy of the Authors

James Carroll



SACRED TRASH: THE LOST AND FOUND WORLD OF THE CAIRO GENIZA Schocken Books/Nextbook Press, 2011. $26.95 ISBN: 978-0-8052-4258-4 The story of the retrieval from an Egyptian geniza, or repository for worn-out texts, of the most vital cache of Jewish manuscripts ever discovered, weaves together unforgettable portraits of Solomon Schechter and the other heroes of this drama with explorations into the medieval documents themselves.

© Fred Ward

© Roy Rodgers


Stephanie Coontz

Lawrence Douglas

Evan Fallenberg




Other Press, 2011. $15.95 ISBN: 978-1-59051-415-3 When Oliver Vice goes missing, the unnamed narrator launches into an all-consuming investigation into Vice’s life history. Douglas tells a mordantly humorous story of fascination turned obsession, as his narrator peels back the layers of the Vice family’s rich and bizarre history.

Harper Perennial, 2011. $14.99 ISBN: 978-0-06-203332-1 At 85, Teo Levin has had a full life, first as a dancer with the Royal Danish Ballet, later as a student of Balanchine and then, for more than fifty years, as head of the Tel Aviv Ballet and the choreographer of spare, prize-winning ballets that are hailed as some of the finest of the 20th century. But when Vivi, a young waitress at the Tel Aviv café he frequents, enters his life, both he and she are affected in major and unexpected ways.

Basic Books, 2011. $25.95 ISBN: 9780465002009 In A Strange Stirring, social historian Stephanie Coontz describes the legal disabilities and confusing cultural messages that demoralized 1960’s homemakers and working women alike, and why different groups of women did or did not respond to Friedan’s message.

Erika Dreifus Lee Crane



Last Light Studio, 2011. $13.95 ISBN: 9780982708422 A high-ranking Nazi’s wife and a Jewish doctor in prewar Berlin. A Jewish immigrant soldier and the German POWs he is assigned to supervise. These are some of the characters and conflicts that emerge in Quiet Americans, stories that reframe familiar questions about what is right and wrong, remembered and repressed, resolved and unending.

Ken Farbstein

GETTING YOUR BEST HEALTH CARE: REAL-WORLD STORIES FOR PATIENT EMPOWERMENT Dorland Health, 2011. $29.95 ISBN: 978-1-885461-45-2 This illuminating guidebook steers us toward a more collegial, more patientfocused—and undeniably safer—relationship with the system and professionals within it. This book teaches us how to partner with our doctors and nurses and how to stay safe while in their care.

© Nick Rozsa

Pavilion Press, 2011. $16.95 ISBN: 978-14145-07200 Jewish principles on consent of the governed, impartiality of judges, and legal procedures powered the Renaissance and Enlightenment. These core beliefs weathered the blistering medieval attack from Imperial Rome, but how? The first and most important of Jewish allies came from German tribes invading and occupying Europe after the year 400.

Katherine Ellison


HIDING IN THE SPOTLIGHT: A MUSICAL PRODIGY’S STORY OF SURVIVAL, 1941–1946 Pegasus Books, 2010. $15.95 ISBN: 978-1-60598-128-4 Zhanna is a 14-year-old piano prodigy in Ukraine who escapes a Nazi killing field when her father bribes a guard with his gold watch. She changes her identity and tries to hide. Instead she finds herself “hiding in the spotlight” as a prized pianist performing for the Nazis who never knew she was a Jew.

Hyperion Voice, 2010. $24.99 ISBN: 978-1401340889 Combining wry memoir with a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist’s authoritative reporting, the book tells the story of the year leading up to the writer’s son’s bar mitzvah, after both he and his mother have been diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.

Leonard Felder

HERE I AM: USING JEWISH SPIRITUAL WISDOM TO BECOME MORE PRESENT, CENTERED, AND AVAILABLE FOR LIFE Trumpeter, 2011. $15.95 ISBN: 978-1-59030-844-8 Dr. Leonard Felder has been testing out eight specific Jewish teachings that can help you and your loved ones be more centered, unflappable, and creative even at the most stressful moments or during the most upsetting situations.

Fall 5771/2011

Jewish Book World


© Jerry Bauer


Ellen Feldman

Charles Fishman

Charles Fox




Free Press, 2011. $26.99 ISBN: 978-1-4391-0207-7 From the wet moons of Saturn to the water-obsessed hotels of Las Vegas, and from a rice farm in the parched Australian outback to a high-tech IBM plant that makes a breed of pure water found nowhere in nature— Fishman shows that we’ve already left behind a century-long golden age when water was abundant, safe, and cheap, and have entered an age of water scarcity.

Scarecrow Press, 2010. $34.95 ISBN: 978-0-8108-6991-2 In this memoir, Charles Fox, the son of an Israeli mother and a Polish father, and one of the most performed composers in the world, his work includes the Grammy Award-winning song, “Killing Me Softly,” recounts his early musical studies while growing up in the Bronx.

Spiegel & Grau, 2011. $25.00 ISBN: 978-0-8129-9271-7 Ellen Feldman’s Next to Love follows the lives of three young women and their men during the years of World War II and beyond, beginning when the men ship out and ending a generation later, when their children are on the cusp of adulthood.

NAL/Penguin, 2011. $15.00 ISBN: 9780-451-23463-6 Following Ezra is the story of a father and son on a ten-year journey, from Ezra’s autism diagnosis to the day of his one-of-a-kind bar mitzvah. It celebrates Ezra’s evolution from a remote toddler to an extraordinary young man. Unlike other memoirs by parents of children with special needs, Following Ezra focuses not on a “battle” against a “disease,” but rather on the surprisingly rich and textured life one experiences in raising such a child.

© Rami Zarnegar

Tom Fields-Meyer


Martin Fletcher

THE LIST Thomas Dunne Books, 2011. $25.95 ISBN: 978-0312606923 A novel based on facts, The List investigates an ignored and painful chapter in the lives of Jewish refugees. It is London, the last three months of 1945. Each day, Austrian refugees Georg and his combative, pregnant wife, Edith, who reached London in 1939, learn of another relative who died in the concentration camps. And they face growing anti-Semitism in London.

Ellen Frankel

SYD ARTHUR Pearlsong Press, 2011. $19.95 ISBN: 978-1597190268 Meet Syd Arthur, a middle-aged Jewish woman who is potentially awake, but starts her day with a strong cup of coffee just in case. Her daughter has left for college and her diet is off track. When East unexpectedly meets West, Syd embarks on a spiritual journey. Soon she’s in over her chakras with her Mah Jongg group insisting it’s a midlife crisis, but nothing’s going to stop Syd’s journey toward Nirvana.

Paula Fredriksen


LIFE FROM SCRATCH Bell Bridge Books, 2010. $14.95 ISBN: 978-1935661986 New Yorker Rachel Goldman is struggling through the first year after her divorce. An ultrasuccessful blog, self-taught cooking lessons, the support of her best friend Arianna, and a sexy Spaniard changes all of that as Rachel finds her voice and learns the art of communication that was lost during her marriage.


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Fall 5771/2011

Yale University Press, 2010. $20.00 ISBN: 978-0-300-16628-6 Christianity was born within Judaism; yet Christianity ultimately became the West’s most abiding source of anti-Judaism. Fredriksen traces this tangled history while relating the story of one man’s astonishing response to it. Augustine’s struggle to read the Bible, Fredriksen shows, led him to a new theological vision, one that countered the antiJudaism not only of his heretical opponents, but also of his own church.


Nanci Freedberg and Wendy Pein

Bruce Jay Friedman

Allison Gilbert




The Jewish Path LLC, 2011. $36.00 ISBN: 978-0-9759427-2-7 The Jewish Path presents overall Jewish concepts in a non-daunting manner and is designed to stimulate thoughts and discussions about how Judaism is relevant in contemporary society.

Biblioasis, 2011. $29.95 ISBN: 978-1-926845-31-9 Bruce Jay Friedman is one of the few American writers to successfully straddle the worlds of American publishing, theatre and film between the 60’s and 90’s. His memoir, Lucky Bruce, is a charming detour through post-World War II American cultural life.

Danyelle Freeman

Laura Furman


THE MOTHER WHO STAYED: STORIES Free Press, 2011. $15.00 ISBN: 978-1-4391-9465-2 Laura Furman showcases her stunning collection of nine brilliantly intertwined tales about the tragedies and exaltations of motherhood, written in a concerto-inspired form.

© Kristin Hoebermann

Ecco, 2011. $16.99 ISBN: 9780061881787 From Banh Mi to Bocadillos, Spotted Dick to Soup Dumplings, Meze to Ma Po Tofu, Try This travels the restaurant globe as it demystifies unfamiliar foods in sparkling prose that will leave stomachs growling.

Hyperion, 2011. $23.99 ISBN: 978-1-4013-2351-6 Gilbert reveals how the loss of our parents impacts everything about the way we raise our children—from everyday parenting decisions to the relationships we have with our spouses and in-laws.

Kenneth Ginsburg

LETTING GO WITH LOVE AND CONFIDENCE: RAISING RESPONSIBLE, RESILIENT, SELF-SUFFICIENT TEENS IN THE 21ST CENTURY Avery, 2011. $18.00 ISBN: 9781583334294 Letting Go with Love and Confidence offers practical advice on the challenging everyday situations that arise with teens and addresses how to talk about the tough stuff.

Anne Germanacos Stephen Fried

APPETITE FOR AMERICA: FRED HARVEY AND THE BUSINESS OF CIVILIZING THE WILD WEST— ONE MEAL AT A TIME Bantam, 2011. $18.00 ISBN: 978-0553383485 This is a biography of visionary entrepreneur Fred Harvey, the founding father of the American hospitality industry and foodie culture. His revolutionary family business—running restaurants and hotels between Chicago and California along the Santa Fe railroad and later Route 66, including historic inns still in use at the Grand Canyon—changed how we eat, drink, travel, and see our country.

BOA Editions, 2010. $14.00 ISBN: 978-1-934414-38-5 Anne Germanacos, an American Jew, fashioned a contemporary exile situation by leaving her home in San Francisco at age 17 to live on a small Greek island. Her stories reflect this chosen exile: while the majority of them are not autobiographical, the dilemma of identity is explicit in each.

© Christine Butler


Brooke Gladstone

THE INFLUENCING MACHINE: BROOKE GLADSTONE ON THE MEDIA W. W. Norton & Company, 2011. $23.95 ISBN: 978-0393077797 NPR’s Brooke Gladstone now bursts onto the page as an illustrated character in vivid comics. The cartoon of Brooke conducts the reader through two millennia of history—from the newspapers in Caesar’s Rome to the penny press of the American Revolution and the manipulations of contemporary journalism.

Fall 5771/2011

Jewish Book World



David Glenwick

Brigitte Goldstein

Eitan Gonen



FROM JERUSALEM TO BEVERLY HILLS: MEMOIR OF A PALESTINIAN JEW AuthorHouse, 2010. $17.75 ISBN: 9781452092942 Eitan Gonen’s memoir begins in Jerusalem as the British Empire crumbles and follows his journey as a traveller, a construction laborer, shepherd in a kibbutz, “Top Gun” fighter pilot in Israel Air Force, engineer for the Space Shuttle and eventually a businessman in Beverly Hills.

© Todd Florez

Hamilton Books, 2011. $17.99 ISBN: 978-0-7618-5136-3 A Physician Under the Nazis focuses on Glenwick’s experiences as a physician in Russian-occupied Ukraine after the outbreak of World War II, his return to the Warsaw ghetto, and his subsequent journey through labor and concentration camps in Poland and Germany.

iUniverse, 2010. $22.95 ISBN: 9781450251082/5 An American historian’s search for the mythical place of her birth in the Pyrenees, as her parents fled Nazi persecution, leads her to a mountaintop utopia arrested in time, a mysterious codex composed in Hebrew letters, and the passionate world of a medieval Jewess at the time of the expulsion of the Jews from France, who herself had fallen victim to the sexual intrigues of a fiendish priest.

Mary Glickman Shawn Green

HOME IN THE MORNING Phyllis Goldstein

HISTORY OF A CONVENIENT HATRED: CONFRONTING ANTISEMITISM Facing History and Ourselves, 2011. $18.95 ISBN: 978-0-9819543-8-7 Through powerful stories and an approachable, well-researched narrative of the world’s oldest consistent hatred and its implications for the moral choices we make, Goldstein allows readers to see themselves in the tarnished mirror of history.

© Jason Little



Arsenal Pulp Press, 2011 $15.95 ISBN: 978-1-55152-375-0 Toni Goldblatt’s awakening to a taboo desire conflicts with the expectations of her Holocaust-scarred parents and with the conservatism of Jewish Montreal in the 1960’s. Girl Unwrapped explores the post-Holocaust Jewish immigrant experience through the lens of an outsider within her own community.

Anchor, 2011. $14.95 ISBN: 978-0-307-39070-7 From the bestselling author of Bee Season comes an astonishingly complex psychological drama with a simple setup: two elevenyear-old girls, best friends and fierce rivals, go into the woods. Only one comes out...

Jewish Book World

Simon & Schuster, 2011. $24.00 ISBN: 9781439191194 Two-time All Star Shawn Green, whose glorious Major League baseball career spanned nearly fourteen years, shares the lessons the game has taught him about being present and finding stillness—even with a ball hurtling toward him at ninety-five mph.

Melissa Fay Greene Gabriella Goliger

Myla Goldberg



© Judith Augustine

Open Road Integrated Media, 2010. $24.99 ISBN: 978-1-4532-1033-8 Home in the Morning is the story of Jackson Sassaport, a nice Southern Jewish boy caught between three women. The novel illuminates two themes: One contrasts the Southern Jewish experience against the Northern one, a theme rarely tackled in fiction, while the other provides a portrait of the transition from Old South to New as it looks at Jackson’s life from his childhood in the 50’s through the turbulent 60’s and into the transformed 90’s.

Fall 5771/2011

NO BIKING IN THE HOUSE WITHOUT A HELMET Sarah Crichton Books, 2011. $26.00 ISBN: 978-0-374-22306-9 After raising four of their own children, Greene and her husband didn’t want to stop. When the clock started to run down on the home team, they brought in ringers and adopted five older children from foreign orphanages. This book is a loving portrait of a unique 21st century family as it wobbles between disaster and joy.

© Jerry Bauer


Eric Greitens

Ted Gup

Ursula Hegi




Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011. $27.00 ISBN: 978-0-547-42485-9 As a Rhodes Scholar and Navy SEAL, Greitens worked alongside volunteers who taught art to street children in Bolivia and led U.S. Marines who hunted terrorists in Iraq. He offers us a new way of thinking about living a meaningful life.

Penguin Press, 2010. $25.95 ISBN: 978-1-59420-270-4 When Sam Stone discovers that his grandfather was the anonymous donor who, in the depths of the Great Depression, wrote 150 checks for $5 each to those who were in need ($100 each in today’s dollars), he embarks on a journey to track down the descendants of those who received the checks to find out what has become of them.

Scribner, 2011. $25.00 ISBN: 9781451608298 Set in the fictional town of Burgdorf, Germany in the early days of the Third Reich Children and Fire tells the story of a young schoolteacher who finds her teaching position threatened by Nazis intent on encroaching on many of her cherished freedoms. In order to keep teaching, she begins to make moral compromises she never thought she’d make.

Jennifer Griffin and Greg Myre

David Halperin

Rachel Heller and Amir Levine



ATTACHED: THE NEW SCIENCE OF ADULT ATTACHMENT AND HOW IT CAN HELP YOU FIND— AND KEEP—LOVE Tarcher, 2010. $24.95 ISBN: 978-1585428489 In Attached, psychiatrist and neuroscientist Drs. Amir Levine and Rachel Heller reveal how an understanding of adult attachment can help us find and sustain love.

© Deborah Ibert

John Wiley & Sons, 2011. $25.95 ISBN: 978-0-470-55090-8 Greg Myre and Jennifer Griffin, journalists who are husband and wife, arrived in Jerusalem in 1999 and began a family there. With vivid accounts, Myre, a New York Times reporter, and Griffin, a Fox News correspondent, show readers how the conflict has changed dramatically over the past decade.

Viking, 2011. $25.95 ISBN: 978-0-670-02245-8 Journal of a UFO Investigator is the story of Danny Shapiro, a teenager with a sick mother and a hostile father, who pursues UFOs in order to help him cope with the strains of his reality. He feels set apart from his friends, yet estranged also from his religion and its past. As the story unfolds, Judaism takes on a new role for Danny, giving him the courage he needs.

Michael Hiltzik

THE NEW DEAL: A TRUE HISTORY David Lee Hanna Andrew Gross



CreateSpace, 2011. $ 13.99 ISBN: 978-1456593940 Revenant is a tale of sudden flight, mysterious vanishings, and unforeseen reunions. It carries the reader from 19th century Europe to America at the brink of World War I; from the grandeur of imperial Berlin to the slums of London; from Warsaw in the midst of violent insurrection to an impoverished Polish shtetl.

William Morrow, 2011. $25.99 ISBN: 9780061655968 Drawing on his own shock and grief after the sudden suicide of his young nephew, Gross delivers a break-out novel that tells the story of a family haunted by a secret past.

Free Press, 2011. $30.00 ISBN: 978-1439154489 In his latest book, Hiltzik tells the epic story of the New Deal through the outsized personalities of the people who fought for it, opposed it, and benefited from it, rendering vital lessons for our own time.

Fall 5771/2011

Jewish Book World


Wayne Hoffman

Alick Isaacs

Al Jaffee and Mary-Lou Weisman




Kensington Books, 2011. $15.00 ISBN: 978-0758265623 Benji Steiner, a 20-something graphic designer with a muddled Jewish identity, meets Jacob Zuckerman, a recently widowed Orthodox rabbi; they develop an unusual bond as they gradually open up to each other. When an ugly confrontation ruptures their unlikely friendship, Benji walks away, until he meets a woman who reveals that the rabbi has devastating secrets of his own.

Indiana University Press, 2011. $27.95 ISBN: 978-0253356840 Alick Isaacs’s combat experience in the second Lebanon war provoked him to search for a way of reconciling the belligerence of religion with its messages of peace. His book challenges deeply held convictions about Judaism, Zionism, war, and peace.

© Nell Mednick

© Phyllis Groner


IT Books, 2011. $16.99 ISBN: 9780061864490 Al Jaffee’s chaotic childhood and gifts for writing and cartooning have led him to satire and MAD magazine, to which he has contributed for over 50 years.

Pam Jenoff


FEED ME BUBBE: RECIPES AND WISDOM FROM AMERICA’S FAVORITE ONLINE GRANDMOTHER Running Press, 2011. $16.00 ISBN: 9780762441884 Feed Me Bubbe is a collection of 100 of the best kosher recipes made popular through the online cooking show of the same name. Bubbe’s wisdom and insight comes through in these pages with informative headnotes and detailed directions that teach you timetested methods that only an 83-year-old Bubbe could know.

WHERE JUSTICE DWELLS: A HANDS-ON GUIDE TO DOING SOCIAL JUSTICE IN YOUR JEWISH COMMUNITY Jewish Lights, 2011. $24.99 ISBN: 978-1-58023-453-5 In this important and practical look at social justice work from a Jewish perspective, Rabbi Jill Jacobs examines the ideological basis for organizing explicitly Jewish responses to social justice issues in our communities.

© Cristina Nehring

Avrom Honig

Russell Jacoby


SEEING ISRAELI AND JEWISH DANCE Wayne State University Press, 2011. $34.95 ISBN: 9780814333303 In Seeing Israeli and Jewish Dance, choreographer, dancer, and dance scholar Judith Brin Ingber collects wide-ranging essays and remarkable photographs to explore the evolution of Jewish dance through 2,000 years of Diaspora, in communities of amazing variety and amid changing traditions.


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Free Press, 2011. $24.00 ISBN: 9781439100240 Citizens and scholars alike believe that strange enemies lurk in the street and beyond the street, but the truth is more unsettling. It is not so much the unknown that threatens us, but the known.

Doubleday, 2011. $24.95 ISBN: 978-0-385-53420-8 Spanning decades and continents, The Things We Cherished tells the story of Charlotte and Jack, two fiercely independent attorneys who find themselves slowly falling for one another while working to defend Roger Dykmans against allegations that he betrayed his Holocaust hero brother and the Jews he tried to save from the Nazis.

Erica Jong

SUGAR IN MY BOWL: REAL WOMEN WRITE ABOUT REAL SEX Ecco, 2011. $21.99 ISBN: 978-0061875762 Poet, novelist, and essayist Erica Jong has been writing about women’s sexual expression for much of her career. In her first anthology, Sugar in My Bowl, she collects frank essays and short stories by contemporary writers like Gail Collins, Fay Weldon, Eve Ensler, Jennifer Weiner, and many more.

© Sherry L. Brukbacher


Kathy Kacer

Jodi Kantor

Charles King



ODESSA: GENIUS AND DEATH IN A CITY OF DREAMS W. W. Norton & Company, 2011. $27.95 ISBN: 9780393070842 Here a dream of cosmopolitan freedom inspired geniuses and innovators, from Alexander Pushkin and Isaac Babel to Zionist activist Vladimir Jabotinsky and immunologist Ilya Mechnikov. Yet here too was death on a staggering scale: not only the insidious plagues common to seaports but also the mass murder of Jews carried out by the Romanian occupation during World War II.

© Anne Marsden

Second Story Press, 2010. $19.95 ISBN: 978-1-897187-75-3 The Reesers make a daring escape from under the watchful eyes of the Gestapo, fleeing their comfortable home in Czechoslovakia to safety in Canada. Their lives are saved, but all else is lost, including four beautiful and valuable paintings. The search to reclaim these pieces of their lost legacy spans more than fifty years of war and political upheaval.

Little, Brown and Company, 2011. $29.99 ISBN: 978-0-316-09875-5 In The Obamas, Jodi Kantor takes us deep inside the White House as the Obamas try to grapple with their new roles, change the country, raise children, maintain friendships, and figure out what it means to be the first black President and First Lady.

N.M. Kelby


FOUR WOMEN FROM RAVENSBRUCK: 5 STORIES FROM THE SHOA Micah Books, 2011. $XX ISBN: 978-0-916288-57-0 The title story, “Four Women From Ravensbruck,” is riveting in its detailed description of the infamous women’s camp, but its reach is beyond description as it follows the lives of four specific women from the camp who are chosen for a special experiment. Several of the other stories expand the idea of the Shoah to people and places beyond the concentration camps.

W. W. Norton & Company, 2011. $24.95 ISBN: 9780393079999 White Truffles in Winter imagines the world of the remarkable French chef Auguste Escoffier (1846–1935), who changed how we eat through his legendary restaurants at The Savoy and The Ritz.

David King

DEATH IN THE CITY OF LIGHT Crown, 2011. $26.00 ISBN: 978-0-307-45289-4 Death in the City of Light is the true story of the hunt for Marcel Petiot, a respectable physician by day and a brutal serial killer by night in Nazi-occupied Paris.

Kostya Kennedy


Nadia Kalman

THE COSMOPOLITANS Livingston Press, 2010. $17.95 ISBN: 978-1604890679 A finalist for the 2011 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, this warm and exuberantly comic debut tells the story of the Molochniks, Russian-Jewish immigrants in suburban Connecticut.

Time Home Entertainment, 2011. $26.95 ISBN: 978-1603201773 It was the summer of 1941. At this fragile time, 26-year-old New York Yankee Joe DiMaggio captured the nation with his extraordinary streak of a hit each day for 56 games. In 56, DiMaggio emerges in a new light—a conflicted husband and a mercurial star—during the event that transformed him into an American icon.

J.D. Kleinke

CATCHING BABIES Fourth Chapter Books, 2011. $15.95 ISBN: 978-09826639-0-5 In the halls of a busy metropolitan teaching hospital, a group of OB/GYN doctors complete their residencies and embark on ambitious careers, all while trying to hold their lives together at the seams.

Fall 5771/2011

Jewish Book World


© Molly Ahearn


Lisa Kogan

Jamie Korngold

Lee Kravitz




William Kolbrener

OPEN MINDED TORAH: OF IRONY, FUNDAMENTALISM AND LOVE Continuum, 2011. $19.95 ISBN: 978-1441118660 On topics ranging from parenting a son with Down’s Syndrome to Biblical criticism to Talmudic interpretation of dreams—Kolbrener presents a perspective on Judaism that emphasizes skepticism, pluralism and the need to embrace difference. Kolbrener offers a compelling new vision where being open minded allows for a non-dogmatic and committed Judaism.

Jewish Lights Publishing, 2011. $14.99 ISBN: 978-1-58023-443-6 In this provocative look at the many faces of God, “Adventure Rabbi” Jamie Korngold examines how our concept of God has changed over the centuries and how these changes have shaped every aspect of Judaism.

Bloomsbury, 2011. $16.00 ISBN: 9781608194636 After losing his job, Lee Kravitz—a man who had always worked too hard and too much—took stock of his life and decided to spend an entire year making amends and reconnecting with the people and parts of himself he had neglected.

© Erwin Schenkelbach

Harper, 2011. $14.99 ISBN: 978-0-06-173503-5 Lisa Kogan is a 49-year-old single mother who maintains that every human being deserves a great mattress, a comfortable pair of shoes, and a very smart shrink, and that no one has grown a decent tomato since 1963. Someone Will Be with You Shortly is a book for anyone who has ever been unnerved by leather pants, lunch meat, or ambivalent men (not necessarily in that order), and believes that life is a fragile bit of luck in a world based on chance.

Iris Krasnow

James Kugel



Gotham, 2011 $25.00. ISBN: 978-1-59240680-7 Bestselling author Iris Krasnow interviewed more than 200 wives whose marriages have survived 15 to 70 years to discover the secrets to staying married.

Free Press, 2011. $26.00 ISBN: 978-1-4391-3009-4 Ten years ago, Harvard professor emeritus James Kugel was diagnosed with an aggressive, likely fatal, form of cancer. In this wide-ranging exploration of different aspects of religion—interspersed with his personal reflections on the course of his own illness (which thankfully took a turn for the better)—Kugel seeks to uncover what he calls “the starting point of religious consciousness.”

Michael Krasny

New World Library, 2010. $22.95 ISBN: 978-1-57731-912-2 In Spiritual Envy, Krasny helps believers and nonbelievers alike to understand their own questions about faith and religion, about God and human responsibility.

Cynthia Kolko

FRUIT OF THE VINE Charles River Press, 2011. $14.95 ISBN: 978-1-936185-27-6 When Jem inherits a historic farm that a brash entrepreneur has in his sights for development, he befriends a woman who forces him to question the circumstances of his upbringing and the responsibilities thrust upon him.


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© Sylvia Plachy


HANK GREENBERG: THE HERO WHO DIDN’T WANT TO BE ONE Yale University Press, 2011. $25.00 ISBN: 978-0-300-13660-9 Hank Greenberg, the son of Orthodox, Yiddish-speaking immigrants, lived in the Bronx and grew up in a Jewish world, but to him it was a kind of shtetl that he dreamed of leaving. Baseball was his way out; he became a superstar, and one of the most visible Jews in America during the 1930’s—the most antiSemitic period in American history.

© Adam Marelli


Eric Lamet

Liel Leibovitz



Rowman & Littlefield, 2011. $34.95 ISBN: 978-1-4422-1059-2 Using a physician-insider’s perspective of the medical system across its entire landscape, Kussin promotes the reader’s independence, health literacy, consumerism, and self advocacy and provides an attitude to back it all up. He teaches patients how to create a personal culture of safety when facing their doctors.

Adams Media, 2010. $21.95 ISBN: 978-1440509971 A story about finding positivity and hope in the most unlikely of places, Eric Lamet’s A Child al Confino addresses the plight of Jews sent into internal exile in Mussolini’s Italy, as very few Holocaust memoirs have.


© Kathryn Szoka

Steven Kussin

Lucette Lagnado


Israel Meir Lau

OUT OF THE DEPTHS: THE STORY OF A CHILD OF BUCHENWALD WHO RETURNED HOME AT LAST Sterling Publishing, 2011. $24.95 ISBN: 978-1-4027-8631-0 Israel Meir Lau, one of the youngest survivors of Buchenwald, was just eight years old when the camp was liberated in 1945. Descended from a 1,000-year unbroken chain of rabbis, he grew up to become Chief Rabbi of Israel—and like many of the great rabbis, a master storyteller. Out of the Depths is his harrowing, miraculous, and inspiring account of life in one of the Nazis’ deadliest concentration camps, and how he managed to survive against all odds.

© Eli Katzoff

Ecco, 2011. $25.99 ISBN: 9780061803673 In this much-anticipated new memoir, Lucette Lagnado revisits her first years in America, first in Brooklyn, then at Vassar and Columbia, revealing a coming-of-age interrupted by a bout with cancer at age 16. Lagnado looks to the women sequestered behind the wooden screen at her childhood synagogue, to the young co-eds at Vassar in the 1970’s, to her own mother and the women of their past in Cairo, and reflects on their stories as she struggles to heal, to make the leap from girl to woman without the grace and strength of her “arrogant years.”

Michael Levin

GUTENBERG TO GOOGLE: THE RISE AND FALL OF BOOKS Brown Books, 2011. $24.95 Gutenberg to Google explains the coming collapse of the traditional book publishing model and what it means for book lovers and society at large. It tells the inside story that people in the New York publishing industry cannot tell without risking their job.

Ilana Levinsky

Joan Leegant



CreateSpace, 2010. $12.95 ISBN: 978-1450539432 Isla Lawson has just discovered a deep, ugly, and crooked wrinkle stretched across her forehead. In a desperate attempt to escape plastic surgery hell, Isla pours her emotions into a diary that slowly becomes her vehicle into the past—a life that has spanned three countries: England, Israel, and the United States, and experiences rich with themes of religion, culture, and morality.

W. W. Norton & Company, 2011. $14.95 ISBN: 9780393339895 Set in Jerusalem, New York, and the hardline settlements in the West Bank, Wherever You Go tells the story of three Americans in Israel and shines a light on one of the most disturbing elements in Israeli society today: Jewish religious and political extremists and their threat to the modern democratic state.

W. W. Norton & Company, 2011. $26.95 ISBN: 9780393070040 At the twilight of the 19th century, China sent a detachment of boys to America in order to learn the ways of the West, modernize the antiquated empire, and defend it from foreigners invading its shores. After spending a decade in New England’s finest schools, the boys returned home. Fortunate Sons weaves together the dramas of personal lives with the momentous thrust of a nation reborn, shedding light on a crucial yet largely unknown period in China’s history.

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Jewish Book World


© Marion Ettlinger


David Levinson

Steven Levy

Robert Lipsyte




Simon & Schuster, 2011. $26.00 ISBN: 9781416596585 Veteran technology reporter Steven Levy was granted unprecedented access to Google, and in this revelatory book takes readers inside Google headquarters—the Googleplex—to show how Google works.

Ecco, 2011. $25.99 ISBN: 978-0-06-176913-9 Robert Lipsyte stumbled into sports by accident; needing a summer job after Columbia and before going west to graduate school, he answered an ad for copy boy at The New York Times. Over the next 50 years he became one of the country’s most respected and controversial sportswriters.

© Ralph Alswang

Hudson Street Press, 2011. $24.95 ISBN: 978-1-59463-072-9 In 1999, David Levinson, at the request of his rabbi, backed into starting the Temple Israel of Hollywood Mitzvah Day. By 2010, this had grown into Big Sunday, an incorporated nonprofit. Everyone Helps, Everyone Wins provides a road map for anyone looking to get involved.

Ron Liebman


BABY BARBELLS: THE DAD’S GUIDE TO FITNESS AND FATHERING Running Press, 2011. $13.95 ISBN: 978-0-7624-4055-9 Baby Barbells is a chunky, funky, full color illustrated board book for new dads. Inside, Dr. Levitt doles out parenting wit and wisdom in the form of a series of playful exercises that gives new meaning to the term “raising children.”

© Courtesy of Emory University

Joshua Levitt

Simon & Schuster, 2011. $25.00 ISBN: 9781416569770 The sequel to Death By Rodrigo, Jersey Law is a cinematic legal thriller, full of dark humor, unexpected twists, and the wild characters that populate the streets and courtrooms of Camden, New Jersey.

Peter Lovenheim

IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD: THE SEARCH FOR COMMUNITY ON AN AMERICAN STREET, ONE SLEEPOVER AT A TIME Perigee, 2011. $13.95 ISBN: 978-0-399-53647-2 With a distinctly Jewish sensibility, In the Neighborhood is a work of narrative non-fiction that—following a brutal murder-suicide on the author’s own suburban street— explores how Americans live as neighbors today, and what we lose by living as strangers to each other.

Deborah Lipstadt

Michael Levy

KOSHER CHINESE: LIVING, TEACHING, AND EATING WITH CHINA’S OTHER BILLION Henry Holt, 2011. $15.00 ISBN: 9780805091960 As the lone Jewish Peace Corps volunteer in Guiyang, China, Michael Levy learned about a China that Americans rarely see, and his students learned about an American they could not previously imagine. During his time in Guiyang, Levy hosted a Passover seder in China’s poorest province, played Santa Claus in the Guiyang Walmart, and hosted a weekly Shabbat cooking club.


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Schocken Books/Nextbook Press, 2011. $24.95 ISBN: 978-0-8052-4260-7 Award-winning historian Deborah E. Lipstadt gives us an overview of the trial and analyzes the dramatic effect that the survivors’ courtroom testimony—which was itself not without controversy—had on a world that had until then regularly commemorated the Holocaust but never fully understood what the millions who died and the hundreds of thousands who managed to survive had actually experienced.

© Jeffrey Cross

© Michael Levy


Michael David Lukas

THE ORACLE OF STAMBOUL HarperCollins, 2011. $24.99 ISBN: 9780062012098 Set in the heart of the Ottoman Empire during the first years of its chaotic decline, Michael David Lukas’s elegantly crafted, utterly enchanting debut novel follows a gifted young Jewish girl who dares to charm a sultan—and change the course of history, for the empire and the world.

© Nina Subin


Ze’ev Maghen

Inette Miller

Stuart Nadler




CreateSpace, 2011. $12.00 ISBN: 978-1453643815 John Lennon and the Jews is a roller coaster journey through centuries, states, philosophies, and beliefs. It is a zany, wild, hilarious and pulverizing polemic on behalf of being Jewish.

Infinity Publishing, 2010. 34.95 ISBN: 987-0-7414-6286-2 Inette Miller, a Jewish woman, a writer, a level-headed single mother, agreed to a rite of passage that demanded she walk naked in someone else’s homeland. This is the story of the human possibilities of spirit.

Reagan Arthur Books/Back Bay Books, 2011. $13.99 ISBN: 9780316126472 These seven stories present Jewish men and women, bound by issues of faith and doubt, dealing with their sins and failings, their infidelities, their grief, their missed opportunities at love, and ultimately, their hopes for redemption.

Randy Susan Meyers John Nathan




Xlibris, 2011. $19.99 ISBN: 978-1-4568-5748-6 The struggle of a man renowned for rectitude to preserve his righteousness against an assault of primal lust. Against the background of the labor movement and Jewish intellectual life on the Lower East Side, A Bintel Brif vividly renders the age-old Jewish struggle between reason and passion.

HarperCollins, 2011. $25.99 ISBN: 978-0060554767 Heaven puts believers to the test: what do they think about heaven and why? By exploring the idea of afterlife in the three Western monotheisms, Heaven offers, through history, theology, and personal reflection, ways even for skeptics to think seriously about eternity.

© Sebastian Collett

Griffin, 2011. $14.99 ISBN: 978-0-312-67443-4 Meyers weaves a compelling story about two Jewish sisters on a journey to overcome the collateral damage of family violence. When Lulu and Merry Zachariah are left orphaned after witnessing their father kill their mother, the girls suffer at the hands of uncaring relatives, a tough-as-nails orphanage and, finally, a foster family ill-equipped to nurture them.

A. Robert Neurath

Jay Michaelson

GOD VS. GAY?: THE RELIGIOUS CASE FOR EQUALITY Beacon Press, 2011. $25.95 ISBN: 978-0-8070-0159-2 The myth that the Bible forbids homosexuality—the myth of “God versus Gay”—is behind the most divisive and painful conflicts of our time. In this book, Jewish scholar and activist Jay Michaelson shows that not only does the Bible not prohibit same-sex intimacy—but it also honors the values of love, justice, diversity, and compassion that equality for sexual minorities brings about.

Andrea Myers

THE CHOOSING: A RABBI’S JOURNEY FROM SILENT NIGHTS TO HIGH HOLY DAYS Rutgers University Press, 2011. $19.95 ISBN: 978-0813549576 A young Lutheran girl grows up on Long Island, N.Y. She aspires to be a doctor, and is on the fast track to marriage and the conventional happily-ever-after. But, as the Yiddish saying goes, “Man plans, and God laughs.” Meet Andrea Myers, whose coming-of-age at Brandeis, conversion to Judaism, and awakening sexual identity make for a rich and welltimed life in the rabbinate.

BRATISLAVA PRESSBURG POZSONY: JEWISH SECULAR ENDEAVORS 1867–1938 Xlibris, 2011. $22.99 ISBN: 978-1-4535-9613-5 Unknown to many, Bratislava, presently the capital of Slovakia was once a multinational city. Having lived in this city for 31 years, Neurath, valiantly attempts to capture the story of the emancipated Bratislava Jews and their vital contributions to the city’s economy, culture, education, and political life.

Fall 5771/2011

Jewish Book World


© Kristin Hepburn


Alicia Oltuski

Peter Orner

Zara Phillips




© Whitney Lawson

Scribner, 2011. $24.00 ISBN: 9781416545125 Precious Objects limns Oltuski’s own family’s diamond-paved move from Communist Siberia to a displaced persons camp in postwar Germany to New York’s diamond district, revealing the connection between Jews and the industry, the diamond and its lore, and the denizens of this exotic world.

Little, Brown and Company, 2011. $24.99 ISBN: 9780316129398 Love and Shame and Love chronicles three generations of one Jewish family in Chicago and revisits the same family Orner wrote about in Esther Stories, which won the Goldberg Prize for Jewish Fiction.

Gemma Media, 2011. $14.95 ISBN: 978-1934848364 The adopted daughter of loving parents, Zara Phillips felt out of place since childhood. Although cherished, she grew up deeply insecure, consumed by a void she found impossible to fill. Zara’s birth mother was Jewish, but not knowing the truth of her identity made it difficult for her to fully embrace who she was. In the end, it was Zara’s experience of becoming a mother that revealed what being adopted really meant.

Julie Orringer

Mark Oppenheimer


© Gasper Tringale

Free Press, 2011. $16.00 ISBN: 9781451611915 Wisenheimer chronicles the travails of a hyperarticulate child who finds salvation in the heady world of competitive oratory.

Vintage Books, 2011. $15.95 ISBN: 978-1-4000-3437-6 A 2011 finalist for the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, The Invisible Bridge tells the story of Andras Lévi, a Hungarian-Jewish architecture student, who arrives from Budapest with a scholarship, a single suitcase, and a mysterious letter he promised to deliver. But when he falls into a complicated relationship with the letter’s recipient, he becomes privy to a secret that will alter the course of his—and his family’s—history.

Susan Orlean

© Kevin Kelly Photography


Alison Pick

FAR TO GO Harper Perennial, 2011. $14.99 ISBN: 9780062034625 Inspired by Pick’s grandparents’ harrowing escape from Nazi-occupied Europe, Far to Go tells the story of a Czech Jewish family during the lead-up to the Second World War. When Pick’s grandparents arrived in Canada, they renounced their Judaism: Alison was raised not knowing her family’s past. While researching Far to Go, the author discovered this secret, and studied for conversion.

RIN TIN TIN: THE LIFE AND THE LEGEND Simon & Schuster, 2010. $26.99 ISBN: 978-1-4391-9013-5 Born in 1918, Rin Tin Tin’s journey from an abandoned French World War I battlefield near Verdun to movie star and icon is the story of twentieth century entertainment and entrepreneurship, and a survey of American popular culture spanning nearly a century and countless human lives.


Jewish Book World

Fall 5771/2011

Lisa Paul

SWIMMING IN THE DAYLIGHT: AN AMERICAN STUDENT, A SOVIET JEWISH DISSIDENT, AND THE GIFT OF HOPE Skyhorse Publishing, 2011. $24.95 ISBN: 978-1-61608-203-1 While working in Moscow as a nanny for an American family in 1984, Lisa C. Paul, a college student and Catholic from Wisconsin, studied Russian with Inna Meiman—a Soviet-Jewish dissident and refusenik—and both their lives would forever change.

© Robin Fertig


John Pollack

Jane and Marshall Portnoy

Mark Ribowsky




Gotham Books, 2011. $22.50 ISBN: 978-1-592-40623-4 In The Pun Also Rises, John Pollack—a former Presidential Speechwriter for Bill Clinton and winner of the world pun championship—explains how punning revolutionized language and made the rise of modern civilization possible.

Janelle International, 2010. $29.95 ISBN: 978-0-615-33631-2 This unique volume presents not only treasured holiday recipes but, also, a delightful exploration of the Jewish calendar.

W. W. Norton & Company, 2011. $29.95 ISBN: 9780393080179 Howard Cosell was one of the most recognizable and controversial figures in American sports history. With more than forty interviews, Mark Ribowsky presents Cosell’s life as part of an American panorama, examining racism, anti-Semitism, and alcoholism, among other sensitive themes.

Phoebe Potts


Wendy Dubow Polins

FARE FORWARD Hamilton Hall Press, 2011. $16.00 ISBN: 978-0-9837488-0-9 Gabriella Vogel’s destiny is tied up in the connection between her parent’s assassination, Albert Einstein’s theories, and a mountain in the Judean Desert. Grounded in the ancient teachings of Kabbalah, and echoing Einstein’s prophetic insistence to “consider the future and past with an equal mind,” Gabriella learns that things are not always what they seem.

HarperCollins, 2010. $23.99 ISBN: 9780061711466 Like other talented women comic artists who came before her, Potts tells her story in Good Eggs with equal parts humor and sadness. And while the book’s chief narrative revolves around the couple’s efforts to have a child, Potts peppers her account with tales of her time organizing unions in Texas, her once-crippling depression, her return to Judaism and her attempt at becoming a rabbi.

Alyson Richman

THE LOST WIFE Berkley, 2011. $15.00 ISBN: 978-0-425-24413-5 From the glamor of pre-war Prague before the Occupation, to the ensuing horrors of Nazi Europe, and to the struggles of refugees to adapt to a contemporary America, The Lost Wife explores the endurance of first love, the resilience of the human spirit, and the power of memory.

Austin Ratner

© Myra Klarman


Sharon Pomerantz

RICH BOY Twelve, 2011. $14.99 ISBN: 9780446563192 After leaving his working-class home in Philadelphia, Robert Vishniak crafts a new identity and befriends the son of one of the country’s wealthiest families, until a chance encounter with a girl from his old neighborhood threatens to unravel everything.

Bellevue Literary Press, 2009. $14.95 ISBN: 978-1-934137-15-4 Winner of the 2011 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, The Jump Artist is based on the true, and largely unknown, story of the renowned photographer Philippe Halsman, a man Adolph Hitler knew by name, who Sigmund Freud wrote about in 1930, and who put Marilyn Monroe on the cover of Life magazine.

Ashley Rindsberg

TEL AVIV STORIES: LIFE, DEATH, AND LOVE IN ISRAEL’S UNHOLY CITY Midnight Oil Publishing, 2011. $14.95 ISBN: 978-0615422435 Tel Aviv is a place of contradiction, an urban dream of the Middle East where sleek European cafes sit beneath stone minarets; where Berlin-style hipsters sip coffee next to black-hatted rabbis; where charity, sex, conflict and controversy overflow the streets. In Tel Aviv Stories, Israel’s “White City” is revealed.

Fall 5771/2011

Jewish Book World


© Naum Kazhdan


Nancy Rips

Avi Roseman

Tina Rosenberg




iUniverse, 2011. $11.95 ISBN: 9781450289993 This sultry, no-holds barred book is a guide to Jewish dating in a post-shtetl society. Ms. Avi, the ultimate yenta, will show her naughty tactics to attract your shul-mate before that blonde chick with no knowledge of a kugel gets him first.

W. W. Norton & Company, 2011. $25.95 ISBN: 9780393068580 In Join the Club, Rosenberg identifies a brewing social revolution that is changing the way people live, based on harnessing the positive force of peer pressure. She tells how creative social entrepreneurs are starting to use peer pressure to accomplish goals as personal as losing weight and as global as fighting terrorism.

Frederick Fell, 2010. $16.95 ISBN: 978-0-88391-191-4 High Holiday Stories is filled with 101 heartfelt holiday remembrances from famous people and those known only in their own circle of family and friends.

Cokie and Steve Roberts

OUR HAGGADAH: UNITING TRADITIONS FOR INTERFAITH FAMILIES HarperCollins, 2011. $19.99 ISBN: 978-0062018106 New York Times bestselling authors and journalists Cokie and Steve Roberts share their Passover traditions in this engaging version of the Haggadah.

Leonard Rosen


Rebecca Rosenblum

The Permanent Press, 2011. $29.00 ISBN: 978-1-57962-222-0 All Cry Chaos is a debut thriller with a deeply Jewish theme: the connectedness of creation. After the murder of a mathematician who studies patterns in nature, Interpol agent Henri Poincaré crosses continents in search of the killer.


Ronda Robinson

Mazo Publishers, 2011. $17.95 ISBN: 978-1-936778-91-1 Beyond Politics: Inspirational People of Israel features 18 amazing souls, such as the plucky “Chicken Lady of Jerusalem,” Clara Hammer, who started a charity fund out of her own pocket to give poor Jews a proper chicken dinner on the Sabbath. Beyond Politics is designed to show life in Israel behind the headlines. It offers a welcome balance to the way Israel often is presented in the news.


Jewish Book World

Fall 5771/2011

© Qanta Ahmed


Biblioasis, 2011. $19.95 ISBN: 978-1-926845-28-9 The Big Dream is a collection of short stories about life at the offices of Dream Inc., a lifestyle-magazine publisher. It’s about how the “dream job” and dream life that is supposed to accompany it do not necessarily happen, but the joys and sorrows and sandwiches of waking life are more than enough to occupy our hearts and minds.

Ron Rosenbaum

HOW THE END BEGINS: THE ROAD TO A NUCLEAR WORLD WAR III Simon & Schuster, 2011. $28.00 ISBN: 978-1-4165-9421-5 In this startling new book, bestselling author Ron Rosenbaum gives us a wake-up call about this new age of peril and delivers a provocative analysis of how close—and how often—the world has come to nuclear annihilation and why we are once again on the brink.

Norma E. Roth

PINK RIBBON JOURNEY: STORIES FROM THE HEART Norma E. Roth, 2010. $25.00 ISBN: 978-0-578-06431-4 Pink Ribbon Journey: Stories From the Heart, is an intimate glimpse into the lives of women with breast cancer, their families, and the medical professionals who care for them.


Barry Rubin

David Schmahmann

Adam Schwartz




Yale University Press, 2011. $30.00 ISBN: 978-0300162301 Israel is a comprehensive book about the Jewish state which covers its society, history, people, land, culture, and economics with dozens of rich displays, maps, and photographs cover to cover.

Permanent Press, 2011. $28.00 ISBN: 978-1-57962-218-3 To all appearances, Alfred Buber, lawyer, and non-practicing Jew, is a pillar of society. But he has a secret, and a secret life, even if it exists largely in his imagination: he’s in love with a girl he barely knows. How he met her, well, it’s not for polite company, and it happened far away.

Soho Press, 2011. $25.00 ISBN: 9781569478691 When the novel opens in 1969, Seth Shapiro is twelve years old and the tumultuous behavior of his New Jersey Jewish family plays out against the backdrop of the moon landing and Woodstock. Seth and his two siblings live with their unstable mother, Ruth. One responds by becoming Orhtodox, the other attempts to maintain the peace, and Seth just wants to escape.

Ariel Sabar

HEART OF THE CITY David Schmahmann

IVORY FROM PARADISE Academy Chicago, 2011. $24.95 ISBN: 9780897336123 Ivory from Paradise, a companion novel to the award-winning Empire Settings, is the story of an emigrant South African family’s fight for ownership of priceless African artifacts collected years before by their long-dead father.

© Elena Seibert

CLEOPATRA: A LIFE Back Bay Books, 2011. $16.99 ISBN: 9780316001946 In a masterly return to the classical sources, Stacy Schiff boldly separates fact from fiction to rescue the magnetic queen whose death ushered in a new world order.

William Morrow, 2011. $14.99 ISBN: 9780061881909 The tale of four Polish Jews, following three distinct periods in their lives: from their first meeting in the Bergen-Belsen displaced persons camp, to their early attempts at family normalcy in the United States, to their later-in-life project of memorializing their own histories.

© Monica Banks

Stacy Schiff

Ghita Schwarz


Philip Schultz

MY DYSLEXIA W. W. Norton & Company, 2011. $21.95 ISBN: 9780393079647 In his moving memoir, Schultz traces his difficult childhood and his new understanding of his early years. In doing so, he shows how a boy who did not learn to read until he was eleven went on to become a prize-winning poet by sheer force of determination.

© Kfir Harbi

Da Capo Press, 2011. $24.00 ISBN: 9780738213798 Heart of the City tells the remarkable true stories of nine ordinary couples—from the 1940’s to the present—whose matchmaker was the City of New York.

Galit Seliktar

FARM 54 Ponent Mon, 2011. $25.00 ISBN: 978-1-908007-00-1 This unique graphic novel weaves together three semi-autobiographical stories from the childhood and puberty as well as early adulthood and military service years of Noga, its female protagonist. The stories take place in Israel’s rural periphery in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Fall 5771/2011

Jewish Book World


© Lyndsey Belle Tyler

© Barbara Freer Skibell


Steve Sem-Sandberg

Joseph Skibell

Diana Spechler




Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2011. $30.00 ISBN: 978-0-374-13964-3 The Emperor of Lies takes place during the Holocaust in Lodz, the second-largest Jewish ghetto. Sem-Sandberg chronicles the story of Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski, the Jewish businessman who ruled over the ghetto’s quarter-million Jews and strove to make the ghetto an industrial complex that was indispensible to the Nazi regime.

Algonquin Books, 2010. $24.95 ISBN: 978-1-56512-929-0 2011 Sami Rohr Prize Choice Award Winner Joseph Skibell has come up with a brilliantly original look at the Jewish condition through the eyes of one man, Dr. Jakov Sammelsohn, a relentless seeker of love. Being pursued by an amorous dybbuk (the ghost of his first wife), does not make his life any easier.

Harper Perennial, 2011. $14.99 ISBN: 978-0062020369 In the aftermath of her father’s death, Gray Lachmann begins to unravel her father’s lies, while tackling her own self-deceptions and taking control of her body and her life.

Jonathan Spyer




Jewish Publication Society, 2011. $18.00 ISBN: 978-0-8276-0926-6 36 Letters, One Family’s Story is the story of one Jewish family a powerful portrait of the immigrant Jewish experience itself, and the journey of European Jewry to America.

© Nina Subin

Harper Perennial, 2011. $14.99 ISBN: 978-0-06-162835-1 Shapiro, raised in an Orthodox home, left the rules and rituals of her childhood, but when her young son began to question her about what she believed, she realized she no longer knew, setting her on a spiritual detective story.

Anna Solomon


ON THE DOORPOSTS OF ALL OUR HOUSES (AND WHAT WENT ON INSIDE) iUniverse, 2010. $20.95 ISBN: 978-1-4502-5948-4 Donna Siegel offers a whimsical account of growing up in the American heartland with her talented immigrant Jewish family and how that experience shaped her identity.


Jewish Book World

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Penguin Group/Riverhead Books, 2011. $16.00 ISBN: 9781594485356 The Little Bride follows 16-year-old Jewish maidservant Minna Losk as she tries to escape the poverty and violence of Odessa by journeying to America as a mail-order bride. As a brutal South Dakota winter closes in, Minna, drawing on strengths she barely knows she has, is forced to confront despair as well as forbidden desire.

Continuum, 2011. $18.99 ISBN: 978-1-4411-6663-0 The Transforming Fire combines personal experience, interview and analysis to tell the story of the rise of the Israel-Islamist conflict in the period 2000–2010.

Dale Stanten

THE HOOKER’S DAUGHTER: A BOSTON FAMILY’S SAGA Infinity Publishing, 2011. $14.95 ISBN: 978-0741464026 In 1950’s Boston, Stanten’s mother established business as a prostitute to provide for her family. The Hooker’s Daughter is a story of survival, driven by a strong will and an ability to extract positive qualities from a dysfunctional life.

© Gavin Snow


Douglas Stark

Jeremi Suri

Haley Tanner




Temple University Press, 2011. $29.50 ISBN: 978-59213-633-9 South Philadelphia Hebrew Association’s basketball team was a top squad in the American Basketball League, capturing seven championships in thirteen seasons. This book chronicles its history, showing how players fought racial stereotypes of weakness and inferiority while spreading the game’s popularity.

Free Press, 2011. $28.00 ISBN: 9781439119129 Jeremi Suri looks to recent history to see what our country has to offer to failed states around the world, explains where America has erred and where it succeeded, and offers a plan for how to move forward.

© Dion Ogust

Dial Press, 2011. $25.00 ISBN: 978-1-4000-6931-6 Vaclav & Lena is the story of two ten-yearold emigrants from radically different worlds, the best of friends, who help fulfill each other’s dreams.

John Thorn


Sonia Taitz


© Robert Birnbaum

Oxford University Press, 2011. $34.95 ISBN: 9780199576869 In Nazis on the Run, historian Gerald Steinacher provides the little-known story of how (and how many) Nazis fled from Europe at the end of World War II.

Darin Strauss

HALF A LIFE: A MEMOIR Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2011. $13.00 ISBN: 978-0-8129-8253-4 In Half a Life, we follow Darin Strauss as he explores his startling past—a car crash, a friend’s funeral, the queasy drama of a highstakes court case. What starts as a personal tale opens into the story of how to live with a very hard fact: we can try our best in the crucial moment, and it might not be good enough.

Simon & Schuster, 2011. $26.00 ISBN: 9780743294034 In this book, the Official Baseball Historian of Major League Baseball reveals the true, unknown, and wonderfully entertaining story of baseball’s origins. Dispelling baseball’s creation myth, Thorn gives a colorful and compelling account of where the sport began, who deserves credit, and how it evolved into America’s pastime.

© Lisan Jutras


McWitty Press, 2011. $13.95 ISBN: 978-0-9755618-6-7 Seeking relief from her Holocaust survivor parents’ traumatized world, Lily Taub escapes to Oxford, and to forbidden love. Lily must find a way to embrace her heritage as well as the consequences of her flight from it.

© Abigail Pope

Gerald Steinacher

Leora Tanenbaum

TAKING BACK GOD: AMERICAN WOMEN RISING UP FOR RELIGIOUS EQUALITY Counterpoint, 2011. $16.95 ISBN: 978-1-58243-708-8 In liberal houses of worship across the country, women have achieved feminist success. But when you enter Catholic and evangelical Protestant churches, Orthodox Jewish synagogues, and Muslim mosques, you enter a gender time warp. Leora Tanenbaum reports on the daring, exciting reform movements led by devout women who are sick of being treated like second-class citizens within their faith.

Micah Toub

GROWING UP JUNG: COMING OF AGE AS THE SON OF TWO SHRINKS W. W. Norton & Company, 2011. $15.95 ISBN: 9780393340266 As the son of two Jungian psychologists, the young Micah Toub got a double dose of insight, ranging from the flaky to the profound. This self-analysis is interwoven with Toub’s present-day investigation into Jungian and Freudian concepts.

Fall 5771/2011

Jewish Book World



Evelyn Toynton

David Unger

Fran Walfish



Other Press, 2011. $15.95 ISBN: 978-1-59051-441-2 The Oriental Wife tells the story of two Jewish children who flee Germany separately in the 1930’s, meet again in New York, and fall in love, exploring the cost of Americanization and the clash between American and Old World ideas and virtues.

Akashic Books, 2011. $15.95 ISBN: 9781936070923 The Price of Escape depicts three days in the life of a Jew who leaves Nazi Germany by boat in 1938 to Guatemala, where he stumbles to get his footing in a hostile setting. It’s only when he commits an act he never thought he was capable of that he starts the slow journey to become the man he needs to be.


© Nina Subin

Palgrave Macmillan, 2010. $17.00 ISBN: 978-0-230-10256-9 As our children grow, they reveal distinct personalities that can clash with our own. In this book I show parents the importance of knowing yourself and how to turn that knowledge into a healthy relationship with your child.

Alina Tugend

BETTER BY MISTAKE: THE UNEXPECTED BENEFITS OF BEING WRONG Riverhead Books, 2011. $25.95 ISBN: 978-1-59448-785-9 This book delivers an eye-opening big idea: embracing mistakes—at work and at home— can improve every facet of our lives.

Jerome Verlin

ISRAEL 3000 YEARS: THE JEWISH PEOPLE’S 3000 YEAR PRESENCE IN ISRAEL Pavilion Press, 2011. $24.95 ISBN: 978-1414507170 Israel 3000 Years traces the Jews’ continuous homeland presence from the biblical kingdoms and Second Temple times, followed by the post-revolt eras of RomanByzantine, Muslim, Crusader, Mamluk and finally Turk foreign rule, and sovereign modern Israel.

Barbara Unell

Priscilla Warner

LEARNING TO BREATHE: MY YEAR-LONG QUEST TO BRING CALM TO MY LIFE Free Press, 2011. $23.00 ISBN: 9781439181072 In Learning to Breathe, Priscilla Warner embarks on a journey to find inner peace. Having battled debilitating panic attacks for decades, she begins meditating every day, hoping to change her brain, body, and life as she samples other spiritual and alternative health practices.

Perigee, 2011. $14.00 ISBN: 9780399536779 This book provides parents and teachers with life lessons and action steps that will encourage children to recognize and to practice good habits in the course of everyday living.


Jewish Book World

Fall 5771/2011

© Alexander Star


Amy Waldman


Sam Wasson

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011. $27.00 ISBN: 978-0-374-27156-5 The Submission is populated with journalists, activists, mourners, and bureaucrats who struggle for advantage and fight for their ideals in a city—and a country—fractured by old hatreds and new struggles.

FIFTH AVENUE, 5 A.M.: AUDREY HEPBURN, BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S, AND THE DAWN OF THE MODERN WOMAN HarperCollins, 2011. $13.99 ISBN: 9780061774164 Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M. is the complete account of the making of the cinema classic, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, which changed fashion, film, and sex for good.


Katharine Weber

Sharyn Wolf



Ellen Bari

JUMPING JENNY Kar-Ben Publishing, 2011. $17.95 ISBN: 978-0-7613-5141-2 When Jenny discovers that her skill for jumping can be used for her school’s annual mitzvah project, her life is changed forever.

© Suzanne McLaren

Crown Publishing Group, 2011. $24.00 ISBN: 978-0-307-39588-7 Katharine Weber creates an intriguing, intimate portrait of the eccentric Warburg family, and describes its renown and great influence.

Soho Press, 2011. $20.00 ISBN: 9781569479360 In Love Shrinks, the author confesses the startling truth of her own failed marriage, and the turmoil she endured while writing bestselling advice books and yet failing to heed her own.

© Todd France

© Marion Ettlinger


Michael Wex

Joe Black


Mary Zamore


Vintage Canada, 2010. $17.95 ISBN: 9780307397775 The Frumkiss family doesn’t look much different from any of the others in Bathurst Manor. As far as they know, all that distinguishes them from anybody else is that Grandpa is a famous Yiddish writer who ended up working for the radio. But Grandpa’s death changes all that.


Kar-Ben Publishing, 2011. $17.95 ISBN: 978-0-7613-5638-7 Popular children’s songster Rabbi Joe Black (“Boker Tov”) returns with a catchy rhyming song and accompanying story book to enliven the afikomen hunt at your seder. With lively pictures and a sing-along CD.

© Laurie Willick

CCAR Press, 2011. $19.95 ISBN: 978-0-88123-170-0 This anthology of diverse essays serves up a rich dialogue about the intersection of Judaism and food, exploring the questions and challenges of navigating the personal and communal choices about eating.

Steve Wick

Alexi Zentner



Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. $27.00 ISBN: 978-0230623187 The Long Night fleshes out the details of maverick journalist William L. Shirer’s adventures in 1930’s Europe, where he redefined the importance of journalism by fighting against Nazi censorship.

W. W. Norton & Company, 2011. $24.95 ISBN: 9780393079876 Touch introduces you to a world where monsters and witches oppose singing dogs and golden caribou, where the living and the dead part and meet again in the crippling beauty of winter and the surreal haze of summer.

Julie Chibbaro

DEADLY Simon & Schuster Children’s, 2011. $16.99 ISBN: 978-0689857386 A mysterious outbreak of typhoid fever is sweeping New York City in 1906. Every week more families fall ill, and there’s no cause in sight. When the city’s most unlikely scientist— 16-year-old Prudence Galewski, a Jewish girl from the Lower East Side—begins to assist in the investigation at the Department of Health, evidence of the cause starts to fall into place.

Fall 5771/2011

Jewish Book World


© C. Thummes-Kompr


Myriam Halberstam

Amy Meltzer

Nancy Cote




Ariella Books, 2010. $16.95 ISBN: 978-3-9813825-1-8 Hannah desperately wants a horse of her own. Miraculously her wish comes true for Hanukkah, but Hannah cannot rejoice for very long as Golda, the horse, wreaks havoc in a hilarious unfolding of the Rosenbaum Family s Hanukkah celebration.

Kar-Ben Publishing, 2011. $16.95 ISBN: 978-0-7613-5142-9 One Shabbat eve, Rosie persuades her parents to invite the Shabbat Princess to their home. As the family prepares for their royal visitor, they are reminded that adding beauty to a mitzvah only increases its worth.

Ariella Books, 2010. $16.95 ISBN: 978-3-9813825-1-8 Hannah desperately wants a horse of her own. Miraculously her wish comes true for Hanukkah, but Hannah cannot rejoice for very long as Golda, the horse, wreaks havoc in a hilarious unfolding of the Rosenbaum Family s Hanukkah celebration.

Richard Michelson Ann Koffsky


Karen Fisman


PROBLEMS IN PURIMVILLE: A PURIM STORY Jora Books, 2010. $13.50 ISBN: 9780981265018 In this delightful tale full of tasty hamantashen, marvelous costumes and very noisy graggers, Jacob and Sarah must draw on their wits and courage in order to solve the Problems in Purimville.

URJ Pres, 2011. $14.95 ISBN: 978-0-8074-1078-3 Noah won’t go in the pool. That is until he learns about the camp swim-a-thon and how he can help other kids enjoy the camp he loves so much. Ann Koffsky’s joyful text and bright illustrations teach young children about the values of tzedakah and perseverance, while sharing the magic of Jewish summer camp.

Leora Freedman

Linda Elovitz Marshall




Sumach Press, 2010. $14.95 ISBN: 978-1-89454-986-8 Leora Freedman’s Parachuting offers rare insights into growing up at a time when political awareness and the rock-and-roll drug culture pervaded youth in suburban Jewish communities.

Kar-Ben Publishing, 2011. $16.95 ISBN: 978-0-7613-5217-4 “How can a vegetable be ‘rude’?” Talia wonders, when she mishears her grandmother asking her to gather “root” vegetables for a Rosh Hashanah stew. As Talia digs in the garden, she collects the twisted, ornery carrots and parsnips that she thinks her grandmother wants, and finds a good home for the rest.

Harcourt Children’s Books, 2011. $16.99 ISBN: 9780547581354 Being an Inquisitor is no job for a nice Jewish boy. But when the police learn that Sacha Kessler can see magic, life on Hester Street turns upside down, and he’s apprenticed to the NYPD’s top Inquisitor, Maximillian Wolf.

Sleeping Bear Press, 2011. $16.95 ISBN: 978-1585364657 In the mid 1800’s the sport of baseball was working its way across the United States. Amateur teams were springing up and in 1858 the National Association of Base Ball Players was formed. How will the players on the newly formed teams react to a Jewish teammate?

Chris Moriarty


Jewish Book World

Fall 5771/2011


Erica Perl

Vicky Alvear Shecter

Lesley Simpson




Knopf, 2011. $15.99 ISBN: 978-037585924-3 For years, ten-year-old Zelda “Zelly” Fried has tried to convince her parents to let her have a dog. But when her unconventional, Yiddish-spouting grandfather, Abraham “Ace” Diamond, hatches a ridiculous scheme involving a practice dog named O.J., Zelly’s not so sure how far she’s willing to go to win a dog of her own.

Arthur A. Levine Books, 2011. $18.99 ISBN: 978-0-545-22130-6 Cleopatra’s Moon is a YA historical fiction novel about the only surviving child of Cleopatra VII and the Roman general, Mark Antony. Introduced to the Jewish concept of free will (versus a fate-controlled destiny) by a rabbi in Alexandria, the daughter of the last queen of Egypt wrestles with the idea—both intellectually and emotionally—as tragedy unfolds around her.

Kar-Ben Publishing, 2011. $17.95 ISBN: 978-0-7613-5651-6 Yuvi’s pluck helps her survive an extraordinary exodus from Ethiopia to Israel.

Shirley Vernick


Michael J. Rosen Myrna Gelman Shanker

Candlewick, 2011. $34.99 ISBN: 9780763655334 Open this beautiful gift book and follow the Festival of Lights through place and time—from Herod’s temple to a shtetl in Russia; from a refugee ship bound for the New World to an Israeli kibbutz. Inspired by Michael J. Rosen’s reverent poem, Robert Sabuda’s striking pop-ups depict each night’s menorah in a different scene.


© Rich Schmitt


Susan Goldman Rubin

MUSIC WAS IT: YOUNG LEONARD BERNSTEIN Charlesbridge, 2011. $19.95 ISBN: 978-1-58089-344-2 The book tells of Leonard Bernstein’s musical apprenticeship, from toddlerhood to his conducting debut with the New York Philharmonic at age 25.

Myrna Gelman Shanker, 2010. $12.95 ISBN: 978-0-9829273-0-4 Lazar, a golden retriever rescue dog, lives at the Fleischman Residence/Blumberg Plaza, a Jewish senior residence in West Bloomfield, Michigan. With illustrations and rhymes, readers travel from room to room with Lazar, as he visits and celebrates the rich lives of his elderly friends. Lazar inspires good deeds and serves as a positive role model for children to do their part in making the world a better place.

Cinco Puntos Press, 2011. $15.95 ISBN: 978-1-933693-84-2 Jack Pool has been restless, especially during this season of more-times-at-the-synagogue than you can shake a stick at. But Temple’s good for some things. It gives him time to daydream about a beautiful but inaccessible Gentile girl named Emaline, until Emaline’s little sister Daisy goes missing and he and his family are accused of killing her for a blood sacrifice. Blood Lie was inspired by a real blood libel that took place when a small girl disappeared from Massena, New York in 1928, and an innocent Jewish boy was called a murderer.

Dori Weinstein

SLIDING INTO THE NEW YEAR Yaldah Publishing, March, 2011. $8.95 ISBN: 978-1-59287-301-2 Thrill-loving fifth grader Ellie Silver (YaYa) has been waiting all summer to visit the brand new indoor water park in town. She is ecstatic when her best friend, Megan, invites her to go—that is until her twin brother, Joel (YoYo), points out that Megan is going on Rosh Hashanah. Sure, Rosh Hashanah is a big deal, but so is Splash World! What will Ellie do?

Fall 5771/2011

Jewish Book World


BOOK GROUP FORUM Editor’s Note: Let us know which Jewish interest books have worked out particularly well for your reading group. Please note that all questions have come from the publisher or author.

Book Club Recommendations rabbi, who must overcome Benji’s negative experiences from the past if he is to succeed where others have tried and failed? Or Benji, who is likely the first person to speak to the rabbi about the realities of gay life from a personal, rather than religious, perspective? Fiction

SWEET LIKE SUGAR Wayne Hoffman Kensington, 2011

1. Even though Benji feels alienated from his Jewishness, Jewish holidays play a large part in his story: His memories of Passover appear in the first and last chapters, and in the middle, he goes to synagogue for Rosh Hashanah, attends a Hanukkah party, bakes hamantashen for Purim, and flashes back to Shabbat services from his childhood. What role do holidays play in maintaining Jewish identity – even for people who feel disconnected from traditional Judaism?

3. Do you believe that people are destined to be together? Does that only apply to romantic couples, or other kinds of relationships, too? Is it possible for one person to have more than one bashert? 4. Some of the closest relationships in the book defy simple categorization and familial labels: Irene and Rabbi Zuckerman, Benji and Michelle, Benji and the rabbi. How do the characters in the book build their chosen families, and how do they try to ensure that they endure? 5. How much of the story is unique to Jews? Could a similar story play out with non-Jewish characters? How might it be different?

2. Rabbi Zuckerman tries to teach Benji about Judaism, while Benji tries to educate the rabbi about gay life. Who has the harder job? The


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Fall 5771/2011

EMERGING VOICES stay in homes where they’re neglected or abused. Lena is clearly a very lucky kid. I understand that it’s rare for kids her age to be successfully placed in adoptive home and that there are too few parents willing to adopt older children. As for what might have happened to Lena, there are kids who thrive despite the worst of circumstances, and kids who understandably fail to thrive, even in the best of circumstances. I would have to say though, that Lena suffers doubly—she’s neglected, and struggles with English, and so lacks the tool to advocate for herself. As such, she’s trapped in a lot of ways.

A Conversation with Haley Tanner By Jaclyn Trop


aley Tanner’s debut novel, Vaclav & Lena, is as cute as it is profound, the coming-of-age story of two Russian immigrant children separated by evil but reunited by love.

Gavin Snow

Your ear is so attuned to Russian immigrant dialogue and syntax and you use it to such hilarious effect. What is your experience with the Brighton Beach community and how did you decide to write a novel around it? When I began writing the book I was tutoring young kids in and around Brighton Beach—I was completely fascinated by these tiny, serious little people, six and sevenyear-olds with heavy Russian accents coming out of their little mouths. The juxtaposition was just so interesting. Even so, I don’t think it was a completely conscious decision to write about the Brighton Beach community—or about Russian immigrants in par-

ticular. I was just writing a story, and the neighborhood I was working in seeped in and became a natural setting. Vaclav and Lena are, to me, people first—the fact that they are Russian immigrants is just part of their story.

Harry Houdini is Vaclav’s idol. Do you think he will ever outgrow his love for magic? And why does Heather Holliday resonate so strongly with Lena? Like his idol Houdini, I don’t think Vaclav will ever outgrow his love for magic. I don’t see magic, which is so much about art and performance and storytelling, as a childish pursuit. I think it’s his true calling and I think he’s one of the lucky few whose passion is strong enough to beat all the odds that are stacked against him. Heather Holliday, who is a real person—still performing, as far as I know, at

How realistic is it that Vaclav and Lena, both Russian immigrants who had to struggle to learn English, would wind up as such happy, well-adjusted, successful teenagers? I think it’s very realistic! I know a lot of kids who are first generation Americans, who struggle to learn English, and grow up to be happy, well-adjusted, successful teens and young adults. It’s certainly a tough road, and I can’t claim to know how tough, having never experienced it myself, but my favorite thing about New York City is that I’m surrounded by people from all over the world who successfully integrate into and contribute to our amazing city.

Lena’s aunt, Ekaterina, seems to be the picture of evil, but then we hear her side of the story. Should readers feel compassion for her? Feeling compassion for Ekaterina does not mean excusing her or forgiving her. I think it’s far easier to dismiss other people, to feel anger and blame, than to understand and to feel compassion. It’s far more difficult to feel compassion for Ekaterina, to understand her, and to still hold her responsible for her completely deplorable actions.

the Sideshow Theater at Coney Island—was an obvious choice for Lena’s hero. She’s strong, and powerful, and completely in control of her sexuality—all the things that Lena wishes she could be.

What do you think would have happened to Lena if she hadn’t been adopted by a loving mother who had the financial and emotional resources to care for her? That’s hard to say. There are far too many kids who are lost in the foster care system, or

Jaclyn Trop is a business reporter for The Detroit News and a graduate of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.

Fall 5771/2011

Jewish Book World



THE GERSHWINS’ PORGY AND BESS: A 75TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION Robin Thompson Amadeus Press, 2010. 200 pp. $29.99 ISBN: 978-1-57467-191-9


orgy and Bess received its world premiere on the same day in 1935 that Franklin Roosevelt dedicated Hoover Dam. It is no less monumental a work, and its 75th anniversary was well worth noting and celebrating. Despite some glaring flaws—most notably, the title’s slighting of one of the opera’s principal begettors, DuBose Heyward—this volume is an appropriate huzzah. Ironically, in light of its title, the book’s main virtue is its account of the work’s genesis, beginning with Heyward’s unlikely life experience among the Gullah community of Charleston, South Carolina. An aspiring poet who descended from a prominent family of slave-owning planters that fell on hard times after the Civil War, Heyward paid tribute to that community in his best-selling novel Porgy, which was subsequently adapted for the Broadway stage by his playwright wife, Dorothy, and himself. Some years later, the novel caught the attention and imagination of George Gershwin, who became determined to compose an American “folk opera” based on Heyward’s tale. After much toil, Porgy and Bess—with music by Gershwin, and libretto and lyrics by Heyward (with assistance from Gershwin’s brother Ira, who contributed the words for a half-dozen songs and collaborated with Heyward on two others)—finally saw the light of day. As Thompson notes, the opera provoked controversy from the start on two broad fronts. Was it really an opera, or a musical comedy with delusions of grandeur? Are the characters it portrays accurate and ennobling ethnographic portraits or demeaning stereotypes? Postmodern analysis would show that these concerns were intriguingly related, as both were based on artificial, class-determined boundaries between artistic genres and ethnic types. As such boundaries came to be discarded as irrelevant and ultimately pernicious constructs, the inherent merits of individuals and works of art alike could be seen more clearly. In that light, Porgy and Bess has rightfully gained its current reputation as a masterpiece. BB



n the morning of Thursday, July 23, 2009, FBI agents arrested forty-four persons in New Jersey and New York in one of the greatest coordinated operations in the agency’s history. The ongoing trials arising out of this operation have added a new chapter to


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Fall 5771/2011

the Garden State’s notable history of political and financial corruption. Those arrested included the mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey, a member of the New Jersey legislature, dozens of politicians and local government officials, and several rabbis. The charges included bribery, brokering the sale of kidneys, and laundering money through Jewish charities. The key figure in this operation was Solomon Dweck, a corrupt real estate promoter and the son of an influential Syrian rabbi in Deal, New Jersey. Dweck was facing a lengthy prison term for a variety of real estate scams when he agreed to wear a wire for the federal government. Because he had become an informer, Dweck became a pariah to his own father and an outcast among the Syrians. The events leading up to that morning, including a detailed examination of Dweck’s upbringing and his various financial schemes,

are now recounted in all their sordid and colorful aspects by two reporters of the Newark Star-Ledger, the state’s leading newspaper. The judicial proceedings involving those arrested are ongoing, and this book, while interesting, is necessarily not definitive. Nor does it have the depth of analysis that more sophisticated readers seek. There is, for example, no attempt to explain the historical and sociological reasons for the endemic political corruption in New Jersey or for the widespread contempt for the law and for established business practices prevalent in the Syrian Jewish community. But, as the Madoff and other recent financial scandals reveal, the Syrians are hardly unique among American Jews in this respect. ESS

THE JEWS OF CAPITOL HILL: A COMPENDIUM OF JEWISH CONGRESSIONAL MEMBERS Kurt F. Stone Scarecrow Press, 2011. 714 pp. $85.00 [e] ISBN: 978-0-8108-5731-5


his coffee table book is heavy enough, and it will provide hours of passing interest to Jewish followers of American politics. There are hundreds of pages of surprisingly in-depth biographies of the 198 members of the “Congressional Minyan.” Starting with Floridian David Levy Yulee in 1841, right through to Eric Cantor in the 111th Congress, there have been a lot of fascinating Jews in the US Senate and House. Stone’s book gives the reader chapter and verse.

Though the connection between these biographies relies on the slender tie of some form of “Jewishness” it still makes for fascinating reading. The “minyanaires” are nothing if not a varied lot, and many are known for far more than their Congressional pedigrees. Jefferson Monroe Levy (D-NY 1852–1924) deserves the nation’s thanks for his single-minded purchase and restoration of his namesake’s famed home, Monticello. California’s Julius Kahn (R-CA 1861–1924) was the country’s first actor to [e] after price denotes that e-book is available



wo new baseball books offer Jewish seamheads and casual fans insights into the esoteric topics of the Negro Leagues and Israel Baseball League.

OUT OF LEFT FIELD: JEWS AND BLACK BASEBALL Rebecca T. Alpert Oxford University Press, 2011. 272 pp. $27.95 ISBN: 978-0195399004

PITCHING IN THE PROMISED LAND: A STORY OF THE FIRST AND ONLY SEASON IN THE ISRAEL BASEBALL LEAGUE Aaron Pribble University of Nebraska Press, 2011. 280 pp. $27.95 [e] ISBN: 978-0-8032-3472-7 A pair of new books with vastly differing, yet enjoyable styles, offer Jewish baseball fans insights into the esoteric topics of the Negro Leagues and Israel Baseball League. Rebecca T. Alpert writes of Jews’ involvement in the Negro Leagues from the 1930’s through the 1950’s in Out of Left Field: Jews and Black Baseball. Alpert examines three groups of Jews who “remained outsiders, intimately involved but never belonging,” who nevertheless “had a profound influence on black baseball, both negative and positive.” These were the team owners and business managers; sportswriters who advocated for racial equality in the Communist newspaper, The Daily Worker, and the Belleville Grays, a team of “Hebrew Israelites” (black Jews). Tim Wiles, the National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum’s director of research,

take his place on Capitol Hill, regaling his colleagues with “many mannerisms he had acquired in his theatrical career.” It seemed as if he felt Congress was a more secure profession than the stage. Facts and stories engage the attention. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ 1970– ) is actress Gwyneth Paltrow’s first cousin. Anthony Weiner (D-NY 1965– ) was one of the very first members of Congress to text and receive instant messages; Meyer London (S-NY 1871–1926) was elected as the Lower East Side’s Socialist Representative no less than 3 times, and spoke to his polyglot constituency in fluent Italian, English, German and Yiddish! South Carolinian Lewis Charles Levin (A-PA 1809–1860) made his name as a leading light of the “Know-Nothing” Anti-Immigrant party. Though the connection between these biographies relies on the slender tie of some form of “Jewishness” it still makes for fascinating reading. JHB


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says Out of Left Field is “a work of highly original research.” Indeed, Alpert’s detailing of the Grays is a groundbreaking effort. The Belleville Grays, the team owner and players, receive scant attention in Leslie Heaphy’s The Negro Leagues, 1860–1960 and James A. Riley’s The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues, two of the most detailed books on black baseball. Likewise, when Heaphy and Riley do mention team owners Ed Gottlieb, Syd Pollack, and Abe Sapperstein, the few paragraphs the authors spend on the subjects make no references to the men’s religious affiliations. Out of Left Field is written in a scholarly fashion. Heavily footnoted, it offers an extensive bibliography and provides in-depth analysis of the “complicated history” of black-Jewish relations, in addition to discussing black baseball. Alpert’s book will likely appeal more to academics and serious baseball historians than casual fans. Despite the effort it may require, Out of Left Field is a both a worthy read and a valuable addition to the bookshelf of Negro League and Jewish baseball fans. Aaron Pribble’s Pitching in the Promised Land: A Story of the First and Only Season in the Israel Baseball League, is, conversely, a much easier read. Based on the journals he kept during the Israel Baseball League’s 2007, and only, season, Pribble details his on-the-field exploits and his off-the-field adventures in alternating chapters. As seemingly all baseball memoirs do, Pribble’s story is heavy on game details, uses salty language, and describes the sexual conquests and drinking habits of players. At times this seems excessive. Pitching in the Promised Land is, however, more than a simple baseball diary. Pribble is both a crafty pitcher and author, and he does a nice job changing speeds. The book capably mixes Pribble’s recaps of baseball games with his changing views on Middle East politics, memories of a brief but intense romance with a Yemenite Jew, and the general absurdity of playing baseball in Israel in a faltering league. Perhaps, most interestingly, Pribble also offers a touching first-person account of how “a peculiar season, a once-in-a-lifetime summer” shaped and solidified his own Jewish identity and spirituality. With a writing style that is approachable, warm, effective, and engrossing, Pitching in the Promised Land will likely appeal to both Jewish seamheads and casual fans. Joshua Platt, an avid baseball fan and collector of Jewish baseball autographs, publishes

THE SPHAS: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF BASKETBALL’S GREATEST JEWISH TEAM Douglas Stark Temple University Press, 2011. 319 pp. $29.50 ISBN: 978-1-59213-633-9


ports have been a major avenue of social mobility as well as an entry into the American mainstream for American ethnic groups. This was especially true for first- and second-generation Jews residing between the world wars in inner-city Jewish neighborhoods such as the West Side of Chicago, Brownsville-East New York in Brooklyn, and

South Philadelphia. Of America’s games, basketball was the most popular. Basketball is the quintessential “urban game” and was the sport of choice on the playground and in Jewish community centers during the 1920’s and 30’s. The most famous Jewish basketball team of this era was the SPHAS. The SPHAS were named for the South Philadelphia Hebrew Association, a social club which for a brief period provided its uniforms. American Jewish sports fans, noting the Hebrew lettering on its uniforms and its fine record, kvelled over the SPHAS, just as they kvelled over Jewish boxers and major league baseball players. During its glory years, the SPHAS won seven championships in the thirteen seasons it played in the American Basketball League, a predecessor of the National Basketball Association. By the 1950’s, however, the SPHAS had degenerated into an embarrassing punching bag for the Harlem Globetrotters.

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The team’s interesting history, now well chronicled by Douglas Stark, the director of the museum of the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island, stretched from its founding in 1918 until its demise in 1959. By that time upward social and economic mobility and suburbanization had diminished the appeal of basketball to young Jews. Sports fans will enjoy Stark’s volume, particularly its biographies of the SPHAS players, but specialists in American Jewry will be disappointed by its failure to delve more deeply into what the history of the SPHAS says about the evolution of American Jewry. ESS


became a mainstream belief along with American acceptance of group rights.” The increasing rise of cultural pluralism and secularism had unforeseen consequences. There was a decided upsurge of conservative belief decrying the secularism of the country. In 1979, Reverend Jerry Falwell co-founded the organization the “Moral Majority,” intended to serve as a platform for American conservatives to enter politics. A new schism, the “liberal-conservative divide,” was developing. The primary religious divisions were no longer between Protestants, Catholics, and Jews but between liberals and conservatives of all three faiths. This “divide” continues until this day. The reader who relishes a nuanced view of the forces that have shaped American history and the American Jewish experience will find this book a delight. It is not an easy read but understanding the subtleties of social and cultural history and events requires complex analysis. Endnotes, index, photos. CP

ject matter coexists naturally with comedy. Judaism is a vital force in the book. Phoebe’s mother’s conflicted relationship with faith influences her upbringing, but when a friendly new community gives Phoebe a fresh look at the loving side of Jewish thought, she discovers a rich spiritual home. Her work with the local Hebrew school further sparks her interest in learning, and her genuine, if naïve, enthusiasm even leads her to inquire into the steps to rabbinical ordination. The cartoon style of the book is clean and crisp, and detailed panels provide a reading and visual experience that is engrossing and substantive. Extra touches—such as periodic glimpses at the inner thoughts of Phoebe’s slippers—add bursts of whimsy. With this work, Potts establishes herself as a talented artist, an insightful memoirist, a playful humorist, and a compelling storyteller. DCC



Kevin M. Schultz Oxford University Press, 2011. 256 pp. $34.95 [e] ISBN: 978-0-19-533176-9


n 1942, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in a private conversation with two high-ranking members of his administration, one Catholic and one Jew, reminded them that the United States is “a Protestant country” and added that “Catholics and Jews are here under sufferance” and it was “up to you” to “go along with what I want.” This quote is taken from Tri-Faith America: How Catholics and Jews Held Postwar America to Its Protestant Promise by Kevin M. Schultz. It is a vivid illustration that Catholic and Jewish Americans, even those at the very highest levels, were not fully accepted until the mid-20th century. Through the voices of key political and religious leaders, and incisive historical analysis, Schultz takes the reader on the path leading to America’s increasing acceptance of itself as a “tri-faith” country that fully accepts the traditions of its Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish countrymen. According to Schultz, this “tri-faith” pluralist perspective laid the foundation for the Civil Rights movement in the 1960’s and ushered in a public debate about the role of the state in adjudicating religious matters. Jews, some Catholics, and liberal Protestants began to promote the idea that the secular state was in the best interests of the country. The importance of maintaining a secular state


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GERSONIDES: JUDAISM WITHIN THE LIMITS OF REASON GOOD EGGS: A MEMOIR Phoebe Potts Harper, 2011. 251 pp. $23.99 [e] ISBN: 978-0-06171146-6


rom the bedroom, to the waiting room, to the hospital room, this graphic memoir offers a funny yet sincere portrait of one couple’s attempt to negotiate the tough reality of infertility. Phoebe does her best to handle the jealousy that besets her upon seeing other parents with children, the strain frequent doctors’ visits put on her marriage and her bank account, and the hopelessness she feels from one disappointment after another. A narrative aside also describes Phoebe’s history with depression: when her post-college career path leaves her disconnected and disconsolate in Mexico, trying to learn Spanish to become a better advocate for the working class, she is overcome by persistent negative thoughts, for which she eventually seeks the help of therapy and medication. Sound heavy? Don’t be put off. In Potts’s competent hands, serious sub-

Seymour Feldman The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2010. 254 pp. $59.50 ISBN: 978-1-904113-44-7


evi ben Gershon was one of the most creative thinkers in Jewish history. Also known as Gersonides, he was an innovative scientist, a highly independent biblical exegete, and an original and courageous philosopher. In 1999, Seymour Feldman completed his translation of Gersonides’s philosophical magnum opus, The Wars of the Lord. Now Feldman has written a book that lays out the main areas of thought that Gersonides grappled with in his Wars. The book is not a general introduction to the personality of Gersonides, and is best understood as a companion volume to the translation of Wars of the Lord. It does not deal with his science or astronomy, and his commentary on the Bible is treated only as a backdrop to discussions in Wars. But for what it does, it is very good. Feldman presents the very dense philosophical questions in the context of earlier


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ach of these fearless, brutally honest memoirs by Jewish humorists delivers moments where you will find yourself having to put the book down and let yourself laugh.

MR. FUNNY PANTS Michael Showalter Grand Central Publishing, 2011. 288 pp. $24.99 [e] ISBN: 978-0446542104

SOMETIMES I FEEL LIKE A NUT: ESSAYS AND OBSERVATIONS Jill Kargman William Morrow, 2011. 192 pp. $19.99 [e] ISBN: 978-0062007193

THE HOUSE ON CRASH CORNER AND OTHER UNAVOIDABLE CALAMITIES Mindy Greenstein Greenpoint Press, 2011. 210 pp. $20.00 [e] ISBN: 978-0975976098 When Jewish humorists write about themselves, unpredictability is a given. This trio of autobiographies approaches life from different paths, but common themes emerge—surviving an awkward adolescence, embracing motherhood, grappling with cancer, and mastering assault weapons, for starters. But regardless of subject matter, all three memoirs have moments where you will have to put the book down and let yourself laugh in tribute to these fearless, brutally honest scribes.

thinkers, and then explains the steps by which Gersonides arrived at his own novel positions. These explanations are presented in


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Psychologist Mindy Greenstein (The House at Crash Corner) and writer Jill Kargman (Sometimes I Feel Like a Nut,) wax on what it means to be female and Jewish in New York. Greenstein, a product of Yiddish-speaking Holocaust survivors and compulsive gamblers in lower-middle class Brooklyn, and Kargman, a privileged child of the Upper East Side, have more in common than it would appear on the surface. From childhood to motherhood and everything in between, no subject, however embarrassing, is off limits. Coincidentally, both also like to blow off steam at the shooting range and profess to being good shots. Television writer and standup comedian Michael Showalter (Mr. Funny Pants) takes a divergent tack, penning absurdist, nonsensical, and roundabout musings that reveal little about his history but much about his creative process. Unlike Kargman and Greenstein, Showalter evolves little during the course of his book, spending most of his time talking about his affinity for sandwiches and sweaters. But he also earnestly debunks clichés and sometimes he’s right on the money, as when he lists his maxims for writing and selling a Hollywood screenplay: “All High School Jocks are Evil Unless They Have a Secret Talent That They Can’t Tell Their Fathers About.” Kargman is delightfully uninhibited, revealing the parts of life one would most want to hide—warts, humiliations and all. The happily married, 35-year-old mom of three spins raunchy sitcom fodder that lands somewhere between PG-13 and X. But you get the idea that it’s a family you’d like to be part of, especially when the adult Kargman, her brother, and her parents visit a Los Angeles tattoo parlor to get matching ‘K’’s inked on their bottoms. She’s breezy and lighthearted, with childhood memories light on trauma but heavy on laughs. The worst trauma during her high school years at Taft, for example, (see chapter “Wednesday Addams in Barbietown”) was when Kargman discovered she was one of only a handful of prep school classmates not to own a Patagonia jacket. Greenstein, the most somber of the three, had a less comfortable childhood, and most of her early memories are painful. One classmate, “ a pretty girl who knew ten different ways to tie a scarf,” made fun of Greenstein for looking like an immigrant. Greenstein’s best friend nicknamed her “The Shadow” in first grade “because of my habit of following her around mindlessly, never offering opinions or suggestions for activities.” But humor is a timeless survival mechanism and the humor of Greenstein’s childhood is not lost on her, especially when she describes a police squad’s arrival at her house following her mother’s 911 call reporting that her disrespectful son put the mil’khik dish in the fleyshik sink before mooning her (“BUT HE SHOWED ME THE TUCHUS!!!! HE SHOWED THE TUCHUS TO ME!!!!” her mother screamed after being chided.) “I didn’t need to sit on the brown felt chair to know what happened next,” Greenstein writes. “I heard four car doors open and some sharp laughter in four-part harmony before the doors slammed shut in almost perfect unison.” The last two-thirds of Greenstein’s memoir is serious, as she becomes a prison therapist, a cancer psychologist, a “true boy mom” to two sons (free spirits who love arm-farts) and, finally, a cancer patient herself. It’s difficult to wring humor from hospital bed rests and bouts of anxiety over the chemotherapy needle, but Greenstein, in her steadfast manner, perseveres and triumphs. Discovered during a Botox session with her dermatologist, Kargman’s cancer left an eight-inch scar up her thigh à la Sally from “The Nightmare before Christmas” but the unsinkable Kargman braves it in her typical fashion. “I weirdly dig it,” she says. “It’s a jagged badge of honor that shows how lucky I am. And it’s a reminder that I need to slather sunblock on my kids like I’m papier-machéing them in zinc.” Showalter’s journey is murkier. In the book’s Afterward, he writes, “Do I regret that, instead of writing an accomplished and searing work of nonfiction, I wrote what basically amounts to a random string of unconnected and incoherent thoughts primarily on my cats? It’s not an easy question to answer.” Jaclyn Trop is a business reporter for The Detroit News and a graduate of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.

accessible language, so that even someone unversed in Aristotelian terminology can understand the concepts and follow the argu-

ments. References are also provided to discussions of the issues in modern scholarship. This is an impressive achievement, and makes

ACADEMIC STUDIES PRESS 28 Montfern Ave., Brighton MA 02135 tel: 617.782.6290 • fax: 857-241-3149

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FOR T HC OM I NG P U BL IC AT ION S Denial of the Denial, Or the Battle of Auschwitz THE DEMOGRAPHY AND GEOPOLITICS OF THE HOLOCAUST Edited by Alfred Kokh and Pavel Polian ISBN 978-1-936235-34-6 (cloth) $65.00, 350 pp. August 2011

Over the decades, the Holocaust has remained a critical issue both historically and politically. This is due to the modernization of anti-Semitism in the West, where accusations of ritual murder have long been passe and claims that the Holocaust was a hoax are de riguer, and to the government sanctions of anti-Semitism in the East in countries such as Iran. The purely scholarly problem of determining the number of victims, like other aspects of demography related to the Holocaust, have suddenly become closely embroiled in geopolitics and the phenomenon of Holocaust denial, which is now a context that has been forced upon it. This book is imbued with these connections and interrelationships. Avraham, Wolfgang Benz, Sergio Della Pergola, Mark Kupovetsky, Dieter Pohl, Aron Shneer, and the editors contribute their voices to the topic.

Strictly Kosher Reading PO P U L A R L I TE RAT U RE





By Yoel Finkelman ISBN 978-1-936235-37-7 (cloth) $49.00, 264 pp. August 2011

For centuries, fervently observant Jewish communities have produced thousands of works of Jewish law, thought, and spirituality. But in recent decades, the literature of America’s Haredi [ultra-Orthodox] community has taken on brand-new forms: self-help books, cookbooks, monthly magazines, parenting guides, biographies, picture books, even adventure stories and spy novels—all produced by Haredi men and women, for the Haredi reader. What’s changed? Why did these works appear, and what do they mean to the community that produces and consumes them? How has the Haredi world, as it seeks fidelity to unchanging tradition, so radically changed what it writes and what it reads? In answering these questions, Strictly Kosher Reading points to a central paradox in contemporary Haredi life. Haredi Jewry sets itself apart, claiming to reject modern secular culture as dangerous and as threatening to everything Torah stands for. But in practice, Haredi popular literature reveals a community thoroughly embedded in contemporary values. Popular literature plays a critical role in helping Haredi Jews to understand themselves as different, even as it shows them to be very much the same.


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Now Ava i l a ble THE MUSELMANN AT THE WATER COOLER By Eli Pfefferkorn ISBN 978-1-936235-66-7 (cloth) $69.00, 218 pp.

A survivor of concentration camps and the Death March, Eli Pfefferkorn looks back on his Holocaust and post-Holocaust experiences to compare patterns of human behavior in extremis with those of ordinary life. “Pfefferkorn has a lively style and a fascinating story to tell: his insights and his perspectives deserve a wide audience.” —Sir Martin Gilbert, official biographer of Winston Churchill and author of The Second World War (Weidenfeld and Holt, 1989)

Blood Will Tell: VA M P I R E S BEFORE




By Sara Libby Robinson ISBN 978-1-94843-61-1 (cloth) $59.00, 214 pp.

“This fascinating and illuminating book shows clearly how the interest in vampirism which developed in Britain, France, and Germany in the three quarters of a century before the end of the Second World War was linked with the popularisation of a more ‘scientific’ understanding of the human body and the role of blood in it...” —Antony Polonsky, Albert Abramson Professor of Holocaust Studies, Brandeis University

W W W. A C A D E M I C S T U D I E S P R E S S . C O M


Contemporary Jewish Life

this a useful book for anyone interested in medieval Jewish philosophy, either specialist or novice. PR

LEONARD BERNSTEIN AT WORK: HIS FINAL YEARS, 1984–1990 Steve J. Sherman Amadeus Press, 2010. 180 pp. $34.99 ISBN: 978-1-57467-190-2

JUST ONE CATCH: A BIOGRAPHY OF JOSEPH HELLER Tracy Daugherty St. Martin’s Press, 2011. 560 pp. $35.00 [e] ISBN 978-0-312-59685-9


oseph Heller emerges from this excellent biography as dark a figure as he was beforehand. This is not to say that Daugherty sheds no light on his subject, only that even fully lit, Heller is not a particularly pleasant or admirable human being. It is useful to learn that he came by his curmudgeonly character honestly, but that understanding does not make him significantly more likable or interesting. If this book has a flaw, it is Daugherty’s overwrought attempt to elevate the critical reputation of virtually everything Heller wrote. There is no doubt that Heller’s first novel, Catch-22, is a classic of American literature, but despite Daugherty’s pleading it is difficult to classify Heller as a great writer. Nothing he wrote after Catch-22 came close to his masterpiece, and toward the end of his career many critics rightfully dismissed him as completely written-out.

Of particular interest are the details of how changes in the publishing industry over the course of Heller’s career affected his writing. A fine writer himself, Daugherty is at his best when evoking the worlds Heller inhabited through the course of his life: Coney Island in the 1930’s, the Catskills in the 1940’s, the Manhattan literary scene and Heller’s East Hampton retreat from it in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Of particular interest are the details of how changes in the publishing industry over the course of Heller’s career affected his writing. As a virtual unknown, Heller earned relatively little from Catch-22. Many of his later projects were motivated primarily by an unabashed need and desire to cash in on his reputation, and the increasingly corporatized world of publishing was increasingly able and willing to help. The money came, but at a price. BB


Jewish Book World

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rom the time he first conducted the New York Philharmonic in 1943 until his death in 1989, Leonard Bernstein was a living legend. This lovingly prepared coffee-table book captures the lion in winter through arresting photographs taken on stage, backstage, with colleagues, and with friends. Along with these images, the great musician is remembered through glowing tributes from those who knew him. The unsung hero of this sumptuous survey of Bernstein’s final years is the photographer Steve J. Sherman, long a ubiquitous figure around New York’s concert halls. He represents the third generation in a family’s multifaceted association with Bernstein. Sherman’s grandmother was the pianist, recording artist, and teacher Nadia Reisenberg. His father, Robert Sherman, knew Bernstein through his daily radio program “The Listening Room” on New York’s WQXR, which featured musicians in conversation and performance over the course of 23 years. Steve Sherman worked for several years in Jerusalem as a news and archeological photographer, but he found his true vocation after coming back to New York in 1983 to turn his talents to the city’s musical life. Decades later he culled his photos of Bernstein, taken during the artist’s final years, for a 2006 exhibition at Harvard. This handsome volume preserves these penetrating and dynamic images for posterity. BG

known, the work of his doctoral advisor and mentor, Zellig Harris, is recognized today only by a small circle of linguists and others interested in mid-20th century Jewish intellectual life. Barsky, Chomsky’s biographer (Noam Chomsky: A Life of Dissent, 1997), attempts to remedy this situation with this workmanlike critical biography. During an interview fifteen years ago, Chomsky suggested to Barsky that he turn his attention to Harris if he wanted to learn more about Chomsky’s own background and intellectual formation. Barsky traces Harris’s life from his birth in Ukraine in 1909, his emigration to the United States in 1913, his development as a Jewish intellectual in America to his death in his sleep after a full day’s work in 1992. As Barsky points out, Harris thought of himself less as a linguist than as a “methodologist” who studied universal human values with rigor, impartiality, and rationality. As a college student, Harris became deeply involved with Avukah, a Zionist student organization made up of intellectuals—including Nathan Glazer and Seymour Melman—and socialist Zionists debating and working to expand the idea of Zionism. Harris contributed to these debates by urging Zionists to consider a socialist Palestine that would serve as a safe haven not only for persecuted Jews but also for disenfranchised Arabs. His earliest published book (Development of Canaanite Dialectics) grew out of Harris’s deep interest in the language and linguistic structures of Semitic languages; his groundbreaking study, Methods in Structural Linguistics (1951), attempted to describe languages consistently and without presuppositions. Although Barsky’s study often gets mired in jargon and repetition, his otherwise admirable portrait recovers the life and work of this important figure in American intellectual life. HLC




Robert F. Barsky MIT, 2011. 328 pp. $29.95 ISBN: 978-0-262-01526-4

Richard Elliott Friedman and Shawna Dolansky Oxford University Press, 2011. 240 pp. $27.95 [e] ISBN: 978-0-19-531163-1



lthough Noam Chomsky’s wide-ranging work in linguistics and politics is well-

n today’s political debates on social issues, we sometimes hear, “this is what the Bible says,”

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and religious viewpoints often make their way into public policy. Professors Friedman and Dolansky have identified five topics in the current political dialogue: Homosexuality, Abortion, Women’s Status, Capital Punishment, and the Earth and researched what the Bible does indeed say on these controversial topics.

This is a thoughtful, well-researched, and well-written analysis of modern issues and how the ancient texts can give us wisdom and guidance in making decisions. They apply the principles of rigorous academic scholarship including text criticisms, anthropological perspectives, and an in-depth analysis of Biblical Hebrew as well as other ancient languages. They do not attempt to convince the reader of one point of view over another, but rather to open the text to a fuller understanding of what the texts say, or do not say, in some cases, about these issues. For example, the Bible does not directly address abortion, although we believe ancient cultures recognized and understood it, which leads into the very interesting discussion of when life begins. According to Professors Friedman and Dolansky’s scholarship, it is the first breath that determines life. If we accept this interpretation, it then guides us in today’s world in understanding how we should approach policy in legislating abortion. This is a thoughtful, well-researched, and well-written analysis of modern issues and how the ancient texts can give us wisdom and guidance in making decisions. BA

in childhood trauma and abuse. The Jewish community is beginning to acknowledge what has long been a taboo subject: that one can live an observant life while simultaneously sexually abusing children. Being an observant Jew ought be congruent with a dedication to the welfare and safety of children, but psychopathology and deviance often gain the upper hand in influencing individual conduct. While not a surprise to many, the acknowledgment of sexual abuse occurring in the home, in camps, in seminaries, in professional offices, and at the hands of teachers and clergy represents a major break in the wall of silence that stood for decades in the religious community. This indispensable volume represents the outcome of Jewish mental health professionals realizing the need to guide parents, teachers, and colleagues in the best ways to prevent and treat sexual abuse of children and teens. This is a uniformly well-written and well edited volume. The editors are to be commended for selecting clinicians and clergy whose experience and erudition inform their contributions. Susan Schulman’s paper on unwanted touch is a superb overview of prevention principles for parents. The school prevention model outlined by Debbie Fox merits national adoption. Halachic issues raised by sexual abuse are sensitively addressed in scholarly papers by Rabbis David Cohen and Mark Dratch. The chapter on the treatment of child victims of sexual abuse, by David Pelcovitz, will provide clinicians with an outstanding review of best practices along with many valuable references. Additional noteworthy chapters focus on the treatment of offenders. One

...will serve as the gold standard reference on the topic of sexual abuse in the Jewish world for well as teachers and rabbis serving the Jewish community.

BREAKING THE SILENCE: SEXUAL ABUSE IN THE JEWISH COMMUNITY David Mandel and David Pelcovitz, eds. $24.95 KTAV, 2011. 340 pp. $24.95 ISBN: 978-1-60280-10-3


avid Mandel and David Pelcovitz have edited and contributed to a landmark volume addressing the problem of sexual abuse in the Jewish community. Mandel is the chief executive of Ohel Children’s Home and Family Services and Pelcovitz is a highly regarded clinical psychologist who specializes


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observation the editors will hopefully consider when they discuss this seminal work in public forums is the matter of punishment. Victims of childhood sexual abuse are entitled to know that perpetrators of such crimes are not free to re-offend and that justice has been served. When to treat and when to punish is a crucial moral and societal dilemma that needs to be seriously addressed. This book will serve as the gold standard reference on the topic of sexual abuse in the Jewish world for clinicians, both seasoned and in training, as well as teachers and rabbis serving the Jewish community. Glossary. SAL

FESTIVALS OF FAITH: REFLECTIONS ON THE JEWISH HOLIDAYS Norman Lamm; David Shatz, ed.; Simon Posner, assoc. ed. KTAV/OU Press, 2011. 347 pp. $27.50 ISBN: 978-1-60280-174-5


abbi Norman Lamm has had a distinguished career of over a half century in the rabbinate and university administration. Over the course of this time, his written and spoken presentations have served as extraordinary examples of brilliance, insight, inspiration, style, and composition. The reader and listener have seldom been disappointed when afforded the opportunity to be exposed to his thoughts. A rabbi’s sermons are infrequently published, and therefore aside from his immediate congregation or the audience for whom he is serving as a scholar-in-residence, his talks are at best remembered in a fragmented fashion, if at all. Particularly in R. Lamm’s case, with the republication of many of these sermons in this and other planned volumes, we are afforded the opportunity to imagine ourselves listening in person as one of the most gifted rabbinic orators of recent years shares his thoughts. For those who appreciate the historical moment, an attempt has been made in this collection to retain not only references to specific happenings of the day, but even the contemporary idiom of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s during which most of these sermons were delivered, to gain an appreciation of how events, tastes, and usage have evolved during these years. Finally, another distinctive feature of these sermons is the extrapolation from aspects of Jewish law, moral and theological lessons that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. R. Lamm writes in a sermon about the Sukkah, “Moral instruction is available to Jews not only in Chumash, not only in Aggadah (parables) and Midrash (commentary), but sometimes in Halakhah (laws). If we look closely and carefully enough, we will discover the grand themes of human destiny even in legal technicalities, profound human wisdom even in halakhic discourses. All it requires is imagination, a sense of allegory, some homiletical license, and a readiness to find beautiful insights in unlikely places.” The author is true to his word. JB




Jewish Book Authors Conference: Writing for the Adult Reader Sunday, December 3, 2011 R and R

Jewish Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Conference Sunday, November 20, 2011

5 Whether you are a new or a published author or illustrator, this is your opportunity to network with other authors and experts from the publishing world who can help you get your work into print. SPONSORED BY:

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Contemporary Jewish Life

fears about the media and their role in public life. BG



Brooke Gladstone; Josh Neufeld, illus. W. W. Norton & Company, 2011. 192 pp. $23.95 [e] ISBN: 978-0-393-07779-7


here is no conspiracy,” declares NPR’s Brooke Gladstone in the introduction to her entertaining, informative graphic book about the media. But as she recounts, the history of mass media is rife with conspiracy theories and with demands that the power of the media be curbed. The public doesn’t trust journalists, and Gladstone explains why. Mostly the media want to be popular. News outlets seize on stories that are dramatic or exceptional or visually striking because the public prefers them. Especially in wartime, journalists may frame information according to a widely held narrative, or distort facts to appear balanced, in order to gain approval. When public opinion favored a particular consensus described as “objectivity” during the Cold War, the media complied then too. In one chapter Gladstone reprises a brilliant segment from her On the Media show last year about bogus statistics. NBC claimed in 2005 that “50,000 predators are online at any given moment,” attributing the figure to “law enforcement officials.” In the early 1980’s it was reported that 50,000 children were abducted by strangers each year; the actual number was 200–300. A few years later, satanic cults were supposedly responsible for 50,000 human sacrifices (!) a year, although the total number of all murders in the United States was 20,000. The figure of 50,000 was repeated not because it was correct but because it seemed plausible—in other words, it fit the audience’s expectations. As Gladstone concludes, “we get the media we deserve.” The graphic-nonfiction format of The Influencing Machine perfectly matches the tone of the radio program, conveying serious information with clarity and wit. The inventive and expressive illustrator, Josh Neufeld, places a Brooke avatar in almost every story, a reporter in superhero boots who manages to be on the scene through all of history. This clever, common-sense chronicle and analysis should be read by anybody with hopes or


Jewish Book World

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IPHIGENIA IN FOREST HILLS: ANATOMY OF A MURDER Janet Malcolm Yale University Press, 2011. 155 pp. $25.00 [e] ISBN: 978-0300-167-467


eading Janet Malcolm’s new book, you might mistakenly think you had picked up a novel. Yet the plot is all too true and the characters are right out of the pages of the newspapers. The story that rocked the Bukharan Jewish community in 2009 is so well written here that you not only get the facts of the sensational murder and riveting trial, you get the conflicts and the doubts too. Both intellectual and emotional precision are the guiding forces in this tale of justice and injustice that shattered the lives of the Borukhova-Malakov family. The book is an outgrowth of Malcolm’s coverage of the trial that appeared as an article in The New Yorker, an article that was highly praised for its scrupulous reporting and interviewing of key people on both sides of the issue. The result is a suspenseful story that is fully believable, making the reader think deeply about such critical issues as truth, character, morality, and reasonable doubt. well written here that you not only get the facts of the sensational murder and riveting trial, you get the conflicts and the doubts too. Although she is a seasoned reporter, with four books to her credit plus a coveted PEN Biography Award, Malcolm seems to have attacked this topic with unusual verve. Her story exposes the enigma that lies beneath the central narrative of the trial and clarifies the malleability of the evidence that was presented. She focuses on the human factors that all lawyers, judges, and juries need to understand to reach an unassailable verdict, one that, in this case, sealed the fate of two aspiring immigrant families and the young daughter who had the grave misfortune to witness the murder. LFB

Elliot N. Dorff and Danya Ruttenberg, eds. Jewish Publication Society, 2010. 160 pp. $16.00 (pbk.) ISBN: 978-0-8276-0906-8 (pbk.)


he fifth installment in JPS’s series Jewish Choices, Jewish Voices presents largely familiar arguments in its case studies about terrorism, justifications for war, the conduct of war, and national policies about war. Its essayists agree that armies should act ethically, and none supports the use of torture. Two commentators cite President Eisenhower’s warning about a “military-industrial complex” in connection with national-security policy, and UCLA Professor Steven Spiegel argues against most kinds of arms sales. Temple University Professor Richard Immerman is concerned that defense spending takes money away from schools, transit, and the environment. Classical Jewish sources are furnished for each of the four case studies as a point of departure. A lot of them relate only obliquely to the topic at hand, however, for instance, the Biblical prohibition of rechilut, a kind of gossip, is cited here in relation to privacy, although gossip (lashon hara) is normally treated as an ethical pitfall for the perpetrator. The voice from heaven announcing that Jewish law follows the School of Hillel is listed under “Free Speech and Its Limits.” What’s more, these sources do not perceptibly inform the essays that follow. Michael Walzer notes in passing that his book Just and Unjust Wars is actually a secularized version of Catholic just-war theory. Nadav Morag of the American Jewish University argues against profiling not for ethical reasons but because “Jihadist terrorism does not fit a particular ethnic profile.” The range of viewpoints is also surprisingly narrow. A number of prominent progressive organizations are represented, including Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, Encounter, and Jewish Voice for Peace, as are Rabbi Sharon Brous and Professor Noam Chomsky. Well-known neoconservative Jewish voices such as Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, and Douglas Feith, as well as David Frum and William Kristol, are correspondingly conspicuous by their absence. This volume would have been far richer had it been more rigorous, inclusive, and diverse. BG

r o f n o o s g r o . l i c n u n o g c i k s e o o D b r h e s t i s w o e P j . h w t n w o w M k k o o Chec B h s i w e J 1 1 the 20


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A KNITTER’S HOME COMPANION: A HEARTWARMING COLLECTION OF STORIES, PATTERNS, AND RECIPES Michelle Edwards; Jen Gotch, photographs STC Craft/A Melanie Falick Book, 2011. 160 pp. $17.95 ISBN: 978-1-58479-916-0


his endearing collection of essays, patterns, and recipes was written and illustrated by multi-talented Michelle Edwards, who writes, “Knitting is a life. And because my knitting flows into what I draw and write, what I cook, and what I read, this illustrated gathering of stories is connected to recipes, patterns, and books. Let it keep you company when you need another knitter’s voice beside you.” For her recipes, Edwards chose beloved classics meant for sharing—mandel bread, slow cooker soup—and knitting projects meant for giving—Zig Zag Baby Blanket, Quick and Easy Mittens. For Edwards, knitting and cooking are joyful opportunities to connect with friends, family, and community. Her Jewish values and upbringing permeate the book, bringing to mind the Shabbat song Eyshet Chayil, sung in praise of the woman of valor who “seeks out wool and linen, and her hands work willingly.... the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” Beyond Edwards’s instructions and anecdotes is a wonderful message about what is most important in life. Illustrations, photos. CK

REFORM RESPONSA FOR THE TWENTYFIRST CENTURY Mark Washofsky, ed. Central Conference of American Rabbis, 2010. $36.00/set; $19.95/each volume [e] ISBN: 978-0-88123-160-9 (v.1) ISBN: 978-0-88123-161-8 (v.2)


esponsa are rabbinic writings that answer questions of halachah. Although many consider Reform Judaism to be a non-halachic or post-halachic movement, this is not the case. Reform Jews may not consider themselves to be


Jewish Book World

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bound by the codes in the ancient texts, but they follow the basic framework found there and interpret it through the lens of the present. These two volumes contain t’shuvot written between 1996 and 2007 by the Responsa Committee of the Central Conference of American Rabbis. They deal with a wide range of issues, some relating to traditional issues such as whether a non-Jew may wear a tallit or whether a check for tzedakah may be presented during Shabbat services. Others deal with issues unfamiliar to the ancient rabbis: In-Vitro Fertilization and the Status of the Embryo; Baby Naming for a Religiously-Mixed Lesbian Couple. These legal issues are thought-provoking and the conclusions will not satisfy Orthodox Jews, but they represent the diversity of thought within the Jewish community. BMB

Yet, for all their attempts at fairness, it’s pretty hard for the authors to not pick their angels and demons in a way that belies their impartiality. Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sachs comes in for virtually nothing but criticism. Poet Tom Paulin, who called for the death by shooting of Brooklyn-born Israeli settlers in the Egyptian weekly Al-Ahram, has his statements bowdlerized as only “allegedly anti-Semitic.” Neoconservative writer Melanie Philips is uniquely identified as a “Jewish” columnist. Overall, there is an embalmed leftism that deems one of modernity’s greatest challenges to be the “alienating quality of capitalist labour.” In short, the study provides a wealth of information on an important topic, yet does it in language that ever calls its even-handedness into question. JHB



Keith Kahn-Harris and Ben Gidley Continuum, 2010. 267 pp. $34.95 ISBN: 978-1847144768

Wayne Hoffman The Toby Press, 2010. 220 pp. $14.95 [e] ISBN: 978-1592642892



o Americans, the political situation for Israel-supporting Jews in Britain represents an almost “through the looking glass” reality, where even a center-left figure like Tzipi Livni can’t visit for fear of arrest on war crimes charges. In a country that boasted a prime minister of ostentatiously Jewish roots in the mid19th century, and a large well-accepted community for some three centuries, the present tension calls out for explanation. Unfortunately, Turbulent Times does not answer that need. The authors are a pair of talented men of academia and beyond; Kahn-Harris even maintains a serious blog on heavy metal music. And they have expended a significant amount of study on their topic, the history of British Jewish organizational strategies over the past three decades. They are fair-minded, serious, and usually cautious in their assessments. They value calm discussion and seek to broaden the dialogue with Jews of all stripes, whether affiliated or not. They profile Limmud, an exciting UK export that has had an impact across the Jewish world, faulting it only for not putting enough emphasis on encouraging inter-stream argument and resolution.

his latest addition to the growing genre of Birthright literature is pure fun. Billed as “liner notes for the latest album of Jewish life in America,” it’s a collection of college application-length personal essays by twentysomethings who participated in Birthright Israel within the last five years. The narrators are comedians, performers, playwrights, writers, artists, and dancers, but above all, they’re thinkers sharing at least one common denominator: they all attended the free, 10-day organized tours of the homeland through Birthright Israel. Most of them report struggling with connecting to their Jewish identity throughout their childhoods and young adult lives. Some have epiphanies about their connection to their heritage at the usual spots—the top of Masada at sunrise, the shores of the Dead Sea, before the Western Wall—but there are other unexpected moments. One young music critic found his sense of belonging while riding a mosh pit at a kibbutz bar outside of Jerusalem. But the common experience planned so carefully by Birthright organizers can lead down many paths. Some marry each other,


some return to Israel and some don’t. As one young woman who didn’t heed the siren call to go back to Israel writes, “The shame—I can’t get it out of my head. In Israel I’d felt something so strongly, and then I walked away.” JT


BY FIRE POSSESSED: DOÑA GRACIA NASI Sandra K. Toro Gaon Books, 2010. 312 pp. $29.95; $19.95 (pbk.) ISBN: 9781935604068 ISBN: 9781935604174 (pbk.)


oña Gracia Nasi was one of the most important women of the Renaissance

era. Born into a wealthy and influential Jewish family that was expelled from Spain in 1492, she grew up in Portugal. Her family gave her the kind of education usually reserved for men. Although Jews were persecuted and the Catholic Church pressured King Manuel to force conversions, he needed the Jews to build his empire, so he allowed them to remain as long as they lived as Christians. When King Manuel died, this changed; during the Inquisition, Jews were killed and tortured. Doña Gracia used her wealth and the fleet of ships, that she inherited when her husband died, to rescue thousands of Sephardic Jews from persecution in Europe. She brought them to the Ottoman Empire, where they could live openly as Jews, establishing communities in Greece, Turkey, and Tiberias. This novel is based on historical materials about Doña Gracia’s life. It is a riveting story with an intelligent, courageous heroine who is an inspiring role model for young Jewish women. Readers will also notice that the work of the Inquisition lays the foundation for the Holocaust. BMB


CAIN José Saramago; Margaret Jull Costa, trans. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011. 160 pp. $24.00 ISBN: 978-0-547-41989-3


osé Saramago’s final work of fiction gives vent to his lifelong atheism in a sustained rant against the God of the Hebrew Bible. Cain, condemned by God in the Book of Genesis to wander the earth, speaks for the author, roaming surrealistically through time as well as space to witness Biblical events at first hand. He meets Abraham and Isaac on Mount Moriah, observes the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, enters the employ of Job, and sails on Noah’s Ark. This Cain freely admits that he would like to kill God, and

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with each episode he builds his argument that God is capricious, uncaring, and unjust. The narrator sees the binding of Isaac as a demand for blind obedience, and the destruction of the Tower of Babel as punishment for acting on free will. To Cain, God is arbitrary and ultimately evil in condemning the hypothetical children of Sodom to death together with their elders, and in punishing the Israelites for worshiping the Golden Calf. He prefers to trust the rationality of human beings.

murderer is dead, but he’s sure this is the same man. Shakespeare’s vivid, disturbing memories of his tense hunt for his partner are woven into the plot. Cut Throat Dog is tough to follow, but that could be due to the translation of this interesting, intelligent tale. MBA

FOLKTALES OF THE JEWS, VOLUME 3: TALES FROM ARAB LANDS vent to his lifelong atheism in a sustained rant against the God of the Hebrew Bible. Such arguments might have been fresh in the 18th century, but Saramago’s invective is neither innovative nor sophisticated; his polemics and preoccupations resemble those of a rebellious 14-year-old. His reasoning depends upon a naïve literalism, and he is fascinated by such things as the excrement from the animals on Noah’s Ark. He even invents a carnally insatiable queen in the desert who makes the narrator her sex slave. Saramago’s angry caricature of the Hebrew Bible recalls public statements by the author tracing actions of the modern State of Israel to the Book of Deuteronomy and declaring Israel guilty of “a crime comparable to Auschwitz.” Cain is an unworthy last testament by the 1998 Nobel Prize laureate for literature. BG

THE ESSENTIAL JEWISH STORIES Seymour Rossel KTAV, 2011. 446 pp. $39.50; $26.95 (pbk.) ISBN: 978-1-60280-171-4 ISBN: 978-1-60280-167-7 (pbk.)


rom his life’s work as a congregational rabbi, Rossel retells over 320 stories, personal teaching favorites he has chosen because they thrum with Jewish belief, ethics, and ways of life meaningful today. Stories draw through time from traditional tales to eclectic selections from Internet anecdotes, Kafka, Boccaccio, and Sufi lore. Most, but not all, have Jewish roots and include adaptations from Newman, Buber, Ausubel, Langer, Midrash, Talmud, and Rossel’s own published works. Brief sources follow each story, though folktales are often identified merely as Yiddish/European without naming a particular book. Some of the sources, like Certner’s 101

Many of these stories have been told before, but they sound fresh in this user-friendly collection, enhanced with indexes by holidays, characters, and concepts and values...

CUT THROAT DOG Joshua Sobol; Dalya Bilu, trans. Melville House, 2010. 272 pp. $15.00 [e] ISBN: 978-1-935554219


his spy thriller is narrated by a man with the code name Shakespeare, who is most likely an Israeli Mossad agent. The book goes back and forth in time and place while telling more than one story. In the present, a prostitute is involved with a violent pimp. Shakespeare, who is trying to help this woman, suspects the pimp of having murdered Shakespeare’s partner long ago. Shakespeare’s spy friends keep insisting that his partner’s


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fresh in this user-friendly collection, enhanced with indexes by holidays, characters, and concepts and values, as well as a bibliography. SE

Jewish Stories, are out of print, which makes it so valuable to have whole stories here. The book is divided into four sections—God, Torah, Israel, and Faith—and then subdivided into many categories. Israel is by far the largest section, encompassing themes from daily living, such as community, gossip, justice, and choosing life. There are thirty-two stories on Wisdom in the Torah section. Despite, disappointingly, there being only four tales under Women, this book is a gift for rabbis, storytellers, parents, and teachers. It is clear that Rossel has not only been a good storyteller in his life, but also a good listener. Many of these stories have been told before, but they sound

Dan Ben-Amos, ed and commentator; Jacqueline Teitelbaum, trans; Dov Noy, consulting ed.; Ira Shander, illus. Jewish Publication Society, 2011. 844 pp. $75.00 ISBN: 978-0-8276-0871-9


en-Amos has selected 60 folk stories from 47 narrators who immigrated to Israel from Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen for the third volume in this award-winning series drawn from the Israel Folktale Archives at the University of Haifa. As in the first volume, stories are divided into legends, moral tales, folktales, and humorous tales (only two in this last category). Two-thirds will be new to English-speaking readers. In his introduction, Ben-Amos describes Jewish people living in these Arab lands as “protected aliens recognizing the primacy of Islam.” Some stories reflect the tension of this status. From Baghdad, a jealous minister sets a Jewish counselor up to look bad before the king. Many other tales occur solely within Jewish households and community. From Morocco, an everpatient wife reinterprets her husband’s foolishness, and from Yemen, a miser learns a lesson in charity from Elijah. Also included are Jewish versions of stories widely told in the Arab world. Both husband and wife become pregnant in “The Apple Tree’s Daughter,” narrated by an Egyptian Jew. Behind each story, fascinating commentary examines cultural, historical, and literary background, tracing, for instance, the evolution of stories about King Solomon’s ring. Notes refer to Jewish as well as to cross-cultural sources, like Arabian Nights. Four years later, there is a new translator for this latest volume in Folktales of the Jews. Language flows more easily, and Ben-Amos’s choices of tales are more likely to be shared beyond the scholarly realm. It was worth the wait. Bibliography, biographies of collectors and narrators, indexes of motifs, tale types, subjects. SE




he ambition and word-play that fuel Joshua Cohen’s WITZ, an 800 page book about the last Jew in the world published in 2010 by Dalkey Archive Press, are on display in this enjoyable novella, written in 2004 when Cohen was 23 years old. The ten-yearold narrator, Jonathan, arrives in heaven after being killed by a child his own age in a terrorist attack. In a rush of memories, euphemisms, neologisms, and philosophical zingers, he compares heaven to his mortal life—touching on the borders in heaven, maturing in the afterlife, and the 18 mothers he gets upon arrival. Cohen is sure to never pair words that have been paired before, creating a lush drone of twisted grammar and poetic observations. As in WITZ, there are references to Jewish law and tradition, but this story is set in Jerusalem, where Jonathan recalls a life both politically tense and rich with atmosphere and culture passed down from his Aba (father) and the Queen, his mother. Respectful to both lives lost from either side of the border, Cohen projects a love for Jewish tradition and for life. He amalgamates many sources of wisdom

Amazingly, despite Cohen’s unconventional style...the novel never intimidates, and is teeming with so much meaning and beauty any reader would want to read it twice. including Jewish and Islamic teachings with unapologetic lucidity. “Remember that the dead cannot sacrifice. Never again. And that it is not for the living to judge any of the sacrifices that others are bound to make to keep living.” Amazingly, despite Cohen’s unconventional style, A Heaven Of Others never


intimidates, and is teeming with so much meaning and beauty any reader would want to read it twice. SRW

JERUSALEM MAIDEN Talia Carner Harper, 2011. 390 pp. $14.99 (pbk.) [e] ISBN: 978-0-06-200437-6 (pbk.)


sther Kaminsky is a young ultra-Orthodox girl living in Jerusalem during the dark and dangerous Ottoman rule of the early 1900’s. Her existence depends on her fulfilling her obligations of marriage and procreation to hasten the coming of the Messiah. Each and every moment, action, and thought in her life is preordained, proscribed, and dictated by the strict religious parameters of her community, and Esther Kaminsky feels trapped. She is trapped by her faith, family, and adherence to her religion. She is trapped by her passion, sensitivity, and intellect. She is trapped by her obligations. She is trapped by her sensuality and artistic talents. She is trapped by being born a female. The book chronicles her internal and external struggles with these issues throughout her life of turmoil, love, and tragedy. She wrestles endlessly with constant enticements while straining to escape, explore, and experience the world outside her faith. Talia Carner uses beautiful language, exquisite storytelling, and detailed research to transport the reader into the world of old Jerusalem. The city’s sounds, smells, and sights are woven into the narrative. Readers of many generations and backgrounds will be able to recognize and relate to the customs, relationships, and families that form the fascinating setting for Esther’s life. Jerusalem Maiden is a saga, a history, and a dramatic and hopeful love story that also moves through the exciting art world of early 20th century Paris and modern day Israel. It deals with women’s roles and rights, loves, marriages, children, and the question of how to live a reconciled life within a community. This is a book to savor and discuss while contemplating Esther Kaminsky’s choices as a Jerusalem Maiden. RL

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Nathacha Appanah; Geoffrey Strachan, trans. Graywolf Press, 2011. 176 pp. $14.00 ISBN: 978-1-55597-575-3

Yishai Sarid Europa Editions, 2010. 165 pp. $15.00 [e] ISBN: 978-1-60945-000-7



athacha Appanah, whose author bio tells us is “a French-Mauritian of Indian origin,” has thrown extraordinary light on a little-known episode. In 1940, a group of Jewish refugees from Europe landed at Haifa—then still under British Mandate— only to be deported to Mauritius, an island in the Indian Ocean which France had ceded to Britain more than a century earlier. Once arrived in Mauritius, the Jews were detained at the Beau-Bassin prison. In Appanah’s novel, a young Mauritian boy (Raj), whose vicious father is employed at the prison, encounters a Jewish orphan about his age (David). Raj, too, has endured unthinkable tragedy and loss. The boys’ lifechanging friendship blossoms during their overlapping stays in the prison hospital. It forms the focus of the novel, which is told as Raj’s recollections. It is a vivid and heartbreaking story. More than 120 Jews died in exile on Mauritius. At the end of World War II, most of those who survived opted to live in “Eretz”—that land they had sought from the start, that land that David longs for, that land that is utterly unfamiliar to Raj before these strange, pale prisoners enter his awareness. “I do not know if I ought to be ashamed to say this,” narrator Raj confesses, “but that was how it was: I did not know there was a world war on that had lasted for four years and when David asked me at the hospital if I was Jewish I did not know what it meant. I said no, being under the vague impression that, because I was in the hospital, being Jewish referred to an illness. I had never heard of Germany, in reality I knew very little. In David I had found an unhoped-for friend, a gift from heaven, and at the start of this year of 1945 that was all that counted for me.” I do not know if I ought to be ashamed to say that I had never heard of the Jews interned at Beau-Bassin. But in The Last Brother, I have found an unhoped-for lesson. ED


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alfway through this tightly coiled espionage tale a Mossad operative asks a young man, “What will save you?” That question hovers over everyone we meet: a oncepromising novelist with writer’s block, a terminally ill Palestinian poet, a drug-addicted youth, and the security-service agent himself. The unnamed narrator specializes in extracting information from Palestinians through intimidation and torture. As he immerses himself in his work, he gradually loses touch with his wife and young child and ultimately loses control of himself in his interrogations, with lethal consequences for one prisoner. Ordered not to return to that job, he works harder on a bigger assignment, gathering intelligence for a targeted assassination. Its complexities enmesh him in the lives of the three people on whom his success depends, and those relationships gradually awaken dormant feelings in him. Limassol, a seaside resort city in Cyprus, is the scene of the suspenseful climax, which hangs on the Mossad man’s stark choice: whether to fulfill his professional ambitions or to recover his compassion and integrity. Yishai Sarid’s fastmoving spy story is ultimately a moral drama, and his moving achievement is to find for each of his characters the unexpected possibility of redemption. BG

characters live from day to day, waiting. Though the Second World War has just ended, these German-speaking Jewish refugees living in North London in 1945 are uncertain of their future and are largely helpless to do anything about it. Subsisting on irregular, menial work, they constantly seek out news of lost relatives, fearing the worst but hoping against the odds that a few might have survived. Their position is fragile. Living in Britain on temporary visas, they are vulnerable to the campaign by some of their British neighbors to have them expelled. With Oswald Moseley newly released from prison, the British Fascists are again holding anti-Semitic rallies. As foreigners, the émigrés are blamed for taking jobs away from English workers, and as Jews they are seen as somehow implicated in the violent acts by militias in Palestine against the British colonial government. Even as those troubling events unfold, these likable people hold on to their optimism, and as 1945 ends, their collective and individual futures come into view. The hopes of expectant parents, a young survivor’s tentative steps toward love, and a mysterious Egyptian’s secret mission make this story emotionally affecting as well as historically resonant. Martin Fletcher writes with particular authority about this time and place: his own parents lived in circumstances much like the ones he describes. BG

THE LITTLE BRIDE Anna Solomon Riverhead Books, 2011. 320 pp. $15.00 [e] ISBN: 978-1-59448-535-0


THE LIST Martin Fletcher Thomas Dunne Books, 2011. 352 pp. $25.99 [e] ISBN: 978-0-312-60692-3


ike the transient denizens of Casablanca in the film of the same name, this novel’s

t is the late 1800’s in Odessa and South Dakota, and sixteen-year-old Minna Losk decides to change her bleak life by going to America as a mail order bride. Minna has lost both her parents, and her work as a servant barely sustains her. She dreams of a life of comfort with a good husband in America. First she undergoes the “Look” by a Russian agency in order to be approved as a bride. After a rough ocean crossing, she is met by Jacob, her stepson-to-be, who chaperones her


on the exhausting long ride to South Dakota. There she meets Max, her future husband, and Samuel, his oldest son; barely surviving in a mud hut in the middle of nowhere where all the eye can see is grass. Max has rejected help from a wealthy patron who sustains the Am Olam community of new Jewish immigrant farmers. He prefers to maintain his Orthodox observance alone rather than assimilate with the other immigrants. Minna had not expected stepsons nor a harder life than she had left behind. She is a loner who craves family, an outsider who needs direction, so she attempts to adapt to this new reality. The author vividly describes the harsh seasons in the countryside and Minna’s evolving relationships with the other characters. MBA


she finds herself a guest in the home of the sultan and suddenly in the middle of various political intrigues and personal crises. Eleonora’s final acts are both haunting and liberating. In this magical tale of loss, love, and redemption, first-novelist Lukas delightfully captures a young girl’s awakening curiosity about the world around her, her joyous discovery of the books and reading that transport her to other worlds, and her coming of age in turbulent times. HLC

THE ORIENTAL WIFE Evelyn Toynton Other Press, 2011. 304 pp. $15.95 [e] ISBN: 978-1-59051-441-2

THE ORACLE OF STAMBOUL: A NOVEL Michael David Lukas HarperCollins, 2011. 304 pp. $24.99 [e] ISBN: 978-0-06-201209-8


ate in the summer of 1877, as the defenseless Ottoman village of Constanta falls to the relentless onslaught of the Russian cavalry, mysterious and miraculous events usher new life and light into the household of the merchant Yakob Cohen and his wife, Leah. While Constanta perishes, a pair of Tartar midwives arrives at the Cohen’s small stone house proclaiming to have read the signs of an inexplicable prophecy uttered by the king on his deathbed—a sea of horses, a conference of birds, the north star in alignment with the moon—and ask to be shown to the bedroom. Soon after, little Eleonora Cohen brings new life to her desolate surroundings, even as her mother, Leah, dies soon after naming her daughter. Shortly after the young girl’s birth, a flock of hoopoes settles in near her house, accompanying her wherever she goes. A child prodigy, Eleonora possesses a gift for reading, math, and languages as well as an insatiable thirst for knowledge. Her great adventure begins when she is eight years old and she stows away in her father’s trunk so that she will not be separated from him as he sets off to do business in Stamboul. The hoopoes follow her there, watching over her, and in Stamboul


his is a full bodied, complex novel about a consequence of the Holocaust known as “survivor’s guilt.” It is the story of Louisa, Otto, and Rolf, childhood friends, who escape the actual horrors, but not the trauma. We journey with Louisa from Nuremberg to Switzerland to London, and then to a reunion with the men in New York. We are with them from childhood to old age, through assimilation, marriage, sweet moments, and misfortune. We know their families, their lovers, their friends, and their neighbors. We cheer them on and then shake our heads in disbelief over events and decisions. Early in the story Louisa, while at her safe boarding school in Switzerland, has a discussion with a Japanese student who dreams of marrying a Westerner but knows that it is impossible. The student might live in Europe now but understands her reality, “Yes, yes, I can live there for the time being, but even so, my husband will expect me to be an Oriental wife, always meek, docile, my eyes cast down. Never making my own destiny.” This, ironically, becomes the defining statement of Louisa’s life. At every turn there are many things to consider. Why should those who survived Hitler suffer more? The challenge of starting over in a new country is enormous. Who perseveres, who keeps fighting, and who succumbs? And, perhaps most of all, no matter where we come from, what control do we have over our destiny? PGM

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THE PRICE OF ESCAPE David Unger Akashic Books, 2011. 218 pp. $15.95 [e] ISBN: 978-1-936070-92-3


his novel transports a familiar Jewish immigrant story into an unusual setting. Samuel Berkow, a German Jew, escapes Nazi Germany on a ship to Guatemala. He arrives in the port town of Puerto Barras and plans to continue traveling to find his cousin, who has already settled in Guatemala City. He is immediately overtaken by lethargy and both real and fantastical delays. The supernatural elements are in the spirit of Latin American fiction, while the realistic banana republic “mañana” mentality pervades. The reader is swept into the mind and body of a properly groomed German native who suddenly finds himself in a Third World tropical town. There are flashbacks to scenes in the pivotal relationships in Berkow’s past, with his uncle, cousin, and exwife. Local politics and unsavory characters threaten to unhinge this new immigrant as he attempts to move on with his new life. MBA

loss correspondingly hovers over long-time residents in seven related stories about Tel Ilan. A doctor weeps over failed connections with her beloved nephew. A father is obsessed by the feeling that his own inflexibility led to the loss of his only son. Another man, abandoned long ago by his wife, is estranged from his son. The town’s politically adept but emotionally obtuse mayor can’t comprehend why his wife might leave him. A beautifully realized story called “Singing” juxtaposes private despair with the optimism of old. Dozens of townspeople gather at a private home to sing together on a Friday night. As they revisit the past through zemirot for Shabbat, settings of Bialik and Rahel, Russian tunes, and songs of the pioneers and the Palmach, it is their present troubles that occupy their minds. There is an inescapable sense that they, like the world of those old songs, have changed irrevocably. One of the most vivid characters in these stories, an aged former Knesset member named Pesach Kedem (his last name can mean “the past”), is a Communist and a prophet. He bitterly recalls doctrinal betrayals by fellow Party members 60 years before, speaking in Biblical language of “the principles they sold for a mess of pottage on every high hill and under every green tree.” He mourns “the destruction of our hearts,” and laments that now “everyone is a stranger to everyone else. Even the stars in the sky are alien to one another.” In this heartbreakingly perceptive work Amos Oz shows how such sorrow, born equally of the actions of others and one’s own mistakes, is inescapably part of the human condition. As in all great fiction, he finds larger truths in the particulars of lived experience and conveys them with deep sympathy. (Nicholas de Lange also has an extraordinary instinct for le mot juste in his superb translation.) Oz has excelled himself in this unflinching, stunning, indelible work. BG

SCENES FROM VILLAGE LIFE Amos Oz; Nicholas de Lange, trans. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011. 182 pp. $22.00 ISBN: 978-0-547-48336-8


he passage of time leaves much unresolved for the people of Tel Ilan, a century-old pioneer village in Israel. The town appears to have been regenerated by new stores offering Far Eastern furnishings, stalls selling cheese and honey and olives, and boutique wineries that attract weekend visitors. Yet the synagogue looks abandoned, a monument to the founders of the village is forsaken, houses have fallen into disrepair, and at night the jackals howl and wild dogs bark. A palpable sense of emptiness, regret, and


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THE SECOND SON Jonathan Rabb Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011. 304 pp. $26.00 [e] ISBN: 978-0-374-29913-2


he final book in Jonathan Rabb’s Berlin Trilogy, The Second Son depicts a devoted

father’s quest to find his missing son at a remarkable moment in history: the eve of Germany’s 1936 Olympics and the outset of the Spanish Civil War. Nikolai Hoffner, a widower and former high-ranking member of the German police, sets off for Barcelona in hopes of reuniting his son, Georg, with Georg’s wife and young son. Hoffner was recently stripped of his post as Chief Inspector when it was discovered that he was half-Jewish. Ironically, though, Hoffner’s other son, Sascha, has already joined the Nazi party despite his Jewish heritage and despite the horrors of the Nazi regime. Hoffner’s journey, then, is both a battle to get his son back, and also a metaphorical confrontation against all of the tyranny and terror about to boil over. Hoffner’s search takes him along the anarchic yet still somewhat romantic Spanish countryside, replete with colorful characters who possess varying degrees of morality. A hybrid of war fiction and detective story, Rabb presents each historical detail with accuracy and vividness. Our protagonist, Hoffner, is easy to root for, even if you’re new to the series. His increasingly desperate struggle unfolds with all of the tension, darkness, and emotion that a tale of this magnitude deserves. PS

SKINNY Diana Spechler Harper, 2011. 337 pp. $14.99 [e] ISBN: 9780062020369


iana Spechler’s second novel focuses on the cringe-worthy, nerve-wracking, hide-your-head-in-the-sand world of body image issues, eating disorders, and unwanted weight gain. So if the subject makes you want to climb under the covers, lock your doors and come out on the tenth of never, beware. This is a disturbingly honest, startlingly funny look at adolescent girls (and some boys, too) and the necessary but complicated part food plays in their already fraught, rocky road toward adulthood. The story is set in a weight loss summer camp that is partly a moneymaking scam and has a cast of characters simultaneously appealing and repellent. There are child-manipulating adults here, both witting and not, as well as a carload of


family secrets and betrayals of trust. The protagonist, interestingly named Gray, stumbles over her many self-constructed roadblocks in an attempt to figure out what she truly hungers for in life and whether being “skinny” is ever really enough. The writing, unlike some of the characters, is pared down, svelte, and sparkling. MHM

VACLAV & LENA Haley Tanner The Dial Press, 2011. 285 pp. $25.00 [e] ISBN: 978-1-4000-6931-6


A STRANGER ON THE PLANET Adam Schwartz Soho Press, 2011. 336 pp. $24.00 [e] ISBN: 978-1-56947-869-1


cclaimed short story writer Adam Schwartz’s funny and heartfelt debut novel examines the difficulties of family and relationships through the lens of its narrator, Seth Shapiro. Seth tells his life story in memoirlike chapters, each section detailing important moments of his life. Moving in sweeps of time from the 1969 moon landing to the recent past, Schwartz paints for readers a sympathetic portrait of his protagonist: a man alone in the world, but never left alone by his family. From his early childhood, Seth’s life is filled with domestic chaos: a hyper-anxious mother, an emotionally distant father, an abusive stepfather, and a cold stepmother. More than anyone, it’s Seth’s twin sister who keeps him sane through the years. Always a precocious narrator, Seth battles through adolescence, enters college, and begins a string of complicated romances with women that seemingly never quite work out as he’d hoped, all while keeping a dream alive to one day become a famous writer. As he strives toward that goal, Seth even detours into the realm of stand-up comedy and teaching grammar, which make for some of the funniest and most telling moments of the text. Ultimately though, storytelling—and storytelling is such a part of Seth’s family life—is at the heart of the novel. Other characters often remark to Seth how he has a knack for remembering his life; as readers, we are entertained and moved by the stories he relays here. Told with an inviting first-person voice, sharp dialogue, and just the right amount of tenderness, Seth’s fantastic memory of his life so far might be his curse, but it is our blessing. PS

wo immigrant children growing up in the Russian-Jewish enclave of Brooklyn, New York, anchor themselves to their new land and to one another in this sweet, sweet tale of hope, loyalty and young love. Vaclav is an aspiring magician and Lena is his “lovely assistant.” They stand literally and figuratively on the shifting sands of Coney Island and dream of being magically transported into a bright and shining future. But, of course, magical dreams do not always come true nor can a magic wand eliminate the seamy sides of life. Even ESL class cannot necessarily give a child a vocabulary precise enough to navigate every eventuality. One day, Lena disappears from Vaclav’s life as if she has been conjured away. The kindness of the motive behind the disappearance and the knowledge of the agent of this change are unknown to Vaclav. All he can do is suffer and worry and continue to say good night to an absent Lena year after endless year. He does this with a constancy and a focus rare in one so young. Lena eventually reenters his life and when she does, they both have much to learn about fact and fantasy, forgiveness and forever. Perfect language pitch and a warm, bittersweet ending combine to make this book a magical read. MHM


perhaps sees himself as a spiritual heir to Sholem Aleichem and others who have transformed Yiddish literature into universal experience. The key, he says, is Jewish humor— funny, yes; but bittersweet, melancholy; a defense against despair, that makes people think. The War in Bom Fim is a slim book about a small Jewish neighborhood in an urban center of Brazil. Suppose, during World War II, the Nazis had invaded the Americas, using Bom Fim as their springboard? The invaders, trying to establish a beachhead not far from the town, are fought by children, who are fortified with their belief in powerful figures from Jewish and popular folklore. With believable, sympathetic characters, and powerful, elegant prose, Moacyr Scliar uses all the tools of his rich heritage—fantasy, magical realism, irony, and cultural experiences, weaving a multi-layered, harmless— seeming fairy tale that encourages the reader to explore recent historical events, prejudice and anti-Semitism, inequality, modernity vs. tradition, the adult world as opposed to the thoughts and action of the youngsters, and just about every aspect of the lives of the townspeople. The Introduction, by the translator, David William Foster, gives a brief history of the Jewish communities in Brazil, and biographical background about the author. SS

THE WARSAW ANAGRAMS Richard Zimler Overlook Press, 2011. 336 pp. $25.95 ISBN: 978-1-59020-088-9


THE WAR IN BOM FIM Moacyr Scliar; David William Foster, trans. Texas Tech University Press, 2010. 127 pp. $24.95 ISBN: 978-0-89672-712-0


oacyr Scliar, one of Latin America’s most important contemporary writers,

n the summer of 1940, the Nazis confined 400,000 Jews inside a small area in Warsaw, cutting them off from the outside world. Erik Cohen, an elderly psychiatrist, must move into the tiny apartment that his niece shares with her son, Adam. Erik adores his great-nephew, but he sometimes has trouble relating to him. As the war intensifies, daily life becomes more difficult and underground resistance and smuggling become necessary for survival. When Adam goes missing on a cold winter day, Erik searches for him. When his mutilated body is discovered and another murdered child turns up, Erik and his friend

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Jewish Book World




Izzy decide to find out who is responsible for the deaths. Is there a Jewish traitor in their midst? This moving historical thriller portrays a man who loses everything that is important to him. Rather than giving in to despair, he fights to make sure that those who are lost will be remembered. BMB

extraordinary verisimilitude about the world of dance, Evan Fallenberg has created a modern parable about the thrills and the dangers of succumbing to obsession. BG



A. Robert Neurath Xlibris, 2011. 322 pp. $19.99 (pbk.) ISBN: 978-1-4535-9612-8 (pbk.)


WHEN WE DANCED ON WATER Evan Fallenberg HarperCollins, 2011. 256 pp. $14.99 [e] ISBN: 978-0-06203-332-1

Joshua Schreier Rutgers University Press, 2010. 233 pp. $49.00 ISBN: 978-0-8135-4794-7



eo Levin, the 85-year-old choreographer of a ballet called Obsession, explains its title to his new friend, Vivi, a woman half his age. The word comes from the Latin, he notes, where “it means ‘siege’ or ‘blockade,’ as if one’s senses are besieged by the object of one’s desires.” Vivi knows something about such desires. Her mother, a Holocaust survivor, has long been obsessed with the need to talk about the Shoah wherever she can find an audience. Vivi herself ended up in military prison because her intense involvement with a man—a non-Jewish German man—clouded her judgment. After meeting Teo, a regular at the Tel Aviv café where she works, she becomes possessed by the need to learn everything about him and to create a tribute to his life and work. Her quest to uncover a hidden part of Teo’s past leads him to reveal to her the secret

...Evan Fallenberg has created a modern parable about the thrills and the dangers of succumbing to obsession. he had buried for sixty years: he survived the Holocaust because he was the object of a Nazi officer’s erotic obsession. Deeply damaged by that experience, Teo nevertheless incorporates in his art the same unbounded passion, revulsion for mediocrity, and urge to “reach for the stars” that in a different way drove his protector/tormentor. In spare and precise language, and with


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n his well-researched book Arabs of the Jewish Faith, Joshua Schreier demonstrates how a cluster of forces—including colonialism, anti-Semitism and the drive to “civilize” the population—came together to re-shape the Jewish community of Algeria in the 19th century. Schreier focuses on the period between 1830 and the Cremieux decree of 1870, “which naturalized Algerian Jews en masse.” Although rooted in the French Revolutionary ideals of enlightenment and emancipation, French leaders and Jewish “liberals” set about implementing an oppressive “civilizing” mission designed to take the “corrupt” and “primitive” Jews of Algeria and mold them into worthy members of the French Empire. They established “consistories” staffed by French rabbis in order to reform communal and family structures. The practices of divorce and polygamy were particularly targeted. Schreier argues that while earlier scholars tended to view liberal French Jews as responsible for the campaign, he believes that it was actually the French military (with their own innate antiSemitism) that laid the groundwork, and first established the programs for this undertaking. Schreier argues, however, that the Algerian Jews were neither enthusiastic nor passive in their response to the “civilizing mission.” They evaded and resisted its policies and institutions in an attempt to preserve their traditional faith, institutions, and marriage customs. Schreier has utilized a number of archival sources and provides an index and endnotes but no bibliography. The book is well suited for an academic or research library. RCB


astern Europe between the world wars may be imagined as the last preserve of traditional shtetl life, but many Jews there worked in the professions and lived assimilated lives in large cities. A case in point is the present-day capital of Slovakia, Bratislava, where the scientist A. Robert Neurath was born in 1933. As a labor of love he has assembled a kind of scrapbook that brings the streets and personalities of the city back to life. The wonderful photographs that dominate almost every page reveal a profusion of Bauhaus architecture, much of it designed by Jews. The streetscapes show a vigorous urban life amid eyepleasing commercial and public buildings, and the suburban villas exude comfort and elegance. Thumbnail biographies of the now-forgotten architects and a street-by-street walking tour of Jewish businesses provide helpful context. There are also brief accounts of the lives of prominent Jewish businessmen, doctors, and artists, with dozens of images of artworks as well. Taken together these form a picture of a world much like our own. Chillingly, this volume also includes a photograph of Adolf Hitler viewing Bratislava through a telescope from a boat in the Danube. It was taken two days after the establishment of the Nazi-ruled “Slovak Republic” on March 14, 1939, when this world came abruptly to an end. BG

THE COLORS OF ZION: BLACKS, JEWS, AND IRISH FROM 1845 TO 1945 George Bornstein Harvard University Press, 2011. 254 pp. $27.95 [e] ISBN: 978-0-674-05701-2


or the past thirty years or so, cultural studies have tended to emphasize difference rather


than identity. Such a focus has led to divisive identity politics that cannot comprehend the richness of the dialogue that developed among many groups because of the fertile common ground on which each stood. In this fascinating and persuasive study, Bornstein, the C.A Patrides Professor of Literature, Emeritus, at the University of Michigan, demonstrates that over the 100-year period between 1845 and 1945, the cooperative sympathies among Blacks, Jews, and Irish were deeply rooted and strong and that these areas of cooperation overshadowed the real differences and tensions that existed among these groups. Ranging over a wide array of materials from George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda and James Joyce’s Ulysses to Zora Neale Hurston’s Moses, Man of the Mountain, the film The Jazz Singer, and the speeches of Frederick Douglass, Bornstein allows the individuals involved to speak for themselves. His project recovers a broad and historical record of what Blacks, Jews, and Irish themselves said and did rather than imagining their reactions and then projecting them from the present back to the past. Thus, he explores, among other examples, the deliberate invocation of the Irish Renaissance of W.B. Yeats and John Synge as a model for the Harlem Renaissance of Alain Locke and James Weldon Johnson, the support of PanAfrican liberation movements for Jewish ones, and the publication by the same largely new and Jewish New York publishing houses of the literature of all three groups. Bornstein’s brilliant comparative and transatlantic study compels us to rethink the relationship among races and the ways that we can learn from the examples he discusses in such luminous detail. HLC

FAMILIES, RABBIS, AND EDUCATION: TRADITIONAL JEWISH SOCIETY IN NINETEENTH CENTURY EASTERN EUROPE Shaul Stampfer Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2010. 414 pp. $64.50 ISBN: 978-1874774853


ewish life in Eastern Europe wasn’t all fiddlers and rooftops, yeshiva boys and sturdy women in bucolic countryside shtetls. As we learn from Shaul Stampfer’s accessible and lively book, life for Jews was often characterized by insecurity about personal safety and economic welfare. In

chapters about early marriage and family life, we learn that boys and girls often were arranged to be married and living together by the time they reached their early teens, and we learn about why men and women may have been significantly less demonstrative in their love for one another than they may have been toward their children. The divorce rate in 19th century Eastern Europe was higher than we might imagine, probably because Jewish women had more power than we might have thought: ideal Jewish women were physically robust, skilled in shop-keeping math, and adept at supervising children and household affairs in full accordance with Jewish law. Jewish men often were inessential to a household because they lived a more scholarly life, set apart from worldly affairs. In the book’s chapters on education, Stampfer traces the development of the heder, that unique institution of Jewish learning in which young people studied with insufficiently trained and insufficiently engaging teachers, and where “reading” meant pronouncing words without necessarily understanding what they meant. In other chapters in the book on literacy, questioning, the pushke (charity box) and the rabbinate, we can see the extent to which Jewish learning never stopped for young people; much of that culture has not yet dissipated, though we are several generations away from the Eastern European context. This book is a good read not only for scholars, but also for general readers interested in seeing just how far we have come from that vanished world. JKL

THE FRANKFURT JUDENGASSE: JEWISH LIFE IN AN EARLY MODERN GERMAN CITY Fritz Backhaus, Gisela Engel, Robert Liberles and Margarete Schlüter, eds. Valentine Mitchell, 2010. 170 pp. $69.95 ISBN: 978-0-85303-871-9


narrow focus of time and place gives this collection of articles great strength. From different vantage points and through different lenses, the reader is given a vivid picture of what Jewish life was like in the city of Frankfurt. The early modern period was one of great change in Western Europe, and for the Jews of Frankfurt it reached its climax in the late 19th century, when the Jews were finally permitted to live outside the walls of the ghetto, and the tenements


of the Jewish street were torn down. The image of the ghetto immediately sets one’s attention on relations between Jews and Christians, but the articles go beyond that. They show how Jews were seen by ethnographers who were particularly fascinated by Jews. The power struggles within the Jewish community, and the political concerns of both Jews and Christians, are discussed, sometimes through literary rather than documentary sources. The musical customs of the Frankfurt synagogues are placed in historical context, and some interesting letters from the Rothschild family’s Frankfurt branch that were recently recovered from Russia are described. The scholarly tone and dense typesetting require a determined reader. PR

GENDER AND JEWISH HISTORY Marian A. Kaplan and Deborah Dash Moore, eds. Indiana University Press, 2011. 428 pp. $27.95 ISBN: 978-0-253-22263-3


hrough her work and research, Paula Hyman, professor of modern Jewish history at Yale, has brought attention to the role of women in Jewish history. In honor of Hyman, Gender and Jewish History brings together a wide-ranging collection of original essays that, in highlighting several aspects of her pioneering work, offer a fresh look, informed by gender, at modern history. By studying often overlooked documents and looking at events from a new perspective, these essays offer a fuller picture of the Jewish family, Jewish women’s social and political roles, and the reshaping of religious practice. By bringing to the fore some of the less known figures—men and women—in the capture and trial of Adolf Eichmann, Deborah Lipstadt calls attention to Hyman’s “rescuing many people—primarily, but not only, women—from historical oblivion.” Collectively these essays underline the importance of Hyman’s work in providing a clearer and richer understanding of modern Jewish history. Written by authorities in their fields, these essays are nevertheless accessible and uncover many previously hidden aspects of social, cultural, religious, and political Jewish life since the mid-18th century. For libraries there is also a hardcover edition. MLW

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wo exciting new studies explore the contours of modern Jewish literary identity. While one surveys the pluralistic nature of modern Jewish literature through a variety of theoretical approaches, the other examines the particularities of Hebrew fiction written in early 20th century Europe and the transient lifestyles of its creators.

MODERN JEWISH LITERATURES: INTERSECTIONS AND BOUNDARIES Sheila E. Jelen, Michael P. Kramer, and L. Scott Lerner, eds. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010. 368 pp. $59.95 ISBN: 978-0-8122-4272-0

LITERARY PASSPORTS: THE MAKING OF MODERNIST HEBREW FICTION IN EUROPE Shachar M. Pinsker Stanford University Press, 2011. 487 pp. $60.00 ISBN: 978-0-8047-7064-4 The plural noun in the main title of Modern Jewish Literatures raises the age-old question of how to define Jewish literature while suggesting the plurality of its achievements, cultural orientations, languages, circumstances, and genre manifestations. Although the fifteen chapters do not directly speak to one another, they draw significant portions of a map of understanding, a map for which the ultimate shape remains elusive.

THE JEWISH ODYSSEY: AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY Marek Halter; Charles Penwarden, trans. Flammarion, 2010. 240 pp. $49.95 ISBN: 978-2-08-030155-0


arek Halter, having escaped Poland to Uzbekistan with his family, saved


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Each essay breaks new ground in addressing modern Jewish experience and its literary representation. Several scholars attend to authors whose works promote a cultural campaign, trailblazers whose theoretical frames of reference simultaneously energize and circumscribe their creative efforts. Assumptions about Judaism and Modernism, the relative status of Hebrew and Yiddish, and relationships between Diaspora cultural creativity and that of Palestine/Israel are framing propositions. Is the deliberate production of a people’s literature a deliberate exercise in nation building? Several essays look away from the creation of literature to concerns about its publication and distribution; thus the book offers lively explorations of uniquely Jewish publishing enterprises and of one very special Jewish book store. This marvelously rich and varied gathering has many surprises for scholars and for general readers who have patience with academic style. It is a major resource for teachers and their students. Index, introduction, notes. Professor Pinsker argues that the notable garden of Hebrew literature that blossomed in early 20th century Europe is not well served by criticism that views it primarily as a strategy in the Jewish nationhood agenda. While Zionist impulses certainly encouraged the resurgence of Hebrew as a modern vernacular and literary language, the nature of the literature (primarily fiction) draws its energy from several other historical factors. Pinsker shows how this body of Hebrew literature is energized by the various esthetic and thematic concerns broadly labeled as Modernism. Like the encompassing European Modernism, the new Hebrew literature is a literature of urban experience. Its major practitioners were wanderers who developed a café-centered community life in several cities where Hebrew periodicals and publishing houses also emerged. The Modernist urban themes of dislocation, alienation, and identity (thus the passport metaphor) preoccupied this group of writers, as did those of sexuality and gender. Pinsker explores provocative subsets of these concerns, including the crisis of Jewish masculinity, the interface of writing and sexual desire, and the Jewish version of the New Woman. In a major section of his study, Pinsker examines how these writers express Modernist attitudes toward Jewish traditions and religiosity. Professor Pinkser’s learned and lively exploration provides not only a rich theoretical context for examining a largely undiscovered body of important Modernist texts, but also a series of close, often original, readings. He offers a fine blend of lucidity, passionate attention, and intellectual play. Index, introduction, notes. These two volumes enlarge our understanding of key issues, texts, and personalities. Pinsker isolates and expands a few of the areas of interest pursued in Jelen-Kramer-Lerner enterprise. Indeed, the two books conduct a fine, rewarding conversation. Philip K. Jason is professor emeritus of English from the United States Naval Academy. A former editor of Poet Lore magazine, he is the author or editor of twenty books, including Acts and Shadows: The Vietnam War in American Literary Culture and Don’t Wave Goodbye: The Children’s Flight from Nazi Persecution to American Freedom.

himself by telling stories to a gang of teenage thieves who had set upon him. Thus began Halter’s career as novelist, academic, political activist, and above all, keeper of stories to tell and to pass on. The Jewish Odyssey begins in Mesopotamia and spans the entire history of the Jewish people. Told more as a story than a strict history, the book combines Halter’s narrative and creative skill with his broad and deep knowledge of Jewish history in a highly personal account. Halter juxtaposes incidents from one period against incidents from another—an illustration of the Arch of Titus is followed, two pages later, by a portrait of Sigmund Freud; a

discussion of the Khazars—with the remark “No doubt I too am a little bit Khazar”—faces photographs of a New York City delicatessen and a Warsaw bagel seller. The book also relies on the reader’s knowledge to fill in gaps and omissions. For example, there is no mention of Kristallnacht or the Holocaust. The history is heavily Europebased, with special attention to France, Halter’s home country. North African and American Jewish history get scant attention, and his very brief account of American Jewish denominations is outdated and inaccurate. On the other hand, the founding of Israel, from the early 20th century on, is very well


covered, bringing out all the maneuverings and complexities. Subtitled “An Illustrated History,” The Jewish Odyssey brings together both predictable and delightful selections and uses the illustrations and their captions to tell a good part of Halter’s story. Overall the book is best read for Halter’s personal and family experience of Jewish suffering and history and his long and appreciative view of the Jews’ role on the world stage. The index is highly abbreviated. Bibliography, index. MLW

gration was the solution. This is a basic introduction to a subject which the author considers a neglected area of study. Bibliography, glossary, index tables. RCB

community moved to the newly founded state of Israel, a small number remained in San Nicandro. Davis’s captivating storytelling captures the intimate details of this compelling slice of forgotten history. HLC


THE JEWS OF SAN NICANDRO John A. Davis Yale University Press, 2010. 256 pp. $30.00 [e] ISBN: 978-0-300-11425-6

THE JEWS OF NORTH AFRICA: FROM DIDO TO DE GAULLE Sarah Taieb-Carlen; Amos Carlen, trans. University Press of America, 2010. 180 pp. $29.00 ISBN: 978-07618-5043-4


he threefold division of Sarah TaiebCarlen’s book The Jews of North Africa reflects three major periods of North African history. The first—the pre-Islamic—is regarded by the author as a triumphant period because Jewish settlement preceded and outlasted that of all the other groups that passed through the region. Similarly, she views the Islamic era that followed as a positive time for the Jews. Even though they were generally treated as second class “dhimmi,” and were repeatedly subjected to discrimination and pogroms from the predominant Moslem population, they were allowed a certain degree of autonomy. They were permitted to maintain their own schools and religious institutions. Lastly, Taieb-Carlen deals with the French Colonial period, when France spread its influence throughout the Middle East. Initially this was accomplished through military conquest. Later it was achieved more effectively through assimilation and “re-education.” The author believes that it was only during this period that the Jews lost their way. They were taught to view their own traditions as primitive and misguided as they adopted the morés of French society. When Islam reasserted itself in North Africa the Jewish communities had changed to such an extent that they could no longer accommodate themselves within the new Islamic societies. Emi-


n the late 1920’s, Donato Manduzio had a dream that not only changed his life forever but also changed the lives of many individuals in the sleepy, remote southern Italian village of San Nicandro. The young man, who grew up illiterate, fell ill from an unspecified disease while serving in the army in World War I. During his recovery, he learned to read and write, and he devoured the adventure tales of the Crusades popular at the time, and Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo became one of his favorites. His reading turned to the sacred texts of Judaism and Christianity, and at once he grew deeply convinced that the teachings of Judaism were superior to those of other religions. Manduzio records his conversion to Judaism in his Journal, where he reveals the dream in which God speaks to him and instructs him to declare the Laws of the One God. Calling himself “The Prophet of This Century,” Manduzio discloses that he has received not just a personal revelation but that God has bestowed on him personally, through dreams and visions, the mission of converting others to Judaism. By 1938, his teaching and preaching had attracted a group of about 50 people, including 30 children. As John A. Davis, who is Emiliana Pasca Noether Professor of Modern Italian History at the University of Connecticut, points out in this fast-paced chronicle of a little-known event, Manduzio’s group developed in a village that had no synagogue and no rabbi and where they had no contact with other Jews. The group survived the close scrutiny of Mussolini and the Catholic Church during World War II, and, in 1946, the newly restored rabbinical authorities in Rome approved the official conversion of the community. Although many members of the


Michelle U. Campos Stanford University Press, 2011. 343 pp. $24.95 (pbk.) ISBN: 978-0-8047-7068-2 (pbk.)


his wide ranging and erudite discussion of political and religious identities of Ottoman subjects in Palestine during the period after the 1908 revolution seeks to examine “the meaning of liberty, citizenship and public life in the last Islamic empire...[in an] innovative study of the struggles over the content and contours of imperial citizenship and nationhood on the eve of the end of the empire.” Ottoman Brothers begins with a discussion of how the various Muslim, Jewish, and Christian communities interpreted the new freedoms that the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), the new leaders in Istanbul, had promised. The Muslim intellectuals, such as Jerusalemite Is’af Nashashibi, saw in the revolution a return to the ideals of the early Islamic period. Sephardic Jews took the opportunity to seek reform in their community. Arab Orthodox Christians framed the liberty in terms of their own struggle against the Greek leadership of their church. In subsequent chapters Campos sheds light on other aspects of this new period that promised a different understanding of citizenship. An election to the parliament in 1908 was supposed to enfranchise land owning males, but in doing so it pushed aside the rural poor and many Jews who did not have Ottoman citizenship. However, the Jewish community, particularly intellectuals and newspaper publishers such as well known Zionists Shlomo Yellin and Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, embraced the new ideas and the concept of an Ottoman citizenship. Of great interest is the author’s discussion of the role of Freemasons in Jaffa and Jerusalem. These inter-communal lodges included notables from all the communities and their secularizing, forward-looking mem-

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bers were a vanguard that embraced the post1908 reforms. Campos’s highly readable work is an important scholarly contribution to studies on Palestine in the period. Bibliography, index, notes. SJF

RABBIS AND REVOLUTION: THE JEWS OF MORAVIA IN THE AGE OF EMANCIPATION Michael Laurence Miller Stanford University Press, 2011. 464 pp. $60.00 ISBN: 978-0-8047-70569


o be honest, I assumed this book would be a wholly irreproachable, if not dull, history of a backwater of Jewish life in 19th century Mittel Europe. Of facts and historical detail I assumed it would be chock full. Interest and readability, I was sure would not be among its virtues. I couldn’t have been more wrong. For hundreds of years, the Jews of Moravia prospered, multiplied, educated their children and lived only moderately circumscribed lives. Then, during the late 17th century, the area was rocked by a stubborn Sabbatianism in the form of Jacob Frank. And, in 1727, the Familiants law was promulgated, which prohibited any but the oldest son of each family to marry. Against this background, we see a profoundly changing population in the 1800’s, where traditional rabbis battled German-style reformers and the buildup to the European-wide liberal revolution of 1848 roiled the community’s relationship with their Gentile neighbors. Fascinatingly, we also catch a glimpse of the early career of Samson Raphael Hirsch, one of the founders of Orthodox Judaism, as he takes the role of Chief Rabbi. Miller has performed an impressive feat. He has produced a history of a largely rural Jewish community, not known for its Rabbinate nor infamous for its pogroms, nor central to the economic or political history of Europe. Yet, through a careful analysis of primary texts, correspondence, and archives, Miller brings to life a world becoming modern, featuring the struggle of a traditional unemancipated Jewry with liberal modern ideas, a minority community battered by two majorities, and the narrow space negotiated between a restive population and weakening authoritarian control. In many


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ways, Rabbis and Revolution helps us to understand how we got to where we are. JHB

SACRED TRASH: THE LOST AND FOUND WORLD OF THE CAIRO GENIZA Adina Hoffman and Peter Cole Schocken Books/Nextbook Press, 2011. 304 pp. $16.95 [e] ISBN: 978-0-8052-4258-4


ysterious travel by steamer and train. Piles of bakshish paid for the privilege of crawling through spaces filled with dust, mold, and excrement. Intrigue, claim, and counter-claim by outsized personalities and rival institutions. I have to admit that I never expected to find these packed between the covers of a book on the Cairo Geniza. But I did. Hoffman and Cole, both acclaimed writers, have done a great service to the heroic century’s worth of efforts expended on what was a holy collection of litter. From it has been salvaged (so far) the recovery of priceless correspondence, poetry, history, and religious controversy of far greater breadth and depth than the more famous finds at Qumran. This is no dry catalog of discoveries. Rather, you can feel the dust and devotion of characters on every page. From the burly, driven, heavily-accented Cambridge Reader in Rabbinics, Solomon Shechter, to the globerunning self-educated Scottish “Giblew” sisters, we are introduced to fascinating people. For more than a century they have sought after, fought over, and pored over hundreds of thousands of vellum and paper fragments revealing a millennia of Jewish prayer, meter, and argument. Yet, Hoffman and Cole have not delivered simply a beautifully written book for the layman. They have crafted that fascinating mix of intellectual heft and muscular writing that is too rarely found today. They eschew footnotes, instead providing a full bibliography and impeccable sourcing, but done in excursive text, inviting readers to continue their journey of discovery. The rewarding images are dispersed correctly through the text, borrowing more from today’s wikipedia than yesterday’s cost-effective printing. Thanks must also be paid to Schocken as this volume marks number 19 in their indispensable Jewish Encounter series. JHB

SEPHARDI FAMILY LIFE IN THE EARLY MODERN DIASPORA Julia R. Lieberman, ed. Brandeis University Press, 2011. 279 pp. $29.95 ISBN: 978-1-58465-957-0


ive studies are collected here, two of which appeared previously in other languages. The focus is on a combination of historical issues that have all been neglected until recently. The history of families and of children is a relatively new field, and the history of Ashkenazic Jews is much better studied than that of other Jewish groups. Even the early modern period has only come into its own in recent decades as a period of intense and creative historical study. Appropriately, the articles in Sephardi Family Life are all fascinating, drawing on a range of source materials (Halakhic responsa, Inquisition records, communal archives) and disciplinary approaches. The volume explores the lives of Jews who were expelled from Spain in 1492, and their descendants. The two primary diasporas that emerged were in the eastern basin of the Mediterranean, and in Western Europe (primarily Holland, but also Italy and Germany). The volume deals separately with each diaspora, reflecting the deep differences that developed between them. The lives of ordinary people, especially women and children, emerge from these articles in flashes of clarity, allowing the reader glimpses of what is usually lost to historical memory. PR

STONE AND DUNG, OIL AND SPIT: JEWISH DAILY LIFE IN LATE SECOND TEMPLE PALESTINE Jodi Magness Eerdmans, 2011. 345 pp. $25.00 ISBN: 9780802865588


rofessor Magness explains clearly and accessibly how Judeans lived from the


Israel Studies

middle of the first century BCE, the beginning of the reign of Herod the Great, until the destruction of the Temple (70 CE). (Why this is called Palestine is perplexing, since that was what Romans named the area later, after the Jewish Revolts.) An archaeologist as well as a professor, Magness brings to life many interesting aspects of daily social and household activities during a period formative for Jewish groups that would become Christianity and rabbinic Judaism. She is keen to understand the archeological record for quotidian activities, such as what was eaten and how it was served as well as how human waste was disposed of, how commerce was conducted, and what was worn, in addition to the concerns of Sabbath and purification and burial customs, and how they reflect, or do not reflect, the literary prescriptions and descriptions in biblical and rabbinic literature. Different interpretations for how to apply “God’s Instructions” led to the development of several major sects known to us, and others that remain unknown. These groups include the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, and Jesus movement. In addition to surveying their various views of matters of holiness and purity, Magness evaluates socio-economic and locative (such as rural versus urban) aspects of daily life for each of them. Chapters include Purifying the Body and Hands; Creeping and Swarming Creatures; Household Vessels; Dining Customs and Communal Meals; Sabbath Observance and Fasting; Coins; Clothing and Tzitzit; Oil and Spit; Toilets and Toilet Habits; Tombs and Burial Customs; and Epilogue discussing the aftermath of the Destruction of 70 CE. Bibliography, indexes. MDN

being conveyed and distorted to modern day audiences. Rosenfeld is perfectly placed to discuss this topic as a 40 year veteran of research into the Holocaust and literature and as the director of Indiana University’s Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism. The author notes that “the Nazi genocide of the Jews will not soon be forgotten, but how it is retained in memory and transmitted depends overwhelmingly on what we choose to recover from the past.” He highlights many aspects of how the Holocaust has been transmitted to mass culture since 1945. One chapter illustrates that there has been an increasing trend to universalize the Holocaust, removing its uniqueness and placing it alongside genocide studies and human rights. He also articulates how the increasing use of the word ‘holocaust’ to describe all sorts of things, such as abortion, degrades the actual Holocaust. Several chapters highlight the importance of authors Elie Wiesel, Primo Levi, and Jean Amery in communicating their own experiences as survivors to the public. One of Rosenfeld’s most interesting discussions centers on the manipulation of Anne Frank’s diary. Because her father, Otto, wanted her legacy to emphasize “hope, peace and the advancement of tolerance,” the diary was “fashioned as a more universal type” and Anne’s Jewishness deracinated. Rosenfeld’s book, written to appeal both to general and scholarly readers, is an important and original contribution to discussions on how the Holocaust is being taught and conveyed to people today. Notes. SJF

intending to gain German support for his political goals to head the Palestinian state and possibly the entire Arab world. The study includes a rich bibliography and an index. Following a succinct discussion of previous studies on Husaini, Gensicke examines the evolvement of the position of the Mufti of Jerusalem under the British Mandate of Palestine, and the growing political role of Husaini in the Palestinian revolts which eventually caused his escape to Iraq, where he was involved in anti-British activities, culminating in the failed 1941 coup. Husaini then fled through Iran to Italy, where he tried to gain Italian support for his political goals. The bulk of the study is devoted to the Mufti’s years in Germany (1941–1945) where he met with senior officials, including Hitler, aiming to achieve his political goals through collaboration with the Nazi regime, emphasizing his support for the Nazis’ anti-Semitic policies, viewing Britain, Judaism, and Bolshevism as the main enemies of Germany, the Arab nation, and the Muslim world. The Mufti was active in Nazi propaganda directed to the Middle East and in attempts to establish Muslim units in the German army. Gensicke also examines Husaini’s activities following World War II, when Britain and France let him evade trial for war crimes, escape to the Middle East, and continue in his political activities, though with less influence than in the 1930’s. The study is well documented, clearly written and adds much hitherto unknown information on the Mufti’s close collaboration with Fascist Italy and especially Nazi Germany. RS



Klaus Gensicke; Alexander Fraser Gunn, trans. Vallentine Mitchell, 2011. 285 pp. $74.95 ISBN: 978-0-85303-844-3

THE END OF THE HOLOCAUST Alvin H. Rosenfeld Indiana University Press, 2011. 310 pp. $29.95 [e] ISBN: 978-0-253-35643-7


lvin Rosenfeld brings a wealth of information to this highly readable, intelligently argued account of how the Holocaust is


ased on extensive German and some British official archival sources as well as published memoirs and studies, this study examines the life, activities, and ideology of the Palestinian religious-political leader, the Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husaini, focusing on his years in Nazi Germany and eager collaboration with the Nazi regime,

Laura Zittrain Eisenberg and Neil Caplan Indiana University Press, 2010. 431 pp. $27.95 (pbk.) ISBN: 978-0-253-22212-1 (pbk.)


his expanded edition of the history of the Arab-Israeli peace negotiations is updated to early 2009. In addition to updating the book and reorganizing the chapters to focus separately

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Israel Studies

on efforts to resolve the Arab-Israeli and IsraeliPalestinian conflicts, the major difference is the posting of over 100 primary source documents and links to online sources in a special website ( The book is divided into three parts (The ArabIsraeli peace process: beginnings; The ArabIsraeli peace process: Madrid and after, and The Israeli-Palestinian peace process: Oslo 1993 and beyond) followed by a conclusion and an epilogue. It is structured similarly to the first edition, with each successful or failed negotiation examined as following: previous negotiating experience; purpose and motives; timing; status of the negotiators; third party considerations; proposed terms of agreement; psychological factors; and the post-treaty era. The book is clearly and objectively written, enlivened with many cartoons of Arab, Israeli, and Western origins. The strength of this book is its clear, systematic, and well-annotated analysis, pointing out which processes and frameworks were helpful and which harmful, coupled with the easy access to valuable primary sources. Bibliography, extensive timeline, index, maps, notes. RS

dates for president and other federal offices?” Ben-Ami claims that those American Jews for whom support for Israel is the most important issue to vote on represent only 8% of the American Jewish community and yet “their voices dominate the public debate and the perception of where the community stands.” The narrative details how young American Jews are becoming alienated from Israel and that only vibrant dissent and criticism will help bring back American Jews to Israel and also encourage America to put pressure on Israel to end the conflict. The author’s prognosis is not original. Others, such as Peter Beinart, have been making similar arguments recently. His castigating of pro-Israel lobbying groups for shutting down the debate sets up a straw man that he then easily breaks down by claiming that his group is offering a new voice. Ben-Ami claims these critical voices are “blacklisted” or subjected to “politics perfected by Joe McCarthy.” Yet his book provides evidence to the contrary, including how J Street has expanded to include 600 rabbis, 170,000 supporters, and a $7 million budget. While it presents convincing evidence that young American Jews are alienated from Israeli policies, the author doesn’t explain how J Street will achieve anything but cementing their criticism of Israel. Notes. SJF



Jeremy Ben-Ami Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. 235 pp. $26.00 (pbk.) [e] ISBN: 978-0-230-11274-2 (pbk.)


eremy Ben-Ami, founder of the dovish Israel lobby J Street, sets out his beliefs and goals in this part manifesto, part autobiographical work. He is convinced that “if things don’t change pretty soon, chances are that the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will slip through our fingers.” The author tells the story of his family and its ties to Israel. His parents and grandparents were “pioneers, builders and ultimately fighters for the cause, for their family and for their people.” Ben-Ami was born in the U.S. in 1962 and has had a life-long interest in the Jewish state. As a professional Democratic campaign strategist he details how the issue of Israel has become a political football in American politics. He asks, “how did it come to pass that major national organizations of the American Jewish community had come to present only right-of-center views on Israel to candi-


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Monty Noam Penkower Academic Studies Press, 2010. 402 pp. $65.00 ISBN: 978-1-936235-20-9


his is a cleverly titled collection of nine articles, several of which were originally published in academic journals. Using the Kishniev pogrom of 1903 as a starting and turning point, since it contributed to huge migration, the articles focus on points of tension and difference within the Jewish communities in the U.S. and Israel. The articles on the U.S. discuss the identities and experiences of such notables as the highly assimilated Felix Frankfurter and Arthur Hays Sulzberger, and less known figures like Rabbi Abraham Isaac Selmanovitz, who maintained a balance between tradition and a modicum of assimila-

tion at a time when this was enormously challenging. Most of the articles dealing with Israel have not been previously published; they focus on cultural and political conflicts and tensions between tradition, modernity, and Zionism in an evolving society. SMC

YOUNG TEL AVIV: A TALE OF TWO CITIES Anat Helman; Haim Watzman, trans. Brandeis University Press, 2010. 213 pp. $55.00 ISBN: 978-1-58465-893-1


n the twenty years after World War I, Tel Aviv grew from a garden suburb of Jaffa with 2,000 residents into an urban center of 160,000. Hebrew University scholar Anat Helman conveys the look and feel of the new city with a wealth of details about what it was like to live there: the architecture, transportation, public events, leisure pursuits, the buying and selling. She sets out to balance perceived images of the city with its empirically observed character—the “two cities” of her subtitle. Renowned as the “White City” for its Bauhaus architecture, Tel Aviv’s image of sleek modernity clashed with the reality of its filth and noise and heterogeneity. The city’s café society and the prominence of fashion, Helman points out, challenged the Zionist ideal of the pioneer who labors in the fields and lives a simple life. Her best chapter captures the exuberance of the Tel Aviv beaches and the city’s ubiquitous night life of cinemas, restaurants, dance halls, and simple strolls through the streets. Betraying its origins as a dissertation, this work often pauses to state the obvious: “To promenade,” it explains, “is to take a walk with the purpose of presenting oneself to the world and of observing other people.” Helman’s biases surface when she argues that popular culture “was more open to outside influences than the official culture, which was consciously and selectively enlisted to produce a new and unique national Hebrew culture.” She becomes overtly ideological when, following the neo-Marxist Eric Hobsbawm, she resists ideas “imposed from above,” whether by the “cultural elite,” the government, or the Ashkenazi majority. She also characterizes advertising in Marxist terms: “as an alternative to class

Modern Jewish Thought & Experience

consciousness associated with one’s work,” she declares, “modern advertising proclaimed that a person could acquire an individual consciousness through possessions.” For many readers these observations will be gratuitous. Overall, Helman’s research brings to light a fascinating panoply of the particulars of daily life—riding a bus, evading the dogcatcher, celebrating Jewish holidays in secular form—and the 23 wonderful illustrations are indispensable. Haim Watzman’s English rendering is a model of clarity and directness. Young Tel Aviv brings a vanished cityscape vividly back to life. Index, notes, references. BG


BIBLICAL SEDUCTIONS: SIX STORIES RETOLD BASED ON TALMUD AND MIDRASH Sandra E. Rapoport KTAV, 2011. 540 pp. $29.50 ISBN: 978-1-60280-170-7


he Bible’s approach to sex and sexual matters is not timid and presents us with stories that, even as modern readers, we struggle to understand and question what wisdom we can discern from these ancient tales. Sandra E. Rapoport, a lawyer and independent scholar, has examined anew six stories of seduction, betrayal, and, sometimes love, that are familiar to the reader. She retells the stories and weaves in traditional interpretations from Talmud and Midrash to help us delve further into the characters and the motivations for their actions. The book begins with one of the most controversial and disturbing stories, Lot and His Daughters, then moves on to the familiar stories of Dinah and Shechem, Judah and Tamar, David and Batsheva, Ruth and Boaz, and the less known story of Amnon and Tamar. This well-written book is more than a retelling, but rather, a re-positioning of the stories and how we have understood them in past scholarship, and how we might view them today. Re-positioning in the sense that they are taken out of the biblical text and explored as moral tales that stand on their

own, and withstand the test of time. Rapoport has done an extraordinary job of researching the commentary and presenting a coherent analysis of flawed characters, often trying to do the right thing, and, the consequences of their actions, or inactions. BA

THE CAMBRIDGE INTRODUCTION TO EMMANUEL LEVINAS Michael L. Morgan Cambridge University Press, 2011. 259 pp. $90.00 [e] ISBN: 978-0521193023


organ has written a useful and accessible introduction to the famously obtuse philosophy of Levinas, perhaps the greatest ethical philosopher of our time. A French phenomenologist, Talmudic scholar, Holocaust survivor, and practicing Orthodox Jew, Levinas has developed what has been called an “ethical transcendentalism.” That is, a philosophy that assumes that “responsibility is the essential, primary and fundamental structure of subjectivity.” For Levinas, it is “the harmony achieved between so much goodness and so much legalism that constitutes the original note of Judaism.” Levinas’s focus was to universalize Judaism, to bring “biblical wisdom” to the attention of Gentiles (and Jews) lodged in a “Greek lexicon of intelligibility.” In other words, Levinas attempts to translate the ethos of the Bible into Greek philosophy, explicating the ethical message of Judaism, with its commitment to the Good, into the language of philosophy, with its commitment to the True. Morgan has provided us with a good overview of Levinas’s key ideas, though the book would have been improved if it had a sharper critical edge. That said, Morgan has written a needed “service” book, one that presents a summary of Levinas’s views in a readable and interesting manner. PM


people both physically and emotionally. Its advances were our advances, its rise to world leadership helped raise us as well, and its depredations were played out on our skins. This intensely felt dichotomy of the Jews’ experience in Europe forms the basis for this solid volume by Reinharz and Shavit. Ostensibly an intellectual review of European and Jewish thought from the Enlightenment to the present day, the book explores the major conceptual frameworks upon which the Jewish view of Europe and the European view of the Jew were formed. An intensive collection of contemporary thinkers are presented to elucidate the theoretical dialectics of the rise of Europe and its decline, the place of Jew as the Ur-Modern European as well as pariah, America as philistine and light unto the nations, and finally, the rise of the new anti-Semitism and apprehension over Europe’s future Islamification.

...the book explores the major conceptual frameworks upon which the Jewish view of Europe and the European view of the Jew were formed. The book is useful and enlightening. It’s fascinating to see Herzl extolling Europe’s role in civilizing his fellow “semi-Asiatics,” or to source the varied streams of Zionism in the foothills of fin-de-siècle thought. At the same time, it’s hard not to divine the authors’ desire to overlook contemporary American and Israeli views of Europe as vacillating, unsure of itself, and ultimately unwilling to stand up for its own culture. “Because it was so glorious,” Reinharz and Shavit seem to say, “let’s not curse it so much.” Yet, however ambivalent a reader may be upon completion of the book, he or she will be grateful for the effort. JHB



Jehuda Reinharz and Yaacov Shavit Brandeis University Press, 2010. 280 pp. $39.95 ISBN: 978-1-58465-843-6

Rabbi Burton L. Visotzky Jewish Lights Publishing, 2011. 239 pp. $24.99 ISBN: 978-1-58023-456-6



or more than a millennium the continent of Europe was the home of the Jewish

t says in Pirke Avot 1:6, “Provide yourself with a teacher; get yourself a companion.”

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Modern Jewish Thought & Experience

To follow that sage advice, take Rabbi Burton Visotzky as your teacher and his new book as your companion. Visotzky, Appleman Professor of Midrash and Interreligious Studies at The Jewish Theological Seminary, first sets the scenes for the “cast of characters,” the rabbis who are mentioned in the Talmud with their attributes and their motivations. Then he illustrates their interaction in the various stories, acting as an interactive guide leading us through the paths of tangled brambles of Talmud. Visotzky’s express purpose is to examine these rabbinic stories from the third to the ninth centuries CE and “unlock them.” As he writes: “In learning how and why these oft-told tales were spun, we can learn how they continue to hold value for the fabric of our lives.” Throughout the book, Visotzky cracks the “code” of these amazing Talmudic stories by revealing, explaining, clarifying, and extracting the inner kernel of the story along with the characters involved. It is as if he were reading our minds about the questions we have been asking or had not even thought to ask. He does all of this in a delightful conversational and humor-filled style. Although at times, his use of vernacular English and contemporary and secular literary analogies intrude on the lesson. Sage Tales demystifies the Talmudic texts so that the morals and values are revealed through the brilliance of this teacher, perhaps similar to the teachers of Mishnah and Gemara known as Tannaim and Amoraim of old. Just as the Tannaim were also referred to as “living books,” Rabbi Burton Visotzky fulfills this role as he discusses and distills the wisdom and wonder from the stories of the rabbis of the Talmud. Glossary, recommended reading, who’s who. PeS

new volume does not focus upon his scholarly specialty, nevertheless the writings of the Prophets, from which the Haftarah readings derive, certainly address general ethical and moral issues much more explicitly and comprehensively than do the other portions of the “written tradition,” i.e., the Torah and the writings, possibly explaining the author’s particular attraction to these biblical passages. However, in the introduction to the book, Dr. Tamari articulates an additional purpose in compiling this volume, i.e., he feels that the study of the Prophets has been neglected, and he proposes that such study can be encouraged and stimulated by engendering interest in the Haftarot that are read on Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh, Yomim Tovim and fast days. To this end, in addition to eruditely and broadly exploring the connection between each Torah reading and the Haftarah associated with it, as well as the general themes extent within that particular Haftarah, each time a new book of the Prophets serves as the source of the Haftarah (some books in Tanach serve as the sources for multiple Haftarot throughout the Jewish year), a general introduction to that book is also included. While Truths Desired by God can be used as a reference volume in the sense that one can open it to any Haftarah of personal interest and gain a great deal of information and food for thought by reading that essay without referencing any of the others, Dr. Tamari obviously hopes that the reader will also take the trouble to seek out the introductory paragraphs appearing the first time a biblical book serves as a Haftarah’s source, to gain a broader context for the information that he is gathering and studying. JB


TRUTHS DESIRED BY GOD: AN EXCURSION INTO THE WEEKLY HAFTARAH Meir Tamari Gefen Publishing House, 2011. 338 pp. $29.95 [e] ISBN: 9789652294517


r. Meir Tamari is a well-known economist who has taught courses, written books, and founded an institute dealing with the interface of economics, business ethics, and Jewish law. While on the one hand, his


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GOD’S OPTIMISM Yehoshua November Main Street Rag Publishing, 2010. 61 pp. $14.00 ISBN: 978-1-23456-789-0


mily Dickinson once said that she knew she had read a good poem when the hairs

on the back of her neck stood up. This did not mean she was getting goose pimples from the thrill of the content. This statement indicated her excitement at having encountered a real work of art—the kind of feeling I imagine prospectors must get when discovering diamonds in a coal mine.

The a cathartic one. They serve to relieve the tensions of everyday life and leave the reader in a tranquil mood. And there are diamonds in this collection of Yehoshua November’s poetry. But it is a different kind of excitement these poems bring, the kind that arises from the recognition of sweetness in certain events of life, which bring a smile to the face and serenity to the heart. One poem is a prime example of this: “In the Unseeable World” a sleepless boy watches his brother reach for a ball in a dream and says, He reaches for nothing/it is all a dream. November compares this to a man passing the window of a shul and, seeing another man swaying and stretching his arms toward heaven, misses the point: and in the unseeable world, Hashem’s long arms reach through the eternal water and the firmament and His hands cleave to the hands of the man who is praying. And the man passing by says, Oh, why does he waste his energy, what does he hope to touch? It is the mystical belief that fervent prayer reaches God that a pragmatist cannot visualize. And November hints that because of that lack of belief the ordinary man will not be able to reach God or achieve the necessary spirituality to make his life happier. November’s ability to compare belief in an invisible God to the most common experiences is what distinguishes his poems. In “Partners in Creation” he claims that God’s renewal of the world is like the renewal of a child’s world, “when he comes home from school/and his father and mother/still live in the same house,/and he hears them talking at the kitchen table.” (This is a technique used by Dickinson as well when she describes “the


busyness in the house/the morning after death” which includes “the sweeping up the heart and putting love away” to be used much later on. The simple household task of sweeping is related to the infinite concept of love throughout eternity.) And yet, the young poet, November can be irreverent and funny as well. In “Every Friday Night” he describes the sadness of Orthodox Jewish men returning from shul and considers the possible reasons; they may emanate from God’s continuing to conceal Himself but more often than not November feels it is due to “the blond woman/who walks through the mind of every Jewish man/leading him away from his dark-haired wife.” Other poems in this collection are a refreshing tribute to romantic memories connected to his wife. The impact of November’s poems is a cathartic one. They serve to relieve the tensions of everyday life and leave the reader in a tranquil mood. EE


BETWEEN RASHI AND MAIMONIDES: THEMES IN MEDIEVAL JEWISH THOUGHT, LITERATURE AND EXEGESIS Ephraim Kanarfogel and Moshe Sokolow, eds. KTAV, 2010. 431 pp. $39.50 ISBN: 978-1-60280-138-7


slew of conferences in the middle of the last decade marked the 900th anniversary of Rashi’s death, and the 800th of Maimonides. This volume straddles both milestones, with studies that try to relate to these two very different Jewish leaders. This is not so easily achieved, since Rashi was primarily a commentator, while Maimonides was a systematic thinker. But it elicited some fascinating responses from the scholars included in this volume. Many of them focus on biblical exegesis, which can be found directly in Rashi’s works and obliquely in those of Maimonides. Only a small number treat the other realm in which the two overlapped—Talmud and Jewish law. Most of the contributors are established scholars, but there are also fascinating contributions by younger academics. PR

JEWISH STUDIES: A THEORETICAL INTRODUCTION Andrew Bush Rutgers University Press, 2011. 151 pp. $39.95 ISBN: 978-0-8135-4954-5


his short book is a highly theoretical exploration of how to engage in original and erudite Jewish Studies. Andrew Bush, a professor of Jewish Studies and Hispanic Studies at Vassar College, draws upon constructs found in the Jewish tradition of “learning,” with its Talmudic scholarship and sources, and the sizable body of academic literature (sociological, historical, literary, and cultural studies), that explore the Jewish experience. Bush creatively employs the Kabbalistic metaphor of the eminent Jewish Studies scholar Gershom Scholem, and argues that Jewish Studies should be conceptualized as a “container” that is broken and so its “contents, all them sparks of Jewishness, are scattered.” To build a complete body of work in Jewish Studies, researchers must engage in “a patient effort to collect the scattered shards of material and textual culture.” Jewish Studies: A Theoretical Introduction is not an easy book to read, but complexity and challenge are also hallmark aspects of the Jewish experience. To me this book is an academic plea for giving up clichéd views of the discipline of Jewish Studies. It encourages the reader to seek new avenues for source material and develop innovative analytical models to better understand the Jewish experience. Endnotes, index. CP


from legal dicta to magical incantations. People tend either to read the whole thing through without questioning how it all fits together, or else to focus only on the type of literature that interests them. The wave of critical literary analysis of the Talmud that has been produced in the past two decades has, for the most part, focused on the nonlegal narratives often known as Aggadah. Halakhah, the legal aspects of the Talmud, has remained the territory of more traditional and philologically minded scholars. This volume aims to break down these distinctions between law and narrative and between literary and textual analysis. Barry Wimpfheimer’s book examines legal narratives, stories that appear in the Talmud as part of a legal discussion and which are ostensibly meant to illustrate a legal principle as it was applied in an actual case. Applying insights from literary criticism and sociology to the Talmud is no mean feat, but Wimpfheimer accomplishes this with elegance. These tools help him demonstrate how these stories work in the context of the Babylonian Talmud, showing the sometimes subtle effect they can have on the legal implications of the text. This is one of the most significant contributions to Talmudic scholarship in recent years, and it has great relevance for anyone interested in the application of contemporary critical theory to ancient texts. PR

THE ORIGINS OF JEWISH MYSTICISM Peter Schäfer Princeton University Press, 2011. 398 pp. $35.00 ISBN: 987-0-691-14215-0


NARRATING THE LAW: A POETICS OF TALMUDIC LEGAL STORIES Barry Scott Wimpfheimer University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011. 239 pp. $59.95 ISBN: 978-0-8122-4299-7


t is well known that the Babylonian Talmud contains a range of different texts,

hroughout Jewish history, unique individuals have had mystical experiences. The true mystic engages in a solitary pursuit (with the exception of the Qumran community). He rarely speaks of it, but often writes about it, if only to be able to duplicate the experience again. The scholarly exploration of Jewish mystical texts reached its florescence with Gershom Scholem and is now well established in many universities. When did the pursuit of mystical experiences begin? What is the nature of the Jewish

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Visual Arts

mystical experience? What is the earliest documentary evidence? This volume traces the earliest sources from the prophet Ezekiel’s vision known as the Merkavah or heavenly chariot. Professor Peter Schäfer, one of the most distinguished living experts on the Hekhalot (lit. God’s chambers) literature and Merkavah mysticism, presents an authoritative and thorough exposition of his understanding of the origins of Jewish mysticism. He provides a detailed analysis of most of the relevant texts, from Ezekiel’s visions, the Enochic literature and related Old Testament pseudepigrapha, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the works of Philo of Alexandria, the rabbinic texts, and a selection of the major Hekhalot collections. Ultimately the diversity of these sources leads him to doubt our ability to find a category into which to fit them all, although he does suggest that all seek to bridge the gap between heaven and earth and lead to the loving and approachable God. He puts great emphasis on approaching God through exegesis and exegetical exercises as opposed to ecstatic experiences. However, he does describe, in great detail, the various forms of ascent, the different spheres of Heaven, the angels one meets on the way, and the various experiences that are beyond what is apparent to physical perception in order to open up perceptions of other dimensions of existence. The Hekhalot literature seems to consists largely of instruction manuals presenting ritual praxes that readers may use to control angelic beings so as to obtain divine revelations and visions. The Rabbis were well aware of these otherworldly excursions and discouraged all but the very select few from even contemplating them. Jewish mystical experiences can be wonderful, and illuminating, but they are also very dan-

gerous to the uninitiated. The book is filled with interesting and original insights based on a lifetime of study of these texts. It is not a book for beginners. Caveat lector! WG

VISUAL ARTS THE SAGES: CHARACTER, CONTEXT & CREATIVITY. VOL. 1: THE SECOND TEMPLE PERIOD Rabbi Binyamin Lau; Michael Prawer, trans. Maggid, 2010. 383 pp. $24.95 [e] ISBN: 9781592642458


his translated series of lectures presented (2004) and revised for publication in Hebrew (2007), attempts to bring together the reflective world of the yeshiva and methodological disciplines of the academy. The goal is to read the tannaitic (mishnaic sages) disputes of the Fathers regarding the transmission of the Torah as it is presented in the mishnaic tractate Pirkei Avot. The special feature of this work is to examine these disputes as they emerged from the houses of study without the mediation of the amora’im (Talmudic scholars), thus revealing the philosophical, ideological, and religious foundations of Jewish beliefs and values. The material is arranged chronologically, from the beginning of the Second Temple until its destruction. The teachings of the sages are evaluated with respect to the historical details of their eras and locales, as well as their character. Sections include From Prophecy to Halakha; The Period of the Pairs—Between

Check your local synagogues and JCCs for information about authors who are coming to your community 64

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Religion and the State; Hillel and Shammai and their Students; When Disputes Proliferated in Israel; Destruction. MDN

THE WASHINGTON HAGGADAH: A FIFTEENTH-CENTURY MANUSCRIPT FROM THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS Joel ben Simeon; David Stern, trans. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2011. 228 pp. $39.95 ISBN: 978-0-674-05117-1


rom 1912 through 1916, Ephraim Deinard, a Jewish bookman of exceptional breadth, arranged for the sale of almost 20,000 volumes of Judaica to the Library of Congress, the beginning of one of the finest collections in the world. Among those volumes was an illuminated haggadah by Joel ben Simeon (c.1420–c.1492), a prolific and unusual medieval scribe, a professional who illustrated as well as calligraphed his work. This facsimile edition of one of Joel’s best preserved manuscripts opens many doors on the Jewish world of the late Middle Ages. Living and working in Germany and Italy, Joel drew on both Ashkenazic and Italian religious and artistic traditions. In a brief and informative essay, David Stern, professor of classical Jewish literature at the University of Pennsylvania, covers the history of the seder and haggadah and explores Joel’s haggadah for its preservation of some lost practices and its picture of Jewish life at a critical period in cultural history—the dawn of printing. An essay by Katrin Kogman-Appel, associate professor of arts at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, analyzes Joel’s illustrations, noting his perceptive portrayals of all social classes as well as the influences on his art and, in turn, his art’s influence on subsequent haggadot. The pleasure in this facsimile lies in its delightful illustrations and innovative calligraphy, graced with Joel’s unique decorative touches, and the wine stains and notes left by its various owners, indicating that the haggadah was actually used. In turning the pages of Joel’s haggadah at leisure, readers may well imagine its use for over four centuries. Bibliography, notes. MLW

CHILDREN’S REVIEWS tions and pictures from the time, allowing students to visualize the “architects” as well as get a feel for the atrocities. Death and destruction are implied through photos of piles of rings, Nazi party leaders, ghetto life, propaganda, and people in concentration camps. This short book, part of a series called The Holocaust, published mostly for school libraries, is an excellent survey of the history and main architects as well as people living at the time. Ages 12 and up. DA

Anya’s War

Andrea Alban Feiwel & Friends, 2011. 188 pp. $16.99 ISBN: 978-0312370930


nya’s War is a first person account of a 14-year-old Jewish girl’s adventures and misadventures in acclimating to her new life in Shanghai in 1937. Her upper class Jewish family has fled there from Odessa, Russia, where Jews are being persecuted under Communism. Anya Rosen (her father has just shortened the family name from Rosengarten) narrates the events around her 14th birthday when, riding her new bicycle home with her purchases from the kosher butcher, she hears a mewing sound that turns out to be a crying baby. She finds and rescues the Chinese infant girl she hears crying in the bushes. The baby has been abandoned because she is a girl and unwanted by a society that values males over females. (This event is based on the factual account of the author Andrea Alban’s grandfather, who lived in Shanghai at that time and brought home such an abandoned infant girl.) We learn much about Chinese culture in this book, and much about Jewish culture and family life. The Rosens—Anya, Georgi (her younger brother) Mama, Papa, Babushka and Dedushka—celebrate Shabbat faithfully in elegant Odessa style. Anya expresses a very personal and emotional experience of Shabbat: Anya lit hers last, one candle for shamor, observance, and one for zachor, remembrance. It was time for her second neshamah to enter her body. Her skin tingled with the feeling of the additional soul slipping in. This extra soul might distract her from her worries about the Japanese and Chinese fighting for control of Shanghai. Anya worries about the big things: war, infanticide, injustice to females in China, a bombing that injures her brother, and Amelia Earhart, whose plane is lost. She also worries about personal things: a boy she likes, her looks, her relationship with her mother, father, brother, Babushka and Dedushka. She has a close and trusting relationship with Li Mei, the family’s 17-year-old Chinese cook. Anya writes in a Book of Moons (diary) and opens her personal and political world to young readers. Though fictionalized, this account of a little known period of Jewish, Russian, and Chinese history fills in a blank that most don’t know. Boys and the male viewpoint are well represented in this book, so it is not a book for girls only. Ages 10 and up. NM

Architects of the Holocaust

Darlene R. Stille Compass Point Books, 2011. 64 pp. $8.95 ISBN: 978-0756544416


rchitects of the Holocaust presents the deeds of key leaders of the German government and the Nazi regime. The book

opens with Hitler’s rise to power and the atmosphere which allowed for it, including the aftermath of World War I, Goebbels’s effective propaganda, and youth recruitment. Interspersed are personal narratives by survivors who witnessed the changes. The latter half of the book discusses concentration and extermination camps and the Nuremberg trials and concludes with modern reflections on the atrocities. This book succeeds in outlining a horrific chapter in history without oversimplifying. The scale of the horrors perpetrated against the Jewish people is never minimized, but the content is handled in such a way that the audience can grasp the events. Enhancing the text are numerous illustra-

Around the World in One Shabbat

Durga Yael Bernhard Jewish Lights Publishing, 2011. 32 pp. $18.99 ISBN: 978-1-58023-433-7


he subtitle of this picture book is “Jewish People Celebrate the Sabbath Together,” and that is both its gist and its strength. Page by page, the reader experiences the weekly Shabbat rituals that remain constant and comprehensible around the globe, from Friday morning shopping through to Havdalah on Saturday evening. Each segment of the day takes place in a different location, with a total of 13 countries represented on six continents. Shabbat delicacies are purchased in Jerusalem’s Machane Yehudah marketplace, challah is braided in Buenos Aires, candles are lit in Istanbul, a family attends synagogue in France, etc. However, it is important to mention that aside from the name of the locale and a few culinary references, most of the places visited in this book are textually indistinguishable from one another. In fact the text is both engaging and rather generic, focusing on what Jews share in their observance of the Sabbath while neglecting to highlight ways in which local culture influences the celebration. Pictorially the book is moderately more successful. Warmly hued gouache illustrations are pleasant and appealing, nicely portraying loving families eating together, praying together, and resting together. Yet once again several countries seem interchangeable, with visual representations that lack recognizable cues which might differentiate one country from another. (A map of the locations would have added interest to the narrative.) Thus one is left to wonder if the purpose of this book is to present a multinational, multicultural look at the celebration of Shabbat, or to demonstrate that no matter where Jews live, celebrating Shabbat is always the same. Whatever the intent, this

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Music Was It: Young Leonard Bernstein

Susan Goldman Rubin Charlesbridge, 2011. 192 pp. $19.95 ISBN: 978-1-58089-344-2

ments and notes. Ms. Rubin’s fluid writing makes Lenny and his achievements come alive, especially with the inclusion of supportive quotes sprinkled throughout the text. In addition to a timeline, discography, bibliography and quotation sources, the book contains helpful short biographies of individuals mentioned in the book who would be unfamiliar to young readers. For ages 9–12. NHF


ife without music is unthinkable.” With that Leonard Bernstein quotation, Susan Goldman Rubin opens her remarkable biography of the legendary composer and conductor. For young readers wrestling with self-identity, Bernstein’s life provides a near inspirational message: whatever your life’s passion, pursue it to the best of your ability. (Of course, it doesn’t hurt if you are naturally gifted and driven to succeed.) As a child of Jewish immigrants, whose business oriented father didn’t always understand his son’s obsession with music, Bernstein nonetheless was the recipient of an outstanding education, first at Boston Latin School and then at Harvard. Growing up in a religious Conservative home and temple left an indelible mark on the young musician which later influenced compositions with biblical and Jewish themes. This is a well-researched and elegantly written biography with an indepth focus on Bernstein’s childhood through family anecdotes and memories which enrich the book. The photographs, particularly of his childhood and family, are especially poignant and well-selected. Also included are reproductions of musical scores, announce-

book presents the Sabbath in a loving light, and that it does very well. For ages 5–9. TM

Defiance: Resistance: Book 2

Carla Jablonskil; Leland Purvis, illus. First Second, 2011. 124 pp. $16.99 ISBN: 978-1596432925


t is 1943 and the Terrier siblings—Paul, his younger sister Marie and his older sister


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Holly Thompson Random House Children’s, 2011. 314 pp., $17.99 ISBN: 978-0385739771

still resents Kanako’s father. As Kanako adjusts to her new routine, she talks to Ruth about Japan as well as what happened at home. Her resentment at the banishment turns to understanding and personal growth, and eventually, Kanako reaches out to Ruth’s friend, Jake, and makes teshuvah to Ruth. The ending satisfies. While sad, it is what forgiveness should beempowering and thought provoking. Orchards is not overly graphic or preachy. Readers who don’t love verse novels may wish for more dialogue and scene, but those who want to experience the intimate thoughts of a young girl grappling with self revelation and guilt will find the voice gripping, believable, and sympathetic. Other books about bullying include The Girls, by Amy Goldman Koss (for younger readers). Teachers may want to pair this book with the stark film, It’s a Girl’s World, for an open and important, life saving discussion. Ages 12 and up. SA


n Holly Thompson’s Orchards, Kanako Goldberg, a half-Jewish half-Japanese eighth grader, is sent from her American home to her mother’s family farm in Japan after Ruth, a bi-polar classmate, hangs herself in a nearby orchard. Although Kanako insists she did nothing, it is clear that Ruth was bullied. Her mother says, “You can reflect in the presence of your ancestors.” The narrative, told in scant but honest and emotional poetry to Ruth, grapples with issues of guilt, responsibility, and healing. But Orchards is not just about bullying and suicide; it is also about family and privilege. Kanako’s Japanese family share baths, work hard, and live frugally. Her grandmother

Sylvie—live in Vichy occupied France. Their father is a prisoner of war and the occupying Germans and the French military police enforcing the rules are a source of angst for all. In Defiance the children all secretly get involved in fighting the occupiers in different ways. The war and occupation take a personal toll on the Terriers’ lives. The story, told in graphic novel form, addresses difficult topics including questions of children’s control in the face of their powerlessness to the military and other authorities. The Terrier children question if they can trust the authorities as well as neighbors, friends and even their relatives where opinions differ and lives are at stake. As the second in the three-volume Resistance series, this graphic novel stands well alone. Jews don’t really have a central role in the book. The local Jews have

Suddenly in the Depths of the Forest

Amos Oz; Sondra Silverston, trans. Harcourt, 2011. 134 pp. $15.99 ISBN: 978-0-547-55153-1


aya and her best friend, Matti, live in a village totally bereft of animals, fish, birds and insects. They only hear about these creatures—what they are called and the

already been deported. With an extensive historical and author’s note as well as the violence and fear of World War II, this book is best for mature readers who can keep track of complicated story lines. Ages 11 and up. DW

Ella’s Trip to Israel

Vivian Newman; Akemi Gutierrez, illus. Kar-Ben Publishing, 2011. 24 pp. $8.95 ISBN: 978-0-7613-6029-2


lla, along with her parents and her stuffed animal Koofi the Kof (monkey)

sounds they make—from their teacher and from an old man, who gives them small wooden figures of animals he has carved. But most of the other grownups will not speak of the animals that disappeared one night “without a trace.” When Matti dares to ask his father about that night, he will only say that things happened “that we’re not proud of ” and that “not everyone is to blame,” and then he insists that Matti “leave it alone.” But Maya and Matti are determined to solve the mystery. They decide to explore the deep dark forest surrounding their village—where they have been warned never to enter—even though they are terrified of being snatched by the dreaded mountain demon, Nehi. After a long journey, they reach the gate to Nehi’s castle. Maya goes through the gate first and eventually convinces Matti to follow her. It is a magical place, a veritable Garden of Eden, filled with singing birds and every imaginable animal. The children are reluctant to leave but Nehi, concerned that their parents will be

fly to Israel. On the plane Ella spills mango juice on Koofi. As the smiling stewardess wipes the juice off Koofi she says, “Eyn ba’aya. No problem,” which becomes a refrain throughout this delightful book. Ella and her family visit the Kotel where a boy accidently rips Koofi’s tail to which Ella’s mother says, “Eyn ba’aya,” as she sews the tail back on Koofi. When the family visits an outdoor market in Tel Aviv, Ella drips tahini on Koofi to which her mother exclaims, “Eyn ba’aya,” as she cleans Koofi’s fur. At the Dead Sea, Koofi, along with the other tourists, gets covered in mud and in the Gallil, Ella squirts Koofi with milk as she milks a cow. After each incident the phrase “Eyn ba’aya” is repeated. When the family returns home and looks at their picture album they realize that Koofi’s stained fur is a reminder of the places they visited in Israel. Akemi Gutierrez’s pastel watercolor drawings of happy people compliment the text. There is one small inaccuracy in the drawings. Ella’s mother wears a green sleeveless blouse and yellow skirt throughout the book. She would not have been permitted to approach the kotel without covering her arms. This one inaccuracy does not detract from the enjoyment of the book. It is also curious that there is never a depiction of an Israeli flag at any point. Ella’s Trip to Israel is a simple travelogue of Israel for the very youngest readers. For ages 3–5. IG

frantic with worry, urges them to return home. His parting advice is to be sure they never catch the “mocking disease” so common in their village—the teasing and taunting, and the insults and abuse so carelessly heaped on those who are different. This gentle fable about tolerance and hope was originally published in Hebrew in 2005. The excellent, poetic feel of the translation begs to be read aloud. For ages 9–12. SK

Yuvi’s Candy Tree

Lesley Simpson; Janice Lee Porter, illus. Kar Ben Publishing, 2011. 32 pp. $7.95 ISBN: 978-0761356523


uvi’s Candy Tree is a fictional narrative of the real-life journey of Yeuvmert “Yuvi”

Tashome who as a child participated in Operation Moses which enabled about 8,000 Ethiopian Jews to move to Israel, leaving from Sudanese refugee camps. Sadly, many Ethiopian Jews also died while attempting to make aliya. Yuvi left Ethiopia by riding a donkey. This moving picture book conveys a sense of optimism about the future despite the significant challenges faced by Yuvi’s family. Yuvi’s grandmother says, “We are going to our real home, to Israel. In Jerusalem, your wishes will come true.” The suffering and hardship Ethiopian Jews experienced in their efforts to make aliya are well described. For instance, Yuvi and the members of her family are robbed while traveling to a refugee camp in Sudan, and they are often hungry. The illustrations are a good portrayal of the daily struggles many Ethiopian Jews experienced. Moreover, the vivid, colorful illustrations make Yuvi’s story unforgettable and inspiring. This important picture book is recommended for ages 5–8. NW sukkah express, the appealing illustrations and the engaging characters will make this a hit with Jewish preschoolers. For ages 4–8. AD

Engineer Ari and the Sukkah Express

Deborah Bodin Cohen; Shahar Kober, illus. Kar-Ben Publishing, 2010. 28 pp. $7.95 ISBN: 978-0-7613-5128-3


n this sequel to the Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner Engineer Ari and the Rosh Hashanah Ride, Engineer Ari drives his train from Jerusalem to Jaffa, stopping along the way to collect fruit, branches, and a lulav and etrog for his sukkah from the friends he has made along his new route. After it is completed with the help of his engineer friends, Jessie (a woman engineer!) and Nathaniel, he feels sad that his new friends can’t celebrate Sukkot with him in his courtyard. But Jessie and Nathaniel surprise him by taking his sukkah apart, reassembling it, and fastening it to his train, so that he can share it at his stops along his way. Children learn much about the Sukkot holiday and the significance of what is used to construct a sukkah. There is an author’s historical note about the first train from Jerusalem to Jaffa in 1892. The reader learns that Ari’s three new friends are named in Hebrew for the three different branches in the lulav: myrtle, willow, and palm, and that by counting the number of times the names appear in the story, the number of branches in the lulav will be revealed. The idea of the

Heroes of the Holocaust

Rebecca Love Fishkin Compass Point Books, 2011. 64 pp. $8.95 ISBN: 978-0-7565-4391-4


lthough only 64 pages, this slender volume does an excellent job of describing many people involved in saving the lives of Jews during this period. However, it does much more than that. The preface gives an overview of what the Holocaust was and the historical factors that created it. Despite the challenges in addressing this sensitive topic, information about the Holocaust is provided that is appropriate for children as young as ten. The author also provides a timeline that highlights and summarizes the subjects she presented as well as a glossary of vocabulary, a bibliography, and an index. For the most part, the book is written in short declarative

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CHILDREN’S REVIEWS sentences. This style makes it more accessible not only for 4th to 6th graders, but also for older students who may be second language readers. Photographs, maps, and quotations highlight each chapter and add interest to the narrative. People discussed in the book range from the well-known (Miep Geis, Oskar Schindler, and Janusz Korczak), to others less well-known, such as Chiune Sugihara, Japan’s consul in Lithuania, and Nicholas Winton, a British stockbroker. Unfortunately, there is no listing of these courageous people anywhere; they are buried within the index. Resistance in the ghettos and concentration camps is also catalogued. This book is part of a series called The Holocaust published mostly for school libraries. For ages 10–13. MLK

Hoppy Passover

Linda Glaser; Daniel Howarth, illus. Albert Whitman and Company, 2011. 22 pp. $15.99 ISBN 13: 978-0-8075-3380-2


inda Glaser has written another lovely age-appropriate Jewish holiday story for the pre-school population, replete with Jewish content and filled with beautiful family relationships. Two joyful young bunny siblings star in observing Passover with their loving parents and grandparents, who teach them to prepare the Seder plate, set out the haggadot, and sample the matzoh. They even get to ask the four questions and open the door for Elijah the Prophet. Grandma’s delicious dinner is also a treat for everyone. Colorful illustrations complement the simple and happy story. For preschool. SF

and dreamt as a child of being a great magician. Using beautifully inscribed illustrations in black, white, and tan colors that place this firmly in the early 1900’s, Biskup relates how Houdini got his start as a magician when he was spotted by Martin Beck, who ran a vaudeville circuit, and some of his daring magic acts. The book relates how his acts became more and more daring as the need to impress and stun his audiences increased. In one he escaped from a sealed can filled with water. He emerged from a giant sealed paper envelope without tearing it, a boiler that had been welded shut and from a giant football. In another stunt, he escaped from a straitjacket while suspended upside down from a tall building. It seemed there was nothing he could not escape. Apart from being an escape artist par excellence, Houdini also worked as his own publicist by giving interviews, writing books and articles, distributing free, printed flyers, and starring in a few films. Thanks to his stunts and his mastery of publicity, he quickly became the highest paid performer in vaudeville, famous the world over. It’s ironic, then, that he should meet his end in such an easily escapable fashion. In 1926, while on a performing tour, he met a few students in his dressing room before a performance. One student dared him to take ‘body hits’ without being hurt, and began punching him in the abdomen. The punches may have contributed to Houdini’s death of appendicitis at the age of 52. Biskup relates Houdini’s life story with admiration, in a tone that is largely matter-of-fact. Though the book is a quick read, it holds the attention throughout its 32 pages and whets the appetite for more information on the world’s greatest escape artist. For ages 8–12. LK

explain kashrut to very young children will want to purchase this colorfully illustrated rhyming book. The publisher has chosen laminate-like pages, which makes them easy to turn and keep clean. There are only one or two sentences on each page and the pictures correlate well with the text. The book begins by presenting a child in her toy kosher kitchen with her two sets of dishes, one for milk and one for meat. Later, the child and her mother visit the kosher butcher where the child’s mother tells her that beef and chicken are good choices for someone who keeps kosher. The author reminds us that individuals who keep kosher cannot consume milk and meat meals back to back and need to separate those meals by several hours. The author also shows us how to identify kosher foods by looking at their markings. At the book’s close, the reader sees men and boys wearing kipot and eating in a kosher pizza restaurant where the foods are all dairy-based. Throughout the book the sentence, “Keeping kosher every day means eating in a special way.” is repeated as a simple and memorable refrain. The final page of the book is for adults. It explains kashrut in a more complex and sophisticated way. For ages 2–6. MLK

Island Eyes, Island Skies

Richard Levine Feather Tale Books, 2011. 280 pp. $12.95 ISBN: 978-0982926901


Houdini: The Life of the Great Escape Artist

I Keep Kosher

Agnieszka Biskup; Pat Kinsella, illus. Capstone Press, 2011. 32 pp. $7.95 ISBN: 978-142-965-4746

Tami G. Raubvogel & Rebecca Schwartz; Tova Katz, illus. Hachai Publishing, 2011. 22 pp. $10.95 ISBN: 978-1-929628-52-0



n Houdini, Biskup and Kinsella present a graphic biography of Ehrich Weiss, aka Harry Houdini, who was fascinated by magic


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aking a subject that is complex and presenting it simply is an art, and that is what these authors do. Those who want to

eventh grade can sure be a challenge, especially when you are the “new kid in town” and have legs so long that you are considered a “giant mutant monster,” but spunky D.C. Blau takes it all in stride! When she and her family move to Westwood, Long Island, the only person she knows is her cousin Becky; at Becky’s birthday party, D.C. meets bashful Rob Cameron and suddenly, starting a new school seems promising. The two make plans to meet up again over the summer, but circumstances out of their control get in the way; Rob’s father suffers from a heart attack and never recovers, while D.C.’s mother has a miscarriage and is severely depressed. As the new school year begins and their paths con-

CHILDREN’S REVIEWS tinue to cross, a special friendship evolves; sophisticated D.C. appreciates Rob’s sense of humor and has a knack for writing silly, imaginary headlines for their experiences and Rob thinks D.C. can do anything! At first they share school assignments, nature walks, and sporting events but as they spend more time together, they each find a kindred spirit where they can openly share their dreams, hopes, and fears. Their true feelings for each other surface at the “School’s Almost Out Dance” where D.C. proclaims, “All in all, it’s been a pretty good year,” and Rob nervously plans for their first date! As Rob anxiously rides his bike to D.C.’s house, the perfect blue sky is clouded by the smoke of a descending plane that lands on the Blaus’ lawn; Rob turns on his superhero strength, entering a house engulfed in flames and although he manages to rescue D.C. before he collapses, her younger brother Tommy never regains consciousness. Still raw from the pain of the past summer, the tragedy of losing a child is too much to handle; D.C.’s parents make the decision to move and start a new life in Colorado. Although D.C. cannot believe she is leaving her “Runner Boy” behind, she strongly believes the world is so small, that she is destined to meet up with Rob in the future, when the time is right for both of them. This bittersweet story, told in distinct various voices, like “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” by Rachel Cohen, will be a sure hit with fans of Paula Danziger and Judy Blume titles. Although more mainstream than steeped in Jewish culture, Rob’s mother is Jewish and there are small clues of the family’s Jewish identity such as attending events at the Westwood JCC, celebrating Hanukkah, and a favorite Yiddish story that Rob returns to year after year. Memorable, three-dimensional characters, and an intense, engaging plot makes this a great choice for middle school students. Ages 12 and up. DG

Jumping Jenny

Ellen Bari; Raquel Garcia Macia, illus. Kar-Ben Publishing, 2001. 32 pp. $7.95 ISBN: 978-0-7613-5143-6


enny loves to jump. She is constantly jumping over cracks in the sidewalk and

over fences with and without her pogo stick. Her jumping gets her in trouble in school, where she knocks over a box of caterpillars in the science room and bumps into the hot lunch cart in the cafeteria, splattering mashed potatoes in every direction. Her jumping annoys her friends who make fun of her, her teachers who ask her to stop, and her mother who does not allow her to jump in the house. Jenny becomes a hero when her teacher suggests a mitzvah project to help children in Uganda. Jenny decides she will jump 1,000 times without stopping and collects $1 a jump from her friends and family. The Jewish content is minimal, although one of the boys in the racially diverse class wears a kippah, the Hebrew alphabet is displayed on the blackboard, and the teacher mentions that their Ugandan project is a mitzvah. The word mitzvah is neither explained nor translated. The book does not elaborate on Jewish themes or values. Without the single mention of the unexplained word “mitzvah” this book could be about any group of children, not necessarily Jewish children. The brightly colored full page illustrations are cheerful and enhance the story. For ages 3–7. IG

A Land of Big Dreamers: Voices of Courage in America

with her poem “The New Colossus,” which adorns the base of the Statue of Liberty. To alert us to the fragility of nature and our planet, Rachel Carson appears as our nation’s first environmentalist. Marvelous

...introduces children to 13 Americans whose noble dreams, brave words, and courageous acts in difficult times had a profound effect upon the history and current state of our nation. watercolors of these heroes and heroines, backed by images of the deeds they accomplished, fill the pages of this handsomely designed 8” x 10” book. The rich dark colors of maroon, pumpkin, royal and cerulean blues, celery green, and mustard offer pleasing contrast to text and the adjacent delicate water colors. Individual biographies of each “Dreamer” fill the squares of two gorgeous pages, designed as beautifully as the rest of the book, and even the Source Notes are on a beautifully designed page, so in addition to being helpful, they, too add to the handsomeness of this volume. No Jewish content. For ages 6–10. MWP

Lipman Pike: America’s First Home Run King

Neil Waldman Millbrook Press/Lerner, 2011. 31 pp. $16.95 ISBN: 978-0-8225-6910-0

Richard Michelson; Zachary Pullen, illus. Sleeping Bear Press, 2010. 32 pp. $16.95 ISBN: 978-1-58536-465-7



ith this handsome, oversized, magnificently illustrated and designed book, Neil Waldman introduces children to 13 Americans whose noble dreams, brave words, and courageous acts in difficult times had a profound effect upon the history and current state of our nation. Included are: presidents Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, and Barack Obama. Important to civil rights are: Frederick Douglass, Rosa Parks, and Dr. Martin Luther King. Sitting Bull and Cesar Chavez are here for obtaining rights for their respective groups—Native Americans and migrant farm workers. Both Elizabeth Cady Stanton who fought for the abolition of slavery, and Susan B. Anthony, for voting rights for women are included, as well as Emma Lazarus, who led a battle cry for immigrants

ipman Pike is a biography of the first Jewish professional baseball player. Lip, as he was called, was born in 1845 to parents who immigrated to America from Holland. His father owned a haberdashery store in Brooklyn. Lip and his brother Boaz loved to run around the store getting items for the customers as if they were running the bases in a game of baseball. They say Lip was so fast he could outrun a racehorse. The boys loved watching the men play “Base” as they called the game of baseball then. They would even practice batting and throwing the baseball when their parents weren’t watching because Jewish boys didn’t play baseball. It was considered childish, according to their mother. In 1858, after Lip’s bar mitzvah, he was invited to join the junior base team and play his first amateur match. On his first up

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Barb Rosenstock is the author of The Littlest Mountain, a new picture book from Kar-Ben about the legend of Mt Sinai (which is reviewed on p. 71). After a long career in advertising, Barb started writing for children while completing a master’s degree in teaching. She lives outside of Chicago with her husband, sons and two big poodles, who all keep her sane (or insane) depending on the day. In addition to The Littlest Mountain (KarBen, 2011), her first book Fearless: The Story of Racing Legend Louise Smith (Dutton 2010) is on the 2011 Top 10 ALA/Amelia Bloomer Book List. Upcoming titles include: The Camping Trip that Changed America, with Mordicai Gerstein (Dial, 2012) and William’s Windmill (Knopf, 2013.) I met Barb through our mutual friend, Esther Hershenhorn. I’m thrilled Barb was willing to share her thoughts about her new book.

What inspired you to write The Littlest Mountain? One line in Bruce Feiler’s book Walking the Bible. He mentions a midrash legend about a contest between the mountains in a chapter on looking for Mount Sinai. I was curious (which is how these darn book ideas always start) and asked Rabbi Scott Looper from our local Congregation Or Shalom for help. Rabbi knew the legend of “The Contest of the Mountains.” He provided me with translations from Hebrew, and a few additional adult books that had interpretations of its meaning. From that point on it was just a matter of characterizing the mountains, researching a bit about their history/lore/location and writing my way into some interesting word rhythms and patterns.

Do the illustrations capture your vision of the story? This is probably the most difficult story to illustrate that I’ve written. I do not envy Melanie Hall the illustration task for The Littlest Mountain. In my head I actually had mountains circling and speaking to each other, with faces and the ability to move and dance. Picture book Illustrators tell the same story visually in their style. Melanie took the parts of The Littlest Mountain that spoke to her and made a cohesive, natural looking series of pictures that told the story her way and I thank her for her vision and terrific work.

What is the best part of being a writer? It’s a tie between two things: The freedom to follow my curiosity wherever it leads and the great fun and satisfaction that I get when speaking with children in

at bat, he hit a home run. When Lip turned 21 he moved to Philadelphia to play for the Athletics and got paid $20 a week. Lip was the team’s best player, but when the team learned that he was the only one paid and he was a Jew they voted him off the team. He then joined the New Jersey Irvingtons and then the New York Mutuals, when they


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schools or libraries. A morning in a research library followed by an afternoon school visit would be the perfect day! OK, that’s not all in my perfect day, it would include a dinner of my husband’s BBQ salmon with cole slaw, hugs from my two boys, a long walk with the dogs, and about two hours work on a new book idea. Oh, and dessert, we have to have dessert. I’d be so tired after that day I’d sleep for a week! Which is another nice thing about being a writer, afternoon naps.

What is a fun fact about you? I have this weird ability to remember the lyrics of any song after hearing it once. I was a Gleek-type kid in high school, so I know almost every Broadway musical score written from the 1930’s into the 1980’s and any Top 20 song, any year. I wish I’d lived in Cole Porter’s Paris apartment about 1918.

What is your favorite holiday? Thanksgiving, which is like a giant summary holiday, emphasizing what all holidays are about—taking a step back to realize and appreciate our blessings. I like that people in the U.S. of all faiths and cultures celebrate this holiday together. Even though it’s a bit melancholy, I also love Yom Kippur. The bittersweet language, the image of the book of life, speaks to my heart. I feel a fresh start at Yom Kippur services every year. We can all use some extra chances to put things right. Plus there’s nothing like my mother-in-law’s kugel after a day of fasting! (with all these food references, can you tell fasting doesn’t come easy to me???) Thanks, Barb! It’s been great getting to know you. To learn more about Barb and her books, visit her website at

Barbara Bietz is a freelance writer and children’s book reviewer. She is currently a member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee. Barbara is the author of the middle grade book, Like a Maccabee. She has a blog dedicated to Jewish books for children at

formed professional teams, and eventually became captain of the Troy Haymakers. At the end of the story there is a section called: “The Rest Is History,” which tells about the day in 1873, when Lip outran a racehorse in a hundred-yard sprint. He retired from baseball and opened up a haberdashery store like his father. He died in 1893 after playing

baseball for about 40 years. The Author’s Note tells about the beginning of baseball and a little of its history. The illustrations are large, appealing, sepia toned images with oversized heads that look like caricatures. They help to impart the look and feel of the historical era. Richard Michelson’s research shows in the interesting details he has includ-

CHILDREN’S REVIEWS ed of the time period. A child does not have to be a baseball fan to learn a lot from this enjoyable book. For ages 6–10. BS

The Littlest Mountain

Barb Rosenstock; Melanie Hall, illus. Kar-Ben Publishing, 2011. 32 pp. $17.95; $7.95 (pbk.) ISBN: 978-0-7613-4495-7 ISBN: 978-0-7613-4497-1 (pbk.)


n a dignified small picture book, narrative and landscape blend lyrically to tell the story of how God came to choose Mount Sinai as the place to give the Ten Commandments. Rosenstock adapted this ancient legend of “The Contest of the Mountains” from the Midrash Bereshit Rabbah. People have not been treating each other well, and God wants to give them rules to live by. Each mountain steps forward to claim the honor. Mount Carmel brags about its lushness; Mount Herman boasts about the popularity of its peaks and streams; Mount Tabor claims a place in history for rising above the floodwaters. After others, too, trumpet their superiority, God selects rocky Mount Sinai for humbly staying out of the fray and trusting God to make the decision. Language is direct and chiseled. Though the mountains are personified in words, they are always mountains in the illustrations, grandly painted in a pastel palette that bleeds to the edges of double-page spreads. In some, insets frame the actions of people. Sources are given. All in all a solid choice. For ages 3–7. SE


Leora Freedman Sumach Press, 2011. 324 pp. $14.95 ISBN: 978-1894549868


eing 16 in sleepy, suburban Connecticut proves difficult for Zoe Diamond; it’s 1973 and while her peers are experimenting with sex and drugs, Zoe finds herself incredi-

bly bored and feels there must be a greater purpose to her life. Her parents seem to be fighting about the same things all the time and her father is more concerned with grading papers for the history classes he teaches at the other high school across town than his two daughters, while her mom enthusiastically engages in her consciousness raising group and doesn’t have time for family responsibilities like cooking and cleaning. Zoe often escapes to her Grandmother Esther, who lives in Greenwich Village and is empathetic of the difficulties of being a teenager. Esther tries to open Zoe’s eyes to worldly issues such as the state of Israel and being in love, sharing stories of how she met Zoe’s grandfather. Zoe’s parents try in their own way to instill a Jewish identity in their daughters by observing the High Holidays, making time for a Hanukkah dinner of latkes, and sending Zoe to Hebrew high school after school. At the temple, Zoe comes in contact with a young Israeli teacher, Rivka Lev, who disapproves of Zoe and her two friends, Danielle and Naomi, who treat life as an endless party and laugh at Rivka’s emotionally spun stories about wartime in Israel. Zoe, engrossed in the book Hannah Senesh: Her Life and Diary, is strongly drawn

...strongly portrays universal issues of growing up and the difficult choices that teens of all cultures make as they explore their sexual orientation and grapple with peer pressure. to Rivka , who echoes many of the same qualities of this tragic heroine and provokes Zoe to challenge herself, by making positive choices instead of spiraling downward under her friends’ influence of marijuana and alcohol. Finding comfort in her friendship with Rivka, Zoe confides in her concern about her best friend, Naomi, who appears to be very depressed and contemplating suicide, and slowly turning into a stranger as she spends more time with her boyfriend Tad. This multi-layered coming of age story strongly portrays universal issues of growing up and the difficult choices that teens of all cultures make as they explore their sexual orientation and grapple with peer pressure. Author Leora Freedman earnestly addresses these issues and does not shy away from the truth, as bitter as it can be. Coupled with the title Stop Pretending, What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy by Sonya Sones, this would be a great catalyst for an eye opening book discussion. Ages 14 and up. DG

Picnic at Camp Shalom

Jacqueline Jules; Deborah Melmon, illus. Kar-Ben Publishing, 2011. 32 pp. $7.95 ISBN: 978-0-7613-6662-1


ampers Carly and Sara become fast friends. Carly volunteers to bring Sara her mail, and she is very excited to learn that Sara’s last name is “Frankfurter.” But when she says “like the hot dog,” Sara is insulted and does not want to be friends. As the campers eat lunch and participate in activities, Sara avoids Carly. When their bunk practices to sing after the Shabbat dinner, Sara is still distant. As the campers enjoy Shabbat dinner, the counselor suggests that Carly introduce herself and Sara before they sing a duet. When Sara hears that Carly’s last name is “hamburger, like chopped meat,” she realizes that Carly was not making fun of her, and the girls enjoy the Sunday picnic together. Friendship and Jewish camping are highlighted, and Deborah Melmon’s adorable color illustrations complement the text. While describing friendships and full days of camp, there is also a lesson to be learned about dealing with friends and trying to make things right after an unfortunate faux pas. The counselor encourages Carly to “give Sara some space,” rather than force a face-to-face confrontation. The book can also be used for a language arts exercise in finding similar or opposite last names (Black, White; Silverman, Goldman). This book would serve as a wonderful introduction for a new camper, Jewish or not. For ages 5–8. KSP

The Queen Who Saved Her People

Tilda Balsley; Ilene Richard, illus. Kar-Ben Publishing, 2011. 32 pp. $7.95 ISBN: 978-0-7613-5093-4


entle humor, clever rhyme, dynamic illustrations, and biblical accuracy deliver an energetic, age-appropriate holiday story through a dexterous narrative that converts to a drama script. Author Tilda Balsley gifts the picture book crowd, their teachers, and parents with an inviting look at Purim’s

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Jewish Book World




arcia Posner talks with Neil Waldman, whose most recent book A Land of Big Dreamers: Voices of Courage in America, was published in spring, 2011. A review of this title can be found on page 69. Marcia Posner: Neil, I love your books so much that I hesitate to part with them after reviewing them. By now I have quite a collection. Tell us how you became an illustrator. What is the back story? Neil Waldman: I was raised in the blue-collar backstreets of the Bronx. My father and grandfather were factory workers. Our neighbors were plumbers, policemen, and janitors. But I always loved to draw and my mother encouraged me. In such a world, however, I had no idea that a college education might offer the chance to earn a living doing what I loved most, drawing and painting. Still, after high school, I did go on to college. And it worked! I have been fortunate to be able to illustrate many, many books, as you know, and support my family while doing so. After illustrating more than 50 books, dream images began bubbling up inside me. I imagined myself returning to the neighborhoods of my youth, finding young artists there, and helping to provide them with an escape route from the ghetto. And so, with the help of the Children’s Aid Society, I created The Fred Dolan Art Academy. It is a free high school program that teaches the fundamentals of drawing and painting, builds student portfolios, and aids the students in the college entry process. We have been in existence for five years now. To date, 14 students have graduated from the academy—all 14 going on to college. Our graduates have been accepted at the Rhode Island School of Design, the Chicago Art Institute, N.Y.U., F.I.T., and a host of others.

biblical and holiday lore. Her compact tale holds attention through strong, well described characters who are distinct personalities able to shine in the play format, achieved through the smart, but simple, use of color in each character’s dialogue. Without straying from Megillat Esther, Balsley enchants with heroine Esther, goody Mordechai, baddy Haman, flawed human King Ahasheurus, and a rich supporting group of others from Vashti to Haman’s wife. The narrator keeps motive and action moving in orderly fashion in both the narrative and dramatic form without spoiling the fun. The rhymes are excellent—unforced while carefully maintaining established rhythm. The layout highlights fun asides in speech balloons to underline or embroider the story. Balsley initiated this format in her 2008 Let My People Go, where she was teamed with illustrator Ilene Richard. As in their earlier book, here Richard’s illustrations are charming, mobile, active, and flavored with Near Eastern sensibility. They support the text while imagining what these historical characters looked like and did. This picture book is well focused, well thought-out, and well delivered. For ages 5–9. EGC


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MP: You are a “Big Dreamer” yourself. Does the book under review connect in some way with your wishes and dreams for the children in the Fred Dolan Art Academy? NW: Absolutely. The Land of Big Dreamers details the remarkable possibilities that have filled the history of this great nation. It is a book about courage, and the fulfillment of dreams that have always been possible here. It is dedicated to the teachers of the Fred Dolan Art Academy, people who exemplify that ideal by helping underprivileged artists to transform their lives, and realize their own American dreams. MP: That’s beautiful. NW: It is really wonderful, but we now find ourselves in serious trouble. In the current economic climate, our funds have been cut by 40%. I’ve been told that in order to retain the program, I will have to begin turning students away, reduce the number of classes, and purchase inferior art supplies. In order to keep our school afloat, we have to raise at least $15,000 by the coming school year. MP: Perhaps our JBW readers can help you fund the Academy; after all, it trains the future illustrators of children’s books. NW: That would be wonderful! Let’s try: I am asking for your help. $150 will provide art supplies for one student for a year. $600 will provide art supplies for that same student over the four years of high school. Tax deductible donations should be made out to the Fred Dolan Art Academy, and mailed to The Children’s Aid Society, 105 East 22nd Street, New York, NY 10010. Please, give what you can. Any amount will help. Without your help, we will have to close our doors. Marcia Weiss Posner, Ph.D., is a librarian and program director at the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County.

The Rooftop Adventure of Minnie and Tessa

Holly Littlefied; Ted Hammond and Richard Pimentel Carbajal, illus. Graphic Universe, 2011. 31 pp. $8.95 ISBN: 978-0-7613-7071-0


ooftop is the story of two friends: Minnie, a Jew born of European immigrant parents, and Tessa, a Catholic from an Italian immigrant family. Both girls are forced to work at the sewing factory under terrible and dangerous conditions from an early age in order to help support their families. Minnie could never let her father know about Tessa as he would never approve. Although fictionalized, this tale is based on the real life accounts

of those who survived the infamous and deadly Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire on March 25, 1911 in New York City. Interwoven throughout is the Jewish/Catholic friendship dynamic that comes to a tidy closure when Tessa saves Minnies life causing Minnie’s father to accept the friendship by default. Presented in graphic novel form, the dark intensity of the illustrations engages the reader. The darkened panels and marvelously meticulous artwork depict the poor working conditions and capture the seriousness of the predicament the girls have found themselves in. This is one story in the History’s Kid Heroes series. In the back of the book is more information about the fire and additional recommended book resources to explore. For ages 9–11. DA

Find these reviews online later this fall:


Please note that all book descriptions have been taken from information provided by the publisher.

AMERICAN JEWISH STUDIES FROM THE JEWISH HEARTLAND: TWO CENTURIES OF MIDWEST FOODWAYS Ellen F. Steinberg and Jack H. Prost University of Illinois Press, 2011. 208 pp. $32.95 ISBN: 978-0252036200 This work takes readers on a tour of Midwestern Jewish cooking, revealing its distinctive fusing of local foods and traditional dishes, and the culture that goes with it. Steinberg and Prost pay special attention to the impact of mass migration and Americanization on these foodways, and include dozens of recipes, like cornmeal-coated rye bread and cranberrystudded baklava.

JEWISH STUDIES AT THE CROSSROADS OF ANTHROPOLOGY AND HISTORY: AUTHORITY, DIASPORA, TRADITION Ra’anan S. Boustan, Oren Kosansky, and Marina Rustow, eds. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011. 448 pp. $69.95 ISBN: 978-0812243031 This collection studies Jewish experience with diverse materials and disciplines. Focusing on three long-central concepts—authority, diaspora, and tradition—these scholars engage with them in novel ways, in order to chart new directions in Jewish studies as well as in other areas.





Claire Datnow Media Mint Publishing, 2010. 218 pp. $14.25 ISBN: 978-0984277834 This memoir combines well-documented history and personal experience through the life of a Jewish girl and young woman in apartheid South Africa. Raised in an insular community, Datnow learned to see the truth and confront the wrongdoings of that era.

THE CHOOSING: A RABBI’S JOURNEY FROM SILENT NIGHTS TO HIGH HOLY DAYS Andrea Myers Rutgers University Press, 2011. 208 pp. $19.95 ISBN: 978-0813549576 This memoir of reinvention and self-discovery fuses humor, personal anecdote, and rabbinic insight in the process of telling the tale of Myers’s unique path. Born Christian, her awakening spiritual and sexual consciousness led her to convert to Judaism, come out as a lesbian, and become a rabbi, partner, and parent.

DEPARTURES: MEMOIRS Paul Zweig Other Press, 2011. 240 pp. $14.95 ISBN: 978-1590512913 This memoir recounts the life of this prominent critic, intellectual, poet, and teacher, from hedonistic Parisian youth to maturity and finally a long battle with cancer and coming to terms with death.

Yale Strom OR-TAV Music Publications, 2010. 128 pp. $26.95 ISBN: 978-9655050554 This biography chronicles the life and work of a master musician who learned and honed his art in Czarist Russia before immigrating to the United States, where he would become a pioneering and acclaimed klezmer musician.

SAFTA’S DIARIES: INTIMATE DIARIES OF A RELIGIOUS ZIONIST WOMAN Bina Appleman; Shera Aranoff Tuchman, trans. KTAV, 2011. $39.50 ISBN: 978-1602801684 This book uses the diaries of an orphaned Polish Jewish immigrant to pre-World War I America to describe her most intimate struggles, disappointments, and joys, and comment on Jewish happenings in her local context as well as those moments of great peril and triumph on the international stage.

CONTEMPORARY JEWISH LIFE NACHAS RUACH: TORAH-BASED PSYCHOTHERAPY AND TOOLS FOR GROWTH AND HEALING Naftali Fish Targum Press, 2011. $29.95 ISBN: 978-1568715599 This work offers a framework, the Nachas Ruach Treatment Model, for understanding the relationship between traditional Judaism and contemporary psychotherapy.

Fall 5771/2011

Jewish Book World




for peace amidst the Second Intifada and political intrigue.

Linda Cohen Seal Press, 2011. 220 pp. $16.00 ISBN: 978-1580053655 This work chronicles the author’s journey from the sorrow of her father’s passing to inspiration through simple daily acts of kindness.


EVERYONE HELPS, EVERYONE WINS: HOW ABSOLUTELY ANYONE CAN PITCH IN, HELP OUT, GIVE BACK AND MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE David T. Levinson Plume, 2011. 272 pp. $16.00 ISBN: 978-0452297388 This useful guide offers both traditional and offbeat ways to inspire people to pitch in and give back to their communities.

FICTION THE DOUBLE LIFE OF ALFRED BUBER David Schmahmann The Permanent Press, 2011. 198 pp. $28.00 ISBN: 978-1579622183 This novel introduces us to a lonely man with a clean public life and a secret private one. When these two meet, he can no longer parse the real from the unreal, and must decide whether or not to continue a respectable life that brings him no happiness.

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD AND VIRGINS Pamela Peled Miriam’s Legacy Publishing, 2010. $18.00 ISBN: 978-9780973407 This novel is a love story about the tribulations of a modern Israeli woman yearning


Jewish Book World

Fall 5771/2011

Claire Datnow Media Mint Publishing, 2011 ISBN: 978-0984277858 This novel is a multigenerational saga chronicling nine colorful lives and a Torah scroll. The tale of the scroll’s odyssey from Israel to Lithuania to America involves cataclysmic events that shape the fate of a family and a people, and cautions against losing the moral compass and source of meaning inherent in tradition.

HISTORY A CROSS TOO HEAVY: POPE PIUS XII AND THE JEWS OF EUROPE Paul O’Shea Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. 288 pp. $28.00 ISBN: 978-0230110809 This history examines the life and policies of Pius XII, whose role as silent Nazi partner in the Holocaust has been hotly disputed, and argues that Pius was neither a villain nor a “lamb without stain,” but a man reflecting the moral crisis facing Christians at the time.


Molly Jong-Fast Villard, 2011. 256 pp. $15.00 ISBN: 978-0345501899 This novel takes us into the life of an Upper East Side socialite who will stop at nothing to protect her family and social status.

Michah Gottlieb Oxford University Press, 2011. 224 pp. $55.00 ISBN: 9780195398946 This study explores Moses Mendelssohn’s thought in the context of Enlightenment and Jewish philosophy, arguing that the faith vs. reason debate is best understood primarily as a contest between competing conceptions of human dignity and freedom.



Mark Alpert Touchstone, 2011. 320 pp. $24.99 ISBN: 978-1416595342 This novel, using the Middle East as a backdrop, is a fast-paced thriller about a brilliant boy with autism, who is kidnapped after having memorized a theory that can explain all the forces of nature and can be used to destroy the world. The book follows his parents’ search as they try to find him before the horrific power of the theory can be unleashed.

Moshe Idel Yale University Press, 2011. 512 pp. $55.00 ISBN: 978-0300126266 This survey analyzes three major kabbalistic schools of thought in Italy—the ecstatic, theosophical-theurgical, and astromagical— and how they interacted with one another and with the nascent Christian Kabbalah in the context of European occultism.





Yuri Dojc and Katya Krausova Indiana University Press, 2011. 128 pp. $24.95 ISBN: 978-0253223777 This book features photographs of oncevibrant Jewish communities throughout Slovakia, focusing on material remains and the few human survivors of a once-thriving community.


THE MIXED MULTITUDE: JACOB FRANK AND THE FRANKIST MOVEMENT, 1755–1816 Pawel Maciejko University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011. 376 pp. $65.00 ISBN: 978-0812243154 This award-winning history, based on extensive archival research, considers a controversial 18th-century figure in Ottoman Turkey and the profoundly influential heterodox movement he inspired, and offers a new perspective on Enlightenment-era JewishChristian relations.

Gerald Steinacher Oxford University Press, 2011. 400 pp. $34.95 ISBN: 978-0199576869 This book tells the story of Nazi war criminals’ escape from justice at the end of World War II, and of the key roles played by the Red Cross, the Vatican, and the major powers in enabling that escape.

THE HOLOCAUST OBJECT IN POLISH AND POLISH-JEWISH CULTURE Bozena Shallcross Indiana University Press, 2011. 200 pp. $29.95 ISBN: 978-0253355645 This book delineates the ways in which Holocaust objects are represented in Polish and Polish-Jewish texts written after World War II.




Sharman Kadish Yale University Press, 2011. 412 pp. $75.00 ISBN: 978-0300170511 This work is illustrated with previously unpublished images and photographs of Jewish religious buildings in Britain and Ireland, and traces the architectural influence of these synagogues to the High Victorian period. Obscure and sometimes underappreciated synagogue architects, and the relationship between architectural style and minority identity, are also discussed.

Shlomo Sand Semiotext, 2011. 264pp. $16.95 ISBN: 978-1584350965 This book examines how both Jewish and Israeli intellectuals contributed to the idea of a Jewish nation before the Zionist movement and calls into question the foundation myths of the Israeli state.

MODERN JEWISH THOUGHT & EXPERIENCE BLINDING PAIN, SIMPLE TRUTH: CHANGING YOUR LIFE THROUGH BUDDHIST MEDITATION Richard Ellis Rainbow Books, 2011. 239 pp. $16.95 ISBN: 978-1568251257 In this self-help book Richard Ellis tells how he learned, through daily meditation and the study of Buddhism, to transform incapacitating physical and emotional suffering into psychic healing and joy. Through Buddhist spiritual study, Ellis—and, in turn, the reader—also gains fresh perspective and insight into the Hebrew Bible.

CREATING SPACE BETWEEN PESHAT AND DERASH Hayyim J. Angel Ktav, 2011. 352 pp. $25.00 ISBN: 978-1602801769 This work of literary analysis provides the author’s unique methodology for biblical text study.

FREEDOM JOURNEYS: THE TALE OF EXODUS AND WILDERNESS ACROSS MILLENNIA Arthur O. Waskow and Phyllis O. Berman Jewish Lights, 2011. 300 pp. $24.99 ISBN: 978-1580234450 This reflective work examines the various tellings and retellings of the Hebrews’ liberation from Egypt, and explores how it applies to all peoples even in our own time. The story, which inspired not only Jewish but also Muslim and African-American communities (among many others), is analyzed here from social justice, ecological, and feminist perspectives.

Fall 5771/2011

Jewish Book World


The Jewish Book Council is Blogging

The Jewish Book Council is Blogging

Keep up-to-date every Keep day withup-to-date the latest Jewish every day with the latest literary news from the JBC literary news Jewish and from from the JBC and around the web

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JOHN LENNON AND THE JEWS: A PHILOSOPHICAL RAMPAGE Dr. Ze’ev Maghen Bottom Books, 2011. 316 pp. $12.50 ISBN: 978-1453643815 This work, an expansion of the author’s 1999 essay in Azure, “Imagine: On Love and Lennon,” argues for a spiritual-intellectual reorientation and a proud declaration of Jewishness, passion, and activism.

WOMEN’S STUDIES WOMEN AND THE MESSIANIC HERESY OF SABBATAI ZEVI, 1666-1816 Ada Rapoport-Albert Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2011. 402 pp. $64.50 ISBN: 978-1904113843 This work traces the diverse manifestations of a redemptive, liberationist attitude to women in the Sabbatian movement (and their important involvement therein), and contrasts it with the male-centric, mainline Jewish mystical tradition.

VisitVisit the Jewish the Jewish Book Book Council’s Council’s website for thewebsite for the latest blog posts. latest 76

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CONTRIBUTORS MIRIAM BRADMAN ABRAHAMS (MBA) is Cuban born, Brooklyn bred, lives in Woodmere, NY, Hadassah Nassau Region’s One Book Coordinator and liaison to the Jewish Book Network, Hewlett Hadassah Herald editor, and longtime school book fair chairwoman. BARBARA ANDREWS (BA) holds a Masters in Jewish Studies from the University of Chicago, has been an adult Jewish education instructor, and works in the corporate world as a professional adult educator. SARAH ARONSON (SA) is the author of the YA novel, Head Case, and the forthcoming MG novel, Beyond Lucky. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College. Check out her classes on writers at DRORA ARUSSY (DA), Ed.D., is an educational consultant who specializes in integrating Jewish and secular studies, the arts into education, and creative teaching for excellence in Jewish education. She is the mother to four school-age children and has taught from pre-school through adult. Drora is an adjunct professor of Hebrew language at Drew University. RANDALL C. BELINFANTE (RCB) has served as librarian of the American Sephardi Federation for nearly ten years. He has conducted research on a variety of topics, including Rabbi Aqiva’s views on women, visual imagery in the Dead Sea Scrolls, and Rabbi Isaac Cohen Belinfante (a preacher in 18th C. Amsterdam). He is currently preparing to carry out a survey of Sephardic archival materials in the U.S. BARBARA M. BIBEL (BMB) is a librarian at the Oakland Public Library in Oakland, CA and at Congregation Netivot Shalom, Berkeley, CA. JACK BIELER (JB) is Rabbi of Kemp Mill Synagogue in Silver Spring, MD. He has been associated with Jewish day school education for over 30 years. R. Bieler served as a mentor for the Bar Ilan University Lookstein Center Principals’ Seminar and he has published and lectured extensively on the philosophy of Modern Orthodox education. JEFF BOGURSKY (JHB) reads a lot, writes a little, and talks quite a bit. He is a media executive and expert in digital media. BILL BRENNAN (BB) is an independent scholar and entertainer who has taught literature and

the humanities at Princeton and The University of Chicago. He holds degrees from Yale, Princeton, and Northwestern. LINDA F. BURGHARDT (LFB) is a New York-based journalist and author who has contributed commentary, breaking news, and features to major newspapers across the U.S., in addition to having three non-fiction books published. She writes frequently on Jewish topics. HENRY L. CARRIGAN, JR. (HLC) writes about books for Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, BookPage, and ForeWord. He has written for numerous newspapers including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Charlotte Observer, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, The Orlando Sentinel, The Christian Science Monitor, and The Washington Post Book World. SUSAN M. CHAMBRÉ (SMC) is a professor of sociology at Baruch College. She studies Jewish philanthropy, civil society, and health policy. Her recent books are Fighting for Our Lives: New York’s AIDS Community and the Politics of Disease and Patients, Consumers and Civil Society. ELLEN G. COLE (EGC), the librarian of the Levine Library of Temple Isaiah in Los Angeles, is a past judge of the Sydney Taylor Book Awards and a past chairperson of that committee. She is a co-author of the AJL guide, Excellence in Jewish Children’s Literature. Ellen is the recipient of two major awards for contribution to Judaic Librarianship, the Fanny Goldstein Merit Award from the Association of Jewish Libraries and the Dorothy Schroeder Award from the Association of Jewish Libraries of Southern California. She is on the board of AJLSC. DANI CRICKMAN (DCC) is the artistic director at the Jewish Book Council and currently teaches English in China. ANDREA DAVIDSON (AD) is the librarian of The Temple-Tifereth Israel in Beechwood, OH. She holds and M.L.S. from the University of Michigan and is a former member of the Sydney Taylor Book Awards Committee. ERIKA DREIFUS (ED) is the author of Quiet Americans: Stories. Based in New York, she is a contributing editor for The Writer magazine and Fiction Writers Review. Web: ELEANOR EHRENKRANZ (EE) received her Ph.D.

from NYU and has taught at Stern College, NYU, Mercy College, and at Pace University. She has lectured widely on Jewish literature and is working on an anthology of Jewish poetry. SHARON ELSWIT (SE), author of The Jewish Story Finder and The East Asian Story Finder, is head librarian at Claremont Preparatory School in New York City and an adjunct professor with the Palmer School of Library and Information Science. 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. NORMAN H. FINKELSTEIN (NHF), a retired public school librarian, is a long-term instructor at Boston’s Hebrew College. He is the author of fifteen nonfiction books and the recipient of the Golden Kite Honor Award for Nonfiction and two National Jewish Book Awards. His most recent book is the JPS Guide to American Jewish History (Jewish Publication Society). SETH J. FRANTZMAN (SJF) received his Ph.D. from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem where he currently holds a Post-Doctoral Fellowship. He is a columnist for the Jerusalem Post and Fellow at the Jerusalem Institute of Market Studies. 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. BOB GOLDFARB (BG) is the president of the Center for Jewish Culture and Creativity, a regular contributor to the newsletter, and writes the blog “At Home Abroad” for the Los Angeles Jewish Journal. He lives in Jerusalem. ILKA GORDON (IG) has a Masters in Education from Boston University and an M.L.I.S. from Kent State University. She is a librarian at Siegal College of Judaic Studies in Cleveland. WALLACE GREENE (WG), Ph.D., has taught Jewish history at several universities in the NY/NJ metropolitan area. PHILIP K. JASON (PKJ) is professor emeritus of English from the United States Naval Acade-

Fall 5771/2011

Jewish Book World


CONTRIBUTORS my. A former editor of Poet Lore magazine, he is the author or editor of twenty books, including Acts and Shadows: The Vietnam War in American Literary Culture and Don’t Wave Goodbye: The Children’s Flight from Nazi Persecution to American Freedom. SUSAN KANTOR (SK) is a senior writer/editor for Girl Scouts of the USA. She is a published children’s book author, has worked as children’s book editor and is a past judge for the National Jewish Book Awards in the illustrated children’s book category. MARGE KAPLAN (MLK) is a retired English as a Second Language teacher. She is a consultant for the children’s literature group for the Roseville, MN school system and is a storyteller of Jewish tales. CAROL KAUFMAN (CK) is the editor of Jewish Book World. LAUREN KRAMER (LK) is a Vancouver-based journalist, wife and mother with a lifelong passion for literature. Born in Cape Town, South Africa she has won awards for her writing and reported from many corners of the world. Read more of her work at RENITA LAST (RL) is a member of Hadassah Nassau Region’s Education Committee. She is currently involved in volunteer work at the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County. A retired teacher of the Gifted and Talented, she participates in book clubs and writing projects. JUDD KRUGER LEVINGSTON (JKL), Ph.D. and rabbi, is director of Jewish studies at Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy (formerly Akiba Hebrew Academy) in Bryn Mawr, PA. A teacher of middle and upper school students, he is the author of Sowing the Seeds of Character: The Moral Education of Adolescents in Public and Private Schools (Praeger Press, 2009), reviewed in Jewish Book World in Spring, 2010. STEVEN A. LUEL (SAL), Ph.D., is associate professor of education and psychology at Touro College, NY. He is a developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst in private practice. He is co-editor (with Paul Marcus) of Psychoanalytic Reflections on the Holocaust: Selected Essays. MICHAL HOSCHANDER MALEN (MHM) is a librarian and editor of reference books. She is the incoming children’s editor of Jewish Book World.


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PAUL MARCUS (PM), Ph.D., a psychoanalyst, is the author of Being for the Other: Emmanuel Levinas, Ethical Living and Psychoanalysis and In Search of the Good Life: Emmanuel Levinas, Psychoanalysis and the Art of Living. TERI MARKSON (TM) has been a children’s librarian for over 18 years. She is currently the acting senior librarian at the Valley Plaza Branch Library in North Hollywood, CA. PENNY METSCH (PGM), M.L.S., formerly a school librarian on Long Island and in New York City, now focuses on early literacy programs in Hoboken, NJ. NAOMI MORSE (NM) managed a public library children’s room in Montgomery County, Maryland for many years, and then worked as head librarian at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School Lower School in Rockville, Maryland. She has served on AJL’s Sydney Taylor Committee, and last year (2008) was a member of ALA’s Caldecott Committee. She is an independent book reviewer. MARK D. NANOS (MDN), Ph.D., is the author of Mystery of Romans, winner of the 1996 National Jewish Book Award, Charles H. Revson Award in Jewish-Christian Relations. KATHE PINCHUCK (KSP), M.L.I.S., is the librarian of Congregation Beth Sholom in Teaneck, New Jersey. She is currently the chair of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee of the Association of Jewish Libraries. JOSHUA PLATT (JP), an avid baseball fan and collector of Jewish baseball autographs, publishes CAROL POLL (CP), Ph.D., is a professor of sociology 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, the sociology of marriage, family and gender roles and the sociology of American Jews. MARCIA WEISS POSNER (MWP), Ph.D., is a librarian and program director at the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County. PINCHAS ROTH (PR) is a graduate student in the Talmud department at Hebrew University, Jerusalem. PHIL SANDICK (PS) is a graduate of the Univer-

sity of Pennsylvania and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has taught courses in literature, composition, and creative writing since 2006. Phil is currently studying rhetoric and composition at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. PENINNAH SCHRAM (PES), well-known storyteller and author, is professor of speech and drama at Yeshiva University’s Stern College. Her latest book is an illustrated anthology, The Hungry Clothes and Other Jewish Folktales (Sterling Publishing) and a CD, The Minstrel & The Storyteller, with singer/guitarist Gerard Edery (Sefarad Records). She is a recipient of a Covenant Award for Outstanding Jewish Educator and the 2003 National Storytelling Network’s Lifetime Achievement Award. SYDELLE SHAMAH (SS) has been leading book club discussions for many years, and is a published science fiction writer. She was president of the Ruth Hyman Jewish Community Center of Monmouth County, NJ. EDWARD SHAPIRO (ESS) is professor of history emeritus at Seton Hall University and the author of A Time for Healing: American Jewry Since World II (1992), We Are Many: Reflections on American Jewish History and Identity (2005), and Crown Heights: Blacks, Jews, and the 1991 Brooklyn Riot (2006). He is a resident of New Jersey. BARBARA SILVERMAN (BS) has an M.L.S. 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. 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. JACLYN TROP (JT) is a business reporter for The Detroit News and a graduate of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. MARON L. WAXMAN (MLW), retired editorial director, special projects, at the American Museum of Natural History, was also an editorial director at HarperCollins and Book-ofthe-Month Club. She also leads editorial workshops.

CONTRIBUTORS SAM WHITE (SW) lives in Brooklyn. DINA WEINSTEIN (DW) is a Miami, FL-based journalist. She is currently working on a series of articles and an exhibition about author, illustrator and cartoonist Syd Hoff for his

2012 centennial. She can be reached at NATHAN WEISSLER (NW), 17, lives in Chevy Chase, MD. He has Asperger Syndrome, diagnosed at age 4. He is in the 11th grade at

the “Sulam” Special Education Program at the Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy in Rockville, MD. He can be reached at

For book club resources, please visit Be sure to check back often, as new resources are added monthly!

Fall 5771/2011

Jewish Book World


INDEX An index of all titles included in the Fall 2011 issue of Jewish Book World Title, Author, BR, CBR or BN, Page

BR = Book Review CBR = Children’s Book Review BN = Books of Note

Title, Author, BR, CBR or BN, Page 1,000 Mitzvahs, Cohen, BN Anya’s War, Alban, CBR Arabs of the Jewish Faith, Schreier, BR Architects of the Holocaust, Stille, CBR Around the World in One Shabbat, Bernhard, CBR Behind the Walled Garden of Apartheid, Datnow, BN Between Rashi and Maimonides, Kanarfogel, Sokolow, BR Bible Now, Elliott, Dolansky, BR Biblical Seductions, Rapoport, BR Blinding Pain, Simple Truth, Ellis, BN Bratislava Pressburg Pozsony, Neurath, BR Breaking the Silence, Mandel, Pelcovitz, BR By Fire Possessed, Toro, BR Cain, Saramago, BR Cambridge Introduction to Emmanuel Levinas, Morgan, BR Choosing, Myers, BN Colors of Zion, Bornstein, BR Creating Space Between Peshat and Derash, Angel, BN Cross Too Heavy, O’Shea, BN Cut Throat Dog, Sobol, BR Dave Tarras, Strom, BN Defiance, Jacblonskil, CBR Departures, Zweig, BN Double Life of Alfred Buber, Schmahmann, BN Ella’s Trip to Israel, Newman, CBR End of the Holocaust, Rosenfeld, BR Engineer Ari and the Sukkah Express, Cohen, CBR Essential Jewish Stories, Rossel, BR Everyone Helps, Everyone Wins, Levinson, BN Faith and Freedom, Gottlieb, BN Families, Rabbis, and Education, Stampfer, BR

74 65 54 65 80 73 63 40 61 75 54 42 47 47 61 73 54 75 74 48 73 66 73 74 66 59 67 48 74 74 55

Festivals of Faith, Lamm, BR Folktales of The Jews, Volume 3, Ben-Amos, BR For the Love of God and Virgins, Peled, BN Frankfurt Judengasse, Backhaus, et al., BR Freedom Journeys, Waskow, Berman, BN From the Jewish Heartland, Steinberg, Prost, BN Gender and Jewish History, Kaplan, Dash Moore, BR Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, Thompson, BR Gersonides, Feldman, BR Glorious, Accursed Europe, Reinharz, Shavit, BR God’s Optimism, November, BR Good Eggs, Potts, BR Heaven of Others, Cohen, BR Heroes of the Holocaust, Fishkin, CBR Holocaust Object in Polish and Polish-Jewish Culture, Shallcross, BN Hoppy Passover, Glaser, CBR Houdini, Biskup, CBR House on Crash Corner and Other Unavoidable Calamities, Greenstein, BR I Keep Kosher, Raubvogel, Schwartz, CBR Influencing Machine, Gladstone, Neufeld, BR Iphigenia In Forest Hills, Malcolm, BR Island Eyes, Island Skies, Levine, CBR Jersey Sting, Sherman, Margolin, BR Jerusalem Maiden, Carner, BR Jewish Choices, Jewish Voices, Dorff, Ruttenberg, BR Jewish Odyssey, Halter, BR Jewish Studies, Bush, BR Jewish Studies at the Crossroads of Anthropology and History, Boustan, et al., BN Jews of Capitol Hill, Stone, BR Jews of North Africa, Taieb-Carlen, BR Jews of San Nicandro, Davis, BR

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Title, Author, BR, CBR or BN, Page

Title, Author, BR, CBR or BN, Page

John Lennon and the Jews, Maghen, BN Jumping Jenny, Bari, CBR Just One Catch, Daugherty, BR Kabbalah in Italy, Idel, BN Knitter’s Home Companion, Edwards, Gotch, BR Land of Big Dreamers, Waldman, CBR Last Brother, Appanah, BR Last Folio, Dojc, Krausova, BN Leonard Bernstein at Work, Sherman, BR Limassol, Sarid, BR Lipman Pike, Michelson, CBR List, Fletcher, BR Literary Passports, Pinsker, BR Little Bride, Solomon, BR Littlest Mountain, Rosenstock, CBR Mixed Multitude, Maciejko, BN Modern Jewish Literatures, Jelen, et al., BR Mr. Funny Pants, Showalter, BR Mufti of Jerusalem and the Nazis, Gensicke, BR Music Was It, Rubin, CBR Nachas Ruach, Fish, BN Narrating the Law, Wimpfheimer, BR Nazis on the Run, Steinacher, BN Negotiating Arab-Israeli Peace, Eisenberg, Caplan, BR New Voice for Israel, Ben-Ami, BR Nine Inheritors, Datnow, BN Omega Theory, Alpert, BN Oracle of Stamboul, Lukas, BR Orchards, Thompson, CBR Oriental Wife, Toynton, BR Origins of Jewish Mysticism, Schäfer, BR Ottoman Brothers, Campos, BR Out of Left Field, Alpert, BR Parachuting, Freedman, CBR Picnic at Camp Shalom, Jules, CBR Pitching in the Promised Land, Pribble, BR Price of Escape, Unger, BR Queen Who Saved Her People, Balsley, CBR

Rabbis and Revolution, Miller, BR Reform Responsa for the Twenty-First Century, Washofsky, BR Rooftop Adventure of Minnie and Tessa, Littlefield, CBR Sacred Trash, Hoffman, Cole, BR Safta’s Diaries, Appleman, BN Sage Tales, Visotzky, BR Sages, Lau, BR Scenes From Village Life, Oz, BR Second Son, Raab, BR Sephardi Family Life in the Early Modern Diaspora, Lieberman, BR Skinny, Spechler, BR Social Climber’s Handbook, Jong-Fast, BN Sometimes I Feel Like a Nut, Kargman, BR SPHAS, Stark, BR Stone and Dung, Oil and Spit, Magness, BR Stranger on the Planet, Schwartz, BR Suddenly in the Depths of the Forest, Oz, CBR Synagogues of Britain and Ireland, Kadish, BN The Words and the Land, Shlomo Sand, BN Tri-Faith America, Schultz, BR Truths Desired by God, Tamari, BR Turbulent Times, Kahn-Harris, Gidley, BR Twentieth Century Jews, Penkower, BR Vaclav & Lena, Tanner, BR War in Bom Fim, Scliar, BR Warsaw Anagrams, Zimler, BR Washington Haggadah, ben Simeon, BR What We Brought Back, Hoffman, BR When We Danced On Water, Fallenberg, BR Women and the Messianic Heresy of Sabbatai Zevi, Rapoport-Albert, BN Young Tel Aviv, Helman, BR Yuvi’s Candy Tree, Simpson, CBR Zellig Harris, Barsky, BR

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Jewish Book World

Fall 5771/2011


Fall 2011, Jewish Book World