Jewish Book World The Quarterly Publication of the Jewish Book Council Fall 2012/5772 Vol. 30 No. 3
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Praise for Dora Levy Mossanen “Crackles with tension and imagination… Mossanen mines an emotional landscape, rich in myth and characterization, offering an innovative perspective on what may have happened to the Romanovs.”
— Steve Berry, author of The Jefferson Key and The Columbus Affair “Deeply rooted in an exotic time and place… For those of us who have been waiting for Mossanen’s next book with pleasure and anticipation, our patience has now been rewarded.”
—Jonathan Kirsch, Book Editor, Jewish Journal
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Jewish Book World the quarterly publication of the Jewish Book Council
features emerging voices on the cover 6 JBC Network Authors 38 Francesca Segal Jaclyn Trop
Joshua Henkin Joseph Winkler
A sweeping novel about Hollywood’s early days; Jews in contemporary film David Cohen Bill Brennan
Eric R. Kandel
Maron L. Waxman
book profiles 55
Shoah & After
Claude Lanzmann’s well-spent life; Else Kirshner’s free-spirited one Bettina E. Berch Beth Kissileff
Seeking meaning in the past and present Wallace Greene
joining the tribe C.A. Blomquist Libi Adler
two public intellectuals Jeff H. Bogursky Jack Fischel
Sharon as seen by his son; Dayan’s place in Israel’s history Maron L. Waxman Barbara Andrews
Meaning, Memory, Coming & Going Elan & Erudition & Modernity Breaking with the sect; Posthumous collections by
fall 5772/2012: vol. 30 no. 3
4 84 94 103
A Russian Jew in early 20th century London; a guide to all things Jewish there now Bettina E. Berch
Editor’s Note 36 JBW Book Club Recommendations Children’s 100 Contributors Booknotes *[e] denotes e-book is available Index children's books recommended by PJ Library
SAMI ROHR z”l (1926-2012)
Inspiring Jewish Continuity through Literature
he Board of Directors and staff of the Jewish Book Council deeply mourn the passing of Sami Rohr. The sense of gratitude, admiration, and love for Sami Rohr felt by the Jewish Book Council runs deep. His passion for the written word and the writers who pursue this craft was boundless. Mr. Rohr elevated the status of writers and Jewish writing and provided opportunities for authors to complete their projects. Because of his desire for good writing and his largess, there are important books that will be written which otherwise might not have been produced. The Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature and the Sami Rohr Jewish Literary Institute, established by Mr. Rohr’s children and grandchildren in 2006, is a continuing testament to this love of Jewish literature. The Jewish Book Council was blessed and will always be blessed to have had Sami Rohr and Sami Rohr’s vision in our lives.
review highlights 40
THE BOOK OF MISCHIEF Steve Stern Reviewed by Sydelle Shamah
FOUR NEW MESSAGES Joshua Cohen Reviewed by Bob Goldfarb
american jewish studies
PROMISCUOUS: PORTNOY’S COMPLAINT AND OUR DOOMED PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS Bernard Avishai Reviewed by Alan Cooper
autobiography & memoir
A JEWISH VOICE FROM OTTOMAN SALONICA: THE LADINO MEMOIR OF SA’ADI BESALEL A-LEVI Aron Rodrigue & Sarah Abrevaya Stein, eds.; Isaac Jerusalmi, trans. Reviewed by Randall C. Belinfante A SENSE OF DIRECTION: PILGRIMAGE FOR THE RESTLESS AND THE HOPEFUL Gideon Lewis-Kraus Reviewed by Eric Ackland
THE FISH THAT ATE THE WHALE: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF AMERICA’S BANANA KING Rich Cohen Reviewed by Justin Petrillo
IRVING BERLIN’S AMERICAN MUSICAL THEATER Jeffrey Magee Reviewed by Renita Last
UNTERZAKHN Leela Corman Reviewed by Wendy Wassman
contemporary jewish life & practice
MITZVAH STORIES: SEEDS FOR INSPIRATION AND LEARNING Goldie Milgram & Ellen Frankel, eds. Reviewed by Ellie Barbarash
“OY VEY!” ISN’T A STRATEGY: 25 SOLUTIONS FOR PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL SUCCESS Deborah Grayson Riegel Reviewed by Arnold D. Samlan
cooking & food
HELEN NASH’S NEW KOSHER CUISINE: HEALTHY, SIMPLE & STYLISH Helen Nash Reviewed by Maron L. Waxman
THE NO-POTATO PASSOVER Aviva Kanoff Reviewed by Barbara M. Bibel
BREAD TO EAT AND CLOTHES TO WEAR: LETTERS FROM JEWISH MIGRANTS IN THE EARLY TWENTIETH CENTURY Gur Alroey Reviewed by Miriam Rinn LEGACY: A GENETIC HISTORY OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE Harry Ostrer Reviewed by Ada Brunstein
THE WORLD WITHOUT YOU Joshua Henkin Reviewed by Beth Kissileff
CHELMNO: A SMALL VILLAGE IN EUROPE: THE FIRST NAZI EXTERMINATION CAMP Shmuel Krakowski Reviewed by Jack Fischel
WE ARE HERE: MEMORIES OF THE LITHUANIAN HOLOCAUST Shmuel Ellen Cassedy Reviewed by Philip K. Jason
THE CRISIS OF ZIONISM Peter Beinart Reviewed by Micah D. Halpern
ISRAEL: AN INTRODUCTION Barry Rubin Reviewed by Micah D. Halpern
modern jewish thought & experience
SOCIETY AND SELF: ON THE WRITINGS OF RABBI JOSEPH B. SOLOVEITCHIK Gerald J. (Ya’akov) Blidstein Reviewed by Wallace Greene
THE HEBREW BOOK IN EARLY MODERN ITALY Joseph R. Hacker & Adam Shear, eds. Reviewed by Pinchas Roth
Sharon pursued the idea of Jewish sovereignty by advocating a two state solution—which he forwarded by unilaterally disengaging from Gaza and by insulating Israel with the creation of a vast security wall. But the Bible and the Holocaust notwithstanding, the notion of a Jewish State and the legitimacy of Zionism have been frequent targets of left wing intellectuals, including, of course, Jews. Prominent among these is the British historian Tony Judt, whose posthumously published Thinking the Twentieth Century is reviewed in this issue. A son of Jewish immigrants, Judt first embraced Zionism. However, in a famous 2003 piece published in The New York Review of Books, Judt argued that a democratic Jewish state was an impossibility given the demographics of a faster growing Arab population and that, in any event, the notion of a ethnic-centric nation was a holdover from a nineteenth century European philosophy. In his pessimistic view, Judt argued that peace in the Middle East requires a one-state solution for Israel. And, with an inevitable Arab majority, security for the Jewish minority could thus only be guaranteed by “international force.” Christopher Hitchens, who discovered late in life that his mother was Jewish, presents an even more extreme objection to a Jewish State. Although here we review Hitchens’s final collection of essays, Arguably, it is his 2009 God is Not Great with which we are most familiar. In this expanded essay, Hitchens argues that it is Judaism itself (along, to be fair, with Christianity, Islam—and even Buddhism and Hinduism) that is ‘the problem.’ Religion, claimed Hitchens, breeds ignorance, intolerance, and conflict. How much more so a religious state? For Hitchens, it is the very Jewishness of a Jewish state that is objectionable. As editor of Jewish Book World I‘ve grown to accept the broad range of opinion among the Jewish people. But in this instance I can’t help thinking that Israel’s critics miss the essential point. It is only the very existence of a strong Israel as the Jewish State that permits any debate. I for one say “Never Again.” Enjoy reading and check out our website, Jewishbooks.org, if you haven’t discovered it already. As this issue went to press, we received the sad news of the passing of Sami Rohr, in whose name the Rohr family established the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature. His devotion to Torah learning and his enthusiasm for the emerging Jewish writers whose work the Prize honors demonstrates his deep commitment to Jewish continuity and love for the written word. He will be greatly missed.
oes Israel have the right to self-determination as a Jewish State? For those of religious belief, the Bible is clear. Moses, on the eve of entry into the Promised Land, makes two startling prophesies: Because of the sins they will commit, the Jews will be expelled from their homeland and dispersed among the nations of the world, despised and persecuted. But as a result of their ultimate repentance, there will be an ingathering of the Jews in Israel, and the glory of the Jewish State will be reestablished. For 2,000 years following the Roman conquest of Israel and the destruction of the second Temple all Jews, believers and skeptics alike, have borne witness to the prescient foretelling of the Jewish Diaspora. And yet what of the modern day establishment of the State of Israel? Is it in fact the fulfillment of the second prophesy? Or more pragmatically, is it a historical necessity created by the ashes of the Holocaust? Or, rather, is it, as some believe, an immoral and unacceptable imposition on the indigenous Arab population? In this issue we consider these questions by examining the lives of two Israeli warriors who dedicated their lives to the right of Jewish sovereignty over the land of Israel, and the writings of two intellectual critics of Israel. A new biography, Moshe Dayan: Israel’s Controversial Hero, by Mordechai Bar-On, a member of the Knesset and Dayan’s IDF bureau chief, portrays a flawed, multifaceted hero. Born in 1915 on a pre-Mandate Palestinian kibbutz, Dayan joined the fledgling Haganah at age fourteen and earned a reputation as a daring if undisciplined soldier who fought in every Israeli confrontation through the 1973 Yom Kippur War. He was also known for diplomacy and, as Begin’s foreign minister, as architect of the Camp David Accords. Dayan never swayed from one ideal: his belief in Zionism—the right and duty of the Jewish people to return to the land of Israel. Similarly, Ariel Sharon, Israel’s eleventh Prime Minister, whose story is told by his youngest son, Gilad, in Sharon: The Life of a Leader, devoted his life to the belief that Jews have an inalienable right to a Jewish homeland. As a soldier, Sharon distinguished himself in four wars. Later, as Prime Minister,
Jewish Book World
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.
Carol E. Kaufman Editor Naomi Firestone-Teeter Managing Editor Michal Malen Children’s Book Editor Dani Crickman Art Director
Jewish Book Council
President Vice-President Secretary Honorary Chairman of the Board Director Carolyn Starman Hessel Miri R. Pomerantz Dauber Program Director JBC Network Associate Joyce Lit Program Associate Sharon Bruce Intern Samuel Liebmann Intern Nat Bernstein Intern Amalia Safran Lawrence J. Krule Judith Lieberman Mimi S. Frank Henry Everett (z”l)
Board of Directors
Dan Levine Elisa Spungen Bildner William Liss-Levinson Tracy Brown Stuart Matlins Edith Everett Deborah Miller Paul A. Flexner Marcia W. Posner Ellen Frankel Julie Potiker Samuel G. Freedman Austin Ratner Ari L. Goldman Josh Rolnick Blu Greenberg Steven Siegel (z”l) Stephan Gross A.A. Steinberger Rae Gurewitsch Livia S. Straus Miriam Holmes Joseph Telushkin Alan Kadish Jonathan Tepperman Altie Karper Alan J. Wiener Francine Klagsbrun Bernard Weinflash Myra Kraft (z”l) Jane Weitzman Carmel R. Krauss Ruth Legow 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; jewishbookcouncil.org; email: email@example.com. The subscription rate is $36.00 a year or $12.50 for an individual issue. Copyright © 2012, 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 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 email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (212) 201-2921. Claims on orders that have not been received must be made within two months of the date of publication.
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JBC Network Authors 2012-2013
Jewish Book Council created JBC Network to enable writers to present their Jewish interest books to as broad a readership as possible. Jewish book fairs and year-round book programs are a major force in the Jewish community. Below is a preview of some of the most interesting new authors to hit the Jewish literary scene for the 2012-2013 season. (The book summaries have been compiled from material provided by the respective publishers.)
The Other Talmud: The Yerushalmi
ÂŠ Liza Margulies
Jewish Lights Publishing, 2012. $24.99 ISBN: 978-1580234634 The Other Talmud opens up the world of the Jerusalem Talmud for beginners in a fun, entertaining fashion. This Talmud offers new forms of prayer and observance based in the Land of Israel.
Jewish Book World
Center Street, 2012. $14.99 ISBN: 978-1599954097 In this explosive debut novel, Neil Abramson explores the beauty and redemptive power of human-animal relationships, the importance of faith, and the true meaning of communication in all of its diverse forms.
Seekers of Meaning: Baby Boomers, Judaism, and the Pursuit of Healthy Aging
Union for Reform Judaism Press, 2011. $16.95 ISBN: 978-0-8074-1226-8 Using key texts from the Torah, Rabbi Richard Address shows that the foundation of a happy and healthy life is the meaning we seek in the community of others and in our most fundamental relationship with God.
© Dan Kim
jbc network authors
Scribner, 2012. $15.00 ISBN: 978-1439181881 A book-length manifesto for the post-Pollan reader, An Everlasting Meal demonstrates that in order to eat affordably, responsibly, and well, we need to know how to cook.
Sandi Krawchenko Altner
Franklin and Gallagher, 2012. $17.95 ISBN: 978-1-46978-322-2 An epic romance set at the turn of the twentieth century, Ravenscraig reveals the secrets and lies that tie two families together. Rupert Willows hides his past and schemes his way to wealth and power, while Zev Zigman, a devout Jew, mounts a desperate struggle to leave Czarist Russia and put down roots in Canada.
Louisiana State University Press, 2010. $18.95 ISBN: 978-0-8071-3617-1 In Stations West, four generations of Jewish immigrants in the territory of Oklahoma struggle to create a home amid betrayals, nature’s vagaries, and burgeoning statehood. Dramatic and lyrical, 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, their adopted family, and the challenges they face.
Rav Hisda's Daughter: A Novel of Love, the Talmud, and Sorcery
Grand Central Publishing, 2012. $24.99 ISBN: 9781455507214 For more than thirty years, Edie and Richard Middlestein shared a solid family life together in the suburbs of Chicago. But the family is now on the brink of tremendous change, and when Richard abandons his wife, it’s up to the next generation—with obsessions, loves, and foibles of their own—to take control.
Plume Books, 2012. $16.00 ISBN: 978-0452298095 Set in third-century Babylonia and based on actual Talmud texts, Rav Hisda's Daughter brings the world of the Talmud, especially its rabbis and their families, to life—from a woman's perspective.
Carol Ardman & Loren Fishman
© Twin Lens Images
An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace
Yoga for Back Pain
No One Is Here Except All of Us
W. W. Norton & Company, 2012. $19.95 ISBN: 978-0393343120 Let internationally renowned rehabilitation specialist Loren Fishman, MD, be your personal instructor for a healthier back. A valuable resource for yoga students and instructors alike, Yoga for Back Pain will help you determine how to start your own yoga practice or alter your existing practice in order to achieve lasting comfort and strength.
Riverhead Books, 2012. $24.99 ISBN: 978-1-59448-794-1 A luminous, magical debut by a thrilling new literary talent: the story of an isolated Romanian village which tries to save itself from World War II by starting the world over again from scratch, and the girl who is determined to tell its story.
Whatever is Contained Must Be Released
Flags Over the Warsaw Ghetto: The Untold Story of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
The Feminist Press, 2012. $29.95 ISBN: 9781558617681 Noted artist Helène Aylon made the audacious move from the old world streets of Orthodox Jewish Brooklyn to the free-for-all of San Francisco in the ‘70s to create art. In this memoir she combines religion, art, and feminism to tell the story of her completely unique life.
Gefen Publishing House, 2011. $29.95 ISBN: 9789652295279 The generally accepted account of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising is incomplete; the truth begins with the existence of not one, but two resistance organizations in the ghetto. Two young men, Mordechai Anielewicz of the Jewish Fighting Organization (ZOB), and Pawel Frenkel of the Jewish Military Organization (ZZW), rose to lead separate resistance organizations in the ghetto, which did not unite despite the desperate battle they were facing.
Jewish Book World
jbc network authors Mordechai Bar-On
Moshe Dayan: Israel's Controversial Hero
My Mother's Spice Cupboard: A Journey from Baghdad to Bombay to Bondi
Louisiana State University Press, 2012. $17.95 ISBN: 978-0807144640 In this debut poetry collection, Elana Bell brings her heritage as the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors to consider the difficult question of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Yale University Press, 2012. $25.00 ISBN: 978-0300149418 In this interpretive biography, Mordechai Bar-On, Dayan’s chief of staff during the Sinai War and eminent historian of Israel, offers an intimate view of Dayan’s private life, public career, and political controversies, set against a highly perceptive and original analysis of Israel’s political environment from pre-Mandate Palestine through the 1980s.
Hybrid Publishers, 2012. $24.95 ISBN: 9781921665554 My Mother's Spice Cupboard is the story of the author's Sephardic Jewish family's journey from Iraq to India to Australia, intertwined with the history of the Baghdadi Jews of Bombay.
Hershel Becker A Year to Remember
Love Peace: Blueprints for Lasting Relationships CreateSpace, 2011. $18.90 ISBN: 978-1466282070 Love Peace provides conversation starters using materials that follow the weekly Torah portion. It is an easy-to-use resource to help build meaningful, loving relationships.
Lee Bender & Jerome Verlin
Peter Beinart Pressing Israel: Media Bias Exposed from A-Z
Pavilion Press, 2012. $16.90 ISBN: 1414507275 Point-by-point from A-to-Z, Pressing Israel exposes and analyzes the imbalanced-againstIsrael terms in which the mainstream Western media covers embattled Israel’s struggle against states and groups that seek to destroy it.
The Crisis of Zionism
Henry Holt, 2012. $26.00 ISBN: 9780805094121 In the United States, the refusal of major Jewish organizations to defend Democracy in the Jewish State is alienating many young liberal Jews from Zionism itself. In the next generation, the liberal Zionist dream—the dream of a state that safeguards the Jewish people and cherishes democratic ideals—may die.
Jewish Book World
Half the House: My Life In and Out of Jerusalem
Sunstone Press, 2011. $19.95 ISBN: 978-0-86534-805-9 Half the House chronicles seven decades of life in the twentieth century, beginning with Rachel Berghash’s Orthodox Jewish upbringing in Jerusalem during World War II, time as an Israeli soldier, marriage to an American, and a quest that results in an embrace of the spirit of Judaism.
© Lauren Koch
Soul Mate Publishing, 2012. $4.99 ISBN: 978161935075-5 A Jewish food addict’s road to physical, emotional, and spiritual recovery as she searches for her beshert under the watchful eye of the nation.
Perfect is Overrated
St. Martin's Griffin, 2012. $14.99 ISBN: 978-1250001764 A freshly-divorced former assistant district attorney gets over her postpartum depression by solving the murders of the mommies from her daughter's pre-school class. It's funny, I promise.
© Noah Kalina
jbc network authors
Women from the Ankle Down: The Story of Shoes and How They Define Us
HarperCollins, 2012. $24.99 ISBN: 9780061969614 Women from the Ankle Down tells the story of shoes in the twentieth century. Part social history, part fashion history, and part popculture celebration, this book opens in the rural village of Bonito, Italy, and ends in New York City.
The Bar Mitzvah and The Beast: One Family's Cross-Country Ride of Passage by Bike
In the Sands of Sinai: A Physician's Account of the Yom Kippur War CreateSpace, 2011. $12.00 ISBN: 978-1466385443 The story of a war that tested a physician and his nation. In unvarnished details, the author describes his perspective of a war that shaped his own life and his nation's identity.
Mountaineers Press, 2012. $16.95 ISBN: 9781594856723 The story of a family's 3,800 mile bike ride taken because thirteen-year-old Yonah BiersAriel refused to have a bar mitzvah. Religious identity, energy sustainability, and an extreme family vacation feature prominently in this funny and poignant memoir.
Honor Killing 36
Livingston Press, 2012. $22.00 ISBN: 978-1-60489-091-4 The world depends on 36 anonymous righteous people, according to an ancient Jewish legend. If this legend were literally true and the Righteous were being murdered one by one, could a detective and a computer programmer save them?
Self, 2012. $15.00 ISBN: 0-9648809-1-4 A Mossad agent, sent into the West Bank to seduce the aging unmarried sister of a wanted terrorist cell leader in the hope of capturing his headquarters, is successful in his mission, but then is mysteriously murdered. Life and death intersect when a thirty-eight-year-old single American woman seeks a Jewish sperm donor.
The People of Forever are Not Afraid
Hogarth, 2012. $24.00 ISBN: 978-0-307-95595-1 A breathtaking debut novel about young women in the Israeli Defense Forces from a rising star in fiction, Shani Boianjiu, who was named a “5 Under 35” 2011 Award winner by the National Book Foundation.
My Charmed Life: Rocky Romances, Precious Family Connections and Searching for a Band of Gold
The Sweet Relief of Missing Children: A Novel
© Brendan Bullock
NAL Trade, 2012. $15.00 ISBN: 978-0451236937 Even as a young girl, Beth Bernstein was fascinated by jewelry and how it could evoke memories that would tell the rich history of her life. Bernstein’s story connects her past and present by connecting her most memorable events, one gem at a time, offering pearls of wisdom and fire-y keepsakes along the way.
Very Near to You: Human Readings of the Torah
Gefen Publishing House, 2012. $30.00 ISBN: 9789652295644 A new interpretation of the weekly Torah reading, written from a world view deeply committed to Judaism which places the responsibility of interpretation and identity on each one of us. The Torah is not in Heaven but in the heart and mouth of you and me, to study it and to live by it.
W. W. Norton & Company, 2012. $15.95 ISBN: 978-0393340754 The Sweet Relief of Missing Children is a suspenseful novel about the power of running and the desire for reinvention. It explores the terror and transcendence of our most central experiences: childhood, parenthood, sex, love.
Jewish Book World
jbc network authors Anne Cherian
Dear Cary: My Life with Cary Grant
© Claire Zeggane
Manual For Living: Connection, A User's Guide to the Meaning of Life
Spirit Scope Publishing, 2011. $16.95 ISBN: 978-1937215002 Award-winning author and two-time cancer survivor Seth Chernoff guides us a through a series of questions, asking why we think and do what we do in relationship to our own life, others in our immediate environment, and humanity at large.
Riverhead Books, 2012. $26.95 ISBN: 978-1-59448-739-2 In this moving personal story, an Americanborn (and Catholic-raised) reporter for The International Herald Tribune travels to Spain to uncover the long-buried secret of her family’s past: that they were Jews forced to convert to Christianity during the Inquisition.
© Alan Chapelski
What a Plant Knows
Texas Tech University Press, 2011. $26.95 ISBN: 978-0896726833 Is he crazy, is he holy? Adam Friedman wears no cape and has no superpowers—or has he?
Scientific American, 2012. $23.00 ISBN: 9780374288730 Engaging and wonderfully informative, Chamovitz’s What a Plant Knows will make you look at the flowers and trees around you with new appreciation and understanding.
Jewish Book World
Scribner, 2012. $25.00 ISBN: 9781416572893 From the seasoned New York Times reporter whose beat is “ideas and trends,” a fascinating, revelatory, and timely book about middle age, from the nineteenth century, when the concept of “middle age” was born, to the present.
The Fish That Ate the Whale
The Forgetting River: A Modern Tale of Survival, Identity, and the Inquisition
In Our Prime: The Invention of Middle Age
© Jeremy Medoff
It Books, 2012. $16.99 ISBN: 978-0061961410 With honesty and heart-rending emotion, actress and filmmaker Dyan Cannon tells the story of her topsy-turvy relationship with Hollywood legend Cary Grant. Cannon’s captivating narrative takes the reader behind the scenes of Hollywood’s Golden Age, inside America’s high court of glamour and notoriety in which Cary Grant was king.
W. W. Norton & Company, 2012. $25.95 ISBN: 978-0-393-08160-2 “Jews in India?” is the question that intrigues Jonathan Feinstein when he attends a graduation party with his wife Lali. He learns that Jews have been in Cochin for over two thousand years, and his wife’s surname, Chacko, derived from Jacob could mean her ancestors were Jews who converted—a fact that delights him and changes the course of his marriage.
© Fred Conrad
© Poppy Ruiz
© Daphney Duke
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2012. $27.00 ISBN: 978-0-374-29927-9 A legendary tale, both true and astonishing, about America's Banana King, Samuel Zemurray, a little known antihero, the son of a Jewish Russian farmer. He started with nothing but a pile of rotten bananas, overthrew two governments in Central America, created the basic CIA template, bested and took over United Fruit, and went to war with Huey Long.
The Mother of Jerusalem Is Crying
Lico Publishing, 2012. $49.95 ISBN: 978-09667361-4-4 A sweeping historical novel that tells the interwoven stories of three families—Christian, Jewish, and Muslim. Many of the characters do not survive the enveloping violence but the message of this book is hopeful.
The Poetry of Kabbalah: Mystical Verse from the Jewish Tradition
© Dale Langdon
jbc network authors
Yale University Press, 2012. $30.00 ISBN: 978-0-300-169-16-4 This luminous collection gathers together for the first time in English a body of poetry that emerges directly from the sublime and often startling world of Jewish mysticism.
Journal of the Plague Year
Skyhorse Publishing, 2012. $14.95 ISBN: 978-1-62087-200-0 The March 10, 2008 disclosure that Governor Eliot Spitzer was a regular patron of prostitutes shocked New Yorkers and admirers around the world. Ironically, Lloyd Constantine's disillusionment with Spitzer had begun to disappear fifteen hours earlier, when Spitzer had confessed to him what the rest of the world would soon learn.
Do Dogs Dream? Nearly Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know
W. W. Norton & Company, 2012. $23.95 ISBN: 978-0-393-07348-5 Stanley Coren brings decades of scientific research on dogs to bear in his unprecedented foray into the inner lives of our canine companions, dispelling many common myths in the process. Coren answers the questions dog owners have most frequently asked during his nearly fifty-year career as a dog researcher, combining the authority of an expert with the delivery of a guest at a cocktail party.
Israel: The Will to Prevail
Schocken Books, 2012. $24.95 ISBN: 978-0-8052-4259-1 A mesmerizing, heartbreaking graphic novel of immigrant life on New York’s Lower East Side at the turn of the twentieth century, as seen through the eyes of twin sisters whose lives take radically and tragically different paths.
Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. $26.00 ISBN: 978-0230341760 A leading Israeli politician envisions a controversial path to victory for a democratic Israel at peace with its neighboring partners.
Judgment Before Nuremberg: The Holocaust in the Ukraine and the First Nazi War Crimes Trial
Pegasus Books, 2012. $27.95 ISBN: 978-1-60598-290-8 Judgment Before Nuremberg is about the dawn of the Holocaust—the extermination of Jews in Ukraine by gunfire—and the first trial of Nazis for the their crimes, held in Ukraine two years before the trials in Nuremberg.
Oceanview Publishing, 2012. $25.95 ISBN: 978-1-60809-038-9 Ash Levine, the top detective in the LAPD's elite Felony Special Squad, investigates a murder that throws him into the world of Los Angeles's Russian Mafia, Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, and Middle Eastern archaeologists.
The Real Name of God: Embracing the Full Essence of the Divine
Inner Traditions, 2012. $19.95 ISBN: 978-59477-473-7 The revolutionary discovery of the Name of God; a journey on pathways of mind and spirit that brings each one of us into deep, personal, and loving relationship with God, and closer to a world of Oneness.
Pavilion Press, 2012. $16.90 ISBN: 1-4145-0729-1 What's Legal explores possible interpretations of Islamic shariah and American law with ramifications for local and global communities. It makes sense of the wildly opposing explanations.
Jewish Book World
jbc network authors Deby Eisenberg
City of Slaughter
Pictures of the Past
Loose Diamonds …and other things I've lost (and found) along the way
© Jonathan Becker
Studio House Literary, 2011. $14.95 ISBN: 9780615483122 When an Impressionist painting he had donated decades earlier to the Art Institute of Chicago is challenged as a Nazi theft, the heart-grabbing story of philanthropist Taylor Woodmere unfolds. From a world torn by war, a love story emerges that endures through years of separation.
© Alison Wachstein
© Juliana Sohn
William Morrow, 2012. $13.99 ISBN: 9780061958786 The different stages of a woman’s life are revealed through writing about food, friendship, domesticity, divorce, child rearing, jealousy, and love—all peppered with Amy Ephron’s characteristic charm and humor.
© Elena Seibert
Daniel & Daniel Publishers, 2012. $15.95 ISBN: 978-1-56474-514-9 From the Russian pogroms to New York City's Garment District, City of Slaughter is the sweeping tale of two Jewish orphans who come to embody the immigrant experience. Set against Tammany Hall politics and gangland crime, this is a story of a young woman torn by family, faith, and her drive to become an American.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank
Explaining Life: The Wisdom of Modern Jewish Poetry, 1960-2010
Alfred A. Knopf, 2012. $24.95 ISBN: 978-0-307-95870-9 These eight new stories from the celebrated novelist and short-story writer Nathan Englander display a gifted young author grappling with the great questions of modern life, with a command of language and imagination that places him at the very forefront of contemporary American fiction.
Anchorhouse, 2012. $27.99 ISBN: 978-1-4685-0914-4 This is a unique anthology in that it contains the best American-Jewish, Israeli, and Yiddish poetry written in the last fifty years in one volume. The 100 poems—categorized by themes of love, loss, war, alienation, family relationships, and renewal—reflect the way Jewish life is lived now, has been lived in the past, and might be lived in the future.
The Lion Is In
Blue Rider Press, 2012. $24.95 ISBN: 9780399158483 Three women, each on the run for a different reason, just need a place to sleep after crashing their car. They aren’t expecting to meet a lion. The Lion Is In—the latest funny, heartfelt, and honest novel from bestselling author and hit screenwriter Delia Ephron (The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, You’ve Got Mail)—is all about the big, wild, noble things locked inside all of our lives, waiting to break out.
The Gilboa Iris
Gefen Publishing House, 2012. $19.95 ISBN: 978-965-229-574-3 Dara Harow, daughter of a rocket physicist for the US Department of Defense, sends her parents into a tailspin of dual-loyalty anxiety when she plans to wed Roni Ben-Ari, an Israeli officer in an elite counter-terrorist unit. When the Harows are targeted by a terror cell in hot pursuit of technology not yet found in any country's arsenal, Dara finds herself at the center of a hierarchy of terror that threatens her life and the lives of those she loves.
Jewish Book World
© Ben Lazar
Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots
Simon & Schuster, 2012. $15.00 ISBN: 9781439187012 In this arresting New York Times bestselling memoir about growing up in—and ultimately escaping from—a strict Hasidic community, Deborah Feldman reveals what life is like trapped within a religious sect that values silence and suffering over individual freedoms.
Edith Rogovin Frankel
© Marvi Lacar
jbc network authors
Fulcourt Press, 2012. $17.95 ISBN: 978-0-9853221-0-6 This hilarious and painful novel of redemption follows the journey of Ira Overman, veteran of multiple botched careers and a singularly botched marriage, as he makes one last attempt to rise above the guilt, weakness, and self-hatred that have been hard-wired into his soul since birth.
Old Lives and New: Soviet Immigrants in Israel and America
William Morrow, 2012. $14.99 ISBN: 978-0-06-205984-0 When Ruth Wasserman returns home to the South for the summer after her freshman year at college, a near tragedy pushes her to uncover family truths and take a good look at the woman she wants to become.
Hamilton, 2012. $33.99 ISBN: 978-0-7618-5784-6 Interviewed when they first left the Soviet Union in the 1970s and then twenty-five years later, the stories of these immigrants to Israel and America provide an understanding of what it meant to be a Jew in the Soviet Union and what it is to carve out a new life for yourself and your family far from home.
Franklin Foer & Marc Tracy
Ignorance: How it Drives Science
Oxford University Press, 2012. $21.95 ISBN: 9780199828074 Biologist Stuart Firestein demonstrates that approaching science through well considered ignorance—what we don't know—makes it much more accessible than thinking about science as an insurmountable and growing mountain of facts.
© Len Small
© Diana Reiss
Jewish Jocks: An Unorthodox Hall of Fame Twelve, 2012. $16.99 ISBN: 9781455516131 A collection of essays by two of today's preeminent writers on significant Jewish figures in sports, told with humor, heart, and an eye toward the ever elusive question of Jewish identity.
The Aleppo Codex: A True Story of Obsession, Faith, and the Pursuit of an Ancient Bible Algonquin Books, 2012. $24.95 ISBN: 978-1-61620-040-4 The true-life detective story of a thousandyear-old Hebrew Bible, the Aleppo Codex. How did one of the world’s most precious manuscripts travel from a Syrian grotto to Jerusalem, and what happened to almost 200 pages that vanished along the way?
Ben G. Frank
Holy War in Judaism: The Fall and Rise of a Controversial Idea Oxford University Press, 2012. $39.95 ISBN: 9780199860302 Holy War in Judaism is the first book to consider how the concept of ''holy war'' disappeared from Jewish thought for almost 2000 years, only to reemerge with renewed vigor in modern times.
The Scattered Tribe: Traveling the Diaspora from Cuba to India to Tahiti and Beyond
Globe Pequot Press, 2011. $17.95 ISBN: 978-0-7627-7033-5 The Scattered Tribe is an odyssey—a roadmap of travel and adventure—to discover exotic Jewish communities around the globe, including, Russia, Siberia, Tahiti, Vietnam, Myanmar, India, Cuba, Morocco, Algeria and beyond.
A Small Town Near Auschwitz: Ordinary Nazis and the Holocaust
Oxford University Press, 2012. $34.95 ISBN: 978-0-19-960330-5 The Silesian town of Bedzin lies a mere twenty-five miles from Auschwitz; through the linked ghettos of Bedzin and its neighboring town Sosnowiec, some 85,000 Jews were sent to the gas chambers. Fulbrook shows how the Holocaust was facilitated by the actions of ordinary civilian functionaries who later claimed ignorance and innocence; and she depicts the struggles for survival and heroic attempts at resistance by Jews in this area.
Jewish Book World
jbc network authors Anna Funder
All That I Am
Inside the Jewish Bakery
The Bookie’s Son
Harper, 2012. $25.99 ISBN: 978-0-06-207756-1 All That I Am is the prizewinning international bestseller about five extraordinary Jews—based on real people and real events— who tried to alert the world to what Hitler was doing.
Camino Books, 2011. $24.95 ISBN: 978-1-933822-23-5 A loving evocation of the bakeries that dotted Jewish neighborhoods in the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s, along with the recipes that burn so bright in memory—wonder cake, black and white cookies, dense and crusty corn rye, authentic New York water bagels—and much, much more.
Harry J. Getzov
(sixoneseven) press, 2012. $14.00 ISBN: 978-0-9848245-0-2 The story takes place in a Jewish world that no longer exists: The Bronx, 1960. All twelveyear-old Ricky Davis wants to do is play stickball with his friends and flirt with the building super’s daughter while preparing for his bar mitzvah; but when his father crosses gangster Nathan Glucksman and goes into hiding, Ricky has to take over his father’s bookie business and along with his mother and grandmother figure out a way to pay back his debt—before the gangsters make good on their threats.
Meredith Goldstein gOLD: The Extraordinary Side of Aging Revealed Through Inspiring Conversations
Open Road Integrated Media, 2011. $24.00 ISBN: 978-1-4532-2027-6 The moving tales of a father and son, their search for identity and love during the epic events of their times: for one, the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and for the other, the Civil Rights Movement. Their stories are of ordinary men caught in the grip of calamity, inspired to extraordinary acts in the name of love and in the face of great cruelty from man and nature alike.
© Aram Boghosian
One More River
Greenpoint Press, 2011. $19.99 ISBN: 978-0-9832370-1-3 A precious treasure lies hidden within our senior citizen population waiting to be revealed. gOLD opens the door to the revelation and suggests that it is time to change the way we think about aging and about our elder citizens.
Plume, 2012. $15.00 ISBN: 9780452298057 In this anticipated debut novel, Bee Evans and Matt Fee are tying the knot. Plans are in motion for a lavish wedding in Chesapeake Bay and Bee insists on sharing this once-ina-lifetime moment with all her family and friends... including The Singles—those who are arriving solo and second-guessing their own relationship status.
Einstein's Jewish Science: Physics at the Intersection of Politics and Religion
Losing My Sister
Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012. $24.95 ISBN: 978-1421405544 Why is Albert Einstein in a class by himself among famous Jews? Steven Gimbel examines the ways in which religion, politics, history, and philosophy influence and are influenced by advances in science.
Jewish Book World
John F. Blair, 2012. $21.95 ISBN: 9780895875839 Losing My Sister is a poignant and uplifting memoir about two inseparable sisters in a Jewish family in Rock Hill, South Carolina. As adults, author Judy and older sister Brenda lost each other through conflict, but came back together—allowing their relationship to shine like the marvelous thing it was—just before Brenda’s death.
© Amihai Gotlieb
Rise: A Novel of Contemporary Israel
Atida Press, 2011. $14.99 ISBN: 9789657557013 After living in Boston for thirty years, photo-essayist Lilah Kedem returns to her native Israel and finds a country far different than the one she had known. When extremists strike too close to home, Lilah joins both the hunt for the perpetrators and the movement of Jews and Arabs intent on a society based on a vision of social justice and tolerance.
jbc network authors
These Days Are Ours
Moses: A Stranger Among Us
© Matthew Polis
Grand Central Publishing, 2012. $13.99 ISBN: 978-1-4555-0029-1 A recent college graduate with her whole life ahead of her navigates post-9/11 New York, secretly hoping for more terrorist attacks to get her out of having to live up to her impossibly high potential.
The World Without You
Wipf and Stock, 2012. $19.00 ISBN: 978-1610974073 Moses: A Stranger Among Us is a reexamination of Moses through progressive Jewish lenses, written for a contemporary interfaith readership. Rabbi Maurice Harris leads us to look beyond familiar portrayals of Moses, so that we can discover the lesser-known Moses who provides us with surprisingly fresh ethical and spiritual guidance.
Pantheon Books, 2012. $25.95 ISBN: 978-0-375-42436-6 From the author of the widely acclaimed novel Matrimony (a New York Times Notable Book)—a moving, deeply engaging new novel about love, loss, and the aftermath of a family tragedy.
© Andrea Hillebrand
I Suck At Girls
Rachel Harkham & Doni Zasloff Thomas
The Whipping Club
T.S. Poetry Press, 2012. $14.95 ISBN: 978-0-9845531-7-4 "Echoing the painful lessons of the Jewish Holocaust, Henry’s tale reveals what happens when good people remain silent. A powerful saga of love and survival." —Kirkus Review (starred review)
Hazan Family Favorites: Beloved Italian Recipes
Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2012. $29.95 ISBN: 9781584799047 Giuliano Hazan, son of the doyenne of Italian cuisine Marcella Hazan, shares recipes that have been passed down through the generations. Included are reminiscences of Shabbat dinners at his grandparents’ house, favorite meals his mother prepared, and the meals he shares with his wife and daughters at home.
© Christine Acebo
It Books, 2012. $16.99 ISBN: 9780062113375 From the #1 New York Times bestseller author of Sh*t My Dad Says, Justin Halpern, comes I Suck at Girls, a laugh-out-loud funny and deeply touching collection of personal stories about relationships with the opposite sex, from a first kiss to getting engaged and all the awkward moments in between.
© Marion Ettlinger
That’s Disgusting: Unraveling the Mysteries of Repulsion Get Cooking! A Jewish American Family Cookbook and Rockin' Mama Doni Celebration
Behrman House, 2012. $19.95 ISBN: 978-0087441-548-3 A lively holiday cookbook for the Jewish American family that features a rockin’ good time, thanks to fun activities, funky Jewish music (on an enclosed CD from performer Mama Doni), and lots of laughs. With recipes to please both adults and kids, all you need to add are family and friends for a perfect celebration—whether it’s Passover, Hanukkah, or the 4th of July.
W. W. Norton & Company, 2012. $26.95 ISBN: 978-0-393-07647-9 Disgust originated to prevent us from eating poisonous food, but this simple safety mechanism has since evolved into a uniquely human emotion that dictates how we treat others, shapes our cultural norms, and even underlies our political ideologies.
The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture
Cambridge University Press, 2012. $29.99 ISBN: 978-0521176675 “A paradigm-shifting work of immense significance, arguing that the Hebrew Bible be seen as a work of philosophy and interpreted as such—alongside, though very different from, the Greek classics—and thus as a book of universal significance in relation to the great questions about the human condition.” – Jonathan Sacks, Lord Chief Rabbi of the British Commonwealth
Jewish Book World
jbc network authors
Pnina Jacobson & Judy Kempler
One Egg Is a Fortune: Memories and Recipes to Share
© Marion Ettlinger
May We Be Forgiven
Viking, 2012. $26.95 ISBN: 9780670025480 May We Be Forgiven is an unnerving, funny tale of unexpected intimacies and of how one deeply fractured family might begin to put itself back together.
One Egg is a Fortune, 2011. $45.00 ISBN: 9780987157706 One Egg is a Fortune is a cookbook full of heart, featuring recipes, stories, and biographies from fifty prominent Jewish people from around the world. This 2012 Gourmand World Cookbook Award winner will help raise much needed funds for Jewish elder care.
© Brian Pellinen
© Jessica Abell
The House of Velvet and Glass
Livingston Press, 2010. $17.95 ISBN: 978-1-60489-067-9 A finalist for the Sami Rohr Prize in Jewish Literature, this warm and exuberantly comic debut tells the story of the Molochniks, Russian-Jewish immigrants in suburban Connecticut. Daughters wed, houses flood, cultures clash…and the past has a way of emerging at the most inconvenient moments (and in the strangest ways).
Voice, 2012. $25.99 ISBN: 9781401340919 From the author of the bestseller The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, comes a fascinating novel about the after-effects of the sinking of the Titanic in the years just before World War I, as the Allston family tries to cope with the loss of a mother and sister.
The Last Testament: A Memoir by God
Joshua: A Brooklyn Tale
The Things We Cherished
Simon & Schuster, 2012. $15.00 ISBN: 9781451640199 From David “DJ” Javerbaum, former Executive Producer of The Daily Show and 11-time Emmy winner, is a new collaboration with God, the Almighty, called The Last Testament. It's God’s memoir, and it’s a real telleth-all.
Abbott Press, 2011. $28.99 ISBN: 978-1-4582-0074-7 A gripping saga about racisim, anti-Semitism, forbidden love, betrayal, and redemption, told through a trio of people unknowingly connected by family secrets.
Scribner, 2012. $26.00 ISBN: 9781451605914 The ultimate novel of family dysfunction from New York Times-bestselling author Susan Isaacs, combining her trademark sass and wit, her distinctive characters, with reflections on faith, family, and inheritance that both entertain and enlighten.
Jewish Book World
Anchor, 2012. $15.95 ISBN: 978-0307742421 The Things We Cherished tells the story of Charlotte Gold and Jack Harrington, two fiercely independent attorneys who find themselves falling for one another while working to defend the brother of a Holocaust hero against allegations of World War II–era war crimes.
FAL Enterprises, 2011. $15.99 ISBN: 9780983751526 The fictional account of the sixteen years on the run of real-life FBI Most Wanted murderer Whitey Bulger. Set against an international backdrop of intrigue, loyalty and love, this cat-and-mouse game with an ending of nearly unbearable suspense will fascinate both male and female readers.
jbc network authors
Oxford Messed Up
The Liberator: One World War II Soldier's 500-Day Odyssey from the Beaches of Sicily to the Gates of Dachau
Two Rings: A Story of Love and War
PublicAffairs, 2012. $24.00 ISBN: 9781610391221 “A deeply affecting addition to Holocaust literature” (Kirkus Reviews), Two Rings is a truly unique memoir. At the heart of this chronicle of a teenage girl’s wartime survival is something utterly unexpected: a love story that blazes briefly in one of the darkest corners of occupied Poland.
Friendkeeping: Simple Tips for the Care and Feeding of Modern Friendship
Riverhead Books, 2012. $25.95 ISBN: 9781594488061 From the beloved and bestselling memoirist comes a funny and affecting look at making the most of our friendships in an age of isolation.
Crown, 2012. $28.00 ISBN: 978-0-307-88799-3 The riveting true story of the bloodiest and most dramatic march to victory of the Second World War, following the battlefield odyssey of a U.S. Army officer and his infantry unit as they fought from the invasion of Italy to the liberation of Dachau.
Charles King © Sherry L. Brukbacher
Grant Place Press, 2011. $14.95 ISBN: 978-0-615-51659-2 Gloria Zimmerman, a chutzpadik Jewish girl from Chicago with OCD is a most unusual modern day Maccabee who defeats the Oxford establishment. Who knew that life in one Oxford dorm, with a shared bathroom, would become the catalyst for exploring the sweetness of freshly baked sufganiyot, Van Morrison's Tupelo Honey, and falling in love?
© Sarah Shatz
© Michael Carroll
Andrea Kayne Kaufman
Elza of Prague
Aspen Reader, 2012. $14.00 ISBN: 978-1468147261 Written in the style of Bernard Malamud, the ten stories in this collection are distinctive in scope and genre, and cover a wide range of human drama from a Jewish perspective. Some are tragic, some are funny, most are uplifting; they leave you thinking, feeling, and sometimes crying.
Odessa: Genius and Death in a City of Dreams
W. W. Norton & Company, 2012. $16.95 ISBN: 978-0393342369 Winner of a National Jewish Book Award, this colorful account of the transformation of one of Europe's foremost Jewish cities is told through the stories of its geniuses and villains.
Lisa Alcalay Klug
Hot Mamalah: The Ultimate Guide for Every Woman of the Tribe
The Whole Foods Kosher Kitchen Potboiler
G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2012. $25.95 ISBN: 978-0-399-15903-9 Internationally bestselling author Jesse Kellerman returns with Potboiler, a piercing and hilarious commentary on the modern blockbuster thriller.
Lévana Kirschenbaum, 2012. $39.95 ISBN: 978-1-4675-0704-2 Lévana's passion for delicious wholesome foods will inspire you to change the way you cook and eat today, and enjoy every bite, whether or not you keep a kosher home. Besides all the anecdotes and countless variations on fabulous recipes included in the book, and a gigantic general index, the book includes extensive gluten-free and Passover indexes.
Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2012. $16.99 ISBN: 9781449421069 The much-anticipated companion to the bestselling National Jewish Book Award Finalist Cool Jew: The Ultimate Guide for Every Member of the Tribe, Hot Mamalah celebrates Jewish women and their strengths, idiosyncrasies, challenges, and triumphs. This unprecedented “ABCs of She” is a pop-culture smorgasbord of humorous essays, witty recipes, and 300 savory images, keeping you laughing from cocktails to dessert.
Jewish Book World
jbc network authors Bobbi Kornblit
Shelter from the Texas Heat
A Most Dangerous Book: Tacitus's Germania from the Roman Empire to the Third Reich
© Meredith Zinner
We Killed: The Rise of Women in American Comedy
Peach Twig Press, 2011. $17.95 ISBN: 9780615538617 Award-winning author and journalist Bobbi Kornblit spins a multigenerational tale about holding onto secrets and the power of friendship to release them, in the tradition of "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood." Shelter from the Texas Heat is set in Dallas and Austin from the ’60s to the present, with universal themes of racial and religious prejudice and spousal abuse—tempered with humor and a sprinkling of Yiddish.
Sarah Crichton Books, 2012. $27.00 ISBN: 978-0-374-28723-8 In January 2007, Vanity Fair published an essay by Christopher Hitchens called “Why Women Aren’t Funny.” It was incendiary, much-discussed, and—as proven by Yael Kohen’s fascinating oral history—totally wrongheaded. In We Killed, Yael Kohen presents more than fifty years of iconic comediennes, unmediated and unfiltered.
W. W. Norton & Company, 2011. $25.95 ISBN: 978-0393062656 When the historian Tacitus wrote a little book about the ancient Germans in 98 CE, at the height of the Roman Empire, he could not have foreseen that the Nazis would extol it as "a bible," nor that Heinrich Himmler, the engineer of the Holocaust, would vow to resurrect Germany on its grounds. A Most Dangerous Book traces the wide-ranging influence of Tacitus’s Germania over a five-hundred-year span and its mutation from moth-bitten manuscript to ideological cornerstone.
Richard Krevolin Broken Fragments: Jewish Experiences of Alzheimer's Disease through Diagnosis, Adaptation, and Moving On
These Things Happen
Unbridled, 2012. $24.95 ISBN: 978-1-60953-089-1 A teenage boy who has moved from his mother's home for a school term to live with his father and his male partner finds himself at the heart of an act of violence that causes everyone to reexamine their assumptions, attitudes, and their core beliefs about themselves.
URJ Press, 2012. $16.95 ISBN: pending Broken Fragments includes the stories and teachings of Jewish clergy, physicians, social workers, and families of people with Alzheimer’s disease, weaving rich Jewish texts through each chapter’s narrative.
Be the Hero of Your Story: Understand Your Story, Rewrite it, and Change Your Life Power Story Publishing, 2012. $19.95 ISBN: 978-0-615-61025-2 Hollywood script doctor Prof. Richard Krevolin guides you through the process of identifying the stories and scripts impacting your life.
The Secret Lives of Wives
Magic Words: The Tale of a Jewish Boy-Interpreter, the World's Most Estimable Magician, a Murderous Harlot, and America's Greatest Indian Chief
Gotham, 2012. $18.00 ISBN: 978-1-4104-4352-6 The Secret Lives of Wives is a prescriptive and inspirational guide to having it both ways—marital commitment and personal adventures in uncharted territory.
Pegasus Books, 2012. $25.95 ISBN: 978-1-60598-369-1 In this historical novel, two cousins—an interpreter who can speak any language and a magician who can deceive anyone's eyes —embark on a forty-year adventure in which they defend the American Indian, perform astounding feats of illusion, and meet colorful characters in a fight for love and freedom.
Jewish Book World
© Paul Boisvert
The New Feminist Agenda: Defining the Next Revolution for Women, Work, and Family
Chelsea Green, 2012. $17.95 ISBN: 9781603582919 It is time for a new, relevant feminist agenda that calls for policy changes that will improve the lives of women and strengthen families. The work of creating gender equality is not over: the U.S. has yet to fully act on the values of equal opportunity and participation, regardless of gender or race.
jbc network authors
Jeanne Marie Laskas
Shuva: The Future of the Jewish Past
Hidden America: From Coal Miners to Cowboys, an Extraordinary Exploration of the Unseen People Who Make This Country Work
© Scott Goldsmith
Brandeis University Press, 2012. $29.95 ISBN: 978-1611682311 Modern Jews are struggling through a "memory problem," in which we know how valuable the Jewish past has been to Jewish meaning and identity, but we are losing our grip on how to relate to it. Yehuda Kurtzer offers creative readings of classical Jewish texts and draws on the richness of contemporary thought to offer a new strategy for how Jews can and should think about the past.
Broadstone Books, 2011. $18.50 ISBN: 978-0-9802117-5-7 And God Said... is the author's dialogue/ argument with God. This retelling of the Book of Genesis joins the open conversation of modern midrash and accomplishes the poetic tasks of keeping our tradition fresh.
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2012. $25.95 ISBN: 978-0399159008 From coal miners to cowboys, Hidden America is an eye-opening look at the unseen people who make our lives run every day—the people who do the work, and the cultures surrounding them—from award-winning journalist Jeanne Marie Laskas.
Miles and Jonathan Levin
© Rachel Holland
Keep Fighting, Stop Struggling: The Miles Levin Story
© Ariel Kushner Haber
And God Said. . . A Brief History of Creation
The Book of Job
Schocken Books, 2012. $24.00 ISBN: 978-0-8052-4292-8 From one of our most trusted spiritual advisers, a thoughtful, illuminating guide to the Book of Job, and what it can teach us about living in a troubled world.
Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey Between Genders University of Wisconsin Press, 2012. $26.95 ISBN: 978-0299287306 In 2008, Joy (formerly Jay) Ladin made headlines worldwide when, after years of teaching at an Orthodox Jewish university as a man, she returned as a woman. In Through the Door of Life, Ladin takes readers on a distinctly Jewish journey through the transition process—a process not just of changing genders, but of creating a new self, and new relationships to family, Judaism, the young Orthodox women she teaches, and God.
Bookstand Publishing, 2011. $18.95 ISBN: 978-1-61863-004-9 Keep Fighting, Stop Struggling is a Jewish teenager's first person account of seeing beyond the harshest hardships imposed by destiny. A story of triumph; with death as his opponent, this is nothing less than a boy's race to manhood.
Say Nice Things About Detroit
W. W. Norton & Company, 2012. $25.95 ISBN: 978-0393082999 Seeking a second chance at life, David Halpert moves back to his hometown, where he is forced to answer a simple question: if you want to go home again, what do you do if home is Detroit?
URJ Press, 2012. $39.95 ISBN: 978-0-8074-1145-2 Yoga Shalom is a unique worship experience that brings together body, mind, and spirit for an extraordinary prayer service. Combining the two powerful spiritual disciplines of Jewish worship and yoga practice, Yoga Shalom leads to deeper understandings of both.
Tangles: A Story About Alzheimer's, My Mother, and Me
Skyhorse Publishing, 2012. $14.95 ISBN: 978-1616086398 What do you do when your outspoken, passionate, and quick-witted mother starts fading into a forgetful, fearful woman? In this powerful graphic memoir, Sarah Leavitt reveals how Alzheimer’s disease transformed her mother, Midge—and her family—forever.
Jewish Book World
jbc network authors
Robyn Michele Levy
Most of Me: Surviving My Medical Meltdown
© Jean Lightman
© Michael Schwartz
Teach Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic Success
Harper, 2012. $25.99 ISBN: 9780061824746 Parents, educators, and the media wring their hands about the plight of America’s children and teens—soaring rates of emotional problems, limited coping skills, disengagement from learning—and yet there are ways to reverse these disheartening trends. Psychologist Madeline Levine brings together cutting-edge research and thirty years of clinical experience to explode once and for all the myth that good grades, high test scores, and college acceptances should define the parenting endgame.
Greystone Books, 2012. $16.95 ISBN: 978-1-55365-632-6 At age forty-three, Robyn Michele Levy was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and, eight months later, breast cancer. This brutally honest yet hilarious memoir offers a unique glimpse into a creative mind, an ailing body, and the restorative power of humor and fantasy.
Pantheon Books, 2012. $24.95 ISBN: 978-0-307-37999-3 “As I remember, I had just woken up from a nap when I decided to create the universe.” So begins Alan Lightman’s playful and profound new novel, Mr g, the story of Creation as told by God.
© Rose Lichter Marck
A Sense of Direction: Pilgrimage for the Restless and the Hopeful
Riverhead Books, 2012. $25.95 ISBN: 978-1-59448-725-5 A Sense of Direction follows author Gideon Lewis-Kraus on three pilgrimages—including a trip to Uman to visit the grave of Rabbi Nachman—in which he explores the ongoing conflict between our desires and our obligations.
Europa Editions, 2012. $15.00 ISBN: 9781609450618 A young woman with a quiet suburban life reads Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic Treasure Island and decides to reinvent her life according to the adventure book's "core values."
Seven-7 Publishing, 2011. $13.82 ISBN: 978-0-9839058-0-6 Based on actual events about the rebirth of Israel, Rebirth draws you into 1948, into a world of intrigue, espionage and anti-Semitism. Witness how ancient prophecies were fulfilled against impossible odds as Jews built a nation and defied skeptics.
M. G. Lord
The Essential Guide to Jewish Prayer and Practices
Alpha Books, 2012. $16.95 ISBN: 9781615641383 The Essential Guide to Jewish Prayer and Practices is an accessible primer on Jewish tradition for the twenty-first century reader. Jews of every denomination, as well as people of other faiths, will find practical tips in these pages to help you take your own spiritual journey to the next level.
Pavilion Press, 2012. $16.90 ISBN: 1-4145-0723-2 The descendants of Moses's biblical enemies battle for control of a mystical remnant from Creation called "Black Fire," which has the power to inscribe the Torah Master Scroll created by God as the blueprint for the universe. If they can gain the cooperation of the current caretaker of "Black Fire" and locate the Master Scroll, the foundations of creation and the future of mankind may be forever changed.
Jewish Book World
The Accidental Feminist: How Elizabeth Taylor Raised Our Consciousness and We Were Too Distracted By Her Beauty to Notice
Bloomsbury, 2012. $23.00 ISBN: 9780802716699 With The Accidental Feminist, author M. G. Lord reveals an expected dimension to this remarkable Jewish woman: her seditious, under-the-radar challenges to traditional women’s roles. In “her winning new book,” Jonathan Kirsch wrote in the Jewish Journal, Lord “raises Taylor from the realm of parody,” seeking “to install her in the pantheon of groundbreaking feminist heroines.”
jbc network authors
An Unbroken Bond: The Untold Story of How the 658 Cantor Fitzgerald Families Faced the Tragedy of 9/11 And Beyond
Hitler’s Silver Box: A Novel
Emergence Press, 2012. $16.95 ISBN: 978-0-9839266-0-3 When Edie Lutnick’s younger brother was killed in the World Trade Center on September 11th, she never imagined she would become the voice of the 658 victims, a quarter of the nearly 3,000 men and women who perished that day, in Cantor Fitzgerald's office. This is the riveting story of how the families of 9/11 victims bonded together into a community and overcame unfathomable obstacles.
Paris: A Love Story
Two Harbors Press, 2011. $16.95 ISBN: 9781937293369 Hitler’s Silver Box is a historical thriller in which a worldwide Nazi resurgence is inevitable unless a young physician finds and destroys an old document hidden in a silver box that his Holocaust survivor uncle was forced to make in a Nazi concentration camp.
Simon & Schuster, 2012. $24.00 ISBN: 9781451691542 Kati Marton’s newest memoir is a candid exploration of many kinds of love, as well as a love letter to the city of Paris itself.
Hanna Perlstein Marcus
When We Argued All Night
Harper Perennial, 2012. $14.99 ISBN: 9780062120373 From bestselling and award-winning author Alice Mattison, a breathtaking new novel following two best friends from Brooklyn over the course of the twentieth century, and the way in which the world and their lives change.
Crossing the Borders of Time: A True Story of War, Exile, and Love Reclaimed
Aili & Andres McConnon
Road to Valor: A True Story of WWII Italy, the Nazis, and the Cyclist Who Inspired a Nation
Crown, 2012. $25.00 ISBN: 978-0-307-59064-0 Road to Valor is the inspiring, against-theodds story of Gino Bartali, the Italian cycling legend who made the greatest comeback in Tour de France history and his lesser-known role in saving more than 800 Jews in Germanoccupied Italy during World War II.
© Beowulf Sheehan
Other Press, 2012. $27.95 ISBN: 978-1-59051-496-2 Crossing the Borders of Time tells the story of the author’s mother, a German-Jewish refugee who never stopped yearning to find the Frenchman she had intended to marry before she had to flee Europe in 1942. Leslie Maitland’s dramatic non-fiction account culminates in the daring fulfillment of a vow of love made fifty years earlier on a pier in Marseille.
Self-published, 2011. $15.00 ISBN: 978-1466345034 When Hanna Perlstein and her mother, Sidonia, come to Springfield, Massachusetts from a displaced persons camp, they know no one in America, yet they build a life together revolving around Sidonia's incredible skill with a thread and needle to create beautiful garments, while keeping the secrets of her past to herself.
© Helen Tansey
© Matt Mendelsohn
Sidonia's Thread: The Secrets of a Mother and Daughter Sewing a New Life in America
© Nathan Sternfeld
I Am Forbidden: A Novel
Emeralds Never Fade
Glyd-Evans Press, 2011. $25.95 ISBN: 978-0-9832596-2-6 A poignant story of two men whose lives are forever altered by a period of history that should never be forgotten. Leo Bergner, a Jewish pupil, escapes Germany while his piano teacher, Bruno Franzmann, is called to serve the Fatherland.
Hogarth, 2012. $25.00 ISBN: 978-0-307-98473-9 A family is torn apart by fierce belief and private longing in this unprecedented journey deep inside the most insular Hasidic sect, the Satmar. Sweeping from the Central European countryside just before World War II to Paris to contemporary Williamsburg, Brooklyn, brings to life four generations of one Satmar family.
Jewish Book World
jbc network authors
I Couldn’t Love You More
Unbroken Spirit: A Heroic Story of Faith, Courage and Survival
The Year of the Gadfly
© Diana Levine
Grand Central Publishing, 2012. $13.99 ISBN: 978-0-446-58462-3 Eliot Gordon, a 38-year-old working mother, has two seconds to choose which of her children she will save in a harrowing beach accident. How Eliot survives this unfathomable choice—and what she loses in the process—is a gripping story that will resonate with anyone who has ever loved a child.
Gefen Publishing House, 2012. $29.95 ISBN: 9789652295637 At age twenty-two, Yosef Mendelevich participated in an attempt to hijack a plane to the West—an act designed to raise awareness about the desperate plight of Soviet Jews. This is the story of one man’s resistance against tyranny, and his daily struggle to retain his Jewishness and his humanity in a system built to extinguish both.
© Deb Durant
© AP 2011 Clear Channel Broadcasting
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012, $15.00 ISBN: 978-0374109264 In millennial California, riddled with disillusion, two girlhood friends find each other at midlife. How they recall their friendship alters the fate of the famous cult philosopher father of one of them, their bind and nemesis, altering their sense of possibility and the burden of choice.
Up All Night: My Life and Times in Rock Radio
Ecco, 2012. $26.99 ISBN: 9780061845246 From America’s premiere female rock ‘n roll disc jockey—recognized by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame—comes the story of her fourdecade rise to success in the male-dominated music industry, the rock stars she’s met along the way, and her secret battle with a deadly illness, never revealed to her listeners until now.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012. $24.00 ISBN: 978-0-547-54859-3 The Year of the Gadfly is a literary mystery and coming of age tale about Iris Dupont, a troubled teenager whose only confidante is the chain-smoking specter of Edward R. Murrow. The book follows Iris as she investigates one of her school's few Jewish teachers, a misfit fleeing the tragedies of his own childhood.
Rebooting in Beverly Hills
Bancroft Press, 2012. $22.95 ISBN: 978-1-61088-046-6 Rebooting in Beverly Hills is a hilarious memoir and commentary about the dating world today. Roughly divided between fix-ups, pick-ups, internet dating and matchmaking, Marcy Miller wittily presents her search for love with great stories, helpful advice and Beverly Hills fun and glamour.
Elise Frances Miller
unReal Education: Beyond Report Cards
AuthorHouse, 2012. $19.95 ISBN: 978-1-4685-5504-2 A powerful exposé on our school system and a true story, nineteen years in the making, of how one boy's academic struggles let to his success, in spite of his unREAL Education.
Jewish Book World
A Time to Cast Away Stones
Sand Hill Review Press, 2012. $19.95 ISBN: 978-1-937818-03-6 Janet Magill, a shy, straight-arrow Berkeley freshman, is yanked by her parents from the antiwar movement and sent to Paris for safekeeping, where she runs headlong into the 1968 May Revolution and falls in love with a secretive Czech dissident.
Funny: The Book: Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Comedy
Applause Theater & Cinema Books, 2012. $18.99 ISBN: 9781557838292 A wide-ranging survey of comedy as an art form, including its history, science, philosophy, psychology, anthropology, principles, practices and even theology. With chapters on the Marx Brothers, Woody Allen, and the relationship between comedy and Jews.
jbc network authors
Dora Levy Mossanen
The Last Romanov
Don't Roll Your Eyes: Making Your In-Laws into Family
© Heather Mlodinow
Pantheon Books, 2012. $25.95 ISBN: 978-0-307-37821-7 Leonard Mlodinow gives us an "enlightening " (Booklist), startling and eye-opening examination of how the unconscious mind shapes our experience of the world and how, for instance, we often misperceive our relationships with family, friends, and business associates, misunderstand the reasons for our investment decisions, and misremember important events.
Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. $16.00 ISBN: 978-0230338999 Ruth Nemzoff, an expert in family dynamics, empowers family members across the generations to define and create lasting bonds between in-laws.
Isaac Namdar The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of the Gustav Klimt Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer
© Ian Jones
Simon Sebag Montefiore
Sourcebooks Landmark, 2012. $14.99 ISBN: 9781402265945 The tumultuous years Darya spent in the grandeur of the Imperial family haunt her even now, as a wise and aging beauty ruled by her passions; she believes she is responsible for the murderous events that changed everything. If she can just bring back the innocent royal, the heir to the Russian throne, whose appearance would shift the foundation of her country, she might also piece together the broken parts of her own life.
Jerusalem: The Biography
Vintage Books, 2012. $20.00 ISBN: 978-0-307-28050-3 Jerusalem is the universal city, the capital of two peoples, the shrine of three faiths; it is the prize of empires, the site of Judgment Day and the battlefield of today’s clash of civilizations. From King David to Barack Obama, from the birth of Judaism, Christianity and Islam to the Israel-Palestine conflict, this is the epic history of three thousand years of faith, slaughter, fanaticism and coexistence. Jerusalem won the National Jewish Book Award’s Jewish Book of the Year Award in 2011.
Alfred A. Knopf, 2012. $30.00 ISBN: 978-0-307-26564-7 This is a story of art and justice, about a famous Gustav Klimt masterpiece looted in World War II. It tells of the battle for restitution—not just of a painting, but of history.
In This Day and Age?!
CreatSpace, 2012. $19.99 ISBN: 9781453749210 Dr. Namdar's book is a very candid and personal account of two weeks in his life when he was outed and subsequently ex-communicated from his ancestral Sephardic community. The book examines the national debate on religion and gay rights in the context of one insular Jewish community.
Helen Nash Failure to Thrive
DC Books Canada, 2011. $18.95 ISBN: 978-1-897190-75-3 When Canadian reality TV producer Jonathan Farb finds out that he may be dying of a brain tumor on the same day that he catches his wife having an affair, he makes a pledge: to raise his five month-old son Elliot to manhood before his time is up. Farb's list of parenting goals range from instilling a religious identification (can a baby be Bar Mitzvahed?), to the importance of Education (The Birds & The Bees), and onto more pressing pursuits like amassing capital for his son's inheritance.
Helen Nash's New Kosher Cuisine: Healthy, Simple & Stylish And the Bridge is Love
The Feminist Press, 2011. $12.95 ISBN: 9781558617704 In And the Bridge is Love, Faye Moskowitz looks at life as the child of Jewish immigrants during the Depression, as a writer finding her voice, always with thoughtful honesty, a poet's ear for language and a whole lot of humor.
The Overlook Press, 2012. $35.00 ISBN: 978-1-59020-863-2 This new, health-conscious cookbook from Helen Nash, author of Kosher Cuisine and Helen Nash’s Kosher Kitchen features over 200 recipes that are perfect for weekday dinners, holidays meals, and all kinds of entertaining. Nash includes imaginative fusion recipes that are as modern as they are nutritious alongside her old favorites and signature dishes, based on traditional Eastern European cuisine.
Jewish Book World
jbc network authors Elliot Perlman
© David Cook
© Joelle Phillips
Precious Objects: A Story of Diamonds, Family and a Way of Life
The Street Sweeper
Riverhead Books, 2012. $28.95 ISBN: 978-1-59448-847-4 From the civil rights struggle in the United States to the Nazi crimes against humanity in Europe, there are more stories than people passing one another every day on the bustling streets of every crowded city. Epic in scope, The Street Sweeper explores themes of memory, love, guilt, heroism, the extremes of racism and unexpected kindness, and spans the globe from New York to Chicago to Auschwitz.
Scribner, 2012. $15.00 ISBN: 9781416545132 Now in paperback, this rich and fascinating odyssey of diamond dealing and New York's historic Diamond District is part Jewish immigrant tale and part “affecting and informative tribute to the world of her fathers" (The Washington Post).
Legacy: A Genetic History of the Jewish People
Oxford University Press, 2012. $24.95 ISBN: 9780195379617 In Legacy, medical geneticist Harry Ostrer traces the history of the scientific community's attempt to pinpoint a collective Jewish identity. Bringing together threads from Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and India, this unique work situates Jews in the grander scheme of today’s golden era of genetic analysis—all at a time when assimilation is literally changing the face of world Jewry.
Queen of the Jews
Blair Books, 2012. $15.99 ISBN: 978-1470160937 Queen Salome Alexandra ruled Judea (modern-day Israel) in the first century BCE. Vividly evoking scenes of ancient Jerusalem, Judy Petsonk's novel brings to life the queen's stormy relationship with her husband, and her love for the people who called her ShalomZion: the peace of Zion.
Academy Chicago Publishers, 2012. $17.95 ISBN: 978-0-89733-636-9 Glass Hearts recounts one Orthodox Jewish family’s struggle to survive in rural Hungary during World War I. Serene Spirer, the novel’s narrator, is a quirky young girl whose perception is tempered by a mystical point of view that adds humor and poignancy to the story she has to tell.
Jewish Book World
Four Way Books, 2012. $18.95 ISBN: 978-1-935536-12-3 Set against the tragic events of the Oklahoma City bombings, Breaking and Entering is a timely, gripping new novel about the deep divisions in America today. Challenging the stereotypes we hold about our fellow Americans, the novel follows Christian/Jewish couple Louise and Richard Shapiro, who find their core beliefs about life and love tested as they move from California to rural Michigan.
© Rebecca Webb
Breaking and Entering
Thomas Merton, 2012. $7.99 ISBN: 978-1466472624 A funny, gritty historical thriller set in the world of Jewish basketball players in the 1930s, based very loosely on actual characters and events. Packed with action, intrigue, comedy, and romance, Jewball is a fresh take on an often-overlooked corner of Jewish cultural history, written in an authentic 1930s noir style.
The Candidate: What It Takes to Win—and Hold—the White House
Oxford University Press, 2012. $27.95 ISBN: 978-0199922079 From Truman to 2012, Israel has been part of every presidential election. Popkin's analysis of successful candidates provides new insights about the ways that candidates deal with the moral, political and economic issues involving Eretz Israel and America.
The Devil's Madonna
Oceanview Publishing, 2012. $25.95 ISBN: 978-1-60809-049-5 Recently converted to Judaism and pregnant with her first child, Kali Miller probes her ninety-three-year-old grandmother for information about her roots. But her aloof, guilt-ridden grandmother fears that the revelation of a hidden painting and her own inadvertent role in one of the most horrendous episodes in history, will have devastating consequences for Kali, her unborn child, and perhaps even the world.
© Sarah Shatz
jbc network authors
Beautiful Souls: Saying No, Breaking Ranks, and Heeding the Voice of Conscience in Dark Times Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2012. $24.00 ISBN: 978-0-374-14342-8 Fascinating and timely, Beautiful Souls explores in deeply thoughtful and interesting ways the psychology of resistance and how moral choices play a role in our lives.
You Saved Me, Too: What a Holocaust Survivor Taught Me About Living, Dying, Loving, Fighting and Swearing in Yiddish
Beyond Politics: Inspirational People of Israel
Mazo Publishers, 2011. $16.95 ISBN: 978-1936778-91-1 Part of Israel’s magic is the extraordinary mosaic of people who make up the population. Eighteen vibrant photoessays capture a variety of secular and religious Israelis of all backgrounds, from an Iraqi-born doctor with Save a Child's Heart to a Russian violinmaker to the first Ethiopian member of Knesset.
Globe Pequot Press, 2012. $24.95 ISBN: 978-0-7627-8038-9 An extraordinary and literary “love story” between a young Jewish mother and a much older Holocaust survivor that celebrates the unique and powerful bonds of friendship. This remarkable story explores human connection, the indelible past and what it means to be a good Jew.
Candlewick Press, 2012. $22.99 ISBN: 9780763629762 Through twenty-one meticulously researched accounts—some chronicled in book form for the first time—Doreen Rappaport illuminates the defiance of tens of thousands of Jews across eleven Nazi-occupied countries during World War II.
© Guy Immega
Beyond Courage: The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust
Talk to Me First: Everything You Need to Know to Become Your Kid's "Go-To" Person about Sex
The Midwife of Venice
Gallery Books, 2012. $15.00 ISBN: 9781451657470 Hannah Levi must decide whether to help a wealthy count who implores her to attend to his wife who is in labor. A Papal edict forbids Jews from rendering medical treatment to Christians, but the payment he offers is enough to ransom her beloved husband, Isaac, who has been captured at sea.
Da Capo Press, 2012. $14.99 ISBN: 978-0-7382-1508-2 From nationally acclaimed educator and author of Sex and Sensibility: a guide to raising sexually healthy kids in a world saturated with sexual language and imagery.
The Inspired Life: Unleashing Your Mind's Capacity for Joy Viva Editions, 2011. $15.95 ISBN: 9781936740017 The stories, exercises, and meditations in The Inspired Life by Susyn Reeve with Joan Breiner guide readers to open their minds and hearts to the vast creative possibility alive in each moment. In the long Jewish tradition of hashra’ah, The Inspired Life invites everyone to live their inspired life vision as a reflection of their commitment to a more peaceful and loving world.
Pulp and Paper
University of Iowa Press, 2011. $16.00 ISBN: 978-1-60938-052-6 Award-winning short stories about hardship and common courage layered with Jewish themes of forgiveness and repentance, memory, and finding hope after despair. Pulp and Paper conjures the subtle, fragile moments when people are not yet whole, but no longer quite as broken.
Oy Vey! Isn’t a Strategy: 25 Solutions for Personal and Professional Success
Behrman House, 2012. $14.95 ISBN: 978-0-87441-661-9 Professional coach and corporate trainer Deborah Grayson Riegel brings you practical strategies you can use in work and in life to make both more successful and satisfying. Discover how to identify your ‘hot buttons,’ increase your trust in others, network effectively, and more in this witty, insightful book written in a friendly, readable style that includes a comforting dose of Jewish wisdom.
Jewish Book World
jbc network authors Hanna Rosin
© Nina Subin
© Heidi Elise Benson
Subversives: The FBI's War on Student Radicals and Reagan's Rise to Power
The End of Men: And the Rise of Women
Riverhead Books, 2012. $27.95 ISBN: 9781594488047 A conversation-changing look at the upended state of gender roles and relations—women on top, men in the dust—that's emerging in an unprecedented historical moment.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012. $40.00 ISBN: 9780374257002 The dramatic story of how Ronald Reagan and J. Edgar Hoover colluded to suppress the inspired student movement at Berkeley in the sixties—told in full for the first time. Part history, part biography, and part police procedural, Subversives reads like a true-crime mystery as it provides a fresh look at the legacy of the sixties.
Am I a Jew? Lost Tribes, Lapsed Jews, and One Man’s Search for Himself
Hudson Street Press, 2012. $25.95 ISBN: 978-1-59463-095-8 Ross set out to answer the fundamental question: what makes someone Jewish? Is it practice? Culture? Spirituality? Parents? Or just ethnicity? In this thoughtful and accessible book based off the popular article in Harper’s Magazine, he answers the question for himself and along the way, illustrates how many ways there are to practice religion.
© Johnny Miller
Breaking Bread in Galilee: A Culinary Journey into the Promised Land
Dinner: A Love Story
HarperCollins, 2012. $27.99 ISBN: 9780062080905 Dinner is a love story about one woman, a family, and a ritual; Jenny Rosenstrach—and her husband, Andy—regularly, some might say pathologically, cook dinner for their family every night. Her book brings all the best elements of her popular website together with new recipes, photos and illustrations, and it has something for every kind of dinner diner.
The White Bridge
The Russian Writer's Daughter: Stories of Growing Up American
When General Grant Expelled the Jews
All Things That Matter Press, 2012. $16.99 ISBN: 978-0985006631 The White Bridge, sequel to Ghost Runners, is about racism in America and its deadly relationship with the Holocaust. The murder of her young friend brings a woman news reporter on a journey of vengeance and a crossing that must be undertaken for humanity's redemption, though it rocks the very fabric of the American dream.
© Joseph Wertheim
Hilayon Press, 2012. $18.00 ISBN: 978-965-7594-00-1 Breaking Bread in Galilee recounts a journey into Northern Israel's agricultural landscape, to discover foodways described in the Bible that are still being practiced today, but may be bound for extinction in our lifetime. In kitchens and in crop rows, the author discovers that dialogue over food effectively dispels mistrust and creates a powerful bridge across the Jewish-Arab divide.
Argo Navis, 2012. $9.99 ISBN: 9780786752850 In her debut short story collection “The False Bride,” award winning fiction and television writer Racelle Rosett, explores the role of ritual of faith in the lives of congregants in a Reform Jewish community in Hollywood.
Jewish Book World
Mayapple Press, 2012. $15.95 ISBN: 978-1-936419-10-4 Intertwined stories about growing up in a Russia-American Jewish household, speaking only Russian until entering grade school although born in the US in the stifling political atmosphere of the Red Scare. At the center of these memories is the author's father, whose complex personality mixes a passion for social justice with a passion to protect his family, and intellectual snobbery.
Schocken Books/Nextbook Press, 2012. $24.95 ISBN: 9780805242799 "An excellent study [from the] gifted and resourceful historian Jonathan D. Sarna" (Washington Post) of General Ulysses S. Grant’s decision, in the middle of the Civil War, to order the expulsion of all Jews from the territory under his command, and the reverberations of that decision on Grant’s political career, on the nascent American Jewish community, and on the American political process.
jbc network authors
Fierce Joy: A Memoir
Contesting Histories: German and Jewish Americans and the Legacy of the Holocaust
Holy Eating: The Spiritual Secret to Eternal Weight Loss
Greenpoint Press, 2012. $20.00 ISBN: 978-0983237044 Fierce Joy is a medical mystery, a love story, and a spiritual adventure. It tells the story of a woman who discovered how to be sick without suffering, and transformed the loss of her place in the world of children’s TV and publishing into a quest for her soul—and her discovery of the world of Jewish wisdom.
iUniverse, 2012. $16.95 ISBN: 978-1-4620-6344-4 Holy Eating, a powerful self-transformation program, translates biblical and kabbalistic wisdom into practical techniques for overcoming the universal struggle against overeating. This unique book will inspire and guide you on a dramatic journey with food that will elevate your spirit while helping you achieve lifelong weight transformation.
Texas Tech University Press, 2011. $34.95 ISBN: 978-0896726987 Starting with popular objections to America’s entry into World War I and ending with recent academic debates between Christopher Browning and Daniel Goldhagen over the legacy and meaning of the Holocaust, Schuldiner provides readers with a longer historical context and a deeper study of the Holocaust’s reception and place in American historiography.
Barry Schwartz Extreme Weather
Miracles & Fate on 78: A 9/11 Story of Inspiration
Self-published, 2011. $17.99 ISBN: 9780615534039 Of all the Cantor employees in the World Trade Center that day, only four survived and Ari believes that God was looking out for him that day. There were many large and small miracles and if there’s anything that Ari does know it is how that day ended up being a day of rebirth.
Blood in the Promised Land
Jewish Publication Society, 2012. $15.00 ISBN: 978-0-8276-1131-3 Rabbi Barry L. Schwartz presents ten epic debates from the biblical, rabbinic, and modern periods that illuminate the political, ethical and spiritual challenges of Judaism and Jewish history.
iUniverse, 2011. $19.95 ISBN: 978-1-4620-2611-1 Set at the height of World War II, and spotlighting significant touch points in Jewish history, Blood in the Promised Land chronicles the arduous yet inspiring journey of a Jewish physician forced to escape Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II and, later, to make a dramatic, life-altering decision that enables him to emerge as a powerful role model of Jewish courage and moral strength.
Oddly Normal: One Family's Struggle to Help Their Teenage Son Come to Terms with His Sexuality
Judaism's Great Debates: Timeless Controversies from Abraham to Herzl
© Alicia Savage
Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. $17.00 ISBN: 978-0230115736 Flash floods, tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, mudslides, thunderstorms, and wildfires—these devastating events are happening around the world at an alarming rate. As a Meteorologist on CNN and HLN, and Extreme Weather Expert on the DIY Network Bonnie Schneider reports on these natural disasters, explaining when they're likely to strike, and telling viewers how to respond when they do.
Voice, 2012. $25.99 ISBN: 9781401341817 Debut novelist Francesca Segal recasts Edith Wharton's iconic fin de siècle novel The Age of Innocence into the modern-day, upper-crust Jewish community of North West London. Slyly humorous and deeply satisfying, The Innocents illuminates the conflict between responsibility and passion, security and exhilaration, tradition and independence.
Penguin, 2012. $26.00 ISBN: 978-1592407286 John Schwartz, whose grandfather, Joseph Schwartz, emigrated to the United States from Russia a century ago, tells a uniquely American story of this Joseph Schwartz of a new generation, facing challenges of his own in a much changed world.
Jewish Book World
jbc network authors Robin Shulman
The Last Great Senate: Courage and Statesmanship in Times of Crisis
Eat the City: A Tale of the Fishers, Foragers, Butchers, Farmers, Poultry Minders, Sugar Refiners, Cane Cutters, Beekeepers, Winemakers, and Brewers Who Built New York
Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety
© Tyler Maroney
PublicAffairs, 2012. $34.99 ISBN: 978-1586489366 Long-time Senate staffer Ira Shapiro describes the achievements of the "Last Great Senate" of the 1960s and 1970s with a focus on 1976-1980. As approval ratings of the current Congress are in the single digits, Shapiro looks back to when the Senate worked in a bipartisan fashion to the nation's challenges.
Crown Books, 2012. $26.00 ISBN: 978-0-307-71905-8 This intelligent, gripping, and beautifully written book introduces New Yorkers—past and present—who grow vegetables, butcher meat, fish local waters, refine sugar, keep bees for honey, brew beer, and make wine.
The Cornerstone of Deception
Library Tales Publishing, 2011. $18.99 ISBN: 9780578074580 The Fix is a Jewish crime novel, based on the author's life.
The Third House, 2011. $22.00 ISBN: 978-1461052814 “ A riveting tale of archaeological intrigue” (Kirkus). The Cornerstone of Deception's historical elements are well researched, and Simani displays an additional gift for weaving an engrossing love story.
Simon & Schuster, 2012. $25.00 ISBN: 9781439177303 An uplifting, smart, and uproariously funny memoir of life with anxiety—America’s most common psychological complaint. Daniel Smith brilliantly articulates what it is like to live with anxiety, defanging the disorder with humor and traveling through its demonic layers to express both its painful internal coherence and its absurdities.
Lisa April Smith
2old2wait2young2giveup, 2011. $2.99 ISBN: B006GDK3NO In 1961, after Palm Beach socialite Jack Morgan commits suicide, his daughter Charlotte, a suddenly penniless twenty-threeyear-old has two goals: find a way to support herself and discover the reason for her father's suicide. The latter leads to Paris, before and after Nazi occupation, to a lackluster artist/ irresistible conman and a bewitching Jewish girl—the mother Charlotte doesn’t remember.
Larry Smith Yale University Press, 2012. $40.00 ISBN: 978-0-300-16235-6 The first full-scale biography of one of the most important—and enigmatic—leaders in Israeli history, Menachem Begin.
Jewish Book World
The Wedding Beat
NAL, 2012. $14.00 ISBN: 9780451235794 The Wedding Beat is a comic novel, loosely based on the author’s real-life experience at The New York Times as a single, Jewish guy writing the Vows wedding column—“always the wedding columnist, never the groom.”
© Gillian Zoe Segal
Menachem Begin: A Life
Oy! Only Six? Why Not More? SixWord Memoirs on Jewish Life
SMITH Magazine, 2012. $10.95 ISBN: 978-0-9847350-1-3 The latest in the popular Six-Word Memoir book series from the online storytelling community SMITHmag.net. With contributions from machers like Larry David, Henry Winkler, Jonathan Safran Foer, Elizabeth Wurtzel, Maira Kalman and Mayor Ed Koch, Six-Word Memoirs on Jewish Life offers 360 stories of faith and family, duty and identity, celebration, and tsuris that will inform, delight, and inspire—six words at a time.
jbc network authors
Adin Steinsaltz & Meni Even-Israel
Koren Talmud Bavli
The Watchmaker’s Daughter
© Jane Berger
The Pretty Girl: Novella and Stories
Four Way Books, 2012. $17.95 ISBN: 978-1-935536-18-5 Gritty and elusive, the novella and six stories in Debra Spark’s The Pretty Girl revolve around artists, artistry, and the magical—sometimes malicious—deceptions they create. Spark’s stories twist and turn in mesmerizing ways, seeming to defy the laws of reality even as they deftly extend and reinvigorate those laws.
Koren Publishers Jerusalem, 2012. $29.95 ISBN: 978-965-301-5630 This is the first of a project 41 volume new edition in English of this core text of Judaism. Newly translated and lavishly illustrated, the Koren Talmud Bavli is now accessible to the broad audience of all Jews.
McWitty Press, 2012. $14.95 ISBN: 978-0-9755618-8-1 The Watchmaker’s Daughter is the spirited and touching story of a child of Holocaust survivors who seeks to heal both her parents and herself. She does so through adventure, achievement (including degrees from Oxford and Yale Law School), and a daring love affair which, surprisingly, brings closure to the family.
Elliot Talenfeld © Sondra Green
Where We Once Gathered: Lost Synagogues of Europe God of Love: A Guide to the Heart of Judaism, Christianity and Islam Monkfish Book Publishing Company, 2012. $15.95 ISBN: 978-0983358923 God of Love is Mirabai Starr's passionate and personal exploration of the interconnected wisdom of the 3 Abrahamic faiths. She shares an overview of essential teachings, stories of saints and spiritual masters, prophetic calls for peace and justice and for the first time in print, deeply engaging narratives from her own spiritual experiences as a Jew who embraces multiple spiritual traditions.
Eifrig Publishing, 2012. $19.99 ISBN: 978-1-936172-48-1 Strongwater tells the story of European Jewish life before the Holocaust through this collection of original and vibrant watercolor paintings depicting synagogues that were eradicated before and during World War II. Where We Once Gathered preserves an important piece of Jewish cultural history. An ideal educational resource for children.
Through a Still Imperfect Lens: A True Story of Personal Growth and Relationship from a Psychospiritual Perspective Perach Press, 2011. $11.99 ISBN: 978-0-9722498-3-6 How do a law professor and his psychotherapist wife, both Jewish, walk away from their mainstream credentials to join a New-Age spiritual community? You won’t believe some of the things they learned there...and brought back to make us all the richer.
Michele Tamaren & Michael Wittner
© Sam Masinter
El Iluminado: A Graphic Novel
Basic Books, 2012. $23.99 ISBN: 978-0465032570 In the desert Southwest, a leading scholar of the Jews in America is caught in a murder wrapped in the past and the present in this graphic novel that is equal parts mystery, history, and hilarity.
Brown Books, 2012. $24.95 ISBN: 978-1-61254-0559 Hitler’s Priest is a gripping story about the journey of two families during the Holocaust, revolving around a young German architect invited by Josef Goebbels to become a Catholic priest in order to influence the Vatican.
ExtraOrdinary: An End of Life Story Without End
Pearlsong Press, 2012. $18.95 ISBN: 9781597190619 ExtraOrdinary is a spiritual memoir and love story about a man who became a healer and a teacher in his nineties, as his life was coming to completion. In this true-life tale of transformation, Herman Liss taught a teenage boy, family, friends, and caregivers that it is one's own heart that makes the ordinary extraordinary.
Jewish Book World
jbc network authors
One Last Thing Before I Go
Sapphire Ink Press, 2012. $15.95 ISBN: 978-1-938133-00-8 Jacob Goldman has long ago dismissed his own Jewish heritage as lackluster and irrelevant, and his route to spirituality has since been cobbled together through his affinity with the natural world, and through his marriage to Sheila, a full-blooded Native American with deep alliances to her tribe and her culture. Restless and unsatisfied, Jacob continues to wrestle with God’s place in his life when tragedy devastates his family while on vacation in Hawaii.
Dutton, 2012. $26.95 ISBN: 978-0-525-95236 Following his breakthrough success with the heartfelt and hilarious New York Times bestseller This is Where I Leave You, Jonathan Tropper's latest novel is a moving and outrageously funny look at one family's attempt to conquer life's surprises.
© Chuck Berman
© Elizabeth Parker Tropper
Man Seeks God: My Flirtations with the Divine
Twelve Books, 2011. $26.99 ISBN: 9780446539470 After a health scare leaves him reeling, Eric Weiner—an atheist by default—sets out on a worldwide search for an experience of the Divine. With his trademark wit and warmth, Weiner leaves no stone unturned.
Jennifer Gardner Trulson
Where You Left Me
The Case for Children
Stephen Tobolowsky Gallery Books, 2012. $15.00 ISBN: 978-1-4516-2142-6 Where You Left Me tells an ordinary woman's extraordinary tale of unimaginable loss, resilience, friendship, faith, and healing in the wake of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. It is an unlikely love story, a quintessentially New York story—at once Trulson’s tribute to the city that gave her everything and proof that second chances are possible.
The Dangerous Animals Club
Simon & Schuster, 2012. $24.00 ISBN: 9781451633153 From celebrated character actor and uncommonly talented storyteller Stephen Tobolowsky, The Dangerous Animals Club is a series of stories told in a unique voice and a spiritual inquisitiveness that touch on life’s great mysteries, with a cast of characters that range from legendary film directors to physicists, ghosts, pygmy hippos, and hostage takers.
© Marion Ettlinger
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012. $27.00 ISBN: 9780374117559 “The award winning writer returns with a major, absorbing, atmospheric novel that takes on profound questions of Jewish history and identity. [By Blood] speaks volumes about the way we think about the Jewish past.”—Adam Kirsch, Tablet
The China Gambit
Vantage Point, 2012. $14.99 ISBN: 978-1936467259 In Allan Topol's fast-paced seventh novel of international intrigue, Craig Page, a former CIA agent, races against time to find out what happened to his daughter Francesca, a newspaper reporter. In his search with her editor Elizabeth, he uncovers a frightening plot involving Iran and China—with terrifying repercussions for the United States and Israel.
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Barricade Books, 2012. $15.95 ISBN: 978-1-56980-474-2 As the subject of demography, declining birthrates in the West (and the impact this phenomenon has on gender roles) has recently become a controversial topic; The Case for Children offers a compelling perspective on the family system today.
W. W. Norton & Company, 2012. $24.95 ISBN: 9780393077971 Helga's Diary is a strikingly immediate and exceptional firsthand account of the Holocaust. Helga's remarkable diary begins in 1939, during the first wave of the Nazi invasion and continues through Helga's time at the concentration camp of Terezin, where she continued to write with astonishing insight about her daily life.
Jewish Book Month 2012
November 7thDecember 7th Presenting the 2012 poster by Liana Finck, inspired by Larry Smithâ€™s Oy! Only Six? Why Not More! Six-Word Memoirs on Jewish Life
Jewish Book Month Kit
2 posters, 100 bookmarks for children, 100 bookmarks for adults #
*Jewish Book Month Kit: Nov. 7, 2012- Dec. 7, 2012
____ $50.00 ____
Each additional poster ordered with kit add $4.50 for handling & postage for additional 1-3 posters with kit
____ $17.00 ____ ____ $4.50 ____
2012 Jewish Book Month poster (Purchased separately) add $4.50 postage & handling for each 1-3 posters
____ $20.00 ____ ____ $4.50 ____
Jewish Book Month book marks $8.50 per 100 (ordered at time of purchase of kit) ____ for children, ____ for adults ____ $8.50 ____ ordered separately per 100 ____ children, ____ adult ____ $10.00 ____ add $4.50 postage and handling per 100 ____ $4.50 ____ *the complete kit includes postage. For additional items, include extra postage as noted.
Name: _________________________ Address: _______________________ _______________________________ City: ___________________________ State:________ Zip Code:__________ Please send check and order form to: Jewish Book Council 520 8th Avenue, 4th Floor New York, NY 10018 To pay by credit card, please call 212-201-2920
jbc network authors Alex Witchel
Feeding Eden: The Trials and Triumphs of a Food Allergy Family
All Gone: A Memoir of My Mother’s Dementia. With Refreshments.
The Mom 100 Cookbook: One Hundred Recipes Every Mom Needs in Her Back Pocket
The Tattooed Rabbi
Hiding Places: A Mother, a Daughter, an Uncovered Life
© Fred R. Conrad
Sterling Publishing, 2012. $24.95 ISBN: 9781402781223 An engaging mother's memoir, Feeding Eden tells the story of how childhood food allergies—a prevalent and potentially deadly health issue—affect the lives of a family.
Riverhead Books, 2012. $26.95 ISBN: 9781594487910 Desperate to hang on to her mother who is quickly disappearing into dementia, a daughter turns to the kitchen; as she recreates favorite dishes from a classic 1950s childhood, she learns to savor their loving, empowering, and forever-sustaining relationship.
Workman Publishing, 2012. $16.95 ISBN: 978-0761166030 Five solutions for each of the twenty dilemmas that everyone faces in the cooking-for-kids arena every day: one hundred lifesaving recipes and advice for dealing with the vegetable averse, fish-o-phobes, and last minute bake sale requests.
© Debbi Cooper
The Wayward Moon
Yotzeret Publishing, 2012. $14.95 ISBN: 978-159287-101-8 An odyssey through the ninth century Middle East at the height of the Islamic Empire, this unique story provides a rare glimpse into the heart and mind of a young Jewish woman on a journey of endurance and self-discovery.
Antenna Books, 2011. $19.95 ISBN: 978-1470058692 The debut of Rabbi Ben, a roving troubleshooter and sleuth-for-hire, in a fast-paced thriller set in Southern California. Ben seeks the source of mysterious millions circulating through Congregation Beit Joseph’s little-used cheder scholarship account, and the possibility that bodies were secretly buried in the temple’s reserved cemetery plots.
SUNY Press, 2012. $24.95 ISBN: 9781438442433 Psychologist Diane Wyshogrod’s long and careful investigation of her mother’s survival of the Shoah, her Christian rescuers, and her depiction of her own daily life in contemporary Israel make for compelling reading.
© Zack Zook
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© Andre Lamberston
Harper Perennial, 2012. $14.99 ISBN: 9780062090331 Flatscreen is a coming-of-age novel for our current times, exploring spiritual vacancy in contemporary Jewish suburbia.
Vagina: A New Biography
Ecco, 2012. $27.99 ISBN: 9780061989162 From one of our best selling and most respected cultural critics, Naomi Wolf, comes an astonishing work of cutting-edge science and cultural history: a radical exploration of the vagina as a gateway to—and medium of—female consciousness itself.
Jewish Ethics & Social Justice: A Guide for the 21st Century
Derusha, 2012. $14.95 ISBN: 978-1935104148 Jewish Ethics & Social Justice is a sweeping meditation on how we can make Judaism universally relevant again, exploring issues such as hunger, prison reform, worker rights, and more through a specifically Jewish ethical lens. Shmuly Yanklowitz guides readers through the core values of the Jewish tradition and towards a transformative, deeper examination of timeless issues of power, privilege, race, and wealth.
jbc network authors
children’s & ya
Love Is Never Past Tense…
Life Spark, 2011. $18.95 ISBN: 9780983746201 Janna Yeshanova has written her life story as a novel: a classic Russian tale of love, loss, betrayal and the eventual reunion of starcrossed lovers set against the unfolding of dramatic political intrigue.
Sarah Crichton Books, 2012. $TBD ISBN: 978-0-374-19271-6 Love Bomb is an inventive, darkly funny novel about love, marriage, stalkers, and the travails of suburban parenthood.
The Magic Room: A Story About the Love We Wish Our Daughters Gotham Books, 2011. $26.95 ISBN: 978-1-592-40661-6 The Magic Room: A Story About the Love We Wish for Our Daughters profiles a smalltown Michigan bridal shop and some of the 100,000 brides who have made pilgrimage there since 1934.
Tefilat HaDerech: The Traveler's Prayer
EKS Publishing, 2012. $17.95 ISBN: 978-0-939144-68-6 Tefilat HaDerech takes young readers on a journey through Jewish history. Framing their travels is a new, age-appropriate translation of Tefilat HaDerech, a prayer traditionally recited during journeys.
© Christopher Barth
Scribner, 2011. $26.95 ISBN: 978-1-4516-6106-4 Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope is the story of United States Representative Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, written in cooperation with Jeffrey Zaslow.
© Laura Turbow
© Ken Yanoviak
Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope
Jason Aronson, 2012. $16.95 ISBN: 978-0-7657-0887-8 In Surviving Your Bar/Bat Mitzvah, Cantor Matt Axelrod provides a practical, humorous guide for Jewish students and their families as they prepare for their “big day.” Breezy and friendly yet reassuring and focused, Axelrod easily cuts through the fear and stress that teens often feel in the months leading up to their bar or bat mitzvah.
© Eden Zaslow
Surviving Your Bar/Bat Mitzvah The Ultimate Insider's Guide
Dan Gets a Minivan: Life at the Intersection of Dude and Dad
Scribner, 2012. $24.00 ISBN: 9781451606461 In the tradition of Dave Barry, Dan Gets a Minivan is a coming-of-middle-age tale by humorist Dan Zevin about a man's inevitable transition into mid-life, in the vehicle that dare not speak its name, fully loaded with a wife, kids, dog, and a GPS route out of the city and into the suburbs.
Walker Books for Young Readers, 2012. $9.99 ISBN: 9780802723321 This widely acclaimed coming-of-age novel explores abuse in the Chassidic community and ultimately offers compassion and hope. Author Judy Brown originally published this under the pseudonym Eishes Chayil ("woman of valor"), because of feared backlash from her community.
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jbc network authors Edward Einhorn
Playing Dreidel With Judah Maccabee
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
When the Hurricane Came
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2011. $16.99 ISBN: 9781442421769 Mara Dyer doesn't know if she is crazy or haunted—all she knows is that everyone around her is dying. Part thriller, part paranormal, this debut novel will have readers on the edge of their seats.
Theater 61 Press, 2011. $14.95 ISBN: 978-0-9770197-4-8 A play in eight scenes about a modern boy who finds Judah Maccabee in an abandoned room, which exists both in his own temple and the ancient Temple in Jerusalem. A celebration of Hanukkah and its ancient origins, told with gentle humor.
Heidi Smith Hyde
CreateSpace, 2012. $7.99 ISBN: 978-1470082536 When The Hurricane Came opens as nineyear old Gertie and her family are forced to flee New Orleans in the face of the devastation from the oncoming storm. This contemporary Jewish American novel, written for children ages 8-11, follows Gertie and her family as she learns about displacement and loss, about tzedakah and giving, and about the healing powers of tikkun olam, helping to make the world a better place.
Jenny Meyerhoff Emanuel and the Hanukkah Rescue
The Count's Hanukkah Countdown
Kar-Ben Publishing, 2012. $17.95 ISBN: 9780761366256 In this tale of historical fiction set in colonial times, trying to be brave like Captain Henshaw, Emanuel stows away on a whaling ship on the last night of Hanukkah. When a storm overtakes the boat and knocks out the lighthouse, it is his father’s courage and the family menorah that brings the crew home safely.
Kar-Ben Publishing, 2012. $16.95 ISBN: 978-0761375562 At a gala Hanukkah party on Sesame Street, Grover and the Count welcome visiting Israeli Muppet friends Brosh and Avigail, tell the story of Hanukkah, feast on latkes, and learn that EIGHT is the perfect Hanukkah number.
Jacqueline Dembar Greene
Francine Hermelin Levite
Sami’s Sleepaway Summer
Scholastic, 2012. $5.99 ISBN: 978-0545362672 Every time Sami thinks about going to Jewish overnight camp she gets shpilkes—she is not a sleepaway camp kind of kid. But Sami never counted on delicious Shabbat dinners, fun new friends and a summer she'd never forget.
Speak Up, Tommy!
My Haggadah: Made It Myself
Kar-Ben Publishing, 2012. $17.95 ISBN: 978-0-7613-7497-8 Tommy’s classmates tease him about his Israeli accent and the way he speaks English. But his knowledge of Hebrew makes him a hero when a policeman and his dog come to visit Tommy’s school.
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Made it Myself Books, 2012. $24.95 ISBN: 978-0-9852426-0-2 My Haggadah: Made It Myself is an open-ended art, activity, and sticker book that allows children to personalize their own Haggadot through their words and images. While My Haggadah includes the basic elements of a traditional Haggadah, at its core it is a creative, playful,l and powerful conversation tool for parents/educators and children.
Jews of the Wild West: A Multicultural True Story
Paint Horse Press, 2012. $9.95 ISBN: 978-0-615-55388-7 Teenage Jewish brothers leave Germany in 1854 and settle in New Mexico. Their real life adventures are accentuated by vivid folk art style illustrations.
jbc network authors
Mira’s Diary: Lost in Paris
The Apple Tree's Discovery
Marc Tyler Nobleman
Sheri Sinykin & Kristina Swarner
Sourcebooks, 2012. $12.99 ISBN: 978-1402266065 Accompanied by fun and engaging illustrations, Mira’s Diary: Lost in Paris is a fresh take on weaving together real history and art with action, adventure, time-travel and family drama in an exciting new series for middle grade readers.
Ann Redisch Stampler
The Wooden Sword
Kar-Ben Publishing, 2012. $16.95 ISBN: 9780761351306 In this folktale, a little apple tree in a forest of oaks begs God for stars like those glimmering on the branches of the great oak trees beside her. As the seasons pass, she learns to appreciate her own gifts and realizes that it’s possible to find a star in each of us.
Albert Whitman, 2012. $16.99 ISBN: 978-0-8075-9201-4 In this classic Jewish folktale from Afghanistan, a shah slips out of his palace disguised in servant's clothes to learn more about his people, only to be taken in by a poor Jewish shoemaker and his wife. The tasks the shah sets to test the poor man's optimistic faith that everything will turn out just as it should lead to a triumphant conclusion that showcases the shoemaker's resourcefulness and deeply held beliefs, and reflects mutual respect.
Elaine Wolf Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman
Charlesbridge, 2012. $17.95 ISBN: 978-1580892896 Only one person is officially credited as the creator of Batman: cartoonist Bob Kane. This is the first-ever book telling the true and tragic story of the man whose name should be there: writer Bill Finger.
Zayde Comes to Live
Peachtree Publishers, 2012. $16.95 ISBN: 978-1-56145-631-4 When Rachel's beloved Jewish grandfather, Zayde, comes to spend his last days with her family, she worries what will happen after he dies, especially after friends tell her the Christian and Muslim beliefs about the afterlife. No one has the perfect answer, but soon Rachel finds a way to make peace with her grandfather’s passing, gathering all the moments she can, and honoring his life, one small memory at a time.
Sky Pony Press, 2012. $16.95 ISBN: 978-1-61608-657-2 At Camp Takawanda for Girls in 1963, 14-year-old Amy Becker discovers the truth about what her mother lost on Kristallnacht, setting in motion a tragic event that changes Amy and her family forever. Camp, a haunting and sensitive mother-daughter story for mothers and daughters to share, is a compelling portrayal of Holocaust guilt and the collateral damage of family secrets.
Laurel Snyder Rachel’s Secret
Second Story Press, 2012. $12.95 ISBN: 978-1-926920-37-5 Inspired by actual events, Rachel's Secret is about a Jewish teen overwhelmed by anti-Jewish propaganda that preceded the deadly 1903 Kishinev pogrom. With her world changed forever, Rachel becomes friends with a Christian boy, and an unexpected bond between them deepens—one of the few signs of goodness and hope in a time of chaos and violence.
Good Night, Laila Tov
Random House Books for Young Readers, 2012. $17.99 ISBN: 978-0375868689 A lilting bedtime poem about the beauty of nature and the importance of the Jewish family. As we care for each other and the Earth, so they care for us.
Jewish Book World
for book clubs JBW recommends...
Suddenly, a Knock on the Door
by Etgar Keret
See review on pp. 46 1. How were you affected by the way the title story and the closing story, “What Animal Are You?,” describe writers versus audiences? Does the story in “The Story, Victorious” fulfill the high expectations that were set for it? 2. If you were to pull the arm of the gumball machine in “Lieland,” what would you encounter? Who were the most interesting characters in your past lies? 3. Suddenly, a Knock on the Door features many scenes of unresolved love, from Miron in “Healthy Start,” who is willing to get punched for someone else’s infidelity so that he can experience human interaction, to the narrator of “Not Completely Alone,” whose beloved is involved with a married man. Which of the book’s love stories resonated the most with you? 4. Most of the book’s characters face a startling fate: “Cheesus Christ” features a butterfly effect involving clinical depression, miscommunication, and sheer bad luck; Simyon dies in a terrorist attack, leaving behind a widow who barely knew him but will enjoy the pension; Oshri in “Bad Karma” survives when jumper Nattie lands on his head, but Oshri is wistful for his comatose days. What do the book’s death tales tell us about survival? 5. What common traits are shared by all the characters, regardless of whether they are Arab, Israeli, or American? Does gender affect the personalities of the characters, or are the book’s men and women equally neurotic/rational, pushy/passive? 6. How did you react to the final scenes in “Pick a Color” and “One Step Beyond”? What interpretation of God is offered in each of these stories? 7. Reincarnation abounds in this collection, from Bertha in “Bitch,” who becomes a traveling poodle, to Shkedi in “Guava,” who arranges
for peace on earth but becomes a terrified guava. if you were to be reincarnated as a nonhuman, what would your best and worst options look like? 8. In stories of punishment, such as “A Good One” (in which entrepreneur Gershon gets clobbered by a security guard while trying to market his board game, “stop—Police”), is there any justice? Or is there only irony? 9. How did the collection’s depictions of children (ranging from “The Polite Little Boy” to the demanding Hillel in “Big Blue Bus”) compare to your memories of childhood? What does Roiki’s story in “Teamwork” say about the way parents explain the world to their children, and the aspects of childhood we never leave behind? 10. Discuss the power and achievements of the hemorrhoid in the story by the same name. Is the hemorrhoid an allegorical character that can teach us important life lessons? Or is it just incredibly funny? 11. Several of the stories address financial issues directly, especially “September All Year Long” and “Grab the Cuckoo by the Tail.” What does Suddenly, a Knock on the Door say about the relationship between wealth and doom? 12. What, of the goldfish, would you wish? 13. In stories such as “Unzipping” and “Pudding,” the characters assume new identities in an instant. How does Keret make his surrealism seem realistic? 14. What universal fears and longings are expressed in the intertwining lives of “Surprise Party”? 15. Suddenly, a Knock on the Door features more than a hundred characters and dozens of sometimes interlocking story lines. What does this indicate about the versatility of short fiction? What can short stories achieve that a novel can’t? © Yanai Yechiel
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for book clubs
Shuva: The Future of the Jewish Past by Yehuda Kurtzer
See review on pp. 58 Are there ethical costs involved with rehabilitating ‘memory’ instead of ‘history?’ If history supplanted memory from an evolutionary standpoint, why would we need to bring memory back? Hurban: The Holocaust holds powerful sway over modern Jewish consciousness – but some say too much, while others say not enough. · Do you accept the book’s critique that the memory of the Holocaust as it currently manifests in Jewish life is flawed? · How does the Holocaust feature in your memory? Do you have relatives or friends who survived the Holocaust? How different is it to ‘remember’ something Jewishly that you did not experience, than to remember something to which you have direct access? · What is the difference between storytelling and building memorials? Which preserves memory better, and which promotes memory better?
Teshuvah: The author describes a conversation between two Jewish leaders, one who sees herself as an ‘insider’ and one who sees herself as an ‘outsider;’ and the sense of envy that one felt for another. · With which of these Jewish stories do you identify? · Have you ever felt envy for someone else’s memories? Where do you think this sensation comes from? · What are the defining moments, stories or memories from your own past – real or imagined! – that you think are most essential to how you tell your own story? How has your memory of these events evolved over time? The author repeatedly channels rabbinic texts and stories to tell a modern Jewish story using old templates and classical paradigms. Does it strengthen or weaken the novelty of the ideas that they are articulated in reference to ancient tales? Why do you think the author does this rather than making a more forceful “programmatic” argument? In the epilogue the author falls short of being prescriptive about how to cultivate new attitudes towards memory in Jewish life. What initiatives or activities do you think could bring about a re-embrace of the past in the way the author describes?
Jewish Book World
emerging voices a conversation with
by Jaclyn Trop
First-time author Francesca Segal recreated one of the twentieth century canon’s gems, Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence, to apply the same themes of society, class, love, and family to modern London. Lawyer Adam Newman has always played by the rules and is preparing to marry his childhood sweetheart, Rachel Gilbert, when her beautiful, reckless cousin, Ellie Schneider, arrives from America. Adam must choose between following the path carved for him or following his heart.
© Alicia Savage
Jaclyn Trop: Adam is confronted with a choice throughout the novel, but it seems as though the decision is ultimately made for him. What message are you imparting about marriage, relationships, and society? Fransesca Segal: I would hate to be too prescriptive about interpretation—and I’ve been fascinated by the reactions I’ve had so far. Most readers feel very strongly about Adam’s choice, but they certainly don’t all agree with one another. I don’t think I set out to impart a message, so much as to ask certain questions. What constitutes a good marriage? And a good life? Romantic lore suggests that one chooses a life partner as an individual, in a vacuum—that one person alone is the source of all happiness, regardless of context or circumstance. At the other end is absolute pragmatism, but between those two is a vast and complex landscape. One doesn’t, in reality, live in a vacuum, and everyone brings a constellation of factors into a marriage - their family, their culture; their interests, their financial circumstances, their ambitions, and it seems strange to suggest that none of those things contributes to one’s overall compat-
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ibility and happiness. Ellie versus Rachel, alone, in isolation? That is an altered playing field. But the lives that each woman offers—those are very different. JT: Ellie tells Adam, ‘I swear, I knew you, I saw who you were, that very first time I met you’ when she was a child. It is clear why Adam is intrigued by Ellie, the melancholy model, but what attracts Ellie to Adam? FS: I suspect it is a combination of factors including, initially, an envy of anything that Rachel has. Ellie’s perception is that Rachel has everything and her life is perfect, and then into it comes another man to protect and take care of her. Initially I think that might contribute. And then they get to know one another, and both have their preconceptions of the other challenged. JT: Who is the victim of the story? Does it change throughout? FS: That’s such a fascinating question, as I’d never considered the story as having a victim. I suspect you can make a case for each of Rachel,
emerging voices review The Innocents Francesca Segal Voice, 2012 Hardcover 288 pp. $25.99 [e] ISBN: 978-1401341817
eceit and betrayal abound in this tale by first-time novelist Francesca Segal. Drawing upon Edith Wharton’s 1921 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Age of Innocence, Segal spins a tale of upper-middle class London Jews behaving badly. Twenty-eight-year-old Adam Newman is preparing to marry Rachel Gilbert, who has played loyal girlfriend to his faithful breadwinner ever since they met on a teen tour to Israel twelve years ago. The two are flush with excitement and good wishes on their new engagement when Rachel’s orphaned cousin, Ellie Schneider, returns to Temple Fortune, their close-knit suburban London community. Tongues wag as Ellie, a statuesque blond wild child booted from her
FrancescaSegal: @JewishBook Everyone has been so lovely, I’ve been floored. One reader wrote to say she was furious Adam waited so long to to propose. I do like the impassioned emails addressed to characters. She said she was very cross with him. #jbcbooks
writing program at Columbia University for starring in an adult film, is folded back into the Gilberts’ social circuit. But it’s Adam’s tongue that matters most, as he soon finds he cannot control the love he begins to feel for Rachel’s cousin, a love that threatens to unravel his engagement and his coveted status in the Gilbert family. The Innocents bobs and weaves as Adam tries to remain in love with Rachel, ultimately winding up in a surprising place. It’s an exciting journey filled with villains and victims, but one that readers should be glad to watch from a distance. JT
JewishBook: @FrancescaSegal When you conceived of The Innocents, were you feeling at all disenchanted w/ the community in which you grew up? #jbcbooks FrancescaSegal: @JewishBook Hmm. Not disenchanted, but claustrophobic, and quite... contemplative. I was considering the paths it offered and had been preoccupied with the choices my peers were making, There were questions I wanted to work through. #jbcbooks
Twitter Book Club with Francesca Segal
Adam, and Ellie in turn, at various points of the narrative. I don’t think anyone gets out undamaged, but whether each ultimately ends up where they ought to be is subjective.
social climate of her novel—conformity versus freedom; independence at a cost of support and security. My message is slightly different from hers, however.
JT: Your novel is inspired by Edith Wharton’s novel, The Age of Innocence. Even your hero’s name, Adam Newman, is a loose inversion of Wharton’s Newland Archer. What is the significance of your title, The Innocents, and why did you choose to adapt Wharton’s book to modern Jewish London? FS: I was briefly anxious about the title ‘The Innocents’ because it so clearly referred back to the Wharton novel, but over time it has really grown on me, as I think it describes beautifully the world that the novel depicts, both earnestly and with a twist of irony. I chose to adapt the Wharton novel to contemporary north-west London because the central themes and ideas seemed so immediate and relevant. Wharton was enormously prescient about a number of things in that novel—reading about Julius Beaufort’s scams, for example, resembles the Madoff scandal in eerily accurate detail. I recognized the
JT: Your father, Erich Segal, was an accomplished novelist and screenwriter. What inspires you to write, and what do you find to be the biggest challenge? FS: I can’t remember ever wanting to do anything but write. My father was an enormous source of inspiration, both for the example that he set and for the passionate love of reading that he instilled in our whole family. He was a Classics professor, and those Romans knew a good narrative. I grew up in a household in which stories really mattered. Jaclyn Trop is a Knight-Bagehot fellow at Columbia University and a former automotive reporter for The Detroit News.
Jewish Book World
The Book of Mischief: New and Selected Stories
Steve Stern Graywolf Press, 2012 Hardcover 352 pp. $26.00 ISBN: 978-1-55597-621-7
Vilmos Kodor Harper, 2012 Paperback 291 pp. $14.99 [e] ISBN: 978-0-06-185939-7
Andromeda Romano-Lax Soho Press, 2012 Hardcover 320 pp. $25.00 [e] ISBN: 978-1-61695-049-1
he Hungarian prime minister, a Nazi sympathizer who has plans to replicate Hitler’s regime in his homeland, has just died and every newspaper reporter is covering the funeral. Crime reporter Zsigmond Gordon is not interested in the seamy world of politics: he is hot on the trail of a story more to his liking. While waiting in the office of the police department’s chief inspector, he comes across a nude photograph of a beautiful young woman. When the body of that same woman is later found on a street near his newspaper’s offices and the police seem uninterested in investigating her murder, Gordon becomes obsessed with finding justice for the victim. In the process he loses whatever objectivity he has managed to hold onto and becomes deeply emotionally immersed in a compelling tale of star-crossed young lovers, anti-Semitism, family betrayal, and murder. When his investigation results in his being beaten to a pulp, Gordon refuses to retreat. When his girlfriend receives ominous threats, he is shaken but cannot bring himself to move on. He is not even above involving his beloved grandfather in his search for information. As he peels away the layers, what he finds at the core of the story is a Jewish couple who converted to Catholicism in order to climb the social ladder and increase their opportunities for wealth—only to find their resulting good fortune hanging by a thread when their daughter falls in love with the son of an Orthodox rabbi. This is the first novel by Kodor, a Sorbonneeducated Hungarian teacher. He has captured pre-Holocaust Budapest in an atmospheric novel that isn’t overreaching when including the word “noir” in its title. NT
sing the works of the great masters of Yiddish literature as a springboard, Steve Stern’s stories in The Book of Mischief soar and float as far as imagination can fly. Reality becomes Dreamland, and then back again, as in “Zelig Rifkin and the Tree of Dreams.” When Zelig climbs his tree, he can see his neighbors’ dreams, providing him with insight into their mundane lives. He can then use what he learns to make their world better, or to fulfill his own yearnings. But there is a price to pay, as his newfound successes dissolve. In “Avigdor of the Apes,” the acrobatic antics of the title character win him his heart’s desire, only to have everything come crashing down when he can no longer leap from rooftop to rooftop. Sometimes dream becomes nightmare, as in “The Ballad of Mushie Momzer,” where Mushie, said to be the product of incest, is a malformed creature whose life becomes increasingly bizarre; and “Yiddish Twilight,” borrowed from Russian folklore, where a scholar is enthralled to a succubus; and “Legend of the Lost,” where Mendy loses his soul and becomes the Master of Death. There is playfulness and irreverence, as Stern ridicules arranged marriages, questions the existence of God, and portrays the prophet Elijah as a meddling voyeur. Sometimes the author himself swoops down into the story, providing another level of reality, as in “The Wedding Jester,” a modern fable. This last tale is a strong, satisfying conclusion to the merry romps, satire, parody, and sharp insights of The Book of Mischief. Stern writes with a sure, firm hand, making the outrageous seem probable, entertaining, and thought provoking. The Book of Mischief, collected over twenty five years, showcases his versatility. Glossary of Yiddish words included. SS
ndromeda Romano-Lax’s second novel is narrated by Ernst Vogler, a mid-level Third Reich drone working in the Sonderprojekt department in 1938 Germany. The department was created because Hitler, whom they refer to as Der Kunstsammler (The Collector) was obsessed with acquiring desirable art objects from all over the world that reflected German values. Ernst is sent on what he thinks is a straightforward courier mission—to Italy to bring home the ancient Greco-Roman statue The Discus Thrower. Two young Italians, Enzo and Cosimo, are hired to be Ernst’s escorts on the journey. The men have three days to deliver the statue to the German border, and Ernst can’t bear to think what will happen if he is late. But things aren’t as simple as they sound. Soon, Ernst comes to realize that he is embroiled in something much larger and more dangerous than the stated mission. While he frantically tries to meet his deadline, Enzo decides to take a detour to propose to his girlfriend in the Italian countryside. That decision will prove to have dire consequences and lead to a chain of events that will alter all of their lives. The book starts off slowly but gains momentum as Ernst’s story is gradually revealed. Romano-Lax creates an atmosphere of slowbuilding suspense, and her skill as a writer is irrefutable. Part romance and part mystery, this piece of historical fiction sheds light on an infrequently explored aspect of the Third Reich. HD
The Emperor of Lies Steve Sem-Sandberg; Sarah Death, trans. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011 Hardcover 662 pp. $30.00 [e] ISBN: 978-0374139643
he Emperor of Lies is an historical novel set in the Lodz, Poland ghetto under the Nazi-appointed Jewish chairman, Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski (aka Eldest of the Jews). It is closely based on survivors’ oral accounts, diaries, official German documents, and the Ghetto Chronicles. These newsletters were published in the ghetto unclouded by the mist of memory, but certainly subject to the constraints of censorship and the perception of its writers. Rumkowski believed that a ghetto supporting highly productive workshops catering to
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Want to have your favorite author at your next book club meeting? Starting August, 2012, Jewish Book Council is offering your book club the opportunity to live chat with authors!
Simply select a book for your next meeting from the list of over 300 titles, and JBC will arrange for your book club to have that author participate in your discussion through video chat or Skype. What was the author really thinking while writing that chapter? Where did the idea for the book come from? Which character was based on a real person? This is your chance to find out! www.jewishbookcouncil.org/tours/live-chat-with-authors Fo
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Nazi needs would ensure its survival and save its inhabitants from deportation and annihilation. To this end he followed Nazi demands, including providing requisite numbers of people for deportation to the death camps. The question throughout the book: was Rumkowski a hero or a self-serving collaborator? The author presents an overwhelmingly in-depth account of individuals and events, drawing the reader into a visceral response to the stark reality of ghetto life, making this a very difficult book to read. It is a book for a serious student of the Holocaust and requires a very deliberate, thoughtful reading, albeit an emotionally exhausting one. The Emperor of Lies is fiction, but closely resembles non-fiction in style. NDK
military prisoners in the Hungarian army. Similar to the overall project of living and writing, all of the characters in this tale-within-a-tale contribute to the ongoing work of art that we hold in our hands. At turns Beckett, Kafka, and Kundera-esque, Fiasco originally and surprisingly represents the postwar years in Eastern Europe as a chaos of stories that, much like the Holocaust itself, at once demands and at the same time refuses closure or hyper-rationality. Likewise, the very notion of survival takes fascinating shape, tone, and scope through the day-to-day wanderings of a character through the haunting streets of his childhood home. Ultimately, this lyrical opus reveals civilization to be a moral experiment: an experiment in which only a recognition of the absurd can set one free from absurdity’s confines. PS
Four New Messages
Imre Kertész Tim Wilkinson, trans. Melville House, 2011 Paperback 361 pp. $18.95 ISBN: 978-1-935554-29-5
Joshua Cohen Graywolf Press, 2012 . Paperback 208 pp. $14.00 [e] ISBN: 978-1-55597-618-7
his accomplished novel by the late Nobel Prize-winner Imre Kertész, and translated from the original Hungarian by Tim Wilkinson, takes on the epic subject matter of historical burdens and draws upon the author’s Holocaust experiences and subsequent return
hese four “messages” all ponder the relation between art and life. The first has a familiar outline: a nondescript protagonist gets involved with questionable characters, his mistakes multiply, and his situation grows more dangerous and more desperate. In “Emission” the danger comes from blog posts rather than ransom notes, and the plot hinges on electronic traces rather than handwriting analysis, but otherwise it is faithful to the conventions of its genre. We are left wondering how long a not-so-innocent man can continue to flee the consequences of his decisions. “McDonald’s” takes the form of a selfreferential, Beckett-like interior monologue. A frustrated writer relates a pulp-fiction story idea to his notional father while driving down a highway, then switches to explaining the details to his unseen mother, and ends up contemplating a certain ubiquitous fast-food restaurant whose name he can’t bring himself
A complex protagonist willfully falls into fits of insanity in order to escape the duty of working with military prisoners to Hungary during the Soviet take-over. The delightfully perceptive and mentally anguished narrator rediscovers his old novel, which had never before seen publication. What follows is the reader’s rich journey into a labyrinthine account of various pasts, in which a complex protagonist willfully falls into fits of insanity in order to escape the duty of working with
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to utter. The narrator takes an idiot-savant pleasure in obscure words—dromomaniacal, drapetomania, mogigraphia—perhaps as compensation for being unable to create anything more consequential than the pharmaceutical warning notices he writes at work. His imagination is as ineffectual as his existence. A fish out of water, a Jewish writer from New York teaching in the hinterlands, condescends equally to mid-America and to bad writing in “The College Borough.” He decides to create a bit of Manhattan in his college town, and instead of stories he assigns his students to build a functional, full-scale replica of the Flatiron building on a campus playing field. It becomes his ultimate triumph, a greater achievement for him and his students than their words could ever be. “Sent” begins like a folktale: a woodsman builds a bed in an unnamed country that is Russia a century ago. In our time the bed is used in a pornographic video, which begins the real story, a quest by an American man to find a porn star named Tonya he is obsessed with. When he travels to Russia to find her, he gradually loses his tenuous grasp on reality. Joshua Cohen is not only a gifted novelist but also an astute critic with an immense knowledge of world literature. These thoughtprovoking stories reflect his deep awareness of the mechanisms of fiction as well as his thorough engagement with the textures of contemporary life. BG
Jezebel Irène Némirovsky Sandra Smith, trans. Vintage International, 2012 Paperback 208 pp. $14.95 ISBN: 978-0-307-74546-0
rène Némirovsky came to the attention of American readers with the posthumous publication of her novel Suite Française. Born in Kiev, Némirovsky was a successful novelist in France when she was deported to Drancy and eventually killed in Auschwitz. The publication of a previously unknown novel in 2006 made quite a stir, and Suite Française received a lot of deserved praise for its realistic depiction of French life under German occupation. Now Vintage has published one of her earlier popular novels, a much shorter and less naturalistic work than Suite Française. Originally published in 1936, Jezebel is a mystery of sorts, which begins with a lovely middle-aged woman on trial for murder. She’s accused of killing her much younger lover, and the surprise is that she offers no defense. She hardly says a word, in fact, and refuses to explain what happened. The rest of the novel flashes back more than forty years and eventually brings the reader full circle to the beginning.
Much of the story is set before World War I, and Némirovsky describes a world of wealth and comfort and international flirtations. Extraordinarily beautiful, Gladys Eysenach is a member of a rich Jewish family who enjoys nothing as much as her own beauty and the power it gives her. She only wants to be wanted since in the beau monde she inhabits, a woman‘s value is set by men. Of course, as she gets older, her value is somewhat reduced, which sends her into fits of desperation. There’s the problem of her daughter too, who insists on getting older as well. What’s a vain woman to do? Némirovsky’s prose often feels overheated, as if she was channeling Colette without the wry amusement. Almost everything is told rather than shown, as they say in writing class, and Gladys is such an unsympathetic character than it’s difficult to stay in her point of view for very long. Still, Jezebel has a page-turner quality; one keeps reading to find out what happens. MR
Magic Words: The Tale of a Jewish Boy-Interpreter, the Frontier’s Most Estimable Magician, A Murderous Harlot, and America’s Greatest Indian Chief Gerald Kolpan Pegasus Books, 2012 Hardcover 403 pp. $25.95 [e] ISBN: 978-1605983691
n his novel Magic Words, Gerald Kolpan of WNPR’S “All Things Considered” takes the reader on a colorful journey back into the post-Civil War American West. Kolpan’s hero, Julius, an Orthodox Jewish youth from Russia, is captured by the Ponca Indians, becomes their interpreter, and falls in love with their princess. When the Army forces the tribe to relocate, their tragic march on foot gives contemporary American readers a shameful history lesson. Woven into these wholesome and instructive pages is a digression related to the title
which changes the book into adult-only entertainment. Julius’s cousins from Europe are magicians who perform with wild theatricality and the help, to quote the cover, of a “murderous harlot.” Some scenes involving the magicians and their followers include seductions, bloody attacks, kidnappings, druggings, passport forgery, and blackmail. Still, it is interesting to learn how the illusion of magic is created, and the narrative has a compelling pace. For those who are not turned off by, or maybe enjoy high-voltage passages, Magic Words is good leisure reading. An Epilogue tells us that most of the characters were real people, Julius became a prominent Jewish philanthropist, but one magician never did the evil things attributed to him in the book, and what else is made up isn’t clear. Acknowledgements, epilogue. JW
in England and the United States, including Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but he soon found out that although he had carried out his mission, his message fell on deaf ears. Where was the world’s conscience? Did it ever exist? In Part III, the author enters the story, luring us to “dissolve the barriers between message and messenger, between that time and this time.” He asks, what have we learned? And then he goes on to tell us what we should have learned. The most powerful piece of the book for this reader is when Haenel argues that the extermination of the Jews of Europe was not a crime against humanity, but that the entirety of humanity was implicated in this crime, and the Nuremberg trials were not just to prove the Nazis’ guilt but were held in order to acquit the Allies. MWP
Shira Nayman Akashic Books, 2012 Paperback 332 pp. $15.95 [e] ISBN: 978-1617751035
A Mind of Winter
Yannick Haenel Ian Monk, trans. Counterpoint, 2012 Hardcover 224 pp. $24.00 [e] ISBN: 978-1582438146
ecrecy, insecurity, and distorted memories cast a pall over much of this novel, as if the opium which figures significantly in a portion of the book infused the entire narrative. The lives of the three major characters are complex. All are World War Il survivors: Marilyn from the London blitz, Oscar and Christine from the Nazi depravity in war-torn Europe. The important supporting characters, Barnaby, Simon, and Walter, are well developed and interesting in their own right. The author succeeds in exposing the characters’ inner beliefs and emotional traumas; we discover how their perceptions of events and memories direct the course of their lives. The author’s skill with language heightens the reader’s curiosity to know the truth: who really is Oscar? Is it possible to know, without a doubt, when an act is one of self-preservation or of deliberate collaboration? What was real and what imagined? The functional selectivity of memory is enduring and subtly powerful, but not necessarily accurate or obvious. Yet this selectivity determines and defines the lives of the people at the core of this complex novel. What we bring to the text determines what we take from it, as the reader’s own perspectives and preconceptions become an unwritten part of the narrative. NDK
he first two parts of this meditation on the Holocaust are non-fiction, and the third part is fiction. While giving testimony to Claude Lanzmann for his film, Shoah, Jan Karski, a member of the Polish resistance, sobs. He has so much to remember. After escaping from a Soviet detention camp in 1930, Karski served as a courier for the Polish underground, carrying information from occupied Poland to the exiled Polish leaders. Captured and tortured by the Germans, he managed to escape and was instructed to tell the governments of the world what was being done to the Jews. Part II is a description of Karski’s book, Story of a Secret State (1944), where he cries out that “a messenger cannot deliver a message without a receiver.” Karski obtained private audiences with world leaders and top officials
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No One Is Here Except All of Us
The Pretty Girl
Ramona Ausubel Riverhead Books, 2012 Hardcover 325 pp. $26.95 [e] ISBN: 978-1-59448-794-1
Debra Sparks Four Way Books, 2012 Paperback 319 pp. $17.95 [e] ISBN: 978-1-935536-18-5
ebra Spark’s The Pretty Girl consists of the title novella and six short stories, all bold and surprising, all slyly humorous, all resonant with deep multi-generational wisdom. The novella is basically a mystery story about a painting that hangs in the home of an aging great-aunt, and its place in the family. It’s also about a lot else, including the deep pleasures and occasional exasperations of sisterly love, end-of-life issues that threaten to rupture a family, a passionate love affair, an unexpected pregnancy. The six short stories vary widely in subject matter: a brilliant graphic novelist’s tragic descent into madness, an unhappily married couple’s reconnection with a bizarre friend. In “A Wedding Story,” the final piece, we meet the irrepressible five-inch Simon Baal Shem who, as young Rachel Rubenstein sadly dismantles the contents of her grandmother’s apartment after her recent death, offers up cogent life lessons through his wealth of Jewish folk tales. JuF
t’s 1939 and the inhabitants of a remote Romanian Jewish village, Zalischik, are growing more aware of the impending danger from the expanding European war. On a rain-soaked day, a stranger, the sole survivor of a Nazi pogrom in her own village, washes up on their river’s edge, and the villagers’ false sense of isolation from the world is halted. Soon the stranger and Lena, a sensitive and spiritual eleven-year-old girl, jolt the villagers to start their world anew. Naively believing they can rewrite history, the community
A stranger, the sole survivor of a Nazi pogrom in her own village, washes up on their river’s edge vows to build a new temple, designate new religious leaders, swap wives if necessary, and even give away their children in the name of rebirth. The consequences are spiritually arresting and identity-altering. Before long Lena becomes a victim of the new world she helped create, her previous identity forcibly shed in the name of communal rebirth. Ramona Ausubel’s No One Is Here Except All Of Us reads at once like a fable, a dream, a poem, and a prayer. The result is breathtaking in both its exquisiteness and its horror. Lena’s story is unforgettable in the way it evokes parts of our lives today, as we all, at times, experience our own tragedies. Readers will fight for Lena and her village to persevere through the darkest of moments, and meanwhile remind themselves that the answer is always, one way or another, to choose life. HS
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Princes, Popes and Pirates Sandra K. Toro Gaon Books, 2011 Hardcover 166 pp. $28.95 ISBN: 978-1-935604-11-2
andra K. Toro continues the saga of the Nasi family that she began with By Fire Possessed: Doña Gracia Nasi with the story of her nephew, Joseph Nasi, the Duke of Naxos. Writing the Duke’s journal, Ms. Toro brings readers into the turbulent history of the late sixteenth century. Joseph Nasi has been in
the courts of France, England, Flanders, the Vatican, and Venice. He has money and power, thanks to his aunt’s fortune. He is close to the Ottoman sultan, Selim, and helped him to develop the Ottoman navy, which controlled much of the Mediterranean. Despite all of his success, he is still in danger because he is a Jew. His opposition to Spain, the Inquisition, and the Holy Roman Emperor made him an outcast in the courts of Europe. Christopher Marlowe used him as a model for his play “The Jew of Malta” and Shakespeare based Shylock, the money lender in “The Merchant of Venice,” on him as well. Both of these anti-Semitic caricatures portrayed Jews as evil monsters without considering the reasons for their bitterness. Joseph freely admits that he wants revenge after living in fear during the Inquisition, but the plays do not explain his motive. Readers who enjoyed Ms. Toro’s first book will want to continue the story with this one. She brings history to life and offers a taste of what it was like to live in the courts of the Renaissance. BMB
The Prophet of Tenth Street Tsipi Keller State University of New York Press, 2012 Paperback 219 pp. $18.95 [e] ISBN: 978-1-4384-4208-2
arcus Weiss, age fifty-two, is deeply engaged in writing his first novel, as well as a dictionary, and keeping numerous journals. He is in a loving, but evolving relationship. He is first a Jew, with all the history and complications that implies. He has kept track of his life by remembering “what came first and what happened later.” Student life in Paris, a marriage, a business, parenthood, divorce, and now retirement propel and nourish his current literary journey. He is disciplined, selfindulgent, and often pompous. He lectures his few friends and chides them for not reading enough, not enriching their intellects. When his friend suggests that he spend less time writing his daily journals and live life more, Marcus assures him that he “lives it doubly. When I live it and when I write it.” His lover, Gina, names him The Prophet of Tenth Street because he “can’t bear the idea that others, friends in particular, are not like him.” Tsipi Keller has taken us into a writer’s very being. It is hard work and all-consuming. While at times we may be impatient with Marcus the social person, we always admire his drive. We cheer when he is joyous upon finishing the second draft of his novel, so pleased with the progress of his craft. He says, “From revision to revision you actually see how your book evolves, how it is transformed. And the same happens to you, you become transformed.” Yes, writing transforms him, but real, life-
Writing for Adult Readers
With presentations by agents, editors, publicists, authors, and more! Sunday, December 2nd, 2012 10 AM - 4:30 PM Center for Jewish History, 15 W. 16th St., New York City If you write adult fiction or non-fiction for the Jewish market, then this conference is for you! The Jewish Authors Conference: Writing for the Adult Reader gives authors the opportunity to network and learn from other authors, agents, editors, publicists, and members of the Jewish literary world in order to enhance their understanding of the Jewish literary market and gain insight into the path to publication. Whether you are a new author or have already been published, this is your opportunity to network with the experts who can help you get your work into print.
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Door, is his most imaginative concoction yet. Whether it’s a talking goldfish, or an alternate world where your lies take on new meaning, each story will provoke you, disturb you, and get you to think about everyday occurrences in a totally different light. Keret’s stories simultaneously take you on a creative journey while providing a candid, penetrating view of contemporary Israeli society and culture. His stories will make you laugh, they will make you sad, and they will push you to wonder. Most of the stories are less than four pages long, yet each one feels like a brief peek into
changing experiences do as well. We even get to feel kinder towards Marcus. This is a provocative story that stays with the reader. PGM
you up half the night reading, and then leave you wishing there were more. JMB
The Seventh Gate
The Red Book
Richard Zimler Overlook Press, 2012 Hardcover 448 pp. $26.95 [e] ISBN: 978-1590207130
Deborah Copaken Kogan Voice Hyperion, 2012 Hardcover 344 pp. $24.95 [e] ISBN: 978-1-4013-4082-7
ichard Zimler (The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon, The Warsaw Anagrams) brings readers another riveting story. This one is set in Berlin in 1932. Hitler and his Nazis are gaining popularity and fourteen-year-old Sophie, a German girl who is sexually precocious and quite mature for her age, is going through adolescent defiance. Her father, a Communist who ‘sees the light’ and becomes a Nazi, and her mother, who just wants a normal life, do not appreciate the fact that she has Jewish friends. When her boyfriend becomes a Nazi, too, Sophie takes action. She spends as much time as possible with her neighbor, Isaac Zarco, a Jewish kabbalist with an interesting circle of bohemian friends. They belong to a resistance group called the Ring. When one member is sent to Dachau, Sophie realizes that there is a traitor in the group. Who could it be? This is a tale with rich elements of mysticism, history, and suspense that will keep readers turning pages. It will appeal to those who enjoy literary fiction, historical novels, and mysteries. BMB
eborah Copaken Kogan’s third book is juicy, with a big helping of smart. The novel is built on a scaffolding of excerpts from the red book, a class report of self-written snippets by Harvard alums sketching out their previous five years. It’s a bit of a gambit, but an effective one, as it allows Kogan to quickly introduce her characters, and their histories. In the first red book pages, we learn that four ex-roommates are preparing to return to Cambridge for their twentieth reunion. They will arrive from disparate parts of the world and in various states of motherhood, daughterhood, career, marriage, and emotional condition. The plot takes off with sirens blaring, literally, when one alumna, Addison, a half-hearted artist with a trust fund and three disaffected children, is arrested for failing to pay twodecade old parking tickets. The plot quickly thickens as her three ex-roommates—the wife of an aging Hollywood director, a Paris-based journalist, and a recently-unemployed Lehmann Brothers executive—decide how (and also because of some inevitable hard feelings, whether) to pay Addison’s fines, which have accrued to well over $100,000. Amid the rollicking action, the real joy of the book comes from the characters’ musings. The plot requires that each protagonist ask the types of questions we all consider as we turn the corner on half a life: Am I living up to my potential? Am I living the life I want to live? Am I loved? Do I love? Learning how Kogan answers for each character—and those parts of each character we see in ourselves—will keep
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Whether it’s a talking goldfish, or an alternate world where your lies take on new meaning, each story will provoke you, disturb you, and get you to think about everyday occurences in a totally different light
Suddenly, a Knock on the Door Etgar Keret; Nathan Englander, Miriam Shlesinger, Sondra Silverston, trans. FSG Originals, 2012 Paperback 208 pp. $14.00 [e] ISBN: 978-0374533335
ometimes funny, sometimes dark, and always creative, Etgar Keret’s latest collection of short stories, Suddenly, a Knock on the
an elaborate world. Keret wastes no time setting the scene, or introducing the character’s names—it usually doesn’t matter. What matters is the story. Something is happening, and Keret wants to let you into his unique world to tell you about it. He deftly maneuvers the story so that you really don’t need to know exactly who it’s about or where it takes place. What matters is the dialogue and the storyline. Some of the stories seem out of place, and some might leave you wondering whether you missed something, but all of them somehow seem to work. Each story is an adventure of its own, and guarantees not to disappoint. ER
Unterzakhn Leela Corman Schocken Books, 2012 Hardcover 208 pp. $24.95 ISBN: 978-0-8052-4259-1
rom the opening scene to the last page, readers will be captivated by Leela Corman’s story of twin sisters growing up in the tumultuous streets of New York’s Lower East Side. Esther and Fanya, daughters of Russian immigrants, are little girls when the book opens in 1909, but their childhood comes quickly to an end as they learn to navigate their roles in the family and community. Their mother is harsh and unyielding, constantly reprimanding the girls in a mix of Yiddish and broken English. Their father is a quiet dreamer, gentle and generous with his daughters. A flashback to his youth in Russia serves to round out his character. As close as Esther and Fanya are, their paths
diverge when Fanya goes to work for Bronia, the “lady doctor” who performs illegal abortions and dispenses birth control. Esther is pulled into a different direction and, despite her mother’s disapproval, goes to work for a woman who runs a burlesque theater and a whorehouse. As they mature and maneuver their way through all that the “golden land” has to offer, the sisters make heart-wrenching choices that push them apart. How they contend with clashing ideals and sometimes tragic consequences will keep readers engaged and wishing for a sequel. Corman’s unique illustrations do an impressive job of evoking immigrant life on the teeming streets of New York; they also allow readers a peek behind the scenes as the dancers and prostitutes ply their trade. Text is sparse, but readers won’t notice because because the illustrations tell the story so effectively. A glossary of Yiddish phrases used throughout the book would have been helpful, but since the dialogue flows so smoothly readers can easily decipher the meanings based on context. WW
When We Argued All Night Alice Mattison HarperCollins, 2012 Paperback $14.99 384 pp. [e] ISBN: 978-006-212037-3
lice Mattison’s new novel explores the lifelong friendship between two men. It begins in 1936. Artie Saltzman and Harold Abramovitz are on vacation in a rustic cabin by a lake in the Adirondacks, and we observe how much they care for each other despite their differences and competitiveness. Artie starts out as a photographer interested in chronicling a Communist rally, while Harold is more curious about the ideals behind it and gets involved. The story unfolds through details of their lives in Manhattan and Brooklyn from World War II to the McCarthy and Vietnam eras and the ‘60s and ‘70s, right through to the new millennium. We learn about the two
men’s characters through their various work and personal relationships and through telling dialogue with each other and with their wives and children. The settings are rendered beautifully, the pace is thoughtful and measured, and the plot and dialogue are about real-life situations of the times. Political and social opinions are passionately aired, often with painful fallout. Themes such as sexual freedom, politics, mental illness, unemployment, Jewish identity, pedagogy, gender roles, and parent and grandparenthood are all tackled fearlessly. While the plot is on the heavy side, I was impressed by Mattison’s sensitive writing and will seek out her previous novels. MBA
Two New Entries by Author
Lisa April Smith
E-book at Amazon.com & Barnes & Noble.com Only $2.99
The World Without You: A Novel Joshua Henkin Pantheon, 2012 Hardcover 336 pp. $25.95 [e] ISBN: 978-0375424366
far-flung family; a yahrzeit for the untimely death of a man who was a son, husband, brother, and father; and a gathering in a limited space are the elements of Joshua Henkin’s beautifully written third novel, The World Without You. Henkin writes of the high emotional stakes for a family after its youngest son, a journalist, has been killed in Iraq, in echoes of Daniel Pearl. Like Pearl, this son, Leo, was married and the father of a very young child. The book’s epigraph, “Things seldom end in one event,” from a short story by Richard Ford, tells readers that the book’s subject is how this death has an aftermath for the various family members. Some of the book’s best lines are given to the ironically named Noelle, now a ba’alat teshuvah living with her husband and four young sons in Jerusalem. The ways in which her religious and political views are completely antithetical to the liberal secular progressive views with which she was raised create an interesting source of tension and dynamic within the novel. “We shall do and we shall listen,” she says, to teach her non-Jewish sister-in-law to carry on even in the face of what she does not understand. The greatest strength of Henkin’s writing here is his ability to create emotionally resonant, three-dimensional characters and his careful control of the narrative, which contains so many points of view. From the young Israeli sons taken with the wonders of America to the dead son evoked so carefully in the recollections of the family who loved him, to the fabulously wealthy ninety-four-yearold grandmother who can, when and if she wishes, use her riches to control almost any aspect of the family life. The World Without You has the pain and splendor of an enchanting family with an important story to tell. BK
“Smith’s books have the pace & heat of Jacqueline Susann & the style & sophistication of Dominick Dunne.” “Page turning suspense & a plot that grabs the reader from the first page...” Spotlight Magazine “Laced with SUSPENSE, humor, emotion...” The Palm Beach Post “Seduction, Crime, Revenge.” The Morning Call “... a tapestry of delightful well developed characters... a perfectly balanced plot bursting with riveting mystery, suspenseful twists ... love scenes that sizzle & pop.” For more, visit http://LisaAprilSmith.com
Jewish Book World
interview JBW talks with
by Joseph Winkler
At one point, I couldn’t tell if I was interviewing Joshua Henkin, author of the splendid new book, The World Without You, or if we were engaging in a dialogue of friends. For the first fifteen minutes, he asked me questions about my life, then we discussed his book. Most of his answers—erudite, poetic, and insightful— leaned toward the didactic, which makes sense given that he heads the creative writing program at Brooklyn College. In The World Without You, Henkin writes deftly about the inner dynamics of a family in mourning, but here we discuss Henkin’s methods, challenges, inspirations, and his joy of writing.
Joseph Winkler: Your books lack a central protagonist. This method plays an essential role in this book. Was that planned? Joshua Henkin: In general I plan very little when I write fiction. I like to think of writing in this way: adults think in terms of concepts, and kids think in terms of story. To be a good fiction writer, you need to learn how to be a child again, albeit a precocious child. In the first draft, I try to proceed intuitively and then when I revise I bring my intellect back in. Specifically, about the lack of protagonist, I like to think of books as we think of relationships. Most relationships are rebound relationships from the one before, so too with books. I spent ten years with my first book, Matrimony, and for the most part there are only two voices in that book. Coming off of Matrimony I wanted to write a different book, more compact and yet more spacious. More compact because Matrimony took place over twenty years, and more spacious because I did want more than two voices, but this was all mostly instinctive. The initial inspiration for the book came from different personal experiences. My grandfather was an important Orthodox rabbi; however, the next generations experienced assimilation. Consequently, he wouldn’t be able to see us all on holidays because he didn’t want us traveling on a holiday. The one time he would see the whole extended family was Purim, because you can travel on Purim, and the holiday remains as the familial gathering in my family. At a recent Purim gathering, my aunt spoke about her two sons despite the fact that one of her children died of cancer. She wasn’t delusional at all. Rather she was expressing the point that a parent never gets over a lost child. Later, I went to a wedding of a man whose first wife died and left him with an eighteen-month-old child. At this wedding, his previous in-law were there, bawling, and both of these moments really stayed with me. Consequently, Thisbe, who lost her husband, and Marilyn, who lost
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her son, were at the core of the book. I thought of Thisbe as the central character, but she’s not. Eventually the sisters became more important. What really allowed the book to expand in terms of protagonists was the need to figure out how to give the book focus. Granted it’s a short period of time, and there’s a memorial, but something still felt missing. One of the trickier things to negotiate was trying to figure out how all these strands fit together. They are all connected by this dead person, Leo, but he is gone, and the sisters are all different, and Thisbe is from a different world. How do you connect everything? Finding that answer pushed the book into the territory of numerous protagonists and voices. JW: The book feels dense in the sense that it not only juggles numerous disparate characters, but also plays host to countless themes: liberal or conservative politics, death, mourning, divorce, money, unemployment, economy, and the war, to name a few. Did you feel challenged in balancing all these parts? JH: As a writer I don’t think about those things at all, about themes, per se. I think in terms of story. To me fiction is about character. Obviously language is extremely important, but, at the end, I don’t necessarily want my reader feel like the character, because this isn’t a popularity contest, but rather that they know the characters well. Fiction writers use the particular to get to the general. If you create a thoughtful, engaged character then the themes will come through the backdoor. The key is to get to know your characters, something I tell my students all the time. I like to think of it as a spine. If you have the right spine going through your story, then you can have loads of nerves throughout that spine jumping all over the place. Once you have focus, you can reach out as far as you want.
JW: This book appears to obsess over its characters. They are vividly drawn, unique, and unpredictable. Do you ever get to a point in which you think you are done with a character? JH: I don’t really think so, unless you kill one off. For example, in this book so much is left open, and I like books like that. People ask me what will happen to these characters, but if I did my job correctly then any reader can guess as much as I can what will happen in the future. I think that fiction, like life, contains the potential for plausible surprise. I have been with my wife for fifteen years and my kids for however old they are, but every day I feel capable of being surprised by them. I don’t want to be in a place where people I love don’t surprise me at all anymore. JW: Your book makes no pretense to hide a lot of very detailed Jewish facts, ideas, and characters, and yet, it is a universal book. How do you balance the particulars of the culture you know with the desire to create something for everyone? JH: I understand the question, but I don’t really feel the tension all that much. Do I think of myself as a Jewish writer? You know, all these types of qualifications tend to delimit the person, when I think all writers want to be universal. But of course, every writer uses the particular to get to the general. Everyone has their own cultural material. In terms of accessibility, there is always that tension. Morrison writes from her black experiences, but she still writes universal masterpieces. I think, given this tension, you often have a different problem in which an author over explains. On the other hand, I don’t want my audience to need to know Orthodox practice. I want the book to be comprehensible to those who don’t know a word of Hebrew or don’t know anything about Judaism. Obviously, an Orthodox Jew reading the book, especially in certain sections, will read it differently than someone else. I am fine with that. The balance is something I shoot for, and I don’t think you need to know anything about Judaism to appreciate the book. I am writing for any intelligent, thoughtful reader. JW: Your book essentially tells the story of complex family dynamics in an extreme situation. In a sense, this book, or this idea, has been done many times before. As an author how do you bring something fresh to this kind of plot? JH: For me, I don’t feel the anxiety of influence. It’s not because I think I am so great. Someone once said there are only two stories in the world: a stranger comes to town, or a person goes on a trip, which I think makes sense. Conversely, I see the bad effects of the anxiety of influence. Students and other authors write many contrived plots or ideas because no one has done it before. I see that my students suffer from under-confidence in this sense. King Lear is pretty clichéd when you think about it. I tend to think everything done badly is a cliché, and everything done well is not a cliché. We live our lives, we get married, even though everyone else has gotten married. Certainly, broadly speaking, many books are similar, but for me the characters are different, as is the voice. Of course, every writer has the fraud police over them, but that is just part of the deal, but it’s also a pleasure and a challenge. I don’t sit down and think family and the literary tradition. I think these subjects are endless because these are our lives. No one doesn’t get married because everyone has done it before.
JW: You touch upon a point that many teachers and writers talk about in describing the younger generation. Mainly, that they suffer from a lack of confidence hidden by cynicism. How can young writers get around that problem? JH: I do see that. Many of my students are very self protective in their stories. In young writers, their cynicism gets in the way of their heart, and you need that, because you want your reader to have an emotional reaction. A writer has to be open to the world in a naive way. It’s easy to be clever, but much harder to move people.
JW: One trend in literature, whether today or through time, is the lack of happy characters. Even in this book, most of the characters are unhappy, or feel empty and lost. Do you see these characters as happy, as capable of happiness? Do you see literature as capable of using happy characters? JH: Tolstoy did say that all happy families are alike, and there is something to that in regards to the nature of fiction. You need conflict in a book; without it, it’s boring. Depth of character tends to come out in conflict. My students write lovely sentences but nothing happens. If you do nothing, if you just sit there and think, then you will elicit no reaction. Look, fiction is condensed, it is the highlights of life. You are always putting characters into conflict to find out what they are about and capable of. Fiction, by its very nature, requires trouble. In this book, it’s hard to be happy at the present moment because Leo died the previous year, but I do feel confident that a few of them are temperamentally happy. I believe that you can write characters who are dispositionally happy, but you need to put them in situations that make them potentially unhappy, in that moment. It’s the nature of fiction. JW: Is there anything that you don’t usually get asked in an interview, or something you want your readers to know? JH: The things I always want to stress more come from the teacher and student of literature inside of me. Readers see the final product, but don’t see the numerous, countless missteps along the way. I threw away 3,000 pages from Matrimony. I like to think of my style as one in which the author feels invisible. I try to write like that, but it takes so much time, revision, and effort to become invisible. It’s important for me that people know the importance of true revision. JW: Well, in that vein, what was the biggest revision in this book? JH: Jules, a very minor character in the finished version, was slated to be a main character, but more importantly, I first wrote the book without the prologue that indicates that Marilyn and David are splitting up. I gave the book to a friend of mine and he said, “What’s really at stake here? What’s the actual conflict?” What would Richard Bausch do? I am a big believer in revising as re-vision, really seeing something wholly anew. When you revise on the fly, you end up making unnatural decisions about the flow or plot of the book, and it feels inorganic. Joseph Winkler is a freelance writer living in New York City. He writes for Vol1Brooklyn, The Huffington Post, Jewcy, and other sites. While not writing, Joe is getting a Masters in English Literature at City College. To support his extravagant lifestyle, Joe also tutors and unabashedly babysits. Check out his blog at noconversationleftbehind.blogspot.com
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interview JBW talks with
Eric R. Kandel
by Ada Brunstein
The nonagenarian Nobel Prize winning neuroscientist discusses the breakthroughs in art, literature, and science in Vienna 1900 and their enduring impact. See review on pp. 80 © Eve Vagg
Ada Brunstein: Your book is about how scientists in Vienna 1900 influenced artists of the same period. It’s also about how our brain works to experience a portrait. Why write about science and art together? Eric Kandel: One of one’s hopes as one begins to understand mental processes in biological terms is that it’s not only going to give us an understanding of ourselves but that it will form a bridge to other areas of knowledge. I think it would be nice to have an ideal synthesis, a couple of hundred years down the line, of science and non-science, that overcomes the barrier that C.P. Snow spoke about between the humanists and scientists. I focused on portraiture because we have a very good understanding of how faces are represented in the brain, and I limited myself to the Viennese modernists—Klimt, Kokoschka, and Schiele—because they’re a very discrete school—there were only three people in the school—and they emerged at a very interesting time intellectually when a new view of the human mind was emerging. AB: What was so special about Vienna at that time? EK: I think in Vienna 1900 a new world had emerged. Instead of thinking of human beings as the Enlightenment thought of them—as being specially created by God, as unique biological specimens, as super rational creatures—the modernists influenced by Darwin realized that there was an evolution of species; that we are animals like other animals and that we’re driven by instincts very much like animals are. Freud systematized this and gave us a view of the human mind as
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having large irrational components. This was a theme picked up by Klimt, Kokoschka, and Schiele, so you saw his development not only in science, psychology, psychiatry, and psychoanalysis, but also in art. AB: Berta Zuckerkandl and her famous salon played an interesting role in bringing together scientists and artists of the time. EK: She also played an interesting role in my life. There’s a very good medical museum in Vienna and the director is a woman called Sonia Horn and she said “oh if you’re writing on this you should read up on Berta Zuckerkandl.” She also told me that Zuckerkandl’s grandson is alive; he’s a biologist at Stanford. So I called him up and he was just thrilled that I was asking about his grandmother. When I was in Palo Alto I looked him up. And he had things from her salon—a wonderful bust of Gustav Mahler by Rodin, and two wonderful etchings. So I saw part of the salon recreated. Zuckerkandl was very influential. And she indirectly got Klimt interested in biology. Her husband was an associate of Rokitansky, and Klimt became fascinated by the microscope, looking at sperm and eggs, and he incorporates those symbols into his art. I thought that was beautiful. AB: Do you have a sense of who the modern day Berta is? In the absence of her salons and others like them, do we have another forum for bringing together scientists and artists? EK: University life is like that. Book groups also serve this purpose. It used to be a tradition in Europe that women, particularly Jewish women, would have these salons. My wife when she came to the United
States, before I met her, she ran a salon for a while. It was Jewish women who did it. They have this catholic interest in lots of things. AB: Was it difficult to write about a city you felt ultimately betrayed you? EK: I’m not sure I could’ve written this twenty years ago, in part because Vienna was a different city then than it is now and in part because when one matures you want to complete your life, you want to make a circle out of your life and pull strands together that interested you earlier insofar as you can. And I feel very differently about Vienna 1900 than I feel about Vienna 1938. In 1900 Jews and non-Jews there interacted very freely. I gave a talk in German once at the Rathaus in Vienna. As I was getting ready to give that talk I got a short film clip from two Austrian students who have Principles of Neural Science, a textbook I wrote, and they said it’s wintertime and we’re skiing and we’re reading Kandel. I invited them to this lecture in Vienna and I said, isn’t it wonderful we have these two fantastic students and I am their teacher and these students are not Jewish and I am a Jew and my dream is that we return to a period in which Jews and non-Jews interact with each other in a fruitful way that existed when Vienna was a great cultural center. So this was a fantasy of mine that goes back some time because this was a magical period in which this special view of the human mind came out.
stereotypes. Also Lueger, who was the mayor of Vienna, realized that anti-Semitism was a good political platform. So there are lots of things that give rise to that.
AB: There are theories that say art makes us more empathetic. Vienna and Germany were cultural centers when World War II broke out. How do we make sense of that? EK: This is one of the great disappointments—it shows there’s no relationship between culture and civility and this is tragic. It’s a difficult question, how people can listen to Hayden, Mozart, Beethoven on the one hand and beat up on Jews on the other is difficult for me to understand but it happened. AB: What’s next for science and you? EK: We’re really at the beginning of a great mountain range in exploring the human mind. We’ve made wonderful progress and scientists are delusional optimists so we think we’re going to get to the top of the mountain. But issues like consciousness we’re just beginning to understand. So there’s an enormous amount of work to be done. * Ada Brunstein is a freelance writer and an acquisitions editor for Cambridge University Press. She has an MA in Linguistics from NYU and an MS in Science Writing from MIT. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, New Scientist, Discover, and The Vocabula Review.
* An unabridged version of this interview can be found online at www.jewishbookcouncil.org .
AB: You were in Vienna during Kristalnacht. The Holocaust mantra is “never forget.” You are famous for your work on memory—on what we remember and forget. How did those early experiences shape your career? EK: It’s hard to know to what extent but it’s not an accident. It’s not an accident I got interested in psychoanalysis. There are no accidents. Freud was right. AB: In your book you talk about the fact that there is a particular region of the brain devoted to faces. How do you reconcile what we know about how the brain process faces and what we know about the kind of violence that has been committed even while looking at innocent faces, as the Nazis did. EK: I’ve thought a lot about this, as have a lot of people. “The banality of evil” is misstated but has a component of truth in it. There is no banality of evil. All evil is awful. But it’s the banality of people who are evil. You and I are capable of evil under certain circumstances. It’s built into the human genome. So under social pressure one can do horrible things for opportunistic reasons, because you identify with the ideology, because you’re passive or scared. One thing is that people who didn’t live in the ghettos of Eastern Europe and didn’t see Jews, saw them as a race apart. And I see that as a contributing factor:
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nonfiction american jewish studies
Gentile New York: The Images of Non-Jews Among Jewish Immigrants
public health efforts directed at removing their children’s adenoids, an event that closely coincided with the Kishniev pogrom and stirred up fears that public authorities were intending to cut their children’s throats. Ribak has done scholars and other readers a service by bringing together a rich and varied set of materials. SMC
Gil Ribak Rutgers University Press, 2012 Hardcover 292 pp. $45.95 ISBN: 978-0-8135-5164-7
Promiscuous: Portnoy’s Complaint and Our Doomed Pursuit of Happiness
Bernard Avishai Yale University Press, 2012 Hardcover 219 pp. $25.00 [e] ISBN: 978-0-300-15190-9
ews have long had complex and paradoxical relationships with gentiles, who have sometimes been oppressors, sometimes neighbors, and in many instances “righteous” people who have saved the lives of Jews. This book views immigration through a new lens: it examines how Eastern European Jews perceived and interacted with the diverse set of peoples in the U.S. who were their neighbors, coworkers, adversaries, and sometimes collaborators. Jews arrived on these shores with some negative stereotypes of non-Jews as having a different morality and being more prone to drunkenness and licentiousness. On the other
n 2013 Philip Roth will be eighty and The Library of America will complete, on acidfree paper, its re-publication of his oeuvre. Permanence invites reassessment, so the critical community has begun assessing, for posterity, the thirty-one books they praised or protested during Roth’s six-decade career. His pivotal work, which shaped and was shaped by America’s pivotal decade, is Portnoy’s Complaint (1969). And as Bernard Avishai implies in the title to his parsing of Portnoy, while Roth’s readership took promiscuity (literally, the pro-mixing of disparate elements) for promise, Roth’s answer to Spielvogel’s “Now vee may perhaps to begin. Yes?” was “No!” Roth “steps on his punch line” to show that “our pursuit of happiness” is “doomed.” Roth’s novel in the form of a psychoanalytic confession induced a generation to suspect, Hamlet-like, all attempts to “pluck out the heart of … [our]… mystery.” In the 1960s modernism was breaking down because its rationalist tradition answered only palpable questions. Yet even Einstein had diminished his own authority by showing that physics was ultimately unknowable because the world has no beginning place. For Avishai, every rationalist has his irrational side. Roth was analyzed by a German refugee
How Eastern European Jews perceived and interacted with the diverse set of people in the U.S. who were their neighbors, coworkers, adversaries, and sometimes collaborators hand, Jews sometimes idealized outsiders, for example, white Anglo-Saxons, who were viewed to have habits and tastes we might emulate. Of course, we also encountered other immigrant groups who beat up our children and called them kikes. The book does a masterful job of portraying the history of these diverse images and encounters. It is carefully researched and provides vivid examples, like the Lower East Side women who rioted over
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psychiatrist who, seeing all problems from his own Freudian perspective, induced patients to win his approval by describing their domineering mothers and wimpy fathers. Unfortunately, Roth considered his own father a tower of strength and his mother a loving support. The upshot is that Portnoy confesses what Spielvogel wants to hear, but joins his author in sending up the failings of analyst and analysand—that is, the whole mystique of the talking cure. Avishai draws on existing scholarship to recount the “wild blue shocker” that made Portnoy’s Complaint the talk of its time, but from Roth’s notebooks and Roth’s friendship he adds insight to what keeps Portnoy outselling Gatsby and Godfather to this day. It makes this reader long for at least one more novel from the author who can best pro-mix those elusive paradoxes we sense to be truth. AC
You Need a Schoolhouse: Booker T. Washington, Julius Rosenwald, and the Building of Schools for the Segregated South Stephanie Deutsch Northwestern University Press, 2011 Hardcover 218 pp. $24.95 ISBN: 978-0-8101-2790-6
bright, quick-paced work that artfully combines social and economic history, Jewish history, African-American history, and moral education, You Need a Schoolhouse illuminates powerful trends in twentieth century American life. A double biography, this book charts the philanthropic and educational partnership between Booker T. Washington, who was born a slave and who became a founding leader of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, and the German-Jewish businessman Julius Rosenwald, who became an owner of Sears Roebuck & Co., in Chicago and who became a trustee of the Tuskegee Institute. Washington and Rosenwald worked together to combat poverty and ignorance in the era of Jim Crow; responding to Booker T. Washington’s 1895 summons, “You need a schoolhouse,” Rosenwald worked with Washington and others to build hundreds of long-remembered well-constructed school buildings for African-American boys and girls in the deep South. By 1932, the nearly 5,000 schools had become havens from prejudice where students acquired knowledge and skills for adulthood and citizenship. In describing the partnership between Washington and Rosenwald and the hurdles that the two had to overcome, the author, a distant relative of Rosenwald’s by marriage, handles that era’s racist language and attitudes skillfully, framing mean-spirited and degrading remarks in their twentieth century
Hollywood Jews A sweeping novel about Hollywood’s early days; Jews in contemporary film. Celluloid Strangers
The New Jew in Film: Exploring Jewishness and Judaism in Contemporary Cinema
Eric Wasserman Cut Above, 2011 Paperback 386 pp. $19.95 [e] ISBN: 978-1935171652
elluloid Strangers is the story of the Gandelman brothers, four Massachusetts ‘expatriates’ living in Los Angeles in the late 1940s. The lead character is Simon Gandelman, a gifted screenwriter with Communist leanings and a politically passionate girlfriend named May Park. The story touches on organized crime (the Gandelmans all have a connection to Meyer Moskowitz, a thug from their old neighborhood), the Hollywood blacklist, labor strife, the Holocaust, and the birth of the State of Israel. Many of Wasserman’s characters are Jewish, though for most of them, their religion is baggage they’d rather unload. The author builds his tale around the Gandelmans as they get deeply connected to the crises of the day, and with this, he covers a lot of ground effectively. The novel also makes good use of references to a ton of movies; some are real films and some just creatively imagined. The author’s reading of famous films is also inspired: Benny Gandelman’s interpretation of “Frankenstein” sums up much of what you need to know about his troubled character. Unfortunately, the author’s grasp of history is limited. It’s not just that lots of little details are not correct (such as premature references to Audrey Hepburn and Lew Wasserman), but also that some points that drive the plot are off, such as having Simon visiting Auschwitz during World War II as the liberated death camp, deep behind Soviet lines in Poland, is somehow crawling with U.S. soldiers. Or having a major studio turning out hundreds of feature films a year, enough to withstand a strike without a scratch. (Warner’s, for instance, released a mere 20 features in 1947.) This novel would be significantly better if certain elements of historical fiction—its portrayals of American communists, trade unionists, HUAC hearings and movie studios—were more convincing. DC
context. The reader of this compelling narrative soon grasps how the two men, in spite of having been victims of the horrors of “race prejudice,” held out the hope that the United States could provide them with a true home
Nathan Abrams Rutgers University Press, 2012. Paperback 272 pp. $25.95 ISBN: 978-0-8135-5341-2
athan Abrams, a film scholar based in Wales, argues that since 1990 cinematic treatment of Jews has undergone a significant change, depicting a more complex and complete range of Jewish characters and characteristics than ever before. Many older stereotypes have been resuscitated (often on steroids) in an ironic but self-accepting way, even as they were joined and challenged by more modern views. In 2005, Steven Spielberg gave us the sober, self-assured, dynamic, and frankly sexual Israeli agents of Munich; four years later, Joel and Ethan Coen gave us A Serious Man, which caricatures a host of suburban Jewish types in a manner that would have triggered widespread protests had its creators not been Jewish. Particularly interesting are Abrams’ discussions of characters who are not explicitly identified as Jews but are nevertheless, in his view, “coded” as Jewish in one way or another. Perhaps the clearest case of this phenomenon comes not from cinema but from television, in the person of “Seinfeld”’s George Costanza, who bears an Italian surname but is impossible to recognize as anything but Jewish (having been based directly on Larry David, the show’s co-creator, who would go on to place his own Jewishness front and center in “Curb Your Enthusiasm”). Do such characters perpetuate old, pernicious stereotypes in more subtle fashion, or simply suggest that in an increasingly multicultural America, specifically “Jewish” traits may be depicted without becoming major issues? (Is Jim, the Jason Biggs character in the American Pie films, Jewish? Maybe, but no big deal.) General readers may be put off by Abrams’ heavy use of postmodern critical jargon, and the book as a whole would have benefited from a more detailed discussion of the life-cycle of stereotypes. In addition, the author could have paid more attention to the broader social context of his subject. The changing treatment of Jews in cinema that Abrams identifies has not occurred in a vacuum. Simultaneously, other minorities—most notably African-Americans, Latinos, and gays—underwent the same kind of evolution in popular culture in general, suggesting that the developments he describes may have been driven more by audiences than by the artists he discusses. BB
where they could pursue academic excellence, live by the highest ideals of character and go on to provide a rich life for others. Bibliography, index, notes. JKL
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autobiography & memoir
he could—in his writing and in the printing of non-sacred works (since part of his excommunication required that he refrain from printing sacred texts). This work is a highly readable, fascinating memoir which opens up the world of Jewish life and politics in the Balkans in the last days of the Ottoman Empire. Sa’adi’s last request was that his descendants pass down his record of life in Salonica, so that future generations could learn from his writings, a desire that fortunately came to fruition with this publication. RCB
A Jewish Voice from Ottoman Salonica: The Ladino Memoir of Sa’adi Besalel a-Levi Aron Rodrigue & Sarah Abrevaya Stein, eds.; Isaac Jerusalmi, trans. Stanford University Press, 2012 Hardcover 432 pp. $50.00 [e] ISBN: 978-0-8047-7166-5
A Sense of Direction: Pilgrimage for the Restless and the Hopeful
treasure trove of information and intimate insights, A Jewish Voice from Ottoman Salonica opens up a world that was all but lost until serendipity and some research brought it to light. This is the first example of a memoir written in Ladino (the transliterated Ladino text follows the English translation) and it should prove extremely enlightening for both researchers and the general reader interested in Salonica in the late nineteenth
Gideon Lewis-Kraus Riverhead Books, 2012 Hardcover 352 pp. $26.95 [e] ISBN: 978-1-59448-725-5
Sense of Direction is an extended meditation in memoir-and-travelogue form on the author’s struggles to find purpose and meaning in life, and to forgive his rabbi father for having neglected and deceived him, his brother, and his mother, both before and after coming out as a homosexual. As the book opens, Lewis-Kraus, an American writer, is in his late twenties, dissatisfied with his bohemian life in Berlin, yearning for love but only sleeping with other men’s girlfriends, stalling in his career, and anguishing about whether he’s living life fully enough. In a drunken moment, he agrees to hike the Camino de Santiago, a traditional Catholic pilgrimage around northwestern Spain, now a popular secular endeavor. The journey, taken with his friend Tom, both tries and deepens their friendship, and creates a space and structure from which Lewis-Kraus can better understand his life. Subsequently he makes another secularized pilgrimage, this time around the island of Shikoku in Japan, with his father’s father joining him for part of the trip, and after this voyage, he invites his younger brother and his father to join him
The first example of a memoir written in Ladino century. As the editors point out, this work goes far beyond the scope of a simple memoir. It explores societal ignorance and the rigid attitudes (or “fanaticism,” as Sa’adi describes it), communal corruption, and power struggles that proved to be extremely resistant, if not hostile toward reform. Sa’adi Besalel a-Levi was a printer, singer, composer, and an outspoken critic of the status quo. He critiqued everything, from the schools to the Jewish leadership to the old fashioned forms of music. His activities (including the singing of Turkish songs at celebrations) resulted in not one, but several excommunications, climaxing in a riot, imprisonment, and a grand excommunication by a collection of Salonica rabbis in April, 1874. These excommunications took their toll on Sa’adi, producing a bitter and resentful man, who struck back in the only ways that
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over Rosh Hashana on a trip to the Ukraine to the gravesite of the Hasidic leader Rabbi Nachman, a journey that draws thousands of religious Jewish men every year. Lewis-Kraus understands pilgrimage as having always been more than merely a spiritual quest: it is also a pretext to leave home, to do what we want to do, to have “a series of structured days,” and to “step outside of all roles and just be a person, someone without responsibilities or any constraint besides continuous forward movement to a distant goal.” He writes that “the Camino isn’t at all about freedom from restraint, but freedom via restraint,” and that there was “at once a feeling of decisiveness and a feeling of liberation from the anxiety of decision.” The book is an entertaining, non-romantic depiction of travel and a philosophical exploration of the psychological forces that propel
Lewis-Kraus understands pilgrimage as having always been more than merely a spiritual quest: it is also a pretext to leave home, to do what we want to do and inhabit it, and that are unleashed, forged, or transformed through it. Lewis-Kraus is intensely self-conscious about what he does as a traveler and as a writer, and there’s something courageous and magnificent yet simultaneously unkind and undignified about writing so intimately about his still-living father with whom, over the course of the book, he comes, through great effort, to a place of acceptance and understanding. Certainly his emotional nakedness is compelling, and offers the reader splendid insights into the imperatives of forgiveness, growing up, and moving forward. EA
Threads: More Stories from a New York Life Steven Schrader Hanging Loose Press, 2012 Paperback 102 pp. $18.00 ISBN: 978-1-934909-27-1
ew York City life can be writ large or small, and both can be affecting and colorful. Steven Schrader chooses to tell his very personal stories from the vantage point of individual experience, but the fact that they translate so seamlessly to the universal in this memoir speaks eloquently about their relevance to lives lived outside his immediate world. Threads spans Schrader’s childhood playing sports in the local schoolyard, serving in the military, making career choices and changing them numerous times, trying to
Shoah & After Claude Lanzmann’s well-spent life; Else Kirshner’s free-spirited one. The Patagonian Hare: A Memoir
You Are Not Like Other Mothers
Claude Lanzmann; Frank Wynne, trans. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012 Hardcover 528 pp. $35.00 [e] ISBN: 978-0-374-23004-3
Angelika Schrobsdorff; Steven Rendall, trans. Europa Editions, 2012 Paperback 544 pp. $18.00 ISBN: 978-1-60945-075-5
laude Lanzmann may be known in America primarily as the director of Shoah, the nine and a half hour documentary on the Holocaust, but readers of his newlytranslated memoir will discover that the making of Shoah was a relatively brief—though significant—part of this Frenchman’s remarkable life story. Born in 1925, Lanzmann was just a teenager when he fought with the French Resistance in World War II. When the war ended, Lanzmann went to Paris to study philosophy—and the art of seducing beautiful women, stealing textbooks, and carousing the boulevards. Before long Sartre and de Beauvoir invited him into their inner circle; together they debated politics, went traveling, and wrote for their journal, Les Temps Modernes, which Lanzmann eventually edited. A committed leftist, Lanzmann befriended Franz Fanon and others in the African anti-colonial struggles. When he began writing for the French popular press, Lanzmann was known for interviewing celebrities—Bardot, Moreau, and Signoret, among others—with great sensitivity. His passion for Israel was deep and abiding, leading to his first film-making projects, which explored the philosophy of the Jewish State and the nature of the Israeli armed forces. In 1973, he started what became the twelveyear project of Shoah, an unflinching examination of the evil of the Holocaust. Lanzmann’s memoir has none of the bells-and-whistles of American biographies; there are no photos, no elaborate appendices. Yet his book has everything we readers want: it’s the life story of a real mensch. BEB
make peace with his parents, and building a family of his own. From working in his father’s dress business, to serving as a welfare office investigator and a junior high school teacher and then an author, Schrader creates a dimensional portrait of the indelible impact of early friendships and family relationships, plus the scars of adolescence that follow us all into adulthood. This slim book is both a set of stories and a collection of memories about the author’s adventures, both internal and external. In it he
or anyone who has wondered how German Jews could have ignored the historical events swirling around them when Hitler was coming to power in the 1930s, Angelika Schrobsdorff’s difficult-to-categorize book—it’s been called a novel, a historical novel, and a memoir—should be of interest, with its focus on the life and mores of a certain class of German Jews during that period. Schrobsdorff’s account, which begins with her Jewish mother’s birth in 1893 and ends with her death in 1949, details her mother’s relationships, which yielded three children with three different fathers, as well as the authors’ own wartime sojourn with her mother in Bulgaria, and their return to Germany in 1947, greatly changed people from when they had left. Schrobsdorff’s Jewish mother, Else Kirschner, had exactly four living cousins by the war’s end, slight residue of a large extended family. Else Kirschner wanted only to assimilate. From a young age, when she wished for a Christmas tree, she felt comtempt for her Jewish relatives and their work in the trades, and yearned for a life filled with art and poetry. Her daughter Angelika was shielded from understanding what it meant to be a Jew until she needed to flee her German home. All three of Else’s children’s fathers were non-Jews; the father of the youngest was the scion of a wealthy and well-connected German family. Though Erich Schrobsdorff arranged for a divorce from his wife and her marriage to a Bulgarian citizen in 1939 to get her out of Germany, and sent her money as long as it was possible, he was, with all his wealth and connections, unable to protect Else and his daughter Angelika entirely from the ravages of the war. And yet, the book ends with Else’s voice, her letters, and this is a kind of redemption for her in finally being able to enter into the life of art she had yearned for, a tribute to this most unusual mother. BK
demonstrates the presence of a strong inner voice, one that speaks to the reader about what he is observing and how he feels about it at the same time. Insightful and funny, this internal dialogue meshes with his outer experiences to provide both deep and wacky riffs on society as he saw it. His finely structured interior world plays a rich role in his relationship with his father, for example, a man who is powerful and moneyed, yet absent, and his lonely, abandoned mother, for whom he feels a major sense of responsibility.
Schrader writes like a person who believes in himself, but one who maintains a strong connection to a younger self still struggling for acceptance and confidence. This combination creates a welcome level of complexity to the reminiscences, autobiographical sketches and descriptions of his experiences as he grew up with New York City during several tumultuous decades. LFB
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In his own time Spinoza was vilified and eventually cut off from his community. Baruch changed his first name to Benedictus after the ex-communication and never again had any dealings with the Amsterdam Jewish community. What did Spinoza do that caused such a drastic action from his fellow Jews? The writ of excommunication stated that the community has “long since been cognizant of the wrong opinions and behavior of Baruch d’Espinoza.” We don’t know which “wrong opinions and behavior” but we do know that Spinoza’s writings challenged the Torah concept of God. Briefly, Spinoza supported the ideas of what modern scholars call panentheism, that God and nature are one, thereby challenging the concept of a separate, all powerful God, and the authority of the Mosaic Law. This book is a finely detailed study of how the thinking and writing of Spinoza, initially spurned, came to be thought of today as a modern and legitimate view of the Divine and the human relationship with the Divine. Professor Swartz develops his history over the centuries by highlighting key philosophers who became more supportive of Spinoza in each successive generation until we now come to think of Baruch Spinoza as one of the great modern philosophers. BA
The Escape of Sigmund Freud David Cohen The Overlook Press, 2012 Hardcover 272 pp. $28.95 ISBN: 978-1-59020-673-7
gnore the title! This is actually a very quirky, highly entertaining biography of Sigmund Freud that only pretends to focus on his “escape” from Vienna with the assistance of Nazi Anton Sauerwald. Stories of Freud’s family members and his feuds with various colleagues mingle with gossip about what the great man ate, how he dirtied his bedsheets, and which women he adored. At times, the backstory—how Vienna and the psychoanalytic establishment accommodated the Nazis, how the Nazis extracted the maximum revenue from Jewish targets, how Viennese Jews coped until they could not any longer— takes center stage, but the brooding Freud is never far from our thoughts. What will it take to make this old man realize he has to flee? By the time he finally decided he could not live at 19 Berggasse anymore, Freud and his extended family were already living under a form of self-house arrest, his daughter Anna had been interrogated by the Gestapo, and the family’s assets were being confiscated. Freud could look out his window and watch Jewish shops being looted by “respectable” Viennese; he could see Jews being beaten and shot dead by thugs. Freud’s decision, finally, to leave Vienna is the real nail-biter here—the “escape” itself is something of an anticlimax. Cohen tries to stir up some sympathy for Sauerwald, Freud’s Nazi “minder” who covered up some of Freud’s assets and orchestrated his exit, but the man’s role was too ambiguous and too marginal to keep our attention. No matter—this is a book about Freud, not Sauerwald—and it is surprisingly engrossing. Appendices, bibliography, index. BEB
The Fish That Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of America’s Banana King Rich Cohen Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 2012 Hardcover 320 pp. $27.00 [e] ISBN: 978-0-374-29927-9
top me if you’ve heard this before: poor immigrant arrives on American shores, battles the odds, and ultimately builds a corporate empire. It may sound like another well-worn literary cliché, but Rich Cohen’s picaresque of banana kingpin Sam Zemurray ably skirts any impulse to pigeonhole his work
The First Modern Jew: Spinoza and the History of an Image Daniel B. Schwartz Princeton University Press, 2012 Hardcover 270 pp. $39.50 [e] ISBN: 978-0-691-14291-3
aruch (Benedictus) Spinoza, who was known as the The Heretic of Amsterdam in his time, has come to be thought of today as a great thinker and forerunner of modern Jewish philosophy. This book by Professor Schwartz is not a biography of Spinoza, but a history of how Spinoza’s writing and ideas came to be received over a period of four hundred years.
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as derivative. The Fish That Ate the Whale sweeps the reader into a rich early twentieth century tableau, exploring a deep and conflicted character in Zemurray. The expert exploration of such a colorful character allows Cohen to construct a sprawling narrative without overreaching. The writer documents Zemurray’s travels from impoverished New Orleans banana peddler, to Honduran political schemer, and ultimately to his ascendance as chairman of United Fruit. Cohen weaves a well-researched biography of Zemurray, a detailed history of the international banana trade, and a concise overview of late colonial Central America, into one compelling story. Beyond just telling Zemurray’s remarkable story, the author examines the morality of
A well-researched biography of Zemurray, a detailed history of the international banana trade, and a concise overview of late colonial Central America the protagonist’s actions. Zemurray attempts to mitigate the fallout from his meddling in several Central American nations through generous anonymous giving, or tsedakah. Zemurray donated most of his sizable fortune to Tulane University and the early Zionist movement. While his philanthropic efforts should not be overlooked, it is apparent that the beneficiaries of his generosity were not the indigenous populations devastated by his quest for endless profits. In fact, it was only late in his life that Zemurray recognized the damage he caused in Latin America as head of United Fruit. Of this late realization, Cohen writes, “If he had questioned the workings of this machine, he would have been a great man, but he was not a great man.” Readers will delight in the opportunity to consider the motivations and ethics of such a complicated real-life character. JP
Founding Heroes Sharon as seen by his son; Dayan’s place in Israel’s history. Moshe Dayan: Israel’s Controversial Hero Mordechai Bar-On Yale University Press, 2012 Hardcover 264 pp. $25.00 [e] ISBN: 978-0-300-14941-8
oshe Dayan in many ways embodied the State of Israel in its formative years. Born in 1915 on a communal settlement near the Sea of Galilee, Dayan grew up on the farm, working with Arabs but also resisting them when attacked. His profound Zionism, the constant threat under which he lived, and his willingness to fight those who were at once his neighbors and his foes shaped much of his thinking throughout his military and diplomatic career. Mordechai Bar-On, a member of the Israel Defense Forces and Dayan’s bureau chief during the Sinai campaign, worked with Dayan at one of his most critical and successful periods and, from the perspective of 2012, assesses Dayan’s place in Israeli history. Based on his personal knowledge and the vast archives recording Dayan’s career, Bar-On focuses his biography on Dayan’s controversial career and personality. Bar-On sees four critical stages in Dayan’s life. Before statehood Dayan was part of the Zionist effort to establish a Jewish community in Palestine and gained a reputation for standing up to the Arabs. The second critical period grew from Dayan’s reputation as a successful fighter and led to key appointments in the government; as chief of staff, he led the IDF to victory in the Sinai and, as Minister of Defense, led the stunning victory in the Six Day War, securing his public popularity as a military hero. In his next critical role, Dayan was charged with protecting Israel’s newly won territory and building a viable community for its Palestinian residents; during this period the Palestinian Liberation Organization was born, with its terrorist attacks, and Israel once again faced war with Egypt and Syria, this time suffering a powerful surprise attack on Yom Kippur. Although the Israelis recouped some of their early losses in the Yom Kippur War, Dayan was blamed for insufficient preparation and misjudgment. He resigned and withdrew from politics but returned three years later to achieve his last major accomplishment; playing a major role in negotiating a peace treaty with Egypt. In these critical periods, Bar-On shows Dayan as a complex and often isolated figure, angering the establishment, frequently at odds with his fellow ministers, and frustrated in his attempts to realize his policies. While holding fast to his positions, in fact he often deferred to others, casting himself as an outsider. His military knowledge and skills have secured his place in Israel’s emergence as a strong state, capable of defending itself in the face of unremitting hostility. But Bar-On faults Dayan for his insistence on Israeli sovereignty over the occupied territories despite his sympathy for the Arabs and for his refusal to face the issue of Palestinian statehood. For Dayan there was no compromise;
Israel was Judah and Samaria, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. Moshe Dayan reveals little of Dayan’s personal life, which was as complex as his public life. As a co-worker, Bar-On experienced Dayan’s human side, but Dayan’s family life, touched on only briefly, is pictured mostly in the conflicting words of his wives and children. His womanizing, his sometimes illegal and irresponsible archaeological pursuits, his bouts of serious injury and illness are mentioned almost in passing. As a biography, Moshe Dayan leaves much beyond Dayan’s public career to the reader’s further and easily available reading. As an assessment of one of Israel’s most recognizable figures—marked by his black eyepatch—it offers the possibility that Dayan’s policies may have laid some of the groundwork for Israel’s most difficult and still unresolved problem. Given the detailed descriptions of military campaigns, the book would have benefited from the inclusion of maps. Index, notes. MLW
Sharon: The Life of a Leader Gilad Sharon; Mitch Ginsburg, trans. HarperCollins, 2011 Hardcover 625 pp. $29.99 [e] ISBN: 978-0-06-172150-2
riel Sharon as portrayed in this biography is a fervent Zionist, statesman, soldier, farmer, and dedicated father. The book’s strength and weakness is that his youngest son, Gilad, is the author. As a confidant of his father, Gilad Sharon is able to give us an intimate portrait of the man most of us know only as an Israeli politician. Ariel Sharon was first a man of the land, Eretz Israel, and protecting her borders was his predominant concern first as a military man, and later as Prime Minister. Within the pages of this book one will encounter a personal side of Sharon that explains his love for his country and years of dedicated service. Gilad Sharon draws upon extensive personal records his father kept and uses many interviews with world leaders to paint a revealing portrait. As a politician he could be tough but sought compromise when he felt it would benefit Israel. As a military soldier he could be a difficult leader who easily won the unconditional support of the men he led in battle, but seldom those above him. This book is also a history of Israel from the early settler days until current times, but not necessarily an objective history of the period or the man. Therein lies its weakness, as his son attempts to build the foundation for Ariel Sharon’s legacy. More will be written about this fascinating and complex man, but for now we have a loving portrait by a loving son. BA
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Meaning, Memory, & Modernity Seeking meaning in the past and present.
We’re Missing the Point:What’s Wrong With the Orthodox Jewish Community and How to Fix It Rabbi Dr. Gidon Rothstein OU Press, 2012 Hardcover 252 pp. $25.00 ISBN: 978-1602802025
Shuva: The Future of the Jewish Past Yehuda Kurtzer Brandeis University Press, 2012 Paperback 184 pp. $29.95 [e] ISBN: 978-1611682311 These two volumes address the important issue of imbuing meaning in Jewish life. One book deals with those whose observance may be meticulous but mechanical, the other treats the challenge of engaging modern Jews with a sense of Jewishness. The truth is that both books speak to both audiences. Many non-Orthodox Jews observe mitzvot
Irving Berlin’s American Musical Theater
rhymes, his democratic outlook, Jewish upbringing, and fierce patriotism were reflected in his, “The mob is always right” credo. There was always a willingness to please and understand the audience. In fact, Magee
Jeffrey Magee Oxford University Press, 2012 Hardcover 394 pp. $35.00 [e] ISBN: 978-0-19-539826-7
“What Berlin did for the modern musical theater was to make it possible”
o many Americans can recognize and even sing along with “God Bless America,” “White Christmas,” “There’s No Business Like Show Business” and many more of Irving Berlin’s iconic songs. Such has been Berlin’s legacy and impact on America and the American musical theater. Jeffrey Magee’s scholarly and meticulously detailed book traces Berlin’s rise from a Lower East Side singing waiter to a popular lyricist and songwriter and later on to a Broadway and world success. Magee presents Berlin’s life story and times, work ethics, business dealings, and show biz acumen, while extensively delving into his music and plays. The background of minstrelsy, vaudeville, revues, and opera are explored as elements Berlin employed in his works. His use of contemporary characters and events, lighthearted
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and they too need to endow their performance with more spiritual input. Similarly, Orthodox Jews already committed to a Jewish lifestyle need to understand not only the significance of what they do but how the past influences Jewish destiny. In fact, Rabbi Rothstein spends quite a bit of time exploring the Jewish past. Rabbi Rothstein is a master teacher who marshals text upon text to build his case and make his point. He sets up his arguments, gives practical examples and demonstrates that the purpose of commandments is to create for humanity a God-consciousness that is constant and immanent. The rituals are the vehicles that create that realization and understanding. His main thesis is not original. There are Talmudic and kabbalistic antecedents. In the thirteenth century the Spanish author of the Sefer haHinukh (Book of Instruction) elaborated on the symbolism and inner meaning of the mitzvot. Rabbi Sampson Rafael Hirsch did the same in the nineteenth century. While the concept is not new, challenging twenty-first century Jews to rise to this standard is courageous. Being conscious of God every second of every day is not easy. Hasidism recognized this and developed the concept of dveikut (lit. attachment) referring to those unique individuals known as the pious ones (Tzaddikim) who could sustain this perpetual level of communion with God. However, what Rothstein means is that beyond the rituals, with their deeper meanings to plumb, all Jews should
quotes Joshua Logan as saying that he “never knew anyone who more enjoyed writing for the theater or better understood how to write for it.” Alan Jay Lerner is cited as saying, “What Berlin did for the modern musical theater was to make it possible.” Berlin was the first to write both music and lyrics and perform his own material on stage. He worked with theatrical giants such as Kaufman, Ziegfeld, Kern, Hart, Rodgers, and Hammerstein, and the book affords glimpses and insights into their lives and creative accomplishments. A treasury of vintage photographs and pages of sheet music are included. Berlin’s
famous songs and plays are critically analyzed, dissected, and expounded upon. His popular songs are analyzed in technical detail. Fans of Annie Get Your Gun are awarded with a myriad of history and inside info on the famous musical. Irving Berlin’s American Musical Theater will serve serious academics, songwriters, musicians, and theater historians well. Lovers of musical theater will enjoy learning more about
nonfiction behave as if God is looking over their shoulder when they eat, when they engage in business, when they speak to their friends and their associates, when they pray, when they give charity, when no one is watching how they behave, when they are on vacation, when they speak to their children, spouses, and parents, etc. Rav Soloveitchik called it “God intoxication.” Just going through the motions isn’t enough. In theory he is absolutely correct. Putting it into practice may take some doing. Shuva offers an attempt to understand the connection between the Jewish people and the Jewish past, the ways in which memory and history relate and compete. How do we relate to Israel, the Holocaust, and to traditional ideas? As Jews we know in some deep way that our past is essential, but we lack the critical tools necessary to understand our deep relationship to that past without either tearing it down or being obsessed with it. The loss of a connection to the past has generated confusion, anxiety, and concern among those modern Jews who lack such a connection passed on by memories, yet who still wish to connect Jewishly. Martin Buber recognized this as early as 1929 when he strongly recommended to the Lehrhaus in Berlin to create Jewish memories for a generation bereft of such experiences. However, since religious frameworks do not work for everyone, perhaps we ought to evaluate history instead of memory as the vehicle to relate to the past. Modern Jews tend to relate to the past through history, which relies on empirical demonstration and rational thought, rather than through memory, which is selective, and constructed. However, replacing memory with history does not build Jewish identity and creates a disconnect between Jews and their collective history. Kurtzer tries to
Berlin’s wealth of works. Bibliography, credits, discography, index, notes, photographs, tables. RL
contemporary jewish life The Koren Ethiopian Haggada: Journey to Freedom Menachem Waldman, ed.; Binyamin Shalom, trans. Koren Publishers Jerusalem, 2012 Hardcover 230 pp. $29.95 ISBN: 978-965-301-2929
or almost 2,500 years the Jews of Ethiopia practiced their ancient religion, isolated from and ignorant of rabbinic Judaism and postbiblical Jewish practice. Led by priests who passed their heritage from generation to generation orally, they observed the Judaism of the Torah. It was only in the mid-nineteenth
fix this break. Drawing on many classical texts, he shows that “history” and “memory” are not exclusive and that the apparent dissonance between them can be fixed by a selective reclamation of the past and a translation of that past into purposefulness. Some historians view all of Jewish history as “challenge and response.” The response of modern Jewry to the challenges of dealing with the past may very well dictate the future of those who are not oriented toward commandedness. How does our past direct us to live Jewishly in a pluralistic, universalistic society? What is our relationship to commanded-ness? How have we in the past and how can we in the future inhabit contradictory realities without needing to suppress one or the other? The buzzword ‘continuity’ implies passivity and nostalgia instead of a pro-active pursuit of a dynamic relationship to being Jewish. Continuity must have content. There must be some authenticity based on the past or based on some other source of commanded-ness. Myth and memory are a means of owning history rather than being rebuked by it. Kurtzer offers modern Jews some food for thought in this extended polemical essay. It is not clear if his solution is workable or even acceptable. The first step, as Saadyah Gaon wrote in the tenth century, is to get people to think about it seriously. Wallace Greene writes and lectures on contemporary Jewish topics.
century that the Ethiopians became aware of the larger Jewish community and learned, to their great sorrow, that the Temple had been destroyed. When the Ethiopians made aliyah to Israel, they began their assimilation into mainstream Judaism, at the same time risking the loss of their centuries-old traditions and a unique Jewish culture. A representative of the chief rabbi of Israel’s Committee on Ethiopian Jewry and a scholar of Ethiopian Jewry, Rabbi Menachem Waldman has sought to preserve the Ethiopian heritage, little known even to some members of the community, as he introduces them to contemporary Judaism. The Ethiopian Jews did not have a haggadah; the priests simply followed the biblical command to tell the story of the Exodus. In compiling The Koren Ethiopian Haggada, Waldman tells the parallel story of the Ethiopians’ struggle in the face of persecution by inserting original documents and prayers—in a very real sense, commentaries—from archives into a standard haggadah text, printed on handsome tinted paper to differentiate it from the Ethiopian inserts. The innocence
and unwavering devotion recorded in these commentaries, as well as the extensive illustrations and historic photographs, are placed at relevant points in the haggadah and richly underscore the significance of the seder. Although not necessarily for use at table, The Koren Ethiopian Haggada brings alive biblical Passover and a contemporary exodus in its extraordinarily moving photographs and documents, as well as a group of searing personal recollections that serve as a postscript to the haggadah text. It is a singular source of seder commentary, illustrating that the Exodus is indeed a timeless experience, repeated before our eyes in this haggadah. Because the story of Ethiopian Jewry is not well known, more background information on the community’s twenty-year struggle to make aliyah, as well as a fuller bibliography, would have been valuable additions. Abbreviations and sources, full-color illustrations, photographs. MLW
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cookbooks a conversation with
by Maron L. Waxman
Healthy, simple, and stylish—the subtitle of Helen Nash’s third cookbook clearly announce her approach and the recipes she has developed over the past several years. In a lively and wide-ranging conversation, Nash talked about her new book and the place that cooking has had in her life.
Helen Nash: The reason for this book was my husband’s illness, so it was both hard and easy to write—hard because of his illness and how it changed our lives and easy because I had been cooking for fifty-four years. The core of the book is my life experience with my husband. There was no cooking in my childhood. When I was four and a half, my family was transported out of Krakow, and we spent the war in labor camps in Siberia. Food was nonexistent—no fruit, no vegetables. It was a a ration diet of subsistence level. My discovery of food was gradual. My mother didn’t know how to cook. In Poland my family was prosperous and had help. My mother worked in the family business. Maron L. Waxman: So how did you develop your taste and talent for cooking? HN: I married a man who loved food and who wasn’t kosher. I was young—twenty-one; I had just graduated from college—and came from a highly Orthodox home. He came from Berlin, from a not very observant family although he had never eaten shellfish or pork, and it was difficult for him to make the shift to kosher. He and his friends thought kosher food was chopped liver. But to me kosher wasn’t just
food; it was a way of life. So we made a clear and tacit contract—we would have kosher food and a Jewish home, and that was fine with him as long as the food was good. So my marriage was the catalyst. There was the joy of eating together, and it was the time when women were defined by the home they created and by how they parented. My children never ate anything from a jar. If you eat that way, you have no idea where the food comes from. MLW: I’ve read that you’ve studied with some of the greatest cooking teachers. How did that come about? HN: We moved to the suburbs because we thought children should be in the country. That lasted about a year and a half, and then we moved back to the city. The children were getting older, and I decided that I didn’t know anything about food, that I didn’t know the basics—for example, what the standards were to know what a good roast chicken is. I began taking classes with Michael Field. Of course, I never ate any of his meat dishes. But he realized what my limitations were, and he wanted to help. He gave me substitutes and kept saying you can do this.
MLW, interrupting: I noticed a little similarity to Field’s chicken liver pate. You use some sherry, and I think he also added some brandy or something like that to his. HN: Could be. He was a wonderful teacher. From there I moved on to Chinese cooking. A friend won cooking classes with Millie Chan at a school auction and gave them to me. I brought all my own food and got all the equipment—wok, steamer, cleaver. From Millie Chan I learned how to steam and stir-fry. I’m really committed to steaming and broiling rather than sauteeing. It is less caloric and it keeps the kitchen clean, and there’s no loss of taste. MLW: Your recipe for Sake-steamed Chicken caught my eye. How did you learn about Asian flavorings like miso and wasabi? HN: I read a lot and took notes. When flavorings like miso and wasabi became available in kosher versions, I experimented with them. They appealed to me. And my husband was very receptive to the new flavors. My guests liked them, too. No one ever complained. Baal teshuva particularly like those recipes, and they’re popular with nonkosher cooks, too. MLW: So people used to traditional Jewish food responded favorably. HN: They tasted the dishes, and they liked them. They are good on the palate. But my real aim in this book was to make it easy for the woman with no time to run to the supermarket and buy twenty ingredients. Too many people are ordering in for dinner, and that’s not satisfying and it’s not good for children. This book is easier than my first two books, and I hope it will help. Most of the recipes have very few ingredients, and every ingredient is easily available. I was far more concerned with availability and simplicity than I was with my previous books. But you have to know ingredients. Quality ingredients are very important when simplicity is the basis. When I look at recipes now, I’m shocked by the amount of sugar and fat and the size of the portions. I don’t like the cloying sweetness in so many desserts. Why not do a simple clafouti? You can use any fruit. Or try a frittata. This is a book of everyday food, not holiday food. And I’m also careful to indicate whether you can freeze the dishes. Freezing is wonderful, but you have to be careful to wrap everything well. With freezing you can prepare ahead, and you’ll
always have soup ready for Friday night. I’m also trying to overturn some myths about kosher food in this book. I’m not of the persuasion that Friday night has to be traditional. Sabbath doesn’t mean you have to have chicken or meat and potatoes. I often serve fish. MLW: To change the subject a little, do your children cook? HN: My son doesn’t cook often, but he knows how to use the right ingredients when he does. My daughter is a good cook, and she does cook for her family. MLW: Given the ideas about marriage and home life, how did you come to write a book? HN: My daughter went off to college, and the house felt a little empty-nesty. One night Jason Epstein [then an editor at Random House] came to dinner. He was the friend of a friend. I served something in puff pastry, and he didn’t even know it was made with margarine. When he found out, he said that if I ever wanted to write a kosher cookbook, he’d publish it, so I put together a proposal and that was the book. After that we became friends, and he did my second book, too. This third book is a labor of love, in memory of my husband. I had a wonderful seasoned editor who wasn’t Jewish, so she asked a lot of questions. She was a real asset and helped clarify a lot of points. But these recipes aren’t written in stone. People have to take some responsibility for their cooking. This is really a book about ideas and how to use them to make your own meals. In kosher cooking I hope we’ve moved a little away from our East European palate with its sour cream and pot cheese and farmer cheese—not that there aren’t traditional dishes in the book— and are cooking with new, fresh, lighter ingredients. That’s what this book is about. Maron L. Waxman, retired editorial director, special projects, at the American Museum of Natural History, was also an editorial director at HarperCollins and Book-of-the-Month Club. She also leads editorial workshops.
Seared Tuna With Two Sauces
From New Kosher Cuisine © 2012 Helen Nash. Published in 2012 by The Overlook Press. www. overlookpress.com. All rights reserved. Serves 6 Tuna is surely one of America’s favorite fish, and it lends itself to many types of preparation, from sashimi to “tuna-fish” sandwiches. The dish that follows calls for the fish to be almost raw; it can be accompanied with one of the Asian-inspired sauces, Ginger or Piquant Asian, that follow. 1 teaspoon kosher salt 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper 2 pounds (900 g) sashimi-quality tuna 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil Julienned daikon, sliced seeded cucumbers, and strong-tasting salad leaves like arugula or watercress, for garnish Ginger Sauce or Piquant Asia Sauce, to serve Combine salt and pepper in a small bowl. Pat the tuna dry with paper towels. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Sear the tuna on both sides, then remove from the heat and rub both sides with the salt-pepper mixture. When cool, wrap the tuna tightly in wax paper, then in foil. Refrigerate it for at least 4 hours or overnight. This will make it firmer and thus easier to slice. TO SERVE: Cut the fish against the grain in thin slices, and serve accompanied by the suggested vegetables. Serve either of the sauces separately.
Piquant Asian Sauce
Makes about 1/2 cup (125 ml)
Makes about 1 cup (250 ml)
2 shallots, finely chopped 3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce 21/2 tablespoons rice vinegar 2 teaspoons water 1/2 teaspoon sugar 1-inch (2.5 cm) piece of ginger, peeled and grated 1 generous tablespoon olive oil 1 generous tablespoon sesame oil 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup (10 g) loosely packed cilantro leaves 2 teaspoons wasabi powder 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil 1/4 teaspoon powdered mustard 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice 1/2 cup (78 g) shelled soy beans (edamame), defrosted (see note) 1/2 cup (125 ml) vegetable broth Kosher salt Freshly ground black pepper
Combine the ingredients well, and season to taste.
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Place all the ingredients in a blender and purée until smooth. Strain through a mediummesh strainer. Season to taste. Note: Frozen edamame, shelled and unshelled, are available in health-food stores and supermarkets.
Helen Nash’s New Kosher Cuisine: Healthy, Simple & Stylish Helen Nash Overlook Press, 2012 Hardcover 368 pp. $35.00 ISBN: 978-1-59020-863-2
elen Nash has long maintained that “kosher food is more than chopped liver and gefilte fish,” and in her latest book she once again demonstrates her ability to expand the kosher palate. Taking advantage of newly kosher ingredients—wasabi, truffle and sesame oils, miso, panko crumbs—she introduces an array of dishes that mingle the flavors of the Mediterranean and Asia with good everyday cooking. Nash takes easily available ingredients, straightforward techniques, and a dash of longearned culinary knowledge to create dishes that are simple to prepare, fresh, and flavorful. Tuna tartare or a soft green soup of peas and zucchini makes a light and lovely appetizer to a spring meal. Follow with Arctic char with honey and wasabi or marinated salmon with mangokiwi relish and a side of sweet and sour acorn squash. Desserts range from a traditional honey cake to pear clafouti and apricot soufflé. All of Nash’s recipes are conceived with nutrition in mind but no diminution of flavor. Challenged by her husband’s long illness and health requirements, she has turned to well-seasoned vegetables, grains, fish, and poultry for many meals, but she includes traditional favorites like cabbage and mushroom soup, gefilte fish with homemade challah and horseradish, pot roast, and cholent. Like any experienced cook, Nash is a source of helpful pointers in the recipes as well as a brief section of tips, list of ingredients, and notes on techniques and equipment. Handsomely illustrated with full-color photographs (seen only in black and white by the reviewer), Nash’s book is a worthy addition to the kitchen library for both practical and healthful everyday cooking and easy to prepare meals for entertaining and holidays. Illustrations, index, notes. MLW
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cookbooks The No-Potato Passover Aviva Kanoff Brio, 2012 Hardcover 165 pp. $29.99 ISBN: 978-0-615-59262-6
assover often means more potatoes than one wants to eat, but it does not have to be that way. Aviva Kanoff, an artist and a former student of the French Culinary Institute, has worked hard to find other options. She offers simple recipes, many with only six ingredients, using quinoa, spaghetti squash, parsnips, and butternut squash as alternative starches. These recipes come from a variety of international cuisines: Greek, Moroccan, Mexican, and Italian. The instructions are clear and easy to follow. Although individual recipes are not labeled as meat, dairy, or pareve, the book chapters are divided into meat, poultry, dairy, and pareve. Some recipes, such as pesto chicken “pasta,” may be confusing because the pesto recipe appears in the introduction to the book. It tells readers to omit the cheese for pareve pesto. These recipes will be useful all year around, not just during Passover. Golden ruby beet salad, Moroccan baked salmon, and apple cranberry crunch are a few examples. Beautiful color photographs of the food and its country of origin add to the appeal. This is a nice cookbook for beginning cooks because the recipes are not complicated. BMB
Cajun Carrot Fries From The No-Potato Passover by Aviva Kanoff (Brio; 2012) 8-10 large carrots, peeled and cut into thin slices, like “fries” 1 tbsp. olive oil ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper salt and black pepper, to taste 1. Preheat your oven to 450°. 2. Grease and/or line a large cookie sheet. 3. Toss the sliced carrots with olive oil, cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper. 4. Arrange the fries in a single layer on your baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, then flip the fries over and bake for another 10-15 minutes, until crisp. Serve warm.
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“Oy Vey!” Isn’t a Strategy: 25 Solutions for Personal and Professional Success
teachings. The same integrity and vision that the mussarniks expressed is shared in this enlightening and entertaining work. Bibliography. ADS
Deborah Grayson Riegel Behrman House, 2012 Paperback 288 pp. $14.95 ISBN: 978-0-87441-661-9
Mitzvah Stories: Seeds for Inspiration and Learning
Goldie Milgram & Ellen Frankel, eds. Reclaiming Judaism Press, 2011 Paperback 328 pp $25.00 ISBN: 978-0984804801
eborah Grayson Riegel is a well-known coach for organizations and individuals who also shares her expertise through articles and podcasts. Having availed myself of her services, first as a consultant for the organization I worked for, then as a regular attendee of her training sessions, and most recently as a coach as I wrestled with career challenges, I eagerly awaited the publication of her book, which exceeded every expectation that I had. Although the book’s cover describes Oy Vey as “self-help/coaching,” that designation does not do it justice. While the reader does get some coaching and self-help, s/he also gets insights from Ms. Riegel’s own life experiences, spiritual thinking, lessons in sensitivity, practical ideas for leading a professional and personal life, and exercises that help one explore his/her true values. And while the parts of the book do not unfold in a clear, linear fashion, they come together through the underlying values that run through the entire book. The teachings are delivered with humor, warmth, and honesty. While the author’s intelligence shines through, what is even more significant is her wisdom—the rare ability to perceive new insights and link knowledge, applying it to real life in practical ways. Deborah’s honesty and openness are evident on every page. Reading her work, you know that she doesn’t just write about more effective living, she lives the ideas. She’s never afraid to admit her own mistakes, using them as lessons from which others can learn. Transparency, humility, and integrity come through. As I read this book, my mind constantly linked it to the work of the mussar movement writers, who linked ethical living, values, and self-improvement in their Jewish lives and
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opularly translated as ‘good deed,’ mitzvot (the plural form; mitzvah, is singular) are human actions that are both an honor and an obligation to perform, the acts we are commanded to do because they are right and kind. Mitzvah Stories, is an exceptional, vibrant anthology offering memoirs, folktales, midrosh, teaching tales and legends to illuminate forty-five mitzvah-centered life practices, to ‘birth mitzvot from learning into living’. As Editor Goldie Milgram says, “...Each mitzvah constitutes a category of Jewish spiritual practice that provides us ways of texturing our lives with meaningful actions.” Contributor Arthur Strimling adds, “telling Jewish stories is a form of prayer.” This anthology illustrates mitzvot through story. Beginning with a historical section on Jewish storytelling, Mitzvah Stories is arranged into five broad categories: Coming to Wholeness: Mitzvot of Love and Healing; Expanding the Heart: Mitzvot of Joy and Generosity; Celebrating Sacred Time: Mitzvot of Shabbat and Holidays; Seasoning our Lives: Mitzvot of Life Cycle and Learning; and Finding Holiness & Happiness: Mitzvot of Serving & Experiencing God. Each writer’s contribution ends with a section called Provenance, an autobiographical statement and a short blurb about how the piece was written. Eclectic and diverse, stories occur in the Middle East, Europe, throughout the US, and on Native American reservations. Some are translated from Hebrew. Entries span centuries and include biblical tales, nonfiction, and medieval Kabbalistic conversations. Stories plumb a deep reservoir of Jewish
observance, from highly traditional practice to lifestyles innovative and fringe. What is extraordinary about this anthology is its unpredictability and the quality of compassion that threads through each contributor’s voice. The stories stay with you. “Mr. Kharrubi and Me,” by Helen Engelhardt, features an improbable friendship deepening despite political difference and great loss. In “Men on Menses,” James Stone Goodman writes beautifully about attending to his daughter’s first period. “The Demon of Dubrovna,” by Gail Rosen, spins a tale of kindness and courage shown to a neighborhood demon in a small shtetl in Eastern Europe. In “The Dress: A Purim Fairy Tale,” Amicahi Lau-Lavie writes about Purim masks, costumes, cross-dressing, and the loss of his mother. In “The Wooden Axle,” Rabbi Jill Hammer weaves fairy tale, goddess myth, Jewish tradition about the Prophet Elijah, and stories of the Shechinah into a rich and moving folktale of a Shabbos miracle for a poor, weary carpenter on a dark and snowy night. In addition to well-known, progressive Jewish writers, and there are plenty of lesser known authors with gems included in each section. Mitzvot inspire meaningful Jewish life, and these stories seem to come from every field and flavor of Jewish practice. Accompanying the anthology are two free companion pieces. One is a downloadable pdf discussion guide by Shoshana Silberman designed for book clubs, classes, and Rosh Chodesh groups. It provides questions directly related to each story and the mitzvah it demonstrates. The second companion piece is a series of free online podcasts discussing various selected mitzvot. In addition, available for separate purchase is a deck of mitzvot-themed playing cards that include the Hebrew name of selected mitzvot, the modern meaning of the mitzvah, and its biblical reference. All told, this series provides an enriching exploration of the Jewish legacy of kindness known as mitzvot revitalized into an accessible modern form. Glossary, index, recommended for further study. EDB
history Bread to Eat and Clothes to Wear: Letters from Jewish Migrants in the Early Twentieth Century Gur Alroey Wayne State University Press, 2011 Paperback 228 pp. $29.95 [e] ISBN: 978-0-8143-3519-2
e are all familiar with the story of mass immigration of Jews to the U.S. at the turn of the twentieth century: vicious pogroms and the threat of conscription into the czar’s
Coming & Going A young Jew breaks with her ultra Orthodox sect; the complex laws of joining the tribe. Pledges of Jewish Allegiance: Conversion, Law, and Policymaking in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Orthodox Responsa
Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots Deborah Feldman Simon and Schuster, 2012 Hardcover 272 pp. $23.00 [e] ISBN: 978-1439187005
David Ellenson & Daniel Gordis Stanford University Press, 2012 Hardcover 216 pp. $30.00 ISBN: 978-0804778053
ho is allowed to become a Jew” is a question that quietly attaches itself to the much-discussed issue of who is a Jew—although, perhaps not so quietly these days. The ongoing argument in Israel over conversion has roiled that country and rattled this one. Co-authors David Ellenson and Daniel Gordis illuminate the challenges of that specific debate, and those confronting Jewish communities elsewhere, by taking a look at history. They avoid offering their own personal remedies; instead they present an aggregation of responsa from Orthodox rabbis in Europe, the United States, and Israel from the nineteenth through the twenty-first centuries, letting the past inform the present. Do not make the mistake of assuming that a collection of Orthodox legal opinions from years ago is dry reading. Ellenson and Gordis are storytellers–frugal but skillful at laying out the context and content of the diligently halakhic, yet ultimately conflicting, decisions made by various rabbis in different locations over more than two centuries. Though all of the rabbis consulted the same halakhic texts and commentaries, their varied conclusions make it clear they were influenced, however reluctantly, by the “facts on the ground” of their particular place and time. Specifically highlighted is how the presence of increasingly sizable non-Orthodox denominations exerted pressure on many of these rabbis and their rulings. The book begins as modernity presents the Jewish population of Europe with the complications of inclusion in non-Jewish society—increased intermarriage, more Gentiles wanting to convert to Judaism, questions of Jewish identity—and concludes with the contentious circumstances arising from massive Russian immigration to the State of Israel. The result is a compelling, pendulum-swinging narrative and a sobering view of the kaleidoscopic difficulties that conversion can present. CB
army drove millions of Jews to risk everything to escape. It’s a good story, but not quite accurate. Actually, emigration from the areas in the Pale of Settlement where anti-Semitism was the most extreme was lower than from other areas; the poorest Jews didn’t have enough money to emigrate. Zionist authorities discouraged poor tradesmen from coming to
northodox is a memoir by Deborah Feldman, a former member of the Satmar community in Brooklyn. Feldman describes the deeply religious environment in which she grew up, closed off from the rest of society and kept from any type of secular education and upbringing. Raised by her grandparents after being abandoned by her mother (who leaves Satmar and is no longer religious) and her mentally unstable father, Feldman attends Satmar schools, where only Yiddish is spoken and reading books in English is forbidden. She writes about her secret trips to the public library, hiding books under her mattress and hoping her grandfather doesn’t find out. She describes her regret for lacking the “enlightenment” felt by the other girls in her school and community, and her struggles from a young age with the feeling that this life isn’t for her. She is married off at seventeen to a man she meets once, and that’s when her rebellion begins. She learns to drive, grows out her once-shaved hair and attends Sarah Lawrence College. After a car accident almost kills her, Feldman realizes what is most important to her. She leaves her husband, takes her son, and starts a new life without the wigs, heavy clothes, and religious restrictions. In general I have issues with authors who self-proclaim their stories as “scandalous.” In the Satmar world, what Feldman did was scandalous, but her story didn’t provide the drama and intrigue it seemed to have promised. However, it does provide a window into a world not many of us know about or can fathom. Her story, slow at first, invites us into the homes and mindsets of the Satmar people, at times wholesome and warm and at others lonely, shocking, and disturbing. Feldman is reflective, never mincing words, saying exactly how she feels about everything. For a woman with little formal secular education, her writing is eloquent and stirring. LA
Palestine; they wanted affluent immigrants who could set up businesses that would employ the Jews already there. All of these fascinating facts are revealed in this accessible and absorbing academic interpretation of a group of letters written by people in Eastern Europe to various emigration organizations. While some of the letters plead for any help
to get out, the majority ask pointed questions about the situation in the places the emigrants are considering: Can a pharmacist make a living in Palestine? What’s the work situation in the tanning industry in the U.S? Are there enough wet places with willows growing nearby in Palestine for a basket maker to thrive? The letters may have never
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reached their destinations, Alroey notes, and there are unfortunately few responses from the organizations, but this is a good read for anyone with an interest in the story of how millions of Jews moved from one side of the world to another. MR
in the second part she evaluates the evidence. The critical editions of the various versions of the prayer follow in appendixes, as well as a glossary, bibliography, and extensive indexes. The reader is challenged to think about various Jewish contexts for this and other liturgical practices as they were adopted and adapted over the centuries. Langer’s style is academic yet accessible, the detail comprehensive; this is the reference work on the topic. Bibliography, indexes. MDN
A Convenient Hatred: The History of Antisemitism Phyllis Goldstein Facing History and Ourselves Foundation, 2011 Paperback 432 pp. $17.00 [e] ISBN: 978-09819543-8-7
Legacy: A Genetic History of the Jewish People
Harry Ostrer Oxford University Press, 2012 Hardcover 288 pp. $24.95 ISBN: 978-0195379617
he publishers of this history of anti-Semitism sought to provide a complete general history of the topic, from its misty origins up to its shockingly heated present. Although there is certainly some value in being able to point to the shelf at a comprehensive collection of historical vignettes on the subject, this effort does not achieve more. Written on a simplistic level presumably aimed at a young audience, the book seeks to explain the various origins and outbreaks of anti-Semitism over the millennia. Unfortunately, it seems to be as concerned with not overburdening the haters as revealing them. Inexplicably, Moslem anti-Semitism is covered within other chapters, and even at the present time is not given its own. No one wants to dampen enthusiasm for the full coverage of this topic, but a too careful effort steeped more in balance than explication and analysis sheds little useful light. JHB
n Legacy, geneticist Harry Ostrer explores the intricate nature of Jewish identity and in doing so takes us on a historical and scientific journey of Judaism. We meet the scientists who explored the frequency of various traits within the Jewish population (Tay-Sachs, depression, intelligence, etc.), and we see where the science has been both right and wrong over the decades. The author gives us a rather technical tour of the genealogies of various groups within the Jewish population (Ashkenazi, Sephardic,
A rich and authoritative account of Jewish identity
Cursing the Christians: A History of the Birkat Haminim
Cohanim), as well as other populations in the Middle East. The book concludes with a more ephemeral question: what does it mean to feel Jewish? We hear from Einstein, from a Holocaust survivor, and from a journalist, among others. We also get a glimpse into Israel’s Law of Return, which formalizes the relationship
Ruth Langer Oxford University Press, 2012 Hardcover 389 pp. $74.00 ISBN 9780199783175
n the Amidah, the “blessing of the heretics” is well known as a curse, and often understood to have been specifically developed to exclude the early Christ-following Jews from the synagogues that did not approve of this affiliation. It is obviously of importance, then, not only on its own terms within Judaism, but also for tracing the history of relations with Christians, and thus, for Christian-Jewish relations today, even if that understanding of its origins and general usage is not without challenge, as ably demonstrated in this unparalleled resource. Professor Langer is an expert on Jewish liturgical history who brings much to the study of this topic besides its polemical dimensions. In the first part of this work, she explores the history of the formulations of this phrase, and
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between Jewish identity and modern Israel. Although the genetic details are quite dense, the book is a remarkable achievement in its biological and historical scope. Ostrer’s thorough research provides a rich and authoritative account of Jewish identity, a subject whose controversial nature the author handles deftly and with great care. References. AB
People of the Book: Philosemitism in England from Cromwell to Churchill Gertrude Himmelfarb Encounter Books, 2011 Hardcover 180 pp. $23.95 [e] ISBN: 978-1-59403-570-8
ne can be forgiven for thinking that England is a redolent hotbed of antiSemitism. From the banal—Peter Lawford’s character in the film Exodus comes to mind —to the bloody—the medieval Lincoln riots that led to the eventual expulsion of the Jews —the torturous relationship between Albion and Israel has had a long history. Even today, England has become well-known for regular eruptions of a harsh, knee-jerk antiIsraelism. Into this swamp wades Gertrude Himmelfarb, the distinguished historian of Victorian thought, to tell a different story, that of English philosemitism. There is a story to tell. Whether from conviction or a desire to compete effectively with the Dutch, Cromwell, the fiery antimonarchist, invited the Jews to return. From that moment right on through the nineteenth century, a group of British leaders and a series of “Jew Bills” sought to provide toleration, and later political equality. Then, in the twentieth century, figures such as Lord Balfour and Winston Churchill demonstrated their friendship to the Jewish people in support of their Zionist aspirations. Himmelfarb has produced a concise
Koufax & Co. What was it like to be a Jewish Major Leaguer? Jewish Major Leaguers In Their Own Words: Oral Histories of 23 Players Peter Ephross with Martin Abramowitz McFarland & Company, 2012 Paperback 227 pp. $35.00 ISBN: 978-0786465071
artin Abramowitz, creator of the Jewish Major Leaguers baseball card series that was the impetus behind Jewish Major Leaguers In Their Own Words: Oral Histories of 23 Players, describes the last decade as a “a renaissance of interest in Jews in baseball.” In fact, during the last twenty-five years, dozens of books have been published about Jewish baseball players, including the first Jewish baseball players’ oral history collection, Dave Cohen’s Matzoh Balls and Baseballs: Conversations with Jewish Former Major League Baseball Players (Havenhurst Books, 2010). Jewish Major Leaguers In Their Own Words manages to break new ground, despite its lengthy list of fore bearers, making it a worthy addition to Jewish baseball fans’ bookshelves. In Their Own Words includes interviews of pre-World War II through 1950s players Cal Abrams, Andy Cohen, Hank Greenberg, Saul Rogovin, Al Rosen, Goody Rosen, and Al Schacht conducted by the American Jewish Committee in the 1970s and ‘80s. [Reviewer’s note: The unedited interviews are housed at the New York Public Library for anyone who wants to dig deeper.] Ron Blomberg’s interview is excerpted from his autobiography, co-written by veteran sportswriter and former editor-in-chief of the Bergen (New Jersey) Jewish News, Dan Schlossberg. Rabbi Rebecca Alpert, author of Out of Left Field: Jews and Black Baseball [see review
in JBW Fall 2011], interviewed former New York Yankee Elliott Maddox. The book’s other interviews were conducted by Ephross and a variety of “journalists, scholars, other interested parties.” Ephross spent more than seven years working on In Their Own Words (he interviewed Mickey Rutner in 2005, and began editing the other interviews in 2007), and his careful editing shows. Considering the diversity of source material and interviewers’ differing styles, each chapter capably showcases the players’ personalities, is eminently readable and offers self-contained, cohesive narratives. “The collection offers countless little-known stories that paint a vivid picture of what it was like to be a Jewish Major Leaguer,” Ephross told JBW. “Thrown in are some personal details. What were their lives like? How do they feel about being Jewish?” These fascinating personal vignettes and side stories to the players’ on-field exploits are what define In Their Own Words. Take, for example, the interview of journeyman pitcher “Subway” Sam Nahem Nahem—the “first Syrian Jewish lawyer and baseball player” and “also one of the first [pitchers] to use a slider.” Nahem recounts telling the New York Daily News about his tenuous status with the Brooklyn Dodgers after a rough spring training outing. “I am in the egregiously anonymous position,” he said, “of pitching batting practice to the batting practice pitchers.” One of the book’s other themes is players’ awareness “that they embodied Jewish pride” for fans. “There’s something different about being a Jewish ballplayer than being a ‘regular’ (non-Jewish) ball player,” Ephross said. “It’s a little bit of Jewish geography” on the ball field. There is no dearth of current Jewish players. JewishBaseballNews. com lists ten Jewish Major Leaguers at the time of of this review, including reigning National League MVP Ryan Braun and All-Star second baseman Ian Kinsler. In Their Own Words, however, contains only three interviews with Jewish Major Leaguers who played since 1980, and only Adam Greenberg—who was hit in the head during his first big league at-bat in 2005, ending his Major League career—took the field since 2000. This lack of modern representation is a curious omission shared by In Their Own Words and Cohen’s Matzoh Balls. “Becoming more aware of your Judaism and your Jewish identity as you get older is part of the American Jewish experience,” Ephross explains. “The nature of this project is to go beyond the headlines and the quotes... and to actually learn about their lives and their experiences. It’s hard to get current players to talk about that.” Jewish baseball fans can only hope there may be a future volume of Jewish Major Leaguers In Their Own Words that remedies this oversight and further expands on the success of the original. Appendix, index, photos. Joshua Platt, an avid baseball fan and collector of Jewish baseball autographs, publishes www.JewishSportsCollectibles.com.
© Elizabeth Graham
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counterbalance that needed to be published, even if the truth is far less even. For every George Eliot predicting Theodor Herzl, there’s an unfortunate Dickens or Trollope reference that makes one cringe. Yet, for the People of the Book, it’s important to understand the fuller story. JHB
holocaust The Arrival: I Sought God in Hell Mietek Weintraub Penina Press, 2012 Paperback 224 pp. $19.95 ISBN: 978-1-936068-33-3
the most insightful accounts of daily life in a concentration camp. At the time of Koker’s incarceration, Vught was an internment camp; it gradually became a labor camp and finally a camp from which Jews were deported to Westerbork, a temporary stop before being sent to Sobibor or Auschwitz. By Febuary 11, 1943, when Koker made his first diary entry, deportations from the Netherlands had been going on for almost seven months, wherein 44,000 Jews had been sent to Auschwitz. But life for Koker and the Jews sent to Vught was at first not the traumatic experience endured by Jews in the major Nazi concentration camps; because it was an internment camp, Vught’s Jewish prisoners enjoyed privileges unknown to Jews in the
he horror that camp survivors suffered and witnessed compels many to write testimonies as a way of communicating the agony and tragedy to those who know little or nothing about the Shoah. This book of two-page chapters takes you through everything that any witness has ever reported, I would think, plus the agonizing decisions one might make, or made, in response to the “Russian roulette” offered by the Nazis. Were they tricks? Did they lead to even worse conditions, to death? Despite all this, Mietek Weintraub was still seeking God: “Surely our Merciful God will act now and protect us from this evil so that we can sustain our everlasting trust in Him on our fateful arrival.” Do I suspect sarcasm? At some point I began to wonder if this was a novel, not testimony, but the photos convinced me that this volume is entirely factual. Appendix, photos. MWP
As Vught evolved into a more brutal and typical concentration camp, life became harder, and the fear of deportation weighed heavily on the prisoners
At the Edge of the Abyss: A Concentration Camp Diary, 1943-1944
German concentration camp system. Jews were allowed to receive parcels from their relatives and friends, including food, books, and toiletries; children attended school, and at first, the prisoners did not wear prison garb. An early diary entry informs us, “Ate well. People were quite touched by the meat, bread, butter, herring... At moments like that life is good, and being together with people is bearable.” This situation did not last. As Vught evolved into a more brutal and typical concentration camp, life became harder, and the fear of deportation weighed heavily on the prisoners. Koker notes in his diary, “The good times are pretty well gone...all kinds of barriers are raised up and punishments are threatened...” Koker’s diary is an invaluable record of his observations, thoughts, and feelings, as well as a record of daily life in Vught. The diary covers almost a year of his life before he was deported. He did not survive the war. Koker died in transport to Dachau in 1945. He was twenty-two years old. JF
David Koker; Robert Jan von Pelt, ed.; Michiel Horn & John Irons, trans. Northwestern University Press, 2012 Hardcover 410 pp. $35.00 ISBN: 978-0810126367
his powerful diary deserves to take its place among the small number of such journals, notably that of Anne Frank, that elucidate the evil of the Nazi war against the Jews. As a very young man, David Koker was already involved in Amsterdam’s literary scene as a poet, editor, and writer. Koker and his family were caught in the roundup of Jews by the Nazis and their Dutch collaborators that took place in the years following the German occupation of the Netherlands in 1940. Sent to the Dutch concentration camp at Vught in February, 1943, Koker began to keep a diary, which has survived to provide one of
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A Candle in the Heart: Memoir of a Child Survivor Judith Alter Kallman; Deborah Alter Goldenberg, fwd. Wordsmithy, 2011 Paperback 315 pp. ISBN: 978-1-93511-09-5
icture the Mannheimers, a Jewish family in Czechoslovakia—not wealthy, but comfortable; their mother, Dora, was the ultimate cook, housewife, and mother who also found the time to design matching outfits for her six children, three girls and three boys. Since Judith, an uncommonly beautiful child, was the youngest and I suppose a surprise to her parents, she was treated as a pet, especially by her adoring father. The family lived a modern life, refined and steeped in Jewish practices; chief among them was the appreciation of the Sabbath and the S’hma, a prayer that strengthened and preserved little Judith throughout her ordeals. All the children were attractive and personable people, and the family had good relations with both Jews and gentiles, although the latter were quick to disown them once the Nazis invaded the Sudetenland and Czechoslovakia separated into two countries. Unfortunately, the Mannheimer family lived in Slovakia, the half that harbored the radical Nazi Hlinka Guard. Despite going into hiding in the home of peasants, her parents and two eldest siblings were seized by the guards and
Abandoned and jailed, the two Manheimer children embarked on what would become a series of crises, rescues, and remarkable recoveries deported. It was the last time their younger children saw them. A peasant woman was paid to take Judith and her oldest brother to their maternal aunt, who turned them away at her doorstep, fearing for her own
children’s safety. Abandoned and jailed, the two Mannheimer children embarked on what would become a series of crises, rescues, and remarkable recoveries. Of some, they were the recipients, but of others, they had to initiate the actions that would further their progress. I do not know how the author retained an intact psyche. As her daughter, Deborah Alter Goldenberg, writes in the foreword: “When so few children survived the Holocaust, Mom survived and built on each of her experiences to strengthen her resolve to go forward.” Today, she is a gift to her immediate family, her friends, and the institutions she works to strengthen. Not wanting to give away any more of this well-written and remarkable true adventure, different from all the other survivor stories I have reviewed for JBW, I say: buy it, read it, and give it to every bat mitzvah girl you know. MWP
Chelmno and the Holocaust: A History of Hitler’s First Death Camp Patrick Montague University of North Carolina Press, 2012. Hardcover 416 pp. $75.00 [e] ISBN: 978-0807835272
his prodigious work of scholarship draws on the eye-witness testimony of the Chelmno death camp’s operations as seen by surviving Jewish prisoners, the records of the perpetrators, and the memories of the local villagers. Chelmno was the first of the Nazi camps that used gas to murder their victims. Montague, an independent scholar, used a Fulbright fellowship in Poland to conduct the initial research for this work which took him twenty years to complete. He begins by
Eye-witness testimony of the Chelmno death camp’s operations as seen by surviving Jewish prisoners describing the Nazi euthanasia in Germany, which was initiated with the outbreak of war in 1939, and then continued with the invasion and defeat of Poland in the same year. Hitler’s order to murder “useless eaters” resulted in the death of thousands of asylum inmates, chronically ill patients, and other German “lives deemed unworthy of living.” The technicians who supervised these killings were subsequently sent to Poland, where they carried out the murder of mostly Jews and Gypsies in Chelmno, although Poles were also among the victims. Before the construction of the Aktion Reinhard death camps Belzec, Sobibor, and
Treblinka, the SS at Chelmno were perfecting the use of gas for killing by using stationary trucks located in a mansion in Chelmno (Kulmhof). Victims were ushered into the back of the vans, the doors were then sealed and poison gas was released into the crowded “cargo” section, killing all within minutes. The trucks then proceeded to a wooded area outside of Chelmno where the bodies were unloaded by mostly Jewish prisoners and incinerated in makeshift wooden crematoria. Most of the Jews who were killed were deported from the close-by Lodz ghetto. Montague informs us that it is difficult to ascertain just how many Jews and others were killed in Chelmno but estimates around 160,000 to 200,000. Embedded in this chilling history are portraits of the SS perpetrators, such as Herbert Lange and Hans Bothmann, the camp commandants, but also Arthur Greiser, the chief administrator of the Warthegau, the western part of annexed Poland, who personally sought the murder of 100,000 Jews, and the like-minded Hans Biebow, the administrator of the Lodz ghetto, who made a personal fortune from extorting the Jews of Lodz and the valuables of those murdered in Chelmno. In chronicling the history of the first Nazi extermination camp at Chelmno, Montague shows how the camp broke the psychological barrier for establishing subsequent factories of death, and became the model for death camps such as Treblinka and Auschwitz. JF
rooted in European and Christian culture and a revolutionary attempt to inaugurate a new temporal order, a world without Jews. In this sense, its aim was to save European civilization and world history, not simply Germany. He analyzes the culture and sensibilities that made it possible for the Nazis, other Germans, and Europeans to imagine the making of a world without Jews. As a problem in cultural history that fantasy was, for Confino, the revolutionary achievement of the Nazis—to make the imagination of a world without Jews and Judaism possible. How and why that happened are key to understanding the Shoah, more so than the examination of social ideology or the context of war. The question is not only how ideology and context made the Holocaust possible but also what was the ground of culture and sensibilities that made it conceivable to begin with. To understand the Holocaust as an extreme historical event that uncovers general problems of historical interpretation, he identifies
The Nazis’ exterminationist fantasy about Jews was at once rooted in European and Christian culture and a revolutionary attempt to inaugurate a new temporal order, a world without Jews and works through the four bedrocks of historical understanding: the problem of beginnings and ends, of context, of contingency and of culture. To help with this process he seeks insights from the way historians interpreted another violent and foundational event in modern European history—the French Revolution. Foundational Pasts is a brilliant, lucid, and accessible meditation on interpretations of the Holocaust and suggestions on the limitations of that research and new directions to be pursued. It will surely generate much reflection on how the Shoah should be understood. MND
Foundational Pasts: The Holocaust as Historical Understanding Alon Confino Cambridge University Press, 2011 Paperback 180 pp. $24.99 [e] ISBN: 978-0-521-73632-9
istorian Alon Confino’s book is one of the most original and suggestive theoretical responses to the Holocaust to have appeared in recent years. Unlike most Holocaust scholars who have analyzed the phenomenon from the perspective of the history of anti-Semitism; the social psychology of the killers and collaborators; the technology of the killing process; the brutalization ethos created by World War II; or a comparative genocide approach—Confino examines the Holocaust as a problem in cultural history. Detailed accounts of what happened during the Nazi period are certainly necessary but they are not sufficient to capture the elements of the strangeness and the passion of the Nazi killers, a passion whose essence is fantasies about a nonexistent Jewish threat to destroy Germany. He contends that the Nazis’ exterminationist fantasy about Jews was at once
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Golden Harvest: Reflections About Events at the Periphery of the Holocaust
the process. The photograph and the history he weaves around it that include discussions of “Jew-hunts” in the countryside, the blackmailers or schmaltzownicks who extorted money from desperate Jews, the pillaging of Jewish property, sheltering Jews for exorbitant payment, all illustrate a level of indifference if not enthusiasm for the Jewish tragedy. The genocide against the Jews almost succeeded because it was greeted with a kind of consent in countries that had been conquered by the Nazis. The authors have written a moving, lyrical, and heartbreaking book that evokes the complexity, as well as the intimacy, of the Shoah and contributes to the ongoing rethinking of Polish-Jewish interactions before and during the Holocaust. It is highly recommended. MND
Jan Tomasz Gross with Irena Grudzinska Gross Oxford University Press, 2012 Hardcover 144 pp. $16.95 [e] ISBN: 978-0-199-73167-1
he latest book by Princeton University historian Jan Gross has already created a great deal of controversy and consternation in Poland. Like his earlier works, Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland After Auschwitz and Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland, that examine the 1941 Jedwabne massacre of Jews by their Polish neighbors, Gross’s new book is intended to provoke Poles into thinking about their own role during the Shoah in a more critical manner. He challenges the dominant Polish historical narrative that emphasizes Polish suffering and victimhood at the hands of the Nazis and characterizes Jedwabne and the 1946 Kielce pogrom as marginal incidents committed by demoralized Poles. In this narrative, Poles are depicted as selfless and heroic, fighting off the Germans and when possible aiding the vulnerable Jews. Anti-Semitism in Poland is also minimized. Gross has a different and more nuanced view and this short, powerful book continues the correction. The starting point is a haunting, grainy black-and-white photograph that shows a group of peasants and some soldiers or militiamen—diggers—atop a mountain of ashes at Treblinka, where some 800,000 Jews were gassed and cremated between July 1942 and October 1943. Bones and skulls have been placed in an orderly display in front of the group. The peasants have been digging through the remains of the victims, hoping, expecting to find gold and precious stones, given the prevailing stereotype extant in Poland associating Jews with money or gold. This simple image links two central aspects of the Holocaust: the mass murder of European Jews and the accompanying looting of their property, even after death and cremation. The pillaging of Jewish property was not limited to governments, conquering armies, Swiss banks, insurance companies, or museums. It was perpetrated by local people, such as those depicted in the photograph. And as Gross points out, these digs, these “golden harvests,” went on for decades at all the death camps. Local people partook in it openly and in open cooperation. They were not isolated events perpetrated by marginalized Poles. Golden Harvest thus conveys a deeper truth about what happened during the Shoah. Gross believes that the local populations living alongside the Jews for centuries by and large appreciated the Nazi policy of cleansing the area of Jews and tried to enrich themselves in
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Hiding Places: A Mother, A Daughter, An Uncovered Life Diane Wyshogrod State University of New York Press, 2012 Hardcover 298 pp. $24.95 [e] ISBN: 978-1-4384-4243-3
nderstanding the past so that we can better shape our future is the theme of psychologist Diane Wyshogrod’s memoir of her mother’s life during World War II, a book written with the hope that fully knowing about her mother’s experiences would help her make better sense of her own. Wyshogrod’s mother, Helen Rosenberg, survived the Holocaust hidden in the cellar of a Polish Christian couple who risked their lives to help preserve hers. Her story is carefully and realistically depicted, with no painful or harrowing details spared. Yet the tale is told with so much warmth and understanding that the reader is buoyed by the emotions and becomes more easily able to accept the facts. Wyshogrod deftly explores truth—not only factual or historical truth, but the truth of her mother’s life. She poses and answers many
salient questions: How could her mother stand what happened to her? What did it do to her? How did it affect her children when she became a mother? Through examining Rosenberg’s experiences and emotions in her youth and her young womanhood in pre-war and wartime Poland, to her post-war life in New York and Jerusalem, Wyshogrod considers the way families are both tied together and pulled apart. A one-time organizer of children of Holocaust survivors, Wyshogrod analyzes and describes her mother’s life with such insight that she sheds considerable light on the trauma that can be transmitted from one generation to the next. She also depicts the new horizons that can be reached when that trauma is understood. This book is a war memoir but also a mother-daughter story, and it tackles and wrestles to the ground many of the thorniest issues that can arise between the generations, especially those that encompass lives experienced on such different terms. LFB
Holocaust Survivors: Resettlement, Memories, Identities Dalia Ofer, Francoise S. Ouzan & Judy Tydor Baumel-Schwartz, eds. Berghahn Books, 2011 Hardcover 356 pp. $95.00 ISBN: 978-0-85745-247-4 These chapters represent selected papers presented at a workshop at the Avraham Harmon Institute of Contemporary Jewry/the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The remarks that follow are paraphrases from the Preface of this excellent volume.
istorians Ouzan and Ofer, coming from different backgrounds, became interested in the role that survivors played in the life of the Jewish and non-Jewish societies to which they immigrated. Their studies revealed
Mielec, Poland: The Shtetl That Became a Nazi Concentration Camp
Rochelle G. Saidel Gefen and Remember the Women Institute, 2012 Hardcover 230 pp. $24.95 ISBN: 978-965-229-529-3
A a wide variety of activity and involvement in different fields of the economy, culture, and the arts as well as in shaping the memory of the Holocaust. Particularly interesting is how displaced persons navigated through various crossroads in their attempt to reach the place where they would enter their new lives. Diverse subjects covered include: what happened to the relationship and final locale of “camp sisters” after liberation; the post-war issues involved with Jewish children saved by being harbored by Polish Christians; the postwar emerging Jewish community in France, Holland, and Belgium; the status of Jews in France and their attitude about the situation; the way survivors handled their memories at different stages; the role of survivors in establishing Europe’s culture after the war and in rebuilding its economy; the ways that Jews and non-Jews in various countries shaped their post-war identities, etc. Countries reported on include those noted above and Israel, the United States, Argentina, and Australia. Final information includes a chapter on neediness assessments and resource allocations of Jewish survivors, a bibliography, and notes on the contributors. MWP
Judgment Before Nuremberg: The Holocaust in the Ukraine and the First Nazi War Crimes Trial Greg Dawson Pegasus Books, 2012 Hardcover 336 pp. $26.95 [e] ISBN: 978-1-60598-290-9
reg Dawson, the author of Hiding in the Spotlight about the escape of his mother, pianist Zhanna Arshanskaya, from the killing fields of Drobitsky Yar, Ukraine, follows that work with a book on the Holocaust in the Ukraine and the first Nazi war crimes trial that took place in Kharkov, Ukraine, in December 1943. Although there are many books about the SS Einsatzgruppen, the mobile killing units
small Jewish community in southern Poland instituted in the sixteenth century, Mielec had flourished until the Holocaust. Saidel provides its past history of accomplishments and hardships, photographs of its former inhabitants, interviews with descendants of its citizens, and written accounts by some of those who had lived there. It was totally destroyed by the Nazis in one day, March 9, 1942. It went quickly from being a shtetl to a Nazi concentration camp. The Nazis appropriated it because nearby, an airplane factory already existed, which the Nazis could use to make their own planes. Some of its surviving inhabitants lived for months under terrible conditions around other small Polish towns. Coincidentally, Saidel’s childhood Jewish teacher had come from there and as time went on, she came across more people now living in Israel who had come from there, or who were descended from its former citizens. Today, nothing and no one Jewish remains in Mielic. What Saidel provides, after much research, are personal testimonies from people whose families or friends came from that beleaguered shtetl and a photographic gallery of “Exile in the Lublin District, Slave Labor in Mielec, and Mielec Today.” This is an informal, albeit definitive history of a Jewish town that was murdered in one day, and provides additional information to the tragic history of the Shoah. Index, notes, references. MWP
that followed the Wehrmacht into the Ukraine and other areas of the Soviet Union after June 1941 and probably were responsible for killing approximately 1.5 million Jews, nearly all are written by historians and scholars and are not geared to a general audience. Exceptions would include the books by Christopher Browning, Richard Rhodes, and Father Patrick Desbois. Dawson is neither a scholar nor a historian but a print journalist accustomed to writing for a general audience. This is the singular accomplishment of his book. In lively and engaging prose he tells the horrific story of the destruction of Ukrainian Jewry, often through the lens of his mother’s ordeal and the murder of his grandparents and great-grandparents. With the keen, descriptive eye of an experienced investigative reporter, he returns to “the scene of the crime” to appreciate the landscape of death, examine archival material, and interview survivors and witnesses. Another focal point of the book is the first trial—and conviction and executions of Nazis for their wartime crimes. It was held in Kharkov, more than two years before the celebrated trials in Nuremberg, Germany. Although the trials and executions—witnessed by thousands of Kharkov residents—were reported in the Western press, few people are aware of them today. The trial lasted four days and among the victims of the procedure were Jews as a category who were deliberately not mentioned by the Soviet authorities. Nowhere in the trial were the murdered Soviet citizens identified as Jews. Dawson also provides portraits of the three German defendants, William Langheld, fifty-two, Hans Ritz, twentyfour, and Reinhard Retzlaff, thirty-six, as well as translations of their testimonies that are disturbing in their detail, without remorse expressed or the acceptance of responsibility by the defendants. Dawson, in this easy to read and engaging book, lifts the veil covering a critical and tragic moment of history and crime still largely enclosed in darkness. MND
An Uncommon Journey: From Vienna to Shanghai to America—A Brother and Sister Escape to Freedom During World War II Deborah Strobin & Ilie Wacs, with S.J. Hodges Barriacade Books, 2011 Hardcover 222 pp. $24.95 [e] ISBN: 978-1569804520
hile there is no comprehensive volume on the escape of 18,000 Jews to Shanghai during the Holocaust, there are about twenty memoirs by refugees who fled there. What sets this one apart is that the events are seen from the perspectives of two young children. Deborah was three and her brother Ilie twelve when their family fled Vienna for Shanghai, eventually ending up in America. An employee of their father who becomes a
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it well. On a chance visit to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, Deborah suddenly saw her photo on the wall. The result is this book, which is well worth reading. MT
We Are Here: Memories of the Lithuanian Holocaust Ellen Cassedy University of Nebraska Press, 2012. Paperback 288 pp. $19.95 ISBN: 978-0-8032-3012-5
his remarkable blend of personal narrative and uncluttered research explores both the author’s need to enhance and transform her Jewish identity and the capacity of the Lithuanian people to deal productively with the issues raised by Lithuania’s participation in Hitler’s destruction of its Jews. Wishing to immerse herself in the Jewish culture of her ancestors, the author travels to Vilnius for a summer of study. Here, while taking a strenuous course in Yiddish language and literature, she avails herself of every opportunity to learn about the Holocaust in Lithuania, as well as the conditions of Jewish life during the periods of Russian and Soviet rule surrounding the Nazi reign. Revelations by her great-uncle, a member of the Jewish police under Nazi occupation, lead Cassedy to track down those individuals who shared his experience. She also explores the experiences and present attitudes of the non-Jews who had assisted their condemned neighbors and those other Lithuanians who had been bystanders—indifferent or fearful witnesses. How do those people feel, now, about their behavior then? What did they learn from their experiences? What, if anything, did Lithuania learn? Cassedy spent much of her time searching through archives and questioning other researchers. She traveled from Vilnius to other cities and towns in search of witnesses. She visited the neighborhoods of her grandfather’s world and the sites of the mass executions and burials. She asked hard questions. For all of her need to look backward, to recover the past, Cassedy came to realize that the important questions had to do with the future. At one time, Lithuania was the home of about 240,000 Jews. Only a tiny fragment, perhaps several thousand, remains. At one time Vilnius was called “The Jerusalem of the North.” What can balance the loss of such a vibrant culture? All answers are tentative. All questions are crucial. Cassedy’s quest is balanced, engaging, and penetrating. Author’s note, family tree, sources, timeline. PKJ
Nazi warns the family of the approaching horrors and advises them to leave. They are fortunate to board the last ship to Shanghai, the port of last resort, where they arrive penniless, their steamer trunk lost. Uprooted, they leave behind the cruelty and the prejudices of daily life in Vienna even before the Nazis, and are transported to a new life. We read of sleeping in bunk beds with sheets on ropes for partitions, several hundred to a room. Sanitary facilities might be an out house or one toilet for four hundred. One child describes the filth, the diseases, and so many dead Chinese in the street as families could not afford the burial. Deborah remembers the songs of the coolie laborers as they carried their heavy burdens, which served as her lullabies. Children generally slept on the floor but bugs were eating her alive and a cot had to be found. Both Deborah and Ilie attended the Jewish school, but painfully, both remember the hunger pains they suffered. Their lunch, brought from home, was one slice of bread which Deborah placed on the radiator to make toast. Ilie was sent to pawn his mother’s wedding ring when they had no money for
They lived in Shanghai with no extended family, surrounded by cholera, thyphus, and dysentery food. Deborah had but one armless doll. They lived in Shanghai with no extended family, surrounded by cholera, typhus, and dysentery. They also remember that this refugee community produced newspapers and opera companies, radio programs, and lectures on Chinese culture. German Jews looked down on Austrian Jews, and both looked down on Eastern European Jews. Both Deborah and Ilie describe the American bombing of July 17, 1945 when the Jewish ghetto was hit and Jews and Chinese worked together to help the injured and put out the fires. Deborah and Ilie both participated in this rescue and remember
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israel studies The Crisis of Zionism Peter Beinart Times Books, 2012 Hardcover 276 pp. $26.00 [e] ISBN: 978-0-8050-9412-1
eter Beinart’s The Crisis of Zionism has received wide coverage across the literary, religious, and historical spectrums. There are those who claim his commentary is prophetic, and there are those who call him a self-hating Jew. Beinart has written a polemic and, as with all polemics, some dimensions of the argument are stronger and some are exaggerated in order to make the point all the more poignant. Regardless of what you think about the conclusions Beinart draws, his topic and his thesis are extremely important. As an author
There are those who claim Beinart’s commentary is prophetic, and there are those who call him a self-hating Jew Beinart dissects issues and hammers home his points in the most readable and friendly style. The Crisis of Zionism is masterfully crafted and gracefully written. Even when my blood boiled over because of a point he had made or when I laughed out loud at his exaggerated prose, I remained enraptured by the story and by Beinart’s writing style. For example, in the world according to Peter Beinart: If the Jewish leadership of America were to meet with the President of the United States... only one person in the Oval Office would reflect true Jewish and traditional Zionist values…. and that would be President Barack Obama. Clever, convincing, and made the point clearly, but just as certainly an exaggeration of the point he wished to make. Beinart is not a self-hating Jew; he is a staunchly critical Jew. He is a Jew who wants, through his critique, to return Jewish leadership and the American Jewish community and Israel to its roots—roots founded, Beinart writes, on social justice, freedom, and equality. For that reason he juxtaposes Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and the American Jewish leaders against U.S. President Obama. Obama is a champion of the cause of Israel’s left and of the vision of a Palestinian state in the context of a two-state solution, the Palestinian state living side by side with Israel. Beinart sees that as the only just resolution to the conflict. In contrast to Obama, Beinart sees Prime
Minister Netanyahu as doing anything and everything to avoid that same two-state, side by side result. The American leaders who support the Netanyahu point of view are painted with the same broad brush as those who threaten traditional Jewish and Zionist values—the principles upon which Israel was founded. Peter Beinart’s major strength is also his greatest flaw. His book is marvelously graceful but his argument lacks nuance. There are right-wing traditional Zionists, although they are not to be found in The Crisis of Zionism, and their values were and are evolving. And the Prime Minister, in a revolutionary move, has recognized the right of Palestinians to have a state within the boundaries of the 1967 armistice lines. Beinart also fails to acknowledge or even recognize that Israel has moved from a socialist frame of reference to a free market, moved from left to center to center-right, as have the vast majority of diaspora Zionists. A better book could not have been written, but a second book should attempt to convince those many American Jews who don’t care about Israel to care. Making Israel socialist and more liberal will not budge American Jewry from their apathy. MDH
Holy Wars: 3000 Years of Battles in the Holy Land Gary Rashba Casemate Publishers, 2011 Hardcover 288 pp. $32.95 [e] ISBN: 978-1-61200-008-4
he meeting place of three continents, riven by the Syro-African Depression, both terrain and location have determined that the land of Israel should be the site of many of history’s fiercest battles. Defense analyst Gary Rashba gives us seventeen chapters of them, each one a brief stop in three millennia of warfare in the Holy Land. Rashba usually focuses the scene on a particularly intense battle. The episodic treatment works, giving the author the opportunity to tell the history of an entire war without stepping too far away from the action. His use of the language of military strategy strengthens his effort to bring verisimilitude to what, in many chapters, such as the struggle of David with Goliath, are events so shrouded by time that the facts have to be invented or embellished. One of the advantages of Rashba’s broad scope is to watch the technology and tactics of war change. From slingshot to Russian MiG, from long, slow sieges to ultra rapid attacks, from Saladin to Allenby, one thing is clear—the Holy Land is no stranger to war. JHB
Israel: An Introduction
of the changes that took place during this period, but also to portray them… from the point of view of the Israelis who experienced them.” The book opens with an examination of the austerity program carried out during the first years following Israeli independence (1948), resulting from the dwindling foreign currency reserves of the state, preventing it from buying essential raw materials and foodstuffs while facing at the same time continued security problems and mass immigration, much of it of poor Jews, from devastated postWorld War II Europe and the Islamic world. The austerity program, which included food, clothing, and shoes rationing, caused hardships on the population and the growth of the black market, resulting in increased anger with the ruling left-wing MAPAI Party and the strengthening of individual self-interest, mainly of housewives, who had to make ends meet, since they were the ones who were responsible for their families’ immediate needs for food and clothing. Rozin shows how this influenced national elections and the rise of the center-leaning, middle class General Zionists Party. The last part examines how old-timers viewed the immigrants, and especially those from the Islamic world, reflecting cultural bias and feelings of superiority. This is an important contribution not only to the social and political developments of Israel in the period immediately following independence, but also pointing to the roots of changes in the following decades. Index, notes, references. RS
Barry Rubin Yale University Press, 2012 Paperback 352 pp. $30.00 [e] ISBN: 978-0-300-16230-1
rofusely illustrated with images, maps, tables, graphs, and sidebars, Israel: An Introduction is an unusually wide ranging overview of what makes Israel, Israel. The book covers Israel’s history as only one of many chapters, which include the land, people, society, government and politics, and economics, written by experts in each area. The section entitled Culture discusses a broad range of arts and activities—dance, literature, poetry, food, theater, film art, media, and sports. Rubin’s goal in this book is to showcase the dynamic development of Israel and Israeli society in order to demonstrate that, contrary to prevailing media coverage, Israel is about much more than simply war and conflict, and that there have been and will continue to be great contributions from Israel. That aim could only be accomplished by taking the book out of the polemics of history and proving that Israel has value in these other realms, as well. MDH
The Rise of the Individual in 1950s Israel: A Challenge to Collectivism
Violent Acts and Urban Space in Contemporary Tel Aviv
Orit Rozin Brandeis University Press, 2011 Hardcover 276 pp. $85.00 [e] ISBN: 978-1584658924
Tali Hatuka; Diane E. Davis, fwd. University of Texas Press, 2011 Paperback 228 pp. $25.00 ISBN: 978-0-292-72882-0
ased on extensive study of contemporary Israeli archival sources and the media as well as interviews and published studies, Orit Rozin examines the implementation of the austerity program in Israel in the early 1950s and its political, social, and economic implications. The author’s purpose is “not only to present a comprehensive picture of some
n Violent Acts and Urban Space in Contemporary Tel Aviv, Tali Hatuka draws on her background in modern urban design to explore an interesting and intricate topic—the relationship between civic culture and acts of
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violence in present-day Tel Aviv. Hatuka relies on several examples to delve into this issue: the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, the suicide bombing at the Dolphinarium Discotheque in 2001, and the bombings in the Neve Sha’anan neighborhood in 2003. Hatuka’s impressive range of sources encompass topics as disparate as urban theory and sociopolitical analysis. The topic at hand is narrow, but the lessons are broad. Hatuka uses specific examples to illustrate the greater Israeli reality. By emphasizing the impact of violence on civil rituals, cultural identity, and the meaning of place in Tel Aviv, Hatuka elucidates the greater conflict at hand. She presents themes such as absence and presence in urban design alongside issues such as behavioral perspectives and the relationship between nation and state. The comprehensiveness of this book is striking. Analyzing the Arab-Israeli conflict by examining Tel Aviv, using urban theory as a basis, provides for a compelling but heavy read. This is a book whose high level of scholarship is for those readers with a background in history, urban design, sociology, political science, or conflict resolution. In addition, as most historians will attest, true objectivity is hard to come by, and therefore I recommend that potential readers familiarize themselves with Israeli politics and the doctrines of the various parties before beginning this book. Politics aside, Tali Hatuka is a serious scholar and those wishing to learn more about the interwoven fields of urban space, violence, and cultural identity should find this book of interest. BrS
does not propose that Zionist ideas and the reality of Zionism are not in tandem. Nor is he a right-wing historian trying to prove Israel’s role and right to certain political ideas and places. Michael Brenner is a gifted storyteller who gleans the best stories from a rich and dynamic century. Those stories just happen to be true. MDH
A Zionist Among Palestinians Hillel Bardin Indiana University Press, 2012 Hardcover 272 pp. $29.00 ISBN: 978-0253002112
Zionist Among Palestinians is a memoir about the dialogues and activities Hillel Bardin organized between small groups of Israeli Jews and Palestinians in West Bank villages, towns, and refugee camps, beginning when he was a reservist in the Israeli army and continuing over the next two decades. The people in this book, Jews and Arabs, met together, had coffee together, were guests in each other’s homes, and even participated in family and holiday celebrations together. The essence of the book is that a handful of people from each side can conduct a dialogue and actually find mutual interests, but that the leaders and the masses on both sides were displeased by their normalcy and natural interaction and often went to great lengths to prevent the meetings and harass the participants. The participants themselves were not politicians. For the most part they were academics, teachers, and business people. On the Israeli side many were immigrants from the United States. On the Palestinian side many owned their own businesses. After spending twenty years working on these dialogues, and despite the lack of progress that has been made, Bardin is still very hopeful. He is convinced that a real peace could have been established a long time ago. He believes that most people on both sides do not realize how much the other side wants to stop the violence. He writes that the vocal,
Zionism: A Brief History Michael Brenner; Shelley Frisch, trans. Markus Wiener Publishers, 2011 Hadcover 225 pp. $89.95 ISBN: 978-1-55876-535-1
n the early years, Zionism was a revolutionary idea. This brief history, which reads like a historical novel, shows how the ideas that were to become Zionism were forged, how those ideas were turned into reality, and how Zionism transformed the Jewish people into participants in their own destiny. First published in 2003, this expanded new edition contains a much needed Afterward which deals with the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, the rise of consumerism, the rise of rightist parties, and the emergence of new political parties in today’s Israel. One of the strengths of this work is that Brenner does not have an ax to grind, nor does he come with an agenda. He is not a new historian who argues that Zionists oppressed the Arabs who were living in Palestine. He
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violent, few do not represent the masses. A Zionist Among Palestinians is a testimony to the effort to bring about change, to educate Palestinians and Israelis about one another, and to touch them one at a time. MDH
modern jewish thought & experience The Choice To Be: A Jewish Path to Self and Spirituality Jewish Book Council Award Stickers: Winner: Black ink on gold foil
Jeremy Kagan Feldheim Publishers, 2012 Hardcover 452 pp. $24.99 ISBN: 978-1-59826-821-8
abbi Jeremy Kagan, principal of Midreshet Tehilla, a post-high-school seminary in Jerusalem, has written a thoughtful work, based primarily upon Rabbinic primary and secondary sources, in which he discusses the development of the self in its relationship to God, the parallels of personal development to the evolution of the Jewish people throughout the course of its history, and dealing constructively with contemporary cultural challenges in light of his explications of our personal and national realities. Rabbi Kagan begins by discussing his atypical background for an Orthodox Jewish thinker and educator—attending a predominantly Japanese prep school in Hawaii followed by undergraduate studies at Yale—as well as a most intriguing premise: “A world view is an integrated whole; how can any well-adjusted person…move beyond the one he is in? This book is in part the product of my fascination with this question.” R. Kagan proceeds to address his Jewish traditional audience with a series of engaging, organized, and well-thought out excurses intended to seriously address and even justify an intellectual individual’s religious journey toward intensified religious belief and observance. While the author draws predominantly
Elan & Erudition Posthumous essay collections by public intellectuals with famously controversial views on Israel. Arguably Christopher Hitchens Twelve, 2011 Hardcover 816 pp. $ 30.00 [e] ISBN: 978-1-455-50277-6
t’s hard to argue with the rationale for another volume of the late Christopher Hitchens’s pugnacious essays. Whether you read Hitchens because you violently agree with him or find him unutterably infuriating, he’s always exciting. Like many of his literary heroes, you’re better for his vocabulary, or for appreciating the artfully executed verbal swordsmanship of a master. His fearlessness, his bravado, his willingness to challenge his own side in an argument, is something always in short supply, but never more than today. The care with which he wrote, evident in every essay here, is at odds with our image of him with a whiskey in one hand and a cigarette in the other. But, like the great lions of English literature—Dr. Johnson comes to mind—whatever his pose, his commitment to his craft was supreme. What’s not so clear is why Jewish Book World wants a review of these essays to be included in their publication. Christopher Hitchens learned in adulthood that he was descended from Jews on his mother’s side. He was brought up as a Christian, though he abandoned it quite early in life. His brother, Peter, is a believing Christian who has written as positively on religion as Christopher has against it. In fact, it is as a leading atheist, or as he puts it, an antitheist, that Hitchens has made his mark in recent years. True, he has engaged the Jewish State from a critical vantage point. He refers to and disdains the “Jewish-zealot settler,” and is frustrated by anything that stands in the way of the two-state solution. But, almost uniquely for a leftist critic, nothing in his locutions betrays a speck of Jew hatred. If anything, he tweaks the genteel anti-Semitism of Mearsheimer and Walt, and the occasional intellectual dishonesty of his friend Edward Said. So, why should we look to understand Hitchens’s work through a Jewish perspective? Perhaps, it’s because as we read him, we see the hyper-measured, justice-hungry distinction-making that we have long associated with Jews as prophets and public intellectuals. A man of the Left, he supported the Iraq war to end the cruelty of Saddam Hussein. A Trotskyist in his youth, he never supported the Soviet bloc, and he admired and wrote on Orwell, Jefferson, and famously, against Mother Teresa. His
on Rabbinic sources for the foundations of his sophisticated analyses of the issues that he raises, e.g., Talmud, Midrash, RaMChal, MaHaRaL, R. Eliyahu Dessler, R. Yosef Bloch, and R. Moshe Shapiro, his past secular learning
motto could have been “Never show tribal loyalty” and always be willing to draw a further distinction between us and them. It is this insistence on following the dictates of heaven, while rushing to storm its gates, that just feels so Jewish, that won’t let us quite let him go. His final struggle with esophageal cancer ended badly, but was fought with aplomb, and wholly without deathbed conversion. Nevertheless, we won’t let you go alone into the unknown, Christopher. If any Hebrew is required in the world to come, we’ll be there to translate for you. JHB
Thinking the Twentieth Century Tony Judt with Tim Snyder Penguin Press, 2012 Hardcover 414 pp. $36.00 [e] ISBN: 978-1594203237
ony Judt, who died recently from complications of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (A.L.S.), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, was a polarizing figure among many in the Jewish community because of his views on Israel. Following his graduation from King’s College, Cambridge, he volunteered as an auxiliary with the Israeli Defense Forces during the Six-Day War, acting as an interpreter for other volunteers in the newly conquered Golan Heights. There he lost faith in the Zionist mission and began to see Israel as a malign occupying power whose self-definition as a Jewish state, he later argued, made it “an anachronism.” In 2003, Judt, one of the country’s outstanding public intellectuals, placed himself in the midst of a bitter debate when he outlined a one-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict in The New York Review of Books, proposing that Israel accept a future as a secular, bi-national state in which Jews and Arabs enjoyed equal status. Thinking the Twentieth Century is the end product of a series of conversation with historian Timothy Snyder, the author of Bloodlands, written in the final months of Judt’s life, when he had lost all control of his body movements. The book reflects Judt’s impressions, both as a Jew and as an intellectual, of the ideas and events that shaped twentieth century thought, as well as his reflections on the controversy stirred up by his remarks about Israel. Judt’s last book is a thoughtful and important contribution to our understanding of one of history’s bloodiest centuries. JF
is represented by an intriguing discussion of the relationship between science and religion as well as serious considerations of aspects of the work of Descartes and Piaget. Of particular interest should be his wide-ranging
presentation of theological, psychological, and philosophical dimensions of the issue of man’s free choice, a topic that has always constituted a conundrum for believers in the Divine. While by the author’s own admission, sections of this
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work are challenging and may require rereading, his generous peppering of the text with contemporary analogies and examples goes far to make the complex ideas accessible. The educator in R. Kagan is very much in evidence in the helpful synopsis and overview of the various arguments included in the book that appears at the end of the work. Appendices, glossary, notes. JB
who is fiercely committed to making Judaism and contemporary ethical ideas work together. What does shift is the degree to which he is prepared to move halacha to include ethical considerations. As always, Dr. Hartman is impressive in his mastery of Jewish thinkers from Rambam to Kaplan to Soloveitchik. His intellect is matched by his sensitivity to the needs of today’s Jews living in a modern world. If you’re already a fan of Dr. Hartman’s writings and career, this book will add to your understanding of his journey. And if you aren’t yet a fan, this book can start you on your journey to learn more about one of the most influential Jewish thinkers of our time. Bibliography, notes. ADS
From Defender to Critic: The Search for a New Jewish Self David Hartman Jewish Lights Publishing, 2012 Hardcover 303 pp. $35.00 [e] ISBN: 978-1-58023-515-0
The Great Partnership: God, Science and the Search For Meaning
he phrase “Jewish journeys” has become part of the lexicon of Jewish sociology and Jewish education. I remember first coming across it in Bethamie Horowitz’s landmark study of the New York Jewish community. The assumption for many was that the idea that an individual’s Jewish identity today is not stationary, but is constantly evolving, applied to all but Orthodox Jews. In this latest book, Rabbi Dr. Hartman disproves that assumption, as he shows us that Orthodox Jews, and even Orthodox rabbis, also have Jewish identities that shift over time. This collection of essays covers a significant part of Dr. Hartman’s career. In the introduction, Hartman himself points out that his earlier writings tended to defend and explain Orthodox Jewish law and practices. The later writings, which make up the second part of the book, show him still defending the concept of halacha, but seeking greater fluidity and the inclusion of contemporary ethical sensibilities in the process of legal decision making. Reading the essays carefully, it is clear that the core of Dr. Hartman’s thinking remains firm. In both the earlier and later writings, he is a believer in the concept of halacha, a rationalist who is firmly grounded in the thinking of Rambam (Maimonides), and a person
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Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks Schocken Books, 2012 Hardcover 370 pp. $28.95 ISBN: 978-0-8052-4301-7
n his new book, Jonathan Sacks sets out a clear and forceful argument for the complementary nature of science and religion, drawing on an eclectic range of historical and philosophical arguments to prove the necessity of both if we are to understand the human condition. The Great Partnership is a modern
A clear and forceful argument for the complementary nature of science and religion day version of Saadia Gaon’s Faiths and Opinions (Emunot V’Deot) in which the argument is made that belief in religion does not involve an abdication of the intellect or the silencing of critical faculties. Sacks demonstrates over and over again that while science takes things apart to see how they
work, religion puts things together to see what they mean. Sacks tackles the arguments brought forth by major atheist thinkers and philosophers and even quotes them to support some of his arguments. He writes not as a rabbi or theologian, but as a philosopher. He is well grounded as well in literature, the social sciences, and a host of other disciplines from which he quotes liberally to prove his points. Sacks develops the thesis that we need all of our brain to understand and appreciate the world around us. The left brain, associated largely with scientific activity, and the right brain, concerned with religious matters, must work in unison. But they also have to be kept apart. The logic of one does not apply to the other. The challenge of our time is to keep the two separate but integrated and in balance. This, in essence, is the main message of The Great Partnership. Humans are meaning seeking animals and the crucial dialogue between religion and science is the necessary conversation between the two parts of our brain that alone can save us from despair. His erudition is extensive. He cites texts of Judaism and Christianity, as well as the thoughts of noted atheists and postmodern philosophers. He is a bit weak, though, when it comes to Islamic thought. Proving the existence of God is futile, Sacks writes; however, he demonstrates that it is quite possible for a rational person to hold religious beliefs. Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks is engaging and thought-provoking. His exploration of differences between classical Greek and Hebrew thought is outstanding. He is an unusual type of public intellectual. He is a highly regarded teacher, a prolific author, a source of advice for leading politicians, a moralist, a biblical and talmudic scholar, and a philosopher. Sacks is also a formidable apologist and wordsmith who refuses to accept the meaninglessness of spontaneous creation. There is an active intelligent force at work in the universe, he believes, who has endowed us with the capacity to think and ask questions, and to find meaning in life. WG
Journey to Heaven: Exploring Jewish Views of the Afterlife Leila Leah Bronner Urim Publications, 2011 Hardcover 206 pp. $25.95 ISBN: 978-965-524047-4
ourney to Heaven: Exploring Jewish Views of the Afterlife surveys Jewish sources and historical periods as they relate to the question of the afterlife. Author Leila Leah Bronner tackles a difficult and complicated subject. Throughout Jewish history—from the bible up until today, each time the “afterlife” is referred
to, it has meant completely different things. Bronner explains the difference between nefesh (soul or will), neshama (breath), and ruach (spirit). While we tend to think of them as synonyms, they are very different terms and concepts and in different periods thinkers referred to them each differently. She describes the term to “take” and explains that in Psalms it may mean much more than simply “to die by God’s hand.” The author takes on difficult concepts and expounds upon them through clear examples. She cites and explains the traditional Jewish understanding of Psalm 73:24 “You will lead me with your counsel and afterward take me with glory” to mean everlasting life in heaven. This is contrasted with “Sheol” which is some type of hell, as in Pslam 49:16, which reads “But God will redeem my soul from the hand of Sheol, for He will take me.” Even more poignant is the difference between Olam Haba (the world to come), Gan Eden (paradise), Gahenom (a type of hell) and Tichyat Hamaytim (the resurrection of the dead). A major division erupted in the days of the Talmud between the Sadducees and the Pharisees, and one of the issues that divided them was that of the resurrection of the dead. The Sadducees said there was no such thing while the Pharisees disagreed and said yes, there was. Bronner shows how these terms and ideas evolved independently of one another. She also points out how they emerged at different points in Jewish thought—but that the real discussion begins with the medievalists Yehudah Halevi, Maimonides, Nachomindes, Albo, and Crescus. Kabbalah (mysticism) and Hassidut, as evidenced in this work, have added an entirely new dimension to Jewish understanding of the afterlife. MDH
Society and Self: On the Writings of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik Gerald J. (Ya’akov) Blidstein OU Press, 2012 Hardcover 144 pp. $25.00 ISBN: 978-1602802049
could many of those who read his philosophy ever comprehend his Talmudic analyses. For the Rav (as he was affectionately and respectfully known) halakha, the system of Jewish law, is supreme and all-encompassing and everything must be viewed from within that perspective. His rapier Talmudic analyses no less than his philosophic essays all flow from this perspective. Naturally along the way many other sources are brought along for illustrative purposes. Professor Gerald Blidstein is among those few Soloveitchik scholars who are truly competent to provide an interpretive guide and analysis to his writings. A former student of the Rav and a world-class scholar in his own right, Blidstein discusses some of the Rav’s essays and major themes and offers interpretations of some themes that might be considered novel or bold. Although the Rav supported Israel and religious Zionism, and celebrated the rebirth of Israel as “an almost supernatural occurrence,” it was not a major theme in the Rav’s writings according to Blidstein. He describes how the Rav felt breaking with his family’s anti-Zionist position. He clarifies the Rav’s position regarding Jewish/gentile relationships: there is no shared spiritual discourse and no common language. Each faith community has its own autonomy. Hence, no dialogue—at least not on religious themes. Rav Soloveitchik’s thoughts on faith after the Holocaust and the establishment of Israel, the theological and existential tension between the individual and the community, his theology of marriage and its broader implications, and his view of human mortality and mourning are also explored in depth. Even if one has not read the original essays, these interpretive insights are fascinating. Bildstein explores at length the role of the individual viv-a-vis the community. Rav Soloveitchik rejected a secular Jewish existence, which he regarded as a betrayal of Jewish destiny. His private correspondence indicates the broad range of topics on which he was consulted by world leaders, politicians, college presidents, and other rabbis. Of special interest is the exchange of letters concerning
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t is not easy to penetrate the world of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik. Thousands of rabbis and advanced Talmudic scholars have sat enthralled through his three to four hour lectures and classes. Academics debate the finer points of his published articles at conferences all over the world. Unfortunately only a gifted few fully comprehend that the Eastern European Talmudic gaon and universally recognized rabbinic scholar is one and the same as the Western European university-trained Jewish theologian and philosopher. Not all of his Talmud students read or could understand his philosophy, nor
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repeated requests that he accept the position of Chief Rabbi of Israel. The Rav was opposed to empty ceremonialism and since the Chief Rabbi had no control over Jewish education, he refused. The legacy of Rabbi Soloveitchik is assured by the many students who disseminate his teachings. It is unfortunate that his Talmudic novellae and his theological and philosophical essays exist in two parallel universes. In the meantime, those wishing to gain an insight into the mind of one of the towering thinkers of the twentieth century would do well to study this volume. WG
weekly commentary opens one’s eyes and mind to this tradition in a new and exciting way. Clearly, coming to the text each week, as I have done over the last few months, provided an opportunity to experience firsthand the deep spiritual thinking that captured the minds and hearts of our people throughout our long history in the Diaspora. The text teaches us that we are and will remain a diverse people with disparate ideas, struggling to understand who we are and how we can improve the world in which we live. PAF
Wisdom by the Week: The Weekly Torah Portion as an Inspiration for Thought and Creativity
The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain, from Vienna 1900 to the Present
Naftali Rothenberg, ed. KTAV, 2012 Hardcover 693 pp. $39.50 ISBN: 978-1602801998
Eric R. Kandel Random House, 2012 Hardcover 656 pp. $40.00 [e] ISBN: 978-1400068715
he Torah is the foundation of a vast and complex literary experience spanning over two millennia. Perhaps the only single link in this long history is the actual text itself. To understand this complexity, the average reader would have the daunting task of exploring multiple commentators whose writings span centuries. With the publication of Wisdom by the Week, Rabbi Naftali Rothenberg provides an introduction to this rich and diverse tradition, which has been the hallmark of the Jewish people for nearly 2,000 years. To accomplish this goal, Rothenberg invited writers from across the intellectual and religious spectrum to write their own commentary on a weekly portion of the Torah based on one or more of their favorite commentaries. The result is a rich exposure through the eyes of contemporary scholars to the writings of both the well-known and the relatively unknown who lived in communities across the globe and whose personal culture highly influenced the way in which they understood the text. To experience Wisdom by the Week as a
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ric R. Kandel’s The Age of Insight is, in many ways, about a simple action: standing in front of a portrait, gazing at a painting. But with this one act as a focal point, Kandel takes us on an intricate but remarkably lucid journey through the many brain processes that allow us to experience that painting: to visually interpret the two dimensional brush strokes as a three dimensional form, to understand that we are looking at a representation of a face and not an object, and to feel something in response to that face, be it joy, discomfort, or sadness. And in the telling of this enchanting tale about how a work of art can move us, he highlights the importance of ongoing dialogue between science and art. The book begins with an introduction to Vienna’s preeminent doctors and painters at the turn of the twentieth century. In medicine, Carl von Rokitansky dug beneath the skin’s surface to find the underlying causes of illness. In psychiatry Sigmund Freud strove to understand the inner workings of minds. In the art world, the painters Klimt, Schiele, and Kokoschka devoted particular attention to faces and hands in their portraits in order to capture their subjects’ inner life on canvas. Vienna was scratching beneath the surface to better understand life inside the body and mind. Through universities and salons the discussion between the scientists and artists flowed freely. The salon of Berta Zuckerkandl, wife of anatomist Emil Zuckerkandl, was particularly instrumental in facilitating these exchanges. Artists and anatomists shared coffee and ideas and Vienna became a scientific and artistic
hub. But this Vienna changed. Anti-Semitism became rampant and eventually deadly. When Germany annexed Austria, and Kristallnacht claimed many Jewish lives, the author and future Nobel-laureate (then just a child) left for America with an ambivalence about Vienna that followed him through much of his life. Vienna had been home to inspirational achievements as well as haunting brutality. The first two sections of the book are part art history, part history of science, with personal information about the scientists and artists woven into each tale. In part three Kandel introduces the “beholder’s share” and asks, what is the viewer’s role in experiencing art? How does our visual system transform lines and splashes of color into a face and body conveying emotions that seem to leap out from the canvas and into our own beings? Kandel shows us how the brain plays clever tricks to give us both a physical and emotional illusion. He shows us the pathways of information from the canvas, to the cones and rods in our retina, to the various parts of the brain which interpret that visual information. In part four we learn just how wired we are to respond to other people’s faces, and how our own chemistry produces what we call emotion. The book comes full circle in part five where Kandel tackles the nature of creativity and the importance of ongoing dialogue between scientists and artists. The breadth of the book is as astonishing as the clarity with which it’s written. It was a pleasure to read all 500 pages, each crafted with care and infused with passion. AB
Beyond Religious Borders: Interaction and Intellectual Exchange in the Medieval Islamic World David M. Freidenreich & Miriam Goldstein, eds. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012 Hardcover 232 pp. $55.00 ISBN: 978-0-8122-4374-1
cholars have long been interested in contacts between religions in the Middle Ages. The focus has shifted with time from cataclysmic confrontations to the more mundane ways in which people from different
A glimpse of the exciting state of Muslim-Jewish studies today religions interacted and related to each other. Beyond Religious Borders is the product of a year-long research group at the University of Pennsylvania that was devoted to the lives of Jews, Christians, and Muslims under medieval
London-bound A Russian Jew in early 20th century London; a guide to all things Jewish there now. Jewish London: A Comprehensive Guidebook for Visitors and Londoners
A Russian Jew of Bloomsbury: The Life and Times of Samuel Koteliansky
Rachel Kolsky & Roslyn Rawson Interlink Books, 2012 Paperback 224 pp. $17.95 ISBN: 978-1-56656-900-2
Galya Diment McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2011 Hardcover 438 pp. $59.95 ISBN: 978-0-7735-3899-3
lthough the cover price of Jewish London is a bargain, this book may end up costing you a whole lot more—like round-trip airfare to London! While Kolsky and Rawson are happy to guide you to anything of Jewish interest in or around London, from inventories of Jewish items in various museums, to cemeteries with Jewish notables, their walking tours of key Jewish neighborhoods are the real heart and soul of this book. Not only do they point out significant buildings and architectural features, they chat about the characters—the anarchists, artists, feminists, philanthropists, politicians, sports heroes and others—who lived and worked in the area, occasionally adding a website address for further information. Then too, the authors understand that while you’re taking one of their tours, you’d also want to know about certain non-Jewish attractions en route. It would be a shame to go all the way to the East End, for example, and not visit the Dennis Severs’ House. Their descriptions of synagogues available for visits or worship (as well as closed synagogues) are particularly useful, since this information is often hard for tourists to discover. Not only are their maps easy to use, their color photos of attractions are wonderful for both the armchair traveler and for on-the-spot identification of places of interest. While they do list some shops and places to eat in key neighborhoods, they keep it minimal, aware that such suggestions outdate guidebooks quickly. After reading Jewish London, there’s only one unanswered question—when are Kolsky and Rawson going to Paris? Glossary, index, maps, photographs. BEB
Islamic rule. As suggested by the subtitle, the studies in the volume are mostly devoted to high-level interaction—philosophical and scientific exchange between intellectuals of different religions, and legal boundaries that were imposed by rulers and by religions. A couple of fascinating articles by Haggai Ben-Shamai and Sagit Butbul deal with the first emergence of Judeo-Arabic and with the biblical translations created by Jews in this language before the tenth century. Translation is a prime example of inter-cultural exchange that has been studied extensively, though often without consideration of the factors that led to its creation. Gad Freudenthal’s
hen people talk about Bloomsbury, they think of Virginia and Leonard Woolf; when they talk about D.H. Lawrence, they think of his wife, Frieda, or maybe Katherine Mansfield or John Middleton Murry. Does anyone even mention Samuel Koteliansky (1880-1955)? But “Kot,” as Leonard Woolf called him, was a key figure, an intimate, in both of these literary circles. A Russian Jew who left Kiev in 1911 to escape the blood libel pogroms, Kot settled in London, and rarely left his own home, much less the city. Fortunately, the British were in love with all things Russian at the time, so Kot could eke out a living translating Russian literature, especially for the Woolfs’ Hogarth Press. Kot was a man of contradictions: a lifelong loner with a series of intense friendships, a meticulous wordsmith who wrote relatively few works of his own, a Jew who surrounded himself with people who thought nothing of dropping the occasional anti-Semitic remark. Rather than interpret her subject’s choices, Diment simply lays them out for readers, to make of them what they will. If Frieda Lawrence’s casual slurs about Jews, or Virginia Woolf’s nasty remarks about her own husband’s ancestry seem startling at first, after a while, the reader, like Kot himself, begins to learn to ignore the comments. While it may seem odd to write the biography of such an intensely private man, the quirkiness of Kot, plus the catty intimacy of Bloomsbury, add up to a surprisingly engaging read. Appendices of original letters, bibliography, chronology, index, notes, photographs. JF
chapter suggest a historical explanation for one of the major translation projects of the Middle Ages—the translation of Arabic texts in philosophy, medicine, and the sciences into Hebrew by Jews in southern France from the twelfth century onwards. Several of the articles are tantalizingly brief, as they raise interesting questions but defer the answers to future, larger studies. The volume provides a glimpse of the exciting state of Muslim-Jewish studies today, with relevance to medieval Jewish philosophy, the legal status of medieval minorities, and medieval polemics. PR
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Demonic Desires: Yetzer Hara and the Problem of Evil in Late Antiquity
inside but different from themselves, or as an integral part of themselves, and thus, what strategies the rabbis sought to employ, and how those compare or contrast with discourses about the struggles of the soul. Bibliography and Indexes. MDN
Ishay Rosen-Zvi University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011 Hardcover 280 pp. $69.95 ISBN 9780812243390
Foreigners and Their Food: Constructing Otherness in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic Law
he standard account of the yetzer hara, or evil inclination, today focuses attention on destructive sexual desire arising from the lower body, and the need to control and tame it. However, when Rosen-Zvi investigated this concept in rabbinic literature, he found that it represented a different conflict for certain rabbis and schools associated with them, especially Rabbi Ishmael. Prior to its later internalization to the human psyche and the discourse of self-control, the evil yetzer was associated with spiritual powers that tempted humans to sin. Thus one sought to conquer
David M. Freidenreich University of California Press, 2011 Hardcover 352 pp. $60.00 [e] ISBN: 978-0-520-25321-6
n this tantalizing study, Freidenreich pays less attention to which foods are permitted and which excluded than to with whom the members of a particular faith group are permitted to eat. While both issues have been used historically to define cultural boundaries, and both are inextricably related, the issue of commensality reveals more about how groups define themselves. Freidenreich takes up, in turn, the legal strictures regarding commensality in the three “scriptural” monotheistic faith groups, eventually clarifying similarities and differences about how these groups view themselves and assess outsiders. The order of treating the communities is, of course, chronological. It’s only later in the study, when the groups exist contemporaneously, that the communities can be compared and contrasted in full. However, a general pattern is discernable in terms of the rigor of distinctions. Scriptural legalisms (in the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and the Qur’an) are more rigorous regarding commensality and other issues than later authoritative writings. This is largely the consequence of the scriptural communities becoming rivals, if not enemies, over time. The author employs helpful charts to sharpen the distinctions regarding each group’s self-conception and sense of “the other.” He
At stake are major topics of anthropological concern, especially whether the impulse toward evil signified by the yetzer arises from outside of humans, or inside but different from themselves, or as an integral part of themselves forces that were attacking from inside the person but were not a part of themselves but demonic and cosmic in nature. With Rabbi Ishmael, the demonic began to be internalized. In addition to comprehensive analysis of the classical rabbinic literature on the evil yetzer, and the changing perceptions of it, Rosen-Zvi traces related developments in early Christian literature, especially within the trajectories of asceticism and monasticism of the Alexandrian tradition (Clement, Origen, Antony, Athanasius, and Evagrius Ponticus). At stake are major topics of anthropological concern, especially whether the impulse toward evil signified by the yetzer arises from outside of humans, or
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also provides a number of case studies by way of authoritative responses to representative questions, for example, “May Christians eat meat that Jewish butchers reject?” One recurrent theme in this cross-cultural study is the tendency for the authorities of each group to label the other groups’ members as idolaters, especially in the later historical periods. Of particular note is the exploration of these issues within the Muslim world, as the Sunnis prove to be far less “bordered,” more accepting of others’ practices, than the Shi’i. Freidenreich elucidates complex and arcane cultural thought structures with skill and grace. He has synthesized an enormous amount of material while making his interpretive process and his findings accessible to general readers. Bibliography, general index, notes, source index. PKJ
The Hebrew Book in Early Modern Italy Joseph R. Hacker & Adam Shear, eds. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011 Hardcover 326 pp. $69.95 ISBN: 978-0-8122-4352-9
ews and books have been in a long relationship that has often been very intimate. The historical moments when that intimacy has been torn away and outsiders have peered in critically have been traumatic (the medieval Talmud debates come to mind). In early modern Italy, however, Jewish books played a central role in the cultural wars that were roiling Christian society. Many Christian intellectuals read Hebrew, and many Jews read works in Latin and Italian. This rich collection of studies is primarily the fruit of a year-long research group at the University of Pennsylvania in 2006. The chapters delve deeply into fascinating and
In early modern Italy, Jewish books played a central role in the cultural wars that were roiling Christian society generally unknown aspects of this subject: the beginnings of state-sponsored censorship of Hebrew manuscripts in fifteenth century Florence, the business considerations that led Daniel Bomberg into Hebrew printing, Jews interrogated by the Inquisition because of the dangerous Latin works they were reading, and the internal state of Hebrew printing and book production during these turbulent times. The clear focus of the volume as a whole makes it an important contribution to the history of the Hebrew book and to early modern Jewish history. PR
On Sacrifice Moshe Halbertal Princeton University Press, 2012 Hardcover 134 pp. $24.95 [e] ISBN: 978-0-691-15285-1
f one of the lessons of the Biblical and Midrashic accounts of the giving of the Torah at Sinai is that revelations abound in small venues, then this is an apt metaphor for this small, fascinating, and brilliant work by noted scholar and philosopher Moshe Halbertal. Covering issues of sacrifice to and sacrifice for, Halbertal takes the reader on a thought-provoking journey from the biblical story of Cain and Abel through the binding of Isaac and into modern times, with reflections on the meaning of individual and national sacrifice as it manifests itself in military actions and wars conducted by both Israel and the United States. Issues of “sacrifice” as it relates to concepts of gifts, exchange, love, affliction and suffering, implicit possibilities for rejection, substitution and atonement, prayer and martyrdom are all deftly presented along with issues of the individual versus self-
Reflections on the meaning of individual and national sacrifice as it manifests itself in military actions and wars conducted by both Israel and the United States transcendence. The ways in which we as people, religious communities, and nations can fall prey to rationalizations in which the highest notions of sacrifice are blended in with the basest levels of violence, to retrospectively justify the sacrifices that have been made in the name of a good, bad and/or ambiguous cause, leaves us with much to ponder about ourselves and the worlds in which we live. Index, notes. WLL
On the Origins of Jewish Self-Hatred Paul Reitter Princeton University Press, 2012 Hardcover 152 pp. $26.95 [e] ISBN: 978-0-691-11922-9
he term “Jewish self-hatred” has come to be understood as an example of selfloathing and has often been used as an instrument of censure and criticism, particularly when it is applied to Jews critical of contemporary Zionism and Israeli policy. Paul Reitter argues that the term’s original meaning had nothing to do with Jewish self-contempt and runs directly counter to conventional wisdom, recent scholarship and usage, such as Sander Gilman’s much celebrated book, Jewish SelfHatred. It was formulated, rather, to promote a more positive outcome. For Anton Kuh, the popular Viennese-Jewish journalist and comedian, and Theodor Lessing, the GermanJewish philosopher, who respectively coined and popularized the concept in the inter-war
The concept of Jewish self-hatred emerged as part of a nuanced self-criticism and affirmative discourse with the purpose of helping Jews and others move away from self-hatred into a more promising future
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period, the term had a very serious and redemptive meaning. Its purpose was to offer Jews a different existential option from the prevailing alternatives of Zionism or assimilation. Given the challenges faced by German Jews, whose integration had stalled by the early twentieth century, the concept of Jewish self-hatred emerged as part of a nuanced self-criticism and affirmative discourse with the purpose of helping Jews and others move away from self-hatred into a more promising future. Thus, as originally formulated and understood, the term was positive, even salvific, more a solution to the Jewish situation than a symptom of it. The book provides an interesting lens through which to view the challenges faced by German Jews and some original and selfcritical and intellectual contributions made by Kuh, Lessing, and others to help position Jews as they stood on what would become the eve of destruction. The tragedy is, of course, that these ideas were soon eclipsed by “real” hatred and genocide and thus were not able to get the hearing they deserved. MND
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children’s JBW talks with
by Barbara Bietz
Barbara Bietz interviews Rob Sharenow, author of The Berlin Boxing Club (see starred review in JBW Winter 2011) which was recently awarded The Sydney Taylor Award Gold Medal in the Teen Reader Category. I am honored to introduce Rob Sharenow, winner of the 2012 Gold Medal in the Sydney Taylor Book Award’s Teen Readers Category for The Berlin Boxing Club published by HarperTeen. This historical novel reveals the history of Nazi Germany through the eyes of Karl Stern, a typical fourteen-year-old German boy. Karl never gave much thought to being Jewish and had little connection with any religious life. When classmates bully Karl, he is forced to face the dangers in his own community. Given the opportunity to learn boxing from German champion Max Schmeling, Karl jumps at the chance. He grows strong and learns to defend himself. But as the Nazis gain power and his family is in peril, Karl questions who he can trust. The Berlin Boxing Club is a riveting read—bringing history to life in a compelling story that will inspire readers of all ages. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to speak with Rob and learn more about The Berlin Boxing Club. BB: In The Berlin Boxing Club, Karl is a believable teen. His thoughts, emotions, and experiences will ring true for today’s readers. Interestingly, Karl doesn’t identify with being Jewish. Why was this an important part of Karl’s character? RS: I think most teenagers have mixed feelings about their identity, particularly if they don’t see themselves as part of a majority. I grew up in a town where Jews were a real minority. Despite being brought up with a strong Jewish background, I did not love the idea of being identified as the class “Jew” at school and having to answer for that in any way. At school, I wanted to be just another kid, and I was largely able to achieve that in modern America. Nazi Germany did not allow for such choices. In 1930s Berlin, a Jew was a Jew and you could never deny or change that in the eyes of anyone. I specifically made Karl come from a non-observant family to amplify just how unfair the Nazi labeling could be. Interestingly, although Karl does not consider himself Jewish, his interests reflect that identity without his even knowing it. His love of comic books and cartooning is a very Jewish trait, as is his love of the sport of boxing. One of the wonderful revelations for his character is his discovery of the Jewish fighters who filled the U.S. boxing ranks at the time. For a German boy, it was a complete shock to see that kind of powerful image of Jewish masculinity. It still is.
BB: After Karl is attacked by bullies at school, he jumps at the opportunity to learn boxing from Max Schmeling. What sparked your interest in the famous boxer? RS: I first learned about Schmeling when I was working as a writer for the History Channel. I was astonished to learn that he had never joined the Nazi party and his manager and close friends were Jews. This completely flew in the face of all my assumptions about him being an Aryan superman and a poster boy for Hitler. I’m a real history buff and I’m always intrigued when a character from history reveals some unexpected quality or dimension. Also, Schmeling’s life had an epic quality. He was a boxing champion, a soldier, he married a movie star, and then went on to become a hugely successful businessman. I haven’t come across many characters who led such a varied and exciting life. BB: As a work of historical fiction, how much research was involved in writing the story? How concerned are you with balancing fact and fiction? RS: I researched the subject for several years. I love interweaving fact and fiction, but I’m very careful to try to keep the historical characters as rooted in reality as possible. To understand Schmeling, I studied everything I could about him, read his autobiography, watched films of all his fights and TV appearances. I tried to make sure I was capturing him as realistically as possible. BB: In the process of researching and writing, what is the most surprising or interesting thing you discovered? I was most shocked by how much many Jewish boys in Nazi Germany wanted to join the Hitler Youth. Like most kids, they just wanted to belong to the cool new club that all of their friends were joining. I read an incredible memoir called Destined to Witness: Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany by Hans J. Massaquoi, and he conveyed much of the same emotion. The book cover has a photograph of him as a young black boy, with a homemade swastika pinned to his sweater. The power of adolescent longing transcends politics. You just want to fit in. Rob - Congrats on winning the Sydney Taylor Book Award for Teen Readers! Barbara Bietz is an educator, freelance writer, and children’s book reviewer. She has served as the chair for the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee. Her work appears in numerous online and print magazines, and she is the author of the Like a Maccabee (Yotzeret Publishing).
Jewish Book World
Jewish Childrenâ€™s Book Writers
Conference sponsored by Jewish Book Council
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With presentations from literary agents, editors, art directors, authors, illustrators, and more!
But on its own merits, the tale will probably have young readers “quacking up.” Recommended for ages 5-9. LAK
A new symbol to look for!
PJ Library, a program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, sends out more than 100,000 gifts of Jewish books and music each month to children and their families across North America. PJ Library titles are carefully selected by early childhood educators and children's literature experts.
Blue Thread Ruth Tenzer Feldman Ooligan Press, 2012 Paperback 293 pp. $12.95 ISBN: 978-1-932010-41-1
012 marks the 100th anniversary of the success of the women’s suffrage movement in Oregon. One of their banners reads, “Like the daughters of Zelophehad we ask for our inheritance.” In the Bible, the Daughters petitioned Moses for their father’s land since he had died without any sons. Astonishingly, Moses ruled in their favor, setting a Biblical precedent for women’s rights. Ruth Tenzer Feldman takes that concept and spins a powerful coming of age story that takes place on two timelines. In 1912, sixteen-year-old Miriam meets the mysterious Biblical figure Serakh, daughter of Asher. Using Miriam’s prayer shawl, which contains an ancient blue thread, Serakh takes Miriam back to the time of the Daughters and challenges her to make a difference, to stand up for what is right, in both the past and the present. The shawl reminds Miriam’s father of a painful family tragedy so, to spare his feelings, the mother hides it, of course at a crucial moment in the story. Miriam must develop courage and use her intelligence as well as her understanding of her family’s dynamics. As Miriam grows from a spoiled socialite into her destiny, the author examines expectations for young women and their roles in family life both in early twentieth century society and the larger world. Blue Thread is part history lesson, part Torah study and a fast-paced fantasy and adventure, with a touch of romance. Miriam’s
Barnyard Purim Kelly Terwilliger Barbara Johansen Newman, illus. Kar-Ben Publishing, 2012 Paperback 32 pp. $17.95 ISBN: 978-0-7613-4513-8
hen Farmer Max goes off to see a Purim play, the resourceful animals he has left behind decide to put on their own Purim play. The biggest of them all, Horse, seems a natural choice for the role of the King. Goat’s beard makes him a shoo-in for Mordecai, and sweet, bashful Duck is the perfect Esther. Sheep, though, isn’t at all comfortable playing the evil Haman; why do the cows keep mooing so meanly at him? Maybe a costume will make it easier to pretend. Just as Sheep is getting into a properly villainous fox costume, a real fox appears in the barnyard and at first no one knows who’s who. It takes a very brave “Queen Esther” and the combined efforts of all the farm animals to save the day and banish the actual fox. Bravo! What a show! Energetic and charmingly zany illustrations showcase each distinct animal personality. The book is probably a better choice for children already familiar with Purim; the actual Purim story, along with its moral and ethical dilemmas, takes a backseat to the zany commotion here.
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story is as valid for today as it was in 1912 and in Biblical times. Ruth Tenzer Feldman’s writing is beautiful, terse, and imaginative. Recommended for ages 12 and up. SS
Danger on My Doorstep: The Anita Flora Powitzer Story Linda Schubert Mary Beatty-Brooks, illus. Brandy Lane, 2012 Paperback 71 pp. $13.95 ISBN: 978-0-9838264-8-4
his daughter’s re-telling of her mother’s story during the Shoah is simply but effectively done. The idyllic first years of her mother’s life ended when her mother was seven. The policemen she had been taught to go to for help became the hunters and her closest friend was forced to become a stranger. The Germany she knew and loved changed into a land of fright and horror. In her twelfth year, the Jews of Germany were subjected to the horrors of Krystallnach. The contradiction that was now Germany had been fully exposed and wisely, her mother’s parents immediately sought to protect their children. The answer was the Kindertransport and her mother’s years in Scotland are simply, but well described. Her parents were able to join her in England two and a half years later and the family was able to live together in England (which surprised this reviewer, since most adult Jews had to have sponsors or enter the country as domestic servants.) Their visa numbers came up comparatively soon and then they were on their way to America. The illustrations are a bit amateurish, but charming. An early childhood and special education educator for over thirty years, Linda Schubert writes about the Holocaust in a “bare bones
manner”—simply and without going into much detail or emotional content. It is appropriate for bright ten-year-olds and for older children and adults who read or comprehend below grade level or for whom English is a new language. MWP
The Elijah Door: A Passover Tale Linda Leopold Strauss Alexi Natchev, illus. Holiday House, 2012 Hardcover 32 pp. $16.95 ISBN: 978-0-8234-1911-1
new folktale brimming with old country taam in its story line and illustrations rises from the realities of shtetl life’s too close quarters. Rooted in the cycle of annoyances that expand from angry grievances into an explosion beyond the repair of anything but true love, this offbeat, brisk story incorporates families, romantic youths, rabbis, and Passover Seders. The setting in a village that was sometimes Poland, sometimes Russia reflects historical realities. After years of shared Seders, neighbors Galinsky and Lippa argue, then cut each other off to the point where they shut windows and cut new doors so they do not have to see one another. Alas, their children wish to marry. How to bring the families together when no one even recalls the truth of the argument’s claims? The wise rabbi to the rescue with his wonderful idea of expanding the Seder guest list until it is so big, tables must be set outside each house until they meet in the middle where the rabbi and lovers will sit, thus reuniting the feuding folk. But what to do when they reach Elijah’s appearance in the service? Unlock the unused door! Thus begins a new tradition of an annual Seder set at one table in two houses with three doors, celebrating love and family, and
Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah!
honoring the prophet through the now famous Elijah door. Linoleum block plates reveal the poor shtetl, its angry inhabitants, as well as wise ones, loving ones, and everyday ones. The tale unfolds with wit and charm while it shares with children the power of love and tradition. Recommended at Passover or any time romance is in the air for readers age 5-8. EGC
Olga & Aleksey Ivanov, illus. Marshall Cavendish, 2011 Hardcover 22 pp. $12.99 ISBN: 978-0-7614-5845-6
he lyrics to the well-known song provide the text for Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah! and Olga and Aleksey Ivanov’s colorful illustrations bring the words to life. A family celebrating the eighth night of the holiday lights the candles, decorates for a party, dances, exchanges gifts, plays dreidel, and eats latkes. The family dog’s participation in these activities adds a whimsical touch to the colorful depiction of the familiar activities. A note about the history of the song is included, though it is unfortunately crowded onto the final page with the last line of the song. Recommended for ages 3-5. MLB
Good Night, Laila Tov Laurel Snyder Jui Ishida, illus. Random House, 2012 Hardcover 28 pp. $17.99 ISBN: 978-0-375-86868-9
his beautifully illustrated book describes a Jewish family’s daylong outing to the ocean, the forest, and the fields. While the kids explore the great outdoors, their parents plant saplings as an act of tikkun olam. As the day wears on, the kids get tired and the elements soothe them to sleep with a song of “good night, laila tov.” The illustrations are gorgeous, with subtle indications of Jewish content like a Magen David around one of the children’s necks and a menorah in the window. The words of the book are a lilting poem that is easy to read and doesn’t feel forced or contrived. Author Laurel Snyder, a mother of two, is no stranger to publishing, with two other children’s books to her name as well as three novels. A keen wanderer in the natural world, she partnered with California illustrator Jui Ishida, a parent whose work has also appeared in other children’s books. The result, in Good Night, Laila Tov, is a sweet lullaby with lots of interesting, colorful details on the page to hold the interest of kids age two through five. LK
A Hen for Izzy Pippik Aubrey Davis Marie LaFrance, illus. Kids Can Press, 2012 Hardcover 32 pp. $16.95 ISBN: 978-1554532438
imes are tough in the little town where young Shaina lives. Then one day, a magnificent hen appears—a hen with beautiful green feathers, a ruby red comb, and a winning personality. Looking around for its owner, Shaina finds only a wooden crate. IZZY PIPPIK: CHICKENS AND EGGS, a sign on the crate reads. Shaina decides she must protect the hen (she names it Yevka) from the hungry townspeople; Izzy Pippik, whoever he is, will surely return. That means she must also protect Yevka’s eventual chicks, and the chicks’ chicks, and so on. How the hen and its
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multitude of offspring breathe new life into the depressed town makes for a fun lesson about the rewards of doing the right thing despite difficult circumstances. Traditional Talmudic and Islamic texts form the bones of the story, which is delivered with a deft and witty touch. The illustrations are delightful and convey the chaos of the growing brood. The story however, is often quiet and subtle; some readers may wish for a rowdier, more rambunctious telling. Recommended for ages 5-8. LAK
In McQueen’s illustrations, Dalia and her classmates look about eight or nine years old, though the dialogue in the text makes them sound much older. Nevertheless, this story about tzedakah provides a great introduction to the idea of giving, and will likely encourage many children to begin saving tzedakah, too. Highly recommended for children ages 4-9. MLB
Lights Out Shabbat Sarene Shulimson Jeff Ebbeler, illus. Kar-Ben Publishing, 2012 Paperback 40 pp. $7.95 ISBN: 978-0-7613-7565-4
How Dalia Put a Big Yellow Comforter Inside a Tiny Blue Box Linda Heller Stacey Dressen McQueen, illus. Tricycle Press, 2011 Hardcover 32 pp. $16.99 ISBN: 978-1-58246-378-0
elebrate Shabbat the Southern way with this charming episodic adventure that underlines the true meaning of this weekly holiday—family love and devotion. When a young boy goes to visit his grandparents in Atlanta for a sleepover, a surprise snowstorm hits the area, causing a loss of electricity. The festivities go on without the lights and the little boy revels in the Shabbat traditions of lighting the candles and enjoying a specially prepared meal that includes a braided challah, cheese blintzes, and wine. As the weekend continues and the lights still do not go on, the family enjoys quiet time together taking a neighborhood walk, making a snowman, and looking at the stars in the sky. As “Papa” and the young boy recite the blessing of havdalah to mark the closing of a day of rest, the lights blink and mysteriously come back on to begin a new week. Colorful, detailed acrylic illustrations add warmth and humor to this whimsical story. Paired with Many Days, One Shabbat by Fran Manushkin (2011, reviewed on this page), this would be a great introduction for younger children to the significance of Shabbat. Recommended for ages 2-8. DG
s soon as Dalia learns about tzedakah boxes in school, she makes one and begins planning all the great things she’ll do with the money she saves. The first dollar represents a big yellow comforter, the fifty cents she earns from weeding the garden is a butterfly bush, and the money from her lemonade stand becomes a banana cream pie. Dalia’s younger brother, Yossi, is intrigued, but her metaphorical answers about the tzedakah money don’t really answer his questions. Only when they join their tzedakah money with that of other neighborhood children, go shopping, and then deliver the purchases to a lonely elderly neighbor, does Yossi understand just what Dalia meant. Heller’s text is a great introduction to the concept of giving tzedakah, and a note at the end gives some more detail about tzedakah in general and the history of tzedakah boxes.
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Living Through World War II Andrew Langley Heinemann Library, 2012 Hardcover 80 pp. $36.50 ISBN: 978-1-4329-6002-5
art of a young adult Heinemann series exploring wars, their causes, and their aftereffects, Living Through World War II presents a clear textbook-like recounting of the historic factors leading to the war, life during the war years and a brief analysis of the aftermath. While not focusing primarily on the Holocaust, it contains chapters which address “First Moves Against the Jews” and “The Warsaw Ghetto” as well as a section on the concentration and death camps. Black and white and color photographs enhance the text. Also included: a timeline, a glossary, a bibliography, source notes, a list of resources for further learning including books, DVDs, movies, and websites. Recommended for ages 12-14. MHM
Many Days, One Shabbat Fran Manushkin Maria Monescillo, illus. Marshall Cavendish Children, 2011 Hardcover 24 pp. $12.99 ISBN 978-0-7614-5965-1
family prepares for Shabbat in a pleasant, happy way. A little boy wakes up and “One morning, many kisses” accompanies his new day. He and his parents clean the house, collect flowers, color, make challah, put on clean clothes, welcome friends, light candles and dine with friends, beginning the meal with the challah they have baked. This is a book with large pictures and few words; each two-page
spread has four words. The text is simple and sweet and the family life is full of love, as is the Shabbat experience. Beautiful watercolor illustrations are perfect for the story, with the Jewish content added in a subtle fashion. A Kindle edition is also available. This book targets the youngest readers, ages two and up, and is recommended as a read-to for that population. SF
Maurice Sendak Charlotte Guillain Photographs and Sendak illus. Heinemann, 2012 Paperback 24 pp. $22.65 ISBN: 978-1-4329-5961-6
hat a wonderful idea: a biography of a beloved children’s author and illustrator tailored to the newly independent reader. The font is sharp and well-sized with an uncluttered background. The photographs and Sendak illustrations support the text. The author has included a table of contents, timeline, glossary, bibliography (books and websites), and index. Sendak was the youngest child of poor Polish Jewish parents who had arrived in New York several years before World War II. The Holocaust and the extermination of their extended family in Europe was a major factor in their lives. Maurice was a sickly child and a voracious reader who spent many long days in bed. His was not an easy or happy childhood. Seeing the Walt Disney film Fantasia at the age of twelve influenced Sendak to become an illustrator and, toward that goal, he went to art school at night. One of his earliest jobs was as a window dresser for the famous New York City toy store, FAO Schwartz. He was the illustrator for Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Zlatah the Goat, as well as other famous children’s
example, the child says, “…I will miss my old house and my old neighborhood. I will remember my friends and I hope to see them again soon. In my new house it will be fun to find new games to play… I will make new friends… Thank You, God, for old places and for new places.” Every prayer ends with the Sh’ma. The topics include a balance of happy events (rainbows, a wonderful day, Shabbat) and sad or scary ones (storms, being sick, the death of a pet) and each ends with a comforting statement thanking God. The illustrations are simple and the pictures of the children accurately reflect the mood for each prayer. This is a wonderful book to share with a young child. Recommended for toddlers through age eight. MB
literature. Sendak’s father told his children Bible stories and was a very strong influence in his young life, as were many disparate writers and artists. His work reflects the traditional values of his Jewish heritage: the importance of family, friends, justice, and responsibility to others, as well as the importance of hope. Sendak collaborated with Tony Kushner on the book Brundibar, based on a Czech opera performed by the children of the Terezin concentration camp. Interestingly, the author makes no reference to this important work. Sendak’s stories were among the first examples of juvenile literature to explore the darker emotions of childhood: fear, anger, and pain. His illustrations were highly imaginative and often scary. This biography is highly recommended for children aged 6 to 8. It would be a great gift, especially if paired with a book mentioned in the bibliography—a winning duo. NDK
Now Morris Gleitzman Henry Holt and Company, 2012 Hardcover 184 pp. $16.99 ISBN: 978-0-8050-9378-0
My Prayers: A Jewish Child’s Book of Prayers for Every Day
ow completes the brilliant trilogy Once, Then, Now. The narrator in the third book is, as in the other two, a pre-teen child, aware of the world around her, yet without an adult’s understanding of the reasons for what she observes. The voice is so perfect the reader marvels that author Gleitzman pulls off this tour de force. As in Once and Then, every chapter’s first word and the novel’s last is the title of the book. But Now differs from the first two novels; it swaps narrator, setting, and danger. The narrator is Zelda, granddaughter of Felix, consciously named for his Polish wartime sidekick. The setting is Australia. The danger is no longer the Nazis, but a raging brush fire complicated by school bullies and Zelda’s classmate who is close to death. The story provides closure for readers of the series.
Rabbi Barton G. Lee & Rabbi Roy A. Walter Limb Design based on drawings by Jose Perez Congregation Emanu El, 2011 Hardcover 27 pp. $16.95 ISBN: 978-0-615-44554-0
hen I first opened My Prayers: A Jewish Child’s Book of Prayers for Every Day I was surprised. I expected to see traditional prayers for everyday activities in a child’s life. What I got was something different and much better. The authors, both rabbis, created a list of important events in the daily life of a child such as going to sleep, celebrating birthdays, being afraid, moving, and many more; then they composed a comforting passage for each topic. In My Prayer About My New Home, for
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They learn that Felix survives, escapes to Australia, becomes a famous, beloved surgeon and meets other Holocaust survivors. Aging, retired Felix is a pale figure compared to his past adventures. He rises to his old self when he and Zelda, who comes to stay with him while her parents are on a medical mission to Africa, are threatened by the out-of-control fire. The two of them perform heroic surgery under primitive conditions, racing the raging flames. Zelda’s presence revives Holocaust memories for Felix, reintroduces the birthday locket, reminds readers of Felix’s sad backstory, and explains the factors shaping Felix as a person. This novel shares the series’ joy in and power of storytelling, and we see a greatly surprised Zelda who does not know what the reader knows. With charm and imagination, with the strong clarity of a youthful voice, Now reinforces the truth that life goes on with the bad past staying in the past, while the good past guides one forward. For its excellent writing and content, Now is highly recommended for readers age 10 and up. EGC
the loaves come out of the oven, they look just right for Shabbat dinner. It’s a little puzzling that Leah’s braiding mantra is “over, under”; most people probably braid “over, over” (or perhaps “over from the right, over from the left”), and the illustrations, with their big-eyed little girls, border on the cutesy. But the book nicely conveys the joy taken in learning something new and in having good friends to share it with. The characters’ embrace and celebration of imperfection is particularly welcome and makes the book a solid choice for sharing in a classroom setting. Challah recipe included. Recommended for ages 2 to 5. LAK
Pat, Roll, Pull
Rabbi Rocketpower in a TootyFruity Tale for Tu Bishvat: A Juicy Mystery Rabbi Susan Abramson Laura Standley, illus. Oak Leaf Systems, 2011 Paperback 80 pp. $9.95 ISBN: 978-0-9659546-8-6 et ready, Rabbi Rocketpower fans, the Rabbi is back in an all-new adventure. The action this time centers on Tu Bishvat. Dad has invented a time machine to show important historical events. He plans to bring it to the Tu Bishvat seder so the Rabbi can show everyone the Garden of Eden with the first tree and the first Tu Bishvat seder in the sixteenth century. But the machine is left on in the house just long enough for Purr the cat to relax on the keyboard. She taps a key and a shriveled piece of fruit dating back to the Garden of Eden pops out. Dubbed Tooty Fruity by Purr, the fruit jumps into a bowl of raisins to hide from the hungry cat. Soon the family is off to the synagogue. When Rabbi Mensch’s tummy starts to growl, her son Aaron scoops up the biggest raisin he can find, and the Rabbi tosses
Robin Heald Erin Taylor, illus. Hachai, 2012 Hardcover 32 pp. $10.95 ISBN: 978-1929628643
ne Friday at preschool, Leah and her classmates get a lesson in making challah. Each child gets enough dough for her very own loaf. Pat, roll, pull! Leah’s braiding skills, however, are not terribly advanced and Leah is worried about her friends’ reactions. But rather than laughing at her, her supportive friends laugh right along with her, imagining their loaves as marshmallow families or ice cream mountains or balloons about to burst. And surprise! When
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Tooty-Fruity into her mouth. It lodges itself in her sinuses and, being very ecologically-minded, starts yelling out messages like SV TH TRS, BY N ELCTRC CR and GT ME BCK TO THE GRDN BFR IT’S TOO LT throughout the Tu Bishvat seder. Dad explains that if something from the past is changed in the present, even the disappearance of an old, wrinkly apple core from the Garden of Eden, the whole world will be destroyed. The clock is ticking. They have only thirty minutes to get Tooty Fruity out of Rabbi Mensch’s head, through the time machine and back into the Garden of Eden. This Rabbi Rocketpower story, like the ones before, is filled with humor. The chapter titles alone are hysterical: “Tu Bish What?” and “Ah… Ah… Ah Choo Bishvat” to list a few. The book includes a recipe, a glossary of the Jewish terms, and even a special “glssry” of Tooty Fruity words. The underlying message in Rabbi Rocketpower in a Tooty-Fruity Tale for Tu Bishvat is powerful and clear: SV NTR* AND SV TH RTH! Recommended for ages 7-10. *nature MB
Sadie and the Big Mountain Jamie Korngold Julie Fortenberry, illus. Kar-Ben Publishing, 2012 Paperback 32 pp. $7.95 ISBN: 978-0-7613-6494-8
adie loves everything about school. But when Morah Sarah tells the class that they will mark Shavuot with a hike, like Moses did when he climbed Mount Sinai to receive the Torah, Sadie is very worried that she won’t be able to complete the trek. Each day that week the teacher dedicates part of the class to preparing for the hike; taking walks, decorating walking sticks, learning about the Ten Commandments, making cheese blintzes
for their snack. Sadie tries to convince herself that she’ll have poison ivy, chicken pox, or the flu on the day of the hike. When Rabbi Jamie notices Sadie’s reluctance on the big day, Sadie tells her she’s afraid she won’t be able to climb the mountain. Rabbi Jamie shows her the small hill they will climb, explaining that God chose Mt. Sinai over taller mountains to show that anyone can ascend high enough to reach God. A relieved Sadie skips and giggles with her friends all the way to the top. Anyone who has ever felt nervous about a new challenge will sympathize with Sadie and root for her to conquer her fear. Julie Fortenberry’s illustrations provide just enough detail to help young readers visualize Sadie’s classroom, bedroom, and the hill without overwhelming them. Readers may wonder why Sadie’s parents are completely absent from the text and illustrations, and why Morah Sarah seems not to notice her student’s apprehension. Nonetheless, this is a charming addition to the short list of children’s books about Shavuot. Note that the cataloging material indicates that the book includes a recipe for blintzes, but the finished copy does not contain one. Highly recommended for ages 3-6. MLB
A Sweet Passover Leslea Newman David Slonim, illus. Abrams, 2012 Hardcover 38 pp. $16.95 ISBN: 978-0-8109-9737-0
his is a charming picture book whose story is filled with age-appropriate humor about little Miriam, who loves everything about spending Passover with her extended family except for one thing—too much matzah. For seven days she happily eats matzah with all
A Touch of Chanukah: A Touch and Feel Book
kinds of toppings and additions but on the last day she wakes up totally tired of matzah and promises never to eat it again, or indeed even to get out of bed to join her family for breakfast. Her grandfather humors her with matzah brei while her family simultaneously explains why eating the plainest food—matzah—in freedom is sweeter than the fanciest food eaten in slavery. Colorful pictures by the award-winning illustrator are whimsical and add much to the story. A recipe for matzah brei follows, as does an Author’s Note on the history of Passover and on family customs and rituals of the holiday. An appendix follows with a Glossary of the Hebrew and Yiddish words used in the book. Recommended as a read-aloud for ages four to seven. SF
Sylvia Rouss Boruch Becker, illus. Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch, 2011 Hardcover 12 pp. $9.95 ISBN: 0-8266-0013-4
ylvia Rouss has created an inviting introduction to the symbols of Chanukah in this touch and feel board book. The rhyming text will captivate young ears while leading children through the main components of the holiday. The shiny shield, scratchy clay jug, and sticky sufganiot are just a few of the tactile experiences presented and will certainly enliven the young pre-reader, who will ask for the book again and again. The illustrations are timeless and reflect a traditional family celebration. A Touch of Chanukah would be a welcome addition to Parenting, Mommy and Me, and Pre-School programs, as well as the family bookshelf. CM
Thank You for Everything Pia Shlomo Patti Argoff, illus. Hachai Publishing, 2011 Hardcover 26 pp. $10.95 ISBN: 978-1-929628-63-6
What Am I? Passover
hank you, Hashem, for…” Thus opens each page of this short book. One side of each spread contains the text and an illustration of a family member with a kipah and tzitzit or a long dress eating, praying, or playing. On the opposite page youngsters are encouraged to draw a parallel picture within a colorful frame of things they are thankful for in their own lives. This is an interactive way to teach children the quality of gratitude. Recommended for ages 4-7. DA
Anne Margaret Lewis Tom Mills, illus. Albert Whitman & Company, 2012 Hardcover 24 pp. $9.99 ISBN: 978-0-8075-8971-7
simple riddle format introduces young children to the symbols and concepts of Passover. Descriptive clues such as “I am a mixture of apples, nuts, and a little wine” appear on the left-hand page. In a larger font on the right side, the refrain asks, “What am I? What could I be?” Open the sturdy fold to reveal the answer in the illustration and the text: “I am charoset on the Seder plate. That’s
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me!” The egg, pillow, candles, kiddush cup, Haggadah, karpas, frogs, matzah, afikomen, and the prophet Elijah are all presented in this straightforward manner with some items receiving an additional explanation (“I remind everyone of the mortar the enslaved Jewish people used to build the pyramids.”) The large, bold, digital illustrations depicting a contemporary Jewish family are cheerful, cute, and inviting. Toddlers already familiar with the holiday observances will be delighted by this easy interactive guessing game. This is a part of the “My Look and See Holiday Book” series that also includes Halloween, Christmas, and Easter; hopefully the publisher will continue this successful series with additional Jewish holidays. Recommended for ages 2-5. RK
Where We Once Gathered: Lost Synagogues of Europe Andrea Strongwater Eifrig Publishing, 2012 Paperback 47 pp. $18.00 ISBN 978-1-936172-48-1
hen World War II ended in 1945, Europe had lost not only the majority of its Jews, but also thousands of synagogues. It is these houses of worship that Andrea Strongwater set out to capture in her book Where We Once Gathered. Her paintings represent not only the synagogues but the communities they once represented, as well. “…what I am doing is telling a part of Jewish history that I have missed hearing,” she says in her introduction. “The synagogues served as centers of Jewish life, not just to pray but also to hear the latest gossip or a lecture, see art, hear concert music and of course hold…ritual events of Jewish life… I present, through my paintings, the glory of what existed before the Holocaust.” Strongwater depicts twenty synagogues from all over Europe, giving readers a glimpse of the architecture and interiors of shuls both grand and simple. She describes when and why each synagogue came into existence and how it met its demise. We learn about the elegant, turreted Quai Kleber synagogue, which dated back to 1898 in Strasbourg, France. A page later we’re in Przedborz, Poland, gazing at a more demure, wooden synagogue built in 1760. “The walls were covered in multi-colored depictions of Jerusalem, animals, floral motifs and vines,” she writes. It is clear that a huge amount of research has gone into the writing of Where We Once Gathered, and Strongwater’s beautiful illustrations and the background information enrich our understanding of just how much was swallowed into oblivion in the wake of the Holocaust. This makes her book a valuable resource for education and offers a deeper understanding of the Jewish life that thrived in Europe a century ago. Recommended for ages 12-adult. LK
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starred reviews The Apple Tree’s Discovery Peninah Schram & Rachayl Eckstein Davis Wendy W. Lee, illus. Kar-Ben Publishing, 2012 Paperback 24 pp. $7.95 ISBN: 978-0-7613-5132-0
little apple tree wants to be like the other trees in the oak forest. It particularly longs to have stars, since the other trees have stars that dangle and shimmer on their branches at night. The tree asks God for stars, and in response, God tries to let the tree know how many other gifts it has already—including the ability to bear apples and provide shade. As the seasons pass, the tree discovers that it DOES have stars—just not the kind that other trees have. The ending is a surprise twist and the book includes a practical activity, which will appeal to the reader. Like many young children, the apple tree covets the gifts that the other trees have been given. Based on a Jewish folktale, this lovely story encourages readers to believe in their unique gifts and strengths, rather than long to have someone else’s abilities or assets. The message is well delivered in an age-appropriate fashion. This book is beautifully written by famed storyteller and teacher, Peninnah Schram, and Rachayl Davis, also a storyteller and educator. The authors thank Rabbi Avi Weiss for having exposed them to this story in a Midrash workshop. Watercolor illustrations are whimsical and colorful and support the story perfectly. The Apple Tree’s Discovery can be used as a Tu B’Shvat or Earth Day resource. Highly recommended for children ages 5-8 as a read-to and as an independent read. SF
children’s award. However, this too is a source of pathos. Her father works, her older siblings do too, and her mother is grieving. No one will be present to celebrate. What happens in the final scene makes this book worth reading. The book contains a glossary of Yiddish and Hebrew words, an author’s note and pictures of the family on whom the story is based. Highly recommended for ages 11-15. MLK
The Wooden Sword: A Jewish Folktale from Afghanistan Ann Redisch Stampler Carol Liddiment, illus. Albert Whitman & Company, 2012 Hardcover 32 pp. $16.99 ISBN: 978-0-8075-9201-4
Looking For Me In This Great Big Family Betsy R. Rosenthal Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, 2012 Hardcover 172 pp. $15.99 ISBN: 978-0-547-61084-9
his delightful book is full of surprises, starting with the opening page which is written in blank verse. Each chapter is a separate poetic vignette, connecting to each of the others and telling the story of a family in a unique and memorable fashion. Written from the point of view of an eleven year old girl who is number four in a Jewish family of twelve, it is aptly titled Looking for Me. It takes place during the Depression and is an exploration of this young girl’s identity. In a family of six boys and six girls, is she just the fourth child or is she something more? She sees herself as “the good little mother” as she is constantly meeting the needs of her younger siblings. Additionally, she feels she is one of her “Dad’s work slaves” as she is
riendly eye contact between characters rivets readers’ attention in this warm retelling of a traditional Jewish folktale where a good shah tests a poor man’s faith by throwing roadblocks in his path. The shah is curious to learn how the man will manage. Decrees stop the shoemaker from being able to mend shoes in the street, then from being able to carry water or cut wood. The cheerful shoemaker is confident that God is with him and that he will discover a new way to earn a living. Each day, the resourceful shoemaker finds new work. Each night, the shah in disguise stops by to see how his friend is doing. The reader knows “everything will turn out as it should,” but there is the breath-holding moment when the shah has the shoemaker drafted into his royal guard where he will not receive pay for an entire month. The shoemaker sells the silver sword he has been given and replaces it with one made of wood, so that he and his wife will be able to eat. The next day, upon the shah’s command, the leader of the guard tells the poor man that he will need to execute a thief. The shoemaker prays and comes up with a solution so perfect that the shah takes him on as royal adviser. Generous, full-color paintings set the scene in an Afghani community. Happiness, a rug, cloth, and pillows color the poor shoemaker’s home; it does not look bleak. Subtle details in both text and art—the difference in head coverings, the mention of two Sabbath lamps, and the subtitle of the book—let the readers know that this pious shoemaker is Jewish. In a full page at the end, National Jewish Book Award winner Stampler describes the research and care that went into her retelling. It shows. This PJ Library selection is whole-heartedly recommended for ages 5-8. SE
required to clean and serve in his diner until two in the morning. She is shocked when the teacher tells her she is smart and should go to college. However, in a family that is always short of money, how will this ever come to pass? What does ensue is the beautiful story recounted here. But, Looking for Me is about much more than Edith, its main character. It also gives us glimpses into family dynamics that are informed by the time and place. How can Edith ever forgive her Bubbe, who left her mother in Europe when she was an infant and went off to the United States? True, Bubbe brought her child over many years later, but how could any mother abandon a child in this way? By reading the interview between Edith and her Bubbe we begin to understand. The most poignant part of the book is the death of a younger brother, Melvin. We feel the sadness that affects Edith and her mother. Late at night she sees her mother ironing. “Drops of tears fall on the shirt...” “I wish I knew the right words to say to help her iron her sadness away,” says Edith. At the end of the book, Edith graduates from grade school with a student achievement
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Little Girl Lost
Note: All blurbs have been compiled from information provided by the publisher.
Betty Rich The Azrieli Foundation, 2011. 258 pp. ISBN: 978-1-897470-25-1 Part of the Azrieli Foundation Holocaust Survivor Memoirs program, Little Girl Lost is the story of how sixteen-year-old Betty Rich escaped the German invasion of her hometown, chronicling her struggle to survive without her family as she journeyed across Europe.
autobiography & memoir Among Strangers: A Family Story Marietta Pritchard Impress, 2010. 277 pp. $25.00 ISBN: 978-1450710404 This is a personal history of the author’s family covering several generations, beginning with their origins in Central Europe and focusing especially on her grandfather, an Austrian refugee to France, who perished there after being imprisoned by the Nazis.
Noike: A Memoir of Leon Ginsburg Suzanne Ginsburg Avenger Books, 2012. 218 pp. $15.00 ISBN: 978-0615561998 A Holocaust memoir of a young Jewish Polish boy who escapes into the forests after his family is murdered, and assumes the identity of a Catholic boy.
Dan Gets a Minivan: Life at the Intersection of Dude and Dad Dan Zevin Scribner, 2012. 240 pp. $24.00 ISBN: 9781451606461 Dan Gets a Minivan is a story about the transition from couplehood to familyhood, from the sleek sport car to the minivan, from date night to joining Costco. Comic writer Dan Zevin uses episodes from his life as a stay-athome dad to provide a refreshing and positive outlook on acclimating to suburban life.
A Rage to Live: Surviving the Holocaust so Hitler Would Not Win Victor Breitburg To Life Ink, 2012. 232 pp. $18.99 ISBN: 978-0578090979 This is the story of Victor Breitburg’s journey from Lodz to the concentration and extermination camps in Europe, to England,
Escape Into Danger: The True Story of a Kievan Girl in World War II Sophia Orlovsky Williams Rowman & Littlefield, 2012. 328 pp. $32.00 ISBN: 978-1442214682 Born to a Catholic mother and Jewish father, Sophia Orlovsky Williams chose to be identified as Jewish. Her memoir recounts her periless adventures and coming of age during World War II.
From Hell to the Promised Land: A Boy’s Daring Escape from a Nazi Concentration Camp Sam Silberberg CreateSpace, 2011. 178 pp. $15.00 ISBN: 978-1466218321 Sam Silberberg details his time in a concentration camp and his eventual escape, and continues with his life and liberation after the war.
Life After Baghdad: Memoirs of an Arab-Jew in Israel, 1950-2000 Sasson Somekh Sussex Academic Press, 2012. 178 pp. $22.50 ISBN: 978-1845195021 This book of memoirs covers the professional life of Sasson Somekh and the people who inspired him.
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Scotland, and the United States and his new life in America.
Shards of War: Fleeing To and From Uzbekistan Michael G. Kesler Strategic Book Group, 2010. 233 pp. $26.00 ISBN: 978-1609769949 Kesler recounts his journey fleeing his home in Poland at age sixteen with his sister, spending the War in Uzbekistan, and his ultimate return to his hometown—only to witness the carnage that took place there.
Sidonia’s Thread: The Secrets of a Mother and Daughter Sewing a New Life in America Hanna Perlstein Marcus CreateSpace, 2012. 278 pp. $15.00 ISBN: 978-1466345034 After arriving with her mother in Springfield, Massachusetts from a displaced persons camp following World War II, Hanna Perlstein attempts to find the truth to her paternity, her heritage, and the secrets her mother continues to hide about her past.
The Story of a Life: Memoirs of a Young Jewish Woman in the Russian Empire Anna Pavlovna Vygodskaia Northern Illinois Univ. Press, 2012. 202 pp. $22.95 ISBN: 978-875806716 The Story of a Life is a rare and fascinating historical account of Jewish childhood and young adult life in Tsarist Russia during the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century.
Tenuous Threads & One of the Lucky Ones Judy Abrams & Eva Felsenburg Marx The Azrieli Foundation, 2011. 150 pp. ISBN: 978-1-897470-28-2 These are the memoirs of two Jewish girls who are sent away during World War II to survive as Christian children.
biography Michael Rabin: Americaâ€™s Virtuoso Violinist Anthony Feinstein Amadeus Press, 2011. 272 pp. $22.99 ISBN: 978-1-57467-199-5 Michael Rabin chronicles the life and
contemporary jewish life
career of the musical prodigy. This revised and updated edition utilizes Rabinâ€™s private papers and medical history, as well as his interviews, to help explain the three-year hiatus in which he inexplicably disappeared from the stage, and his sudden death at age thirty-five.
Angels at the Table: A Practical Guide to Celebrating Shabbat
Aili McConnon & Andres McConnon Crown Publishers, 2012. 336 pp. $25.00 ISBN: 978-0307590640 A two-time Tour de France winner, Gino Bartali uses his celebrity status to rescue Jews during World War II.
Yvette Alt Miller Continuum Books, 2011. 384 pp. $34.95 ISBN: 9781441123978 A combination of recipes, anecdotes, and history, Angels at the Table is a gateway to experiencing Shabbat for any level of religious observance and knowledge: a helpful introduction to the weekly holiday and to the traditions that upheld the Jewish people through the centuries.
A Ship Without a Sail: The Life of Lorenz Hart
Every Day I Bless You: Reflections of the Healing Power of Shiva
Gary Marmorstein Simon & Schuster, 2012. 544 pp. $30.00 ISBN: 978-1-4165-9425-3 This biography of Lorenz Hart portrays the life of the songwriter who added songs, musicals, and scores for Hollywood films and the American songbook together with Richard Rodgers.
Norman J. Fried, PhD Urim Publications, 2012. 127 pp. $19.95 ISBN: 978-965-524-077-1 Every Day I Bless You teaches the resounding lessons that shiva can offer by interweaving essential insights from the Bible with current psychological thought on grief.
Road to Valor: A True Story of WWII Italy, the Nazis, and the Cyclist Who Inspired a Nation
Returning to Babel: Jewish Latin American Experience , Representations, and Identity Amalia Ran & Jean Axelrad Cahan, eds. Brill, 2012. 242 pp. $144.00 ISBN: 978-9004203952 An interdisciplinary examination of the Latin American Jewish experience in the current era.
fiction Izak Goller: Selected Poems, Plays, and Prose Gabriel A. Sivan, Introduction and Notes Vallentine Mitchell, 2011. 350 pp. $79.95 ISBN: 978-0-85303-934-1 This collection of literary pieces by renowned author, playwright, and poet Izak Goller covers the full scope of his artistry and versatility almost seventy years after his death; historian Gabriel Sivan offers insight into the relevance and importance of these selected works in the modern era.
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Love is Two People Talking Charles H. Banov, M.D. Evening Post Books, 2012. 120 pp. $17.95 ISBN: 978-0-9834457-5-3 After Sam Geller is diagnosed with a debilitating disease, he moves in with his sonâ€™s family and learns important lessons about communication between family and friends.
Jews and Race: Writings on Identity and Difference, 1880-1940
The Golem Redux: From Prague to Post-Holocaust Fiction
Mitchell B. Hart, ed. Brandeis University Press, 2012. 322 pp. $26.00 ISBN: 978-1-58465-717-0 Jews and Race explores aspects of Jewish history through the lens of racial discourse in Europe and America by presenting a variety of primary writings by Jewish scholars across various countries, challenging the classic portrayal of Jews as primarily victims of racism and asserting the vital role that the Jewish people had in the development of racial thinking in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Elizabeth R. Baer Wayne State Univ. Press, 2012. 256 pp. $27.95 ISBN: 978-0-8143-3626-7 Baer traces the evolution of the Golem legend, from its inception in ancient Jewish texts in the third and fourth centuries to its portrayal in modern film and literature. With the Holocaust as the focal point of discussion, she analyzes the role of the Golem in the Jewish tradition and worldview.
The Provider Evelyn Marshall Piper Press, 2012. 336 pp. $15.95 ISBN: 978-0984899906 A love story, The Provider depicts the immigrants who came to the United States in the early twentieth century and their high expectations for fulfilling the American Dream.
The International Jewish Labor Bund After 1945: Toward a Global History
Second Person Singular
David Slucki Rutgers University Press, 2012. 304 pp. $34.95 ISBN: 978-0-8135-5168-5 For members of the Jewish Labor Bund, one of the major political forces in early twentieth century Eastern Europe, the decades after World War II proved to be years of extreme hardship; David Slucki covers the difficulties that they faced in the post-War era.
Sayed Kashua Grove Press, 2012. 352 pp. $25.00 ISBN: 978-0-8021-2019-9 Through the story of an Arab criminal attorneyâ€™s search for the author of an old love letter to his wife, in Second Person Singular Sayed Kashua questions the possibility of reinventing ourselves, of second chances, and scrutinizes the effects of a divided society.
glbt Mom Knows: Reflections on Love, Gay Pride, and Taking Action Catherine Tuerk Self-published, 2012. 304 pp. $18.00 ISBN: 978-0985117009 A collection of essays challenging readers to be more open, knowledgeable, loving, and strong.
The Paternity Test Michael Lowenthal Terrace Books, 2012. 288 pp. $26.95 ISBN: 978-0299290009 In one of the first novels to explore the experience of gay men seeking a child through surrogacy, Michael Lowenthal writes about marriages and mistakes, loyalty and betrayal and about how our drive to create families can complicate the ones we already have.
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Munich 1972: At the Olympic Games David Clay Large Rowman & Littlefield, 2012. 396 pp. $29.95 ISBN: 978-0-7425-6739-9 The abduction and eventual death of Israeli competitors made the 1972 Munich Olympic Games a notorious event. David Clay Large writes a detailed account of the Games in its entirety, with a focus on the tragedy and its effect on world athletics.
The Wandering Gene and the Indian Princess: Race, Religion, and DNA Jeff Wheelwright W. W. Norton & Company, 2012. 304 pp. $26.95 ISBN: 978-0-393-08191-6 Science writer Jeff Wheelwright follows the case of a young Hispanic woman named Shonnie Medina, whose cancer was caused by a potentially fatal genetic mutation that is normally characteristic of Jews. By analyzing features of the Jewish experience and history, as well as the history of the mutation and the Medina family in medieval Spain, Wheelwright tries to explain the connection between the two and how a Jewish genetic marker spread throughout the world.
holocaust The Boy in the Suitcase: Holocaust Family Stories of Survival Sheryl Needle Cohn Hamilton Books, 2012. 108 pp. $24.99 ISBN: 978-0-7618-5706-8 Each chapter in The Boy in the Suitcase tells a unique story of people who have been affected by the Holocaust, from an infant who was smuggled out of Europe in a suitcase to
the traumatized second-generation children of survivors, to the Christian families who performed acts of kindness and bravery throughout the war.
Councils, demographic changes and details of the ghetto’s liquidation.
Fragments: Architecture of the Holocaust: An Artist’s Journey Through The Camps
The Fervent Embrace: Liberal Protestants, Evangelicals, and Israel
Karl P. Koenig Fresco Fine Art Publications, 2011. 154 pp. $75.00 ISBN: 978-1934491355 A beautiful and soulful book of black and white photographs of the remains of concentration camps around Europe, taken with an artistic eye.
Caitlin Carenen New York Univ. Press, 2012. 265 pp. $55.00 ISBN: 978-0-8147-4104-7 The Fervent Embrace chronicles the American Christian relationship with Israel: from the liberal Protestants’ support of Israel’s independence to the Evangelicals’ Zionist sentiments, Carenen presents the full story of the American Christian-Israel relationship in this historical narrative.
U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos 1933-1945, Volume II
Gideon’s Spies: The Secret History of the Mossad
Geoffrey P. Megargee, general editor; Martin Dean, volume editor The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2012. 2,036 pp. $295.00 ISBN: 978-0253355997 This is a detailed reference book covering more than 1,150 sites of concentration camps and ghettos, with key events listed in the history of each ghetto. Also listed are living and working conditions, activities of the Jewish
Gordon Thomas Thomas Dunne Books, 2012. 731 pp. $19.99 ISBN: 978-0312252847 The history of Israel’s intelligence agency is often shrouded in mystery, yet the Mossad has been responsible for countless bold acts of espionage and counterterrorism. Drawing from classified and confidential materials and interviews with Mossad agents, Gideon’s Spies unveils the secret world of the Israeli organization.
Israel Matters: Understand the Past, Look to the Future Mitchell Bard Behrman House, 2012. 224 pp. $22.50 ISBN: 978-0874418583 This book will help the reader examine Israel from a variety of historical, political and cultural perspectives.
Israel: The Will to Prevail Danny Danon Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. 240 pp. $26.00 ISBN: 978-0-230-34176 The deputy speaker of the Knesset offers his assessment of current-day Israel, and the bolder approach that he believes Israeli leaders must embrace in order to ensure the country’s success.
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A Provocative People: A Secular History of the Jews
Lighting Up the Soul: Stories from a Changing Jewish World
means of learning about the text, its characters and their interactions.
Sherwin T. Wine International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism, 2012. 508 pp. $24.95 ISBN: 978-0-9851516-0-7 An alternative history to the traditional and Biblical story of the Jewish people, this book dramatizes their transformation to an overwhelmingly secularized culture, focusing on the contributions of modern atheist Jewish intellectuals, and placing Judaism as a paradigm for what will happen to a nation with long exposure to urban culture.
Stanley Abramovitch Penina Press, 2011. 328 pp. $20.65 ISBN: 978-1-936068-22-7 Stanley Abromovitch opens a window into the hardships and struggles that Jewish communities have endured, and the strength that helped them overcome their difficulties in a world that has changed around them.
Paths of Torah: An Anthology of Torah Commentary
Martin Buber’s Spirituality Kenneth Paul Kramer Rowman & Littlefield, 2012. 200 pp. $35.00 ISBN: 978-1-4422-1367-8 As one of the twentieth century’s greatest religious thinkers, Martin Buber constantly assessed how to find meaning in life: Martin Buber’s Spirituality explores Buber’s Hasidism and his understanding of the connection between the human and the Divine.
modern jewish thought & experience A Hidden Light: Stories and Teachings of Early HaBaD and Bratzlav Hasidism
Masking and Unmasking Ourselves: Interpreting Biblical Texts on Clothing & Identity
Zalman Schachter-Shalomi & Netanel Miles-Yepez Gaon Books, 2011. 490 pp. $29.95 ISBN: 9781935604310 This book presents stories and tales of Hasidic spirituality, including the lives and teachings of the founders of the HaBad and Bratzlav movements, two radical branches of Hasidism, alongside the insights, interpretations, and personal reflections of a modern-day Hasidic master and a scholar of comparative religion.
Dr. Norman J. Cohen Jewish Lights Publishing, 2012. 240 pp. $24.99 ISBN: 978-1580234610 The author presents ten Bible stories that involve clothing in an essential way, as a
All Breathing Life Adores Your Name: At the Interface Between Poetry and Prayer Zalman Schachter-Shalomi Gaon Books, 2011. 212 pp $18.95 ISBN: 978-1935604297 This English language book of prayers introduces the reader to Jewish mysticism in contemporary life.
The Elephant in the Room: Torah, Wisdom & Inspiration for Life Ron Yitzchok Eisenman Mosaica Press, 2012. 188 pp. $19.94 ISBN: 978-1937887001 The Elephant in the Room discusses some of the most important issues in Jewish life today in a thought-provoking, challenging and humorous way.
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Congregation Netivot Shalom Congregation Netivot Shalom, 2011. $60.00 ISBN: 978-0615458854 This volume, written by the members of Congregation Netivot Shalom in California, reflects the diversity of the community’s ongoing relationship with Torah over a twenty year period.
parenting A Time To Be Born: A Jewish Baby Journal Connie G. Krupin Arbador Publications, 2012. $49.95 ISBN: 978-0615571270 This is a colorfully illustrated baby journal with emphasis on Jewish life cycle events.
poetry The Poetry of Kabbalah: Mystical Verse from the Jewish Tradition Peter Cole & Aminadav Dykman, eds. Yale University Press, 2012. 544 pp. $30.00 ISBN: 978-0-300-169164 Award-winning poet and translator Peter Cole presents a gateway into the mysteries of Kabbalah through verse by exploring the intricacies of a variety of Jewish mystical poems that span over fifteen hundred years and cover topics from darkness and evil in the world to what it means to have a connection to holiness.
sephardic culture Contemporary Sephardic Identity in the Americas: An Interdisciplinary Approach Margalit Bejarano & Edna Aizenberg, eds. Syracuse University Press, 2012. 272 pp. $39.95 ISBN: 978-0815632726 This is a study of the Sephardic experience in America, beginning with the 1908 revolution of the young Turks that motivated migration from the Ottoman Empire to the
Maintaining Recovery from Eating Disorder: Avoiding Relapse and Recovering Life
establishment of new Sephardic centers in South Florida.
Naomi Feigenbaum Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2012. 242 pp. $19.95 ISBN: 9781849058155 Naomi Feigenbaum addresses the often neglected issue of how to achieve happiness and success after recovering from an eating disorder. The book is a helpful tool in inspiring those in recovery to find a path to a health and happy lifestyle.
Contemplative Nation: A Philosophical Account of Jewish Theological Language Cass Fisher Stanford University Press, 2012. 320 pp. $60.00 ISBN: 978-0804776646 This is an account of Jewish theology that emphasizes the diverse functions and multiple forms of Jewish theological language and the relationship between reflection and religious practice in Judaism.
Moses: A Stranger among Us Maurice D. Harris Cascade Books, 2012. 164 pp. $19.00 ISBN: 978-1-61097-407-3 Lacing traditional religious interpretations with an interdisciplinary modern-day perspective, Moses explores the familiar Biblical icon beyond the popular portrayals, exhibiting how his less familiar stories and experiences can offer a fresh perspective on current issues like religious fundamentalism, intermarriage, and gender equality.
The En Yaaqov: Jacob Ibn Habib’s Search for Faith in the Talmudic Corpus Marjorie Lehman Wayne State University Press, 2012. 384 pp. $49.95 ISBN: 978-0814334805 The argument, by the author, is that Jacob Ibn Habib purposely created a look-a-like Talmud in order to prove that Judaism’s foundational legal tract could also be seen as a theological document.
Space and Place in Jewish Studies Barbara E. Mann Rutgers University Press, 2012. 192 pp. $29.95 ISBN: 978-0-8135-5182-1 The notion of how “space” is created and perceived has been important in understanding cultural history. Barbara E. Mann delves into how the Jewish people have developed their own space, through the variety of ways in which they form communities in the Diaspora.
The Signifying Creator: Nontextual Sources of Meaning in Ancient Judaism Michael D. Swartz New York University Press, 2012. 132 pp. $25.00 ISBN: 9780814740934 Professor of Hebrew and Religious Studies Michael D. Swartz examines a new approach to meaning in Judaism outside of the written word, analyzing how followers of ancient Judaism understood the natural world through their use of symbolic interpretations of physical attributes, historical events, legends and midrsashim.
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MIRIAM BRADMAN ABRAHAMS (MBA) is Cuban born, Brooklyn bred, lives in Woodmere, NY, Hadassah Nassau Region’s One Book chairlady and liaison to the Jewish Book Network, Hewlett Hadassah Herald editor, retired book fair chairlady, certified yoga instructor. ERIC ACKLAND (EA) is a freelance writer, and edits the Ideas and Innovation section for Presentense Magazine. LIBI ADLER (LA) is a former program associate at the Jewish Book Council. She is currently the public relations and events coordinator at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School. 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. DRORA ARUSSY (DA), Ed.D., is the mother of five wonderful children who, along with a wonderful husband, motivate her to make an impact on Jewish education. To that end Drora consults with schools on creatively teaching Hebrew language, Israeli culture and TaNaKh as well as training teachers and teaching at Drew University. Writing and books are a hobby and passion.
BARBARA M. BIBEL (BMB) is a librarian at the Oakland Public Library in Oakland, CA; and at Congregation Netivot Shalom, Berkeley, CA. YAAKOV BIELER (JB) is currently Rabbi of Kemp Mill Synagogue in Silver Spring, MD. He has been associated with Jewish day school education for over thirty 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. BARBARA BIETZ (BB)is an educator, freelance writer, and children’s book reviewer. She has served as the chair for the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee. Barbara has a blog dedicated to Jewish books for children at www.BarbaraBBookblog.blogspot. com. She has a column on FamiliesOnlineMagazine. com and her work appears in numerous online and print magazines. Barbara is the author of the Like a Maccabee (Yotzeret Publishing) a chapter book for children. MARCI LAVINE BLOCH (MLB) holds an MLS from the University of Maryland, a BA from the University of Pennsylvania, and an MA in English Literature from Fordham University. She worked in synagogue and day school libraries before moving to the corporate world.
ELLIE BARBARASH (EDB) is a writer, musician, and disability activist living in Philadelphia. Her non-fiction has been published in Bridges. Ordained as a Kohenet, she is working on producing an anthology, Clearing the Spring, Sweetening the Waters: A Renewed Call to Torah.
C.A. BLOMQUIST (CB) is a writer, editor, and artist who lives in Manhattan.
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 US.
BILL BRENNAN (BB) is an independent scholar and entertainer based in Las Vegas. Brennan has taught literature and the humanities at Princeton and The University of Chicago. He holds degrees from Yale, Princeton, and Northwestern.
BETTINA BERCH (BEB), author of the recent biography, From Hester Street to Hollywood: The Life and Work of Anzia Yezierska, teaches part-time at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. MARCIA BERNEGER (MB) is a retired elementary school teacher. She lives with her hubby, two sons, a cat, a bearded dragon and two crazy dogs. When she’s not reviewing children’s books or reading them, she’s writing them. Her current ambition is to practice drawing until she can illustrate her own picture books JULI BERWALD (JMB), Ph. D., is a science writer from Austin, TX. Her writing has appeared in National Geographic and Redbook, as well as The Austin Jewish Outlook and Drashpit. Berwald has been the chair of the Austin Jewish Book Fair for many years.
JEFF BOGURSKY (JHB) reads a lot, writes a little and talks quite a bit. He is a media executive and expert in digital media.
ADA BRUNSTEIN (AB) is a freelance writer and an acquisitions editor for Cambridge University Press. She has an MA in Linguistics from NYU and an MS in Science Writing from MIT. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, New Scientist, Discover, and The Vocabula Review. 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. 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.
100 Jewish Book World * fall 5772/2012 * www.jewishbookcouncil.org
DAVID COHEN (DC) is a senior editor at Politico. He has been in the journalism business since 1985 and wrote the book Rugged and Enduring: The Eagles, The Browns and 5 Years of Football. He resides in Rockville, MD; his wife, Deborah Bodin Cohen, writes Jewish children’s books. ELLEN G. COLE (EGC) ), librarian of the Levine Library of Temple Isaiah in Los Angeles, is a wellknown reviewer of Jewish books for children and adults. She is a past judge and chair of the Sydney Taylor Book Awards. 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 (AJL) and the Dorothy Schroeder Award (AJLSC). She is on the board of AJLSC. ALAN COOPER (AC) teaches English at York College, CUNY. Notable among his numerous contributions to periodicals, reviews, and books is his Philip Roth and the Jews (SUNY Press, 1996). HILARY DANINHIRSCH (HD) is a former lawyer and a mother of two daughters. She and her husband, Michael, live in Pittsburgh, where she has a freelance writing and proofreading business. She is an avid reader and has been writing book reviews for a decade, including many reviews for The Jewish Chronicle of Pittsburgh. MICHAEL N. DOBKOWSKI (MND) is a professor of religious studies at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. He is co-editor of Genocide and the Modern Age and On the Edge of Scarcity (Syracuse University Press); author of The Tarnished Dream: The Basis of American Anti-Semitism; and co-author of The Nuclear Predicament. SHARON ELSWIT (SE) librarian at Léman Manhattan Prep School in NYC, is awaiting galleys for the second edition of The Jewish Story Finder. SHELLY FEIT (SF) has an M.L.S. and a Sixth-year Specialist’s Certificate in Information Science. She is currently the library director and media specialist at the Moriah School in Englewood, NJ. JUDITH FELSENFELD’S (JuF) short fiction has appeared most recently in The Southwest Review, The Chicago Review, The Blue Mesa Review, and on National Public Radio’s “Selected Shorts.” JACK FISCHEL (JF) is professor emeritus of history at Millersville University, Millersville, PA and author of The Holocaust (Greenwood Press) and Historical Dictionary of the Holocaust (Rowman and Littlefield). PAUL A. FLEXNER (PAF), Ed.D., is an instructor in educational psychology at Georgia State University, a veteran of 35 years as a Jewish educator and a member of the Board of Directors of the Jewish Book Council.
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 director of marketing and audience development at The Forward and the president of the Center for Jewish Culture and Creativity. He lives in New York. WALLACE GREENE (WG), Ph.D., has taught Jewish history at Yeshiva University, Queens College, and Upsala College. MICAH D. HALPERN (MDH) is a columnist and a social and political commentator. He is the author of What You Need To Know About: Terror, and maintains The Micah Report at www.micahhalpern.com. PHILIP K. JASON (PKJ) 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. RACHEL KAMIN (RK) is the director of the Joseph and Mae Gray Cultural & LearningCenter at North Suburban SynagogueBeth El in Highland Park, IL. Prior to that, she worked as the Preschool Liaison Librarian at the Des Plaines Public Library (IL) and as the director of the libraries & media Center at Temple Israel in West Bloomfield, Michigan. She has served as the chair of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee and frequently gives presentations and workshops about Jewish children’s literature at education and library conferences around the country. Kamin holds a BA in history from Grinnell College and a master’s degree in library and information science from the University of Michigan. 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. LESLIE A. KIMMELMAN (LAK) has been a children’s book editor for more than twenty-five years, and currently works at Sesame Workshop. She is also the author of many picture books for children, including many with Jewish themes, such as The Little Red Hen and the Passover Matzah and The Shabbat Puppy. She and her family live near New York City. BETH KISSILEFF (BK) has taught Bible and English literature at Smith and Mount Holyoke Colleges, and holds a Ph.D. in comparative literature from the University of Pennsylvania. She is finishing her first novel, Questioning Return, about graduate students and baalei teshuvah in Jerusalem.
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 www.laurenkramer.net.
MARCIA W. POSNER (MWP), Ph.D., of the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County, is the library and program director. An author and playwright herself, she loves reviewing for JBW and reading all the other reviews and articles in this marvelous periodical.
NAOMI KRAMER (NDK) is a retired reading consultant teacher who developed curriculum for using literature to educate children and adults in the history of the Holocaust. She is a docent and educator at the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Education Center of Nassau County.
MIRIAM RINN (MR) the communications manager for JCC Association, has won a Rockower Award for her writing, which has appeared in many newspapers and magazines. She is regular reviewer of books, film, and theater, and is also the author of a children’s novel called The Saturday Secret.
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.
ELIYAHU ROSEN (ER) is a former panel member for the National Jewish Book award in the category of Jewish History, and currently resides in New York City where he is the program director at the Yeshiva University Department of Service Learning & Experiential Jewish Education.
JUDD KRUGER LEVINGSTON (JKL), Ph.D. and rabbi, serves as director of Jewish studies at Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy in the Philadelphia area. Levingston is the author of Sowing the Seeds of Character: The Moral Education of Adolescents in Public and Private Schools (Praeger, 2009).
PINCHAS ROTH (PR) is a graduate student in the Talmud department at Hebrew University, Jerusalem. ARNOLD D. SAMLAN (ADS) is a rabbi and the founder & owner of Jewish Connectivity, a coaching and consulting practice. He is a staff member of The Jewish Education Project's New Center for Collaborative Leadership.
WILLIAM LISS-LEVINSON (WLL) is vice president, chief strategy & operations officer of Castle Connolly Medical Ltd., a consumer health research, information, and publishing company. He holds a Ph.D. in education and is a member of the board of directors of the Jewish Book Council.
PHIL SANDICK (PS) is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and the University of WisconsinMadison. 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.
CHRISTINE MAASDAM (CM) holds a Masters in Humanities, certifications in Museum Studies and Cultural Property Protection. She is currently completing her M.L.I.S. Her interests are philosophy and the impact of art and technology on culture.
HEIDI SAX (HS) is a marketing professional, specializing in the fashion industry. Originally from the Chicago area, Heidi has a Bachelor's Degree in English from Emory University and resides in New York City.
MICHAL HOSCHANDER MALEN (MHM) is a librarian and editor of reference books. She is the children’s editor of Jewish Book World.
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.
PENNY METSCH (PGM), MLS, formerly a school librarian on Long Island and in New York City, now focuses on early literacy programs in Hoboken, NJ.
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.
MARK D. NANOS (MDN), Ph.D., Rockhurst University, is the author of Mystery of Romans, winner of the 1996 National Jewish Book Award, Charles H. Revson Award in Jewish-Christian Relations.
BRANDON STERN (BrS) is currently pursuing his MBA at Rutgers Business School. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in History from Muhlenberg College with a focus in Israeli and Middle Eastern History. Brandon also received a minor in Jewish Studies and studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel.
JUSTIN PETRILLO (JP) is a graduate of Emory University. JOSHUA PLATT (JoP), an avid baseball fan and collector of Jewish baseball autographs, publishes www. JewishSportsCollectibles.com.
Jewish Book World
MARVIN TOKAYER (MT) served for many years as the rabbi of the Jewish community of Japan. He has authored more than 20 books in Japanese on Judaica, and The Fugo Plan: The Untold Story of the Japanese and Jews during WWII. He recently retired as rabbi of the Cherry Lane Minyan in Great Neck, NY, and leads Jewish tours to China, Japan, India, and S.E. Asia. He is currently writing a history of the Jewish communities of the Far East. JACLYN TROP (JT) is a Knight-Bagehot fellow at Columbia University and a former automotive reporter for The Detroit News.
Jewish Book World
NAOMI TROPP (NT) recently retired after a long career in nonprofit management. She worked on the Ann Katz Festival of Books at the Indianapolis JCC for 9 of its twelve years and directed the festival for three of those years.
WENDY WASSMAN (WW) has been a professional librarian since 1988. She is the former assistant librarian at The Temple - Tifereth Israel in Beachwood, Ohio, and is currently the librarian at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.
JANE WALLERSTEIN (JW) worked in public relations for many years. She is the author of Voices from the Paterson Silk Mills and coauthor of a national criminal justice study of parole for Rutgers University.
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-of-the-Month Club. She also leads editorial workshops.
A complete alphabetical listing of titles included in issue 30-3 of Jewish Book World All Breathing Life Adores Your Name, Schachter-Shalomi, BN The Age of Insight, Kandel, NR Among Strangers, Pritchard, BN Angels at the Table, Miller, BN Apple Tree’s Discovery, Schram, Davis, CR Arguably, Hitchens, NR The Arrival, Weintraub, NR At the Edge of the Abyss, Koker, NR Barnyard Purim, Terwilliger, Newman, CR Beyond Religious Borders, Freidenreich, Goldstein, NR Blue Thread, Feldman, CR The Book of Mischief, Stern, FR The Boy in the Suitcase, Cohn, BN Bread to Eat and Clothes to Wear, Alroey, NR Budapest Noir, Kondor, FR A Candle in the Heart, Kallman, NR Celluloid Strangers, Wasserman, NR Chelmno and the Holocaust, Montague, NR The Choice to Be, Kagan, NR Contemplative Nation, Fisher, BN Contemporary Sephardic Identity in the Americas, Bejarano, Aizenberg, BN A Convenient Hatred, Goldstein, NR The Crisis of Zionism, Beinart, NR Cursing the Christians, Langer, NR Danger on My Doorstep, Schubert, Beatty-Brooks, CR Dan Gets a Minivan, Zevin, BN Demonic Desires, Rosen-Zvi, NR Detour, Romano-Lax, FR The Elephant in the Room, Eisenman, BN The Elijah Door: A Passover Tale, Strauss, Natchev, CR The Emperor of Lies, Sem-Sandberg, FR The En Yaaqov, Lehman, BN Escape Into Danger, Williams, BN The Escape of Sigmund Freud, Cohen, NR Every Day I Bless You, Fried, BN The Fervent Embrace, Carenen, BN Fiasco, Kertész, FR The First Modern Jew, Scwartz, NR The Fish That Ate the Whale, Cohen, NR Foreigners and Their Food, Freidenreich, NR Foundational Pasts, Confino, NR Four New Messages, Cohen, FR Fragments, Koenig, BN From Defender to Critic: The Search for a New Jewish Self, Hartman, NR From Hell to the Promised Land, Silberberg, BN Gentile New York, Ribak, NR
98 80 94 95 92 77 70 70 86 80 86 40 67 66 40 70 53 71 76 99 99 68 74 68 86 94 82 40 98 87 40 99 94 56 95 97 42 56 56 82 71 42 97 78 94 52
Gideon’s Spies, Thomas, BN 97 Golden Harvest, Gross, NR 71 The Golem Redux, Baer, BN 96 Good Night, Laila Tov, Snyder, Ishida, CR 87 The Great Partnership, Sacks, NR 78 Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah!, Ivanov, CR 87 The Hebrew Book in Early Modern Italy, Hacker, Shear, NR 82 Helen Nash’s New Kosher Cuisine, Nash, NR 63 A Hen for Izzy Pippik, Davis, CR 87 Hiding Places, Wyshogrod, NR 72 Holocaust Survivors, Oufer, Ouzan, Baumel-Schwartz, NR 72 Holy Wars, Rashba, NR 75 How Dalia Put a Big Yellow Comforter Inside a Tiny Blue Box, Heller, McQueen, CR 88 The Innocents, Segal, FR 39 The International Jewish Labor Bund After 1945, Slucki, BN 96 Israel: An Introduction, Rubin, NR 75 Israel Matters, Bard, BN 97 Israel: The Will to Prevail, Danon, BN 97 Izak Goller, Sivan, BN 95 Jewish London, Kolsky, Rawson, NR 91 Jewish Major Leaguers In Their Own Words, Ephross, NR 69 A Jewish Voice from Ottoman Salonica, Rodrigue, Stein, NR 54 Jews and Race, Hart, BN 96 Jezebel, Nemirovsky, FR 42 Journey to Heaven, Bronner, NR 78 Judgment Before Nuremberg, Dawson, NR 73 The Koren Ethiopian Haggada, Waldman, Shalom, NR 59 Legacy, Ostrer, NR 68 Life After Baghdad, Somekh, BN 94 Lighting Up the Soul, Abramovitch, BN 98 Lights Out Shabbat, Shulimson, Ebbeler, CR 88 Little Girl Lost, Rich, BN 94 Living Through World War II, Langley, CR 88 Looking for Me in This Great Big Family, Rosenthal, CR 93 Love is Two People Talking, Banov, BN 96 Magic Words, Kolpan, FR 43 Maintaining Recovery from Eating Disorder, Feigenbaum, BN 99 Many Days, One Shabbat, Manushkin, Monescillo, CR 88 Martin Buber’s Spirituality, Kramer, BN 98 Masking and Unmasking Ourselves, Cohen, BN 98 Maurice Sendak, Guillain, CR 89 The Messenger, Haenel, FR 43 Michael Rabin, Feinstein, BN 95 Mielec, Poland, Saidel, NR 73 A Mind of Winter, Nayman, FR 43 www.jewishbookcouncil.org
FR = Fiction Review NR = Nonfiction Review CR = Children’s Book Review BN = BookNote Mitzvah Stories, Milgram, Frankel, NR Mom Knows, Tuerk, BN Moses, Harris, BN Moshe Dayan, Bar-On, NR Munich, 1972, Large, BN My Prayers, Lee, Roy, Perez, CR The New Jew in Film, Abrams, NR Noike, Ginsburg, BN No One is Here Except All of Us, Ausubel, FR The No-Potato Passover, Kanoff, NR Now, Gleitzman, CR On Sacrifice, Halbertal, NR On the Origins of Jewish Self-Hatred, Reitter, NR “Oy Vey!” Isn’t a Strategy: 25 Solutions for Personal and Professional Success, Riegel, NR The Patagonian Hare, Lanzmann, NR The Paternity Test, Lowenthal, BN Paths of Torah, Congregation Netivot Shalom, BN Pat, Roll, Pull, Heald & Taylor, CR People of the Book, Himmelfarb, NR Pledges of Jewish Allegiance, Ellenson, Gordis, NR The Poetry of Kabbalah, Cole, Dykman, BN The Pretty Girl, Spark, FR Princes, Popes and Pirates, Toro, FR Promiscuous, Avishai, NR The Prophet of Tenth Street, Keller, FR A Provocative People, Wine, BN The Provider, Marshall, BN Rabbi Rocketpower in a Tooty-Fruity Tale for Tu Bishvat, Abramson, Standley, CR A Rage to Live, Brietburg, BN The Red Book, Kogan, FR Returning to Babel, Ran, Cahan, BN The Rise of the Individual in 1950s Israel, Rozin, NR Road to Valor, McConnon, BN A Russian Jew of Bloomsbury, Diment, NR Sadie and the Big Mountain, Korngold, Fortenberry, CR Second Person Singular, Kashua, BN A Sense of Direction, Lewis-Kraus, NR The Seventh Gate, Zimler, FR Shards of War, Kesler, BN Sharon: The Life of a Leader, Sharon, NR A Ship Without a Sail, Marmorstein, BN
Jewish Book World
66 96 99 57 96 89 53 94 43 64 89 83 83 66 55 96 98 90 68 67 99 44 44 52 44 97 96 90 94 46 95 75 95 81 90 96 54 46 94 57 95
Shuva, Kurtzer, NR Sidonia’s Thread, Marcus, BN The Signifying Creator, Swartz, BN Society and Self, Blidstein, NR Space and Place in Jewish Studies, Mann, BN The Story of a Life, Vygodskaia, BN Suddenly a Knock on the Door, Keret, FR A Sweet Passover, Newman, Slonim, CR Tenuous Threads & One of the Lucky Ones, Abrams, Marx, BN Thank You for Everything, Shlomo, Argoff, CR Thinking the Twentieth Century, Judt, NR
58 94 99 79 99 95 46 91 95 91 77
Threads, Schrader, NR A Time To Be Born, Krupin, BN A Touch of Chanukah, Rouss, Becker, CR An Uncommon Journey, Strobin, Wacs, NR Unorthodox, Feldman, NR Unterzakhn, Corman, FR Violent Acts and Urban Space in Contemporary Tel Aviv, Hatuka, NR The Wandering Gene and the Indian Princess, Wheelwright, BN We Are Here, Cassedy, NR We’re Missing the Point, NR
104 Jewish Book World * fall 5772/2012 * www.jewishbookcouncil.org
54 98 91 73 67 46 75 96 74 58
What Am I? Passover, Lewis, Mils, CR Where We Once Gathered, Strongwater, CR Wisdom by the Week, Rothenberg, NR The Wooden Sword, Stampler, Liddiment, CR You Are Not Like Other Mothers, Schrobsdorff, NR You Need a Schoolhouse, Deutsch, NR Zionism: A Brief History, Brenner, NR A Zionist Among Palestinians, Bardin, NR
91 92 80 93 55 52 76 76
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H I G H L I G H T S • FA L L 2 0 1 2
Granddaughters of the Holocaust: Never Forgetting What They Didn’t Experience
Lives Lived and Lost: East European History Before, During, and After World War II as Experienced by an Anthropologist and Her Mother
By Nirit Gradwohl Pisano
By Kaja Finkler and Golda Finkler
ISBN 978-1-936235-88-9 (cloth) $79.00, 204 pp.
ISBN 978-1-936235-90-2 (cloth) $55.00, 350 pp.
Granddaughters of the Holocaust: Never Forgetting What They Didn’t Experience delves into the intergenerational transmission of trauma to the granddaughters of Holocaust survivors. Although members of this generation did not endure the horrors of the Holocaust directly, they absorbed the experiences of both their parents and grandparents. Ten women participated in psychoanalytic interviews about their inheritance of Holocaust knowledge and memory, and their responses to this legacy. The resulting narratives revealed that frequently unspoken, unspeakable events are inevitably transmitted to, and imprinted upon, succeeding generations. Granddaughters continue to confront and heal the pain of a trauma they never experienced. “Nirit Gradwohl Pisano offers penetrating interviews with ten women...She is insightful and wise, and tells an interesting story that deserves to be followed by additional work with men and with descendants of other genocides.” —Michael Berenbaum, Director of Sigi Ziering Institute, Professor of Jewish Studies, American Jewish University
From Fashion to Politics: Hadassah and Jewish American Women in the Post World War II Era By Shirli Brautbar ISBN 978-1-618111-59-3 (cloth) $49.00, 160 pp. Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist organization of America, has wielded power in the halls of American political institutions and in the minds of many Jews in the United States. Hadassah is important not only for what it tells us about women but also for what it reveals about Jewish history and politics, about Zionism, and about America. In the post World War II era, Hadassah played a significant role in shaping Jewish women’s political action and identity. Widely known for its work in Israel, Hadassah played a central role in shaping the way generations of American Jewish women thought about themselves and about their involvement on the American political scene. “Not only fashion and politics, but scholarship, gender, religion, discrimination — every hot button issue is examined in the story of the triumphant rise of Hadassah. A fascinating and important book.” —Rabbi David Wolpe, Sinai Temple, Los Angeles
Lives Lived and Lost stands at the intersection of biography, autobiography, memory and history. It narrates a mother’s and daughter’s separate perspectives of their experiences before, during and after World War II. The book is also an ethnography of lives of women and children during a transformative period in Eastern Europe and opens a window to the crucial events of that epoch. It is also an unforgettable story of love, loss and longing for family engulfed by war. “This is a highly unusual and powerful Holocaust survivor memoir of mother and daughter...A remarkable and poignant mother-daughter odyssey.” —Christopher R. Browning, Frank Porter Graham Professor of History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
A Well-Worn Tallis for a New Ceremony: Trends in Israeli Haredi Culture By Nurit Stadler ISBN 978-1-936235-82-7 (cloth) $79.00, 174 pp. A Well-Worn Tallis for a New Ceremony is a study of contemporary ultra-Orthodox religiosity in Israel. Despite its founders’ and present leadership’s long-standing efforts to cultivate and buttress an enclave community, various modern trends and state institutions, such as secularization, consumerism, feminism, and the military, are having a profound impact on the yeshiva world. More specifically, modernity is making inroads into Israel’s Haredi “ghetto” and transforming many aspects of the group’s everyday life. Over the course of her extended research on this community, Stadler has discerned changes in several key areas: religious life, family structure, and the sector’s interface with government authorities and the rest of the populace. A Well-Worn Tallis for a New Ceremony sheds light on all of these developments. “Stadler begins her book with a thorough review of the literature on religion and modernity. She then discusses her research findings on haredim. Stadler’s fascinating work illustrates the interaction between fundamentalist beliefs and way of life within the context of modernity.” —Roberta Rosenberg Farber, Yeshiva University
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Published on Sep 24, 2012