Whether your matzah balls sink or swim, there is always a good Jewish book for you here.
APRIL 2001 AND MORE 2001 JEWISH BOOKS
WALKING THE BIBLE
A Journey Through the Five Books of Moses
by Bruce Feiler
Morrow. April 2001.
The Five Books of Bruce?
Feiler, 36, has a habit of delving into a subject full force and writing about it. A Southerner (growing up Jewish in the South) and Yale Grad (Southerner at a Northern University), he wrote Learning To Bow (a year teaching in Japan) at age 24, Looking for Class (British Universities, hanging in Cambridge), and Under the Bigtop (a high school juggler and mime, he runs away and joins the circus), embarks on a journey through the Middle East. He interviews residents and others of various religious beliefs. Feiler was not a religious person, but felt spiritual. He left his Chelsea Manhattan apartment to connect with his religion, embarking on a journey and quest to the places we read about in the Bible (but we are a wandering people, a people of the book, a people of god-seekers, not a people of the place, but I digress). Sometimes it's easier to fly away than to connect with people down the block. Segmented into an intro and five book sections (just like the 5 Books of Moses).
Feiler's Bar Mitzvah parshat in Savannah Georgia was Lech Lecha, in which Abram leaves Haran for Canaan. So it is fitting that the intro opens with Feiler (along with Avner Goren, one of Israel's top archeologists) in Dogubayazit in Eastern Turkey, at the foot of Mount Ararat (Agri Dagi), the highest mountain in the Middle East. It is a sunrise, and a start to a journey (that will end at Mount Nebo). He is on his way to Haran, where in Genesis 12, Abram went forth to set up a nation, a nation not fed by rivers, like the Euphrates, but fed by monotheism. From here, Feiler takes the reader on an adventure as he travels the modern day lands of the bible. Along the way we meet monks, tourists, Jews, Christians, Turks, Moslems, Nile boatmen, as well as the places in the Bible where Abraham almost sacrificed Isaac, Joseph was sold in to slavery, etc.
THE HOLOCAUST ENCYCLOPEDIA.
Edited by Walter Laqueur
April 19, 20001 (Holocaust Remembrance Day) YALE UNIVERSITY Press.
816 pages. Includes 250 illustrations, 19 maps, and a 17 page chronology of major events, and photos by Adam Kaczkowski. MORE THAN 100 contributors distill research and history on the Shoah for the reader. Includes essays by Robert Rozett (Yad vashem library); James Young, Stanley Payne Marrus, Hilberg, Israel Gutman, Saul Friendlander, Cesarani, Capri, and Browning. The volume includes: Raul Hilberg on concentration camps and Gypsies; Ruth Bondy, Israel Gutman, and Dina Porat on major ghettoes; Roger Greenspun on the Holocaust in cinema and television; Richard Breitman on American policy; Michael Berenbaum on theological and philosophical responses; Saul Friedländer on Nazi policy; Michael Hagemeister on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion; Michael R. Marrus on historiography; Christopher R. Browning on the Madagascar Plan; Robert S. Wistrich on Holocaust denial; and James E. Young on Holocaust literature.
AGAINST THE DYING LIGHT
A Father's Journey Through Loss
by Leonard J. Fein
Jewish Lights Publishing. 2001. 144 pages.
Anger, Bitterness, Acceptance. How one father's grief over his daughter's sudden death offers a philosophy of abundant living. Leonard Fein is the founder of several Jewish social action groups and Moment Magazine and Mazon. "The company of the bereaved is a company connected by memory and loss-but in the end, each member of that company experiences both memory and loss uniquely, alone." -from Part I
How do you explain a seemingly senseless tragedy? What does it mean to be an observer of your own life? In this unusual exploration of heartbreak and healing, Leonard Fein chronicles the sudden death of his 30-year-old daughter (who collapsed on 1/29/1996, leaving a young daughter, husband and family to grieve) and shares the hard-earned wisdom that emerges in the face of loss and grief. With the rich support of his community, Fein anguished, questioned, and ultimately coped with the death of his daughter by wrestling with some of life's toughest questions. The answers he discovers in the course of his own mourning process provide not only comfort to others in "the company of the bereaved" and strength to those who face personal tragedy, but also wisdom for all who search for life's meanings. Against the Dying of the Light leads us to a different, surprising understanding of the gifts that life and the quest for understanding have to offer. The first part of the book recounts the funeral and his daughters life. The second part of the book is the story of how Fein comes to terms with death.
Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon submit their votes for Best Jewish Books of 2000. Click the picture to see the National Jewish Book Award nominees and winners. CONGRATULATIONS to all the winners, by the way. I had the opportunity to attend the presentations and got to see and meet such notable authors as Samuel Freedman, Daniel Asa-Rose, Ari Goldman, Vered Hankin, Peninah Schram, Joseph Telushkin, Elie Wiesel, Sam Klagsbrun, storyteller Howard Schwartz, L K Melmed, Susan Zucotti, Ruth Wisse, Rivka and Ben-Zion Dorfman, Yitz and Blu Greenberg, and Thane Rosenbaum to name a few...
BODY OF SECRETS:
Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency
From the Cold War Through the Dawn of a New Century
by James Bamford, author of The Puzzle Palace (1982)
April 24, 20001 Was the loss of the Navy EP-3E Aries II spy plane near Hainan Island, China, a publicity stunt for this book?
Oh boy, oh boy, the anti-Israel crowd is going to have a field day with this book, they will picnic on it like vultures. Among the revelations from this book, is that Bamford says that Israel deliberately attacked by air and sea the USS Liberty Spy Ship during the 6 Day Way on June 8, 1967, killing 34 US Sailors and wounding 171 others. The book says that the NSA showed President Johnson proof from a spy plane that Israel knew that the ship was flying an American flag and it was probably the USS Liberty. Israel said it attacked the ship in error, paid some reparations, and Johnson covered up the rest of the story. Was Israel trying to cover up their gruesome murder of 400 Egyptian POW's in El Arish as Bamford and conspiracy theorists assert? (or were only 5 killed?) You'll have to read the book.... In addition to this story, Bamford gives the reader an explosive, secret-filled examination of the National Security Agency and Signal Intelligence (sigint). The NSA is the largest, most secretive, and most powerful intelligence agency in the world. With a staff of 38,000 (they had a staff of 95,000 during the VietNam War), the NSA dwarfs the CIA in budget, manpower, and influence. Bamford exposes the role the NSA played in numerous Soviet bloc Cold War conflicts and discusses its undercover involvement in the Vietnam War. His investigation into the NSA's technological advances during the last fifteen years brings to light a network of global surveillance ranging from on-line listening posts to sophisticated intelligence-gathering satellites. In a hard-hitting conclusion, he warns that the NSA is a two-edged sword. While its worldwide eavesdropping activities offer the potential for tracking down terrorists and uncovering nuclear weapons deals, it also has the capability to listen on global personal communications. Just remember that they are listening whenever you make an international telephone call (so please remember not to say the words "terrorist" or "bomb"
Tell Me a Story: 50 Years and 60 Minutes
by Don Hewitt (Founder and Executive Producer of CBS's 60 Minutes)
A memoir by the founder and head of "60 Minutes", the father of television news magazines. He is the product of a mixed marriage... the marriage of a German Jewish mother and a Russian Jewish father. The only anti-Semitism he recalls is when the German-Jewish clubs of Milwaukee black balled his Russian Jewish father. A high school journalist and track star, he dropped out of NYU, and lucked out when he met the head of sports for a NYC newspaper, thus becoming a copy boy prior to WWII. (Gee, I met Hewitt in Philadelphia in 1982, I should have begged him for a job then. Actually, I think I did, but let's not bring up bad memories) Anyway, after a stint at Stars and Stripes during WWII, he got a job in television, that new medium. The rest is history and it's all in here. The start of CBS television news, Murrow and Cronkite and Paley. All the politicians and celebs he met. The stories behind 60 Minutes. His feelings about the tobacco scandal and Jeffrey Wigand (The Insider), 60 Minutes coverage of Israel and its leaders, the debacle over the Temple Mount killings broadcast in 1990. A great read for 2001
Ultimate Journey: Retracing the Path of an Ancient Buddhist Monk Who Crossed Asia in Search of Enlightenment
by Richard Bernstein
As Bernstein quotes in the book, "No ship ever takes you away from yourself." And just as Conrad's journeys in the Congo were deeper than just a boat ride, Bernstein's travels through China, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Kazakhstan and India are not only a travelogue, but a personal journey at age 50. Sometimes you have to travel to learn about the self. Most American school children are familiar with Marco Polo, who traveled from Europe to Asia. Some Jewish children are familiar with Benjamin of Tudela, a Jewish explorer. But nearly none are familiar with Hsuan Tsang, a Monk who lived in 603-664, who was the greatest land traveler in history. Nearly all Asian children know of his esteemed adventures. Hsuan Tsang wrote "The Great Tang Chronicles of The Western World", based on his over fifteen years and 10,000 miles of journeys, journeys made by foot, horse, camel, and elephant. While Marco Polo sought riches, Monk Hsuan Tsang sought the source of reality and Buddhist Wisdom (although his emperor sought details to help craft military and political policies). Fast forward over 1,300 years. The author, raised on a chicken farm, is a book critic for The New York Times. He is a former Harvard Chinese History student, was a Peace Corps volunteer (in China), and was Time Magazine's Beijing bureau chief. When he turned fifty years of age, Bernstein, unmarried (half a man as the Talmud wrote) and antsy, moody and difficult to please, decided to fulfill some promises that he made to himself. These included sailing to Tahiti, reading Proust, writing a novel, making furniture, and, oh, yes, following the 5,000 mile route of Hsuan Tsang from China to Southern India. And so, Bernstein gets some time off from The Times, packs a bag, flies to Hong Kong and Xian China, and embarks on Hsuan Tsang's trek (although his Chinese American girlfriend does join this commitment-phobe for part of the trip). A great read for 2001.
Jewish readers will especially want to read Chapter 16, in which Bernstein, arriving in West Bengal on a Friday afternoon, seeks out the Calcutta synagogue he had noted in 1970. Seeking to satiate a desire for tribal attachment, he finds the Sephardic services at the Canning Street shul (no longer on Synagogue Street), and is the tenth man for the Shabbat minyan. Also, shen he speaks to the leader of nearly 1 billion Hindus, Bernstein asks the question that was asked of Hillel, namely, explaining Hinduism while he stands on one foot. The leader responds, unlike Hillel,, that the goal of a man is to know the truth (since Hinduism is interested in the true nature of reality, so that one can reach a higher level of happiness by ridding themselves of the material illusions of the self)
An open letter to the Egyptian customers of MyJewishBooks.com: Please note that we are not associated with the Zionist entity called Sainsbury's. So please do not boycott us.
AMY'S ANSWERING MACHINE : Messages from Mom
by Amy Borkowsky
Hardcover - 128 pages (April 3, 2001) .
Does your mother call you in a panic whenever there's a storm warning for your area? Does she act as though it's her duty to alert you to every health story on the news? Have you ever been briefly out of touch with your mother only to find she's phoned everyone short of the National Guard to track you down -- or, just maybe, are you that mother?
Take comfort in knowing you're not alone, as Amy Borkowsky shares more than a decade's worth of maddening phone messages from her hilariously overprotective mom. Based on the hit CD of the same name, Amy's Answering Machine features actual messages in which Amy's mom warns her not to wear a red bathrobe because a friend's grandson "said that red is a gang color"...advises her not to get a cat because "what if you finally found a nice guy and he was allergic?"...cautions her not to wear crepe-soled shoes because "they were just saying on the news that if you're ever in a plane crash, crepe is no good if you have to go down the slide." Amy also reveals the stories behind the messages and shares calls not available on CD, each one brimming with the worry and annoying comments only a loving mother could dish out. The same warnings and suggestions that had Amy cringing are sure to have you doubled over with laughter. But before you turn the page, take some advice from Amy's mom: Make sure you have plenty of reading light, because squinting causes crow's feet. To buy the book, click the cover up to the right. To buy the CD, visit SendAmy.com (but we don't get any commissions)
Kiss My Tiara : How to Rule the World As a Smartmouth Goddess
by Susan Jane Gilman
Paperback - 205 pages .
FUNNY. A feminist's answers to THE RULES. Fueled by the lessons from her feisty Jewish grandmother. Comments on finding a life, getting a raise, dating, love, Judaism, how to deal with PMS, how to respond to rude catcalls from men. Gilam, a Brown graduate and former reporter for NY Jewish Week. She will be wed to a weatherman in May 2001 (P.S. - did you know that the co-author of THE RULES, Esther Fein, is getting a divorce? She should have read this book)
Celebrating Your New Jewish Daughter:
Creating Jewish Ways to Welcome Baby Girls--New and Traditional Ceremonies
by Debra Nussbaum Cohen
Jewish Lights Publishing. 2001. 192 pages.
The introduction opens with, "Mazal Tov, You've Had a Baby Girl!"
Each child comes with your hopes and dreams. Everybody is familiar with a bris, or brit milah circumcision ceremony and in modern times, a festive celebration, for healthy baby boys on their eighth day after birth. But what do you do when you have a daughter? What are they, chopped liver? Since the early 1970's, Jewish parents have been celebrating their daughters in original ways (Ezrat Nashim published the first ceremonies in 1977, and the havurah and renewal movements wrote about theirs dating back to 1973). Debra Nussbaum Cohen, a resident of Park Slope Brooklyn, and mother who has known the joy of birth and the pain of loss, has created this essential guide to new and traditional ceremonies with which to welcome your new daughter to the world, the covenant, and the Jewish people. It's about time. And it will be a welcome addition to your Jewish bookshelf and life. Just consider, what you create today will be a "tradition" for your descendants! Cohen started collecting organic Simchat Bat ceremonies when she was pregnant with her first child. For you Simchat Bat ceremony and celebration, she includes readings, poems, specialized readings for adoptions, blessings, prayers (in Hebrew, English transliterations and translations), history, songs, and rituals. It is an inclusive book that has ceremonies ALSO crafted for adherents to traditional Orthodoxy, traditional Sephardic rite, contemporary rites, contemporary Orthodox, humanism, and modren mikveh rites. Part One consists of about two dozen pages that introduce you to welcoming ceremonies and Jewish tradition, including the idea of covenant, brit milah, the custom of gomel, and that of a new father being called to the Torah to recite blessings, announce the birth, and pray for his wife's recovery. Part Two consists of about four dozen pages on seriously practical considerations for your ceremony. It includes chapters on how to involve your non-Jewish loved ones or spouse, if necessary (through acknowledgement and readings); what to do in cases of adoption and cross-cultural adoption (remember, Moses was an adopted child, and Mordechai was probably an adoptive parent); and gay and lesbian parenthood. Part Three focuses on planning the event, creating programs, sanctifying the space, and deciding when to have the Simchat Bat (eighth day, 30th day, etc.). Part Four contains over 150 pages of sample ceremonies, and hundreds of readings and elements from which you can pick and choose. It includes selections for welcoming, naming, prayers of thanksgiving, parental blessings, acrostics, psalms, readings for relatives and friends, blessings for wine and bread, and rituals for brit nerot (light), brit mikvah (immersion), brit rechitzah (footwashing/handwashing), brit tallit (enfolding her into the covenant), brit kehillah (community), brit melach, and brit havdalah (transitions). The book succeeds so well, one wishes all the babies were girls (or maybe some things can be borrowed for future boys).
COMIC BOOK NATION
by Bradford W. Wright
Johns Hopkins. April 2001. A cultural and political history of the comic books in America.. Did you know that Superman's first enemies were corrupt politicians and slumlords, or that comics of the 50s reflected communist hysteria and social unrest? Did comic books corrupt our nation's youth? Most importantly, how did the fact that most of the writers of the comics were Jewish and liberal influence the themes the books covered?
SOUL PRINTS. Your Path To Fulfillment
By Rabbi Marc Gafni, Dean of the Merlitz Center in Israel
Pocket. March 2001. STOP BEING LONELY, stop doing foolish things to relieve your inner loneliness.
Is there more to Freud's libido, Maslow's self actualization, nietzsche's power, Victor Frankel's "drive for meaning", or Adler's "self esteem" as drivers for human growth and action? Yes, the soul print. Just as fingerprints are unique, so, too, says Rabbi Gafni, are soul prints: each human soul has an individual mark that it leaves behind on everyone it touches. In this companion volume to a PBS special, Gafni weaves together autobiographical reflections with tips and exercises designed to help readers discover their soul prints and find fulfillment. In the first part of the book, he introduces you to the Soul Print. In the second part of the book, the nature of the Soul Print is explained. The third section, or stage, explores your Soul Print's vocation and how you can fulfill it and achieve joy. In the fourth stage, he tells the Soul Print story, which is the magic from living your own unique authentic life. (actually it is better than I describe it). His tremendous breadth distinguishes this volume from so many spiritualized self-help tomes. As metaphors, he draws on the fantasy novella "Flatlands" and the teachings of Talmudic rabbis, on psychologists and prophets. He uses Bible stories, since they are the Soul Print of our Western culture (he avoids Eastern stories, since the polytheistic and Buddhist stories are not unified with our current culure). He tells his own stories and biblical stories. He implores readers to touch another person in a positive way once per week. A post-denominational Orthodox rabbi, Marc (Winiarz) Gafni describes himself as a Kabbalist in practice and passion. (p.s. - if you are still lonely, call Lula)
Nanny: The Love of a Jewish Grandmother
by Margie Butcher
Nanny tells of the heart-warming relationship between a granddaughter and her grandmother, a Jewish immigrant. The story is not only a tribute to Nanny, but to her generation, told through the voices of three generations of women. You will get to know Nanny through: dozens of recipes, interviews with Nanny and her youngest daughter, touching family letters in honor of Nanny's 90th birthday, an extensive yiddish glossary.
AN UNCOMMON FRIENDSHIP
From Opposite Sides of the Holocaust
by Bernat Rosner and Frederick Tuback (Berkeley Prof of German)
UCal. April 2001.
Two men, who meet and become good friends through the efforts of their wives, after enjoying successful adult lives in California, have experienced childhoods so tragically opposed that the two men must decide whether to talk about them or not. In 1944, 13-year-old Fritz was almost old enough to join the Hitler Youth in his German village of Kleinheubach. That same year in Tab, Hungary, 12-year-old Bernie was loaded onto a train with the rest of the village's Jewish inhabitants and taken to Auschwitz, where his whole family was murdered. How to bridge the deadly gulf that separated them in their youth, how not to allow the power of the past to separate them even now, as it separates many others, become the focus of their friendship, and together they begin the project of remembering.
DISPLACED PERSONS. Growing Up American AFTER the Holocaust
by Joseph Berger (New York Times Editor)
April 2001. Scribner. Eloquent. Just like Proust... upon seeing a seeded roll, Berger, 56, a NYT Deputy Editor, begins a meditation on his life as a Polish Jewish refugee in Manhattan in the 1950's (arriving from a DP camp in Germany). Younger than KinderGarten age when he arrived, he was one of 140,000 DP's who made their way to America. Berger paints a portrait of immigrant life (immigrating POST War, not pre-War.. a BIG difference), a life shadowed by aching loss, a life without relatives, embarrassment, a life in which the parents rely on their kids for translations, and a life of selected pride. Living on West 102nd Street in Manhattan, and later on the Grand Concourse in The Bronx, they visited the Survivor Section on Orchard Beach, and savored their American Deluxe sandwiches on Sundays (herring, egg, tomato, cuke, radish and onion on buttered rye). Click the Book COVER to read a more extensive review.
GOING SOUTH: Jewish WOMEN in the Civil Rights Movement
By Debra Schultz
April 2001 NYU PRESS. Fifteen oral histories and research on how Northern Jewish women played their part in the civil rights movement (and, no, not by just having sex like the limerick says (included in the book)). Some women, upon meeting their Southern Jewish relatives, learned that they did not support their efforts. Some of the women experienced anti-Semitism at the Southern black churches they were working with. This is highly recommended for Schultz's insights into Jewish identity.
COMFORT ME WITH APPLES
By Ruth Reichl
April 10, 2001 (JUST IN TIME FOR PASSOVER), Random House.
Reichl, former food writer of The New York Times (6 years), the LA Times (10 years), and current editor of GOURMET, follows up on TENDER TO THE BONE, with this memoir of coming of age as a food writer. The Title comes from the Song of Solomon. Comfort me with apples, for I am lovesick. Thus this is a love story - no, 2 love stories. Contains the painful story of when she and her husband tried to adopt a child, but the birth mother backed out and reclaimed the child.
SHEBA: THROUGH THE DESERT IN SEARCH OF THE LEGENDARY QUEEN
by Nicholas Clapp
April 2001, Houghton Mifflin. The story of the Queen of Sheba (a.k.a. Balqis). Part diary, part travelogue, the author travels through the Mideast, Ethiopia, and Yemen to bring us his story of Sheba. His hypothesis is that Sheba was a very powerful leader, who visited King Solomon, who was much smaller and weaker, to engage in trade talks. Click to read more extensive reviews
NEIGHBORS. The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland
by Jan Tomasz Gross (a Polish Jewish émigré to USA, who teaches in NYC)
April 2001, 261 pages. Princeton University Press.
Why do Poles and Holocaust deniers hate and loathe this book so much? But don't be so smug. Few Americans talk about or even know about the massacre of blacks in Tulsa Oklahoma in 1921 by townspeople or the 1923 pogrom against the black residents in Rosewood Florida?
This book details how Poles, with Nazi prodding, burned 1,600 Jews in a barn in the northern Polish town of Jedwabne (85 mile NE of Warsaw, Bialystok Province) in July 1941. The author feels they were WILLING EXECUTIONERS (even though Goldhagen would probably write that one must be uniquely German to be one). The mayor exceeded the Nazi command of July 10, 1941 to kills the Jews, but spare some tradesmen. They killed nearly everyone, and not just those that aided the Soviet communists. Some played music while the Jews burned to death, screaming. Some made some Jews bury a statue of Lenin before killing them. The massacre was planned by the town's city council and its mayor. It was so grotesque that the town butcher declined to participate. The book has sparked a national debate in Poland. The massacre was never fully investigated. As the book states in its opening, half the town murdered the other half. A monument was erected that blamed the Nazis and Gestapo, even though in 1949, several Poles were convicted of the murders. Professor Gross became intrigued with the story while researching in the Warsaw Jewish archives. A deposition of the massacre caused him to further research the trials in 1949 and 1953 against about 22 townspeople accused of the murders. The book details the events in the town and aftermath, the collection of Jewish booty by peasants from even neighboring villages, as well as investigates why Poles blamed the Jews for Soviet Communist atrocities in the area between 1939 and 1941. WHAT HAS BEEN THE EFFECT OF THIS BOOK IN POLAND? Nearly everyday since the book was published, an essay on the murders appears in the Polish press. But many Poles continue to think it was the work of "bandits", and not the townspeople. Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek and President Aleksander Kwasniewski have read the book and asked the nation to ask for Jewish forgiveness for the crime of killing 1/3 of Poland's pre War urban population (the Jews). The head of the Catholic Church in Poland, Jozef Glemp, acknowledged Polish involvement in the crime, but said it is unjust to expect Poles to bear collective responsibility. (yep, you mean how the Poles held the whole Jewish community responsible for the few Jews who helped the Soviets for 20 months prior to the rise of Nazism?). In response to the book, Defense Minister Bronislaw Komorowski announced that in March 2001, the 1,348 Jews who were purged from the communist Polish army in 1968-1980 will be rehabilitated. Click to read more extensive reviews