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Winter 98/99 Recommendations
(click on a listing to learn more, add a review, or purchase it for 20-40% off)

[book] [book] [book] [book] [book]

[book] The Jew of New York by Ben Katchor
$20 less 30% discount. Hardcover - 104 pages (January 1999) Random House. WINNER OF THE ISAAC BASHEVIS SINGER AWARD. From his 1992 series of comic strips that ran in The Forward and other places, come these inspired cartoons in a graphic novel form. Ben Katchor, 47, is the cartoonist who draws "Julius Knipl-Real Estate Photographer." This graphic novel is about the travails of early fictionalized Jews in New York (circa 1825), Jews who are inspired by Yiddish culture, Jews who exist in occupations on the margins of the economy, like the disbarred ritual slaughterer, or the peddler of soil from Israel, the one who is not a button salesman, but a middleman in the button sales business -- oriental buttons to be more exact. The environment is that of the fictional Jewish state that was created near Niagara Fall in 1825 (based on the true exploits of Major Mordecai M. Noah, the early American politician who wanted to set up a Jewish homeland called Ararat near Buffalo and Niagara Falls, NY). Katchor fictionalizes the creation of Judeo-English, or English in Hebrew characters. (but I actually tried that as a youth, as I assume many others did, too). Loads of inspired fun to read, especially the exploits of Francis Oriole who attempts to carbonate Lake Erie, so you can have seltzer from your water taps. Katchor is also the author of "Cheap Novelties." Watch for a film on Katchor this Summer (1999) at the SFJFF. (
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[book] After Long Silence : A Memoir by Helen Fremont
Hardcover - 368 pages (February 9, 1999). Helen Fremont was raised Roman Catholic in America. Her mother taught her to cross herself and the Lord's Prayer in six languages, and her mother and father attend church every Sunday; but they leave before communion. Helen and her sister, Lara, are now a lawyer and a psychiatrist, respectively. When they asked their parents, post-War Polish immigrants, about their pasts, there always seemed to be inconsistencies in their stories. Her mother was plagued by nightmares, her father was angry. Neither her parents nor her Aunt were happy that Helen uncovered their pasts. In this memoir, Helen delves into her parents' pasts, and discovers that they were born Jewish. They are Kovik and Maria Buchman. Her father escaped to the Soviet Union only to be placed in a Siberian labor camp for 6 years. Maria and her sister Zosia survived by posing as Catholics. No one who reads this book can be left unmoved, or fail to understand the seductive, damaging power of secrets, whether they be historical or sexual. To read more, click below.
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[book] The Lord Will Gather Me in: My Journey to Jewish Orthodoxy by David Klinghoffer
$24 less 30% discount. Hardcover - 272 pages (December 1998) Free Press. Maybe this book should be subtitled Blood, Blood, and More Blood, The Story of My Four Circumcisions. David Klinghoffer is a former writer for The Washington Times, is a current senior editor of William F. Buckley's The National Review, and a contributor to Commentary and other periodicals. This is the story of Klinghoffer's path of ba'alei teshuvah, or return, to Jewish Orthodoxy, his desire for a relationship with god, and his nurturing of a fear of god. It is his story of why Orthodoxy is the only path. I was intrigued that a major push to him came from his devoutly Roman Catholic girlfriend, just as major pushes to Judaism came from the non-Jewish spouses in Tirzah Firestone's and Stephen J. Dubner's Fall 1998 books on their religious returns. Let me be frank. By the second page of this book, I hated it. By page 250, my attitude softened and the story came together. My dislike of the book dissipated -- a tad. I was alienated by what I sensed as his smugness toward Reform Jews and his own religious upbringing. He is insulting to his co-religionists who are not Orthodox. Must he compare Reform Judaism to Menelaus and Antiochus Epiphanes the Fourth, or the Central synagogue to a Byzantine Church? (I think it looks like the Budapest Orthodox synagogue.) Is a Bar Mitzvah celebration that does not follow sumptuary laws the fault of a religious movement or the fault of the Jewish family. I didn't like the title, which is taken from Psalm 27, "Should my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will gather me in." Yes, David was adopted by a Reform Jewish family in Palos Verdes, California, but does he truly feel that he was abandoned? The book, I feel, is about an adoptee's search for authenticity, whether it is an authentic name for his high school (Miraleste), an authentic antique or pre-War apartment building, or authenticity in Jewish belief -- Orthodoxy. It is a story of the feeling that an adopted child and adult may be an imposter, and lacks the right blood, so much so that one becomes a hypochondriac with high BLOOD pressure, and gets circumcised four times in an effort to get it "right." It is a story of feeling out of place with Swedish-blonde looks in a synagogue of darker hair and skin tones. But in the later chapters, as he sought out his birth mother, and traveled with her to Stockholm, the book finally came together for me. My question is, how did he get so many women? To read more, click below.
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[book] Miriam's Kitchen: A Memoir by Elizabeth Ehrlich
$25 less discount. Hardcover - 370 pages (December 1997) Viking Press. Yes it is a cookbook, but it is also a memoir. When Miriam, a mother-in-law and Holocaust survivor, takes her son's wife, Elizabeth Ehrlich, under her wing, she reawakens Elizabeth's forgotten love of and need for Jewish rituals and traditions. Elizabeth, a former Business Week reporter, grew up in a kosher-style Detroit household, in which corned-beef was the level of observance, social equality was the religion, and Brooklyn was her father's homeland. Feeling perpetually out of place in Detroit, only on her childhood visits to her paternal grandmother in Brooklyn, did Elizabeth feel like a cupcake. As an adult, she sought a greater connection. This book is a memoir of growing up Jewish, that also explores the path Elizabeth took, her decision to observe the Sabbath, and the travails along the way, including the provincialism and sexism of some parts of the Orthodox Jewish world. Winner of the Jewish Book Award 1998, which upon reading the book, you will see why.
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[book] The Ten Commandments: The Significance of God's Laws in Everyday Life by Dr. Laura Schlessinger with Stewart Vogel
$24 less discount. Hardcover - 319 pages (Fall 1998) Harpercollins. Strident, conservative, radio talk show host (430 stations in North America) Doctor Laura's bible based book that is a 1998 best seller. Co-authored with Rabbi Stewart Vogel. Main theme is that the ten commandments should guide our lives and be one's base for ethical actions. TO READ MORE REVIEWS OF THE BOOK, CLICK BELOW. Schlesinger, 51, is a Brooklyn born and Long Island bred family therapist and physiologist now living in the Los Angeles basin. (although Schlesinger's father was Jewish, she officially converted to Judaism a few years ago after studying with a Conservative rabbi, and then recently reconverted under Orthodox auspices).
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[book] Turbulent Souls. A Catholic Son's Return To His Jewish Family. By Stephen J. Dubner.
(William Morrow, November 1998, $24 retail). Some people are blessed with the ability to become true-believers without a day of doubt. Others are blessed with the peace of being atheist. When Stephen Dubner wrote an article on how he grew up devoutly Catholic, discovered that both his parents were converts from Judaism, and then he returned to his family's Jewish roots, it became The Times's most talked about article of that year. After the Sunday magazine article appeared in 1996, he was deluged by letters and calls either inviting him to temples and Sabbath dinners, or criticizing him for returning to the mythology and opiate oppression of religion. Now Stephen has expanded on his article by recounting his deeply personal journey from Catholicism to Judaism. It is about religion, spirituality, hidden family histories, confusion, parents, siblings, as well as the tension, comic errors, and confusion his search and return created. Broken into three sections, Dubner begins by focusing on the paths his mother (Florence / Veronica nee Greenglass) and father (Sol / Paul) independently took to Catholicism, their Jewish roots, the reactions of their parents and siblings (sitting shiva), their marriage, and early wedded life. Section Two begins with the birth of Veronica and Paul's eighth child Stephen J. (all the kids got a first or middle name of wither Joseph or Mary), and his life in rural New York, a life of limited money that rotated around Mass, doing rosaries on the front lawn, being a good altar boy, the Catholic feasts, and catechism. Section Three focuses on Stephen's increased interest in Judaism, how his stories for an earlier job at New York Magazine drew him into a world of New York Jewish personalities, his search for Jewish relatives in Brooklyn, his quest to learn more about his father (who died suddenly after giving a speech at a charismatic-Catholic prayer meeting when Stephen was a boy), his trip back to Judaism, and his reconciliation with his mother. Basically, a poignant memoir and a must read.
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[book] I Will Bear Witness: The Diaries of Victor Klemperer 1933-1941. by Victor Klemperer
($30 before 30% discount) Hardcover-352 pages, (November 1998) Random House. No, not about Colonel Klink. What was it like to be a Jew in Germany? Amos Elon, writing in The NY Times wrote that this is "The best written, most evocative, most observant record of daily life in the Third Reich." Peter Gay, himself a German Jewish exile, calls Klemperer one of the greatest diarists in the German language. Klemperer, who was a distinguished professor at the University of Dresden (a second rate school) and German patriot, the youngest of 9 children born to a German rabbi, kept a daily diary of his life as a protected convert from Judaism and husband to an Aryan during the Nazi period. The diary begins on March 10, 1933. This is the adult's Anne Frank, and frankly discusses the events of the period, his life as an outcast, his daily humiliations, his dislike of Communism, Nazism, and even Zionism, his scant mention of Kristallnacht/1938, and his discussion of the Nuremberg Laws of 1935 and the "good Germans" he meets. These diaries, like Frank's, were not written for future publication, and were found after Klemperer's death. What I especially liked is that the book shows why many people's psyches would not let them leave Germany when they could (language, employment, dependence on rival siblings or family members). Look for a 13-part TV series to be based on these diaries. The 1700 page German edition is a best seller in Germany.
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[book] From A Sealed Room. By Rachel Kadish.
(Putnam, October 1998, $25 before discount. A beautifully descriptive novel. Rachel Kadish is a 1991 graduate of Princeton and lives in Cambridge. Her works have appeared among the Pushcart Prizes and Best American Short Stories anthologies. This is a novel about three women in Israel and redemption. It takes place during the Gulf War, as a nation sleeps in protective, sealed rooms, awaiting Scud missile attacks from Iraq. Meet some of the characters: Tami, an enduring mother; Dov, her son, who serves as a soldier in the IDF; Maya, an American student at Hebrew University who is in an abusive relationship with an Israeli man; Shifra, an isolated woman living in a Hasidic neighborhood, alone in her room with her memories of pre-War Poland.
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[book] Two Jews, Three Opinions:
A Collection of Twentieth-Century American Jewish Quotations by Sandee Brawarsky and Deborah Mark (Editors)

20% discount. Hardcover - 320 pages (December 1998). The Jewish Bartlett's. Every household should have it next to the dictionary and thesaurus.
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[book] Kaaterskill Falls. By Allegra Goodman.
(Dial Press, September 1998, $24 retail). Allegra Goodman, 31, who holds a Stanford PhD in Eighteenth Century and Renaissance Literature, delivers to us this ambitious novel (or collection of connected stories and narratives) about a Catskills community -- actually a community of Orthodox Jews from New York City who summer in the Catskills. The book open in the summer of 1976, as most of America celebrates the Bicentennial. The primary characters are each questioning the commitment to their chosen religious lives, and whether they are restricted in this insular community. They are followers of Rav Elijah Kirshner, who is aging and must appease and conciliate his feelings toward his two sons, one of whom will succeed him. Jeremy, one of his sons, is rebellious, yet scholarly. Isaac Shulman yearns for a more distinguished and learned position in his community, and Elizabeth Shulman, mother of five daughters, whom she has given Anglo-Saxon names, but calls them by their Hebrew names, has secular ambitions. She opens a store with the Rav's approval, but this offends of his successor. An interesting read. Nominated for the U.S. National Book Award 1998.
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[book] Seasons of Her Life. A Biography of Madeleine Korbel Albright by Ann Blackman
($27 before 30% discount). Hardcover - 320 pages (November 1998). Scribner. How the heck did Albright become Secretary of State? Where did she come from? Did she really not know that her parents were born Jewish? Seasoned Time magazine political reporter Ann Blackman's biography describes how Albright moved past the expectations of her time--and the challenges of being an immigrant--to become the highest-ranking woman in the history of U.S. politics when Bill Clinton picked her to be his second secretary of state.
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[book] Grief in Our Seasons: A Mourner's Kaddish Companion. By Rabbi Kerry Olitzky.
(Jewish Lights, 448 pages, $16 before discount). Offer mourners a prayerbook for one complete year of mourning. There is at least one passage and a meditation for each day of the mourning cycle. There is also space for you to add your own thoughts, feelings, and reflections.
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[book] Zebra and Other Stories by Chaim Potok
For young adults. Hardcover - 128 pages (September 1998) Knopf. In six quietly powerful stories, Potok explores varieties of inner and outer healing, both in individuals and in families: ``Zebra'' begins to regain use of his crushed hand and leg creating art assigned by an itinerant teacher; ``Isabel'' finds unexpected solace in the company of her new stepsister; the spirit of ``Max,'' a larger-than-life family hero killed in Vietnam, resurfaces in the next generation not in his namesake, as expected, but in young Emmie; ``B.B.'' loses the utter trust of her childhood; ``Moon'' lets out his adolescent rage in an explosive musical tribute to a murdered Pakistani child slave, and ``Nava'' uses her father's experiences in war to fend off a frighteningly persistent drug dealer.
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[book] Israel and the Bomb by Avner Cohen
$28. Hardcover - 432 pages (October 1998) Columbia Univ Pr. The book documents Israel's nuclear project from its inception in the 1950s until after the Six-Day War in 1967, when the author says Israel had nuclear weapons capabilities and the United States recognized that Israel had crossed the nuclear threshold. The security forces, and especially the head of security for the defense establishment, attempted unsuccessfully for several years to stop the book from being published. Cohen received both direct and indirect messages that persisting with his research and publication could land him in trouble with the law. Click below to read the Haaretz editorial on the book as well as other comments.
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[book] Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and the Last Great Lesson by Mitch Albom
30 percent off. Hardcover - 192 pages (September 1997) Doubleday. This true story about the love between a spiritual mentor and his pupil has soared to the bestseller list for many reasons. For starters: it reminds us of the affection and gratitude that many of us still feel for the significant mentors of our past. It also plays out a fantasy many of us have entertained: what would it be like to look those people up again, tell them how much they meant to us, maybe even resume the mentorship? Plus, we meet Morrie Schwartz--a one of a kind professor.
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[book] Moses and the Angels by Mark H. Podwal (Illustrator), Ileene Smith Sobel and a preface by Elie Wiesel
Hardcover - 80 pages (February 9, 1999). The story of Moses from various sources with great illustrations by Ileene Smith Sobel, winner of the PEN Award. Powal just won the Jewish Book Award for his book on Lamed-Vavniks. Click to read more about the stories
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[book] To Begin Again. The Journey Toward Comfort, Strength, and Faith in Difficult Times. By Naomi Levy (Rabbi)
(list $23 before discount). Hardcover - 320 pages (October 1998) Knopf. How do you continue after experiencing a loss? How do you overcome being a survivor to become a participant. The last time I flew across the U.S., I read Naked by David Sedaris and laughed out loud. Over Sukkot, I flew across the U.S. on a 6+ hour flight and read Naomi Levy's book, and wept quietly from sorrow and also from joy. How do you suvive pain and tragedy? How do answer your congregants who ask the value of believing and praying when tragedy occurs? Rabbi Naomi Levy, who served Congregation Mishkon Tephilo in Venice California has known grief also, and has written this book to help people overcome tragedy. It is must reading for anyone who has experienced loss, considering rabbinical school or planning to work in the Jewish counseling. Rabbi Levy is one of the first female graduates of JTS' rabbinical school. The book is filled with stories of loss and recovery, and applicable prayers and quotes from Jewish texts. The first chapter opens with the kidnapping, robbery and rape of a congregant while on her way to Kol Nidre services. In later chapters we meet a congregant who loses all physical connection to her past when a fire destroys her family's home (except for a single unmelted mezuzah), another who suffers a stillbirth, and others who suffer illnesses, addictions, and other losses. Rabbi Levy had her own losses to overcome, too. At age fifteen, her father was brutally, senselessly murdered by a mugger, leaving a devastated family and destroying Naomi's faith in the police, doctors, people and god. She became a pessimist overnight, and understood the Talmudic quote that 'to destroy a single life is to destroy the world.' Yet, she was able to slowly overcome this loss. The book is not going to cure the reader overnight, but it will set you on the right path and give you or your friends hope. Definitely one of the best books for Fall 98.
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[book] Hitler's Vienna. A Dictator's Apprenticeship by Brigitte Hamann. Translated by Thomas Thornton
($35 before discount). Oxford University Press. 452 pages. Not another Hitler book? That's what I thought, til I read this. This is a fascinating story about the Vienna in which Hitler created his vision and plans. This is the Vienna of Adler and Freud. But did the young Hitler live in this mileiu from 1908 - 1913? Or was he relegated to the lower class and working class neighborhoods. What was life like there among the poor, single men? Were there any Jewish professors at the Visual Arts school he attended? (no) With the newly won right to vote, what kind of pan-German politicians caught the attention of Hitler? What would he have read? How did Vienna's architecture influence Hitler's ideas symbolic art? How did Georg Schonerer affect Hitler's ideas? Is this where he learned about anti-Semitism? A fascinating read that just draws you in.
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[book] Journeys With Elijah : Eight Tales of the Prophet by Barbara Diamond Goldin, Jerry Pinkney (Illustrator)
Reading level: Ages 4-8 Hardcover - 96 pages (April 1999). You never know when Elijah is going to show up. Is he a poor beggar, a helper, a stranger in town? How will you treat him? This book contains classic tales about Elijah with introductions for each story about the history of the community that told the tale, whether it be Eastern Europe or China. Click to read more.
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[book] Smart Jews : The Construction of the Image of Jewish Superior Intelligence by Professor Sander L. Gilman
($20 before discount). Paperback - 255 pages (August 1997) Univ of Nebraska Press. Univ of Chicago Professor, and author of over 58 books, Gilman turns his attention to the seemingly positive stereotyping of Jews as highly intelligent. Gilman has pondered many aspects of the ways in which the Jew is marked as the Other in Western culture. Just as people hated the ideas promoted in The Bell Curve, Sander finds positive stereotypes, like Smart Jews, just as insidious. Are positive stereotypes a means of control just as negative stereotypes are? This book traces the notion of Jewish superior intelligence from the Nineteenth Century to today.
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[book] Jewish Cooking in America (Knopf Cooks American) by Joan Nathan.
($35 before 30% discount) Hardcover - 463 pages (March 1994, paperback in Sep 98) Knopf. Joan Nathan traveled the U.S. for five years collecting material for this book. It is crammed with more than 300 kosher recipes. The book won the Julia Child Award as Best Cookbook of the Year for 1994 and a James Beard Award in 1995.) Her recipes come with stories on the American Jewish experience, from New York City to Mississippi, from bagels to matzo balls, from Syrian hamburgers to challah to Chinese-style baked fish to cheesecake for Shavuoth.
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[book] Looking for Lost Bird: A Jewish Woman's Discovery of Her Navajo Roots by Yvette D. Melanson with Claire Safran
($22 before 30% discount). Hardcover - 240 pages (February 1999). A few years ago, NBC-TV did a story about a 43 year old Jewish woman who, when she sought out her birth parents, discovered that she was actually born to a Navajo family. Yvette was a lost bird, the name Native Americans give to their children who were stolen by "well-meaning" white social workers and others. This is Yvetts's fascinating story. Yvette Melanson was born "out West" in the 1950's, adopted by a Jewish couple in Miami, and raised in New York City in a wealthy, doting, Jewish family. Although she knew she was adopted, her parents always deflected questions about her roots, but did let it slip that she had a twin brother. When her mother died a painful death when Yvette was just a young teenager, Yvette's father blamed Yvette, rejected her, and soon remarried a woman who treated Yvette worse than Cinderella. So I don't give away any more juicy details, suffice it to say that Yvette moved to a Kibbutz at 17, was injured as a soldier during the '73 War, returned to the U.S., and settled in Maine to raise a family. At her father's funeral, a stranger had to ask her stepmother to move over so Yvette could sit in the family pew. Can you believe such a family? Upon discovering her true birth heritage a while after her father's funeral, we follow Yvette as she meets her Navajo family, learns the truth about her birth, tries to fit into Navajo culture in Tolani Lakes, a culture which is sometimes at odds with a louder New York City/Israeli/Jewish one, and finds similarities between her Jewish faith and Navajo culture.
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[book] Brother Against Brother : Violence and Extremism in Israeli Politics from Altalena to the Rabin Assassination by Ehud Sprinzak
$28 less 30% discount. Hardcover - 384 pages (January 1999) Free Press. Sprinzhak is a Professor of Poli Sci at Hebrew University. He is a specialist in right wing political studies. He traces the 1995 murder of Rabin to Israeli historical political violence by the Irgun, Stern Gang, Kach, and Baruch Goldstein, which married nationalism to religious orthodox halacha.
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[book] Jews and Christians : The Parting of the Ways, A.D. 70 to 135 : The Second Durham-Tubingen Research Symposium on Earliest Christianity and Judaism by James D. G. Dunn (Editor)
Paperback - 418 pages (February 1999) Wm. B. Eeerdmans Publishing Co. Essays on the relationship between the two religions in 70 - 135.
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