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Autumn Leaves are falling. Is it good for the Jews?
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FOUR PAGES OF FALL on a listing to learn more, add a review, or purchase it for up to 50% off, tax free... we also sell NYT Best Sellers for 50% off! Check out OFRAH's Book Club

[cover] POYLN: Jewish Life in the Old Country by Alter Kacyzne
Hardcover - 192 pages (November 1999). A remarkable book of photos equal to those of Roman Vishniac. The poet, dramatist, and journalist Alter Kacyzne's (ka-TZIZ-neh), took photos for The Forverts (Yiddish Daily Forward). These photos have not been seen in 60 years. At once tender and humorous, Poyln tells the story of a way of life and recalls the warmth and spirit of a community on the edge of destruction. He was killed in the Ukraine in 1941. A poet, dramatist, journalist, and photographer, he was a central figure in Warsaw's Yiddish cultural world.
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[book] Bringing Home the Light: A Jewish Woman's Handbook of Rituals by E. M. Broner
Hardcover - 288 pages (October 1999) Professor Broner, famed for her co-authorship of the ground breaking Women's Haggadah, as well as over eight other books, crafts for us this poetic, personal guide to practicing and creating new meaningful Jewish rituals for women. As the book opens, she tells the reader how her mother would bring home the light of the Sabbath while kindling the Shabbas candles. Broner summons her own experiences and offers us her illumination on creating Jewish space with rituals for Fall cleansing, Hanukkah empowerment, Summer healing, lifecycles, mourning and loss, menopause, menarche, and life.
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[book] Turbulent Souls: A Catholic Son's Return to His Jewish Family by Stephen J. Dubner
Paperback - 288 pages (October 5,1999) The best Jewish memoir of 1998 is now in paper back for $10, click to read the over thirty review...
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[book] To Begin Again : The Journey Toward Comfort, Strength, and Faith in Difficult Times by Rabbi Naomi Levy
PAPERBACK VERSION. 267 pages. Fall 1999. The paperback book of this award winning book. How do you continue after experiencing a painful loss? How do you overcome being a survivor in order to become a participant. How does a rabbi answer a congregant who asks the value of believing and praying when tragedy occurs? Rabbi Naomi Levy, who served Congregation Mishkon Tephilo in Venice California has known grief, and has written this book to help people overcome tragedy. It is must reading for anyone who has experienced loss, is considering rabbinical school or is planning to work in the Jewish counseling. Click to read the over reviews...
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[book] Hitler's Pope: The Secret History of Pope Pius 12 by John Cornwell (Cambridge Univ).
Viking. 430 pages. So many people criticize the infallible Eugenio Pacelli/Pope Pius XII for doing nothing to stop the slaughter of the Jews, even though several of his own clerics died for speaking out (Kolbe and Lichtenberg to name two). Why didn't he even denounce the round-up of Rome's Jews? Was it Pius' anti-Semitism and anti-Communism? Was he on a power trip? Did he fear that it would upset his goal for the creation of the Vatican as the centralized Catholic authority? Had Pope John 23 lived, would he have decentralized the Vatican? And why is John Paul II trying to canonize Pius?? Click to read more.
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[book] Rivonia's Children : Three Families and the Cost of Conscience in White South Africa by Glenn Frankel
Hardcover - 336 pages (August 1999) Farrar Straus & Giroux. Welcome to Rivonia, a suburb of Johannesburg. Haven't heard of it? After reading this thrilling book you won't forget it. The Rivonia trial in South Africa in 1963 sentenced Nelson Mandela and other anti-apartheid leaders to jail for life and shattered the underground resistance movement. Glenn Frankel, Washington Post editor, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, and author of BEYOND THE PROMISED LAND, was the Post's bureau chief in South Africa in 1983. In newspaper dispatches of the time we learned about Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, the ANC, and the nation's apartheid leaders, but little was known about Mandela's white lieutenants. Frankel fills in the gaps with this intimate book. In Rivonia's Children, we learn about the white, radical men and women who chose to fight in the harrowing trenches with the ANC, plan the Soweto uprising, make tactical mistakes, and suffer. Among the people we meet are Ruth First, Joe Slovo, Harry and Alan Paton, AnnMarie Wolpe, Hilda Bernstein, Rusty Bernstein, Barney Simon, Arthur Goldreich, Harold Goldreich, Helen Suzman, and Mollie Fischer (hmmm there seems to be a pattern here.) CLICK TO READ MORE.
P.S. - An exhibition at the Mendel Kaplan Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Capetown, opens in Fall 1999, titled "JEWS IN THE STUGGLE FOR DEMOCRACY AND HUMAN RIGHTS IN SOUTH AFRICA" Actually most of the Jewish community was silent during the period, and despised the Jewish leftists (Joe Slovo, Dennis Goldberg, Ronnie Kasruls, Judge Albie Sachs, Arthur Goldreich), but the exhibit explores that issue as well. 18,000 of South Africa's 75,000 (peak=120,000) Jews reside in Capetown. Click here to order this book from, read more reviews, or to add your own review.

[book] The Trust: The Private and Powerful Family Behind the New York Times by Susan E. Tifft, Alex S. Jones
September 1999. Maybe you have read the enlightening excerpts that appeared in The New Yorker (April 19, 1999 and July 12, 1999)?? The two authors spent seven years writing this book (and had unconditional access to the NYT archives) which explores the history of the Ochs and Sulzberger families, and how being Jewish shaped this dynasty that runs The Times. Adolph Ochs purchased the bankrupt New York Times newspaper over 100 years ago. (Did you know that Jacob Schiff actually owned most of the shares of the bankrupt firm?) Did you know that Adolph Ochs' father (Julius) was a Hebrew scholar in Tennessee, who came to the US in 1845? Or that Adolph's wife Iphigenia (Effie Miriam Wise) was the daughter of Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise? She escapes the tutelage of her stepmother, only to be placed under the thumb of her mother-in-law, Bertha Ochs. Did you know that Arthur Hayes Sulzberger, Adolph's son-in-law (he married Iphigene Ochs) and successor, attended the first Zionist Congress as a child, and was the son of Rachel Peixotto Hayes, a Sephardic Jew whose family arrived in the US prior to 1776 (and were members of the Sons of the Revolution). These are just tidbits. Another tidbit is that in 1906, Adolph Ochs dropped a bright globe from the newly erected (NY)Times Tower in (NY)Times Square on New Years Eve. This book is easily the best read of Fall 1999. It gets into how Judaism affected the family and its management and creation of The Times, and whether a family can continue to run a business is the 21st Century.
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[book] Generation J (call us a bunch of searchers, call us post holocaust jews, call us generation J) by Lisa Schiffman
Hardcover - 176 pages (September 1999) Harper San Francisco. According to Kirkus, "...With a blessedly light touch, Lisa Schiffman, formerly an editor with the San Francisco Review of Books and until recently a nonobservant Jew, relates her beginner's quest for a Judaism she can genuinely practice and believe. Generation J is that vast melange of youngish, contemporary Jews who, born into already assimilated families, are fragmented in their Jewishness and ambivalent toward Judaism. Schiffman's search is for outwardly Jewish behavior that doesn't compromise her happy interfaith marriage or her values of experimental openness and tolerance. The burden of the assimilated Jew who wants to observe Judaism is the self-consciousness that blocks easy entry into the world of ritual acts that virtually define the religion. That self-consciousness, which in the wrong hands becomes self-righteousness, veers towards humor and self-mocking satire in this for the most part delightful spiritual narrative. But Schiffman identifies the problem with her idiosyncratic approach to Judaism when she confesses that groups, especially ones made up of religious Jews, made her uncomfortable. Her body tattoo of David's star seems her easy substitute for the much more difficult embodiment of Judaism in flesh-and-blood communities. And so her parting pronouncement to the reader "I refuse to reject myself" sounds a pyrrhic victory over assimilation, since she has not come to terms with a large part of the Jewishness she claims to own: its boundedness to communal structures that inevitably submerge the very idiosyncrasy that has enlivened her story up to now. Schiffman's challenge will be to sustain her winsome, ironical tone as (and if) she enters more deeply into Jewish community."
Those were the words of Kirkus.... As for me, Schiffman calls our attention to the new generation of American Jews who are not affiliated, have no knowledge of Judaism other than bagels, carry Jewishness around like heavy unwanted luggage, have no "Jay - Pride", and feel unwanted, confused and lost in institutional Judaism. The might vote Democratic and teach literacy, which they feel are Jewish "things." But they are actually quite ambivalent towards Judaism. That is why the book should be read. But Schiffman approaches her Jewish quest like a social anthropologist in New Guinea (like Rappaport's Pigs for the Ancestors) studying the exotic rituals of a foreign people, seeking growth through her ambivalence, seeking immediate transformation. She visits a mikvah for a kosher dunking expecting immediate transformation, but realizes that transformation will come only through education and learning. She fresses on pork to get a feeling of what its like not to eat pork. To me, the cover says it all. At a nudist pagan wedding at the end of her initial quest, she gets a temporary henna tattoo of a Star of David. So she has Jay-Pride, but in a way violates a tenet of Judaism at the same time (albeit it is only henna, as in Yemenite wedding rites)
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[book] Zwilling's Dream : A Novel by Ross Feld
Hardcover - 304 pages (September 1999)
Author, Ross Feld of Cincinnati, has been a Macdowell and NEA grants recipient. Okay, enuf nachas, now on to the novel... Joel Zwilling, only 22, is a literary wunderkind. Just before Joel's story about a writer who is crippled by grief appears, Joel's wife and daughter are killed in a car accident. His young son survives, and Joel is crippled with writer's block. Over the next 20 years, Joel remarries, teaches college, and is eclipsed by the literary success of his son, Nate, whose own youthful writing success in NYC has given him the confidence to hope for big things. Thus Nate is astounded- and jealous - when his father, Joel, is approached by Brian Herkow, a hack of a film director who has gotten a "Holocaust foundation" grant. Brian, who has his own traumas, wants to capture Joel's first novel, about growing up as a child of Holocaust survivors, on film. Brian and his sensual assistant, Selva Tashjian (who has deep secrets, and a penchant for relations with married men), arrive in Cincinnati for pre-production work, bedeviling father, wife and son. Watch out.
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[book] The Greatest Poems of the Bible. Translated by James Kugel
224 pages. The Free Press. September 1999.
A reader's companion to some of the poems of the Bible, with Kugel's insights into their hidden beauties of deeper meanings. What do the Psalms tell us about the nature of the soul? What do the shirim/songs and proverbs tell us about monotheism and the afterlife? Kugel is a Professor of Hebrew Literature at Harvard, and a Professor at Bar Ilan University. He is also the former poetry editor of Harper's Magazine. The book includes new translations for Psalms 104, 42, 29, 51, 23, 137 and 119; Deborah's Song from Judges 5; Job 28; Samuel 2's David's Lament (How the mighty have fallen); as well as poems from Jeremiah, Isaiah, Song of Songs; Micah, Ecclesiastes and others. An example of Kugel's illumination is a chapter on Amos' prophecy on "But Let Justice Roll Down Like Waters / And righteousness Like a Mighty Stream." In addition to bringing the poem's language to greater life, Kugel explains the nature of prophecy in ancient Israel, Amos' background, and the hidden reason for calling Amaziah's Beth-El a "Beth-Sorrow." Kugel continues by discussing the use of two sentence structure in Hebrew prophecy, as in the sentence, "An ox knows its owner, and an ass it's master's trough." From structure, Kugel moves to word choice. For example, why use ox? An animal that is dull witted but readily plows with a yoke. Why use an 'ass', which is a smart animal, but cannot be controlled? The word 'knows' also means 'devoted to' and 'obeys', while the word 'master' also means 'Creator' or is it an allusion to a Canaanite Storm deity? All this illumination, and just on one sentence. I had the privilege of sitting in on some of his lectures in NYC, and can attest to his teaching skill, so buy the book for his commentaries, and go and learn.
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Click here to purchase Kugel's January 1999 book titled, Traditions of the Bible: A Guide to the Bible As It Was at the Start of the Common Era by James L. Kugel
Click here to purchase Kugel's PAPER BACK edition of THE BIBLE AS IT WAS by James L. Kugel (November 1999)

[book] Just Revenge. A novel, by Alan M. Dershowitz, Esq.
Hardcover - 352 pages (September 1999) WarnerBooks. A best selling book suspense book from the Harvard Law professor who loves to defend Jews, unless of course they are murdered by famous professional football players. This book full of moral questions, intricate plot twists, and clever legal arguments. Max Menuchen is an elderly, quiet scholar who saw his pregnant wife, son and family murdered in Vilna, Lithuania, in 1942. His dying grandfather implored Max to seek revenge. Max survives, moves to America, becomes successful. Then one day, Max discovers that the former Nazi who killed his family, Marcelus Prandus, is living near Harvard Law School and is dying of a terminal illness. If Max tries to get the government to prosecute Marcelus as a war criminal, the trial would take years. Max decides to terrorize Marcelus, who ends up taking his own life. Is Max responsible? Is he liable? Enter Defense Lawyer, Abe Ringel, who you may remember from The Advocate's Devil ($5.20).
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[book] The Wholeness of a Broken Heart by Katie Singer
Hardcover - 336 pages (October 1999). Singer tells this compelling, contemporary mother-daughter love story in all its intimacy, anger, and tzurris across four generations of Jewish women, from the Litvak shtetl and Cossack rape, to the Holocaust, immigration to New York City, to the princess life in suburban Shaker Heights / Cleveland, Ohio. This could easily become a theater piece; I can see Anna Deveare Smith (Fires in The Mirror) doing all the roles (or Ms. SINger herself). But until she does, buy this book and let the characters come alive in your mind. To read more, please click.
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[book] Ladies' Auxiliary: A Novel by Tova Mirvis
Hardcover - 352 pages (October 1999) WWNorton. A tale told in third person plural ("we", as in "we, the ladies of the auxiliary"). A tale of a society that is unchanging, or so it thinks... This is Tova's first novel and it is highly anticipated. It resides in the intersection of Kaaterskill Falls and the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. Tova, aged 27, was raised in a Yiddish speaking Orthodox household in East Memphis Tennessee, y'all. She is a graduate of the Yeshiva of the South and Barnard. She now resides in that Memphis on the Hudson... New York City (and yes, she is married and has a bambino). This book recreates a year in the life of a Southern Orthodox community, a kehilat that can be both warm, yet suffocating; sensitive, yet insular. The kind of place where the members of the synagogue's Ladies Auxiliary are warm and friendly, but gossip, share incorrect recipes, and eavesdrop. Everyone has a skeleton in their closet. One member even secretly keeps shrimp in her home. The protagonist in this novel is a 34 year old Jewish woman named Batsheva Jacobs. A blonde convert to Judaism, she is a widowed painter with a five year old daughter, Ayala. Batsheva dresses smartly, sings loudly in shul, and washes at the mikva. These things are just not done in East Memphis. She lets her students wear makeup, which is out of the community norm. And then there is a rumor that Mimi Rubin's boy, the Rabbi's son, "notices" Batsheva. Batsheva's approach to spirituality and her role divide the community and embroils it in a fight for its soul and mission. Click to read more.
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[book] Searching for My Brothers: Jewish Men in a Gentile World by Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin
Hardcover - 208 pages (October 1999) Putnam. Rabbi Salkin, 45, is the Senior Rabbi at the Community Synagogue on Long Island, NY. Because he found there were more "bars" than "mitzvahs" in modern bar/bat mitzvah celebrations, he authored the popular Putting God on the Guest List. He also penned a book on how to bring God and tikkun olam into your worklife. It's an easy hop from worklife to manhood, and just as attention must be paid to Willy Loman, attention should be paid to Jewish manhood. And I don't mean joining the Promise Keepers, rooting for Goldberg the Wrestler, or reading Susan Faludi's "Stiffed".

Salkin derives the title from the Bible story of Joseph. Jacob sent his cloistered son, Joseph, out to the field to find his brothers... Salkin faces and poses several questions, which will whet your appetite for a good read. What did Joseph, dressed in his dandy coat of many colors, find? Why was he searching? For what was he searching? Was Joseph the quintessential Jewish male, who stayed at home while his brothers were in the fields? Was he like wimpy Jewish men who stereotypically don't know how to repair things, who read Outside Magazine rather than actually climb Everest? Do Jewish men cry? Did Joseph or King David cry? Did Isaac love Esau because he was tough like his lost brother Ishmael? Is Yiddish the language of Irvings, Mendels and weakness? Is Hebrew the language of the strong? Why are Jewish men portrayed as mice in Art Speigelman's Maus? Why did Bialik portray Jewish men as powerless cowards during the Kishinev pogrom? Do Jewish men eat kosher quiche? Why is the wicked son in a Middle Age's Haggadah a soldier, and the good son a sage? Is a sedentary Jacob less masculine than the hunter Esau? Was Ishmael more manly than Isaac, since he was circumcised at 13 and not at 8 days? Was Isaac such a wimp that Eliezer had to find him a wife? Did the Roman destruction of the Temple emasculate Jewish men? Is the Orthodox minyan and yeshiva study group a male bonding experience? On the TV series, "Mad About You", why does the Paul Reiser character rely on the Bruce Willis character to show him how to be a tough, brawny male? Must we be like Macabees to be men? Why did the rabbi's ridicule the Masada zealots, the Macabees, and Bar Kochba. How does circumcision relate to a working man's balance between work and family? Is it a sin to read Playboy in Jerusalem?

These are some of the questions that Salkin explores. Mixing Jewish history with his personal tales of sportsmanship, getting beat up as a newspaper boy, getting harassed on MS-NBC, or getting harangued by a synagogue search committee chairman; Salkin helps Jewish men define masculinity, power, and issues of work, discrimination, love, libido, lust, image, circumcision, ambition, decency, pleasure, and whether God (Avinu Malkeynu) is a male, and whether it matters. Click to read more.
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[book] Destined to Witness : Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany by Hans J. Massaquoi
Hardcover - 384 pages (November 1999) William Morrow. Hans Massaquoi, a former managing editor at EBONY magazine, grew up in Nazi Germany as a black man. It's rather hard to hide out and impersonate an Aryan when you are of mixed race. The son of a well-to-do Liberian and a white German nurse, Hans lived a privileged toddler's life befitting the grandson of a diplomat. Hans and his mother become part of Hamburg's poor working class when his father returned to Liberia. For twelve agonizing years following Hitler's rise to power, Hans, like all non-Aryans, was dehumanized and devalued by the Nazis. Living in constant fear of death, by either the Gestapo executioners or Allied bombs, Hans's existence became increasingly precarious until liberation by British troops in 1945. What sets Hans's story apart from other memoirs of the Holocaust era is that his high visibility made him an easily recognizable target, stranded without the comfort of a racial community of any sort. Click to read more.
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[cover] My First 79 Years by Isaac Stern, with Chaim Potok
Hardcover - 320 pages (October 1999). Knopf. Isaac Stern has been a great--and greatly loved--violinist, who both performed music and worked on social justice. Brought to America from Russia when he was ten months old, Stern grew up in San Francisco and was quickly recognized as an extraordinary talent. In this book he shares with us both his personal and his artistic experiences: the story of his rise to eminence; his feelings about music and the violin; his rich emotional life; his great friendships and collaborations with colleagues such as Leonard Bernstein and Pablo Casals; his background as an ardent supporter of Israel; his ideas and beliefs about art, life, love, and the world we live in.
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[book] Andy Kaufman Revealed!: Best Friend Tells All by Bob Zmuda, Matthew Scott Hansen, Jim Carrey
Hardcover - 292 pages. The best bio on who the late comedian Andy kaufman was. Click to read more.
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[book] Last Survivor: In Search of Martin Zaidenstadt (of Dachau) by Timothy W. Ryback
Hardcover (September 1999) 196 pages Pantheon Books. In the Winter of 1992, Robert Gottlieb of The New Yorker magazine assigned the Austrian journalist, Timothy Ryback, to write a "report" from Dachau, a 1200 year old Bavarian town 15 miles North of Munich, which for 12 years was the site of the only KZ-stadt, or concentration camp, on German soil. With over half a million visitors per year -- 100,000 per month during the Summer -- Dachau is Germany's permanent reminder of the Nazi Holocaust. Its residents are filled with resentment and shame. Two months after Rybeck's first visit, he returned to explore the town in greater depth. This book is the product of his visits. How do the residents deal with the legacy of death? Why do people remain in a town that is clothed in death. Could you give birth to child who must have the name "Dachau" on its birth certificate? Is a resident's license plate that read "Dachau" a mark of Cain? And who is Martin Zaidenstadt? Martin is 83 years old and keeps a daily vigil at the Concentration Camp site, speaking several languages to some degree, he approaches visitors and tells his tale of survival. Is he obsessed with remembrance and witnessing? Is he deranged? Or are all residents of Dachau deranged? Born in 1911, in the Polish village of Jedwabne, Martin (Mjetek Zaideta), a Polish soldier, became a POW in 1939. Hiding his Jewish faith, he was sent to several German labor camps but ended up in Dachau in 1943. Why does Martin keep his vigil? What does he say to tourists? What happens in Chapter 14, when Ryback cannot find any mention of Martin in the camp's Nazi records. What does Ryback learn when he travels to Martin's birthplace to find out what happened to its Jews? The reader might ask, who is the last survivor? Is it Martin? Is it the town? Or as author Thane Rosenbaum pointed out in The New York Times, is it the author, whose forebearers were Nazi's? Click to read more.
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