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JANUARY 2002 - FEBRUARY 2002 RECOMMENDED JEWISH BOOKS
January 15, 2002: Neil Baldwin reads from HENRY FORD & THE JEWS, B&N, W 82nd, NYC 7:30
January 16, 2002: Calvin Trillin reads from TEPPER ISN'T GOING OUT, B&N, W 82nd, NYC 7:30
January 16, 2002: Miriam Weinstein reads from YIDDISH: A NATION OF WORDS. B&N Boca Raton FL 7 PM
January 16, 2002: FREDERICK REIKEN & PAUL GREENBERG @ Rough Cut Fiction Reading,
KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street (between 2nd and 3rd Aves), 7.30PM, NYC.
January 17, 2002: Edna P. Gurewitsch reads from KINDRED SOULS. Eleanor Roosevent and Gurewitsch, B&N, Lincoln Center, NYC 7:00
January 23, 2002: PISK! WITH ADAM MANSBACK and DANIEL SIERADSKI, At Bar 13, 3rd Floor, 121 University Place, 8:00PM, NYC
January 26, 2002: Comedian Rita Rudner signs TICKLED PINK; A COMIC NOVEL, B&N. Henderson NV, 3 PM
January 28, 2002: Alan Dershowitz reads from SHOUTING FIRE: CIVIL LIBERTIES IN A TURBULENT AGE. B&N. 82nd & Bway NYC 7:30
January 29, 2002: Memoir Nation: Vivian Gornick and Phillip Lopate. Moderated by Daniel Asa Rose, memoirist and arts editor of The Forward. JCCNYC, NYC. 8 PM
February 5, 2002: Mitchell Chefitz reads from THE THIRTY-THIRD HOUR. B&N Boca Raton FL 7 PM
February 6, 2002: Literary Israel: A Night with Israeli Writers. jccmanhattan.org JCC NYC 8 PM
February 11, 2002: Frank Rich reads from GHOST LIGHT, B&N, W 82nd, NYC 7:30
February 19, 2002: Golems & Dybbuks, Horrors Real and Imagined: Thane Rosenbaum and Special Guests Also featuring clips from the 1921 silent film Der Golem, and more. JCC NYC. 8:00 PM
February 20, 2002: Blake Eskin reads from A LIFE IN PIECES: THE MAKING AND UNMAKING OF BINJAMIN WILKOMIRSKI, B&N, W 82nd, NYC 7:30
February 22, 2002: Anita Diamant reads from GOOD HARBOR, B&N, Walnut Creek CA 7:30
February 26, 2002: Thane Rosenbaum reads from THE GOLEMS OF GOTHAM, B&N, W 82nd, NYC 7:30
March 6, 2002: Binnie Kirshenbaum reads from HESTER AMONG THE RUINS, B&N, W 82nd, NYC 7:30
March 14, 2002: Emily Benedek reads from THROUGH THE UNKNOWN, REMEMBERED GATE: A SPIRITUAL JOURNEY, B&N, DALLAS, TX. 7:30
March 21, 2002: Harvard Law Prof. Frank Wu reads from YELLOW: RACE IN AMERICA BEYOND BLACK AND WHITE, B&N, Philadelphia. 7:00
April 26-28, 2002: A Weekend conference in Amherst MA (see YiddishBookCenter.org) on Jewish Fiction: The New Voices with Rachel Kadish, author of From A Sealed Room; Melvin Jules Bukiet, author of Strange Fire; Thane Rosenbaum, author of Second Hand Smoke; and Pearl Abraham, author of Giving Up America. Info at : 413-256-4900, ext. 133.
TEPPER ISN'T GOING OUT
by CALVIN TRILLIN
January 2002. Random House
A humorously acerbic novel that is as delicious as a "nice" whitefish. All critics have made a big tsimmis about this book -- rightly so. If you have your car in a space that is GFT, good for tomorrow, the book is worth leaving the space to purchase and read. Murray Tepper loves to park his car in Manhattan. He knows all the parking rules; he enjoys sitting in his parked car and signaling to other drivers that is not 'going out' of the space. Tepper's behavior sometimes irritates the people who want his spot. Murray has perfected a flick of his hand, not too aggressive, to tell people he isn't moving. It is the same finger wag used by the vindictive Mayor in a barricaded City Hall to admonish his critics. Tepper irritates the mayor, Frank Ducavelli (read as RUDY), known in tabloid headlines as Il Duce-who sees Murray Tepper as a harbinger of what His Honor always calls "the forces of disorder." Rudy, I mean Ducavelli has enforced an arcane rule that people cannot hail a taxi from the street, but must hail it from the sidewalk. He has also attempted to enforce a dress code for city parks (no skimpy running outfits). TRILLIN captures NYC so well, that it is hard to believe that the book is fiction. The book is filled with those observant nuggets, like food workers who wear gloves, but the gloves are dirty; or the cast of political entrepreneurs who take advantage of issues to promote their causes. After a story on Tepper in the post-modern East Village "Rag" weekly, fellow New Yorkers become aware of Tepper, a direct mail list maven. Counter men from Russ and Daughters and even Upper East-Siders come to sit and chat with Tepper in his car. Tepper Isn't Going Out is a wise and witty story of an ordinary man who, perhaps innocently, changes the world around him. Click to read more.
REINVENTING JEWISH CULTURE IN EUROPE
by Ruth Ellen Gruber
January 2002. Ruth Ellen Gruber is the best author on this subject, the infatuation with Jewish culture in a place where there are few if any Jews. For me, the cover of the book tells the whole story. I believe it is from the interior of a Krakow Poland synagogue, where there are cutouts of bearded hunched over "Jews" on the open floor space. I recall from my trip through Poland and the Czech Republic and Hungary that entrepreneurs manufactured a Jewish culture where there are few Jews. More than half a century after the Holocaust, in countries where Jews make up just a tiny fraction of the population, products of Jewish culture (or what is perceived as Jewish culture) have become very viable components of the popular public domain. But how can there be a visible and growing Jewish presence in Europe, without the significant presence of Jews? Ruth Ellen Gruber explores this phenomenon, traveling through Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria, Italy, and elsewhere to observe firsthand the many facets of a remarkable trend. Across the continent, Jewish festivals, performances, publications, and study programs abound. Jewish museums have opened by the dozen, and synagogues and Jewish quarters are being restored, often as tourist attractions. In Europe, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, klezmer music concerts, exhibitions, and cafes with Jewish themes are drawing enthusiastic--and often overwhelmingly non-Jewish--crowds. In what ways, Gruber asks, do non-Jews embrace and enact Jewish culture, and for what reasons? For some, the process is a way of filling in communist-era blanks. For others, it is a means of coming to terms with the Nazi legacy or a key to building (or rebuilding) a democratic and tolerant state. Clearly, the phenomenon has as many motivations as manifestations. Gruber investigates the issues surrounding this "virtual Jewish world" in three specific areas: the reclaiming of the built heritage, including synagogues, cemeteries, and former ghettos and Jewish quarters; the representation of Jewish culture through tourism and museums; and the role of klezmer and Yiddish music as typical "Jewish cultural products." Although she features the relationship of non-Jews to the Jewish phenomenon, Gruber also considers its effect on local Jews and Jewish communities and the revival of Jewish life in Europe. Her view of how the trend has developed and where it may be going is thoughtful, colorful, and very well informed. Click to read more.
The Love of Stones
by Tobias Hill
January 2002. A novel. I am following in the footsteps of a great jewel. It has been in Istanbul at least once. A stone from the artefact was sold here three centuries ago, when the shoulder-knot itself was already as old as that again. And great jewels have a way of returning to their past. Anywhere they have been - anyone they have been with - is somewhere they can be again. I sit in the place which is not mine and listen to the slow shock, shock of the ceiling fan. Ismet switches off the scales. 'Pretty little things, aren't they? I'll give you the best price I can.'
The Love of Stones follows three lives all linked by one precious jewel. Katharine Sterne searches the goldsmiths' quarters and hidden archives of contemporary London. Tokyo, and Istanbul, following the trail of a long-lost precious brooch of rubies, diamonds, and pearls once worn by Queen Elizabeth I. Two hundred years earlier, a pair of Iraqi Jewish brothers travel to London, their fortunes made by an unearthed jar of mysterious and priceless stones. An epic story spanning two continents and six centuries, The Love of Stones follows three very different people, each consumed by the same desire. At the heart of their quests is the Three Brethren, a legendary jewel that binds them together in an irresistible narrative. Click to read more.
From the Holocaust to Hogan's Heroes: The Autobiography of Robert Clary
By Robert Clary
January 2002, Madison Books. Born in France, Clary survived the Nazi death camps. The last and 14th child of his Polish born Jewish father, Robert Max Widerman was raised on the Ile St Louis at 10 Rue de eux Ponts. After some neighbors complained to the Vichy French police that Jews still were living in the building, the French police deported Robert and 12 members of his immediate family on 9/23/1942. Of those deported, only Robert survived. The book describes Clary's two lives: survival of several Nazi camps, and a career in showbiz afterwards. The book details Clary's arrest in 1942 at the age of 16 and his 31-month-long incarceration in three Nazi concentration camps in Drancy, Upper Silesia, and Poland, as well as Buchenwald, where he was liberated by the Allies on April 11, 1945 (he put on a show for the troops). His parents, two sisters and eight other immediate family members perished during the war. Would you believe that Clary got his stage name at Buchenwald, and not in some cigar filled Hollywood agent's office? Clary details how a friend "lost" his file at Buchenwald, which saved him from sure death on the death march of the prisoners. After the war, Clary went back to singing inParis and was discovered by Harry Bluestone while entertaining in a dance hall in 1947. This led to recording songs that became hits in America the following year. He came to the United States in October of 1949 and recorded several more singles for the Capitol label. His meeting with Merv Griffin led to an introduction to Eddie Cantor's daughter Natalie (whom he married some time later). He went on to be discovered on Broadway in "New Faces of 1952", and then become famous playing Corporal Louis Lebeau on Hogan's Heroes. I cannot tell you how many people have told me that they thought the Clary, like the actors who played Hogan, Colonel Klink, and Schultz, are all dead. But actually Clary is still active and living. He appeared in the 1982 NBC television movie, "Remembrance of Love" with Kirk Douglas about the World Gathering of the Jewish Survivors of the Holocaust in Jerusalem. A documentary for PBS followed entitled "Robert Clary A-5714, A Memoir of Liberation." He went on to host his own cable television show. This is his story.
A brief addendum... while promoting his book in January 2002, Clary did a phoned-in radio interview on a shock-jock NYC radio station (WNEW 102.7 NYC). The disc jockeys played Hitler-like speeches, played canned laughter, and made rude remarks as Clary spoke about his arrest and survival. Clary hung up.. twice. BRAVO. Any proceeds from the sale of this book on MyJewishBooks.com will be used to Fuck Over the dj's Opie and Anthony, WNEW program manager Rick Delgado, and program director Jeremy Coleman. Call (877) 692-1027 WNEW-102.7 FM and tell them and their sponsors not to fuck with Jews .
ACCEPTING THE YOKE OF HEAVEN
Commentary on the Weekly Torah Portion
by Yeshayahu Leibowitz
January 2002. 203 pages. Urim Publications. The erudite Professor Liebowitz passed away in 1994, but he has left us with fresh thoughts on the weekly Torah portions. He was a Professor of Science at Hebrew University, having immigrated to Palestine in 1935 at the age of 31. His commentaries on the weekly parshat reveal his radical ideas on the nature of god and god's relationship to humans, he confronts the nature of prayer, and our concept of holiness in the world. He promotes the idea of compliance with the law for its own sake, and not for reward or punishment. For example, take his commentary on Parshat Noach and that the meaning Tower of Babel is to look at the world after the flood. Was it a world as evil as the pre-flood world? Was the dispersion of people after Babel a punishment? Maybe it wasn't a punishment? Maybe dispersion is a reward, allowing for a difference in thought and practice and decentralization. Maybe Babel was a story of conformity, centralization and totalitarianism. Dispersion ended this. This is a very fresh thought, no? Or take Parhsat Vayeshev, the story of Jacob and Joseph and Egypt, and the sentence "Joseph was BROUGHT DOWN to Egypt. Is it actually a story of free will and determinism, a story of antinomies and paralogisms. Leibowitz focuses on midrash and writings that define the word "dealing and deeds" as "making a false accusation." He delves into the idea of God bringing deeds into the world and upon man, and later places the blame on man for these deeds, and the idea that the strife between the brothers and the sale of Joseph was pre-ordained, since it was known that the Hebrews would be slaves in Egypt for 400 years. In his four page discussion of Parshat Korach, he ties this parshat to parasha of tzitzit, and the ending sentences of the Shema which is recited daily. Korach, Leibowitz writes, rebelled against Moses saying "for all the community, all of them are holy." But, Leibowitz continues, the tzitzit idea of holiness (which appears in the paragraph above the Korach story) differs from that of Korach. The tzitzit concept of holiness is one that should be strived for, it is a goal; while Korach believes it is something that is granted. Korach has absolved himself of responsibility, he boasts that he is a member of a holy nation, even though he is contemptible. Are the people holy or do they become holy through their actions and performance of certain tasks? Guess what, the ideas from Korach did not end when he was swallowed up by the Earth. It continues today. If you enjoy these ideas, buy the book and read it.
BE MY KNIFE
by DAVID GROSSMAN, Translated from Hebrew
January 2002. A novel. FSG. A book in three sections. First Yair speaks, then Miriam. Yair Einhorn, a 33 year old Jerusalem bookseller and married father, sends love letters to a woman he met at a party. They are seductive; he doesn't want sex or a physical relationship, he only wants to influence this woman through his letters. This is the first section of the book. In the second section, we read from the woman's dairy. This woman, Miriam, with carnal desires, lives with her lover, Amos, and their extremely disturbed son (although the boy is probably not hers, but the son of her former lover who was also Amos's lover). In the final section, they meet. Can Miriam be Yair's knife Click to read more.
MY STROKE OF LUCK
by KIRK DOUGLAS
January 2002. Autobiography of the actor and producer Kirk Douglas, age 84. who not only survived a helicopter accident, but has now survived a stroke. Much of his recovery and strength was derived in his Jewish renewal. A peculiarly painful sensation in his right cheek was the first warning, followed by a bewildering inability to talk. Lying in a hospital bed set up in his home, Douglas felt his situation was hopeless. How could he be an actor and not be able to talk? He contemplated ending his life, but when he put a gun in his mouth and painfully bumped his teeth, he withdrew the weapon and began to laugh at his own dramatic gesture. Douglas recounts how he battled his depression not only with medical care but also by recalling happy memories (he shares reminiscences about Sinatra, Reagan and others), and he explains tips and exercises he learned from his speech therapist. Inspired by the courage of others who endured physical or emotional illness, Douglas began to overcome his fears. With the help of his supportive family (who refused to coddle him), he even returned to the screen in Diamonds, playing a boxer who had a stroke. Entertaining and uplifting, Douglas's story is a lesson in survival, one that will entice readers whether or not they have had similar illnesses. Click to read more.
THE CASE FOR AUSCHWITZ
EVIDENCE FROM THE IRVING TRIAL
By Robert Jan Van Pelt
January 2002. Indiana University Press. A fantastic courtroom drama and important book that places Irving where he belongs. In the dump with other moronic historians who deny the Jews were gassed in death camps. David Irving wrote that "More people died in the back seat of Edward M Kennedy's care [on Martha Vineyard] than ever died in a gas chamber in Auschwitz." David Irving, a Holocaust Denier and Revisionist or Negator, sued Deborah Lipstadt for libel in a British court. He lost. Van Pelt testified against Irving. This is his fascinating book in which he proves that David Irving was wrong, proves that Irving is into Holocaust Negationism, and tells the story of the trial. Click to read more.
THE PEDDLER'S GRANDSON
Growing Up Jewish in Mississippi
Now in Paperback By Edward Cohen
January 2002. Did you think the only Jews in Mississippi were Sheriff O'Sullivan and Jpost.com reporter Aryeh O Sullivan? Cohen grew up in Jackson, Mississippi, in the 1950s and 1960s. In a city of 100,000 people, mostly Baptists, he was one of about 300 Jews. His immigrant grandparents settled there, coming from Romania, Russia, and Poland. Cohen remembers that the only Jewish institution in town was Temple Beth Israel, located next door to the state women's club, which didn't allow Jews, and down the street from his high school, which did allow Jews but not blacks. Farther north was the Jackson Country Club, which allowed neither. Cohen's grandfather and great uncle founded a clothing store in Jackson, where his father worked all his life and where the author worked every Saturday for much of his childhood. Cohen describes how he left Mississippi for college (the University of Miami), where he met northern Jews and felt again like an outsider because of what he termed his Southerness. This thoughtful and beautifully written memoir is a revelation about the allure of assimilation and the evasiveness of identity. Recipient of prizes from Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters and from the Mississippi Library Association.
Click to read more.
10TH GRADE - A NOVEL
by Joseph Weisberg (editor at Slate Magazine Slate.com)
January 15 2002. Random House. Joseph Weisberg knows unrequited love. He was best of friends with a girl in high school, but like all good Jewish boys, he remained friends and never made a romantic move on her. Ahh.. So this pain is good fodder for a first novel. The novel opens as a journal kept by sophomore Jeremiah Reskin. Jeremiah, his parents and sister live in Hutch Falls, NJ. Jeremiah Reskin has big plans for tenth grade, his sophomore year in Hutch Falls High School. He wants to make some friends; he wants to make it to second base with a girl. He wants to improve upon that D+ in Math I, and hang in the food court. When he meets a group of semi-bohemian outcasts, he learns about group back rubs and bra straps in the basement of one of his friends, the daughter of divorced parents. There is the death of the grandmother of a friend, thoughts of sex, a bonding trip with dad to a menswear shop on Manhattan's lower Fifth Avenue (Mo Levitsky's posing as Moe Ginsburgs), and a trip to a bikini department of a large store with a certain, purple-color-loving young woman. The son of a lawyer, Jeremiah likes malls, orange julius, and a poster of Charlie's Angels. He is in lust with Renee Shopmaker, the hottest girl in school. As we read Jeremiah's journal, we relive 10th grade and that is a fun adventurous read. VTS, very true statement. Click to read more.
The Thirty-Third Hour : The Torah of Moshe Katan
by Mitchell Chefitz
January 2002. A novel. St Martins. The second installment of the Moshe Katan series of stories. Rabbi Arnold Greenberg is scholarly and leads a very large Miami synagogue. He has hired Moshe Katan to create and teach a family learning class, using Katan's highly untraditional approach to Jewish learning. But Brenda has made an accusation against Katan. Greenberg is comfortable with Tisha B'Av, while Katan is more Purim if you catch my drift; Greenberg would like to avoid the unruly children of a Purim celebration. But now, due to the accusations, he must investigate Katan's teachings and methods. Click to read more.
My People's Prayer Book, Vol. 5 :
Birkhot Hashachar (Morning Blessings)
Traditional Prayers, Modern Commentaries
by Rabbi Lawrence H Hoffman
Hardcover - 240 pages (October 2001) Jewish Lights Pub. The Fifth volume in the series of My People's Prayer Book.
This stunning work, an empowering entryway to the spiritual revival of our times, enables all of us to claim our connection to the heritage of the traditional Jewish prayer book. It helps rejuvenate Jewish worship in today's world, and makes its power accessible to all. Vol. 5-Birkhot Hashachar (Morning Blessings) features the authentic Hebrew text with a new translation designed to let people know exactly what the prayers say. Introductions tell the reader what to look for in the prayer service, as well as how to truly use the commentaries, to search for-and find-meaning in the prayer book. Framed with beautifully designed Talmud-style pages, commentaries from many of today's most respected Jewish scholars from all movements of Judaism examine Birkhot Hashachar from the perspectives of ancient Rabbis and modern theologians, as well as feminist, halakhic, Talmudic, linguistic, biblical, Chasidic, mystical, and historical perspectives. Authors/Topics include: Marc Brettler/Our Biblical Heritage; Elliot N. Dorff/Theological Reflections; David Ellenson/How the Modern Prayer Book Evolved; Ellen Frankel/A Woman's Voice; Joel M. Hoffman/What the Prayers Really Say; Lawrence A. Hoffman/History of the Liturgy; Yoel H. Kahn/Ancient and Modern Variations; Lawrence Kushner and Nehemia Polen/Chasidic and Mystical Perspectives; Daniel Landes/The Halakhah of Prayer
Click here for: My People's Prayer Book, Vol. 4: The Shabbat Torah Service. by Rabbi Lawrence H Hoffman
Click here for: My People's Prayer Book, Vol. 3: The Morning Psalms. by Rabbi Lawrence H Hoffman
Click here for: My People's Prayer Book, Vol. 2: The Amidah. by Rabbi Lawrence H Hoffman
Click here for: My People's Prayer Book, Vol. 1: The Shma and It's Blessings. by Rabbi Lawrence H Hoffman
HUNGERING FOR AMERICA:
Italian, Irish and Jewish Foodways in the Age of Migration
By Hasia R. Diner, Professor of American Jewish History at NYU New York University
January 2002. Harvard University press.
A fantastic social history. How did Jewish, Italian, and the Irish immigrants to America meet American culture through their food folkways. How did their food define their status, and reinforce identity? How did the battle of kosher foods affect the battle between religious and assimilationist desires? How did each culture introduce their cuisine into mainstream American culture, and profit by it. Why didn't the Irish introduce a cuisine (famine)? How did "Biddy" Irish cooks and household servants influence mainstream American cuisine. How did their introduction to middle class cuisine where they worked affect the foods they cooked at home for their own families and their culinary aspirations. Click to read more.
From the Washington post review by J. Yardley; "Surely there is not a nation on Earth whose citizens enjoy a more heterogeneous cuisine than do Americans early in the new century. Not merely do our restaurants offer an astonishing variety of foods and cooking styles from all over the world -- in provincial cities and small towns as well as in such established culinary nirvanas as New Orleans, San Francisco and New York -- but the food we cook at home has taken a sharp turn toward the international. Not so long ago the American household rarely ventured beyond steak and fries or chicken and slaw; now it ventures confidently (if not always competently) into variations on Chinese or Italian or Pakistani or Mexican or Thai or . . . you name it. The possibilities are limitless... This is the precise opposite of the American response to the cooking styles and food traditions of the millions of people who came here during what is commonly known as the age of migration, the century between 1820 and 1920. A citizenry that was still predominantly Anglo-Saxon in origins looked with as much suspicion on the food the newcomers brought as it did on the newcomers themselves. If they opened restaurants or groceries, it was mainly to serve themselves. Assimilation may have been taking place in other aspects of American life, but there was little evidence of it in the kitchen. If this was the result of misgivings on the part of the native-born population, it was also because each immigrant group came to the New World with different expectations about the food that awaited them there. So the aptly named Hasia Diner argues in "Hungering for America," an inquiry into the culinary lives of the Italians, the Irish and Eastern European Jews before and after they came here... dreams of eating better were intrinsic to larger, more generalized dreams of a better life. Diner has found a fair amount of documentary evidence that immigrants were thrilled by the abundance of American foodstuffs and counted it among the greatest of the blessings they enjoyed, but not much evidence that this was a specific goal of immigration before, as opposed to after, the fact... Whatever the case, it remains that Italians, Irish and Jews all left places where they had been hungry. In Italy, Diner argues, the lower orders resented the rich for the ample diets they enjoyed; when they got to America they "desired the foods once reserved for the rich" -- "pasta and olive oil, along with meat and cheese" -- and made a point of eating them in America as soon as they could afford to. Transplanting Italian food to America, adapting it to accommodate their new circumstances, they remained resolutely Italian -- indeed they celebrated being Italian in the food they ate -- even as they worked their way into the American mainstream.
The Irish, by contrast, came with no real tradition of food beyond the potato, which gave them little beyond sustenance and often not even that. When they got here, Diner writes, the "memory of famines, the ubiquity of the potato and the legacy of the Irish class structure made it impossible for the immigrants and their children to use America's plenty as a way of celebrating being Irish." In America as in Ireland, they gathered and socialized not at the table but in the saloon, which "linked the Irish in America to the emotionally satisfying world of past memory and ushered them into a comfortable world of friendship with others like themselves." As for the East European Jews, they "lived in a world where food was sacred for all, but in which scarcities loomed for most." The Sabbath, with its rituals of food and faith, was the center of their week, but only a few were able to eat as well as their religion told them they were worthy of. In America, they encountered a "conflict between 'fitting in' and observance." They wanted to be both American and Jewish, which turned out to be more difficult than they had anticipated. They tried to eat the foods of the old country, but could not resist the "newer, decidedly richer ones" of America."
JEWS WITHOUT JUDAISM
Conversations with an Unconventional Rabbi
by Rabbi Daniel Friedman
January 2002. Founder of Humanistic Judaism and leader of a congregation in Deerfield IL, Freidman converses with the reader on Humanistic Judaism and eight topics: God, the Jewish denominations, observance, anti-Semitism, creation, intermarriage, spirituality, and Jews and non Jews. Click to read more.
SHOUTING FIRE; CIVIL LIBERTIES IN A TURBULENT AGE
by Alan M Dershowitz
January 2002. Little Brown. More thoughts from Dershowitz on church state relations, preventive detention, torture, shouting fire, and that rights are not God given absolutes (they are positive laws). Includes the essay "WHY ARE SO MANY LAWYERS JEWISH?" Charles Schenck would be proud. Click to read more.
STRANGERS IN THE HOUSE; COMING OF AGE IN OCCUPIED PALESTINE
by Raja Shehadeh
January 2002. Born in 1951, Raja Shehadeh is an author of several books on the Middle East and Israeli intransigence and occupation. His father, Aziz, a prominent Palestinian, was an early and leading advocate of a two state solution after the 1967 War. This got him murdered by another Palestinian, and Raja blames Israel for investigating the murder very slowly. In this book Raja recounts his youth in Ramallah, and his family's longing for the good days in Jaffa. Much of the book is on his relationship with his father, and the dysfunctional family which was probably caused by the pain of exile from Jaffa and Palestine by the Israeli Jews who degrade Palestinians daily. His father and the family used to look at the coast from Ramallah and pine for the Jaffa lights they saw in the distance. Aziz later discovered that the lights he saw were the lights of metropolitan, developed Tel Aviv, not Jaffa. He realized that while the Palestinians sat and cried poetically about their losses, Israel developed and progressed. Aziz, Raja's father, practiced law after 1967 even though the Palestinian union ordered Palestinanians not to practice law under Israeli occupation. Anthony Lewis writes the introduction, so you know it must be philo-Semitic... Not... But seriously, I found it to be an important book to read if you want to understand the conflict better.
A HOMELAND IN THE WEST: UTAH JEWS REMEMBER
by Eileen Halett Stone
January 2002. A carefully compiled history of Jewish pioneers, mothers, merchants, business owners, soldiers, and residents in Utah. Click to read more.
Kill Duck Before Serving : Red Faces at the New York Times
by Linda Amster (Editor), Dylan Loeb McClain (Editor), Allan M. Siegal (Introduction)
January 2002. Editing errors from The New York Times. In describing a Jewish mourning custom, a person's clothes was said to be rented instead of 'rent.' Hehe. Or you might have heard how the leader of the Israeli NRP (National Religious Party) was described as a "bedouin." Click to read more.
THE RELIGIONS OF STAR TREK
by Ross S. Kraemer, William Cassidy, and Susan L. Schwartz
January 2002. The religious themes that are found in Star Trek (the four TV series, and 9 films) are explored. What themes are expressed by Q, Picard, Data, Wesley, and Guinan? Gene Roddenberry created the series with a strongly humanistic and secular feel. The later series, however, authored by new teams of writers affirmed spirituality on the shows. Chapters are divided into God, religious figures, evil, myth and ritual, afterlife, salvation, and death. Click to read more.
Some days you need a good book on which to focus your attention
A LIFE IN PIECES. THE MAKING AND UNMAKING OF BINJAMIN WILKOMISKI
by Blake Eskin
February 2002. WHAT DETECTIVE WORK!! A lesson in why you should read with skepticism.
Do you remember when Binjamin Wilkomirski published FRAGMENTS in 1996 and was critically praised as the best Holocaust memoir? And the 60 Minutes said he was a fraud. It turned out he was, and Swiss citizens took comfort because they were able to reduce their feelings of guilt over his life. This is the story of what happened. It is also a discussion of what happens when Holocaust memoirs are discovered to be works of fiction, and why some people (like Lauren Grabowski/Lauren Stratford) choose to pose as survivors to further their careers or psyches).
THE GOLEMS OF GOTHAM
by Thane Rosenbaum
February 2002. A novel that is chock full of unique ideas. Rosenbaum, Fordham Law Professor (Law and Literature) and author of "Second Hand Smoke", has created this interesting novel about an interesting Upper West Side family, a young girl, a violinist, a golem, the spirits of dead Yiddish poets, some South American rabbis at a Manhattan shul that meets in a church. As in his other works, this is a story of a man, a son of Holocaust survivors, who is haunted by his parent's experiences. Oliver Levin, a writer of mysteries, is profoundly affected, naturally, by the double suicide of his survivor parents (Lothar and Rose Levin) in Miami Beach. His father kills himself on the bimah of a synagogue right before the Reading of the Torah service. He is emotionally dead (you mean like a body without a soul), so naturally his wife leaves him and their daughter. His daughter, Ariel, has a plan to help her father. From the Upper West Side of Manhattan, she gathers the clay of the park, and builds of golem. But she also resurrects the ghosts of the greatest writers who endured Hitler, writers such as Jerzy Kosinski, Primo Levi, Jean Amery and Paul Celan. These figures and other ghosts wreak a havoc on Manhattan and the family that Ghostbusters and the marshmallow man never thought of. Click to read more.
THE WAR AT HOME : A MEMOIR A NOVEL
by Nora Eisenberg
February 2002. PAPER BACK EDITION. The reader follows Lucy from age 3 to age 14. Lucy Lehman has a secret. Everybody loves her eccentric family but nobody knows what's really going on. Her mother is a respected dance teacher, whose creative movement classes can calm the most incorrigible Bronx delinquents. Her father, just returned from World War Two, is a working class hero. On a good night they'll eat canapés and marshmallows for dinner, do the dishes in the tub while the kids are taking a bath and sing old labor songs. But on a bad night, the insults fly along with the furniture. Told with wit, understanding, and remarkable pluck, The War at Home is an autobiographical novel that follows an inseparable brother and sister who flourish despite a household in which insanity is the norm. Every page summons the lost world of the outer boroughs of New York City in the 1950's, where apartment houses tower over abandoned orchards, lonely kids roam the woods of Bronx Park unafraid, and the Bronx River ripples with the hope of Huckleberry Finn's Mississippi. Click to read more.
YOU'RE ONLY AS GOOD AS YOUR NEXT ONE:
100 GREAT FILMS, 100 GOOD FILMS, and AND 100 FOR WHICH I SHOULD BE SHOT
by Mike Medavoy with Josh Young
Feb 15, 2002. Pocket. Medavoy tells his compressed life story of birth to mailroom (Universal) to studio mogul (United Artists, cofounder of Orion, Chairman of Tristar, leader of Phoenix Pictures). Unfortunately, he only spends half a page on life as a jew in Shanghai til age 7. . Click to read more.
LOST HERO. RAOUL WALLENBERG'S DRAMATIC QUEST TO SAVE THE JEWS OF HUNGARY
by Danny Smith
Feb 2002. Harper UK. Everyne should see the film, The Scarlet Pimpernel in honor of Wallenberg. The story of Wallenberg, before during and after the War. Wallenberg is the lost Swedish businessman who saved over 4500 Hungarian Jews and helped to briefly halt the deportation of 147 trainloads of Hungarian Jews (417,000 Jews) to death camps in Poland. Click to read more.
HESTER AMONG THE RUINS
by Binnie Kirshenbaum
February 2002. A novel. Hester Rosenfeld, born at the end of the baby boom, is a historian, a specialist in academic literary adultery, and an American Jew. She, her lithe body, kissable lips, and dark curls travel to Germany, a Germany of Hitler's Willing Exeutioners, a Germany where you get better service when you where a Star of David around your neck (damn it, why cant they be rude, why do they have to be nice when you want the Germans to prove that they are evil), to interview Heinrich Falk, an older, married historian. They have an affair; a divorce occurs. Slowly we learn more about Hester and her insecurities, her feelings about her parents, her comfort or discomfort as a modern Jew in Munich and the new Germany. We also learn about Falk and the burdens or lack of burdens of post war intellectual Germans. Click to read more.
ME TIMES THREE
by Alex Witchel (The New York Times)
January 2002. Everything's going right for Sandra Berlin. She is living in Manhattan, climbing the editorial ladder at ultra-chic fashion magazine Jolie!, (ELLE) and she's just become engaged to Bucky Ross, her high-school sweetheart. Bucky's her knight in shining WASP armor (she is from Polish Jewish stock), a successful ad executive and a descendant of Betsy Ross, and their future promises a life of comfortable suburban bliss: the Tudor mansion, the beautiful children, the country club. And then, three weeks later, at a party at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Sandy meets Bucky's other fiancée. Who tells her about Bucky's third fiancée. Which begins Sandy's journey through the unfamiliar world of heartbreak and betrayal-and the most excruciating blind dates in the history of singledom. As she tries to piece her life back together, she relies on the common sense and compassion of her best friend, Paul-a rising young film agent, gorgeous, gay, and moneyed-to keep her sane. But even Paul has his secrets, and soon Sandy is forced, on her own, to reexamine her past and, more important, what she wants for her future. Me Times Three is comic and tender, outrageous and wise-a shrewd, dead-on portrait of a certain slice of New York life. It's a story about wished-for ideals versus hard realities, about being who you are versus the desire to fit in, and, finally, about how love can surprise us in the most unexpected ways. Click to read more.
The Collected Stories of Joseph Roth
by Joseph Roth, Michael Hofmann (Translator)
Belatedly recognized in this country, but long acclaimed in Europe for such brilliant, classic novels as The Radetzky March, Roth died in 1939 in the early days of WWII. The 17 stories in this collection display his diverse but sometimes erratic talent. In the early entries, Roth paints his plots and characters in short, broad strokes, a trait leading to abrupt, unpredictable plot twists that occasionally blur the effect of his shorter works. When he stretches out and delves into the irony and humor of European life, however, his narratives acquire considerable resonance. "Station Fallmerayer," written in 1933, is a heartrending account of an Austrian station master who becomes obsessed with a Russian countess he rescues from a train wreck, despite the effects his pursuit has on their respective marriages. "The Triumph of Beauty" works on a different level as Roth explores the impact of an attractive, fickle hypochondriac on her beleaguered husband. Several other narratives extend to novella length, and the collection also contains works that were intended as blueprints for novels, such as the vividly evocative, elegiac "Strawberries." His penultimate achievement, "The Leviathan," tells of a coral merchant preoccupied with the mystery of the sea, who falls for the lure of selling fake merchandise, only to join his precious original wares in the watery depths. This collection marks the first time Roth's short fiction (some of which came to light only recently) has been available in English, and although a few of these stories are immature early works, taken together they testify to the talents of a writer who was penetratingly prescient about the tragedies that marred the 20th century.
ARNOLD SCHOENBERG'S JOURNEY
by Allen Shawn (husband of Jamaica Kincaid)
February 2002. Farrar Strauss and Giroux. Proposing that Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) has been more discussed than heard, more tolerated than loved, composer Allen Shawn puts aside ultimate judgments about Schoenberg's place in musical history to explore the composer's fascinating world in a series of "linked essays -- soundings" that are more searching than analytical, more suggestive than definitive. In an approach that is unusual for a book of an avowedly introductory character, the text plunges into the details of some of Schoenberg's works while at the same time providing a broad overview of his involvements in music, painting, and the history through which he lived. For those who have heard his opera, The Frau Without a Shadow, they will see how he was a bridge from the Romantics to the 12-tone atonal Moderns. Emphasizing music as an expressive art of rhythms and tones, Shawn uncovers both the seeds of his radicalism in his early music and the traditional basis of his later work. Born in 1874, in the city of Freud (Vienna), he was the son of a very religious, Orthodox Jewish mother and a shoemaker father. A cellist and violinist, he had to leave music school as a teen when his father died. From his work in a bank, he taught himself music composition, and moved to Berlin where he was exposed to the political cynicism of that city. After he was forced to flee, he continued in musical composition, hung out with the Marx brothers in Hollywood, invented a musical typewriter and coalition chess. Click to read more.
The ILLUMINATED SOUL
by Aryeh Lev Stollman (Neuroradiologist)
February 14, 2002. Stollman, 47, is a radiologist at Mount Sinai Hospital Hmm... I wonder if he read my MRI which I had performed there in January 2002. Had I known he was there, I would have read this book in the waiting room. This is Dr. Stollman's second novel (The Far Euphrates). And not for the story... Dr. Joseph Ivri, a famous neuroanatomist, raised in an observant Jewish household in Windsor, Ontario (across the Lake from Detroit), reflects upon his career and life. It is late in life and he has written his own book of wisdom, which he titles "The Illuminated Soul." He becomes famous and a celebrity like Deepak Chopra. In this novel, Ivri recalls that at age 14, he is introduced to a boarder in his home, the beautiful and scholarly Eva Laquedem. A Prague native, she has escaped the Nazi's via Japan and Shanghai and has smuggled with her the 15th Century Augsburg Miscellany, a rare Hebrew manuscript. She is gracious and sophisticated in the eyes of a young obsessive Ivri. Eva is a red haired wanderer who has descended or encamped in Windsor like the cloud that following the Hebrews in the desert. She knows the Torah trope better than anyone else. Like a sponge, she gathers wisdom. Like a sun's rays on growing plants, she transforms them, she affects those around her. Before she departs, she bestows upon Ivri, his mother, and his nearly blind brother an individual blessing. The richness of Torah study, the ancient languages of the Near East, and the opening up of one's soul are some of the gifts that the mysterious boarder bestows on the Ivris and the reader. Can her stories transform them with a new hope after the death of Joseph's father? Is it true that thesoul continues and cannot be lost? Click to read more. (watch this space in 2003, when Stollman will publish his collection of short stories)
A Homeless Conscience in the Post Everything World
by Joel Shalit
February 2002. An excellent collection of essays by Shalit, a young American radical Marxist Jewish satirical pundit. A must read for those interested in fresh thinking on post everything philosophy, secular Jewish life in America, the acts of evangelical Christians, and why you shouldn't send a Jewish kid to an Episcopal high school. Click to read more.
ERIK JAN HANUSSEN - HITLERS JEWISH CLAIRVOYANT
by Mel Gordon
February 2002. The life of Herschmann Chaim Steinschneider, the psychic, hypnotist and clairvoyant, who was murdered in Berlin by Hitler's SA in 1933. Click to read more.
JEWS AND MEDICINE. AN EPIC SAGA
by Frank Heynick
February 2002. Ktav. The sweeping history of a people (Jews), and a science (medicine, and medical practices). Click to read more.
by Eric Dezenhall
February 2002. A novel. Jonah Eastman, a Jewish pollster and beltway spin doctor (like the author) is hired by a South Jersey mobster who needs an image makeover for a casino license. Jonah's grandfather was a Jewish capo in the mob. A fun story of the mob, spinning, politics, and klezmer music. Click to read more.
SOROS. THE LIFE AND TIMES OF A MESSIANIC BILLIONAIRE
by Michael T Kaufman
February 2002. Random House. Biography of George Soros, AN UNSUNG HERO, who survived the Holocaust, escaped Hungary and became a competitive, games-playing, billionaire philanthropist, philosopher-king, and advocate of democracy. He admits to delusions of grandeur, a love of Karl Popper's ideas, and a goal to become the conscience of the world. Click to read more.
THOUGHTS FROM A QUEEN SIZED BED
by Mimi Schwartz
February 14 2002. Schwartz writes about her life, marriage, husband's stroke, child's wedding, parents, funerals, breast cancer, etc. Click to read more.
Peoples of an Almighty God
Competing Religions in the Ancient World (Anchor Bible Reference Library)
by Jonathan Goldstein
February 2002. Doubleday/Anchor. 512 pages with huge, and I mean huge, endnotes. Goldstein, a retired Professor from University of Iowa, and fmed for his work on the Maccabees, shows that the people of the Near East believed in a single almighty Yahweh god. He shows how Babylon and Hebrew thought battled for supremacy, both the children of a supreme almighty. Hebrew literature chronicles the Hebrews' belief in an almighty Yahweh, even after Yahweh's defeat to the Babylonian Marduk deity. Using this thesis, he reconstructs how Hebrew and Babylonian theologies mixed. How did theology change in the face of disaster and catastrophe? Why didn't God intervene at the time of adversity? How did the Jews and the Persians appease and beseech their God? Why did the Jews argue over the inclusion of the Book of Daniel? How did the conquering success of Alexander the Great affect the theology of the Jews, the Persians, and the Egyptians? Was defeat the will of God or the defeat of the almighty God? Did Yahweh punish Israel with exile? Marduk will the humiliations of Babylonia? How did Ahuramazda lose to Ahriman? Is Isaiah 40-55 (Deutero Isaiah) about something OTHER THAN Cyrus of Persia's liberation of the Jews from their exile in Babylon? Is the Book of Daniel actually a story of Babylonian divine succession (using the name Marduk in disguise)? PW found it excellent but turgid; I found it fresh and excellent. Click to read more.
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