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Thanks for visiting
our Jewish Book of the Week selection. (click on a listing to learn more, or purchase it for up to 50% off, tax free) WEEK OF OCTOBER 1, 2000
Jewish Book of the Week


[book] GERSHON'S MONSTER. A STORY OF THE JEWISH NEW YEAR By Eric Kimmel
September 2000. Age 5 and Up. Every Rosh Hashana, in Jewish communities around the Earth, some Jews symbolically dispose of their sins by emptying their pockets of bread crumbs into streams, rivers, or seas. Some do this symbolically, others with meaning, and a few forget Isaiah's admonition against choosing the improper fast. The process is known as tashlikh. Eric Kimmel, a prolific Jewish children's book author, presents this book for the High Holidays based on a Hasidic tale about tashlikh. The book is based on a Hasidic tale of the Ba'al Shem Tov (BeSHT), and also incorporates the writings of Rabbi Maimonide's 12th Century Laws of Repentance (Chapter 2), and Rabbi Benay Lappe's "Six Steps for Doing Teshuva."
Now let's get to the lovely book. Gershon the Baker and noble wife Fayge live in Constantsa on the Black Sea. Is (Constant)sa a town where change does not occur? Gershon the Baker is uncaring and self-absorbed; he sweeps his flaws into his cellar each Friday and forgets them. He never make amends or apologizes. Gershon cares nothing about other people's feelings. He barges into rooms; he knocks things over; he never says, "Thank You." At Rosh Hashana, he takes all his sins and flaws that he swept into the cellar, places the into a sack, and takes them down to the Black Sea. There he deposits them and forgets them. But do sins just disappear if true repentance is missing?
When Gershon travels to Kuty to see a famed rabbi in order to plead for the birth of a child, he is oblivious to the rabbi's teachings that Gershon is undeserving and uncaring. But the wonder rabbi relents, and Fayge gives birth to twins within a year. But what about Gershon's ways? They influence the family, the kids, the community, and the Black Sea, until one day, they rise up like a sea monster as the twins are playing on the beach.
Can Gershon the Baker change? Will repentance be true? Will the twins be saved? Is there a way to lessen the final decree?
Click here to order this book from Amazon.com, read more reviews, or to add your own review.




WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 17, 2000
Countdown to Elul


[book] God at the Edge: Searching for the Divine in Uncomfortable and Unexpected Places by Rabbi Niles Elliot Goldstein
AUGUST 2000. Crown Publishing. I read a review that said it needs better editing, but after reading it, I found it to be, at times, rambling in a GOOD way. There are many alternate paths to god, and god is present in the darkness as well as the light. Many people find god in pretty parks, humble houses of worship, massive mountaintops, and serene meadows. Others find spirituality in foxholes, in the muck and mire, in degradation, or in prison. In the bible, Avraham Avinu smashed the idols in his father's retail idol outlet. Rabbi Goldstein did not smash an idol, he just smashed a urinal in a fit of mortal rage and anger at a Manhattan bar two weeks prior to graduating college. He spent a night in the Manhattan's Tombs Prison with accused murderers and transvestite prostitutes. But didn't Joseph spend time in jail, as did Shneur Zalman? Didn't Jonah have to go down to Jaffa, down to the hold of the ship, and down into a fish to turn around? These events led to spiritual awakenings and eventual leadership. A restless Rabbi Goldstein, 33, is seeking authenticity, meaning, wholeness, and rest. He is a police chaplain and DEA advisor, and a founding rabbi of the New Shul which met at HUC-JIR in Greenwich Village/Manhattan (now meets at Judson Kirche). He is also a specialist in the Fear of God, as author of "Forests in the Night. Fear of God in Early Hasidic Thought." His book is part travelogue and part spiritual search. For example, on a trip to Nepal and Katmandu, he and his father attend a weekly animal sacrifice in Dakshinkali. As a goat's head is severed, and his father hugs him, Niles is reminded of the Akedah, and thinks of sacrilege. When discussing the fine line between the spiritual and sacrilegious, he is reminded of Nadav and Avihu and the Golem of Prague. His trip 'into the wilderness' of Alaska and meeting with a hungry grizzly bear brings on thoughts of the Rambam's discourse on fear and the awareness of one's meagerness in comparison to god. He has the ability to find God while dog-sledding in the Arctic Circle, while counseling police officers in the Bronx, getting dumped by a young girlfriend in Princeton, and while on additional excursions in Asia, Alaska, Boston, Africa, and the wilds of New Hampshire (but is the company of infighting, howling, hungry sled dogs better than the company of fellow, infighting Jews?). To put it succinctly, this is OUTSIDE magazine meets Jewish renewal; a must read for those who know that Jewish discovery and growth takes place in muck more than in comfy splendor.
Click here to order this book from Amazon.com, read more reviews, or to add your own review.





WEEK OF OCTOBER 29, 2000
Jewish Book of the Week


[book] THE WOMEN'S TORAH COMMENTARY: New Insights from Women Rabbis on the 54 Weekly Torah Portions by Rabbi Elyse Goldstein
Jewish Lights Publishing. When you picture a rabbi, do you picture a young, beardless, mother of three? You should. As Rabbi Goldstein writes in the introduction, Abraham Geiger wrote in 1837 that "our whole religious life will profit from the beneficial influence which feminine hearts will bestow upon it." Rabbi Elyse Goldstein, a 1983 HUC-JIR grad, is the leader of the Kolel Adult Center for Liberal Jewish Learning program in Toronto (kolel.ORG), a program that is so successful that they are building their own building. She wanted to be a rabbi since the day of her Bat Mitzvah ceremony. She knows that divrei Torah by women provide a unique perspective. I predict that her book will be the bat mitzvah gift book of choice in this decade. Over fifty, YES FIFTY, women rabbis teach the reader with inspiring commentaries, and NOT JUST feminist commentaries on the parsha's that deal with the Hebrew matriarchs. No, this is in the weekly Torah portion format, starting with Bereshit/Genesis' first chapter (Bereshit) and ending with Davarim/Deuteronomy's last chapter (Vzot Habrachah/The Death of Moses). The week by week format is an asset, and makes it an excellent resource. And not only does the book contain enlightening commentaries, but there are nearly half page biographies for each of the rabbis who provide the commentaries. These bios provide as much enjoyment as the commentaries, since they provide a profile of each woman's path to the rabbinate. The Foreword is by Rabbi Amy Eilberg (JTS, 85). In it she lays the groundwork for women in the rabbinate (beginning with Regina Jonas in 1935, Sally Preisand in 1972 and Sandy Sasso in 1974) and its feminization. Some of my favorite commentaries were Rabbi Lori Forman's (JTS, 88) Bereshit discourse on the creation of Eve; Rabbi Rebecca Alpert's (RRC, 76) Shmot drash on Tziporah; Rabbi Karyn Kedar's (HUC, 85) Ve-era commentary on the many names on God; Rabbi Ilene Schneider's (RRC, 76) Shemini discourse on Kashrut, Food, Women , and Eating Disorders; Rabbi Gila Colman Ruskin's (HUC, 83) insight into Ekev- Circumcision, Womb, and Spiritual Intimacy; Rabbi Barbara Rosman Penzer's (RRC, 87) commentary on Serach daughter of Asher in Vayechi; and Rabbi Helaine Ettinger's (HUS, 91) drash on Tazria, niddah, and brit milah.
Click here to order this book from Amazon.com, read more reviews, or to add your own review.




WEEK OF OCTOBER 1, 2000
Jewish Book of the Week


[book] GERSHON'S MONSTER. A STORY OF THE JEWISH NEW YEAR By Eric Kimmel
September 2000. Age 5 and Up. Every Rosh Hashana, in Jewish communities around the Earth, some Jews symbolically dispose of their sins by emptying their pockets of bread crumbs into streams, rivers, or seas. Some do this symbolically, others with meaning, and a few forget Isaiah's admonition against choosing the improper fast. The process is known as tashlikh. Eric Kimmel, a prolific Jewish children's book author, presents this book for the High Holidays based on a Hasidic tale about tashlikh. The book is based on a Hasidic tale of the Ba'al Shem Tov (BeSHT), and also incorporates the writings of Rabbi Maimonide's 12th Century Laws of Repentance (Chapter 2), and Rabbi Benay Lappe's "Six Steps for Doing Teshuva."
Now let's get to the lovely book. Gershon the Baker and noble wife Fayge live in Constantsa on the Black Sea. Is (Constant)sa a town where change does not occur? Gershon the Baker is uncaring and self-absorbed; he sweeps his flaws into his cellar each Friday and forgets them. He never make amends or apologizes. Gershon cares nothing about other people's feelings. He barges into rooms; he knocks things over; he never says, "Thank You." At Rosh Hashana, he takes all his sins and flaws that he swept into the cellar, places the into a sack, and takes them down to the Black Sea. There he deposits them and forgets them. But do sins just disappear if true repentance is missing?
When Gershon travels to Kuty to see a famed rabbi in order to plead for the birth of a child, he is oblivious to the rabbi's teachings that Gershon is undeserving and uncaring. But the wonder rabbi relents, and Fayge gives birth to twins within a year. But what about Gershon's ways? They influence the family, the kids, the community, and the Black Sea, until one day, they rise up like a sea monster as the twins are playing on the beach.
Can Gershon the Baker change? Will repentance be true? Will the twins be saved? Is there a way to lessen the final decree?
Click here to order this book from Amazon.com, read more reviews, or to add your own review.




WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 17, 2000
Countdown to Elul


[book] God at the Edge: Searching for the Divine in Uncomfortable and Unexpected Places by Rabbi Niles Elliot Goldstein
AUGUST 2000. Crown Publishing. I read a review that said it needs better editing, but after reading it, I found it to be, at times, rambling in a GOOD way. There are many alternate paths to god, and god is present in the darkness as well as the light. Many people find god in pretty parks, humble houses of worship, massive mountaintops, and serene meadows. Others find spirituality in foxholes, in the muck and mire, in degradation, or in prison. In the bible, Avraham Avinu smashed the idols in his father's retail idol outlet. Rabbi Goldstein did not smash an idol, he just smashed a urinal in a fit of mortal rage and anger at a Manhattan bar two weeks prior to graduating college. He spent a night in the Manhattan's Tombs Prison with accused murderers and transvestite prostitutes. But didn't Joseph spend time in jail, as did Shneur Zalman? Didn't Jonah have to go down to Jaffa, down to the hold of the ship, and down into a fish to turn around? These events led to spiritual awakenings and eventual leadership. A restless Rabbi Goldstein, 33, is seeking authenticity, meaning, wholeness, and rest. He is a police chaplain and DEA advisor, and a founding rabbi of the New Shul which met at HUC-JIR in Greenwich Village/Manhattan (now meets at Judson Kirche). He is also a specialist in the Fear of God, as author of "Forests in the Night. Fear of God in Early Hasidic Thought." His book is part travelogue and part spiritual search. For example, on a trip to Nepal and Katmandu, he and his father attend a weekly animal sacrifice in Dakshinkali. As a goat's head is severed, and his father hugs him, Niles is reminded of the Akedah, and thinks of sacrilege. When discussing the fine line between the spiritual and sacrilegious, he is reminded of Nadav and Avihu and the Golem of Prague. His trip 'into the wilderness' of Alaska and meeting with a hungry grizzly bear brings on thoughts of the Rambam's discourse on fear and the awareness of one's meagerness in comparison to god. He has the ability to find God while dog-sledding in the Arctic Circle, while counseling police officers in the Bronx, getting dumped by a young girlfriend in Princeton, and while on additional excursions in Asia, Alaska, Boston, Africa, and the wilds of New Hampshire (but is the company of infighting, howling, hungry sled dogs better than the company of fellow, infighting Jews?). To put it succinctly, this is OUTSIDE magazine meets Jewish renewal; a must read for those who know that Jewish discovery and growth takes place in muck more than in comfy splendor.
Click here to order this book from Amazon.com, read more reviews, or to add your own review.





WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 10, 2000

[book] PEDRO AND ME. Friendship, Loss, and What I Learned
By Judd Winick of MTV's Real World 3 in San Francisco

Paperback. September 6, 2000. 187 Pages. Henry Holt.
In this Summer of Reality TV and opportunities to win $1 million by screwing over or excluding your roommates, Judd Winik, a cartoonist, and member of the third season of MTV's The Real World, presents us with the true story of living on a reality TV show for six months, where the prize was not $1 million and a Hollywood contract, but a lifelong lesson in friendship, courage, and love. Written in cartoon, or graphic novel, form, this is one of the few cartoon books that will choke you up. (not even Art Spiegelman's Maus did it as well). Judd takes us behind the scenes of life in the Real World house, and imparts to us what he learned about friendship and striving to be a mensch in one's life. Behind the scenes, Judd tells us about the night sweats, the pneumonia, Pedro's anxieties, and Judd's growing fondness for his housemate (now fiance), Pam. The reader will also learn more about the life and death of Pedro Zamora. The first four chapters cover Pedro's life before his invitation to join the Real World 3 house. Born on a leap day in a leap year in Cuba, anointed as a Grande Cabeza, Pedro was a scholar, track team captain, friend, brother and son. Zamora faced the realization that he was HIV Positive when he was only 17. Judd's book graphically conveys how Pedro, a popular student, faced his school and announced that he was living with the virus. With 25% of all new AIDS cases occurring among American teens, the book serves as an additional wake up call to readers and educators. As with Shephard, many Americans believe that Zamora gave more by dying than by living. This is far from the truth, and readers can get confirmation of this by reading this book as well as a chapter totled "Limitations" that did not make it into Winick's book (can be found on PedroAndMe.Com). All net proceeds on sales of this book through MyJewishBooks.com will be donated by us to the PedroZamoraProject.com
By the way, this isn't in the book, but readers of MyJewishBooks.com may be interested to know that during the filming of Real World 3, Puck wore a t-shirt with a swastika on it. For over an hour, Judd debated with Puck about the wearing of this shirt, explaining why it is offensive. Puck had a whole litany of excuses, about how it was an Indian symbol of power, etc. After an hour, Judd gave up. Pedro had overheard the exchange. Judd told Pedro that he didn't think that Puck was anti-Semitic; Puck was just an idiot. Why should Judd bother with continuing to debate him? Pedro replied, "This isn't just about you. This isn't just about the conversation in the house... they killed homosexuals.. Gypsies and dissidents... You should never go easy on someone who promotes hate." Pedro was obviously wise beyond his years.
Click here to order this book from Amazon.com, read more reviews, or to add your own review.




WEEK OF AUGUST 20, 2000

[bookcover] Jew Vs. Jew: The Struggle for the Soul of American Jewry by Samuel G. Freedman
Hardcover - 384 pages (August 2000) Simon & Schuster. I started to read this book the day after an Orthodox neighbor of mine said to me that the vandalization of the Liberal (HUS) yeshiva in Jerusalem was probably the work of Reform Jews seeking sympathy for their plight. Okay...
At a time when America's 6 million Jews should feel more secure and cohesive than ever, a CIVIL (civil as in calm most of the time) WAR is tearing us apart (well at least Jewish leaders, the rank and file is probably not concerned with the issue). Congregations, neighborhoods, even families are taking sides in battles about Jewish identity and Jewish authenticity. The conflict pits fundamentalist against secularist, denomination against denomination, even liberal against conservative within each branch of Jewry. JEW VS. JEW tells the story of how American Jewry has increasingly -- and perhaps terminally -- broken apart in the last forty years. The flash-points range from conversion standards to the role of women, from the peace process in Israel to the sexual climate on an Ivy League campus. But behind them all, as Samuel Freedman writes, lie common causes. Israel once was a unifier of Jews, now it divides them. Anti-semitism is no longer a unifying threat. Why are non-Orthodox Jews trying to stop an Orthodox congregation from building a synagogue in suburban Beachwood, Ohio? Why did a Jewish man (Harry Shapiro) try to blow up a liberal Florida synagogue where Shimon Peres was speaking? What happened when a Los Angeles synagogue leader tried to use more gender neutral language at her synagogue by adding the names of the matriarchs to the Amidah (Sarah, Rachel, Rebecca and Leah)? Freedman, a former reporter at the NYT and a journalism Professor at Columbia, was attending his local synagogue and saw the tremendous conflict between members, among various Jewish denominations, among Zionists, among various levels of parentage and observance. This led to this book on how the Jewish community in America has become fragmented since 1960. Has Israel fragmented Jews rather than bring them together? Has the lack of a single enemy at whom to direct community wrath caused internal strife? has the Jewish community begun to eat at itself? Is an intermarriage rate of 52% a problem? Why are the Orthodox stratified among the YU-Modern Orthodox, the Agudath Israel, and the various Hasidic sects? Will American Judaism end up being a handful of Orthodox and the rest a group that has seder's and watches Seinfeld?
Watch your local listings for a debate between Freedman and Ari Goldman (BEING JEWISH), coming to a town near you. Click to read more reviews of this book.
Click here to order this book from Amazon.com, read more reviews, or to add your own review.





WEEK OF AUGUST 13, 2000

[book] In Praise of Public Life by U.S. Senator Joseph I. Lieberman (CT-D) with Michael D'Orso.
Hardcover - 192 pages (February 2000) Simon & Schuster. In 1996, only 50% of the eligible voters cast a vote in the Congressional elections. Few desire to go into public service anymore when you can make $$ on the internet. A quick read by one of America's eleven serving Jewish U.S. Senators (Democrat, Connecticut), and member of the Congressional Minyan and Prayer Breakfast. A man that the New Republic says has an independent mind and observes tradition. Lieberman got the public service bug like many, after hearing JFK's inaugural speech. (of course, had the media been as intrusive in JFK's life as it has been in current office holders, JFK would be no hero to Lieberman). This book is Lieberman's call to other for public service, a plea for banishing cynicism from American politics, and a glimpse of what the life of a senator is like and how the Senate really works. Lieberman begins by complaining that today's public servant "must face questions not only about how he is doing his job but how he is living his life--and how he has lived his life." This poisonous atmosphere of ad hominem politics and attack-dog journalism has created an environment in which young people don't want to enter public life, writes Lieberman. He asks his interns, and they tell him that they do not want to live through the media's intrusive spotlight and inspection or raise the millions needed to mount a campaign. The don't want to give the time commitment and not have a family life. He offers his own career as a tonic, describing the challenges and joys of working his way through the party ranks and achieving his dream of becoming a U.S. Senator. Personal contacts are tremendously important to passing legislation, patience and persistence are perhaps a senator's two most useful character traits, and foreign trips represent one of the best opportunities to get to know colleagues and transact business. Click to read more reviews of this book.
Click here to order this book from Amazon.com, read more reviews, or to add your own review.





WEEK OF AUGUST 6, 2000

[book] Beautiful Wasps Having Sex by Dori Carter
Hardcover - 272 pages (June 2000) William Morrow. Why do Jews enter the screen trade? Is it cuz of their parents expectations? Dori Carter's funny, first novel is about a disillusioned Jewish Hollywood ex-screenwriter looking back over her experiences. Ms Frankie Jordan (previously Francine Fiegleman, which sounds a lot like Zelda Zuckerman, the author's grandma) is approaching 40, facing a divorce, and finding it hard to finish her screenplay. Then she meets Jonathan Prince. Prince, who is Frankie's agent's secretary, is Jewish, handsome, intelligent, 24, eager to make something of himself in the movie industry, and apparently Frankie's devoted fan. Or so Frankie believes, until, after a painful betrayal, she realizes that to Jonathan she was only a small step on his way to the top. There's no particularly happy ending here, except that Frankie comes to understand herself and her fellow Hollywood Jews better as a result of her experience with Jonathan. Beneath the humor is an analysis of why Jews have always played such a major role in the movie industry. Click to read more.
Click here to order this book from Amazon.com, read more reviews, or to add your own review.





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