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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 24

[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 northern 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 Govan Mbeki (president Thabo Mbeki's father) 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. We learn about how the Eastern European background of many of these white associates made their parents fear the Afrikaner National Party and render the community speechless to the partheid laws. Among the people we meet are Ruth First, Joe Slovo, Sachs, Harry and Alan Paton, AnnMarie Wolpe, Arenstein, Hilda Bernstein, Rusty Bernstein, Barney Simon, Lazar Sidelsky (who gave Mandela his first law firm job), James Kantor, Feistenstein, Arthur Goldreich, Kodesh, Harold Goldreich, Helen Suzman, and Mollie Fischer (hmmm there seems to be a pattern here.) PS- please note that many were Communist and openly hostile to their Jewish ancestry. 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 Amazon.com, read more reviews, or to add your own review.



WEEK OF OCTOBER 17

[book] BAD JEWS by Gerald Shapiro
Hardcover - 278 pages (October 1999) Zoland Books. Shapiro's second collection of short stories. The first one was From Hunger which was filled with absurd, funny and sardonic stories. In this fresh collection, we meet an unusual assortment of Jewish characters living on the edge, going through divorces, having adulterous trysts, realizing that when a door opens to good fortune, it will probably slam shut on a finger. In "Bad Jews", the father of Leo Spivak passes away in Arizona. Leo must arrange for a cheap coffin and a cheaper eulogy, and maybe he'll realize that here in middle age, he still isn't a mensch. In "Worst Case Scenario", Leo turns up in San Francisco as a salesperson of weird security goods, who ends up stalking a woman for whom he had a high school crush. In "Suskind the Impresario", we meet Elliot Suskind, the P T Barnum for the Museum of the Mind in San Francisco. As the museum's publicist, he arranges for a publicity stunt involving bike messengers who will race across the city, and a sex contest that literally kills his mother. Click to read more.
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WEEK OF OCTOBER 10

[book] The American Jewish Desk Reference from The American Jewish Historical Society.
600 PAGES. Hardcover. October 1999, RandomHouse. Arranged by subject, this is a comprehensive reference covering Jewish life in America, beginning with Joachim Gaunse, who landed in Roanoke Island over 400 years ago in 1585. Include 100 photos, a timeline, 500 biographies, and subject headings such as Rituals and Celebrations, Conversion, Intermarriage, Science, Entertainment, Politics.
AN EXCELLENT HANUKKAH OR BAR/BAT MITZVAH GIFT
Click here to BUY this book for a 20 - 30% discount from its list price



WEEK OF OCTOBER 3

[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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WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 26

[book] Ladies' Auxiliary: A Novel by Tova Mirvis
Hardcover - 352 pages (October 1999) WWNorton. A tale told in third person plural. 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 Memphis Tennessee, y'all. She now resides in Memphis on the Hudson... New York City (and yes, she is married and has a bambino). This book recreates Southern Orthodox Jewish life that can be both warm yet suffocating, sensitive yet insular. 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 Memphis. She lets her art students wear makeup. And then there is a rumor that Mimi Rubin's boy, the Rabbi's son, Yosef, "notices" Batsheva, and she is allowed to study with him one-on-one. Batsheva's approach to spirituality and her role divides the community and embroils it in a fight for its soul and mission. Click to read more.
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WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 19

[book] The Nazi Officer's Wife by Edith Hanh Beer with Susan Dworkin
368 Pages. Hardcover. (October 1999) Morrow. Edith Beer was your basic, excelling, Austrian assimilated Jewish law student in the 1930's. When the Nazi's overran Austria, her family bribed officials to obtain exit visas for Edith's two sisters. Edith, did not flee. Why? Well they was an issue of money, and then there was Pepi, her boyfriend. Edith got deported to Germany, but retruned to Vienna, went underground, got forged papers, fled to Munich, and married Werner Vetter, a Nazi official. This is a gripping story of survival that reveals life under the Nazi's, life on the run, and a submerged Jewish identity. Click to read more.
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WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 12

[book] Beginning Anew : A Woman's Companion to the High Holy Days by Gail Twersky Reimer (Editor), Judith A. Kates (Editor)
Paperback - 384 pages (September 1997). In illuminating commentaries on the biblical texts read on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kipper, a number of contemporary female authors, scholars, theologians, and educators offer a fresh perspective on Jewish history, tradition, and religion. This elegant series of articles focuses on the relationships of the Jewish matriarchs to the women around them. Why is the bible always discussing barren women, like Hannah, Sarah, and Rachel? What is it like to give your husband your handmaid as a concubine? Why did Sara banish Hagar? Was she still angry over her prior barrenness? How do you think Hagar felt? How did Sarah feel? Why do we read these texts on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur? Insightful, thought-provoking, and wise--a treasure for all Jewish women seeking insights for the New Year. Click to read more.
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WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 5

[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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WEEK OF AUGUST 29

[book] A Joyful Noise: Claiming the Songs of My Fathers. by Deborah Weisgall
Hardcover - 256 pages (September 1999) Atlantic Monthly Press.
Avalon meets the cantor's granddaughter...
Psalm 100 begins, "Make a joyful noise to the Lord...serve the Lord with gladness." This verse is carved above the doorway to the synagogue in Ivancice, Moravia, the synagogue in which the author's ancesters sang and prayed. In "A Joyful Noise," Deborah Weisgall, a critic for The New York Times, tells a moving story of growing up with two remarkable men who lived life as if they were characters in an atonal opera. Her Czech-born grandfather Abba served as a cantor in Baltimore; and her Czech-born father, Hugo, was an often frustrated husband, opera composer, JTS teacher, and conductor of the Baltimore synagogue's holiday choir. These men were descended from a long line cantors. Deborah grew up in this 1950's milieu, but as a girl, could not fully participate in the musical tradition of her forebears. A Joyful Noise recounts Deborah's turbulent search for a place within the family tradition, and finally, her triumphant discovery of a way to make the men who would exclude her - who are also the men she loves - listen to her voice. As in the prayer, Unasena Tokef, these men were like the great shofars, yet a still small voice needed to be heard. I can assure you will not survive Chapter 13 with dry eyes. I highly recommend this book not only as a memoir, but as a book that evokes the feeling of growing up as a Jewish female in the 1950's, that cool Spring yet warm feeling of opening the door for Elijah during a seder, the Jewish flight to the suburbs, the Jewish participation in the civil rights movement, a woman's lifelong desire to be noticed, and the pain of high school love. Sure, I had problems with the book.... I was surprised that much of it took place in her childhood and teen years, and was surprised by her portrayal of her mother, but these issues are so minor when compared with the overall excellence of the book's stories and readability.
Click here to order this book from Amazon.com, read more reviews, or to add your own review.



WEEK OF AUGUST 22

[book] One God Clapping: The Spiritual Path of a Zen Rabbi by Rabbi Alan Lew and Sherril Jaffe
Hardcover - 320 pages (August 1999) Kodansha. Whenever I am in San Francisco, that City by the Bay, I leave my heart at Beth Shalom, the friendliest shul West of Nevada. Rabbi Alan Lew, the popular Rabbi of San Francisco's Congregation Beth Shalom discusses his rich Brooklyn youth, his family's move to the vacuous and anti_semitic 'burbs of Westchester, his studies at Penn, his marriage, his move into Zen and ten years in monastic contemplation to fulfill his spiritual yearnings, and his return to Judaism and the rabbinate. Who else do you know who traveled alone from Penn to DC for the March on Washington, but left right before Rev. Dr. M. L. King gave his "Free At Last" speech, because he thought he should call a friend at a pay phone to tell her that he wouldn't be able to make it for dinner? This is the story of his integration of the East with the West. And to think, what he could have been had his ill-gotten Everlast Boxer shorts and gloves not been stolen. But seriously folks, this book is both easy to read and interesting. It's about Jewish Karma, baby. Click to read more.
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