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Spring and Summer 2000 Books
[cherry blossoms] Cherry Blossoms and Matza Balls; Lag B'Omer and May Flowers. What more can you ask for?? A Jewish Book, of course.


[book] Bee Season : A Novel. by Myla Goldberg
Hardcover - 304 pages (June 2000) Doubleday.
Already in its fifth printing ! Watch for her tour of 20 JCC's in the Fall.
From the moment I picked up this novel, I kept thinking "four men entered the garden, and only one returned unscathed...." Jewish book reading groups should keep this in mind; This will be a must read.
Maryland born, funky accordionist for the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus, Oberlin grad, and first time Brooklyn novelist, Myla Goldberg, mixes Jewish family dynamics, adolescence, a national spelling bee, Reconstructionist synagogue life, mysticism, and the writings of Rabbi Avraham Abulafia, the Kabbalist, into a witty, extraordinary, and compelling story about nine year old Eliza Naumann's quest for family status. Goldberg, an artsy girl who never fit into her science-oriented family, found the trauma of the spelling bee an excellent metaphor for the pressures of children, self-imposed pressure and the pressures from their parents. A successful and driven couple, Saul and Miriam, wonder why Eliza, an average, quiet nine year old, is not excelling in school like her older brother Aaron. Will she be tracked into the "dummies" classes forever? Is she really their daughter if she isn't a genius? But then she sweeps her class, school, district, and state spelling bees. Saul, a cantor and self-taught student of Jewish mysticism, who ignored Eliza up to this point, now invests his time into coaching her. He focuses on Eliza at the expense of his formerly annointed prodigal son, Aaron. Now only she is allowed into the inner sanctum, or garden, of his study. She is a mystical prodigy. Now Aaron loses faith. Aaron, who can recite the service by heart, who is a searcher for a repeat epiphany, no longer plays the synagogue game of "sheep" to see who will sit down first during the silent Amidah prayers. Then he meets a man in a park. This book is filled with so many insights into current Jewish life, even down to the Aaron's hilarious belief that most of the Hebrew illiterate congregation can be praying "a Doctor Seuss story" for all they know. Oh, I can tell no more; if I only had Eliza and Miriam's powers of concentration. Click to read more.
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[book cover] A Little Too Close to God: The Thrills and Panic of a Life in Israel by David Horovitz
Hardcover - 320 pages (May 2, 2000) Knopf. Isn't it fabulous to hold a dual citizenship? Readers of The Jerusalem Report, and listeners to the BBC and NPR will be familiar with David Horovitz. But this isn't a story by a Thomas Friedman(NYT) or a David Shipler(WP). This is by a reporter who lives and is raising his family in Israel, a country where for every two Jews there are three cell phones. He shows Israel in all its hues, no matter how embarrassing or life-affirming. The book opens with London born Horovitz talking about his weekly lunches at a restaurant that gets blown up by a terrorist. He wonders, are the settlers wrong to live in very safe enclaves, while he lives in a dangerous Jerusalem? Do priorities change when you have 3 kids? With British/US and Israeli citizenship, should his family just leave for the good of the kids? When David Horovitz emigrated from England to Israel in 1983, it was the fulfillment of a dream. But today, a husband and a father, he is torn between hope and despair, between the desire to make a difference and fear for his family's safety, between staying and going. But then again, Israel is like heroin to an addict. The people and the politics are so passionately bi-polar, where every decision is perceived to mean life or death. Another day in Lebanon can mean the death of a father, son, cousin, or neighbor. Even the most tabloid newspaper contains pages of political and military analyses. In this candid book, Horovitz confronts the heart-wrenching question of whether to continue raising his three children amid the uncertainty and danger that is Israeli daily life, or move with his American born wife. Along the way, he describes Israel as it enters the 21st Century, a post Zionist state that is highly politicized and fragmented, but yet a country in which everyone feels like one big dysfunctional family. A country where two PM's, the President, the spiritiual leader of Shas, and the Justice Minister are all under investigation. A country where you will be cursed at by other drivers, but they will go out of their way to help you if you have a problem, even stopping a bus to donate blood. A people who will freak out in paranoid fear upon touring Jordan, yet flirt over the top upon meeting some Jordanian guys when the bus breaks down. He provides a clear, balanced discussion between himself and his brother-in-law, an American-born Orthodox West Bank settler. Who is the na´ve one, who is the cynic, the reader can decide. This is a unique personal story (through the eyes of a Western highly politicized immigrant) of his successes, failures, mistakes, prejudices, and life experiences, and as a reporter and editor for The Jerusalem Report.
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[bookcover] Finding a Spiritual Home: How a New Generation of Jews Can Transform the American Synagogue by Rabbi Sidney Schwarz
Hardcover - 256 pages (May 2000). Let me be frank. I cannot tell you how many young Jews I know who are supremely successful in their chosen fields and professions, if not world class specialists, yet in a synagogue they are made to felt like idiots, they are uncomfortable and stressed, they are not welcomed to the club. Anyone who is a Jewish communal leader, synagogue leader, spiritual leader, or serves on the board of a synagogue, and does not read this book is committing a sin (hehe). This is a cogent study of synagogue life and revitalization in America today, and a study of synagogues (Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, Reconstructionist) that are succeeding. What are their secrets? And can Jewish communal life borrow the tactics of the highly successful American evangelical church structures in order to succeed. Click to read more expanded reviews of this book, and see which four synagogues are highlighted.
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[book cover] Hiding Places: A Father and His Sons Retrace Their Family's Escape from the Holocaust by Daniel Asa Rose
Hardcover - 384 pages (May 2000) Simon & Schuster. Who says hearing tales of hiding and escape in childhood don't screw you up? This is a book filled with irreverence, pain, candor and insight. Can you overcome a legacy, can you make atonement for childish stupidity? Rose, a winner of two PEN Awards and one O. Henry Award for his novels and travel writing, underwent a divorce, and decides to take his two young sons on a trip to Europe (Belgium, France, Spain, etc) to explore his mother's family's hiding and escape from the Nazi's in Antwerp during WWII. He also hopes to create a bond with his estranged kids, with whom he no longer lives. His mother's cousin attempted to escape Europe with his two twin daughters in hand. As Daniel, 38, Marshall, 7, and Alex, 12, visit the hiding places and cellars of Europe, Daniel ponders his own hiding places (in the mind and elsewhere) of growing up in WASPy Rowayton (Darien) Connecticut during the 1970's. He ponders other sorts of hiding too, such as changing your name from Jacov Pesach Morganstern to J.P. Morgan (true). Anyone who has traveled with children will also get a kick out of and cringe at the light hearted comments of the kids, like when one was looking for the relatives under a seat, or when one, upon seeing an arm tattooed with a number thought that it was a phone number that the relative did not want to forget. (The trip occurred 12 years ago, the kids are now in their twenties, and Rose is working on a sequel)
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[book] THE HUMAN STAIN by Philip Roth
Hardcover - 352 pages (May 17, 2000). Roth at his best, straddling two worlds, layers upon layers, concealed identities, narrated by Nathan Zuckerman. What do we really know about the person next to us? What is it that everyone knows? What can be known? The story of Coleman Silk, a 71 year old distinguished professor, who is accused, falsely, of racism against 2 black students who didn't show up for class (he asked, "Does anyone know these people? Do they exist or are they spooks?"). Silk is attacked for having a Viagra-induced affair with a 34 year old illiterate, poor, abused, suffering, part-time school janitor and milk-maid, Faunia Farley. (Is it exploitive? Is it like a presidential - intern liaison?) But Silk is actually a light skinned black man who has shed his SKIN and has been passing as JEWISH all these years. But is he the only imposter? Will anyone defend him after he was such a controversial administrator? Et tu Brute? Click to read more.
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[bookcover] Groucho: The Life and Times of Julius Henry Marx by Stefan Kanfer
MAY 2000. Former Time Magazine critic's absorbing bio on Julius Henry "Groucho" Marx and his family. They didn't call him Groucho for nothing... Mommy Minnie favored her first born Leonard (Chico), so all was not laughs off the screen. Groucho, an insomniac who liked to be alone and read, had a penchant for nursing grudges, just ask his wives, who he reduced to tears and drink. Two were lushes, one had a taste for drugs. Groucho was a middle child. His two oldest brothers, Chico (Leonard) and Harpo (Adolph), were the adored older sons while the two younger sons, Gummo (Milton) and Zeppo (Herbert) were a team. Groucho's mother called him 'the jealous one.' He wanted to be a doctor and she forced him into vaudeville. Can you imagine a Jewish boy wanting to be a doctor and winding up a comedian instead? In the act, which is recounted in the book's first section, Chico played the Italian immigrant speaking broken English, Harpo was a mute Irishman with curls and an angelic smile, and the slouching, wisecracking Groucho was a Jewish immigrant who lost his accent but kept his sarcasm (after the sinking of the Lusitania, German characters were not funny). Guess what? Groucho's greasepaint mustache came about cuz he was late for a performance and didn't have time to glue on whiskers. The book reports that much of the ad libbing on "You Bet Your Life" was scripted. One fun incident was when an anti-Semitic swim club refused to let his daughter join, Groucho responded: 'She's only half Jewish. How about if she only goes in up to her waist?" Click to read more reviews of this book.
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Click here READ ABOUT "MONKEY BUSINESS. The Lives and Legends of the Marx Brothers" by Simon Louvish, in which Groucho comes off as more likeable.

[bookcover] Hitler's Exiles: Personal Stories of the Flight from Nazi Germany to America by Mark M. Anderson (Editor)
NOW IN PAPERBACK - 384 pages (May 2000). A 1998 Los Angeles Times Book of the Year: the vivid and moving composite portrait of the historic migration of German-speaking refugees from Hitler. Hitler's Exiles is at once a moving human document and a new classic of the literature of exile. About 50 first-person accounts of the flight from Hitler's Germany to America, many published for the first time. From forgotten archives and obscure published sources, Hitler's Exiles recaptures the unknown voices of that perilous time by focusing on the ordinary people who underwent a most extraordinary voyage. Anderson also includes little-known writings by such major figures as Thomas Mann, Hannah Arendt, and Bertolt Brecht. A new preface written for this paperback edition discusses the outpouring of emotion and memory the book has generated, and includes several moving letters from relatives of those in the book. Click to read more reviews of this book.
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[book cover] Coming Home To Jerusalem: A Personal Journey by Wendy Orange
Hardcover - 320 pages (June 2000) Simon and Schuster. Israel always felt a part of Wendy's family growing up in upper middle class Long Island. Her grandfather died while giving an impassioned fund raising speech during the Six Day War in 1967. Her grandmother died the night after the Yom Kippur broke out. Her parents died during the period of the Lebanon War. Wendy Orange, a divorced, single parent, psychologist and teacher, visited Israel for the first time in 1990 for an academic conference. She was in her 40's, between jobs, newly divorced; so after a week or two in Jerusalem, she made aliyah. It was her first visit, and she knew no Hebrew, very little Jewish history, or Israeli political culture. Oh god, did my blood boil when I started reading this book. Must Israel be the haven for all those in midlife crisis? Why do these people who know nothing think they can stay two weeks at the King David Hotel and pen a column. But in the words of Tevye the Milkman, "if you've..." well never mind. This is my own problem, so let's get back to the book. This lack of knowledge didn't stop her from becoming the correspondent for TIKKUN magazine from 1991-1997.
But seriously, join her as she lands in Israel with her two daughters, finds a place to live, feels both euphoric and disassociated, moves in to the King David, finds another place to live, looks for work, finds an Ulpan, falls madly in love, makes friends, meets the intelligentsia and the cab drivers, and has an affair with her cab driver and protector. Over her 6 years there, she imparts a feeling of what it's like to live in Israeli society and be a "part" of the peace process.
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[bookcover] Suddenly Jewish: Jews Raised As Gentiles Discover Their Jewish Roots (Brandeis Series in American Jewish History, Culture, and Life) by Barbara Kessel
Hardcover - 188 pages (May 2000). Kessel argued long and hard with her friends about whether U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright knew about or intuited her parents' Jewish identity. The question gnawed at her until she placed an Author's Query in The New York Times' Book Review. Over the next eighteen months she interviewed 175 people: adoptees, crypto-Jews (Marranos), infants hidden in convents and monasteries during the Holocaust, children of Holocaust survivors, and grandchildren of immigrants who "forgot" they were Jewish, etc. These are the stories of 166 of the respondents, their recognition and responses (some were blasÚ, some were devastated, some were thrilled). For example, the Oxford student who discovered he was Jewish, and is now a NY rabbi. Click to read more reviews of this book.
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[book] The Barbarians Are Coming by David Wong Louie
Hardcover - 384 pages (March 6, 2000). The critically acclaimed Asian American author of PANGS OF LOVE, tells the funny, yet painful, tale of Sterling Lung, who instead of becoming a physician in the late 1970's, as his parents hope, becomes a celebrity chef. What makes the story Jewish, you ask?? Because it is a story of non-assimilation, about the rift between self and society and parents, oh, and of course, Sterling dates and marries BLISS, a well-off Jewish woman. Click to read more.
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[bookcover] What's Not to Love: The Adventures of a Mildly Perverted Young Writer by Jonathan Ames,
Hardcover - 288 pages (May 23, 2000). Non fiction essays by novelist and horny Jewish guy, who wrote for the NY Press. 33 essays on puberty, VD, prostitutes, enemas, you name it, and maybe even Amy Sohn. Click to read more reviews of this book.
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[book] Red Mafiya: How the Russian Mob Has Invaded America by Robert I. Friedman
Hardcover - 288 pages (May 2000). From the author you love to hate, Robert I. Friedman of the Village Voice and Vanity Fair, and the expose on West Bank zealots, and Kahane, provides this amazing, fascinating story of the Russian and Russian Jewish mobsters that reside in Israel, America, Denver, Miami and Brooklyn's Brighton Beach. How he is still alive after writing this, I have no idea. WOW, what a read. Click to read more.
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[bookcover] Shalom Salaam Peace
CCAR Press. MAY 15, 2000. A unique children's book calling for peace everywhere. In English, Hebrew, and Arabic, with authors from Jordan, Israel and the USA. Click to read more reviews of this book.
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[bookcover click me] Highlanders: Travels in the Caucasus by Yo'av Karny
Hardcover - 320 pages (May 2000) FS&G. Israeli journalist Yo'av Karny travels through the Russian Caucasus, home to sixty different former Soviet nationalities (like Chechens). Click to read more.
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[bookcover] Half-Jew : A Daughter's Search for Her Family's Buried Past by Susan Jacoby
Hardcover - 272 pages (May 2000). Susan was raised Catholic, attended Catholic schools, and was happy, but at age 20, she learned that her father, Robert, was born a Jew. Her aunt and uncle, Robert's brother and sister, had also converted to Catholicism. Was anti-Semitism so horrendous in Brooklyn and at Dartmouth? Jacoby gives us a fine investigation into the family life of her father, and the route they took for acceptance in America. Click to read more reviews of this book.

[bookcover] Klezmer! Jewish Music From Old World to Our World by Henry Sapoznik
Hardcover - 350 pages. Henry Sapoznik, a modern klezmer pioneer and parent of KlezKamp, a banjo player and son of a cantor, a civil war scholar, and Grammy nominated performer of Klezmer, has compiled this essential history of klez. He traces its route from the small towns of Germany, Poland, and Russia to the Golden Age of New York's Second Avenue to the genre's now-burgeoning global popularity. Through an examination of theater, recordings, film, radio, and the depiction of Jews in vaudeville and Hollywood, readers are introduced to the colorful characters who shaped klezmer in its early years and to the surprisingly diverse group of men and women carrying it on into the next century. In his quest to trace the roots of klezmer, Sapoznik unearthed antique 78s, sheet music, and newspaper clippings; found rare discs of long-forgotten radio programs; and, most important of all, rediscovered and championed the last generation of old-time klezmer musicians, bringing their musical styles to a new audience. Sapoznik is currently at work on a NPR documentary series with MacArthur grant winner David Isay, on the history of Yiddish radio broadcasting in America. Click to read more reviews of this book.
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Click here to order or to LISTEN to the companion 22 cut CD to this book.

[bookcover] The Compleat Klezmer by Henry Sapoznik, Pete Sokolow
Paperback - 80 pages Spiral edition. The klezmer fake book? The standard core repertoire with which any klezmer band should be familiar. Click to read more reviews of this book.
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[bookcover] The Essential Klezmer: A Music Lover's Guide to Jewish Roots and Soul Music, from the Old World to the Jazz Age to the Downtown Avant Garde by Seth Rogovoy
Hardcover - 320 pages (May 12, 2000) Algonquin Books. Take your sides, people? Sapoznik versus Rogovoy? Old school vs. new school? No rason to choose, these book go together like gin and tonic, almonds and raisins. This is the story of new style klez. Contains an excellent eighty page discography of every klez record/cd available. Click to read more reviews of this book.
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[bookcover] Troubled Memory: Anne Levy, the Holocaust, and David Duke's Louisiana by Lawrence N. Powell
Hardcover - 616 pages (May 2000) Univ of North Carolina Press. Anne Levy, a death camp survivor, and her fight in later life against David Duke, a political menace. Stephen Ambrose calls it a really wonderful book. Click to read more reviews of this book.
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[bookcover] Ravelstein by Saul Bellow,
Hardcover - 224 pages (April 24, 2000). What happens to famous American Jewish novelists as they age and face death? Can we only truly know a person when they are dead, since they can no longer keep up their appearances?
A semi-fictitious story about one of Bellow's friends, Allan Bloom. The book's character, Abe Ravelstein, is a brilliant professor at a prominent Midwestern university and a man who glories in training the movers and shakers of the political world. He has lived grandly and ferociously-and much beyond his means, for through materialism one can gain the essense of insight and sensual pleasure. His close friend Chick has suggested that he write a book of his convictions about the ideas which sustain humankind, or kill it, (gee, just like professor Bloom of Chicago) and much to Ravelstein's own surprise he does and becomes a millionaire. Ravelstein suggests in turn that Chick write a memoir of him, and during the course of a celebratory trip to Paris the two share thoughts on mortality, philosophy and history, loves and friends old and new, and old suits. The mood turns more somber once they have returned to the US and Ravelstein succumbs to AIDS and Chick himself nearly dies. Click to read more reviews of this book.
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[bookcover] Rodinsky's Room by Rachel Lichtenstein and Iain Sinclair
GRANTA (May 2000). David Rodinsky lived above a synagogue in the heart of the old Jewish East End of London. Fluent in several languages, he was the caretaker for the shul and a kabbalist. Sometime in the late sixties he disappeared. His room, a chaos of writings, annotated books and maps, gramophone records and clothes, was left undisturbed for twenty years. Rodinsky's world captured the imagination of a young artist, Rachel Lichtenstein, whose grandparents had escaped Poland in the thirties, and over a period of years she began to document the bizarre collection of artifacts that were found in his room, and make installations using images from his enigmatic bequest. She became obsessed with this mysterious man: Who was he? Where did he come from? Where did he go? Was he a crazy man? Was he bizarre? Now Lichtenstein and Iain Sinclair have written an extraordinary book that weaves together Lichenstein's quest for Rodinsky, as well as Georgian London, and the working class Jewish East End. Part mystery story, part memoir, part travelogue, Rodinsky's Room is a testament to a world that has all but vanished and the celebration of the life of a unique man. CRITICALLY ACCAIMED IN THE U.K. Click to read more reviews of this book.

[bookcover] Jewish Political Tradition, Vol.1 by Michael Walzer (Editor), Menachem Lorberbaum (Editor), Yair Lorberbaum (Editor) and Noam Zohar
Hardcover - 592 pages (April 2000) Yale Univ Press. The first volume in a new series that will define an entirely new field within Jewish Studies by identifying a Jewish political tradition. Michael Walzer is the very prominent editor of the series, providing introductions to the volume and project as well as to each chapter. It is based on documents covering a time span over 2000 years. THIS VOLUME CONCERNS AUTHORITY. Click to read more reviews of this book.
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[bookcover click me] Journey To The Vanished City by Tudor Parfitt
Paperback - 384 pages (Spring 2000) Vintage. As seen on PBS and Nova and tretold many a time in newspaper accounts of DNA markers... historian Tudor Parfitt sets out in search of answers to a fascinating ethnological puzzle: is the Lemba tribe of Southern Africa really one of the lost tribes of Israel, descended from King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba? Parfitt retraces the supposed path of the Lembas' through Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Tanzania, taking in sights like Zanzibar and the remains of the stone city Great Zimbabwe. Click to read more reviews of this book.
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[bookcover click me] Take the Cannoli: Stories from the New World by Sarah Vowell
Hardcover - 224 pages (April 2000). Move over David Sedaris, and make room for Sarah Vowell of NPR fame. Insightful and funny essays. Click to read more reviews of this book.
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