Monday, February 1, 2016

Photos from the World’s Most Isolated Jewish Communities

By Abby Sher for Jewniverse

The wandering Jew is more than a stereotype and a striped houseplant.

In their beautiful new book, Scattered Among the Nations: Photographs and Stories of the World’s Most Isolated Jewish Communities, Bryan Schwartz, Jay Sand, and Sandy Carter explore what it feels like to practice Judaism in far-flung corners of the globe.

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Monday, January 25, 2016

Herman Wouk, the American Jewish Writer Who Wrote Huge Best-Sellers and Wasn’t Especially Neurotic

The 100-year-old titan of American letters recalls his very happy publishing career, in the new ‘Sailor and Fiddler’


By Adam Kirsch for Tablet Magazine   

Looking back on it, the triumph of American Jewish literature in the 20th century seems like something foreordained. Take a people, Eastern European Jewry, that had always cherished literacy and give them a freedom they had never been granted before, and the result is a creative explosion—Death of a Salesman, The Adventures of Augie March, Portnoy’s Complaint, The Catcher in the Rye (not to mention the Broadway musical, Tin Pan Alley, and Hollywood). Why is it, then, that the American Jewish writers who were most successful, whom we now regard as classics, did not make success their theme? On the contrary, they generally wrote about failure, alienation, neurosis, and guilt—to the point that these subjects came to seem stereotypically Jewish in American culture. If the American Jewish story is, on balance, a very happy one, why are our books so miserable? Where are the well-adjusted Jewish writers?

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Monday, January 18, 2016

Good on Paper: A Novel

Review by Juli Berwald for Jewish Book Council

Don’t be fooled by the chick-lit-sounding title of Rachel Cantor’s second novel, Good on Paper. Much more than a beach read, this book a highly-crafted, multi-layered, complex story that prompts the reader to question the line between fiction and reality.

Shira Greene is a temp worker and a single mother raising her daughter, Andi, with the help of her old college friend Ahmad. She’s also a Ph.D. washout. Her thesis on Dante was nearly brilliant—until life got in the way. Shira suffers from the wounds of her mother’s abandonment of her when she was a child, her father’s suicide, and a freak accident that killed Ahmed’s best friend. Unable to cope with the compounding losses, Shira retreats into a comfortable safety of mediocrity.

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Monday, January 11, 2016

Robert Capa's Road to Jerusalem

By Stuart Schoffman for Jewish Review of Books

When David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the establishment of Israel on May 14, 1948, at the old Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Robert Capa was there. The world’s most famous photojournalist had covered the Spanish Civil War, the Allied conquest of North Africa and Italy, the invasion of Normandy, and the liberation of Paris. He had hobnobbed with Hemingway, romanced Ingrid Bergman, and toured Stalin’s Russia with John Steinbeck. Now he was in the Jewish homeland for the first time. His striking image of the state’s founding moment was recently shown in the postmodern wing of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, one of the 40-plus prints in Robert Capa: Photographer of Life (Tzalam shel ha-chayim in Hebrew).

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Monday, January 4, 2016

A Remarkable Kindness: A Novel by Diana Bletter

By Joan Baum for Hadassah Magazine
The title of this ambitious, compassionate tale of four women who love, lose and rededicate themselves to life refers to a “solemn, ancient, sacred” burial ritual, a hesed shel emet, the truest act of kindness. It is described by a rabbi in the book as the greatest mitzva because “the dead can never thank you.” Jewish communities have always had burial societies, as Aviva—the oldest and strongest of the American-born quartet—points out. But in agricultural, seaside villages such as Peleg in northern Israel, where the story takes place, such care to cleanse, dress and pray over a body by strangers as well as friends constitutes a hallowed rite that ironically can bring about a renewed appreciation of living.

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Monday, December 28, 2015

New Novel From Jonathan Safran Foer Coming in September

By Alexandra Alter for The New York Times

In the book of Genesis, when God calls for Abraham to order him to sacrifice his son Isaac, Abraham replies obediently, “Here I am.”

That line provided inspiration for the author Jonathan Safran Foer, whose new novel, “Here I Am,” will be published in September by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. The novel, his first since “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” was published in 2005, unfolds over a single month in present-day Washington, as a Jewish family with three sons falls apart after the parents’ marriage falters. While the family implodes, relatives from Israel are visiting for the bar mitzvah of one of the sons. The drama unfolds as a larger catastrophe engulfs the Middle East, when a massive earthquake devastates the region and Israel is invaded.

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Monday, December 21, 2015

An Improbable Friendship


An Improbable Friendship: The Remarkable Lives of Israeli Ruth Dayan and Palestinian Raymonda Tawil and their 40-year Mission to Build Understanding Between Their Peoples by Anthony David


Review by Annette Gendler, Jewish Book Council
Marketed as a chronicle of the friendship between Ruth Dayan, the first wife of Israel’s iconoclastic war hero Moshe Dayan, and Raymonda Tawil, a Palestinian leader in her own right who ended up becoming Arafat’s mother-in-law, An Improbable Friendship does not deliver. Given its highly personable introduction, involving Skype sessions with these two feisty older women—Ruth in Tel Aviv and Raymonda in Malta—the reader wonders how they became and remained friends. That question, however, is never answered.

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