Monday, September 29, 2014

The Secret Legacy of Biblical Women: Revealing the Divine Feminine

("The Secret Legacy of Biblical Women: Revealing the Divine Feminine" by Melinda Ribner)

Review by Judith Fein for Hadassah Magazine


Revealing the Divine FeminineIn this startling and passionate book, Melinda Ribner, a psychotherapist and teacher of Kabbala, meditation and healing, pushes back against the domination of men in the field of biblical interpretation. Not only does she profile the biblical matriarchs and provide ways we can learn from them and pray to them for Divine intercession, but she gives each of them a voice and interviews them; she asks them pointed questions about how we can benefit from their knowledge, wisdom and life stories.

From Eve, we learn to enter into dark places in our lives to heal what is wounded. Sarah instructs us to remain true to our visions and walk in grace. Rebecca encourages us to discern truth from falsehood. Rachel, Leah and the handmaidens Bilha and Zilpa call for a new consciousness and greater connectivity to the world. Dina’s spiritual teachings allow us to transform negativity. Miriam helps us to express our own vision and to inspire others. Batya encourages us to follow the truth of our own souls, even when others try to dictate who we should be or how we should behave. Chana instructs us in the power of prayer. Queen Esther gives us courage to do what is difficult by using faith, courage and intelligence.

Sometimes the voices of the women are so clear, transcendent and powerful that it is tempting to believe the author is channeling them. At other times, the book is more informational and didactic. Ribner wants us to form groups to study, read about, learn from and pray to these biblical women.



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Monday, September 22, 2014

In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist: A Novel

By Sara Trappler Spielman in Hadassah Magazine

In the Courtyard of the KabbalistIn her second book, In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist (New York Review Books, 207 pp. $16 paper), set in Jerusalem in 1999, Ruchama King Feuerman depicts the human landscape by building contrasting religious and political portraits. Romantic, suspenseful and insightful, the author has created a compelling connection between a Jew and a Muslim, Isaac and Mustafa, skillfully crafting an unusual yet believable friendship and intertwining plot. Short chapters switch between their narratives.

Mustafa, a lonely 55-year-old Arab janitor, works scrupulously on the Temple Mount, subservient to the domineering Sheikh Tawil. Isaac Markowitz, a 43-year-old Orthodox single man, moved to Israel from the Lower East Side after his mother died. He is working as an assistant to an elderly kabbalist, Rebbe Yehudah.

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Interview: Rabbi Joseph Telushkin

by William Liss-Levinson for JewishBookCouncil.org

TelushkinWilliam Liss-Levinson, member of the Board of the Jewish Book Council, sat down with fellow Board member and noted author, scholar and speaker Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, to discuss this newest book, Rebbe, focused on the life and teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson.

William Liss-Levinson: A number of books have been written in the past few years about the Lubavitcher Rebbe. And it’s twenty years since his death. What prompted you to write this book?

Joseph Telushkin: The Rebbe might well be the most well-known rabbi since Maimonides. I can think of no other rabbi who is as familiar to Jews in Israel, the U.S., the former Soviet Union, and France, the four most populous Jewish communities in the world today. So it certainly seemed that that this was a man whose life deserved to be studied in depth.

WL-L: You’ve also chosen a unique approach, to discuss the Rebbe—according to thematic issues across time, with a fifty page chronologi­cal biography at the end. Why did you choose that approach to his life?

JT: I thought that what most mattered about the Rebbe were his viewpoints and his unique approach to a variety of issues. Also, I really was interested in writing a biography of his years of leadership. In 1951 he took over a small movement and turned it into the most dynamic religious movement in modern Jewish history—and that is what intrigued me; how he did it. A biography would need to focus in detail, for example, on things I was not as interested in: his years as a child in Russia and the years he spent in Germany and France in university. I was interested in that, and write about it in the book, but this was not what most interested me about the Rebbe.

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Monday, September 8, 2014

A Russian Jewish Mom Turns to the Internet For Dating

Lena Finkle's Magic BarrelBy Ester Bloom for Jewniverse

Here is what’s less than stellar about Anya Ulinich‘s graphic novel, Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel: The title is confusingly clunky, and certain pages feel overstuffed with text. But that’s it! This lavishly illustrated, imaginative, acerbically funny chronicle of a Russian-Jewish divorcee’s expedition into the underworld of OkCupid is, otherwise, near letter- and pixel-perfect.

Continue reading and to watch video interview with the author.

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Monday, September 1, 2014

The Pat Boone Fan Club My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew

Author: Sue William Silverman

Pat Boone Fan ClubGentile reader, and you, Jews, come too. Follow Sue William Silverman, a one-woman cultural mash-up, on her exploration of identity among the mishmash of American idols and ideals that confuse most of us—or should. Pat Boone is our first stop. Now a Tea Party darling, Boone once shone as a squeaky-clean pop music icon of normality, an antidote for Silverman’s own confusing and dangerous home, where being a Jew in a Christian school wasn’t easy, and being the daughter of the Anti-Boone was unspeakable. And yet somehow Silverman found her way, a “gefilte fish swimming upstream,” and found her voice, which in this searching, bracing, hilarious, and moving book tries to make sense of that most troubling American condition: belonging, but to what?

Picking apricots on a kibbutz, tramping cross-country in a loathed Volkswagen camper, appearing in a made-for-television version of her own life: Silverman is a bobby-soxer, a baby boomer, a hippy, a lefty, and a rebel with something to say to those of us—most of us—still wondering what to make of ourselves.

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Monday, August 25, 2014

The Marrying of Chani Kaufman

Author: Eve Harris

Review by Shira Schindel for The Jewish Book Council
The Marrying of Chani KaufmanChani and Baruch do not know one another, but they are about to wed.

Baruch Levy is obedient and religious, and makes his parents proud with his keen Torah study, until the day he announces the name of the girl he’d like to court. A quick forbidden glance to the women’s section enthralled him with Chani Kaufman, and he won’t take no for an answer.

Nineteen years old and increasingly frustrated with the obligations of her Ultra-Orthodox community, Chani follows the only permissible route of escape—getting engaged. Though she finds Baruch attractive in his earnest, if fumbling, attempts at courting, she has no idea what to expect next.

As the couple navigates their path of parents, matchmakers, and mikvehs, their closest confidants and friends explore the romantic and sexual relationships possible within and without marriage. Rebbetzin Zilberman remembers the sacrifices she made for the man she loves, while Avromi explores a world previously forbidden. On the outside, these characters are obedient and true to the traditions they value, but from inside passions ignite and regrets long hidden are reawakened, no longer willing to be ignored.

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Why Tom Rachman Imagines the Child in the Corner

Sophomore Novel Spans Decades and Continents


By Anna Goldenberg for The Jewish Daily Forward

RachmanBefore he started writing, novelist and journalist Tom Rachman had a peculiar visual image: A child being led into a room with a couple of adults who pay no special attention to her. The person who brings her there leaves, and the child sits quietly in a corner. As the hours pass, it becomes clear that nobody is going to collect her. The adults and child have to figure out what to do next.

In the end, there was “The Rise & Fall of Great Powers,” the second novel by Canadian-born Rachman, 39, whose 2010 debut “The Imperfectionists” was a bestseller that was translated into 25 languages. “The Rise & Fall” tells the story of Tooly Zylberberg, who leads a reclusive life as the owner of a bookstore in a Welsh village — until a former boyfriend contacts her, which encourages her to revisit the places in which she grew up. Having spent most of her childhood and adolescence as the forgotten child in the corner, being shuttled between countries and four enigmatic adults — socially awkward computer programmer Paul Zylberberg, Russian book lover Humphrey Ostropoler, flimsy Sarah, and crooked but warm Venn — she tries to untangle the secrets of her youth.

The novel offers vivid imagery of life across three decades and three continents, and is rich in literary references, witty dialogue and astute observations of the human psyche.

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