"Shattered Dreams" a "Frontline" documentary on PBS, illustrates the "even-handed," "well-balanced" style beloved of Boston's WGBH (produced in association with France 2, Abu Dhabi Television and Tel-Ad Israel). It is guaranteed to deeply aggravate partisans on all sides -- Israelis, Palestinians and friends (and enemies) of Bill. That aggravation will assure the producers that they got this story of diplomacy gone awry right.
"Hitler's Jewish Soldiers: The Untold Story of Nazi Racial Laws and the Men of Jewish Descent in the German Military" by Bryan Mark Rigg (University Press of Kansas, $29.95).
Bryan Mark Rigg's most controversial assertion is "Hitler's Jewish Soldiers'" least relevant matter. In a complicated opening chapter, he claims that 150,000 individuals (almost exclusively male) served in the German military who were, by Nazi racial standards and laws, Jews of some quantity. By his calculations, perhaps as many as 6,000 "full" Jews (with four Jewish grandparents) were in the Wehrmacht -- but the greater number comes, of course, from the highly assimilated, aggressively nationalistic, and thoroughly acculturated "quarter" and "half" Jews, those with one or two Jewish grandparents, respectively. (The mathematics is darkly amusing: two half-Jewish parents make up one half-Jewish child.)
A roundup of some of the latest books by L.A. Jewish authors.
Years ago, UCLA visiting professor Luisa Del Giudice discovered she was more interested in the way ordinary people remembered their past than the way writers and academics recorded formal history.
In pursuit of that interest, she founded the Italian Oral History Institute (IOHI), a project dedicated to documenting the groups typically unacknowledged in Italian life and history. This year, the IOHI presents "Italian Jews: Memory, Music, Celebration," a far-ranging survey of Italian Jewish life including music, food, cinema, history and language. The Jewish presence -- and now absence -- in the Italian landscape, in the small towns and large cities, inspires a new generation of both Italian and American scholars.
Fouad Ajami's "Dream Palace of the Arabs" lacks Benda's harshness and polemics, but illustrates how fragile and tenuous are the intellectuals' claims on political life.
"The Book of Lamentations: A Meditation and Translation" by David R. Slavitt (Johns Hopkins University Press. $15.95).
David R. Slavitt's new translation of Eicha (Lamentations) demonstrates his masterful sensibilities and poetic fortitude. Avoiding the abstract and distant language typical of academic poetry, Slavitt's poetry and translations are accessible to the common reader, but written without compromise.
"A Letter in the Scroll: Understanding Our Jewish Identity and Exploring the Legacy of the World's Oldest Religion" by Jonathan Sacks. (The Free Press, $25.)
Gently, gracefully, thoughtfully, Jonathan Sacks unfolds an emotionally compelling argument for Jews to reclaim and engage with traditional faith, traditional texts and traditional acts. Wisely, he eschews philosophic reasonings: Jews teach by words, with words, through stories, songs, psalm, exegesis. Logically constructed arguments cannot convince one of religious veracity nor demonstrate a revealed truth.
"Finding Each Other in Judaism: Meditations on the Rites of Passage From Birth to Immortality" by Harold M. Schulweis. (UAHC Press, $12.95)
"Finding Each Other in Judaism" distills decades of those quiet, private moments when a curious, wounded or concerned congregant asks the rabbi: "What do I do now?"
The 1904 construction of Sherith Israel's dramatic window, a survivor of the great 1906 earthquake, brought Moses and Mosaic law west.
Against the Dying of the Light: A Father's Journey through Loss" by Leonard Fein (Jewish Lights Publishing, $19.95)
James Carroll loves the Roman Catholic Church. Unfortunately, the church he loves isn't the church he has. Carroll yearns for that short, winsome time when he was ennobled by liberation theology, Vatican II and his bold opposition to the war in Vietnam. But the hopes of that moment faded away as first Pope Paul VI and, later, Pope John Paul II extinguished John XXIII's reformist platform.
It is only with tremendous effort that we can dissect the nature and components of the first systematic, industrialized, determined, ideologically inspired and directed effort to thoroughly eliminate a group of "racially" identified people.
During the past few years, an effort has been made to retrieve women's devotional literature and present it to a contemporary Jewish world.
In traditional Jewish life, parents often add excitement to Pesach (or Shavuot or Sukkot) by giving gifts to their children (and even each other). Gift-giving, not just reserved for Chanukah and birthdays, spices up all of Jewish life.
"King David: The Real Life of the Man Who Ruled Israel" by Jonathan Kirsch (Ballantine Books, $28)
In his "Reading the Book: Making the Bible a Timeless Text," Rabbi Burton Visotzky writes, "To the extent that the Bible reveals the words of God to a community, it is essential that students get those words down right, so that they may become part of the community. In certain communities, students of the Bible are free to question, grapple, doubt and deny -- so long as they first hear their community's reading of God's word."
In "Dangerous Diplomacy," Theo Tschuy introduces a forgotten hero of the Shoah, Carl Lutz, a man who certainly deserves to take his place among the Wallenbergs and Schindlers.
In 1995, nurse, mystery writer and prospective single mom Serita Stevens traveled to Romania to adopt an abandoned 9-month-old baby girl. So appalled was she at the conditions in the orphanage at which she finally met her future daughter, she started Hugs and Hopes--Romania to help care for the orphans and abandoned children in a country still struggling to recover from the ruin and desperation caused by the Ceausescu regime.
"The New Geography: How the Digital Revolution Is Reshaping the American Landscape," by Joel Kotkin. (Random House, $22.95)
Joel Kotkin, a senior fellow at both Pepperdine University Institute for Public Policy and Milken Institute and a research fellow at the libertarian Reason Public Policy Institute, for 20 years has been researching and writing about what he terms "intangible" inputs into economic life.