For most Jewish readers, I suspect, the phrase “Warsaw uprising” refers to the stirring last stand of the Jewish ghetto fighters in 1943. But there was quite another upwelling of armed resistance in Warsaw a year later, and that’s the focus of “Warsaw 1944: Hitler, Himmler and the Warsaw Uprising” by Alexandra Richie (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $40.00), an account of the doomed effort at self-liberation launched by the Polish Home Army against the Nazis even as the Red Army sat and watched on the far side of the Vistula.
The early arrival of Chanukah coincides with Jewish Book Month, which suggests a convenient shopping list for gift-giving. Here are eight books I am planning to give this year to the book lovers among my family, friends and colleagues. Some of these books already have been reviewed at greater length in these pages over the past year.
Perhaps no single Bible story is quite as familiar as the fateful encounter in the Garden of Eden between God, Adam and Eve, and that damned snake, an episode that entered Western theology as “the Fall.” It may appear to be a kind of biblical fairytale, but Ziony Zevit reveals the remarkable richness of meaning that can be extracted from the spare text in his new book, “What Really Happened in the Garden of Eden?” (Yale University Press, $30), a model of biblical scholarship that is also wholly accessible to the general reader.
What I know about Israel comes from a variety of sources, including the news and commentary in this newspaper, countless books, my own experiences as a traveler to Israel, and the Facebook postings of my friends who live there.
Like stills from a film noir, the black-and-white photographs of a 17-year-old boy named Herschel Grynszpan that have come down to us — police mug shots, newspaper photos, a souvenir snapshot taken at a Paris street fair — capture the various faces that he presented to the public during the fall of 1938, when he boiled up out of a noisy Jewish neighborhood in a backwater of Paris and demanded the attention of the astonished world.
Jewish humor and Jewish theology share something in common. I can think of any number of jokes whose punch lines say something profound about God (“Work with me here — buy a ticket!”). And we need only consult the Torah to discover how the matriarch Sarah responded when God revealed that she would bear a child in advanced old age: “Sarah laughed ...” (Genesis 18:12).
No one can accuse the ubiquitous Alan Dershowitz of understatement, but the subtitle of his new autobiography, “Taking the Stand: My Life in the Law” (Crown, $28), is a bit misleading. It’s true that Dershowitz’s claim to fame began with his work on a long list of famous cases, but Dershowitz is really an activist, a gadfly and a public intellectual on a global scale.
It’s rare that a book garners as much pre-publication publicity as has Ben Urwand’s “The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact With Hitler” (Belknap Press, $26.95). Even more unusual, however, is the backlash that greeted the book now that it is actually available to read.
On a visit to Budapest earlier this year, my wife and I asked the concierge at our hotel for a restaurant where we could find authentic Hungarian fare. As we took our seats in the bustling little place he recommended, I was encouraged to see a house band tucked away in the corner, and our meal was accompanied by what I assumed to be traditional Hungarian and Roma tunes.
The stirring scene that opens “Like Dreamers: The Story of the Israeli Paratroopers Who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation,” by Yossi Klein Halevi (Harper, $35), is a flashback to the night of June 6, 1967, when the 55th Paratroopers Reserve Brigade of the Israel Defense Forces crossed the no man’s land from West Jerusalem and approached the Old City, a sacred place that had not been under Jewish sovereignty for nearly 2,000 years.
One of the remarkable things about Ruchama King Feuerman’s second novel, “In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist” (New York Review of Books, $9.99) is the fact it is only available as an ebook in the NYRB Lit series. Such is the fate of literary fiction nowadays, and it remains to be seen whether authors and publishers will find their readership in the world of digital publishing.
Franz Kafka has entered our language as an adjective — “Kafkaesque” is applied nowadays to almost anything that strikes us as senseless or surreal — but the man himself remains obscure. Saul Friedlander’s short biography in Yale’s Jewish Lives series, “Kafka: The Poet of Shame and Guilt” (Yale University Press, $25.00), offers an intriguing effort to fill in the blanks of a famous but little-understood author.
This fall’s book season brings forth an unusually rich and provocative crop of new works by famous and revered authors, some for children and some for adults, some from abroad, but many from right here in Southern California.
I suppose that Kol Nidrei is still the best-attended service of the Jewish calendar, but surely the memorial service known as Yizkor is a close second. After all, Yizkor — which means “May God remember…” — is the moment when we are invited to recall in solemn prayer the loved ones who have passed away, a deeply poignant and sometimes painful experience that stands out in sharp relief from the other services during the High Holy Days.
One of the bitter ironies of history is that Hitler and the Nazis loved music but it did nothing to soothe the savage breast of Nazi Germany. A second irony is that the high culture of Western Europe, including its heritage of classical music, featured the compositions and performances of a great many Jewish musicians.
As one of the very few reviewers who found fault with Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List,” I once wrote that I would have preferred a film based on “Defiance,” Nechama Tec’s brilliant study of the Bielski partisans, which shows Jews not as the passive beneficiaries of a Nazi factory owner’s largess, but as active resisters who picked up a gun and fought back. And, in 2009, director Edward Zwick came to the same conclusion in his own movie, also titled “Defiance.”
Reza Aslan, author of the best-selling “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth,” spoke with Jewish Journal book editor Jonathan Kirsch by phone from Portland, Ore., where Aslan was part of a national book tour. This interview took place just a few days after Aslan’s attention-getting appearance on Fox News.
Reza Aslan, an author and scholar of religion, has established himself as a familiar face and voice on American television, the go-to guy for commentary on the Islamic world, and he embodies all the right stuff: youthful good looks, depth of knowledge and the kind of media savvy that enables him to answer even the most nuanced questions in measured sound bites.
A profound irony suffuses this book review. “Paper, An Elegy” by Ian Sansom (William Morrow/HarperCollins, $24.99) is a celebration of the civilizing function of pulped vegetable matter, but you are reading about the book in the paperless environment of the Internet. And so passes the glory of the world.
Karen Mack and Jennifer Kaufman entered the literary scene in 2007 with a debut novel titled “Literacy and Longing in L.A.,” a lively, offbeat chronicle of a contemporary woman in crisis that was described by Booklist as “book lust meets chick lit.”
When I resolved to enter into the public conversation about “FDR and the Jews” by Richard Breitman and Allan J. Lichtman (Belknap Press, $29.95), a much-talked-about book, I was reminded of the disenchantment that some Democrats felt toward President Obama when he abandoned the “public option” in Obama care. Obama was taking a progressive stance on health care, to be sure, but was he progressive enough?
“The Elephant and the Jewish Problem” is the punchline to a hoary old Jewish joke, the point of which is that there is a Jewish perspective on every subject imaginable. The same point is made in a remarkable work of scholarship, “A Jew’s Best Friend? The Image of the Dog Throughout Jewish History,” edited by Phillip Ackerman-Lieberman and Rakefet Zalashik (Sussex Academic Press, $65, hardcover; $34.95, paper), a pair of self-proclaimed dog lovers who were inspired to explore what Jewish tradition has to say about dogs and Jews.
The legal thriller is a fast track for debut novelists, but Robert Rotstein enters the race at winning speed with “Corrupt Practices” (Seventh Street Books, $15.95).
One of the profound changes in American popular culture that emerged during the 1960s was the willingness of famous Jews to openly embrace their Jewishness rather than hiding it behind phony names and personas.
Abraham H. Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, is the Paul Revere of our era, and his latest call to arms is “Viral Hate: Containing Its Spread on the Internet” (Palgrave Macmillan: $27). Co-written with Internet law expert Christopher Wolf, the book alerts us to the sewer of hatred that runs through cyberspace and exhorts us to do something about it.
The ongoing public conversation about the future of American Judaism is embodied in a small library of recent books, many of which have been considered here. None of them, however, offers quite the same potent brew of courage, clarity, passion and expertise as Shaul Magid’s “American Post-Judaism: Identity and Renewal in a Postethnic Society” (Indiana University Press, $40), a scholarly but also visionary book about what it means to be a Jew in America today.
Poetry is a literary enterprise with enormous allure to the amateur, and yet it is an art form that one can study for a lifetime. And who is a better teacher than Robert Pinsky? The former poet laureate of the United States — and perhaps the most familiar face among working poets, thanks to his frequent television appearances — offers instruction and inspiration to his fellow poets in “Singing School: Learning to Write (and Read) Poetry by Studying With the Masters” (W.W. Norton, $25.95), an annotated anthology of poetry that ranges from Sappho to Shakespeare to Sylvia Plath.
On an otherwise unremarkable day in 1938, a chubby but charming student at John Burroughs Junior High in Los Angeles “cracked the code of his comic gift and discovered his life’s work,” as we learn in “Overweight Sensation: The Life and Comedy of Allan Sherman” by Mark Cohen (Brandeis, $29.95), a penetrating biography by a savvy observer of show business.
The big question in Detroit in the fall of 1934 had nothing to do with the troubled state of the world. Rather, the fans of the Detroit Tigers wanted to know whether their star first baseman, Hank Greenberg, was going to play on the Jewish High Holy Days. After all, the Tigers were in first place and they were contesting the New York Yankees for the pennant.
Two weeks ago, my wife, Ann, and I completed our first trip to the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. Everywhere we went, our local guides proudly pointed out the progress that has been made since the fall of communism, and we could readily see for ourselves the affluence, elegance and style that are on display in the places that the tourists like to visit.
I met Lillian Faderman last Saturday when we both appeared on a panel titled “Holocaust Lives” at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. To be sure, the Holocaust figures crucially in her new memoir, “My Mother’s Wars” (Beacon Press, $25.95), but her book is more than a testimony of the Holocaust — it is a love story, a family memoir and, above all, an American tale.
"For far too long, Jay Neugeboren has been known as a writer’s writer and as the nurturing teacher of future writers,” Sanford Pinsker wrote in the Forward about one of Neugeboren’s earlier books. “It is high time for a wider audience.”
For visitors to the Fowler Museum’s recent exhibition, the show’s catalog, “Light and Shadows: The Story of Iranian Jews” edited by David Yeroushalmi (Beit Hatfutsot/Fowler Museum: $30) will be a keepsake. For those who missed the exhibition, the book captures the sumptuous images and the resonant historical narrative that were on display at the Fowler. Either way, the book is a sumptuous and illuminating work of history.
A new biography of California Supreme Court Justice Stanley Mosk opens with an apt quote from the late and much-loved Jewish Journal columnist Marlene Adler Marks: “Mosk,” Marks wrote in these pages in 1997, “is California history with a heartbeat.”
Among the many ways the Jewish people have sought to honor the Six Million, perhaps none is so life-affirming as the revival of interest in Yiddish, the mother tongue of the vast majority of the men, women and children murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators.
Much has been written about anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, but “anti-Judaism” is something else again.
From generation to generation, starting in 1950 and continuing today, one of the most important sites on the map of the Jewish community in Southern California was a stretch of rolling hills in Simi Valley. The story is richly told in the pages of “The Brandeis-Bardin Institute: A Living History” by Jenna Leventhal (American Jewish University, $30), an “official” history. Published by the university that now owns the property, it is predictably upbeat but also, at moments, candid and forthright about the birth pangs and growing pains of a Jewish institution.
On display in my office is a globe that captures a perilous moment in time — the world as it existed on very eve of World War II.
The argument over Israel’s presence in the territories beyond the Green Line has recently come to focus almost exclusively on security issues, but there is literally no aspect of life in Israel that is not affected by its settlement policies. Indeed, the Jewish identity of Israel, and even the prospects for its continued existence, are called into question.
Sometimes the human mind seems inadequate to understand and explain the enormity of the Shoah, which may explain why Freud is so often invoked by writers of Holocaust literature, ranging from D. M. Thomas in “The White Hotel” to Primo Levi in “The Drowned and the Saved.”
The making of a memorable book requires the skills of an alchemist. Every author starts with the raw material of his or her own experience and expertise, but it can take a certain secret ingredient — passion, vision, inspiration — to transform the dross into gold.
“Seinfeld” was never really “a show about nothing.” Rather, not unlike the Bible, it was a work of the imagination that had something to say about nearly everything.
Blue and white are the traditional colors of the tallit, and, for that reason, the colors of the flag of Israel. And yet the ancient craft of making blue dyes for use in sacred garments was lost to the world for centuries.
When Theodore Ross was just a boy, his mother took something away from him and never gave it back — his Jewish identity.
As Chanukah approaches, there is a plentitude of gift-worthy titles from recently published books. Some are elegant, some quirky, some comforting, but all of them are suitable for one or another of the readers on your list.
Jews have long been called the People of the Book, but the fact is that we elevate words and even letters to the realm of the sacred.
Nothing is quite so purely American as the comic book, which is why it will come as a surprise to some readers to discover that philosopher Harry Brod regards Superman and Spider-Man and many other comic-book characters to be uniquely Jewish artifacts that offer crucial insights into the Jewish experience in America.
Nothing says more about the unsettled state of American publishing than the fact that Jonathan Adler is the only author who will be presenting a book event at the Skirball Cultural Center during Jewish Book Month.
The single most hotly debated (and often heartbreaking) issue of Jewish identity is whether and to what extent we carry our Jewishness in our blood.
Yoram Hazony opens his new book, “The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture” (Cambridge University Press: $24.99), with a challenging question: “Is there something crucial missing in our understanding of what the Hebrew Bible is all about?”
Every four years, the same question is asked in America: Which candidate will win the Jewish vote? With the 2012 presidential election teetering on a razor’s edge, however, the question takes on new importance and even a certain poignancy. That’s exactly why it caught the attention of political reporter and analyst Shmuel Rosner in “The Jewish Vote: Obama vs. Romney: A Voter’s Guide” (Jewish Journal Books: $9.99 paperback, $8 Kindle edition). After all, as Rosner sees it, as many as 5 million Jewish voters may go to the polls next month, and that could be enough to make a difference in an election as close as this one.
Michael Chabon, the literary wunderkind, won a Pulitzer Prize for “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay,” which conjured up the American comic book industry in the glory days of the 1930s and 1940s.
Marni Davis had me with the title of her book, “Jews and Booze: Becoming American in the Age of Prohibition” (New York University Press: $32). But the book itself, an academic monograph that is also highly readable, is an eye-opener.
Among the most-played songs in my iTunes library are four immortal (and often-covered) compositions by Leonard Cohen: “Sisters of Mercy,” “Bird on a Wire,” “Hallelujah” and, of course, “Suzanne.” Significantly, “Hallejujah” is a meditation on the “sweet singer of Israel,” King David, although Cohen himself is, famously, a Buddhist monk and, not so famously, a former student of Scientology with a “Senior Dianetic, Grade IV Release” to show for it.
Fall is high season for the publishing industry. Jewish Book Month, which arrives in November, may have a little something to do with it, and so does the stirring of activity that always follows Labor Day.
Of all the incendiary books that have been written about Israel over the last year or so, none is quite as fiery as "Israel: The Will to Prevail" by Danny Danon (Palgrave Macmillan: $26).
Paul Auster is best known and often praised for his postmodernist novels and short stories, including "The New York Trilogy" and "Sunset Park," but his lifetime of literary achievement actually began with a 1982 memoir, "The Invention of Solitude," his first published work under his own name.
Meyer Harris Cohen was born in the Jewish Pale of Settlement in imperial Russia, immigrated with his family to the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn and reached Los Angeles' Jewish point of entry in Boyle Heights in 1915. Up to this point, the spare details of his biography are unremarkable. But Meyer was later nicknamed "Mickey," and his name still echoes with the larger-than-life reputation he acquired on the mean streets of Los Angeles in the 1930s and 1940s.
"If my theory of relativity is proven successful, Germany will claim me as a German and France will declare that I am a citizen of the world,” Albert Einstein quipped in 1922. “Should my theory prove untrue, France will say that I am a German, and Germany will declare that I am a Jew.”
Madeleine Albright and Christopher Hitchens are two famous figures who discovered their Jewish ancestry only in adulthood. The discovery did nothing to temper Hitchens’ harsh view of religion in general or the State of Israel in particular. For Albright, by contrast, the belated disclosure of her Jewish identity has prompted a remarkable work of self-revelation.
Ira Fistell is a familiar and even beloved figure in the Los Angeles radio market, where he long served as an exceptionally amiable, thoughtful and well-informed talk-show host on subjects ranging from politics and religion to vintage trains and Mississippi steamboats. Along with Dennis Prager, he was a host of "Religion on the Line," a Sunday evening colloquy that brought clergy of various faiths together and proved that theological shoptalk could be compelling to a general audience.
Michael Walzer frankly announces at the outset of “In God’s Shadow: Politics in the Hebrew Bible” (Yale University Press: $28.00) that he is approaching the Scriptures not as a biblical scholar but as a political thinker. “The Bible is, above all, a religious book,” he argues, “but it is also a political book.”
The biblical reference in the title of Stephen Prothero’s “The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation” (HarperOne: $29.99) is purely metaphorical.
Ever since Art Spiegelman’s “Maus” won a Pulitzer Prize, no apologies need to be made for the aspirations of comic book artists to enter the realm of literature. R. Crumb, for example, recently rendered nothing less exalted than the Book of Genesis as a graphic novel. And Marjane Satrapi applied the same techniques to a best-selling work of memoir in “Persepolis.”
"What Irving Berlin did for the modern musical theatre," Alan Lerner once quipped, "was to make it possible."
Journalist and filmmaker Ruth Broyde Sharone is an activist and a visionary in what she calls “interfaith engagement,” but she is also a realist, which makes her something of a rarity among those Jews who still hold out hope for rapprochement between Jews and Muslims in the Middle East and elsewhere around the world.
Summer is here, and the time is right for touring authors. Here are the highlights of the season for poolside and airplane reading, including some local appearances by the authors themselves.
Not long ago, I reviewed Peter Longerich's benchmark biography of Heinrich Himmler in these pages -- a work of meticulous and compelling scholarship about the master architect of the Final Solution, a mostly ordinary human being whose claim on history is that he succeeded in putting Hitler's apocalyptic fantasies about mass murder into operation on an industrial scale.
Anne Frank, the single most famous name among the six million victims of the Shoah, entered the realm of history and literature with the posthumous publication of her own diary and has been used — and, some would argue, abused — by others who have depicted her on the stage and screen, in novels and comic books. So much so that the flesh-and-blood Anne Frank has wholly disappeared under the accretion of myth and magical thinking.
Much heated conversation is conducted in these pages and elsewhere in the media about Israel. We debate every aspect of Israel’s present and future — the ups and downs of its political leadership, the role of religion in the Jewish state, the path to peace with the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world, the security risks that threaten its very existence, and much else besides.
For me, no genre of literature is quite as enchanting or enriching as the travel memoir. Indeed, two of the titles on my own shortlist of favorite books — Bruce Chatwin’s “The Songlines” and Peter Matthiessen’s “The Snow Leopard” — are essentially travel books that have aspired to and achieved greatness. Among the books I read again and again, several fall into this same category: Graham Greene’s “The Lawless Roads,” Lawrence Durrell’s “Bitter Lemons of Cyprus,” Jan Morris’s “The World of Venice” and Reyner Banham’s “Scenes in America Deserta.”
Only a precious remnant of Holocaust survivors is alive today, and many of them were just children when they went into hiding or ended up behind barbed wire.
Among the many Roths who figure importantly in Jewish letters — Henry, Cecil and Philip are only the most famous — perhaps the least celebrated is Joseph Roth. As a novelist (“The Radetzky March”) and an essayist (“The Wandering Jews”), but even more crucially as a foreign correspondent for German newspapers during the 1920s and early 1930s, Roth was an eyewitness to the great events of the 20th century.
Much has changed in the book business since the Los Angeles Times launched its Festival of Books 17 years ago, but the FOB — as it is fondly known — remains the premier event of the literary calendar for the more than 100,000 readers and writers who never miss it.
The victims of the Holocaust are most often recalled at their moments of agony and death. But it is also our duty to recall the richness of their lives before Europe fell under the shadow of Nazi Germany. What Hitler sought to destroy, after all, was not merely 6 million human lives but also the whole vibrant culture that they created and sustained.
Over the many years I've spent bumping around the book business, I have introduced my wife, Ann, to a great many literary lions and lionesses, but nothing quite compares to the evening when we first met Dora Levy Mossanen at a book-signing for John Rechy at Dutton’s in Brentwood.
Investigative journalists do not tend to make good storytellers. After all, they are trained to write in the taut prose of a daily newspaper, and they are constrained by the discipline of fact-checking. As a result, sometimes they cannot see the forest for the trees when it comes to a charming and cherished fiction that fixes itself in a family’s collective memory.
Ronald Reagan, Shirley Temple, Sony Bono, George Murphy and Arnold Schwarzenegger are all entertainers who launched their political careers in California, and they are all Republicans. Indeed, aside from Al Franken, no prominent Democratic officeholder on the scene today started out in the entertainment industry.
Around our house, Irvin D. Yalom is a familiar name, and for more than one reason.
Imagine a private conversation - at moments, an intimate conversation - between two public intellectuals whose careers have been devoted to understanding the wider world in which we find ourselves. One is facing imminent death, and the other is recording the conversation in a valiant effort to preserve the dying man’s final thoughts.
Angella M. Nazarian's rich but provocative irony suffuses her latest book, “Pioneers of the Possible: Celebrating Visionary Women of the World” (Assouline: $45).
M. G. Lord is a cultural critic with a sharp eye for the hidden meanings in American pop culture. Two of her previous books, for example, considered the enduring influence of the best-selling doll in the world (“Forever Barbie”) and the semiotics of rocket science (“Astro Turf”).
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach has been accused of nothing less than apostasy by at least one of his fellow rabbis, all thanks to his newly published book, “Kosher Jesus” (Gefen Publishing House: $26). And I am confident some Evangelical Christians will reach the same conclusion if only because Boteach insists that Jesus was not “holier than any other human being and certainly not divine.”
No matter how much is written about Nazi Germany, there is always some new horror to behold and some new paradox to ponder. That’s how I felt when I opened a remarkable and wholly fascinating new book by Peter Longerich, a German historian who is among the world’s leading scholars of the Holocaust and the Third Reich.
Fred Weintraub is not merely an eyewitness to the history of American pop culture. As we discover in his wholly winning memoir, “Bruce Lee, Woodstock and Me: From the Man Behind a Half-Century of Music, Movies and Martial Arts” (Brooktree Canyon Press: $28.95), he was a featured player.
In addition to our prizewinner, we also want to honor some of the other exceptional books that came to our attention in 2011, each of which is accomplished and provocative.
Since 2009, when I was first given the opportunity to serve as book editor and chief reviewer for The Jewish Journal, and thanks to the extraordinary vision and support of Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Rob Eshman and Executive Editor Susan Freudenheim, we have been able to significantly increase The Journal’s coverage of the literary world, including biweekly reviews in the newspaper and weekly reviews on jewishjournal.com. We also have created a book blog, 12:12, and we publish additional reviews by a group of esteemed authors and reviewers.
Pico Iyer conjures up Graham Greene in the title of his new book, “The Man Within My Head” (Knopf: $25.95), and that’s why it caught my attention. Greene is a writer
whom I have read with admiration and pleasure, over and over again, throughout my adult life. Iyer, too, sparked my interest years ago with his travel memoir, “Video Night in Kathmandu,” and I have been following (and reviewing) him ever since.
One way to mark the chronology of the counterculture, a pastime that is beloved by the baby boomers, is by reference to rock festivals. Woodstock and Altamont, for example, are now fully transformed into transcendent symbols of life and death, good and evil, the beginning and end of something. But the real starting point, the uber-festival, was Monterey.
Jerusalem is always in the headlines, or so it seems, but the same city on a hill has commanded the attention of the Western world without interruption since biblical antiquity.
No book is regarded with more fear and loathing in the West than the Qur’an, the fundamental religious text of Islam, and yet I am confident that most people who are anxious about what is written in the Qur’an have never actually held a copy in their hands, much less opened it and read it.
No book review I’ve written for The Jewish Journal has prompted as much feedback as the one I wrote about “A New Voice for Israel” by Jeremy Ben-Ami, the founder of J Street. His argument that Israel must make uncomfortable compromises and take dire risks in order to secure peace with the Palestinian Arabs is clearly unsettling to a great many Jews, both in Israel and America.
From novels to memoirs to movie reviews, and much in between, here are a few standout books for Chanukah gift giving.
“Israel’s existence is in fact threatened by a progressive, terminal illness,” Jeremy Ben-Ami, founder of J Street, writes in “A New Voice for Israel: Fighting for the Survival of the Jewish Nation” (Palgrave Macmillan: $26). According to his diagnosis, the illness is a kind of willful blindness that prevents both Israeli and American leaders from seeing a way out of the dire predicament that the Jewish state now faces.
A joke was told about U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman during the 2000 presidential campaign. Not only was Lieberman the first Jew to run for vice president, but he was a famously observant one. “If you elect Joe Lieberman,” the joke went, “he will be on the job 24/6.”
Among the gifts of the Jews, to use Thomas Cahill’s flattering phrase, perhaps none is more stirring and enduring than the biblical call to social justice. We are reminded of the Jewish injunction to seek justice in a couple of new books from Jewish Lights, each of which shows us how do more than pay lip service to one of the bedrock principles of Judaism.
Ariel Sharon was a figure of controversy throughout his long career in war, politics and diplomacy, but no one can deny that he looms large in the making of the Jewish state.
Jennifer S. Hanin was raised Catholic and converted to Judaism after marrying a Jewish man.