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Jewish Journal

Sandee Brawarsky

  • Looking Inward in the New Year

    September 16, 2009 | 5:15 pm

    The caretaker of the only shul in Rangoon, Burma, posted this notice just outside the sanctuary before Rosh Hashanah, 2007:

    “A tree may be alone in the field, a man alone in the world, but a Jew is never alone on his Holy Days.”

    Moses, the caretaker, and his son were the only...

  • Melancholy Russian soul flourishing in immigrants

    October 22, 2008 | 9:57 pm

    The Russian soul, that hard to define, but deep and informed melancholy, is flourishing in Rego Park, Queens, N.Y.

    To the title character in Irina Reyn's new novel, "What Happened to Anna K" (Touchstone), the velikaia russkaia dusha, Russian soul, transplanted to America might be...

  • New books challenge readers to revitalize their Judaism

    September 17, 2008 | 10:42 pm

    Sounded every morning during this month of Elul, the shofar is a call to review, rethink, renew, revitalize, to shake things up a bit, to go deeper. This season, a number of new books also challenge readers to think anew about their connection to Judaism and to Israel, to their...
  • Young Manhattanite’s diary of old is new again

    September 3, 2008 | 9:16 pm

    In New York, even our trash is full of treasure.

    One fall morning in 2003, Lily Koppel left her Riverside Drive apartment building, a bit late for work at The New York Times, and was struck by the sight of a large dumpster outside the entranceway. Piled high were about 50 old steamer...

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  • Book details journey to a father’s distant land—Kurdish ‘Jerusalem’

    August 27, 2008 | 11:04 pm

    "My Father's Paradise: A Son's Search for His Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq," by Ariel Sabar (Algonquin Books).


    There are no more Jews in Zakho. Once the center of Jewish activity in Kurdish Iraq, the isolated town, a dusty vision of biblical landscape, was known as the "Jerusalem of...

  • Urban love story brings Berlin’s past to the present

    August 20, 2008 | 10:39 pm

    A scene in Anna Winger's novel, "This Must Be the Place" (Riverhead), is reminiscent of the Chasidic story about people who no longer remember the way to pray nor the words, yet somehow simply remember the instinct to pray. Two friends descend into a storage area in their Berlin...
  • ‘Simplexity’ explains the methods to the madness

    July 16, 2008 | 9:57 pm

    A handshake might seem to be a simple, even thoughtless social exchange. But behind the meeting of hands are a lot of neural firings, tactile feedback, control of muscles, depth perception; it's a ritual that grows out of a long tradition of greetings and social cues.

    In his...

  • Novelist Warren Adler back in a New York state of mind

    May 21, 2008 | 12:38 pm

    Growing up in Brownsville in the 1930s, Warren Adler would pass a small, 24-hour candy store almost every day on Saratoga Avenue, around the corner from his home. The toughs who hung out there were bad guys who were looked up to by those in the neighborhood as heroes. Only years...

  • New haggadahs bring fresh approaches to celebration

    April 10, 2008 | 6:00 pm

    On Passover, teachers become students and students take on the role of teachers; old and young teach each other.

    "The learning is thoroughly democratic, as befits the experience of freedom," Neil Gillman writes in "The Haggadah Is a Textbook," an essay in "My People's Passover...

  • Books: Why choosing rationally might not be so easy

    March 13, 2008 | 6:00 pm

    "Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions" by Dan Ariely (HarperCollins, $25.95).

    Dan Ariely is an MIT professor who served beer in a brewery and dressed in a waiter's outfit as part of his research into decision making. A leading behavioral economist,...

  • The Bible for dummies—and experts

    January 24, 2008 | 7:00 pm

    James L. Kugel figures his book will attract readers from diverse religious backgrounds, both those who are well-versed in the Bible and those who've never read the ancient text. He understands both audiences well.

    He begins with a cautionary note to those of traditional faith --...

  • A different attic’s holocaust secrets

    December 27, 2007 | 7:00 pm

    Joseph Hollander left the untold story of his life packed up in a suitcase, waiting to be found.

    His son, Richard Hollander, found the suitcase in the attic of his parents' Westchester house in 1986, after they were both killed in a tragic car accident. The younger Hollander...

  • Book captures before and after of Israel’s Ethiopian Jews

    December 6, 2007 | 7:00 pm

    A woman of biblical beauty, a dark-eyed Ethiopian gazing directly at the camera, appears on the cover of a new book of photographs, "Transformations: From Ethiopia to Israel" by Ricki Rosen (Reality Check Productions, $45). She's wearing white embroidered robes, her hair covered with...
  • Stories and essays and pictures illuminate holiday

    November 29, 2007 | 7:00 pm

    "There are many lights in light," according to a line in the Talmud. Hillel's words refer to the blessing over the Havdalah candle, but can be applied no less to Chanukah.

    The most exquisite of new books for the season is not about Chanukah, but about light. An oversize volume, Sam...

  • Books: Brits behaving badly

    November 1, 2007 | 8:00 pm

    "When We Were Bad" by Charlotte Mendelson (Houghton Mifflin, $24).

    As a wedding is about to begin in North London, all eyes are on the mother of the groom. Claudia Rubin is tall, beautiful, brainy and voluptuous, a celebrated rabbi who leads a large congregation. She's not...

  • An Orthodox ‘cast-off’ holds God accountable

    October 18, 2007 | 8:00 pm

    "Foreskin's Lament: A Memoir" by Shalom Auslander (Riverhead, $24.95).
    Dressed in black, Shalom Auslander wears three tiny silver blocks on a chain that falls close to his neck, with Hebrew letters spelling out the word "Acher," or other. This was a gift from his wife when he...
  • Books: A stranger on a journey

    September 27, 2007 | 8:00 pm

    Sometimes I envision Lillian Leyb walking along Upper Broadway in New York, or trudging up subway stairs. She's solid-looking and pretty, dressed in a mix of hand-me-downs and carrying a worn satchel, still young but with a hard life evident in her step.

    In Amy Bloom's novel "Away,"...

  • Chart a new course with these spiritual guides for the New Year

    September 13, 2007 | 8:00 pm

    As we think about rewriting our personal narratives in the New Year, adding new pages and chapters, several new books inspire new visions, renewed creativity and new relationships between the calendar and a sense of holiness.

    Beautifully rendered in a poetic and sensitive...

  • Books: Exile from Egypt through a daughter’s eyes

    September 8, 2007 | 8:00 pm

    "The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit: My Family's Exodus from Old Cairo to the New World," by Lucette Lagnado (Ecco, $25.95).
    When Leon Lagnado would walk at his brisk pace through the streets of Cairo in the 1940s, heads would turn: He was said to resemble Cary Grant. The suave,...
  • Author’s advice on sex and intimacy makes her hot stuff

    August 23, 2007 | 8:00 pm

    I open Esther Perel's new book on the bus, and I know that my seatmate is staring at the cover photo of a man and woman in bed not touching beneath the red sheets. "Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic & the Domestic" (HarperCollins) has caught the man's attention, but he...
  • Books to remember this summer by

    August 16, 2007 | 8:00 pm

    Our summers have markers, memories that trigger a specific time: The summer of the walk on the moon, Hurricane Bob or the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles; personal events like a high school prom, a kitchen renovation or a houseguest who long overstays.

    "It was that...

  • Oy vey! You should read what they’re writing about them—in books yet

    May 10, 2007 | 8:00 pm

    I have the kind of Jewish mother who could both make gefilte fish from scratch and play 18 holes of golf in one day. Every day throughout my high school years, my mother would hand me lunch in a paper bag as I rushed out the door and left most of the breakfast she had prepared on the...
  • Call to ‘write and record’ brings new books on Shoah

    April 12, 2007 | 8:00 pm


    "Write and record," historian Simon Dubnow urged his fellow Jews, as he was taken to his death in Riga. Over the decades since Dubnow's murder in 1941, many have taken his words to heart, and scholars, survivors, novelists, poets, members of the second and third generations continue...
  • In Spring a reader’s fancy turns to thoughts of ... books

    March 15, 2007 | 8:00 pm

    Michael Chabon's Alaskan Adventure

    In Michael Chabon's invented world, Yiddish is spoken in the Alaskan panhandle.

    After World War II, the Federal District of Sitka in Alaska -- not Israel -- became the homeland for the Jews.

    "The Yiddish Policemen's Union" (HarperCollins, May,...

  • Books: Max Apple is a bard of the background

    January 17, 2007 | 7:00 pm

    Max Apple's people are the folks you might see having lunch at a local diner. There's Sidney Goodman, the carwash king of Las Vegas, and Jerome Feldman, the outgoing president of the Ohio Association of Independent Pharmacists, along with others who sell scrap metal, industrial...
  • Peter Cole receives MacArthur ‘genius award’ for poetry

    January 10, 2007 | 7:00 pm

    Poet, translator and publisher Peter Cole is among the 24 recipients of the 2007 MacArthur Foundation fellowships, or genius awards, as they are popularly known. The no-strings-attached award, honoring creativity, includes a $500,000 stipend that is paid quarterly over five years....
  • Books: Wrap up new worlds for your young readers

    December 7, 2006 | 7:00 pm

    Many inns throughout the Mid-Atlantic states claim that George Washington slept here or there, but a new book makes an altogether new claim about the first president: that he learned about Chanukah from a Polish-born soldier at Valley Forge in 1777, when he noticed the young man...
  • Writer spins thrillers from his own undercover adventures

    November 16, 2006 | 7:00 pm

    Jet lag launched Haggai Carmon into his career as an author. The international lawyer found himself in a small, unheated hotel room in a remote country he won't identify. He was on U.S. government assignment, collecting intelligence on a violent criminal organization, but his...
  • Books: ‘Holy’ Ethically Speaking—Rabbi Joseph Telushkin Covers It All

    October 26, 2006 | 8:00 pm

    When it comes to ethics, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin is an idealist and an activist. He'd like to see Jews develop moral imaginations as much as intellectual imaginations, parents praise children for their kind acts as much as for their academic achievements and individuals improve their...
  • Six self-help books seek to help you get sealed in the Book of Life

    September 21, 2006 | 8:01 pm

    In these days of asking tough questions, taking stock, revisiting memories and trying to do better in 5767, books are essential tools. Several new works from different disciplines and traditions, some of which don't mention the words Days of Awe, lend new meaning to the holidays -- on caring for orphans, baking bread, deepening celebrations, understanding forgiveness, practicing kindness, exploring traditional liturgy and rituals.
     
  • The Perfect Reads for Those Lazy Days of Summer

    July 19, 2006 | 8:00 pm

    I read and write during several days of rain in New York City, and I think about Los Angeles beaches, bleached with sunshine. So reclining on a couch isn't the same as stretching out on a blanket and listening to the surf, but there's a certain similar lazy quality, with pockets of...

  • Eluding Death Gives Life to Roth Novel

    June 8, 2006 | 8:00 pm

    Eluding death is the central issue of life for Philip Roth's nameless leading character in his newest novel, "Everyman" (Houghton Mifflin). A thrice-married and divorced retired advertising executive, Roth's lonely everyman wants to keep on with the messy business of his life -- "he...

  • Wiesel’s Words of Hope for ‘Uprooted’

    May 18, 2006 | 8:00 pm

    When Elie Wiesel spoke last year at the 92nd Street Y, teaching about Jewish texts, his quiet voice had a trance-like quality, as he shifted between classic sources, Chasidic tales and his own views of world events. His fiction is similarly powerful. Sometimes the words have the...

  • Search for Similarity in Aliyah Tales

    May 11, 2006 | 8:00 pm

    "Aliya: Three Generations of American-Jewish Immigration to Israel" by Liel Leibovitz (St. Martin's Press, $24.95).

    When the Pilgrims were making their way to the land that would become America, Liel Leibovitz's German ancestors were moving to the Holy Land. A cultural writer for...

  • Bar/Bat Mitzvah - A Postmodern Coming-of-Age Guide

    May 11, 2006 | 8:00 pm

    "Bar Mitzvah: A Guide to Spiritual Growth" by Marc-Alain Ouaknin (Assouline, $24.95)

    When a book on bar mitzvah opens with a poem by Rudyard Kipling and a quote from French ethical philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, it's clearly not your usual bar mitzvah book, of which there are many.

    ...
  • Mother and Daughter Authors Are Klass Act

    May 11, 2006 | 8:00 pm

    Sheila Solomon Klass and Dr. in Perri Klass -- mother and daughter co-authors -- don't finish each other's sentences, but they do elaborate on them in Talmudic style, layering on comments, memories, opinions and their own interpretations of the same story.

    In a kitchen table...

  • Three Madelehs of the Written Word

    April 27, 2006 | 8:00 pm

    Jewish women have prominent roles in several new novels this season, penned by young Jewish writers with impressive track records -- Ayelet Waldman, Allegra Goodman and Lara Vapnyar. The three have written urban stories, focused on relationships, and the books are closely observed...

  • Some ‘New’ Shoah Books Not So New

    April 20, 2006 | 8:00 pm

    If there's an overriding theme among the newest books related to the Holocaust, it's one of concealment and discovery, whether in the writer's own wartime experience or invented on the page. Sometimes it's a case of lost books being rediscovered.

    Some of these "new" books were...

  • PASSOVER: Myriad Ways to Tell an Ancient Tale

    April 6, 2006 | 8:00 pm

     

    Every haggadah has a story, its own story, beyond that of the exodus from Egypt. Depending on illustrations, design, typesetting, additions, where the edition is printed and who commissioned its creation, each version is a marker of Jewish history. In some cases, the wine...

  • ‘Voodoo’ Jew Finds Love, Truth in Haiti

    April 6, 2006 | 8:00 pm

    "Madame Dread: A Tale of Love, Voodoo and Civil Strife in Haiti" by Kathie Klarreich (Nation Books).

    According to a Creole proverb, truth is like oil in water; it always comes to the surface. Kathie Klarreich's first book, a memoir of her years in Haiti, is a tale of truths --...

  • Spectator - My Husband,  the Rabbi

    March 2, 2006 | 7:00 pm

    The first time the word "rebbetzin" appeared in The New York Times was in 1931, in a review of a book about Yiddish theater. The term stood untranslated; the reviewer and his editors assumed that readers would understand the meaning.

    The word has gone in and out of favor among those...

  • A Line Drive Down Jewish History

    January 5, 2006 | 7:00 pm

    "Judaism's Encounter With American Sports," by Jeffrey Gurock (Indiana University Press, $29.95).

    In an oft-repeated anecdote dating back to the early 1910s, Rabbi Solomon Schechter, head of the Jewish Theological Seminary, told Louis Finkelstein, then a young rabbinical student,...

  • A Developing Reputation

    December 29, 2005 | 7:00 pm

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    The two young, sari-clad women, one in blue and one in orange, stand in the thatched-roof meeting hall, take...

  • Scholar Discovers Hidden Russian Gem

    December 1, 2005 | 7:00 pm

    "The Five: A Novel of Jewish Life in Turn-of-the-Century Odessa" by Vladimir Jabotinsky; translated by Michael Katz (Cornell University Press, $17.95).

    A passing reference in Ruth Wisse's "The Modern Jewish Canon; A Journey Through Language and Culture" (Free Press, 2000) led to the...

  • The Hit Man Who Came to Dinner

    November 17, 2005 | 7:00 pm

    "Blood Relation" by Eric Konigsberg (HarperCollins, $25.95).

    Harold "Kayo" Konigsberg has been behind bars since 1963. He has served time in more than 15 prisons and is next up for parole in 2006, when he'll be 78. No one expects this Jewish hit man from New Jersey, who freelanced...

  • Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

    October 27, 2005 | 8:00 pm

    "Breaking Trail: A Climbing Life" (Scribner, $27.50).

    Arlene Blum describes her new book, "Breaking Trail: A Climbing Life," as an answer to a question she has often asked herself, as she did on Annapurna in the Himalayas: "What's a nice Jewish girl from the Midwest doing at 21,000...

  • Call Him Henry Roth

    October 13, 2005 | 8:00 pm

    "Redemption: The Life of Henry Roth" by Steven Kellman (Norton).

    Until now, there has been no full-scale biography of Henry Roth, whose 1934 novel, "Call It Sleep," is considered a masterpiece of American literature. That book, a portrait in grim realism of a Jewish immigrant child's...

  • Go Ahead—Read That Book in Shul

    September 22, 2005 | 8:00 pm

    The sounds of the Days of Awe in synagogue: the cry of the shofar, the cantor chanting age-old melodies that go right to the heart and congregants alternatively whispering and shushing each other. Then there's the gentle click of pages turning to their own rhythm, not in unison with...

  • L.A. Authors Break the Heroine Mold

    September 8, 2005 | 8:00 pm

     

    California purists who like to shop local, travel local and eat local will have no problem reading local. Among the season's offerings of new books are several impressive works by Los Angeles-based writers.

    Although the many writers at work in this city choose different...

  • Spectator - Hard Truths of ‘Hamburg’

    September 1, 2005 | 8:00 pm

    Polish journalist Hanna Krall's "The Woman From Hamburg: And Other True Stories" (Other Press, $19) is based on interviews she did that in some way involved the Holocaust. But when one of the 12 stories was recently featured in The New Yorker's fiction issue, an accompanying note...

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