Jewish Journal

Tag: Book Review

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  • How Israel’s desert became a fecund source of water

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    1 week ago

    “Making the desert bloom” is one of the stirring and enduring tropes of Zionist history. So it makes sense for a drought-afflicted country like ours to turn to Israel for an example of how to solve the water crisis. That’s exactly what Seth M. Siegel has done in “Let There Be...

  • The Holocaust in a new and revelatory light

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    September 9, 2015 | 2:18 pm

    Scholars are notoriously critical and even cranky readers, especially when it comes to the Holocaust. Lucy Dawidowicz (“The War Against the Jews 1933-1945”) was bitterly disparaged by Raul Hilberg (“The Destruction of the European Jews”), and Hilberg was faulted by Hugh...

  • A story of love and disappointment ,and the life of artist Camille Pissaro

    September 2, 2015 | 11:55 am

    Alice Hoffman’s sentences possess a musical cadence that demand to be read aloud like poetry, which I often did with great pleasure as I read “The Marriage of Opposites” (Simon and Schuster). 

    The story of Rachel Pomié Petit Pizzarro and her son, the renowned Impressionist...

  • Author, psychologist delves inside ‘The Israeli Mind’

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    September 2, 2015 | 11:36 am

    Alon Gratch practices psychology in New York but was born and raised in Jerusalem, which puts him in a unique position to tell us how Israelis see the world. Indeed, as he writes in “The Israeli Mind: How the Israeli National Character Shapes Our World” (St. Martin’s Press), “I...

  • Rabbi counseling those at life’s thresholds shares her wisdom

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    August 19, 2015 | 3:38 pm

    “Rabbi” is derived from the Hebrew word for “my master,” which leaves a lot of room for describing what a rabbi actually does. A rabbi is trained to be the spiritual leader of a Jewish congregation, of course, but he or she may also serve as a teacher, a judge, an administrator and...

  • The other side of Maxine Kumin

    August 5, 2015 | 4:47 pm

    I think there were always two Maxine Kumins wrestling for space inside of her. 

    In her new memoir, “The Pawnbroker’s Daughter” (W. W. Norton), the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, who died last year at 88, allows us to see only certain parts of her. There is the feeling throughout...

  • Lodz Ghetto Photos—My article in The Jewish Quarterly

    By Ruth Ellen Gruber

    July 27, 2015 | 2:51 pm

    Downtown Lodz today


    The Jewish Quarterly publishes my review of the book Memory Unearthed: The Lodz Ghetto Photographs of Henryk Ross, a fascinating collection of posed photographs and unexpected snapshots taken in the WW2 Lodz Ghetto and hidden underground until after the...

  • Parsing the Jewish genome

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    July 23, 2015 | 5:57 pm

    Jewish law holds that Jewish identity is traced through the maternal bloodline, but history cautions us against the dangers of linking blood and religion. From the Spanish Inquisition to the Third Reich, the scrutiny of one’s ancestry has been a matter of life and death for Jews...

  • A Short Guide to the Good Life

    By Mindy Leaf

    July 14, 2015 | 5:40 am

    This week, I've been dipping into a new/old book on how to live your life. It's called A Strategy for Daily Living by psychiatrist and author Ari Kiev, and was first published in 1973. (And because I live in a bibliophile's house, it was the original, slightly crumbling edition...

  • All-seeing mother watches family implode

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    July 9, 2015 | 9:49 am

    Rare is the writer who does not look at one of his earlier works and see something he would have changed. Rarer still is the writer who actually makes that change. In “Prayers for the Living” (Fig Tree Books), novelist, memoirist and National Public Radio book critic Alan Cheuse...

  • A funny — and touching — thing happened when a writer had a son

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    June 25, 2015 | 2:55 pm

    Etgar Keret is an Israeli writer with an international readership. His stories have been translated into 37 languages, and you can read them in The New Yorker and The New York Times. He’s also been a contributor to the radio program “This American Life.” But if you are not already...

  • Judd Apatow: Comedy drawn from an ‘Unfair Life’

    June 19, 2015 | 8:31 am

    Judd Apatow’s phenomenal success seems the result of a willed and desperate act of adolescent defiance against a childhood that threatened to destroy him.  Apatow was adrift in Syosset, Long Island, where his parents were always viciously fighting before they divorced when he was...

  • Torn between two loves

    By David Suissa

    June 17, 2015 | 10:17 am

    A plate of cheese and crackers served to hungry Israeli officials at the White House is one of the many images that lingered after I read Michael Oren’s riveting new book, “Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide.” The book is an insider account of Oren’s tenure as the...

  • Kafka finds love and joy in his last days

    June 4, 2015 | 3:16 pm

    “We may well imagine that the glory of life lies around everyone, and always in its full richness, but obscured, down in the depths, invisible and far away,“ Franz Kafka wrote in his diary on Oct. 18 1921. “There it lies, however, not hostile, not reluctant, not deaf. If you use...

  • ‘How Sweet It Is!’ is a gangster’s paradise

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    May 27, 2015 | 10:44 am

    The first voice you hear in the latest novel by Thane Rosenbaum, “How Sweet It Is!” (Mandel Vilar Press), belongs to the Great One himself, Jackie Gleason. 

    “Miami Beach is magical, but it is the magic of the dark arts,” Gleason is made to say. “Black magic masquerading as...

  • An incomplete view of Mark Rothko

    April 30, 2015 | 10:54 am

    Annie Cohen-Solal previously has written two extremely well-received biographies – one on Jean-Paul Sartre and another on the famous art dealer Leo Castelli, but she can’t seem to find on the abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko. Her new biography, “Mark Rothko” (Yale...

  • An extensive history of the Holocaust

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    April 9, 2015 | 10:53 am

    On Holocaust Remembrance Day, we are confronted by a bitter irony. The vast and ever-expanded scholarship of the Shoah has never been greater, and yet, at the same time, we still hear insistent voices that minimize or even deny that it happened. That’s why the most crucial form of...

  • A ‘Frank’ assessment

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    March 11, 2015 | 1:11 pm

    Now and then, a politician comes along who is both cantankerous and somehow lovable, highly principled and yet open to argument, possessed of both a sense of honor and a sense of humor. The late New York Mayor Ed Koch was one example, and Arizona Sen. John McCain is another. And so...

  • Alan Lightman turns to remembering a life in the South

    March 6, 2015 | 12:38 pm

    It feels as if Alan Lightman has been forgetting large pieces of his past for decades; his reinvention seems intentional.  This very talented 66-year-old writer and theoretical physicist has produced beautiful works of fiction that examine the fragility of the human experience...

  • ‘Anonymous Soldiers’ looks at terrorism from another troubling angle

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    February 25, 2015 | 12:43 pm

    “Anonymous Soldiers: The Struggle for Israel, 1917-1947” by Bruce Hoffman (Knopf) offers an uncomfortable but crucial message: Terrorism works. And the book is all the more disturbing because the examples Hoffman considers are the Irgun and Lehi (perhaps better known as the “Stern...

  • Martin Amis goes inside a fictional Nazi mind

    February 20, 2015 | 11:02 am

    While watching Adolf Eichmann’s trial in Jerusalem in 1961, the philosopher Hannah Arendt wondered: “Could the activity of thinking as such … be of such a nature that it 'conditions' men against evildoing?" To Arendt, Eichmann’s incapacity for critical thinking mirrored the...

  • The case against academic boycotts of Israel

    February 16, 2015 | 12:00 pm

    Cary Nelson and Gabriel Brahm, in less than a year, were able to assemble, edit, index, and bring to press a 500-plus page thoughtful volume of essays, outlining many of the problems with boycotting (some would say blacklisting) Israeli academic institutions (and, as the book...

  • Ghosts of exile, examined

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    February 12, 2015 | 10:23 am

    Roger Cohen is an observer of Israel and the Middle East whose voice is especially commanding, and not only because he writes for The New York Times. As a former foreign correspondent, he is deeply experienced in the travails and troubles of the contemporary world. In “The Girl...

  • The post-war West Germans’ post-Holocaust distortions

    February 6, 2015 | 4:11 pm

    Historians understand that language is not a benign force.  It has tremendous power to radically alter our perception of the “truth.”  Those in power who control the dominant cultural narrative can create an accepted historical reality that never existed, or one that integrates...

  • Moving ‘God, Faith & Identity’ passes mantle of remembrance

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    January 28, 2015 | 2:56 pm

    Seventy years ago, the Red Army liberated the death camp at Auschwitz, an event that now marks the observance of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Ever since that day, we have been struggling to explain and understand what happened in the killing fields and concentration...

  • Can the ‘Creative Class’ survive?

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    January 14, 2015 | 1:14 pm

    The digital revolution has its winners and losers. If a question comes up in dinner conversation, there’s no item of information so obscure or so trivial that we cannot find it in a few seconds with a Google search on our smartphones. But, then, I have come to believe that...

  • Norton’s ‘Anthology of World Religions’: Our Prayers Have Been Answered

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    December 30, 2014 | 1:08 pm

    The publishing house of W.W. Norton is celebrated for the art of the anthology, whether it is a classic like “The Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry” or Reza Aslan’s recent groundbreaking collection, “Tablet & Pen: Literary Landscapes From the Modern Middle East.”...

  • The welcome enemy: Nazis in the U.S.

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    December 11, 2014 | 1:35 pm

    One of the bitter facts of history is that the United States’ immigration quota for Germany and Austria went unfilled during the 1930s when hundreds of thousands of Jews were clamoring to escape the Third Reich. And further, when the war against Germany was finally won in 1945,...

  • A pre-Holocaust home movie opens a window into a lost world

    December 5, 2014 | 3:44 pm

    Fifty-one year old Glenn Kurtz grew up obsessed with becoming a classical guitarist.  His dream fizzled in his mid-twenties when he realized he was good, just not great.  In his thirties, he wrote a beautiful book, “Practicing A Musician’s Return to Music,” that explored his return...

  • Leaving religious life: The ‘un-Orthodox’ path

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    November 21, 2014 | 12:09 pm

    The path between the secular world and highly observant Judaism is a two-way street. The baal t’shuvah travels in one direction, but he or she may be taking the place of someone who has abandoned Orthodoxy.  It is these so-called “defectors” whose lives are explored with color and...

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