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Tag: Book Review

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

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    1 week ago

    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

    2 weeks ago

    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...

  • Do Jews need more chutzpah? Does Judaism?

    By Michael Berenbaum

    November 19, 2014 | 1:46 pm

    I began reading Rabbi Edward Feinstein’s “The Chutzpah Imperative: Empowering Today’s Jews for a Life that Matters” (Jewish Lights) with two conflicting emotions — admiration and skepticism. Every time I have been in the presence of Feinstein, I have learned something — large or...

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  • A future without Jews; If anti-Semitism won

    October 29, 2014 | 11:40 am

    Just how frightening is it to be a British Jew these days? Although it’s comforting to know that the security guard who prohibited two Jewish boys from entering a sporting goods store in Hertfordshire, England, last month was fired, Jewish residents are starting to feel...

  • Anita Diamant’s ‘The Boston Girl’: An immigrant’s tale, hanging onto the old ways

    October 27, 2014 | 8:46 am

    From the opening of Anita Diamant’s heartwarming novel, “The Boston Girl,” (Scribner), when Addie Bauman, an 85-year-old grandmother recounts her life story to her granddaughter, I was struck by the similarities between the Jewish cultural beliefs and mores in Boston in 1915, when...

  • Home is where ‘The Luminous Heart of Jonah S.’ is

    October 8, 2014 | 9:49 am

    Gina B. Nahai’s new novel, “The Luminous Heart of Jonah S.” (Akashic Books) is a wildly inventive story of the Soleyman family that travels back and forth in time between 1950s Tehran and present-day Los Angeles. This Iranian Jewish clan was thriving in Iran before Ayatollah...

  • Jules Feiffer’s ‘Kill My Mother’: You’ll Die Laughing

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    September 17, 2014 | 3:41 pm

    Last week, I happened to catch the 1971 movie “Little Murders,” adapted by Jules Feiffer from his stage play. It’s a black comedy, mordant but full of insight into the American psyche and the zeitgeist of the era, and it reminded me of the role that Feiffer, and especially his...

  • Portrait of a very human King David

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    September 10, 2014 | 9:15 am

    When Jews gather to pray, we invoke the Patriarchs and, in some synagogues, the Matriarchs, the Prophets and Mosheh Rabbenu.  The glorious King David, by contrast, is mostly mentioned in connection with the Psalms, whose authorship is attributed to him in pious Jewish tradition....

  • Amidst celebrity, Daphne Merkin is wishing still for mother’s love

    August 26, 2014 | 9:09 am

    If you were the wild child among more submissive siblings, who refused to be silenced and cried continually, and fought with all the others about their glaring hypocrisies; chances are you were not your parents’ favorite child.  If you sometimes made disturbing comments about...

  • ‘The Lion’s Gate’: Firsthand accounts of the Six Day War

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    July 23, 2014 | 1:05 pm

    From a distance of a half-century, the Six Day War looks very different indeed from what is happening today on the Gaza border, but “The Lion’s Gate: On the Front Lines of the Six Day War” by Steven Pressfield (Sentinel) is a kind of companion reader for those of us who are...

  • Fear of the apocalypse and Edan Lepucki’s ‘California’

    July 15, 2014 | 2:07 pm

    Fear of a publishing apocalypse, to be precise. Most of us never would have heard about Edan Lepucki’s debut novel, California, about a post-apocalyptic Golden State, except for a battle between Amazon and book publishers.  Here’s a short version of a long story: California’s...

  • The true story of how scientists battled Typhus and sabotaged the Nazis

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    July 9, 2014 | 10:29 am

    By now, of course, we know full well that the Holocaust is a bottomless pit. More than a half-century after the liberation of the last camp, new and wholly unsuspecting tales of both suffering and redemption continue to reach us. “The Fantastic Laboratory of Dr. Weigl: How Two...

  • Turning the Shtetl’s image upside down

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    June 20, 2014 | 2:16 pm

    The biggest challenge that Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern faces in “The Golden Age Shtetl: A New History of Jewish Life in East Europe” (Princeton University Press) is that he is working against more than a century of sentiment and nostalgia, a kind of collective fantasy that reached its...

  • Turan’s pick of pics

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    May 28, 2014 | 10:21 am

    Film critic Kenneth Turan grew up in Brooklyn in the 1950s in an observant home, which means that he did not often enjoy a Saturday matinee at the Lowe’s Pitkin or the Brandt’s Sutter. “That said, I do have a vivid memory of sneaking out to see a vibrant, cleft-chinned Kirk Douglas...

  • A son’s love, and snooping

    May 23, 2014 | 10:36 am

    Those who have enjoyed Mona Simpson’s much-acclaimed first novel, “Anywhere But Here,” will not be disappointed by “Casebook” (Alfred A. Knopf, $25.95). Here, too, with her distinctive wry humor and razor-sharp voice, Simpson, a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and the winner of...

  • The making of a real spy

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    May 14, 2014 | 11:23 am

    Our idea of what spies actually do is deeply tainted by a century or so of novels and movies, some better than others but all of them fictional. “The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames” by Kai Bird (Crown, $26), by contrast, is the real thing.  And yet, for all of its...

  • Deborah Feldman’s Hasidic ‘Exodus’

    May 8, 2014 | 12:23 pm

    I’m still so worried about Deborah Feldman, the young woman who fled the Satmar Hasidic community in Brooklyn with her small son in tow, and a flood of childhood memories, both horrifying and wonderful.  She chronicled her turbulent early life in her first book, a surprise...

  • Secret Schalit negotiations unveiled

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    April 16, 2014 | 1:10 pm

    Back in 2006, a 19-year-old Israeli soldier named Gilad Schalit was the victim of a weapon of disequilibrium.

    Since Hamas could not defeat the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in open battle, their operatives entered Israel through an underground tunnel from Gaza, snatched the young...

  • UnRetire: Finding Your Way to Home Sweet Anywhere!

    By Lisa Ellen Niver

    April 2, 2014 | 2:01 pm

    home sweetHome Sweet Anywhere tells the story of Lynne and Tim Martin who decided that their American dream did not involve a white picket fence and a retirement of babysitting grandchildren, watching television and staying in one place.

    They sold their home and started a Home Free...

  • Butterflies are free

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    March 19, 2014 | 2:24 pm

    The exotic byways of history have provided the settings for Dora Levy Mossanen’s previous fiction, including the sizzling “Harem” and “Courtesan” and the magical “The Last Romanov.” Her new novel, “Scent of Butterflies” (Sourcebooks, $14.99), is still a work of exotica, but in a...

  • Why is Susan Taubes important?

    March 17, 2014 | 10:57 am

    In her famous work “A Room of One’s Own” (1929), Virginia Woolf imagines a sister of Shakespeare, whom she names Judith. Woolf explores the reasons why so few women have made their mark in literature and other media. The imagined sister of Shakespeare, Woolf hypothesizes, was as...

  • The Arab Spring’s missed opportunity

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    March 6, 2014 | 9:41 am

    Walid Phares, born and educated in Lebanon, is an experienced observer of events in what he calls “the Greater Middle East.” But perhaps his most telling credentials are found in the fact that he served as a foreign affairs advisor to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney...

  • The twisted tale of John Demjanjuk

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    February 6, 2014 | 10:33 am

    Among Nazi war criminals who have faced justice, ranging from Hermann Goering to Adolf Eichmann, we find John Demjanjuk, who was charged with participating in the murder of 29,060 Jews as a guard at the Sobibor concentration camp. Unlike the more notorious Nazis, Demjanjuk actually...

  • Born loving Stalin, raised to revere Roth

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    January 29, 2014 | 3:46 pm

    The key to Gary Shteyngart’s best-selling novels can be found in the title of his second book: “Absurdistan.” His genius manifests in the making of imaginary people and places that are slightly cracked versions of the real world, and he brings a wry and ironic sense of humor to the...

  • Jews and Muslims, their common threads

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    December 19, 2013 | 5:07 pm

    The encounter between Jews and Muslims, which began during the lifetime of Mohammed, has never been without tensions and conflicts, perhaps never more so than today.  “A History of Jewish-Muslim Relations: From the Origins to the Present Day” (Princeton University Press, $75),...

  • ‘Serenade’: Love and liberation

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    August 21, 2013 | 1:12 pm

    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...

  • “The Dead Sea Scrolls – A Biography” – Book Review and Recommendation

    By Rabbi John Rosove

    July 9, 2013 | 7:13 pm

    If you have ever wondered what is so significant about the Dead Sea Scrolls, arguably the most significant archeological discovery of the 20th century, and would like a handbook to explain it all, this book by Dr. John J Collins, Professor of Old Testament Criticism and...

  • The Challenge of Defining Who is a Jew and What is an Israeli Today – A Book Review

    By Rabbi John Rosove

    June 30, 2013 | 6:37 am

    "The 188th Crybaby Brigade – A Skinny Jewish Kid from Chicago Fights Hezbollah," by Joel Chasnoff (publ. 2010) is a well-written, insightful, at times hysterically funny memoir of a young American Yeshiva bucher who sought to live the complete modern Jewish experience while...

  • “Born on a Blue Day” – by Daniel Tammet – Book Recommendation

    By Rabbi John Rosove

    June 20, 2013 | 10:06 pm

    “Born on a Blue Day” (publ. 2007) is an extraordinary memoir written by a young British autistic savant, Daniel Tammet. His mental capacities are so remarkable that he was able to recite Pi to the 22,514th digit and holds the British and European record.

    The author writes about...

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