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  • Eclectic array of books a holiday gift for readers

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    November 22, 2016 | 3:35 pm

    The good news in the publishing industry is that books, whether the old-fashioned or the new-fangled kind, are continuing to attract the attention of readers, which explains why there are always so many gift-giving opportunities for the holidays. As Chanukah approaches, here is a...

  • The story of a Jewish enclave in the Soviet Union

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    August 17, 2016 | 1:45 pm

    Who can tell the things that befell us in Birobidzhan?

    Now only a footnote in history, Birobidzhan was a godforsaken stretch of Russian swampland between the Bira and Bidzhan rivers, not far from the Manchurian frontier, where Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin decreed the...

  • Sex with Jews is fun —  just ask Kellen Kaiser

    By Eitan Arom

    August 4, 2016 | 11:33 am

    When she started writing in about 2005, Kellen Kaiser had planned to call her book “How to Plan a Gay Kosher Wedding for 250.” Instead, her relationship with the story’s male lead unraveled. 

    In May, Kaiser published “Queerspawn in Love: A Memoir” (She Writes Press), an...

  • The Jewish con man who scammed Hitler

    By Avishay Artsy

    August 4, 2016 | 11:25 am

    "A con man with a heart of gold.” That’s how Variety described Freeman Bernstein in his obituary. The vaudeville manager, boxing promoter and fake-jewel salesman loved to tell wild tales, and his favorite was how he’d once swindled the Third Reich. He sold the Nazis 35 tons of...

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  • Musings and insight on the afterlife

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    August 3, 2016 | 3:25 pm

    There’s nothing surprising about a man or woman who muses about death in the later years of life. For Hillel Halkin, however, the fear of dying began at the age of 11 or 12, when he read an article about leprosy in Reader’s Digest and promptly convinced himself that he suffered...

  • Murder and the nuance of language

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    July 14, 2016 | 9:11 am

    A lawyerly question provides the starting point for a wholly remarkable new book by Philippe Sands, “East West Street: On the Origins of ‘Genocide’ and ‘Crimes Against Humanity’ ” (Knopf). What, after all, is the real difference between “crimes against humanity,” the charge faced...

  • 7 Elie Wiesel books that show the range of his influence

    July 7, 2016 | 9:46 am

    Most people know Elie Wiesel as the author of “Night,” one of the first published autobiographical accounts of what life was like inside Nazi concentration camps. The book, which helped shape the American understanding of the effects of the Holocaust, has since become a staple on...

  • A friend recalls Wiesel a caring mentor, moral guide

    By Eitan Arom

    July 2, 2016 | 4:57 pm

    Elie Wiesel, Nobel laureate, author and Holocaust survivor, who died July 2 at the age of 87, served as an emissary for survivors to the world’s leaders. But to those who knew him, he was most of all a caring mentor and friend who eschewed the label of public figure.

    “I don’t...

  • Adopting a new view of faith and family

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    June 9, 2016 | 11:27 am

    Let’s get one thing out of the way — yes, Susan Silverman is the sister of actors and comedians Sarah Silverman and Laura Silverman. Perhaps more significant, however, are Silverman’s other achievements and credentials. She is a Reform rabbi who lives in Jerusalem, where she is a...

  • How one publisher revolutionized American Judaism

    June 9, 2016 | 11:06 am

    When the news came, it was like learning of the death of an old, trusted friend. 

    Last week, it was announced that Turner Publishing Company would be acquiring Jewish Lights Publishing, as well as the other imprints associated with its parent company, LongHill Partners — SkyLight...

  • Is Judaism kids’ stuff?

    June 3, 2016 | 11:38 am

    I exited the library last week with a tall pile of books, many of them classics I had read as a child.

    As my own children become seasoned readers I want to encourage them to read the writings that had touched me; that I read over and over again.

    This led to me myself revisiting...

  • Dust off your summer reading glasses

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    June 2, 2016 | 3:59 pm

    Politics is dominating not only headlines, but bookstores, as well, and some of the most intriguing author events in early summer will provide yet more opportunity to agonize over Trump, Sanders and Clinton. Even Sebastian Junger’s new book about why tribalism can be a good thing,...

  • A look at the fragmented history of Zionism

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    May 25, 2016 | 2:52 pm

    "Zionism” is a word that has come to mean many different things to different people, which is why veteran foreign correspondent Milton Viorst decided to take a fresh look at the origins and the destiny of the Zionist project in “Zionism: The Birth and Transformation of an Ideal”...

  • A true Jewish star is born in Gabler’s ‘Streisand’

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    May 11, 2016 | 3:39 pm

    It is telling that the chapter titles in Neal Gabler’s “Barbra Streisand: Redefining Beauty, Femininity, and Power,” the latest book in the Jewish Lives series from Yale University Press, are given in transliterated Yiddish (and sometimes Yinglish) — “Shaynkeit,” “Mieskeit,”...

  • Joel Grey: More than just a master of ‘Cabaret’

    April 27, 2016 | 10:13 am

    In “Master of Ceremonies” (Flatiron Books), Joel Grey has written an unexpectedly exquisite memoir about the life he has led as a closeted gay man growing up during a time when being gay was fraught with excessive difficulties and danger.  He has spent decades forging an identity...

  • Passover ‘On One Foot’: Books for kids

    April 14, 2016 | 12:32 pm

    The newest Passover picture books for children include colorful depictions of holiday rituals, such as opening the door for Elijah, properly preparing for a family seder and the true meaning of “Dayenu.” One book is intended for older children who enjoy reading nonfiction, and one...

  • Talmud after dark: Maggie Anton finds the ribald in Rashi

    By Avishay Artsy

    March 16, 2016 | 1:24 pm

    Like many seeds for a book, the thought of writing about rabbinic discussions of sex came from an offhand comment made by a stranger. Talmudic scholar and novelist Maggie Anton was speaking to a Hadassah chapter in New Jersey last fall. The audience was entirely women, and she...

  • Sex in the Talmud uncovered in different ‘Shades’

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    March 16, 2016 | 1:11 pm

    According to a pious tradition, the unmarried men in a yeshivah were asked to leave the study hall whenever the rabbi began to teach one of the passages of the Talmud that frankly address the subject of sex, an act known in talmudic usage as “the mitzvah act.” Now, thanks to a...

  • For God’s Sake…

    By Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin

    February 26, 2016 | 1:12 pm

    There is a bookshelf in my study that I have nicknamed “Amsterdam.”

    On that shelf, you can find the following books: God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, by the late Christopher Hitchens; The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins; Letter To a Christian Nation, by Sam...

  • A rabbi’s spiritual awakening

    By Rabbi Naomi Levy

    January 20, 2016 | 3:49 pm

    Rabbi Sara Brandes grew up in Los Angeles and was a competitive gymnast as a child. She was ordained as a Conservative rabbi by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 2008, and is also a certified yoga instructor. Brandes was co-founder of Minyan Kol Chai in West Hills, an...

  • Kindred spirits of Marcel Proust and Groucho Marx

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    January 20, 2016 | 1:51 pm

    The scope of Jewish achievement can be measured in the list of names in the Jewish Lives series of short biographies from Yale University Press, ranging from the biblical King David to Zionist icon David Ben-Gurion, from Weimar statesman Walther Rathenau to Baseball Hall of Famer...

  • Honing Hebrew hilariously

    By  Tom Tugend

    December 9, 2015 | 3:49 pm

    Even the most ardent supporters of Israel might wish at times that its inhabitants had chosen an easier language … like, say, English.

    However, because the linguistic choice of our common ancestors appears irreversible, two Israeli expats have come up with the idea of applying...

  • When Santa got mail from Rachel Rosenstein

    By Naomi Pfefferman

    December 2, 2015 | 3:20 pm

    Actress-author Amanda Peet and writer Andrea Troyer are longtime close friends and the wives of, respectively, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, the creators of the HBO megahit “Game of Thrones.”

    Their husbands met and bonded as Jews in the not-so-Jewish milieu of Trinity College in...

  • Chanukah books: Curl up with a good read

    November 25, 2015 | 9:10 am

    It’s time for a top-10 list of a few of the best recently published Jewish books for this Chanukah season. All make wonderful gifts and span different age and interest levels.

    FOR KIDS

    “Oskar and the Eight Blessings” by Tanya and Richard Simon. Illustrated by Mark Siegel....

  • For Chanukah, books that bind us

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    November 13, 2015 | 9:56 am

    Giving a book as a Chanukah gift is a fine, old Jewish tradition, although nowadays books often take the form of a Kindle download or a digital gift certificate from Amazon rather than a festively wrapped hardcover. Still, the tactile pleasures of what publishers now refer to as a...

  • After more than 70 thrillers, the writing Kellermans go on tour

    By  Tom Tugend

    October 29, 2015 | 12:50 pm

    Jonathan and Faye Kellerman are happily married, have four talented children, live in a spacious Beverly Hills home and have a joint family business that probes the darkest crevices of the human psyche and soul.

    The parents, together with son Jesse, are arguably the first family...

  • A Gehry biography with in-depth detail, but lacking in passion

    October 8, 2015 | 3:57 pm

    I generally approach a new biography by attempting to shut out competing noise.  I focus on the biographer and his subject; in this case, Paul Goldberger’s masterful but frustrating new work, “Building Art: The Life and Work Of Frank Gehry” (Knopf).  But this time I didn’t start...

  • 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...

  • Words to amuse and amaze

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    September 8, 2015 | 2:42 pm

    Novelist Jonathan Franzen (“The Corrections,” “Freedom”) is such a draw that his public appearances are more like rock concerts than bookstore readings. For example, his gig promoting his new book, “Purity” (Bond Street Books), requires advance tickets at $33 apiece — the ticket...

  • Get kids into the High Holy Days spirit with these new books

    September 3, 2015 | 2:28 pm

    Of the new children’s books of Jewish interest out this fall, many incorporate themes that go beyond High Holy Days fare. Included here are short reviews of the best of the batch, including a biblical story of King David, life in Shanghai at Sukkot time, a concept book for...

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