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Jewish Journal

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  • Adopting a new view of faith and family

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    2 weeks ago

    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

    2 weeks ago

    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?

    3 weeks ago

    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

    3 weeks ago

    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,...

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  • 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...

  • 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...

  • Good summer reads for kids

    July 30, 2015 | 9:31 am

    Whether the kids are off to camp, a vacation or just staying at home, summer is a time to find a few good books — and not  just those assigned for book reports as school approaches. It’s not too late to get started. Here is a suggested list of summer reads for kids 

    1. “Death by...

  • 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...

  • Miranda Richmond Mouillot’s fascination with an ancestral divorce

    July 13, 2015 | 4:23 pm

    Acknowledging her own anger frightens Miranda Richmond Mouillot more than she realizes, as we discover in her new book, “A Fifty-Year Silence: Love, War and a Ruined House in France” (Crown).  And she has plenty to be angry about.  She grew up a nervous and anxious child in a...

  • Jewish name-calling: a note on Michael Oren, Leon Wieseltier and the art of insult

    By Danielle Berrin

    July 6, 2015 | 1:52 pm

    SHAKESPEARE said it so sweetly.

    “What’s in a name?” the Bard mused in “Romeo and Juliet,” his immortal romance about hostile households. “That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet.”

    In Jewish tradition, names are taken a tad more seriously. Families...

  • Jewish name-calling: a note on Michael Oren, Leon Wieseltier and the art of insult

    By Danielle Berrin

    July 6, 2015 | 1:04 pm

    SHAKESPEARE said it so sweetly.

    “What’s in a name?” the Bard mused in “Romeo and Juliet,” his immortal romance about hostile households. “That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet.”

    In Jewish tradition, names are taken a tad more seriously. Families...

  • Nine ways to display your books on a shelf

    By Jonathan Fong

    March 19, 2015 | 10:49 am

    I recently received a decorating S.O.S. call from a friend. She had just bought a beautiful set of bookcases, and as soon as they were installed in her living room, she eagerly placed all her books on the shelves. But something wasn’t right. It all looked a little blah. Unfinished....

  • ‘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...

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