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  • Leaving the an insular, Hasidic world

    February 10, 2012 | 12:22 pm

    “Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots” by 25-year-old Deborah Feldman (Simon & Schuster: $23.00) is painfully good. Through a narrative voice that is almost hypnotic, she puts you immediately in the center of her chaotic world.  Flashes of adult wisdom seem...

  • A Jesus even Jews can love?

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    February 9, 2012 | 3:40 pm

    Rabbi Shmuley Boteach has been accused of nothing less than apostasy by at least one of his fellow rabbis, all thanks to his newly published book, “Kosher Jesus” (Gefen Publishing House: $26). And I am confident some Evangelical Christians will reach the same conclusion if only...

  • “The Hare with Amber Eyes” by Edmund DeWaal – Book Recommendation

    By Rabbi John Rosove

    February 8, 2012 | 1:57 pm

    On a long flight to Israel this past week I read a beautifully written memoir called “The Hare with Amber Eyes” by Edmund DeWaal.  This thoroughly researched work tells the story of four generations of the Ephrussi family, among the most prominent and wealthy Jewish families in...

  • Shalom Auslander’s ‘Hope: A Tragedy’

    February 3, 2012 | 1:35 pm

    Shalom Auslander’s memoir, “Foreskin’s Lament,” chronicled the author’s shaky departure from his dysfunctional ultra-Orthodox home in Monsey, New York.  Readers will recall how Auslander was somehow able to blend sadness and compassion with biting humor and anger into his...

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  • Himmler: An ordinary man turned villain

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    February 1, 2012 | 5:38 pm

    No matter how much is written about Nazi Germany, there is always some new horror to behold and some new paradox to ponder. That’s how I felt when I opened a remarkable and wholly fascinating new book by Peter Longerich, a German historian who is among the world’s leading...

  • Elizabeth Taylor was my aunt

    By Gina Nahai

    February 1, 2012 | 12:30 pm

    It’s true. Really. The Elizabeth Taylor. She of the many husbands and the showpiece jewels, the on-screen splendor and off-screen grit was, indeed, related to me by marriage.

    This isn’t a recent discovery; I’m not like my mother, who tends to unearth a long-lost or previously...

  • Guide to a master reader’s works

    By Rabbi David Wolpe

    January 26, 2012 | 1:33 pm

    In a moment of unwarranted despair, the young Keats wrote his epitaph: “Here lies one whose name is writ in water.” Yet creative geniuses achieve such immortality as human memory bestows. Those who exalt them disappear. The poet endures; the critic is destined to be forgotten.

    ...
  • Jewish Book Council names Sami Rohr Prize finalists

    January 26, 2012 | 10:24 am

    The Jewish Book Council announced its five finalists for the 2012 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature.

    The $100,000 prize, presented annually since 2007, is awarded to fiction and non-fiction writers in alternating years, with this year’s focus on non-fiction.

    The finalists...

  • Plans to publish ‘Mein Kampf’ in German postponed

    January 25, 2012 | 12:00 pm

    A British publisher has postponed plans to publish segments of Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” after threats of legal action.

    Peter McGee said Wednesday on the website of his weekly magazine Zeitungszeugen that he would not begin publishing the segments Thursday as planned until...

  • Fred Weintraub: The Serendipitous Producer

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    January 19, 2012 | 2:16 pm

    Fred Weintraub is not merely an eyewitness to the history of American pop culture.  As we discover in his wholly winning memoir, “Bruce Lee, Woodstock and Me: From the Man Behind a Half-Century of Music, Movies and Martial Arts” (Brooktree Canyon Press: $28.95), he was a featured...

  • Spiegelman among National Jewish Book Awards winners

    January 12, 2012 | 10:59 am

    Author and illustrator Art Spiegelman and Israeli novelist Aharon Appelfeld are among the winners of the 2011 National Jewish Book Awards.

    The awards, which were announced Wednesday, are given out annually by the Jewish Book Council to honor outstanding books of Jewish interest.

    ...
  • Notable books of 2011

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    January 11, 2012 | 4:11 pm

    In addition to our prizewinner, we also want to honor some of the other exceptional books that came to our attention in 2011, each of which is accomplished and provocative.

    The headlines in The Jewish Journal and other newspapers serve to confirm the acuity and even the prescience...

  • ‘What They Saved’ wins first Jewish Journal Book Prize

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    January 11, 2012 | 3:21 pm

    Since 2009, when I was first given the opportunity to serve as book editor and chief reviewer for The Jewish Journal, we have been able to significantly increase The Journal’s coverage of the literary world, including biweekly reviews in the newspaper and weekly reviews on...

  • Pico Iyer unravels his mind’s shadows

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    January 4, 2012 | 12:51 pm

    Pico Iyer conjures up Graham Greene in the title of his new book, “The Man Within My Head” (Knopf: $25.95), and that’s why it caught my attention. Greene is a writer
    whom I have read with admiration and pleasure, over and over again, throughout my adult life. Iyer, too, sparked...

  • In the beginning, there was Monterey

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    December 21, 2011 | 12:06 pm

    One way to mark the chronology of the counterculture, a pastime that is beloved by the baby boomers, is by reference to rock festivals. Woodstock and Altamont, for example, are now fully transformed into transcendent symbols of life and death, good and evil, the beginning and end of...

  • ‘Unusual’ Jewish books

    December 20, 2011 | 1:08 pm

    During the 1978 Frankfurt Book Fair, an enterprising bibliophile conducted a meticulous search of the vast exhibit hall with an unusual purpose: to find the oddest book title.  Inspired by this valiant quest, the British trade magazine, The Bookseller has been publishing annual lists...

  • Christopher Hitchens and the fall of a worthy adversary

    By Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

    December 16, 2011 | 10:28 am

    A journalist friend of mine emailed me at 1am Friday morning to tell me that Christopher Hitchens had died. The news brought with it a deep sadness and I instantly recited the Jewish prayer upon hearing of the passing of a friend, “Blessed is the true Judge.” That instinctive...

  • Amy Ephron’s intimate view of a life well lived

    December 16, 2011 | 10:00 am

    Amy Ephron’s captivating new book, “Loose Diamonds … and other things I’ve lost (and found) along the way” (William Morrow, $19.99), is a deliciously honest account of Ephron’s life experiences, wonderful vignettes that, to borrow her own words, are akin to “sparkling...

  • Christopher Hitchens, contrarian who embraced and battled Judaism, dead at 62

    December 16, 2011 | 7:44 am

    Christopher Hitchens, the atheist and iconoclast who discovered in adulthood that he was of Jewish descent, has died.

    Vanity Fair, where much of Hitchens’ work appeared, announced his passing late Thursday night on Twitter. He was 62 and suffering from esophageal cancer.

    Hitchens,...

  • Jerusalem, behind the veil of piety

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    December 13, 2011 | 5:38 pm

    Jerusalem is always in the headlines, or so it seems, but the same city on a hill has commanded the attention of the Western world without interruption since biblical antiquity.  That’s why Jerusalem is the subject of enough books to fill a library, the latest of which is Simon...

  • Ragen loses plagiarism suit

    December 12, 2011 | 10:45 am

    Israeli author Naomi Ragen lost a plagiarism suit regarding her best-selling book “Sotah.”

    The Jerusalem District Court ruled Sunday that Ragen, a Jerusalem-based writer, was in breach of copyright with “Sotah” because parts closely resembled the 1990 book “Growing Up with My...

  • Book review: The risks of trusting others

    December 8, 2011 | 5:11 pm

    Those who follow the teachings of religion by presuming the innate goodness of fellow human beings will quite likely find the book “Dangerous Instincts: How Gut Feelings Betray Us,” by Mary Ellen O’Toole and Alisa Bowman (Hudson Street Press, $25.95) shocking.

    Mary Ellen...

  • Israeli author ousted from panel

    By Lauren Bottner

    December 7, 2011 | 2:01 pm

    Israeli author Moshe Sakal was deemed “not crucial” to a panel discussion on the Arab Spring at a literary conference in Marseille and was kicked out of the roundtable discussion according to Haaretz.  The request to remove Sakal came from the Palestinian poet Najwan Darwish who...

  • A scholar reveals the Qur’an

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    December 7, 2011 | 12:48 pm

    No book is regarded with more fear and loathing in the West than the Qur’an, the fundamental religious text of Islam, and yet I am confident that most people who are anxious about what is written in the Qur’an have never actually held a copy in their hands, much less opened it...

  • Is the bookstore dead?

    By Jonah Lowenfeld

    November 30, 2011 | 6:47 pm

    On Dec. 31, when the Barnes & Noble at the corner of Pico and Westwood boulevards closes its doors for the last time, the “people of the book” and everyone else who lives on the Westside of Los Angeles will move one step closer to becoming the “people without a bookstore.”

    ...
  • Israel’s ‘Unmaking’

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    November 28, 2011 | 4:59 pm

    No book review I’ve written for The Jewish Journal has prompted as much feedback as the one I wrote about “A New Voice for Israel” by Jeremy Ben-Ami, the founder of J Street. His argument that Israel must make uncomfortable compromises and take dire risks in order to secure...

  • A gift for every reader

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    November 23, 2011 | 11:35 am

    From novels to memoirs to movie reviews, and much in between, here are a few standout books for Chanukah gift giving.

    “I Lost it at the Movies,” as Pauline Kael provocatively titled her 1965 collection of movie reviews, helped to establish the film critic as a kind of superstar...

  • Books: The J Street Zionist

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    November 17, 2011 | 9:55 am

    “Israel’s existence is in fact threatened by a progressive, terminal illness,” Jeremy Ben-Ami, founder of J Street, writes in “A New Voice for Israel: Fighting for the Survival of the Jewish Nation” (Palgrave Macmillan: $26).  According to his diagnosis, the illness is a...

  • Licensed to kvell: The return of Oy-Oy 7

    November 11, 2011 | 11:50 am

    Have I got a secret agent for you!

    When Hamas is smuggling missiles, and Iranians are building A-bombs deep underground, to whom can Israel turn? 007? No way. He’s busy playing baccarat or keeping the world from being fried by space lasers. He hasn’t time for the Middle East.

    ...
  • Spend Shabbat with the senator

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    November 9, 2011 | 11:32 am

    A joke was told about U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman during the 2000 presidential campaign. Not only was Lieberman the first Jew to run for vice president, but he was a famously observant one. “If you elect Joe Lieberman,” the joke went, “he will be on the job 24/6.”

    “Not only...

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