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  • Intro to Israel considers what ‘Matters’

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    May 15, 2012 | 7:44 pm

    Much heated conversation is conducted in these pages and elsewhere in the media about Israel. We debate every aspect of Israel’s present and future — the ups and downs of its political leadership, the role of religion in the Jewish state, the path to peace with the Palestinians...

  • A conversation with Anne Frank’s cousin

    By Tom Tugend

    May 15, 2012 | 7:35 pm

    Generations of readers, theater patrons and movie goers have been touched and moved by “The Diary of Anne Frank,” but perhaps no one was more astonished by the adolescent girl’s deep inner life – while in hiding from the Nazis – than Anne’s father.

    “I didn’t know my...

  • Love letter to Naples, warts and all

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    May 9, 2012 | 12:52 pm

    For me, no genre of literature is quite as enchanting or enriching as the travel memoir. Indeed, two of the titles on my own shortlist of favorite books — Bruce Chatwin’s “The Songlines” and Peter Matthiessen’s “The Snow Leopard” — are essentially travel books that...

  • Child Holocaust survivors speak up for those who can’t

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    May 2, 2012 | 11:38 am

    Only a precious remnant of Holocaust survivors is alive today, and many of them were just children when they went into hiding or ended up behind barbed wire. Indeed, there’s a heartbreaking irony in the fact that the last survivors are the ones who were the most at risk, precisely...

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  • A.J. Jacob’s belly humor won’t hurt you

    April 29, 2012 | 12:00 pm

    A.J. Jacobs waits until the fifth page of his newest book, “Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection” (Simon & Schuster: $26), to mention his Jewish heritage. He repeats a line from a previous book of his: “I’m Jewish in the same way the Olive Garden...

  • Edgar Keret: All grown up

    April 27, 2012 | 1:54 pm

    Yesterday at the ophthalmologist I realized my eye doctor was looking deep into my eyes but couldn’t see me; not at all. My husband compulsively takes the same photograph over and over again unaware that no picture looks different from any other. My son has mastered the subtle art...

  • Joseph Roth: Letters from a visionary correspondent

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    April 25, 2012 | 3:59 pm

    Among the many Roths who figure importantly in Jewish letters — Henry, Cecil and Philip are only the most famous — perhaps the least celebrated is Joseph Roth.  As a novelist (“The Radetzky March”) and an essayist (“The Wandering Jews”), but even more crucially as a...

  • Choicest of the choice

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    April 18, 2012 | 1:25 pm

    Much has changed in the book business since the Los Angeles Times launched its Festival of Books 17 years ago, but the FOB — as it is fondly known — remains the premier event of the literary calendar for the more than 100,000 readers and writers who never miss it.

    The 2012...

  • Portrait of a Jewish family avenged

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    April 11, 2012 | 3:04 pm

    The victims of the Holocaust are most often recalled at their moments of agony and death. But it is also our duty to recall the richness of their lives before Europe fell under the shadow of Nazi Germany. What Hitler sought to destroy, after all, was not merely 6 million human lives...

  • Probing the mysterious fate of the Romanovs

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    April 5, 2012 | 12:51 pm

    Over the many years I’ve spent bumping around the book business, I have introduced my wife, Ann, to a great many literary lions and lionesses, but nothing quite compares to the evening when we first met Dora Levy Mossanen at a book-signing for John Rechy at Dutton’s in Brentwood.

    ...
  • “The Last Romanov” Debuts at Fairfax and Third

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    April 1, 2012 | 9:14 am

    For fans of Dora Levy Mossanen, author of the provocative historical novels “Harem” and “Courtesan,” a much-anticipated day has finally arrived — the official publication date of “The Last Romanov” (Sourcebooks, $14.99), yet another example of her gift at conjuring up...

  • What we talk about when we talk about Nathan Englander’s new story collection

    March 30, 2012 | 11:55 am

    Thirteen years ago, Nathan Englander’s debut story collection, “For the Relief of Unbearable Urges,” brought its then twenty-something author his initial fame. Eight years later came the publication of a first novel, “The Ministry of Special Cases.” This year brings...

  • Ben Marcus’ story of heartbreak and violence

    March 23, 2012 | 12:14 pm

    An epidemic that started among the forest-dwelling Jews — “genetic in nature … a problem only for certain people” — is spreading to other communities and threatening to impose an ominous silence upon the world.  The culprit is the toxic language of children.  This is the...

  • Daughter’s journey to the other side of the mechitzah

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    March 21, 2012 | 10:47 am

    Investigative journalists do not tend to make good storytellers. After all, they are trained to write in the taut prose of a daily newspaper, and they are constrained by the discipline of fact-checking. As a result, sometimes they cannot see the forest for the trees when it comes to...

  • How Hollywood’s biggest politicos leaned right, not left

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    March 14, 2012 | 10:54 am

    Ronald Reagan, Shirley Temple, Sony Bono, George Murphy and Arnold Schwarzenegger are all entertainers who launched their political careers in California, and they are all Republicans. Indeed, aside from Al Franken, no prominent Democratic officeholder on the scene today started out...

  • Connie Rice and the Ayecha challenge

    March 14, 2012 | 10:50 am

    “Where are you?” This is the first question in the Torah. Asked by God, directed to Adam, this foundational question — ayecha in Hebrew — echoes as more than mere inquiry about physical location. Ayecha is a piercing question about character: “What matters to you?”...

  • Psychotherapy and philosophy intersect in ‘Spinoza problem’

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    March 7, 2012 | 2:54 pm

    Around our house, Irvin D. Yalom is a familiar name, and for more than one reason.

    I first heard about Yalom, author of “Love’s Executioner,” from my wife, Ann, who explained where he fits in the pantheon of theorists and practitioners in her field of psychotherapy.  Then I...

  • The last words from Tony Judt, an English, intellectual, Jew

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    February 29, 2012 | 11:19 am

    Imagine a private conversation — at moments, an intimate conversation — between two public intellectuals whose careers have been devoted to understanding the wider world in which we find ourselves. One is facing imminent death, and the other is recording the conversation in a...

  • Love beyond others’ reach

    February 28, 2012 | 2:44 pm

    “On 13 October 1991 my grandparents killed themselves.” So begins Johanna Adorján’s stunning book, “An Exclusive Love: A Memoir” (W.W. Norton, $14.95; trans. Anthea Bell). It’s a slim volume, appearing even less assuming in its new paperback edition. But it is...

  • The 17th century hero behind the separation of church and state

    February 27, 2012 | 10:15 am

    From the vantage point of 2012, the state of Rhode Island is an afterthought, except perhaps for those who reside within its borders. It is small geographically and seems to lack influence in just about any realm imaginable.

    Yet during the seventeenth century, Rhode Island became a...

  • A Jewish housemaid in England at wartime

    February 25, 2012 | 10:00 am

    Natasha Solomons is a British writer whose first novel, published in the United States in 2010 as “Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English,” should have received a wider readership. Inspired by the experience of the author’s grandparents, European Jews who fled Nazism for safety in...

  • Is Jesus really Kosher?

    February 24, 2012 | 10:07 am

    Shmuley Boteach’s “Kosher Jesus” (Jerusalem and New York: Gefen, 2011) is a bold attempt by a person of great ability with no formal training in New Testament studies or the study of Second Temple Judaism to present a Jewish treatment of the founder of Christianity, his...

  • A celebration of women visionaries

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    February 23, 2012 | 10:47 am

    A rich but provocative irony suffuses Angella M. Nazarian’s latest book, “Pioneers of the Possible: Celebrating Visionary Women of the World” (Assouline: $45).

    Recent headlines across the world, in America no less than Israel and the Islamic world, confirm that women are...

  • Author of Bernstein bio wins Jewish book honors

    February 15, 2012 | 5:56 pm

    Susan Goldman Rubin, the Los Angeles-based author of many nonfiction books for young people, has won the 2012 Sydney Taylor Book Award for her engaging biography “Music Was It: Young Leonard Bernstein” (ages 10 and up). Presented by the Association of Jewish Libraries, the award...

  • Elizabeth Taylor as feminist

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    February 14, 2012 | 11:08 am

    M. G. Lord is a cultural critic with a sharp eye for the hidden meanings in American pop culture.  Two of her previous books, for example, considered the enduring influence of the best-selling doll in the world (“Forever Barbie”) and the semiotics of rocket science (“Astro...

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