"The Book of Lamentations: A Meditation and Translation" by David R. Slavitt (Johns Hopkins University Press. $15.95).
David R. Slavitt's new translation of Eicha (Lamentations) demonstrates his masterful sensibilities and poetic fortitude. Avoiding the abstract and distant language typical of academic poetry, Slavitt's poetry and translations are accessible to the common reader, but written without compromise.
"A Letter in the Scroll: Understanding Our Jewish Identity and Exploring the Legacy of the World's Oldest Religion" by Jonathan Sacks. (The Free Press, $25.)
Gently, gracefully, thoughtfully, Jonathan Sacks unfolds an emotionally compelling argument for Jews to reclaim and engage with traditional faith, traditional texts and traditional acts. Wisely, he eschews philosophic reasonings: Jews teach by words, with words, through stories, songs, psalm, exegesis. Logically constructed arguments cannot convince one of religious veracity nor demonstrate a revealed truth.
"Finding Each Other in Judaism: Meditations on the Rites of Passage From Birth to Immortality" by Harold M. Schulweis. (UAHC Press, $12.95)
"Finding Each Other in Judaism" distills decades of those quiet, private moments when a curious, wounded or concerned congregant asks the rabbi: "What do I do now?"
Against the Dying of the Light: A Father's Journey through Loss" by Leonard Fein (Jewish Lights Publishing, $19.95)
James Carroll loves the Roman Catholic Church. Unfortunately, the church he loves isn't the church he has. Carroll yearns for that short, winsome time when he was ennobled by liberation theology, Vatican II and his bold opposition to the war in Vietnam. But the hopes of that moment faded away as first Pope Paul VI and, later, Pope John Paul II extinguished John XXIII's reformist platform.
"King David: The Real Life of the Man Who Ruled Israel" by Jonathan Kirsch (Ballantine Books, $28)
In his "Reading the Book: Making the Bible a Timeless Text," Rabbi Burton Visotzky writes, "To the extent that the Bible reveals the words of God to a community, it is essential that students get those words down right, so that they may become part of the community. In certain communities, students of the Bible are free to question, grapple, doubt and deny -- so long as they first hear their community's reading of God's word."
In 1995, nurse, mystery writer and prospective single mom Serita Stevens traveled to Romania to adopt an abandoned 9-month-old baby girl. So appalled was she at the conditions in the orphanage at which she finally met her future daughter, she started Hugs and Hopes--Romania to help care for the orphans and abandoned children in a country still struggling to recover from the ruin and desperation caused by the Ceausescu regime.