As a kid growing up in Philadelphia, Edward Schwarzschild did a stint as a Kosher Boy Scout and hated it.
"Carrying two sets of dishes into the wilderness was a real turn-off for me," he said.
Now 40, Schwarzschild hails from a venerable tradition of writers who have mined their formative Jewish experiences for literary purposes. This makes sense, considering that his first novel, "Responsible Men" (Algonquin) due out April 8, revolves around a Jewish family in Philadelphia faced with the challenge of understanding their past and improving their present.
After spending the summer at Lishma, an intensive yeshiva-style program for young adults at Camp Ramah in Ojai, sisters Olga and Anna Dramchuk expected to be teaching Torah to fellow university students at Hillel in Novosibirsk, Siberia. Instead, they're back in Los Angeles in search of more Jewish life and learning.
"Lishma was one of the best experiences we ever had as Jews, but it was only the beginning," said Anna Dramchuk, 18.
It's a bit like that with Holocaust films: The protagonists are either killed or liberated, but if they survive, we do not see how they get back to "normalcy" and cope anew with everyday life.
The modest, low-key French import "Almost Peaceful" ("Un Monde Presque Paisible") remedies this omission.
For the Kids
Are you traveling to new places this summer?
When rabbi and author Jan Goldstein was suddenly faced with the news that his 12-year marriage was ending -- leaving him with primary custody of his three children -- he felt his life was ruined, until he learned to make sense of his pain.
"The Modern Jewish Canon: A Journey Through Language and Culture" by Ruth R. Wisse (The Free Press, $28).
The Hebrew Bible is a canon of 24 books, written in the same language, collected by a people living in a single nation, compiled at a time of belief in an all-powerful Authority speaking through that canon.