Jewish Journal

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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...

  • 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.

  • 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...

  • 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...

  • 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...

  • 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 guide to becoming Jewish

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    October 20, 2011 | 1:23 pm

    Jennifer S. Hanin was raised Catholic and converted to Judaism after marrying a Jewish man.  Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben is the distinguished spiritual leader of Kehillat Israel, the largest Reconstructionist congregation in the world and a landmark on Sunset Boulevard in the Pacific...

  • An insider’s view of also being an outsider

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    September 27, 2011 | 6:17 pm

    Sometimes I wonder if there isn’t a variant of Gresham’s law at work in the arts and letters of the digital age: Is bad writing driving out good? The sheer volume and velocity of the blogosphere, for example, seems to hide the moments of discernment and reflection.

    Now and then,...

  • Joseph Heller’s daughter gets the final word

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    September 21, 2011 | 1:00 pm

    As a rule, a novel speaks for itself and its author, but when it comes to Joseph Heller, we are privileged to have an especially intimate source of information about his life and work. In “Yossarian Slept Here: When Joseph Heller Was Dad, the Apthorp Was Home, and Life Was a...

  • The gift Poland once offered

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    September 13, 2011 | 7:59 pm

    The long history of the Jews in Poland has been almost wholly eclipsed by the Holocaust. Fully half of the victims of German mass murder were Polish Jews, who numbered approximately 3.5 million on the eve of World War II. But the fact remains that Poland was the seat of a vibrant and...

  • Never enough of Calvin Trillin

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    September 13, 2011 | 7:50 pm

    Calvin Trillin, as we are reminded in “Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin: forty years of funny stuff” (Random House: $27), has long served as a polestar in the American literary firmament. He is best-known and loved for his witty contributions to The New Yorker, but he has also...

  • One advocate’s argument for Israel’s longevity

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    August 23, 2011 | 3:57 pm

    When Hirsh Goodman speaks about the destiny of Israel, people listen.

    Goodman is a former executive of the Jerusalem Post, founder of the Jerusalem Report, and currently serves as a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University. Now he...

  • Secrets of the Hebrew alphabet

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    August 17, 2011 | 12:14 pm

    “The letters of the Jews as strict as flames,” writes Karl Shapiro in the poem titled “The Alphabet,” “Or little terrible flowers lean/Stubbornly upwards through the perfect ages/Singing through solid stone the sacred names.”

    I was reminded of Shapiro’s verse when I...

  • The Jewish story behind 264 netsukes

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    July 27, 2011 | 6:03 pm

    Memoir has come to be regarded nowadays as a highly corrupted literary form, but we are reminded of how rich and meaningful a memoir can be in “The Hare With Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance” by Edmund de Waal (Picador, $16.00). First published in 2010 to great critical acclaim,...

  • Fried millipedes and life in China

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    July 5, 2011 | 6:07 pm

    The best way to tell if a city has a sizable Jewish population, as my father used to say, is by the number of good Chinese restaurants. 

    The same cannot be said of China itself, of course, which has a billion Chinese but hardly enough Jews to make a minyan. Still, the undeniable...

  • Summer reads in all varieties

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    May 31, 2011 | 1:07 pm

    Some beloved and celebrated authors will hit the road in support of their latest books as this summer begins. Here are a few of the most intriguing titles and some of the places where their authors will be reading and signing their books in Southern California:

    Lisa See, author of...

  • A skeptic looks at why we believe

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    May 24, 2011 | 5:35 pm

    Based on firsthand experience, I can say that if you find yourself in a room with Michael Shermer, he’s likely to be the smartest guy present, and I do not mean in the Enron sense.  Shermer, author of “Why People Believe Weird Things” and “The Science of Good and Evil,”...

  • The book festival gets a new home

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    April 26, 2011 | 5:05 pm

    The headliners at the 2011 edition of the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books range from literary luminaries like Carolyn See, Dave Eggers, T.C. Boyle and Jennifer Egan, to fitness icon Jillian Michaels and master prestidigitator Ricky Jay, but the biggest news is the change of...

  • Once a sign, now an icon

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    March 1, 2011 | 6:25 pm

    “Icon” is a much-used word — and I am as guilty as anyone else of overusing it — but when it comes to the Hollywood sign, no other word will do. In fact, Leo Braudy’s fascinating new book, “The Hollywood Sign: Fantasy and Reality of an American Icon” (Yale University...

  • Victim of violence calls for peace

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    January 11, 2011 | 3:58 pm

    If there is a Palestinian Arab who deserves to feel aggrieved, surely it is Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish. Three of his daughters and a niece were killed by a shell fired by the Israel Defense Forces during the fighting in Gaza in 2009. Yet Dr. Abuelaish has refused to resort to...

  • The City of Lights at its darkest hour

    By Jonathan Kirsch

    December 16, 2010 | 10:28 am

    Adolf Hitler may have been bloody in tooth and claw, but he was enough of an aesthete to understand that Paris was the center of gravity for European culture. On the only visit he made to the city during World War II, he went sight-seeing like any other tourist, then or now. Still,...