Assimilation. How Jewish children should best be educated. Oppression against Jews and the Jewish State. Whether faith can provide meaningful answers.
Those topics lead to unexpected plot turns in "As a Driven Leaf," a historical novel selected by Orange County's Bureau of Jewish Education (BJE) for "To Read as One," its first communitywide reading initiative, which began last month.
Written by Milton Steinberg, the book is based on a historical character, a renegade rabbi who lived during the Roman conquest of Judea and was excommunicated. The novel provides a context both historical and cultural for many dilemmas confronting contemporary Jews, said Howard Mirowitz, of Newport Beach, the BJE's treasurer.
"It makes us realize where our own reactions are coming from," said Mirowitz, who with his wife, Ellen, co-chaired a group that organized "Driven Leaf"-themed events. "To Read as One" aimed to reach a segment of the Jewish population that is unaffiliated, Mirowitz said.
"If nothing else, they read a book that's really worth reading," he added.
The age-old conflict between contemporary standards and tradition that confront the book's characters will be discussed by Rabbi Claudio Kaiser-Bleuth in a final "To Read as One" event, May 4, 10:30 a.m. at Tustin's Congregation B'nai Israel. A study guide for the book is posted online at www.bjeoc.org.