Books


The Life (and Death and Life) Of the Rebbe

By Allan Nadler

Most Jewish New Yorkers vividly remember the Crown Heights riots of August 1991, four horrendous days of attacks on Brooklyn’s Hasidic Jews that resulted in the brutal murder of Yaakov Rosenbaum, a young Chabad scholar from Australia. The riots were denounced as a pogrom — the first ever in the United States — by former mayor Ed Koch and then mayoral hopeful Rudy Giuliani, and were subsequently classified by historian Edward Shapiro, in his book on the riots, as the “worst anti-Semitic episode in American Jewish history.” However, what far fewer people remember about those infamous events is the particular incident that triggered the riots.Read More


Honesty Is Real

By Beth Kissileff

Finally, a novel about Israel by an American Jew that’s written well and without sentimentality. Joan Leegant’s “Wherever You Go” is unafraid to address the pivotal but ambiguous role that Israel plays in providing an identity for certain types of American Jews. Israel, in this novel, neither burnishes nor tarnishes outsiders through its touch, but provides a specific physical setting, whose glow is, in turn, both toxic and lovely.Read More


Playing it Safe

By Shoshana Olidort

This compact collection of short stories, almost all of them set in Chicago, is about Jewish men of a certain age who have been playing it safe for all of their mostly passionless though not unsuccessful lives. As doctors, lawyers, academics and businessmen, they live in relative financial stability if not wealth, and have equally stable family situations — their marriages (almost all are married) seem happy, if not exactly passionate.Read More


How Belief Has Shaped America’s Laws

By Burt Neuborne

Legal scholars usually tell us that law, especially constitutional law, shapes religion: nurturing its growth under the Free Exercise clause, while inhibiting its power under the Establishment clause. Sally Gordon, Arlin M. Adams Professor of Constitutional Law and Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania, turns the accepted wisdom neatly on its head by demonstrating that it is the extraordinary power of the religious impulse that has shaped — and continues to shape — American law, not the other way around.Read More


A Little Something for the Summer?

In a field as crowded with artistic representations as the Holocaust, it’s easy to assume that there is nothing new to say. Julie Orringer reminds us that there always is, so long as there are individual stories to tell.Read More


Religion Within the Bounds of Reason... and Love

By Jay Michaelson

‘I don’t believe in the same God you don’t believe in,” Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, the founder of Jewish Renewal, wrote many years ago. Reb Zalman was responding to an imagined atheist, or perhaps an alienated Jew — someone with a spiritual bent but who was unable to accept traditional God-language and beliefs. The implication: that it’s possible to have a meaningful Jewish religious practice without them.Read More


Adversary A

By Yelena Akhtiorskaya

Hans Keilson was born in Germany in 1909 to a working-class Jewish family and currently lives in Bussum, near Amsterdam, with his wife, a literary historian. His fraught, century-long span has been — at least for English-speakers — only vaguely sketched in (not that there’s been much curiosity). He trained as a physician. When WWII caught him, he fled to the Netherlands and hid, then worked for the Dutch Resistance. His parents died in Auschwitz. After liberation, he became a distinguished psychoanalyst, specializing in the treatment of war trauma in children. And meanwhile, he dabbled in fiction.Read More


Welcome to Cohenworld

By Dan Friedman

It’s a shame that no one will read this book. Or, rather, it’s an indictment of contemporary reading practices that the scope and flavor of Joshua Cohen’s epic novel “Witz” will escape all but the most passionate or academically driven readers. For a reading audience, think people who are knowledgeable Jews who have read, from beginning to end, “Finnegans Wake.”Read More


And On The Seventh Day She Rested

By Mark Oppenheimer

‘The Sabbath World: Glimpses of a Different Order of Time,” Judith Shulevitz’s look at the Judeo-Christian practice of setting aside every seventh day for rest, is both an extended exercise in public history and a spiritual autobiography. Discourses about the roots of the Sabbatarian tradition; the various theologies, Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish, that recommend it; the representations of it in literature; and the sociological ideas that help explain it are interlaced with personal reflections detailing Shulevitz’s own slow, reluctant history of celebrating the day of rest.Read More


No Biblical Bodice-Ripper

By Lawrence Grossman

One expects a book called “The Prophet’s Wife” — with a cover illustration of a lush, bucolic biblical setting — to be one more attempt at cashing in on the recent vogue of romantic, sexually suggestive fiction on biblical themes, written by women, and presenting the previously “suppressed” perspective of the female characters. That is, until one notices the name of the author.Read More





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