The ProsenPeople

Calling Jewish Women Everywhere

Wednesday, November 12, 2008 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Over the past year we’ve come across some great titles to enhance your collection of resources for Jewish women. A few goodies that stand out:

The Torah: A Women’s Commentary (Dr. Tamara Cohn Eskenazi and Rabbi Andrea Weiss, eds.)

Created in a partnership between the URJ Press and Women of Reform Judaism, this commentary presents the women’s side of our story. Women of Reform Judaism commissioned the work of the world’s leading Jewish female Bible scholars, rabbis, historians, philosophers and archaeologists to provide comprehensive commentary, authored only by women, on the Five Books of Moses, including individual Torah portions as well as the Hebrew and English translation.

Leveling the Playing Field: Advancing Women in Jewish Organizational Life Shifra Bronznick, Didi Goldenhar, and Marty Linsky, eds.)

Paints a picture of gender bias in North America’s Jewish organizations, and explains why more equitable environments are essential to the success of these organizations and the long term health of the Jewish community. It also presents comprehensive strategies for anyone — executives, staff, lay leaders, volunteers — who wants to build an action plan for change within their own organization.

New Jewish Feminism (Elyse Goldstein, ed.)

“Growing up in the 1960s, the notion of a woman rabbi, a woman Israeli Supreme Court judge, an Orthodox female Talmud scholar, or an Orthodox synagogue where women read the Torah from their side of the mechitzah were impossible, even ridiculous scenarios. Yet in the modern day, all of this is reaching the stage of “normative.” What’s left for Jewish feminism to accomplish?” Join Jewish women from all areas of Jewish life as they examine what makes a “Jewish woman” today, how feminism has affected her identity and whether the next generation of Jewish women is braced to tackle the challenging work still ahead.

Taking Back God: American Women Rising Up for Religious Equality (Leora Tanenbaum)

From one of Third Wave feminism’s most respected thinkers, comes an eye-opening look at women and religion today

A Jewish Woman’s Prayer Book (Aliza Lavie)

A beautiful and moving one-of-a-kind collection that draws from a variety of Jewish traditions, through the ages, to commemorate every occasion and every passage in the cycle of life, including:

Special prayers for the Sabbath, holidays, and important dates of the Jewish year
Prayers to mark celebratory milestones, such as bat mitzva, marriage, pregnancy, and childbirth
Prayers for companionship, love, and fertility
Prayers for healing, strength, and personal growth
Prayers for daily reflection and thanksgiving
Prayers for comfort and understanding in times of tragedy and loss

Sneak Peek...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

The Winter issue of Jewish Book World is in the mail! To celebrate, we thought we’d share a sneak peek of the issue with an excerpt from Jewish Book World‘s interview with Danit Brown, author of Ask for a Convertible:

One of the major themes of your story collection is Israel. Tell me a bit about your personal relationship with Israel.
My background is pretty similar to Osnat’s (the main character in the book) in that I was born in Israel and moved here when I was ten. We’ve always had a close connection to Israel. I was in school in Israel from first to fourth grades and I was taught that Israel was a place to go back to. I went back as a Returning Minor in my 20’s but I was never able to make the adjustment.


You have several other themes that flow throughout your narrative, including family and a sense of belonging. One of the minor yet consistent themes is that of running. How much of a metaphor is that for any underlying motifs of running toward something or running away? Or do you just like to run?
I do love to run. I’m not good at it at all. But if it’s functioning as a metaphor, it’s not something I was actually aware of.


We understand, of course, that your protagonist, Osnat, is a fictional character. You’ve already told us she shares much of your background. How much does she reflect your feelings?
I would have to say that while some biographical elements are similar, I would have to give a typical writer’s answer that all of the characters reflect my feelings in some way through their positions. All the characters are caught between conflicting feelings or situations or cultures.


Have any of those conflicts been resolved?
For some of the characters, they have. Harriet and Noam have found a way to resolve their contradictions and Osnat is well on her way.

To read the complete interview, be sure to check out the Winter issue of Jewish Book World

Cartoon Book Reviews are FINALLY here!

Monday, November 10, 2008 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Have you seen Ward Sutton’s cartoon book review of Philip Roth’s Indignation? If not, be sure to check it out here

Celebrate Israel with AJL

Monday, November 10, 2008 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

The Association of Jewish Libraries just released a new reading list on Israel for adults and children. The list, called Israel@60, includes more than 30 fiction and nonfiction titles as well as websites and videos. Check it out here.


First There was A.J., and Then There Was Benyamin...now...DAVID

Thursday, November 06, 2008 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

For all of you followers of A.J. Jacobs (The Year of Living Biblically) and Benyamin Cohen (My Jesus Year), here’s another one for your shelves…Good Book: The Bizarre, Hilarious, Disturbing, Marvelous, and Inspiring Things I Learned When I Read Every Single Word of the Bible (David Plotz) coming out in March from Harper Collins. Plotz, the editor of Slate, who classifies himself as “proud but not very observant Jew . . . with a healthy familiarity with the Bible and its core ideology, main prayer, and moral dictates,” began his journey on the pages of Slate, where he emabarked on a year-long project “Blogging the Bible." Good Book=the full length investigation of this initial venture into the waters of the Bible. Through his investigation Plotz finds himself considering some of life’s most important questions: How many commandments do we actually need? Does God prefer obedience to good deeds? Why are so many women in the Bible prostitutes? Why does God love bald men so much? And…of course… To believe or not to believe….that is the question.

Mmmm...

Thursday, November 06, 2008 | Permalink

Posted by Libi Adler

It was Thursday, 5 pm, and I am making a mental shopping list. The time is coming up where I will have to buy food and make plans for my Shabbat Meals. The problem is, what do I make? This is really the eternal question of a Jewish woman. I remember when I was younger my mom would make lists of meals and what she would serve at each meal. I always wondered how she did it. Now that I live alone, and have to fend for myself, it is up to me. Since I am always surrounded by books, and lots of them, I thought I’d give the cookbooks a glance. Not being one to have any at home, I was eager to see what a Jewish Cookbook had to offer. It was an interesting experience. After looking around some one particular cookbook ended up on my desk. What makes a good Jewish cookbook? The way I saw it, it’s all about tradition. We are a people who have relied on lineage, heritage, and tradition to keep us going. The same is true with food. The first book I picked up that really caught my eye was The Book of New Israeli Food by Janna Gur. Not only is the cover of the book beautiful, but the pictures inside really make you feel like you are walking down a street in Israel and eating the food itself. The pictures are so crisp that when you look through them you get hungry, and crave the different dishes. The tradition is rich in the pages as well, with such recipes as Hummus with Ful, Homemade Shwarma, and Sephardic dishes like Sofrito a dish similar to the classic Cholent. This cookbook is very well categorized, the recipes are written simply, and its aesthetically pleasing. This is one book I would definitely recommend. I even plan on making one of the fish recipes myself. Wish me luck!

Just Like Me

Wednesday, November 05, 2008 | Permalink

Posted by Libi Adler

Recent election results have really gotten me thinking about what it means to have pride in your particular ethnicity. Is it possible that if the person running for president this year was Jewish that I would vote for him solely for the fact that he or she is part of my tribe? Yes. What about that makes sense though? Why do we have this fascination with Judaism that transcends just our practices and the foods we eat or when we do or do not go to Synagogue. Why do we need a Jewish President, a Jewish Senator, Jewish magazines, Jewish organizations and for that matter, Jewish books. Growing up in a religious Orthodox home, the Jewish books we had around mostly consisted of Torah and Gemara texts. Judaism surrounded us, but we still had a firm grip on secular society. Why do I want someone in office to be Jewish? Because he or she understands me. They know where I am coming from, they know what issues I face when I walk out the door and into the real world. Why do we care about Jewish books? For the same reasons. They get me, they know what I like, they know what I’m interested, and they bring forth to me characters that I can relate to. I was reading the book The Rabbi’s Daughter by Reva Mann and I felt connected to her. Granted I have never done half the things she experienced throughout her life, but I was connected to her honesty. To her doubting the religion, and then coming back and realizing it was worth giving it a try. She is so different from me but her words came out to me and brought me in. In her story, Reva, the daughter of a big Rabbi in London and granddaughter of the Chief Rabbi of Israel finds herself off the path and makes her way to Israel to find herself again and live life as an ultra orthodox woman. She finds that life is not that easy, and change who you are isn’t so easy. This is worlds apart from some of the other Jewish themed books that sit on my desk waiting to be read, but that’s what I love about a good Jewish book. It is not easily definable, but when it’s there, it’s there for you.

Jewish? Or not? Jewish? Or not? Jewish...

Wednesday, November 05, 2008 | Permalink

Posted by Miri Pomerantz-Dauber

What to do about books with Jewish characters–who are clearly Jewish–but with a plot that is not at all about being Jewish? When the story could be just as easily about someone not Jewish…only it isn’t. Is this Jewish literature? Maybe not. But it’s a book about Jews. So then what? Do Jews make the literature Jewish? Is any book narrated by a female character necessarily “women’s literature”? But then, how could the culture, any culture that surrounds a lead character, not infuse the plot, seep into the structure of the story? And if the story as a whole is influenced by a culture, then doesn’t that put that book, that story, into the category of that culture? In this scenario, Jewish culture and Jewish literature specifically. There are a number of recent books that have come out in the past few years whose characters are Jewish, whose tones are Jewish, but–if asked to point to the Jewish content…well, it would be hard to find something explicit other than it being about people who happen to be Jews. What to do when, for many, the Jewish experience is not really about the actions or structures of Judaism, but more broadly defined. And therefore, these new works of literature couldn’t really be said to be overtly Jewish. Do we extend our definition? But then, how many “Jewish” books from previous generations, those about immigrants on the Lower East Side, for example, were really about being Jewish as opposed to being about Jews who are living a particular experience?

Jewish, Sad, Young, and Literary

Wednesday, November 05, 2008 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Over the past weekend I found myself completely absorbed in the literary universe of Joanna Smith Rakoff ‘s debut novel A Fortunate Age and wondering about the next generation of Jewish authors to emerge onto the literary scene. Rakoff’s novel opens with the line “[o]n a gray October day in 1998, Lillian Roth found herself walking down the stone-floored aisle of Temple Emanu-El, clad in a gown of dark ivory satin and flanked by her thin, smiling parents, who had flow into New York from Los Angeles…,” setting the stage for a cast of disillusioned twenty-somethings in search of their place in 21st century Manhattan. The “set” of friends (as Lillian Roth deems them) that Rakoff has envisioned seek to carve lives for themselves that evoke their liberal arts education, their intellectual capacity, and their nostalgia for the good old day of a more radically, intellectually charged Manhttan. For several of Rakoff’s characters, their Jewish heritage becomes a part of the backdrop–their Judaism is not front and center–but it’s a part of their foundation, making brief appearances throughout the book. None of the characters are particularly religious (although one does end up exploring Israel outside the boundaries of the narrative), and none comment on their Judaism as a negative factor within their life (or particularly positive)–it’s just a fact. They don’t wear it on their sleeve, but it’s there on the first page of the book, and it seeps back in throughout the course of the narrative.

Prior to reading Rakoff’s novel, I had just finished Keith Gessen’s All the Sad Young Literary Men, which muses on a similar set of characters (albeit male) facing similar questions at the turn of the 21st century. Where does the liberally arts educated, idealistic, intellectual end up in today’s world? What does it mean to (finally) finish your Ph.D.? What’s next? Success? Failure? Disillusionment? Reality? Gessen’s debut novel touches on questions related to Judaism (specifically Israel) more directly than Rakoff, specifically in the character of Sam who sets himself to the task of writing the the Great Zionist novel (having never been to Israel), naively (he’s Jewish, so he must identify with Israel, right?) attempting to weave Israel into his identity. Like Rakoff’s novel, none of Gessen’s characters are particularly religious, but their Judaism does exist as inescapable part of their identity—even if it is is mostly in the backdrop. How does the non-religious, liberally arts educated, Jew, incorporate Judaism into their life without the traditional foundation? And then what does this mean for their children? How does Israel factor in? Does Jewish = Israel?

Two novels in two weeks that focus on Jewish twenty-something liberal arts graduates searching for themselves…with a little Judaism thrown in? A trend? We’ll keep you posted.