The ProsenPeople

Israeli writer Gail Hareven in the New Yorker

Monday, April 27, 2009 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Read Israeli writer Gail Hareven’s short story “The Slows” in The New Yorker.

A review of Weber’s most recent title, The Confessions of Noa Weber, will be published in the Summer 2009 Jewish Book World

The Poetics of Agnon from Syracuse UP

Wednesday, April 22, 2009 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

If you’re a Jewish Book World subscriber and enjoyed our 26:3 (Fall 2008) feature on S.Y. Agnon, one of the foremost Hebrew writers of the twentieth century, you may enjoy a new title on Agnon that’s being published this month by Syracuse University Press: Language, Absence, Play Judaism and Superstructuralism in the Poetics of S. Y. Agnon (Yaniv Hagbi). In the title Hagbi explores Agnon’s theological and philosophical attitudes toward language, attitudes that to a large extent shaped his poetics and aesthetic values. For more information on the title, please click here.

An excerpt from Barbara Andrews’ article on Agnon from JBW:

His writings are reminiscent of a literary Chagall. They portray a life in a world that no longer exists but yet exists in a dream-like state, neither real nor imaginary, but somewhere in between.

Agnon’s name is an illusion as well, being born Shmuel Yosef Czaczkes in 1888 in the Eastern Galician town of Buczacz, which at the time was part of the Austro Hungarian Empire. He was educated in the world of Hasidic traditions by his father and private tutors, learning the Talmud and its Aggadic stories that were to have a strong influence in his writings. Young Shmuel was also influenced by his mother’s family, which was steeped in the learnings of the Mitnagdim, as well as German stories and fables his mother taught him. Later, as a young man living in Germany, he would read widely in German and French literature. While he would disavow that these later readings had influence upon his work, it is often said that his writings bear some resemblance to modern German literature. Agnon himself would say that his writings were most influenced by Sacred Scriptures, Torah, as well as the Mishnah and Talmud.

He renamed himself Agnon around 1908 as his writing became more prolific, and took his surname from the Hebrew word agunah. Agunah means a woman who is not free to marry because her husband has refused her a divorce by either leaving or abandoning her. Much has been made of why Agnon chose this particular name for himself and one wonders if it is not an allusion to the desertion of Israel by God. The metaphor as portrayed in the Torah pertains to when Israel has strayed and God laments Her waywardness. In His lament, God turns His face from Israel, leaving her abandoned and belonging to no one.

If you are interested in purchasing the back issue ($12.50), which contains the complete article, as well as an interview with Etgar Keret, an interview with poet Shirley Kaufman, part II of “People of the (Comic) Book,” book club recommendations, and dozens of reviews, please contact the JBC at

Your Daily Dose of Reflection and Inspiration

Tuesday, April 21, 2009 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Jewish Lights is releasing a new book by Rabbi Kerry Olitzky in July with inspiring quotes from Jewish sources and personal reflections to help one focus on their spiritual life: Life’s Daily Blessings: Inspiring Reflections on Gratitude and Joy for Every Day, Based on Jewish Wisdom. An appropriate book for these difficult times! We’ve received permission from Jewish Lights to offer you a dose of today’s “Daily Blessing” from Rabbi Olitzky’s new title:

Finding the Path
April 21
Give me direction on life’s roads.
PSALM 16:11

This is one of the great psalms from the book of Psalms. It is also one of the psalms in what Rabbi Nachman of Breslov called a tikkun k’lali, “a general remedy.” Reb Nachman taught that if this group of psalms (16, 32, 41, 42, 59, 77, 90, 105, 137, and 150) were read in this order, the individual could actually be delivered from sin. But the individual must also make a commitment to not return to a previous life of sinning.

When facing major decisions–or even minor ones–some people simply pray to God and ask for direction. Some people pray for the answer to a specific question. Others ask for more general insight. But all these approaches have one thing in common: dialogue with the Divine brings clarity to our own thinking. Maybe that is why this text is part of Reb Nachman’s general remedy. It is a blessing for all that ails you.

Blessing is from Life’s Daily Blessings: Inspiring Reflections on Gratitude and Joy for Every Day, Based on Jewish Wisdom (c) 2009 Kerry M. Olitzky (Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights Publishing). Permission granted by Jewish Lights Publishing, P.O. Box 237, Woodstock, VT 05091,

For more information about the title, please visit here.

Have a Little Faith

Monday, March 30, 2009 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Publisher’s Lunch reports that Have a Little Faith: A True Story of a Last Request, Mitch Albom’s first work of nonfiction since Tuesdays with Morrie, will be published this September.

The Detroit Free Press reports, “Albom explains there are three central characters: One is an inner-city pastor who was a criminal in Detroit before turning his life around and taking over a church that helps homeless people. The second character is a 90-year-old rabbi from the suburbs of New Jersey. The third is Albom himself.”

Read the full article in the Detroit Free Press here.

Avivah Zornberg and the ‘Biblical Unconscious’

Wednesday, March 18, 2009 | Permalink
Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

An interesting interview with Avivah Zornberg on her new book The Murmuring Deep: Deep Reflections on the Biblical Unconscious, creative processes, storytelling, and connections between Jewish thought and psychoanalysis in the Forward here.

Hear ye, Hear ye

Thursday, March 12, 2009 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

We recently received this intriguing message in our inbox, and thought we’d share:

Hear ye, all Hittites, Cushites, Levites, ye begotten of Philistines!

Forget thy catechisms and concordances.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Jonathan Goldstein presents THE BIBLE!
(Riverhead Books; April 7, 2009)

Along with these videos:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Roth & Heller in The New York Times

Thursday, February 26, 2009 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Zoe Heller’s new book, The Believers, which tells the story of a liberal Jewish family living in Greenwich Village, will be published this week by HarperCollins. The New York Times published a profile of Heller yesterday. To read the profile, visit here.

And, there’s more. The New York Times Art Beat reports on two new Philip Roth novels, The Humbling and Nemesis here.

Tropical Jews

Tuesday, February 24, 2009 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Seven hundred and fifty Jewish refugees fled Nazi Germany and founded the agricultural settlement of Sosua in the Dominican Republic. Why did dictator General Rafael Trugillo admit these desperate refugees when so few nations would accept those fleeing fascism? In a new book out next month, Tropical Zion: General Trujillo, FDR, and the Jews of Sosua, Allen Wells, a noted historian of Latin American, and also the son of one of the original Sosua colonists, examines the story of the Jews of Sosua, combining vivid narratives about the founding of Sosua, the original settlers and their families, and the geopolitical relationships that led to the colony’s founding. Wells also explores FDR’s role in the colony and how his support strengthened U.S. relations with Latin America.

About a year ago, Marion A. Kaplan also came out with a book on the Sosua colony called Dominican Haven; The Jewish Refugee Settlement in Sosua, 1940-1945, which was a finalist for the 2008 National Jewish Book Awards in Holocaust Studies. Her title expands our understanding of the challenges, opportunities and barriers to refugee settlement anywhere in the world and begins to answer many questions about this most peculiar case of refugee migration.The Dominican Haven is a companion volume to an exhibit that was open last year at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Two examples of photographs from the book and exhibit are below:

Dairy Farming. American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) Archives [NY14917]

Sosua settlers Rosa and Heinz Lesser on their finca [farm]. Courtesy of Hanni Lesser Thuna

Looking Ahead...

Friday, January 30, 2009 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Happy Friday! As we work our way through another wintery week, we thought we’d cheer you up with goodies to look forward to this Spring (reviews of these titles can be found in the Spring and Summer issues of Jewish Book World):

The Kindly Ones (Jonathan Littell) March
The Believers (Zoe Heller) March
Good Book (David Plotz) March
The Murmuring Deep (Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg) March
Laish (Aharon Appelfeld) March
American Jewish Fiction: A JPS Guide (Josh Lambert) March
The Act of Love (Howard Jacobson) March
Jewish Choices, Jewish Voices: Power (Elliot N. Dorff and Louis E. Newman) March
All Other Nights (Dara Horn) April
Rhyming Life & Death (Amos Oz) April
Amos Oz Reader (Amos Oz) April
A Fortunate Age (Joanna Smith Rakoff) April
The Scenic Route (Binnie Kirshenbaum) May

Soon…very soon…

Reissue of Note

Monday, January 19, 2009 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

This month Persea Books reissued A Cat in the Ghetto, by Rachmil Bryks, translated from the Yiddish by S. Morris Engel, with an introduction by Adam Rovner. A Cat in the Ghetto was first published in 1959 and Bryks’ stories remain some of the most compelling accounts of the Holocaust experience. His work examines the major dilemmas of the period: action vs. inaction, preservation of dignity vs. survival. This new edition includes his well-known novellas, two short stories, and early poem, his essay, “My Credo,” and a new afterword by the author’s daughter.