The ProsenPeople

Reading List: CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center

Monday, April 24, 2017 | Permalink

My name is Eva Mozes Kor. I am a survivor of Auschwitz, a survivor of human medical experimentation on twins by Dr. Josef Mengele, and now, I am trying to survive old age. As the founding director of CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center, a human rights champion, internationally known author and speaker, and advocate for the power of forgiveness, I am recommending these books because they help us understand how the Nazis rose to power, what happened to many Jews and how they survived the death camps, and how the survivors coped afterwards.

As we come together on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, also known as Auschwitz Liberation Day, this list of books is geared to help us remember, but also to further understand the circumstances around the Holocaust at that time and how survivors moved forward with their lives.

If you’re looking for a book that discusses Nazi collaborators in our midst…
1) AMERICAN SWASTIKA by Charles Higham

If you’re looking for a book that discusses The Nazi-American money plot…
2) TRADING WITH THE ENEMY by Charles Higham

If you’re looking for a book that discusses America's recruitment of Nazis and its disastrous effect…
3) BLOWBACK by Christopher Simpson

If you’re looking for a book that discusses Hitler's Alliance with Germany's great chemical companies…
4) THE CRIME & PUNISHMENT OF I.G. FARBEN (BASF) by Joseph Borkin.

If you’re looking for a book that gives you an insider’s perspective of Dr. Josef Mengele…
5) A DOCTOR'S EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT by Miklos Nyiszli

If you’re looking for a book that showcases the unconditional faith in human beings' ability to heal…
6) MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING by Dr. Victor E. Frankl

If you’re looking for a book that provides a 10-year-old’s unfiltered perspective of Auschwitz and shows young people that we can overcome many hardships in life and even triumph over disaster….
7) SURVIVING THE ANGEL OF DEATH by Eva Mozes Kor & Lisa Rojany Buccieri

If you’re looking for a book that provides early childhood education about prejudice…
8) LITTLE EVA & MIRIAM IN FIRST GRADE by Eva Mozes Kor

If you’re looking for a book that provides information about the twins’ perspective as guinea pigs of Dr. Josef Mengele...
9) ECHOES FROM AUSCHWITZ by Eva Mozes Kor

If you’re looking for a book that shares the story of a Sunderkomando working for 3 yrs. in the gas chambers…
10) EYE WITNESS IN AUSCHWITZ by Filip Muller

If you’re looking for a book that goes into detail concerning Nazi Eugenics to create a perfect race…
11) MURDEROUS SCIENCE by Beno Muller Hill

If you’re looking for a book about a 17 year old who escaped Auschwitz to alert the world, but the world didn't believe him…
12) I CANNOT FORGIVE by Rudolf Vrba


You can learn more about Eva Mozes Kor by visiting www.candlesholocaustmuseum.org, following her on Twitter at @evamozeskor.

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JBC Bookshelf: 8 New Books for Passover 5777

Tuesday, April 04, 2017 | Permalink

Posted by Nat Bernstein

With Passover just around the corner, it’s time to start stocking your bookshelves for the holiday! Slip away from your seder and sink into poetry, memoirs, and new fiction about someone else’s dysfunctional Jewish family at Passover:

Tell Me How This Ends Well

by David Samuel Levinson

David Samuel Levinson imagines a near-future in which antisemitism runs rampant and Israeli refugees roam the Globe after the world stood by and watched the annihilation of the Jewish State at the hands of its neighbors.

Ten years into the future, three siblings reunite in Los Angeles to “celebrate” Passover as a family and carry out an ill-conceived plot to murder their dad. There’s Jacob, visiting from Berlin with his German boyfriend and a sinister spare suitcase he intends to keep hidden; Edith, divorced, unstable, and facing sexual misconduct charges from an undergraduate student dissatisfied with his grade from her Ethics course; and Mo, husband, father to a set of twins and triplets each, and failed-actor-turned-reality-star in his forties hosting Passover in a mansion maintained by the network company that will be returning to film an encore of his family’s Passover seder—unbeknownst to any of his guests.

The Zookeeper’s Wife

by Diane Ackerman

Niki Caro’s movie adaptation of Diane Ackerman’s 2007 bestseller hit theaters just in time for the holiday—and the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, which broke out, significantly, on the first night of Passover, 1943. Inspired by the Passover seder held by the Jews hidden in the Warsaw zoo—and its coincidence with the start of the revolt—Jewish Book Council’s new custom book club kit for The Zookeeper’s Wife features a special Passover haggadah supplement compiled in collaboration with humanitarian relief agencies—the International Rescue Committee (IRC), HIAS, and CARE—and leading Jewish organizations around the country to commemorate the the struggle for freedom that the holiday represents. Click here to download the free reading guide!

Moses: A Human Life

by Aviva Gottlieb Zornberg

What better time than Passover to read a biography of Moshe Rabbeinu—written by renowned scholar and lecturer Dr. Aviva Gottlieb Zornberg, no less—than Passover? Accessible and illuminating, Zornberg’s recent contribution to the Yale Jewish Lives series brings her signature cross-application of Jewish texts, world literature, and psychoanalytic examination to one of Tanakh’s most complex characters.

We Were the Lucky Ones

by Georgia Hunter

Based on the true story of her family’s survival of World War II as Polish Jews, Georgia Hunter’s debut novel begins and ends with two Passover seders, eight years apart. In early March of 1939, Addy Kurc—Hunter’s maternal grandfather—meanders the streets of Paris in the wee hours of the morning, turning over a letter from his mother begging him to stay in France for the upcoming holiday rather than risk the closing borders of German-occupied Poland. He writes back to answer that he is resolved to return home to Radom, but even as his parents and siblings gather around the seder table no further word arrives—and neither does Addy.

The next eight years follow the separated factions of the Kurc family from German-occupied Radom and Toulouse to Soviet-occupied Lvov and Vichy France; across the Mediterranean to Dakar and Casablanca, across Siberia to Kazakhstan and Tehran, across the Austrian Alps to the Adriatic Coast (and Allied military camps) of Italy; on to Warsaw, Krakow, Lodz, Tel Aviv, Illinois, and Rio de Janeiro, where the whole family—all three generations miraculously intact—reunites for their first Passover seder together since Kristallnacht. Of the 30,000 Jews living in their hometown of Radom, Poland before the Holocaust, fewer than 300 survived—and “luckily,” every member of the Kurc family among them.

The Dinner Party

by Brenda Janowitz

Sylvia is planning the perfect Passover seder. Everything from the table settings to the menu to managing her helpless husband and hapless children—a son run off to Doctors Without Borders, a daughter who left medical school (and a Rothschild suitor) for the beach, a non-Jewish boyfriend dating the professionally successful one—has been accounted for. But guests comes with problems and intrigues of their own…

My Jewish Year

by Abigail Pogrebin

Abigail Pogrebin’s new personal exploration of the Jewish holidays is a wonderful companion year-round, but I was especially curious to read her reflections on Passover, given her family legacy around the holiday—her mother, Letty Cottin Pogrebin, convened the first feminist seder together with E. M. Broner, Phyllis Chesler, and Lilly Rivlin, and Abigail grew up attending this annual gathering as a “Seder daughter” over the subsequent years, seated among Gloria Steinem, Bella Abzug, Bea Kreloff, Edith Isaac-Rose, and others.

Indeed, a full chapter of My Jewish Year is dedicated to "The Feminist Passover: A (Third) Seder of Her Own." In the chapter before, Pogrebin sticks to the traditional seder—and pre-holiday cleaning, gaining as much from the ritual of bedikat chametz and cooking with her children as the seder itself. She shares some favorite party tricks to spark meaningful discussions around the Passover story and how it translates to the present moment, including the homemade haggadah she has compiled over the last several years—”a collection of questions rather than readings[…] that meets all the seder requirements, while inviting constant participation.” Maybe that will be her next book…

The Book of Separation (Coming September 2017)

by Tova Mirvis

Bedikat Chametz emerges as a compass of unexpected resonance for Tova Mirvis in her forthcoming memoir, as well. Celebrating Halloween for the first time at age 40, the foreign experience of trick-or-treating with her children reminds her of searching for bread crumbs with a candle, a feather, and a wooden spoon with her father the night before Passover every year.

Mirvis’s story of leaving the Orthodox world of her upbringing and marriage cuts to the quick—with especially sharp poignancy as the Jewish holidays cycle through her life. Early in her married life, Passover stood as a symbol of the balance in her relationship, and her role within it: seders spent with her parents in Memphis, in exchange for the autumn holidays in Boston with his, “squelching” challenges to her faith with religious routines—vacuuming the the mini van for any traces of chametz before the Festival of Matzah. But it is toward the end of the book, in a chapter devoted to Passover, the holiday takes on its strongest significance: recounting the story of Exodus at a small seder with only her parents and children, Mirvis begins to think of her own liberation: her divorce. At the end of the official ceremony before a Jewish court of law, she remembers, the presiding rabbi encouraged her to embrace this new start to her life, to “become the person you need to be,” and wished her mazal tov.

Open My Lips

by Rachel Barenblat

This is a story about change.
Look: the seas are parting.
It’s happening now. Open your eyes.

We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt
but God brought us out of there.
This is a story about change.

Rachel Barenblat’s poetry on “Pesach to Shavuot” continues the literary fixation on preparing for Passover from women writers.Listing everything to be done before the holiday begins—from buying canned macaroons to calling her mother “to ask again whether she cooks / matzah balls in salted water or broth, because you can”—Barenblat combines wry humor with heartbreaking memories, adding, “Realize that no matter how many you buy / there are never quite enough eggs at Pesach,” right after a memory of her grandfather confused over the loss of his wife only weeks before another Passover years ago. Another poem eulogizes the Arab Spring, and in the interim before Shavuot Barenblat meditates on counting the Omer: “Humility and splendor in a single day, / two opposites folded into one. / Roots strengthen us as we count.”

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Want to Understand Israel? Start Reading...

Wednesday, March 01, 2017 | Permalink

Internal Dialogue is a Jewish Book Council blog series on literary trends, ideas, and discussions of interest to Jewish readers and community organizers, curated by the Jewish Book Council editors and staff. Posted by Nat Bernstein.

Jewish Book Council kicked off its third season of Unpacking the Book: Jewish Writers in Conversation this week with a discussion between Daniel Gordis and Nir Baram, two of Israel’s most celebrated contemporary writers.

Presented in partnership with The Paul E. Singer Foundation and moderated by Bari Weiss of The Wall Street Journal, Israel: A Tale of Love & Darkness? opened an engaging and provocative discussion of the current political and social realities of the Middle East today, prompted by Daniel Gordis’s recent publication Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn, recipient of the 2016 Everett Family Foundation Award for Jewish Book of the Year, and Nir Baram’s forthcoming report A Land Without Borders: My Journey Around East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Following the audience Q&A at the end of the live discussion, series moderator Bari Weiss asked both authors to name three books they would each recommend to American readers looking to gain a nuanced, deeper understanding of the region’s history, future, and contending narratives.

Nir Baram immediately named the short stories of A. B. Yehoshua, specifically the works collected in The Continuing Silence of a Poet. Though Yehoshua’s novels are better known among international audiences, Baram insists the Israeli Faulkner’s short fiction is unquestionably some of the best writing to ever come out of Israel—indeed, he claims, it is probably some of the best writing from anywhere, ever.

Baram also recommended Benny Morris’s The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949as a crucial primer on the history of the region. While world leaders and the older generations of activists discuss and negotiate resolutions based on the 1967 borders, Baram points to their Palestinian counterparts and the emerging grassroots-initiated movement of younger Israeli Jews shifting the focus to back to 1948.

Daniel Gordis asserted that the Amos Oz autobiography that inspired the title of Tuesday evening’s event perhaps best represents the Israeli narrative, both in terms of form—Oz’s writing remains unsurpassedly beautiful across genres—and its encapsulation of the Zionist historical experience of the twentieth century. A Tale of Love and Darkness presents “a loving look at the country without failing to point out the problematic.”

Gordis also recommended Eshkol Nevo’s Neuland, a fictional response to Theodor Herzl’s Altneuland imagining a movement to create an entirely new Jewish state among young, post-army Israelis traveling abroad. The story raises searing questions about the Zionist ideal and its evolving identity in the modern world.

Both authors agreed that David Grossman’s work is seminal to the literary expression of Israel—Gordis highlighted To the End of the Land, a novel in which a woman runs away from home to prevent the possibility of the Israel Defense Forces finding her to report the death of her son (thereby ensuring that he “can’t” ever die): “a beautiful look into the struggles and scars of the country.” He also mentioned S. Yizhar’s Khirbet Khizeh—a novella critiquing Israel’s capture of an Arab village in 1948, examined in A Land Without Borders—and the author’s curious rise to prominence at the time of the book’s publication in 1949: the book became an immediate bestseller in Israel, and Yizhar was swiftly elected to the Knesset and appointed Minister of Education, indicating that “Israel does not run away from self-critique—or at least didn’t use to.”

Of course, books don’t have to be about a place, moment, or conflict to convey the experience and tensions of the people living in them. Baram encouraged the audience to delve into contemporary Israeli writers across genres and explore works that purportedly concern the universality of the human condition. Young writers like D. A. Mishani, Asaff Gavron, Lea Aini, Etgar Keret, Sayed Kashua, are deftly expressing the Israeli narrative in the subtext of their prose, which reaches outward but never fully departs from the socio-political environment that bore them. And if you’re looking to follow his advice, Jewish Book Council’s editorial team assembled a reading list to start you off…

A video recording of the full program will be posted online next week for readers who were unable to attend the live program, and discussion questions for the featured titles are available for free download here if your book club is interested in reading these or other books on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Unpacking the Book: Jewish Writers in Conversation continues next month with Good Girls, Nasty Women: Gender and American Jewish History on March 28, 2017 at The Jewish Museum. Sign up for free admission »

Good Girls, Nasty Women: Gender and American Jewish History

Tuesday, March 28, 2017 | The Jewish Museum, New York City

Disappointed Amazon's Good Girls Revolt was cancelled after the first season? Hear from award-winning journalist Lynn Povich, the author of the memoir upon which the show was based, in conversation with Ernestine Rose biographer and women's historian Bonnie S. Anderson and Rebecca Traister, journalist and author of All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation. Discover the Jewish women behind history's great revolutions and contemporary movements, from the activists of America's Antebellum to the women's liberation stirrings of the midcentury—to today's "nasty" women—at Unpacking the Book: Jewish Writers in Conversation Tuesday, March 28, 2017 in New York City!

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10 Books for the 10 Days of Awe 5775

Tuesday, September 23, 2014 | Permalink

Looking for the new list for 5776? Click here!

Posted by Nat Bernstein.

1. Many Seconds Into the Future by John J. Clayton

Ten stories of ten men grappling with life, love, and loss from acclaimed short story author John J. Clayton contemplate Jewish identity, prayer, and mourning.

And then one day, on this very day of my first sentence, late fall, God comes to him, speaks in the form of a shiver that ripples through him and —he’s almost sure—means something. I could say he feels a surge of energy reaching from the box on his arm through the box above his forehead and down through him to his toes, but he himself can’t say exactly what happens in his body. He finds himself in tears.

This is probably a purely neurological event, even the start of a nervous breakdown, not an encounter with the holy. At least that’s what I’d think if it happened to me. No burning bush, no heavenly chariot. But for Harry it’s a nudge from God—the Shekinah, the Divine Presence, brushing her soft Self against his skin. Holy goose bumps. Does he hear himselfcalled—Harry, Harry…? He isn’t sure. He answers anyway, Hineni, Here I am.

2. But Where Is the Lamb? Imagining the Story of Abraham and Isaac by James Goodman

On the second day of the Jewish new year, communities traditionally read the story of the Binding of Isaac—nineteen lines from Genesis, composing one of the most perplexing stories across the three monotheisms. James Goodman struggles with this passage through commentaries and exegeses of Second Temple sages, rabbis and priests of late antiquity, the Hadith, Syriac hymns, allegories from the First Crusade, medieval English mystery plays; through the art of Europe’s Golden Age, the great Western philosophers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and the works of Boby Dylan, Elie Wiesel, and A.B. Yehoshua.

I didn’t think he’d do it. I really didn’t think he would. I thought he’d say, whoa, hold on, wait a minute. We made a deal, remember, the land, the blessing, the nation, the descendants as numerous as the sands on the shore and the stars in the sky. You said: through Isaac you’d make my name great. I have kept my word. Don’t go back on yours.

Right up to the last moment, I thought, I hoped, I may have prayed, that Abraham would protest: I can’t do it, I can’t. I obey you as I obeyed my own father, Terah, but Isaac: he is my son.

But he didn’t.

3. The Liars’ Gospel by Naomi Alderman

The Liars’ Gospel is essentially a Jewish Master and Margarita, without the time warp. Rewriting Jesus’ rise to fame and fervor during his living days from the isolated perspectives of Miryam (Mary), Iehuda from Qeriot (Judas Iscariot), Caiaphas, and Bar-Avo (Barabbas), Naomi Alderman’s intense third novel is grounded in sources from Josephus, the New Testament, and the Talmud. The festering political tensions mounting in Jerusalem are mirrored in the High Priests preparations for Yom Kippur, when he will enter the Holy of Holies to atone on behalf of the Jewish people alone—and he may not survive.

They tie a rope around his ankle so that, if he dies, they will be able to haul him out[...] Today is ordinary, and tomorrow will be ordinary and the next day in all likelihood. But once a year he will stand in the full presence of the Almighty and see if he is worthy to survive.

4. The Anatomy Lesson by Nina Siegal

Like The Liar’s Gospel, Nina Siegal’s stirring novel is voiced through multiple imagined perspectives of real and fictional characters. Inspired by Rembrandt’s painting of the same name, The Anatomy Lesson weaves the story of a criminal who remains unrepentant until glimpsing the face of the woman who loves him at the moment of his execution and the figures of Amsterdam who attempt, in their own ways, to redeem him.

I wish I could tell you that a kind of fire burned through my hand just then, feeling my mother’s benediction on my skin, but I can’t. All I can say is that I know it was the right thing. That, right there, would be the center of the painting. The artist’s invisible hand presents the surgeon’s living hand, to reanimate the hand of the dead convicted thief. And in that way, to resurrect all humanity.

I heard the singing grow louder outside my windows as the parade took shape along my street. I knew that I had finally found my way into this painting, and that it would be no mere portrait but one of my greatest works. I would illuminate Adriaen’s body. I would cast the damned man into the light.

5. Cut Me Loose: Sin and Salvation After My Ultra-Orthodox Girlhood by Leah Vincent

The concept and practice of vidui, or confession, in Judaism, is extraordinarily complex. As part of the traditional Yom Kippur service, individuals ask forgiveness for the sins of the world—but both then and year-round, there is a personal component as well. Perhaps the rawest Jewish American confession penned for the current generation—and certainly this year—is Leah Vincent’s gut-wrenching memoir of survival after being abandoned and ostracized by her yeshivish family and community.

I slammed the phone down and struggled to take in a breath as frustration and despair and fury rose higher and higher in my body, like a typhoon in a glass bottle.

It was the tradition to ask for forgiveness in the High Holiday season, in hope that others relinquishing their grudges would swar a stern God to pardon our sins. Would there, I fumed, be such easy forgiveness for me? If I did anything that also hurt your feelings in some way? Is she fucking kidding or is she just completely oblivious? Exasperated, I shook my head.

6. My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff

Though no intermediary between the penitent and God was originally prescribed, Hasidic masters encouraged their scholars to bring their vidui to a sage, a mentor. Up until his death four years ago, countless readers all over the world chose J.D. Salinger as their sage, though he had no wish to hear them. In My Salinger Year, Joanna Rakoff recounts her experience answering letters addressed to him while working for his agent as her first foray into the literary world:

It goes without saying, I suppose, that I now understood why the fans wrote to him, not just wrote to him but confided in him with such urgency, with such empathy and compassion, with such confession. Because the experience of reading a Salinger story is less like reading a short story and more like having Salinger himself whisper his accounts into your ear. The world he creates is at once palpably real and terrifically heightened, as if he walked the earth with his nerve endings exposed[…] And so, of course, his readers felt an urge to write back. To say this is where it hurts or here’s how you made it better.

7. A Bintel Brief: Love and Longing in Old New York by Liana Finck

A generation earlier, Jewish immigrants to New York had Abraham Cahan.

When I get angry I go into a trance and attack the weakest parts of the people I love. I am eating out my husband’s poor heart. So far, I have only used words, but it is just a matter of time before I become physically violent.

When I wake up in the morning I am remorseful. I vow to be good to him. But some little thing always sets me off and I become my old self in a minute. What should I do? A known murderer is at least punished, but I am an unknown murderer.

8. The Days Between: Blessings, Poems, and Directions of the Heart for the Jewish New Year by Marcia Falk

Modern liturgist Marcia Falk has composed an entire book of original prayers and blessings for the Ten Days between Erev Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, infusing traditional elements into contemporary values and sense of self. Her version of vidui replaces the “catalog” of sins throughout mankind with “a call to self accounting”:

In the mirror of our eyes, the other is reflected;
in the eyes of the other— ourselves.
We look outward, inward,
see how we have hurt and harmed,
how hurt embeds even in the smallest wounds.
We give ourselves over, begin to make amends,
Begin to make ourselves whole.

9. Pilgrim: Risking the Life I Have to Find the Faith I Seek by Lee Kravitz

Rather than test driving a few sports cars or researching hair regrowth gimmicks, when midlife crisis struck Lee Kravitz he began a “spiritual shopping expedition” through Buddhist meditation groups, Quaker meetings, Hindu chanting sessions, and Christmas mass. Eventually he returned to Judaism, finding a community that suits his specific religious needs. His memoir culminates at the Kol Nidre service on the eve of Yom Kippur:

Actually, I no longer think of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur as High Holidays or even as High Holy Days. I think of them as being part of the “Days of Awe” (Yamim Noraim” in Hebrew). That phrase reflects the high-stakes nature of the soul-searching Jews are supposed to do for ten days, starting with Rosh Hashanah and ending with Yom Kippur. It also conveys the anxiety we’re supposed to feel in that time. According to Jewish tradition, Rosh Hashanah is when God determines “who shall live and who shall die” during the coming year. The righteous get inscribed in the Book of Life, the wicked in the Book of Death. But since most of us are neither fully righteous nor fully wicked, we have until Yom Kippur to repent. Then our fate is sealed.

The stakes can’t get much higher than that.

10. The Book of Jonah by Joshua Max Feldman

Joshua Max Feldman’s debut novel is by no means a retelling of the Biblical Book of Jonah; it is, rather, an impressive experimenta­tion with allegory and the antihero, leaning ever so lightly on the traditional Yom Kippur reading and exposing facets of the story heretofore unconsidered. Reimagining a modern-day Jonah as the Harry Potter of city street preachers—the unlikely savior of mixed parentage, straddled between the real world and suddenly-encoun­tered mysticism—in a society of devotees of the iPhone and capital assets, Feldman transforms the archaic dichotomy of good-versus-evil into a profoundly contemporary rumination on the binary of evil and truth.

For me, the image of the whale—or, you know, being swallowed by the giant fish—presents an image of being completely ensnared in circumstance, completely trapped in what’s happening around you, and for me that comes when Jonah’s in Amsterdam, toward the very end of that section. What is interesting to me about moments like that—and one of the reasons the image of being swallowed by the fish is so reso­nant with people—is that it’s something people can identify with: we’ve all had that moment of feeling completely overcome and completely overwhelmed by circumstance.Those are the moments when we’re really capable of changing our path, when we’re really capable of changing as people, and that’s what I tried to show happening with Jonah.

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2013 JBC Network Favorite Book Round-Up

Monday, December 16, 2013 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

We asked this year's JBC Network book fair coordinators and authors to share some of the best books they read this year as well as their favorite books of all time. We received a wonderful mix of titles that span the last several decades and hope that you'll find a great read to keep cozy with this winter season.

JBC Network Coordinators' Favorite 2013 Reads


 

JBC Network Authors' Favorite 2013 Reads


 

JBC Network Coordinators' Favorite Books of All Time


 

JBC Network Authors' Favorite Books of All Time


 

The Brilliance of Chanukah

Tuesday, November 05, 2013 | Permalink

We thought we'd kick off Eight Nights of Stories series with a Hanukkah classic—but scroll down, there's plenty more! Click on book images for JBC reviews and links to purchase each book through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound.
What's Eight Nights of Stories all about? Read Nat's explanatory blog post!

Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins
by Eric Kimmel; Trina Schart Hyman, illus.


On the eve of the first night of Chanukah, legendary jokester Hershel of Ostropol reaches a darkened village where goblins plague the villagers like the Grinch on Whoville. Everyone knows that goblins abhor light and merriment, (just ask Curdie,) but instead of retreating to caves in the mountains, these beastly creatures have settled in the village synagogue and snuffed out Chanukah throughout the town. Ever the unlikely hero, Hershel resolves to stay in the haunted synagogue, celebrating the holiday and outwitting the increasingly fearsome goblins night after night—but can he save Chanukah once and for all?

Prolific children’s author and folklorist Eric Kimmel has written a trove’s worth of delightful Chanukah books for children, but Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins is his Caldecott Honor-winning masterpiece. The charm and suspense of this Jewish incarnation of “The Brave Little Tailor” are matched by impeccable illustrations that capture the humor and spookiness of the story all at once, and the tale itself is sure to engage young readers year after year.

Chances are your kids have already read (and loved) Hershel. The magic needn't stop there. Marilyn Hirsch's The Rabbi and the Twenty-Nine Witches is a great read for the full moon, any month. This timeless, utterly charming book is actually based on a lesser-known tale from Talmud, in which a cunning rabbi sets out to rid a neighboring cave of "twenty-nine of the meanest, scariest, ugliest, wickedest witches that ever were." Though undoubtedly a children's book, The Rabbi and the Twenty-Nine Witches holds enough intrigue and sophistication in the narrative and illustrations to captivate my teenage students whenever I bring this book into class!

Of course, that doesn't mean that advancing readers should be left rereading the picture books of their youth—nor should they abandon tales of whimsy, either. Janusz Korczak, now remembered primarily as the tragic hero of the Warsaw Ghetto, left a literary legacy of magical stories that were hugely popular throughout Poland from the late 1920s on. Korczak truly understood children and the transitions they face, and wielded his masterful storytelling to help his young readers understand questions of responsibility and empowerment. Thankfully, a couple of his works for readers 10 and up have been translated into English in the last decade, eliciting comparisons to the adventures Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland. King Matt the First certainly holds elements of both, plus a hearty dose of Pippi of the South Seas and a dash of The Chronicles of Narnia.

After the kids are asleep...

Start reading The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker. You'll thank me for it.

Yes, this is a book I'd recommend any night of the year, but it fits into the continuity of magic and mysticism that flows throughout tonight's list. The jinn is a creature of fire, which I think nicely reflects the theme of a small flame's resistance against darkness and evil in Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins. But besides all that, you'll find reading each chapter of The Golem and the Jinni like a present to yourself for every night. Go on, you deserve it!

Mid-Summer Check-in

Friday, July 26, 2013 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

What have your fellow readers been reading this summer? We have the top 12 titles you've been checking out on our website over the past two months:


 

Love Stories for Tu B'Av

Monday, July 22, 2013 | Permalink

We've spent all day discussing them at work and now we're sharing them with you! Our Tu B'av 5773 JBC staff picks:


"Two intertwined love stories make up  Meir Shalev's novel A Pigeon and a Boy, one story set in modern Israel, the other in 1948,  during Israel's war of independence. The war-time tale of tender, doomed young love is particularly poignant and brings this period to life from an unusual perspective." —CK

"Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels is more about the love between a father and his adopted son than about romantic love, although there's certainly that, too. At times reading more like a poem than a novel, Fugitive Pieces is about how we grow to love the people dropped on our doorstep, the people who accidentally enter our lives." —EM

"The History of Love renewed my long-abandoned faith in magical realism and lifelong love stories. A young girl's search for the author of an obscure, discarded book and an old man's struggle with utter lonesomeness circle each other through reality and breathtaking distortion, only to end as you realize their stories could end no other way." —NB



"The Mind-Body Problem, Rebecca Goldstein's classic novel published thirty years ago, tells the story of  a young graduate student, Renee, navigating her marriage to a legendary mathematical genius at Princeton. As Reneee struggles with the tension between emotion and intelligence, she is forced to examine her marriage, love life, and Jewish identity." —NF-T 

"Peter Cole's exquisite translations prove that no one wrote love poetry like the great (and the obscure) Sepharadic lyricists. No one." —NB

"I've had If You Awaken Love on my shelf for years; I always have it around to share with anyone looking for a wonderful read." —CH



"The Golem and the Jinni: magical realism at its best. Helene Wecker's literary debut has born two of the most heartbreaking creatures ever written." —NB 

"Song of Songs: among the most beautiful and the most desperate expressions of love and longing in verse." —NB

9 Jewish Book Covers to Cool You off on a Hot Summer Day

Tuesday, July 16, 2013 | Permalink

Dreaming of water on this hot summer day? So are we. A few covers to cool you off:


Bonus: Kiddie Corner

 

10 Summer Reads For Jewish Teens

Tuesday, July 09, 2013 | Permalink

Looking for books to send your kids at camp this summer? Try these recommendations from our teen intern, Amalia!

Girls


 

Boys