The 20 writers featured in this collection of short stories are among the very best of contemporary Jewish writers. The title comes from a popular reading series on the roof of Anshe Chesed, a synagogue on New York’s Upper West Side where the stories were first read aloud. The result is a veritable cornucopia of styles and genres. From Pearl Abraham’s fantastical “Seven Fat Brides,” about one bridegroom’s courtship of seven sisters, to Sonia Pilcer’s wincingly painful “Paskudnyak,” a quest for recognition by the teenage daughter of Holocaust survivors, there is a real taste of what is currently being written and thought about in Jewish literary circles.
In his afterward David Roskies explains that the writers were asked to keep their readings to less than 30 minutes, so the stories are for the most part extremely short. This is not a criticism; it allows for a greater number of authors to be included. In his introduction Melvin Bukiet notes the difficulty with which the editors weeded out contributors. Myra Goldberg’s “Gifts” is a mere three pages but the vividly drawn mother-daughter relationship is a grenade of guilt tossed at the reader. Jonathan Rosen’s “First Date” is actually a chapter from his marvelous novel Joy Comes in the Morning, published several years ago. It would have been nice to find something new from him here. Nevertheless, this is a varied and provocative collection, a wonderful way to discover new writers of Jewish fiction.