Judging by their covers, Rabbi Michael Strassfeld’s just published work A Book of Life: Embracing Judaism as a Spiritual Practice (Schocken) and his earlier “The Jewish Catalog” (Jewish Publication Society) — published almost 30 years ago — couldn’t be more different. His new book is hardcover; its jacket features a traditional papercut design in deep colors, highlighted in gold, altogether very handsome. The first book, a paperback he edited along with Richard Siegel and Sharon Strassfeld, is bright red, with a do-it-yourself look.
Imre Kertesz, a Hungarian Jew who is this year’s Nobel laureate in literature, often says that he’s a medium of the Holocaust. “Auschwitz speaks through his stories,” a friend of his, the Israeli literary critic and author Shmuel Thomas Huppert, tells The Jewish Week. “His main theme is Auschwitz. He stresses the fact that first of all he’s a writer. He didn’t become a writer because he was in Auschwitz but, by being in Auschwitz, he found his major theme.”
It was like theater: A conversation about a new book seemed to turn into a live version of the book. As soon as we began talking, the two co-authors, both rabbis, were conversing as friends, but disagreeing with each other all the way.
Nobody remembers whether the Torah has ever won a book award before.
But this year’s National Jewish Book Award for non-fiction goes to “Etz Hayim: Torah and Commentary,” edited by David Lieber and Jules Harlow (Jewish Publication Society). It’s the Conservative movement’s new volume of the Torah text and commentary, the first new edition published in 70 years.
The advent of the Sabbath has been strikingly noted in the works of Hayim Nahman Bialik, the Israeli poet Zelda, Tillie Olsen and Philip Roth too. For many Jews, a world of memories is enfolded in the familiar aroma of roast chicken or the slow dancing flames of Sabbath candles. In her new book, “The Fourth Commandment: Remember the Sabbath Day” (Harmony), award-winning writer Francine Klagsbrun explores in depth the images and symbols of the seventh day to describe its complex religious, philosophical and mystical underpinnings.
Max Apple’s people are the folks you might see having lunch at a local diner. There’s Sidney Goodman, the carwash king of Las Vegas, and Jerome Feldman, the outgoing president of the Ohio Association of Independent Pharmacists, along with others who sell scrap metal, industrial tools and trinkets. Apple has somehow eavesdropped over the leatherette booths and followed them out and into their lives, dreams and hearts.
Sam Fink loves the letters of the alphabet. He’s drawn to their forms as well as the words and sentences they create, the ideas they bring into being. A true man of letters, his talent is in using the symbols of the alphabet to make art that is grounded in words and goes beyond words.
Battery Park City is a neighborhood made from scratch. Its 92 acres sit on landfill, soil excavated during the construction of the World Trade Center in the 1960s. Atop what used to be dilapidated piers, a village of high-rise and low-rise housing, plazas, playgrounds and pocket parks has arisen, with a population of about 10,000 people.
Rabbi Jan Uhrbach is at morning and evening services every day at the East 55th Street Conservative Synagogue. That she’s the first and only woman rabbi to lead a Manhattan shul with a daily minyan is one of her many distinctive steps in a distinguished and unusual rabbinic path.
The 44-year-old rabbi, who was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary in 2003, joined the 150-member, 101-year-old synagogue this fall, after their leader of 40 years, Rabbi Reuven Siegel, retired.