Back-to-Back Jewish Ghosts

My reading list is usually determined by a certain serendipity of deadlines, recommendations, book covers that jump out of the pile and the lure of whatever arrives in the mail that day.  Yes, I receive new books almost every day.

Courtesy Harper Books

Reconciling With Mom

Alice Eve Cohen’s memoir, ‘The Year My Mother Came Back.’

05/04/2015 - 20:00
Culture Editor

Alice Eve Cohen didn’t expect her mother to take center stage in her memoir. But as she was writing about a very challenging year in the life of her family, her late mother seemed to appear, on the page and at the kitchen table.

Alice Eve Cohen’s newest memoir recounts a difficult year in her adult life.  Janet Charles Photos

Susan Reimer-Torn’s Soaring Spiritual Memoir

In the many communal conversations about shifting Jewish identities and trends -– swelling ultra-Orthodoxy, burgeoning indie-groups, religious escapees, religious returnees, denominational switching and more –- one of the missing narratives is of those who leave religion but then come back in another way. It’s a version of Jewish identity that requires years or decades to truly understand and appreciate, and may apply to thousands of Jews, though we wouldn’t know because such a trajectory does not (yet) have a name. It’s a story about those who leave their religious lives because of abuse or tyranny or a need for freedom and independence, yet still cling to aspects of the heritage that they never really intended to leave behind. It is a story of longing and pain that holds up a mirror to the complexity of Jewish life

Courtesy of Blue Thread Communications

A Long, Strange Trip Toward Judaism

Joshua Safran’s coming-of-age memoir suggests a dark side to the ’60s-era vision of utopia.

12/09/2013 - 19:00
Culture Editor

Joshua Safran was born into a world of communes, covens and radical politics, but was too young to understand what the revolution was all about. When he was 4, his single mother took off for places far less conventional, leaving the Haight-Ashbury section of San Francisco for the desert and hills. They lived in an old bus, a decommissioned ice-cream truck, a teepee and abandoned shacks with no running water, hitchhiking thousands of miles, ever in search of utopia.

Haight-Ashbury and beyond: Safran chronicles a life on the road with his single mother.

‘There Were Still Choices I Could Make’

Alice Hoffman’s breast cancer memoir is really a guide for going through difficult times.
10/15/2013 - 20:00
Jewish Week Book Critic

Being a caregiver came much more naturally to Alice Hoffman than being cared for. For decades, the bestselling novelist was the one who took friends and relatives to the doctor, sat at bedsides, thoroughly researched diseases and arranged for cemetery plots and funerals. Fifteen years ago, when she found a lump on her breast, she was certain that she only imagined it, as things like that didn’t happen to her, and she didn’t have time to be ill. But a call from her doctor, “Alice, I’m sorry,” brought the stark truth.

"I could not run away from my circumstances, or control the path of my disease," Hoffman says. Photo courtesy Algonquin

‘The Silent Jews,’ Given Voice

Times reporter Doreen Carvajal’s memoir sets out ‘to find some broken spiritual shards of myself and my ancestors.’
Jewish Week Book Critic
11/19/2012 - 19:00

Her name was the first clue. Over the years, people pointed out to Doreen Carvajal, who was raised Catholic, that her last name sounded like a name of conversos, Spanish Jews forced to convert during the Inquisition. Caught up in other ambitions, she didn’t pay much attention.

Doreen Carvajal, raised Catholic but interested in her possible Jewish roots, visited villages in southern Spain where relatives

From Here To Absurdity

The tortured (and hilarious) road to recovery of an up-and-coming comedian with a hair-raising biography.
04/16/2012 - 20:00
Staff Writer

Many of the best comedians have had deeply troubled pasts. But Moshe Kasher, a rising 32-year-old comic and author of a new memoir, “Kasher in the Rye,” takes the old adage to a new level.

Kasher in the Rye book cover.

Concerto For Interfaith Dialogue

Conductor Gilbert Levine reflects on his musical and personal relationship with Pope John Paul II.
12/06/2010 - 19:00
Staff Writer

If Gilbert Levine had fulfilled his lifelong dream to spend his days making music, but never conducted some of the world’s leading orchestras — dayenu. It would have been enough.

If he had gone to Poland in 1987 as artistic director of the Krakow Philharmonic, the first American to lead an orchestra in still-communist Eastern Europe, but never met Pope John Paul II — dayenu.

Gilbert Levine has conducted a personal effort of reconciliation between Judaism and the Catholic Church. Tony Gale

Return to Kew Gardens

04/16/2009 - 20:00
Editorial Intern

It took filmmaker Robert H. Lieberman 50 years to return to his hometown neighborhood of Kew Gardens. But when he finally did, he found that his old friends and classmates — who were raised in the shadow of the Shoah — had grown up to make big contributions to American society.

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