Special Sections

Roth The Theologian

In a Newark playground, who shall live and who shall die?
Special To The Jewish Week

With his latest novel, “Nemesis” (Houghton Mifflin), Philip Roth enters the realm of theology. Set in the summer of 1944, in the mostly Jewish Weequahic section of Newark, it is ostensibly the story of Bucky Cantor, a vital, young, virtue-driven athlete and gym teacher deemed unfit for World War II combat because of his faulty eyesight.

In his latest novel, Philip Roth delves into the randomness of the universe as the polio epidemic grips Newark in 1944.

Literary Guide Fall 2010

Our annual November book section features some heavyweight fiction from Philip Roth, Cynthia Ozick and Elie Wiesel. Plus, inside the Soviet Jewry movement, a new biography of Sarah Bernhardt and new cookbooks from some Top Jewish Chefs.
Staff Writer
Fall Literary Guide

Journal Watch


“And it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.” Thus the Book of Genesis — indeed the Tanach, the Hebrew Scriptures — begins its human narrative with nothing less than the murder of a brother by a brother. Genesis is all about family conflict and reconciliation — almost always sibling-to-sibling conflict — setting the pattern for the community- and nation-building of Exodus. Much of Jewish tradition is a forth-and-back between sibling hostility and sibling harmony.

Oh, Brother

An only child considers the challenges of expanding her family.

My 2-year-old daughter, Bess, understands there’s a baby in mommy’s tummy, but neither David nor I think she really gets what that means. Of course, neither do we.

Especially not me. David has his younger sister, Anna. But right now, Bess and I have something major in common: we are only children. For Bess, that coveted status will last until early December, when her little brother, whom we are calling Ptui-Ptui-Ptui, is due to arrive. That is when my daughter’s world will change forever, and when I, her mother, will be officially, and utterly, out of my depth.

MIRIAM STERN. On the Porch, 1991, mixed media, 14x17. <MiriamStern.artspan.com>

Speaking of Sisters

Deborah Tannen’s latest book explores the often fraught relationships.
Special to the Jewish Week

My sister is one of the great gifts in my life. We are different in many ways but it doesn’t matter. The bond we share from having grown up in the same home (where we shared a bedroom), been influenced by the same parents, neighbors and teachers, exposed to the same loving, enriched (and sometimes quirky) environment and shouldering the same responsibilities and concerns as our mother got sick and our dad ages has provided me (and hopefully her) with a bedrock of strength and support.

DIANE BRAWARSKY. Two Women,” 2007, oil , paper, found objects on canvas, 12” X 12. <dianebrawarsky.com>

Twin Cities and Peoplehood

Fostering grassroots connections between communities in the U.S. and Israel.
Staff Writer

When two young Jews were shot dead at a gay club in Israel last summer, New York’s gay Jewish community responded immediately. The West Village congregation for gay Jews, Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, reached out to friends they made in Israel through a city-to-city partnership established 10 years ago. And within days, a group of fearful Israeli teens were in New York.

That kind of swift, visceral response would not have been possible without the city pairing, said program participants.

PHOTO BY DAN LENCHNER. Jerusalem, 2001. <danlenchnerphotography.com>

Singers of Different Tunes

The family produced three important Yiddish writers, even though the brothers got most of the acclaim.
Special to the Jewish Week

“My parents would have been a well-matched pair,” claimed the Yiddish writer, Israel Joshua Singer (1893-1944), “if my mother had been my father and my father my mother.” His now (but not then) more famous brother, Isaac Bashevis Singer (1904-1991), concurred. And so did their much less-known sister, Esther Singer Kreitman (1891-1954). They agreed about very little else. The brothers were close both emotionally and geographically; their sister remained in Europe and apart from them.

Israel Joshua Singer and Isaac Bashevis Singer. From the Archives of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, NY.

The Favored Child

Sibling rivalry, jealousies and consequences in Genesis.
Special to the Jewish Week

Perhaps the most famous story of siblings in any literature is at the very beginning of Genesis. During the course of a mere three chapters, the world is created. Male and female are created and then expelled from Paradise. By the fourth chapter male knows female. The result: two sons are born in quick succession and so too is the first case of sibling rivalry, and soon, of murder. This first case, I would concede, is rather extreme. But its cause turns out to be the norm in Genesis. Favoritism is the culprit. But neither parent is implicated.

PHOTO BY DAN LENCHNER. Jerusalem, 1981. <www.danlenchnerphotography.com>

Idol Worship

When we were kids, I wanted to follow in my brother’s footsteps. Now, as adults, I’m reminded why.

When I was 3, I had a 10-year-old brother, and deep in my heart I hoped that when I grew up, I’d be just like him.

Not that I stood a chance. My big brother had already skipped two grades and had an enviable understanding of everything, from atomic physics and computer programming to the Cyrillic alphabet. Around that time, my brother began to develop a serious concern about me. An article he read in Haaretz said that illiterate people are excluded from the job market, and it bothered him very much that his beloved 3-year-old brother would have a hard time finding work.

Twins and their older sister, bound for Israel, DP Camp Neue Freiman, Munich, Germany 1949. AMERICAN JEWISH JOINT DISTRIBUTION

Editor’s Note


As the youngest of three sisters, I agree wholeheartedly with Miriam Arond, who writes in this issue that sisters are one of the great gifts of life. In these fall weeks when the cycle of Torah readings turns to the stories of Genesis, Text/Context investigates the deep and complicated relationships among siblings. In a terrific new book of essays, “Freud’s Blind Spot: Writers on Siblings” edited by Elisa Albert, novelist Nellie Herman writes, “The story of my siblings is the story of who I am.”

PHOTO BY MICHAEL DATIKASH. Danya and Kira, 2010.
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