Books

JTS, The Novel

Amy Gottlieb first novel delves into the world of the Seminary in the 1950s, when ‘there was magic in the air.’

09/21/2016 - 14:05
Culture Editor

Amy Gottlieb’s debut novel, “The Beautiful Possible” (Harper), is one of the most Jewish of stories, if one considers novelist Rebecca Goldstein’s definition of a Jewish book as one in which Judaism matters on the page. In a style that feels natural, Gottlieb weaves Jewish wisdom, texts and storytelling into narrative and dialogue; many sentences have the cadences of prayer.

Gottlieb’s novel is a story of a past era at JTS, when Abraham Joshua Heschel was teaching there. Courtesy of Harper

Everything Is Ambivalence In Foer's 'Here I Am'

In his new book, Jonathan Safran Foer’s fictional family seems ripped from the pages of the Pew survey on American Jewish life.

09/07/2016 - 17:34
Special To The Jewish Week

In keeping with his previous books, in his new novel, ‘Here I Am,” the talented Brooklyn-based author Jonathan Safran Foer has attempted yet another audacious experiment. 

In his new book Foer and his fictional characters confront the destruction of Israet. Courtesy of Jeff Mermelstein

The Earthquake This Time

Jonathan Safran Foer’s new novel delves into deep fault lines.

08/31/2016 - 12:31
Culture Editor

In the first paragraph of his new novel, Jonathan Safran Foer hints at what will unfold later, and goes on, in one very long sentence, to describe Isaac Bloch, a Holocaust survivor living in Washington, D.C.

“I’m wary of saying what’s authentically Jewish,” Safran Foer tells The Jewish Week. “I’m not making that kind of judgement.”

The Archivist Of French-Jewish History

Lisa Moses Leff now mining 19th-century Panama Canal scandal after award-winning ‘The Archive Thief.’

08/02/2016 - 16:49
Culture Editor

Not many books by historians seem like the stuff of feature films. Even with its extensive footnotes, Lisa Moses Leff’s “The Archive Thief: The Man Who Salvaged French Jewish History in the Wake of the Holocaust” (Oxford University Press), which was just awarded the largest prize in Jewish letters, seems like a cinematic natural. At the center would be the enigmatic historian Zosa Szajkowski, who is transformed over his lifetime — from a leading scholar of French Jewish history who heroically rescues documents, to a thief of manuscripts, selling books and pages he has stolen to academic libraries.

“The book is stronger for the ambivalence” about whether Szajkowski is hero, thief or both.” Courtesy of Oxford University Press

‘Looking For A Direct Personal Encounter’

The poignant photography of Diane Arbus.

07/12/2016 - 17:58
Culture Editor

It’s coincidental that a major new biography of the artist, “Diane Arbus: Portrait of a Photographer” by Arthur Lubow (Ecco), has just been published, and a major show including many photos neither seen nor published before, opens this week at the Met Breuer, “diane arbus: in the beginning.” The photos date back to the early years of her career, from 1956 to 1962, when she gave up fashion photography and set out to portray ordinary people and those who markedly stood out.

Arbus’ “Taxicab driver at the wheel with two passengers, N.Y.C.” from 1956 ©The Estate of Diane Arbus, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Trillin, In Black And White

The veteran author dishes about civil rights, Judaism and the art of reporting.

07/05/2016 - 13:07

Writer Calvin Trillin may be most famous today for his humorous musings on food, family, travel and love.

A young Calvin Trillin, left, interviewing John Lewis in Birmingham.  LIFE Images Collection via JTA

In Search Of The Jewish Angle On Things

Shooting photographers in their homes and studios, Penny Wolin tells a story about Jewish vision.

06/14/2016 - 17:40
Culture Editor

Penny Wolin has been described as “a street photographer who knocks on the door.” She has the openness, spontaneity and spirit of the street, along with the gift of conversation. Working on her new book, “Descendants of Light: American Photographers of Jewish Ancestry” (Crazy Woman Creek), she traversed the country to meet photographers in their homes and studios.

Ryszard Horowitz, left, on his Chelsea fire escape. Right, Elinor Carucci curling her eyelashes.

Sobering Lessons Of The Long Lebanon War

05/31/2016 - 16:19
Special To The Jewish Week

Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from “Pumpkin Flowers,” journalist and author Matti Friedman’s just-published memoir about his and his contemporaries’ experiences in the IDF in southern Lebanon, a buffer zone protecting the Israeli north, in the late 1990s. “The Pumpkin” was the name given the outpost where Friedman served. The war began with an IDF invasion in 1982 and Israeli forces remained in Lebanon until 2000, enduring terror attacks until the army decided to leave, blowing up its outposts as it left — a sad end to a long and unresolved war.

“The old utopian optimism,” Friedman writes, “was laid to rest” after the Lebanon war.

Fathers Still Know Best

Rabbi Yitz Greenberg offers his own take on the wisdom (more relevant today than ever?) found in Pirkei Avot.

05/10/2016 - 15:09
Special To The Jewish Week

‘Sage Advice” (Maggid Books) serves as the more than apt title for Rabbi Irving “Yitz” Greenberg’s new translation and commentary on Pirkei Avot, the classic volume of rabbinic literature that is itself a compendium of pithily stated reflections, observations and teachings drawn from the sayings of the rabbis (aka sages) who lived in the era of the composition of the Mishnah, around the third century CE.

The perennially popular text itself appears in most Jewish prayer books, and many scholars and rabbis have published their commentaries before.

“It’s like a box of candies,” Rabbi Greenberg says about Pirkei Avot.

New Chapters On The Shoah

Holocaust autobiographies keeping aging survivors’ memories alive.

04/28/2016 - 10:47
Staff Writer

As the generation of Holocaust survivors — and to some degree, their children — dwindles, the number of books of their reminiscences continues to grow, as many aging men and women try to preserve their memories before they pass on. Such books, primarily journals and autobiographies, have included in recent years many works of fiction, many of them intended for young readers.

Some of the newest entries in the group of first-person Holocaust books.
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