Books

Outsider Art, From An Insider

Gary Shteyngart is still training his satiric gaze on the immigrant experience, Jewish and otherwise.

08/03/2010
Staff Writer

‘I don’t feel any need to disassociate with Jews,” said Gary Shteyngart, the phenomenally popular 38-year-old writer whose third novel, “Super Sad True Love Story,” released last week, is chock full of them.

Gary Shteyngart

Did Harper Lee Whitewash The Jewish Past?

As ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ turns 50, caught up in the backlash against Atticus Finch is the novel’s Jewish question.

07/13/2010
Staff Writer

The 50th anniversary of Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which is being marked this summer, was supposed to be a celebratory event. But at least in the press, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that still sells about a million copies a year has become the subject of ruthless criticism.

To kill a Mockingbird

Clash Of Zionisms In Academia

Group of scholars pressing idea of cultural Zionism, amid pushback.

06/23/2010
Staff Writer

 From the United Nations to the capitals of Europe to the pages of the New York Review of Books, Zionism — and the Israeli policies that undergird it — have lately come under withering attack.

Israel is reeling from the international condemnation following the failed flotilla attack. And Peter Beinart’s essay in the NYRB — which attacked Jewish leaders for failing to inspire a new generation of Jews committed to Israel — urged a more liberal Zionism as a way to get young Jews back in the fold.

Noam Pianko’s new book  focuses on forgotten cultural Zionists.

Israeli Authors Lost In Translation as Few Hebrew-language Books Published in English

New subsidized publishing venture holds out hope for greater literary visibility here.

05/25/2010
Staff Writer

Last year, a scandal erupted in Israel over the winner of the Sapir Prize, the country’s top literary award. The honor went to a book by Alon Hilu, 39, one of the country’s most promising young writers. Titled “The House of Rajani,” it focused on the complex relationship between an early Zionist from Russia who, in 1895, immigrates to Jaffa and falls in love with the Arab woman whose land he hopes to acquire.

And On The Seventh Day...

Judith Shulevitz’s ‘Sabbath World’ offers a thorough examination of Judaism’s weekly ritual.

05/18/2010
Jewish Week Book Critic

In New York City, we have neither the siren that sounds in Israel on late Friday afternoons, nor the town criers who would yell “Shabbos” adamantly into the streets of Eastern European towns. But there’s a certain quality of light, the glow before twilight, which signals — confirmed by a glance at a clock — the onset of Shabbat, no matter the season.

Shulevitz shifts from Kierkegaard to the prophet Nehemia to the Gospel of Mark in “The Sabbath World.”

Giving The Rebbe A Biography

‘The Life and Afterlife of Menachem Mendel Schneerson’
humanizes the Lubavitcher Rebbe, but is its premise flawed?

05/11/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

‘The Rebbe: The Life and Afterlife of Menachem Mendel Schneerson” by Samuel Heilman and Menachem Friedman (Princeton University Press) fills a considerable void in the biography of one of the towering religious figures of the 20th century. But on reading it, one wonders whether the object of the biography is the same Lubavitcher Rebbe the world came to know and admire for pioneering Jewish outreach in the modern age and for being arguably the figure most responsible for the global resurgence in Jewish affiliation.

The authors of a biography of late leader of the Lubavitch movement make no effort to explain his scholarly works.

Did The Hebrew Bible Give Birth To Democracy?

Scholars beginning to challenge view that the rise of democratic values belongs solely to Western secular thought.

04/27/2010
Staff Writer

When the Texas Board of Education voted last month in favor of a proposal that would emphasize the religious origins of democracy in high school curricula, many liberals were outraged. It seemed to fly in the face of the long-held assumption that Western political ideas — toleration, the separation of church and state, indeed the genius of democratic rule itself — was born from the steady secularization of the West. It was the age of the Enlightenment, after all, that produced America’s great experiment in democracy.
 

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Less Is More: Alex Epstein’s Poetic Prose

For young Israeli writer, brevity is the name of the game.

04/26/2010
Staff Writer

Americans are surely familiar, to a point, with Israeli literature. Go to your local Barnes & Noble and you’ll find titles from Amos Oz, David Grossman and Aaron Appelfeld well stocked on its shelves.

Alex Epstein: His short story collection "Blue Has No South" is a study in brevity.

A Shmooze Through The Torah

New postmodern commentary offers high-tech,
user-friendly guide to weekly portion.

04/20/2010
Staff Writer

The classical commentaries on Acherei Mot–Kedoshim — the Torah portions in Leviticus read in synagogues this Shabbat — by the classical commentators are black and white, graphically and philosophically.

Long blocks of text parse and examine and explain key biblical words that illustrate such concepts as the Azazel goat ritual in the Wilderness, forbidden relationships, and obligations to the poor.

Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier’s parshah book takes a novel graphic approach.

Measuring The Giant That Was Yehuda Halevi

Hillel Halkin’s new biography of the poet-philosopher does him justice.

04/13/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

Who was Yehuda Halevi? Generations of Jewish schoolchildren here and in the Palestine Yishuv grew up with his classic poetic line, “Libi ba-mizrach, v’anochi b’sof ma’arav” — “My heart is in the East (the Land of Israel), but I, my body, is in the furthest reaches of the West.” Living and working in the 11th and 12th centuries in Spain, he was one of the giants of Hebrew poetry. That he was a significant figure in the history of Jewish thought is unquestioned.

Halkin captures a larger-than-life figure.
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