Reassessing Rav Kook

In new biography, Yehuda Mirsky argues that the founding chief rabbi of Israel’s ideas were co-opted by his son.

08/25/2014 - 20:00
Culture Editor

While some books offer a good read, and others encapsulate groundbreaking scholarship, Yehudah Mirsky’s “Rav Kook: Mystic in a Time of Revolution” (Yale University Press) manages to do both.

New biography suggests that Israel’s first Ashkenazic chief rabbi was more pluralistic. Courtesy of Yale University

The Dark Comedy Of Caregiving

Roz Chast’s heartbreaking and laugh-out-loud funny memoir of caring for her parents as the end nears.

08/11/2014 - 20:00
Culture Editor

This book had me hooked with the cover. Made to look like a journal, it features a cartoon drawing of a bespeckled middle-aged daughter on one end of a fading sofa, facing her parents, who are seated with their arms crossed. In a bubble above his head, the father asks, “Can’t we talk about something more PLEASANT?” That question is the title of Roz Chast’s memoir of her parents’ final years, and her role as their only child.

As for advice for dealing with aging parents, Chast quips, “Did you read my book? I clearly don’t know what to do.” Bill Franzen

Immigrants All Around

Meyer Lansky, his mistress and an American journalist on assignment collide in Zachary Lazar’s new novel.

07/29/2014 - 20:00
Culture Editor

Hannah Groff travels to Israel on assignment, to write about the murder of poet David Bellen. The poet had writen a book called “Kid Bethlehem,” with the biblical King David reimagined as a 20th-century gangster, and then his body was found in the village of Beit Sahour, outside of Bethlehem. As soon as Hannah arrives, she’s asked again and again, Why have you never been to Israel?

Keeper Of Her Grandfather’s Memory

Remembering Bel Kaufman, author of influential city schools novel and diplomat-at-large for the iconic Sholem Aleichem.

07/28/2014 - 20:00
Culture Editor

Bel Kaufman published her first poem, a paean to spring, as a 7-year-old in Odessa. It was four lines long, signed Belochka Koifman, in a Russian children’s magazine. When she was 11, she began a drama, and wrote 60 pages describing the characters in a notebook that she carried with her when the family moved to New York later that year, and which she kept through her life. Everyone in her family wrote: her mother Lyalya published stories; her father, a physician, was a poet and translator; and her grandfather, who wrote many letters to her, was the great Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem.

Bel Kaufman, who died last week at 103, at her home in recent years, and with Sholem Aleichem. RECENT PHOTO CREDIT: M Dadikash

Free Book Excerpt from the Rebbe


Free Book Excerpt From The "Rebbe"

The first in a series of free books excerpts from The Jewish Week:

Boris Fishman Stakes His Claim

With an eye and an ear for Malamud, he tells a modern (and Holocaust-tinged) immigrant tale in his debut novel.

06/17/2014 - 20:00
Culture Editor

Slava Gelman had the kind of grandmother who would have walked under a tank for him. 

Boris Fishman’s impressive debut novel, “A Replacement Life,” (Harper) opens on an early summer morning in 2006 when Slava picks up the phone to learn from his mother that his beloved grandmother Sofia “isn’t.” In Russian, as the narrator explains, “you didn’t need the adjective to complete the sentence, but in English you did.”

“A Replacement Life” centers on a Claims Conference-like Holocaust restitution scam in Brooklyn’s Russian community.

The Politician With Literary Chops

Ruth Calderon’s creative (and inclusive) journey through Talmudic literature.

06/09/2014 - 20:00
Culture Editor

Even as she works toward effecting change in Israel as a member of Knesset, Ruth Calderon remains a passionate student and teacher of Talmud. After her election as a member of the Yesh Atid party in February 2013, she gained international acclaim with her debut speech in the Knesset in which she taught a Talmudic unit — as well as the respect of her haredi colleagues who recognized their style of study in her own. Now, she co-leads a weekly Talmud class in the Knesset and has just published a new book, Ilana Kurshan’s fine translation of “A Bride for One Night” (Jewish Publication Society), originally published in Hebrew in 2001, that brings her eloquent conversation about Talmud to an English-speaking audience.

Calderon’s book appears now for the first time in English.  University of Nebraska Press

Malamud’s Magic

Re-evaluating the great (but underappreciated) novelist as the Library of America enshrines his deeply humanistic works.

03/31/2014 - 20:00
Special To The Jewish Week

Finally: with the publication of two handsome volumes (and a third in the works) of the novels and short stories of Bernard Malamud (1914-1986), the Library of America has at long last welcomed into its pantheon of American literary greats the Brooklyn-born author of such well-known works of fiction as “The Natural” (yup, the source for the blockbuster baseball movie starring Robert Redford), “The Fixer” (which won the Pulitzer Prize and also spawned a movie, this one starring Alan Bates), “The Assistant,” and others. 

With two new editions, Malamud belatedly takes his place among fellow, lauded 20th-century Jewish writers S. Bellow and P. Roth

Tova Mirvis’ New York Novel

A sense of place — the Upper West Side, that is — runs through ‘Visible City.’

03/17/2014 - 20:00
Culture Editor

Tova Mirvis’ new novel is full of Manhattan moments — when you learn that your neighbor is your best friend’s therapist, or that you can’t help but eavesdrop on a conversation behind you about people you know. It may be a combination of coincidence and close quarters, but lives in this city seem to overlap and intersect repeatedly.

Mirvis’ new novel offers a window on New York’s “anonymous intimacy."  Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Back From Iran

The new memoir “A Sliver of Light” sheds light on the captivity, for more than two years, of three Americans.

03/13/2014 - 20:00
Jewish Week Correspondent

Josh Fattal was imprisoned in Iran for 781 days on the charge of espionage. In his fascinating new memoir, “A Sliver of Light,” co-written with Shane Bauer and Sarah Shourd, he describes how the three friends went hiking in Kurdistan and didn’t realize they were near the Iranian border. They were told to come forward by soldiers they soon realized were Iranian. They were placed in cars, blindfolded, and imprisoned. They would soon hear screams of torture, and they were uncertain if they would live or die. Fattal, who lives in Brooklyn and is pursuing a PhD in history at New York University, spoke with Jewish Week by phone.

Josh Fattal, left, Shane Bauer and Sarah Shourd
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