Can religion, especially Judaism, work if you don’t believe in the Big Guy upstairs?
The latest turn in the New Atheist debates can be summed up like this: even if you don’t believe in God, religion still has a lot to offer. Public intellectuals like Alain de Botton and James Gray in Britain, and scientists like E.O. Wilson and Jonathan Haidt in America, all of them atheists, have made a similar case in their recent books and essays.
Centenarian Alice Herz-Sommer, the subject of two books, credits music with sustaining her at Terezin; other new Holocaust books also highlight women’s experiences.
Jewish Week Book Critic
At 108, Alice Herz-Sommer is believed to be the oldest living Holocaust survivor. Born in Prague, she watched her mother being deported to Terezin in 1942, and never saw her again. A year later, she was also deported there with her husband and son. By then, Herz-Sommer was an acclaimed pianist, and continued to play in the concentration camp, giving more than a hundred concerts to fellow prisoners and to the Nazis. Her husband was killed in the camp just before liberation.
The maker of ‘Shoah’ looks at his own life, and all he did with his time.
Special to the Jewish Week
To most Jewish Week readers, Claude Lanzmann is the man who directed “Shoah,” the nine-and-three-quarter-hour documentary about the murder of six million European Jews by the Nazis. Of course, if that were all he had done, Lanzmann would be worthy of admiration and study. As Franco-Jewish journalist Jean Daniel told him after one of the first screenings of the film, “This justifies a life.”
In the Jonathan Safran Foer-Nathan Englander ‘New American Haggadah,’ tradition and modern literary sensibilities collide.
The novelist Jonathan Safran Foer grew up with a fairly typical American Passover. His father would use the Maxwell House Haggadah, supplemented with his own pamphlet of writings, and lead the annual Foer seder. But nine years ago, sitting at his family seder in Washington, D.C., Foer thought that, literary-wise, the Haggadah could use a little work.
After a novel and forays into playwriting and translations, the celebrated author returns to his specialty.
When Nathan Englander sat down for a recent interview at a hummus restaurant in the East Village, he had just come from the Public Theater. He was there helping stage a theater adaptation of one of his early short stories, “The Twenty-Seventh Man,” which will premiere at the Public in November.
In his debut novel, Shalom Auslander takes on history and the Holocaust with his trademark darkly comic wit.
When Shalom Auslander, a lapsed Orthodox Jew, came out with his wickedly funny memoir “Foreskin’s Lament” in 2007, he was often mischaracterized as a New Atheist. It was clear he shared a similar disdain for religion with atheists like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, but he never declared himself a non-believer.
The critical reception of the film version of ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close’ brings to mind charges leveled against some Shoah works.
Perhaps it should be no surprise that some of the same criticisms that met Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel about Sept. 11, “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” published in 2005, are now being leveled against the new film adaptation. Like the book, the film has drawn strong, often biting rebukes from critics who feel it exploits some of Sept. 11’s most harrowing images—the picture of the falling man leaping to his death, in particular—and universalizes a unique tragedy.
Alice Hoffman channels the panoramic history of the fortress through the first-person narrative voices of four women.
Special To The Jewish Week
Masada: the very name of the towering mountain fortress overlooking the Judean Desert and the Dead Sea conjures images at once historic, mythic, and symbolic. King Herod built it between 37 and 31 B.C.E. as a royal refuge, and decorated it with splendiferous mosaics. But it is best known as the final refuge of 960 Jewish zealots who, in 73 C.E., committed suicide en masse, rather than succumb to a massacre by besieging Roman soldiers who were part of the army that had already quashed the Jewish rebellion and destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem.
In ‘A Train in Winter,’ Caroline Moorehead explores the little-known story of French women in the Resistance, and what happened when the non-Jews were sent to Auschwitz.
In January 1942, French policemen began a special mission, in collaboration with Nazi officials, to arrest the local Resistance. On their list were dozens of women. They included Germaine Pican, a mother of two, who carried messages between communists in Paris and Rouen; Mai Politzer, a midwife, who dyed her hair black in disguise to type letters for the underground press; and Marie-Claude Vaillant-Coutrier, a photojournalist who wrote articles for a clandestine journal.