JWeekly

off the shelf | Sci-fi visions of future and alternate Israels

Sci-fi visions of future and alternate Israels - J.

The quest for Jewish nationhood is entwined with the exercise of imagination. Theodor Herzl's best-known words, "If you will it, it is no dream" (or, translated more accurately from the original German, "it is no fairy tale") attest to the nature of Zionism as the fulfillment of a fantasy.

The Chosen: Is the classic book frozen in time, or still relevant? (features Howard Freedman)

'The Chosen' onstage: Is the classic book frozen in time, or still relevant? - J.

When playwright Aaron Posner was seeking a Jewish-themed book to adapt for the stage in the late 1990s, he went to the author Chaim Potok for advice. To prepare for the meeting, he read some of Potok's works - and quickly found the one he wanted to adapt: "The Chosen."

off the shelf | Two books explain how Israel became what it is

Two 2018 books explain how Israel became what it is - J.

When faced with a vexing situation, I tend to think that part of the answer lies in finding out how we got there. And this is particularly so in the case of Israel, whose history is complicated and contested. The title of Michael Brenner's "In Search of Israel: The History of an Idea" is fitting.

off the shelf | Three books to put you through (Jewish) law school

Three books to put you through (Jewish) law school - J.

Many Bay Area Jews engage in spiritual exploration and Torah study, but my impression is that there tends to be far less interest in studying Jewish law. This is likely because our Bay Area community is generally less observant than other large American Jewish communities, ...

Reading 'The Plot Against America' across the Bay - J.

Reading 'The Plot Against America' across the Bay - J.

The surprising success of Donald Trump's candidacy in 2016 brought a number of literary works out of the woodwork, but none so much as Philip Roth's "The Plot Against America." Roth's work of counterfactual historical fiction (sometimes known as the "What if?" genre) explores the imagined impact of aviator Charles Lindbergh's defeat of incumbent Franklin ...

off the shelf | Three solid additions to your end-of-summer reading list

Three solid additions to your end-of-summer reading list - J.

With school about to begin and only six weeks left until the official start of autumn, it's time to get that summer reading done! Here are three new novels, each with a pronounced Jewish dimension, to consider.

off the shelf | Three connections to secret Jewish pasts

Three books about characters connecting to secret Jewish pasts - J.

For some, summer reading represents the prospect of an escapist treat to help free the mind from worries. And for others, it means finally having the time to take on a challenging book otherwise pushed aside by the demands of everyday life.

off the shelf | Why audiences plotzed over these forgotten performers

Why audiences plotzed over these forgotten performers - J.

The passage of time is not particularly kind to performers of bygone eras, with few of us able to expound on the singers and musicians that thrilled our grandparents. Two new books profile entertainers who commanded exalted positions in the first half of ...

11 stellar Israeli novels that cry out to be read

11 stellar Israeli novels that cry out to be read - J.

As we mark Israel's 70th anniversary, I remain awed that a small country with a reconstructed language should produce a literature that is so rich. Below is a sampling of 11 varied titles that give a taste of Israeli literature at its best. 1. "Only Yesterday," S.Y.

‘Yiddish not spoken here’ — but my dad had a different idea

'Yiddish not spoken here' - but my dad had a different idea - J.

I grew up in Israel in a domestic war zone - a "language war" that raged between my parents. The fight was between Hebrew and Yiddish. Ours was not the only household where this war was fought. It was a struggle between the new Israel and the old diaspora, but it was very personal and quite emotional.

Three generations of women artists in exhibit at Jewish Community Library

Three generations of Stanger women, lots of art, one exhibition

Barbara Stanger couldn't be happier about her upcoming art exhibition at the Jewish Community Library. Not only will her own work be on display, but it will be shown alongside art by two of her favorite women in the world: her mother and her daughter. "Just thinking about it, I'm almost in tears," she said.

off the shelf | 3 new books ponder eternity in new light

3 new books ponder eternity in striking new lights

The common adage that we should "live each day as if it's our last" presupposes that knowledge of our impending demise might cause us to act differently. It's a question I am thinking about in relation to three new works of fiction: To ...

off the shelf | Nazis in Hollywood and Jewish refugees who returned to fight Hitler

New books: Nazis in Hollywood; and Jewish refugees who returned to fight Hitler - J.

I have enjoyed reading three recent books that give readers unprecedented insight into lesser known episodes during the Nazi era. Laura B. Rosenzweig's "Hollywood's Spies: The Undercover Surveillance of Nazis in Los Angeles" (a Jewish Book Award finalist) and Steven J.

‘Diaspora’ collages create layers of meaning at library exhibit

'Diaspora' collages create layers of meaning at library exhibit - J.

Artist Rachel Leibman has been creating her collages - colorful, vivid works with a delicate juxtaposition of text, image and line - for 18 years. But this year she's breaking new ground at the Jewish Community Library with her show "Diaspora." Though her collages and mixed media art have been shown in Jewish spaces before, ...

Excess of Jewish sexual sinners? Men ponder it at ‘Feast’

Excess of Jewish sexual sinners? Men ponder it at 'Feast' - J.

Harvey Weinstein. Al Franken. Anthony Weiner. Jewish men behaving badly. Is there something in the history or liturgy of Judaism that can explain such conduct, or help Jewish men avoid such misbehavior and act more like mensches? Those were among the questions at the core of "Who Is a Man?"

Dad’s 1946 letters expose startling secret in ‘Letter from Cloudcroft’

Dad's 1946 letters expose startling secret in 'Letter from Cloudcroft' - J.

Filmmaker Melinda Hess was going through boxes of family artifacts that had been collecting dust for a quarter-century when she discovered a series of letters that revealed disturbing secrets about her father's work in the 1940s. Nestled among grade-school report cards, a bar mitzvah photo and a marriage certificate was a brown leather suitcase containing a series of numbered letters in Army-issued envelopes.

off the shelf | Tales of divorce: seven years of Talmud + new Tova Mirvis memoir

Divorcees: seeing life through Talmud + new Tova Mirvis memoir

This fall has seen the publication of two remarkable memoirs from writers reflecting on life transitions through the most Jewish of lenses. Tova Mirvis became a celebrated figure in the Jewish literary world with " The Ladies' Auxiliary," published in 1999 when she was in her early 20s.

Veteran of underground comics scene adapts her father’s Yiddish tales

Veteran Wonder Woman artist adapts her father's Yiddish tale

Trina Robbins says she was an ungrateful child. But she's making up for that now. Growing up in Queens, New York, the young Robbins - like many children of Jewish immigrants - was uninterested in learning Yiddish, her father's first language.

One Bay One Book returns with Iranian Jewish tale ‘Septembers of Shiraz’

One Bay One Book returns with tale of Iranian Jews 'Septembers of Shiraz'

A story about a Persian Jewish family's struggles in post-revolution Iran has been chosen by the Jewish Community Library as its One Bay One Book selection for 2017-18. "The Septembers of Shiraz," by Tehran-born Dalia Sofer, tells the fictional story of a gem dealer, who is imprisoned after the Islamic Revolution of the late 1970s, ...

Off the Shelf: Two Important New Books on the Hebrew Bible

Two new books anatomize heavy-duty Torah concepts - J.

I try to use this time of reaching the end of the annual Torah reading cycle, and beginning again, as a reminder to keep my relationship to our core book from stagnating. Lacking formidable interpretive skills myself, I'm highly dependent on the insights of others to keep myself engaged and growing.