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By Tom Seigel for Jewish Book Council
It was 2003, and Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut, had died in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. I was struck, as I’m sure many were, by the fact that both Ramon and Judith Resnik, the first Jewish American in space, suffered the same terrible fate in two separate shuttle accidents. It felt like more than just a sad coincidence or very bad luck. It felt like an atavistic curse: “Let there be no escape.” In one of those ineffable moments of unconscious thought we might call inspiration, I remembered the MS St. Louis, the German ocean liner that, in 1939, carried Jewish refugees from port to port in desperate search of safe harbor from the growing menace in Europe. Instead of finding the welcoming light of the Statue of Liberty, they found the golden door slammed shut by the dark and bigoted immigration policies of the era.
From Jewish Book Council
The #1 International Bestseller & New York Times Bestseller
This beautiful, illuminating tale of hope and courage is based on interviews that were conducted with Holocaust survivor and Auschwitz-Birkenau tattooist Ludwig (Lale) Sokolov—an unforgettable love story in the midst of atrocity.
Watch a short video with Ludwig Sokolov, the real man whose life inspired this novel.
By Amos Oz for Hadassah Magazine
The Jews as a people are not disposed to obedience. Never have been. Moses could tell you how unaccustomed the Israelites are to being obedient. God Himself complains throughout the Bible that the Israelites are insubordinate: The people argue with Moses; Moses argues with God; Moses hands in his resignation and eventually backtracks, but only after negotiating with God, who gives in and accepts his main demands (Exodus 32:31-33). Abraham bargains with God over Sodom like a used-car salesman: Fifty righteous men? Forty? Thirty? Twenty? Would you settle for ten? And when it turns out that there are not even ten righteous men in Sodom, Abraham does not beg God to forgive him for his impudence. On the contrary. He utters what might be the boldest words in the Bible: “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do justly?” (Genesis 18:25). In other words: You may be the judge of this entire land, but you are not above the law.
Shachar Pinsker is writing here as part of Jewish Book Council's Visiting Scribe series.
When I did research for my previous book Literary Passports: The Making of Modernist Hebrew Fiction in Europe, I asked myself: Where did Jewish writers and intellectuals who migrated to large cities at the turn of the 20th century live and work? Where did they find inspiration and a place to meet others? The answer I kept coming to repeatedly was the coffeehouse. I discovered that not only the allure of the café was very strong, but that it became a key site for the creation of modern Jewish culture, which is how I came to write my new book, A Rich Brew.
By Stewart Kampel for Hadassah Magazine
Strangers in Budapest: A Novel By Jessica Keener
The year is 1995 and Hungarians are still adjusting to victory after the bitter revolt that freed them from Soviet dominance and the shackles of communism. Eager would-be capitalists are flocking to Budapest, the legendary city.
By Alexander Aciman for Tablet Magazine
Bookworm: The new bestselling spy thriller, ‘The Other Woman,’ excels at this one thing
Among the spy and detective fiction writers of today there is no distinction more dubious than “transcending the genre.” What does it mean for a work to transcend the genre? To have outgrown its form? To be better than it should be? It is with this backhanded honorific that the spy and detective genre is robbed of its greatest works, which can only be so excellent before they are inevitably claimed by the august of great literature. And this obscures just how much fun these books can be.
By Emily Burack for HeyAlma
If you never learned Hebrew beyond what you had to know for your bat mitzvah and the word of the day on Birthright (Sababa!), but you still want to read Israeli literature (because, obviously), this list is for you. You won’t find Israeli literary giants Amos Oz, Meir Shalev, David Grossman or A.B. Yehoshua below—plenty of recommendations tend to showcase these famous male voices. We are pivoting the spotlight to some insanely talented Israeli women:
Jerusalem Drawn and Quartered: One Woman’s Year in the Heart of the Christian, Muslim, Armenian, and Jewish Quarters of Old Jerusalem
Review by Gila Wertheimer for Jewish Book Council
Sarah Tuttle-Singer’s memoir about her year living in Jerusalem’s Old City is many things: maddening, moving, insightful, defiant, hopeful, lyrical—sometimes all at once. In some ways a lament for the rending of a once-whole city, this book recounts her admirable determination to know Jerusalem beyond its usual boundaries.
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