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The Jewish Preview of Books—August 2018

Mon, 08/13/2018 - 12:00am
By Rachel Scheinerman for Jewish Review of Books


Here at the Jewish Review of Books we receive 40-50 books a week. These are some of the books coming out in August that we’re looking forward to reading and—who knows?—maybe reviewing.

 

If book publishing is any measure, this is a good month for the faculty of the Jewish Theological Seminary. JTS professor Jack Wertheimer’s latest contribution, The New American Judaism: How Jews Practice Their Religion Today (Princeton), is due at the end of the month. You can start with Allan Arkush’s discussion in his cover article “In the Melting Pot” from our Summer issue. Wertheimer’s colleague Alan Mittleman’s new book answers the question Does Judaism Condone Violence? Holiness and Ethics in the Jewish Tradition (Princeton). (Does the title give away Mittleman’s answer?)

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My Very Unorthodox Kabbalist

Mon, 08/06/2018 - 12:00am
By Sigal Samuel for Jewish Book Council


To study Kabbalah, you’re supposed to be (a) forty years old, (b) married, and (c) a man. I am none of these things. Luckily, I grew up with a dad who was a professor of Jewish mysticism and was willing to share its secrets with me.
Raised in Montreal’s Orthodox community, I attended a school with strict gender norms. I was expected to obey all of Judaism’s 613 commandments. But, as a girl, I wasn’t allowed to take an interest in the religion’s more esoteric branches.

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Torah and the Thermodynamics of Life: An Interview with Jeremy England

Mon, 07/30/2018 - 12:00am
By Rachel Scheinerman for Jewish Review of Books
 

We frequently hear from theologians who reckon with the relationship between religion and science, but it is less common to hear from accomplished scientists on the subject. I spoke with Jeremy England, a research scientist whose work on the origins of life has led some to speculate he might be the next Darwin. This acclaim has resulted in England being described in a recent Dan Brown novel as “the toast of Boston academia, having caused a global stir,” though as England, who is an observant Jew, was quick to point out in The Wall Street Journal Brown misunderstood the implications of his research for religion. I had an opportunity to ask him about his work as a scientist, his Jewish commitment, and how those two reinforce one another.

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Lovesick: Stefan Zweig’s ‘Letter From an Unknown Woman’

Mon, 07/23/2018 - 12:00am
By Alexander Aciman


Bookworm: The Austrian novelist dissects a broken heart


Dying of flu, a woman sends a letter to the man she has loved all her life—a man who would not know her from a stranger in the street. If he has received this letter, she warns, it means that she has died; otherwise the letter will be torn up. Over the next 70 pages she describes the first time they met, when she was a young girl, then the second time, when she was 18, and finally the third time, years later, when still unable to recognize her, he would pay for an evening of her time as a prostitute. She tells the story of life in the shadow of someone else, of a love from afar, not just unrequited, but unacknowledged, kept secret from the world except for in this letter.

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“In Order that They Didn’t Die Alone”: Remembering Claude Lanzmann

Mon, 07/16/2018 - 12:00am
By Henry Gonshak for Jewish Review of Books


Claude Lanzmann directed what many critics consider the definitive film on the Holocaust, the nine-and-a-half-hour 1985 documentary Shoah. One of the survivors he interviewed, Abraham Bomba, served as a barber while a prisoner at Treblinka. The gruesome job forced on Bomba by the Nazis was to cut the hair of women and girls bound for the gas chambers. (The shorn hair was then used by the Germans in pillows and mattresses.)

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To Spy Out the Land

Mon, 07/09/2018 - 12:00am
By Amy Newman Smith for Jewish Review of Books


"We won’t need to die . . . and when the day comes, the boys will turn into green crowned date palms and next to them their girls will petrify into statues of white marble,” wrote the young spy Avshalom Feinberg. While the letter’s recipient, Rivka Aaronsohn, would live until 1981, Feinberg, along with Rivka’s sister Sarah, would die violently within a few years. Some 100 years after the destruction of the Nili spy ring, to which they belonged, two new books tell their story. (Nili was a password taken from Samuel I 15:29, “Netzach Yisrael lo y’shaker,” roughly translatable as “The Eternal One of Israel does not lie.”) 

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Philip Roth’s Spooks

Mon, 07/02/2018 - 12:00am
By Benjamin Haddad for Tablet Magazine 


Why the story of Coleman Silk’s epic struggle to escape his roots is still the most-loved Philip Roth book in France


Everyone knows. Thus starts the anonymous letter received by Coleman Silk, a Jewish classics professor and dean at Athena College, in Massachusetts. Silk has just resigned as dean of the college, after uttering a racial slur, and now stands accused of preying sexually on a vulnerable young woman. “Everyone knows”: Years before the advent of social media’s public shaming, and the prevalence of #MeToo, identity politics, and political correctness in our fast-moving public discourse, the words provoke the fall of Silk, the tragic hero of The Human Stain, the third act of Philip Roth’s American trilogy, following American Pastoral and I Married a Communist. Silk’s accusers, however, don’t know the secret he has been hiding his entire adult life.

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‘Waking Lions’ Reflects on Immigrants and Moral Choices

Mon, 06/25/2018 - 12:00am
By Stewart Kampel for Hadassah Magazine


There are two distinct parts to Waking Lions by Israeli novelist Ayelet Gundar-Goshen. In the first part, Dr. Eitan Green, an Israeli neurosurgeon, inadvertently kills a black Eritrean immigrant near Beersheba during a late-night joy ride and then fails to report the car accident.

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