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Rahel
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Re: The Binding of Isaac

Marcia,
Thanks so much for sharing these interpretations of the very problematic and puzzling story of the Binding of Isaac. It's another excellent example of how in retelling the stories we can find new layers of meaning in these oft-told stories, as Robert has done so wonderfully with David and as we've done here on this board. All of us, simply by reading and thinking about these Biblical characters are engaged in the ongoing search for meaning and understanding, in a dialogue that goes back to the ancient rabbinic interpreters. I particularly like the idea that Abraham is moving past his personal experience to a new understanding of God -- perhaps that's an idea we can apply to our discussions of the appearances of foreign gods in the David story, that they are still working on moving away from those gods.
And we all, I'm sure, share your congregation's hope for peace.
Rahel
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LynnSomerstein
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Re: The Binding of Isaac

There are many valid and truthful interpretations of the powerful story, "The Binding or Isaac." I'll offer some more, but I'll start with a question. Why didn't Isaac run away?
One answer might be that he was to frightened, another that he wanted to please his autocratic father and would do anything for him, including allow himself to be destroyed. This is not so unusual a state between fathers and sons. I call it, when I see it, "The Isaac Complex."

Another interpretation, which was taught to me by Dr. Donald Shapiro: The Binding of Isaac marks the time when people began to understand the difference between thought and action- Abraham thought about killing his son, but didn't actually do it. This is pretty common too, between fathers and sons. Or as the old rock and roll song said, "you can't go to jail for what you're thinking."
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marcialou
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Bubble

I just saw the Israeli film "The Bubble" and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in sex and politics among Abraham's descendents. It's also somewhat related to our discussion about David and Jonathan.

The Bubbles is about the doubly-forbidden love between two men: an Israeli and a Palestinian. So much more than a gay movie, it provides an unflinching, nuanced view of the I/P conflict, a wonderful dipiction of youth culture in Tel Aviv, and a light touch despite the tragic Romeo and Juliet ending. It would be worthy of an Academy Award (if Academy Awards were given to foreign films) but because it's an art film and controversial (for being Israeli, not gay), it's scheduled to play in only 10 US cities, including St. Louis, Boston, Atlanta, Houston, and Seattle. It's not playing in Israel at all.

One point of interest is how it shows Palestinian men routinely kissing each other in greeting. Is that all David and Jonathan were doing? I don't have the answer.

Marcia
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Maria_H
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Re: Greetings from a new member,


charles-weinblatt wrote:

My latest novel, "Jacob's Courage: A Holocaust Love Story" (524 pages, Mazo Publishers, 2007) was of vital importance to me. You see, many members of my maternal extended family perished in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany. Rabbis, cantors, physicians and professors - all met an untimely death because they were Jews. As a child, my mother (who is 97) was a victim of pogroms against her Russian Jewish village. I used portions of my mother's memoirs in the novel. Had I been born nine years earlier in Europe, I too would likely have been murdered because of my faith. It took two and a half years to write "Jacob's Courage," but it was a labor of love. Writing this novel was not particularly difficult. Most of the time, the words flowed out seamlessly, as though I was taking dictation. There was not much to edit, although my publisher asked me to remove some portions that were too explicitly graphic. The book is dedicated to my father and to the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust. They are lost, but will never be forgotten.

While I wait patiently for my publisher's first royalty check, I am working on two new books; one is a children's book and the other is a science fiction novel. I might not be able to sit, stand or walk very much, but writing makes me continue to feel useful and productive. I look forward to interacting with others here at B&N, broadening my horizons through your influence.





Welcome to Jewish Encounters, Chuck. Along with our current book discussion with Robert Pinsky, we also welcome discussion on Jewish life and experiences. Your family's story is a compelling one. Can you tell us a little bit about your mother?

In the meanwhile, we have a thread in our Community Board where you can pitch your book to readers, and I see that you've already posted there. Also, feel free to discuss your book and current writing efforts in our Getting Published board, where you'll find authors and writers sharing ideas on that very subject.


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charles-weinblatt
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Re: Greetings from a new member,

My mother, Clara Volk Weinblatt, was born in November, 1909, in a mostly-Jewish Russian village called Kovel (near Kiev). As a young child, she witnessed pogroms against her village and saw members of her family tortured and killed. When she was about four, her father emigrated to the United States, in search of a better life for his family. By the time he found employment and settled in Columbus, Ohio, World War I had begun. He sent for his family and they left Russia by train. While the train was stopped in Germany, an artillery or air bombardment began and my mother became separated from her mother and sisters. At age seven, she wandered the forests and fields of Germany, with bombs exploding and bullets whizzing around her. After some time, she was discovered by a German soldier who took care of her. With a name like Volk, and speaking Yiddish, she was probably mistaken for a German. The German soldier eventually located my mother's aunt, in Germany. She stayed with her aunt for about a year. Eventually, her aunt purchased passage for her on a ship to the US.

By the time my mother was reunited with her mother and sisters, she hardly recognized them. During the time that my mother lived with her aunt in Germany, her mother and her sisters had nearly starved to death. They had somehow left the train and lost passage to the US. They wandered the war-torn European countryside alone, unarmed and hungry. They survived for a time by eating berries and roots in the forest. But, they had no idea how to reach their destination. Time passed and they starved. Strangers in a strange land, they finally became so desperate that they ate the bark from trees. When my mother was finally reunited with them, their clothing was in shreds, they were emaciated and had lice. To make matters worse, my mother's sisters began to resent her for living with her aunt and avoiding the hardships that they had encountered. Several months later, they arrived in America and were reunited with my grandfather.

My mother attended Ohio State for a year, but had to drop out in order to work, to help feed the family. She worked in Columbus and later in South Bend, as a retail clothing buyer. She returned to Columbus and in 1949, married my father, who was the first psychiatrist in Toledo, Ohio. At age 42, in 1952, she gave birth to me, their only child. My father was 48. My mother enjoyed thirty years of marriage before my father died in 1979, at age 74. She stayed in her home until 2001, when she moved into assisted living. She will be 98 in November and she has a sister, 96, who remains in Columbus. She has two adult grandchildren.

Chapter Five of my novel, "Jacob's Courage," ("Hanna's Dark History") was heavily influenced by my mother's memoirs. The scenes of a terrifying pogrom against a Russian Jewish village were based upon my mothers recollections. It was incomprehensibly frightening for me to hear. I did not need to embellish the details very much. Hiding from the Cossacks underneath the floor of their house, my grandmother suffocated her baby to stop her from crying, and giving away their position. No one deserves to live through that horror.

These stories added to my desire to write about the Holocaust and intolerance. Until we learn to value diversity, we will be doomed to repeat the terror of the past. Until we learn to stop fearing people who are different, genocide will exist. I can only hope that my novel will inspire people to value, rather than fear, diversity.

Chuck Weinblatt
Charles S. Weinblatt
Author: Jacob's Courage
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Bookworm90
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Re: Greetings from a new member,

Thank you for sharing your compelling family history! I think it is important to hear the true stories that are terrifying but hopeful. After all, despite all of the darkness your mother encountered in her youth, she also encountered kindness, and she was eventually able to start a new life and raise a family.

Thanks again!!

-Grace
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Rahel
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Re: Bubble

Marcia --
The Bubble looks really interesting -- since it isn't showing in New York, I've just added it to my Netflix queue (for those who are interested, it is listed on Netflix, but doesn't have a release date yet. But you can reserve it now for when it does come out).

Since we're discussing Israeli film, I'll mention for those around the New York area that the Israel Film Festival in NY begins on October 23. There are some truly excellent movies being screened, so for those who can make it, I would certainly recommend it.
Rahel
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marcialou
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Trip to Israel

My extended family is planning a trip to Israel, tentatively scheduled for June. Of the 9 of us, my mother is the only one who has been before. The rest of the party includes my sister, me, our husbands, and our 4 children ranging in ages from 18 to 25. In order to satisfy the needs and interests of everyone, we will have to include:

---night life in Tel Aviv
---something of ecological interest
---Israeli folk dancing
---Something from the Palestinian point of view with maybe a trip to the West Bank
---Jazz and/or Klezmer
---Swimming and sunbathing
---Visiting family
---Special attention to the Armenian quarter since my sister's family is part Armenian
---Plus all the other must-see first time tourist things

All this in 10 days.

I have leads for all these things and two guide books. However, if anyone has anything to recommend, I'd be interested to hear about it.

Marcia
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Rahel
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Re: Trip to Israel

Marcia --
That sounds like an amazing trip! I have lots of favorite places in Jerusalem to recommend. For ecological interest -- and even for excellent walking tours of Jerusalem -- you can try the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (www.aspni.org for their English language website). Tel Aviv is probably your best bet for combining a beach day with some nightlife, although there are also great beaches in other cities up and down the coast, and in Eilat. I think it's important to see some desert -- either hiking in the Negev a bit, or in the Judean desert if you want something closer to the sites of Central Israel. In the North, you probably want to see Tzfat and the Galilee, which will be wonderful in June.
I'd be happy to send more specific recommendations via personal messaging -- and have a great time!
Rahel
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Rahel
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Yehuda Amichai

Since Yehuda Amichai has come up several times on this board, and Jonathan is, like myself, a big fan, I wanted to mention the Yehuda Amichai conference at Yale this weekend. It's Saturday night and Sunday at yale in New Haven -- here's the website for anyone who is interested.
http://www.library.yale.edu/judaica/Amichai/index.html
I'm planning to be there, and very excited about it!
Best,
Rahel
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Maria_H
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Re: Trip to Israel


Rahel wrote: Tel Aviv is probably your best bet for combining a beach day with some nightlife, although there are also great beaches in other cities up and down the coast, and in Eilat.



Completely agree with the recommendation of beaches in Tel Aviv. The Mediterranean is warm and lulling, you simply do not want to get out of the water. In Tel Aviv, there is a neighborhood where you can eat goose liver to your heart's content, unfortunately, I cannot remember the name of the neighborhood. Maybe someone can help here?

I hope Jerusalem is part of your itinerary. It is unforgettable. The weight of history is overwhelming and humbling.

Have a wonderful trip!


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marcialou
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Re: Trip to Israel

Yes we will definitely go to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. My thought is to go to Tel Aviv first and hit the beach while we try to recover from jet lag. Then we can split up at night with some going to a disco and others going elsewhere. By day 2 we may have a little more attention for museums and such.

I'm very excited about seeing a city as old, historic, and culturally significant as Jerusalem. I want to go to all four quarters. My sister's family has just returned from Armenia, so they should have a lot to say about the architecture and other features in the Armenian quarter.

Somewhere between the two big cities is an intentional Arab/Jewish village where they grow olives or something. They give tours so we might check that out.

Thanks for the advice. Chatting about it makes it feel more real.

Marcia
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Rahel
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Israeli film on HBO this week

Since we've discussed Israeli film on the board a bit, I wanted to mention the movie "To Die In Jerusalem" which will air on HBO on November 1 (full disclosure: the filmmaker is my cousin). It's an incredible documentary about the aftermath of a suicide bombing in Jerusalem in 2002, in which an 18-year-old Palestinian girl killed herself and a 17-year-old Israeli girl, and follows the attempts by the Israeli girl's mother to meet the mother of her daughter's killer face to face. It's an intense and deeply personal look at the conflict, and truly worth watching. For more, here's the New York Times article on the film.
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mooseman01
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Re: Community Conversation

I am a newbie. My name is Irwin Moss. I live in LA. I joined to participate in "Betraying Spinoza." I do have other interest in matters Judaic. I am interested in any comments about Maggie Anton's "Rashi's Daughters." I have read vol.1 and have just purchased vol 2. That leads me to my next thought. I have read Anita Dent's "The Red Tent." I don't mind novelization; in fact I rather enjoy it. My concern is as to the authenticity of "History" and matters-religious (rites, prayers, practices etc.) Some reviews are helpful, others are not. Any sources you may know would be appreciated.

FYI, (aren't all Newbies garrolous?) some of us (pals) are reading Bruce Feiler's "Walking the Bible." Great read. I am fascinated by his mystical insights if that's what they are and again wonder how any of you might feel about some of his assertions. There is a moment in the book when he is no longer a traveler. He senses his historic roots, my words not his. I for one have been "on-the-couch" for too long not to wonder about the creativity of our authors.

Hope to hear from any/all of you. I look forward to the "engagement."

Irwin Moss, LA
mooseman01
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Rahel
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Re: Community Conversation

The discussion of Rashi's Daughters and other historical fiction has been moved to its own thread. Come check it out!

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Rahel
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Re: Community Conversation

Wanted to wish everyone a Happy Hannukkah!

I've started a Hannukkah thread, so please share your Hannukkah thoughts, either on the special thread or here on Community Conversation.

And enjoy the Festival of Lights!

Rahel
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Rahel
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What's Going On With Jewish Encounters?

[ Edited ]
As you've probably noticed, we haven't started a new author discussion in December. It's a busy time for many, so we've decided to wait until January for our next official book -- Sherwin Nuland's Maimonides. In the meantime, we are lucky that Rebecca Goldstein is still hanging out with us to answer any further Spinoza questions we may have -- check out her most recent post on the Questions for Rebecca Goldstein thread.

We're also happy to open the board up for a wider discussion of all things Jewish-cultural -- music, film, books, food. There's already a bit of a discussion going on the book Rashi's Daughters -- feel free to join in or start a thread of your own.

Have fun, and stay tuned for Maimonides in January!

Message Edited by Maria_H on 12-13-2007 02:10 PM
Rahel
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Rahel
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Re: Community Conversation


mooseman01 wrote:

FYI, (aren't all Newbies garrolous?) some of us (pals) are reading Bruce Feiler's "Walking the Bible." Great read. I am fascinated by his mystical insights if that's what they are and again wonder how any of you might feel about some of his assertions. There is a moment in the book when he is no longer a traveler. He senses his historic roots, my words not his. I for one have been "on-the-couch" for too long not to wonder about the creativity of our authors.

Hope to hear from any/all of you. I look forward to the "engagement."

Irwin Moss, LA




I haven't read Walking the Bible, but I just saw that the TV version is airing on PBS this week and next. If you're interested, here's a link to find out when it's playing in your area.
PBS Program Guide
Rahel
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Rahel
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Re: Community Conversation

Happy (belated) New Year.
Hope everyone is doing well -- what are some of the boooks or movies or music that are getting you through the winter doldrums (although here in NY it's shockingly-- indeed, distressingly--warm)? I've just finished the first two Rashi's Daughters books -- see the thread below for my thoughts of them -- and have been enjoying some cozy murder mysteries.

Our discussion of Maimonides with National Book Award-winning author Sherwin Nuland has just begun, so please, jump in with your comments and questions.
Hope to hear from you soon
Rahel
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Rahel
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Maimonides and organ donation

I thought I'd bring this post over to "Community Conversation" as well -- it's such an important issue that I want to be sure it's seen, and I certainly would welcome responses.


Sherwin_Nuland wrote:


Geri wrote:
I would be interested in having Prof. Nuland consider what Maimonides might have thought about the permissibility of organ donation. After all, Jewish law emphasizes burying the deceased intact and is therefore reluctant to allow autopsies. On the other hand, it is dedicated to the significance of human life. Where might he have come down if the issue were kidney donation? What about donation of less vital body parts like eyes?




See my page 5: "The real purpose of wealth or any other aquisition should be to expend it for noble purposes and to employ it forthe manitenance of the body
and the presevation of life.
I believe that this refers to the organs of the body, which certainly represent "wealth or any other aquisition," since an organ (think in embryological terms) is an acquisition.




I thought I'd bring this conversation over to the Questions for the Author board, and also add some thoughts on this very current and important topic.

In his book, Dr. Nuland describes Maimonides' view of the afterlife as follows:
"The resurrection was to be thought of more in intellectual terms than in physical ones: The immortal being enjoys the bliss of contemplating God, to which no other pleasure can be compared." (p. 66)
So Maimonides might have been less concerned about the wholeness of the physical body, because he didn't think of resurrection in physical terms. Also, although Jewish law requires that the body be left intact, it is permitted to decompose -- indeed, halakhah also requires that no embalming fluid or preservatives be used, and that the casket be of a natural material that will eventually allow the body to return to the earth. It wouldn't make sense to then think that not having the body in its original state would be a barrier to resurrection. I think a lot of the Jewish resistance to autopsies is because of the emphasis in the Jewish tradition on treating the body with dignity and respect, and I think that allowing someone to donate organs certainly doesn't show disrespect to the body.

This is something that I've been thinking about recently -- a member of my former synagogue just passed away, over 12 years after having had a lung transplant. She was an amazing woman who worked valiantly to increase awareness about organ donation, and the person whose generosity gave her an extra 12 years of life is thought of with thanks by everyone who knew her. Not to get too polemical on this, but we should all think about signing the organ donation permission on our drivers' licenses, and make sure to speak with our families about our wishes. As Dr. Nuland says, the greatest thing we can do is use what we have for the "preservation of life."

For more on the Jewish law issues around this topic, see an article from the Conservative movement on this topic and the website of the Halchic Organ Donor Society.
Rahel
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