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Our May Book: Jews and Power

I've already mentioned it in a few spots, but I wanted to make sure that everyone on Jewish Encounters knows about our May book -- Ruth Wisse's fascinating Jews and Power. It seems like a particularly appropriate time to discuss this book, as we are situated between symbols of the greatest moments of Jewish powerlessness and Jewish power in our history. On Thursday, May 1, we observed Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, and next week we will observe Yom HaZikaron, Israel's Remembrance Day for the fallen, and Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel Independence Day (Israel's 60th!!!!).
And right in between, on Monday, May 5, we'll start our conversation. There's a lot to discuss, and I hope you'll all join us.
Best,
Rahel
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Jews and Power Festival

For those in the New York area, and even those farther afield, I wanted to mention the upcoming Nextbook Festival Jews and Power. It promises to be an extremely interesting day, featuring conversations with authors including our own Ruth Wisse and Rebecca Goldstein as well as Cynthia Ozick, Shalom Auslander, Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg, Warren Bass, and many more. I'm so sad that I will be out of town and not able to make it, but I hope to hear all about it from some of you.
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Rahel
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off topic, but a great book!

[ Edited ]
Hi, everyone.
Sorry to have been absent for a few days -- I was visiting my fiance's family, and attending our engagement party. A good excuse, right?
While visiting, my mother-in-law to be recommended the book The History of Love by Nicole Krauss. I devoured it and abolutely loved it. It's both a pleasure and a challenge, with hints of Latin American fiction and I. B. Singer and classic stories of teenage girls coming of age. You should definitely give it a try.
Best,
Rahel

Message Edited by Rahel on 05-21-2008 11:46 PM

Message Edited by Rahel on 05-21-2008 11:46 PM

Message Edited by Rahel on 05-21-2008 11:47 PM
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Jewish Encounters Summer Reading

Hi, gang.
We'll be taking a break from the formal one-book-a-month model over the summer, and opening things up for a broader conversation. So if there are other books you've wanted to discuss, this would be a great time. At the moment, I'm deep in wedding planning, so the most reached-for book on my shelf right now is The New Jewish Wedding by Anita Diamant. I'll also make a plug for an article on Vanity Fair's website that mentions me in the writer's story of the evolution of her Jewish identity, Jewish Like Me by Amy Fine Collins. I'd love to hear what you think.
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Rahel
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Re: Jewish Encounters Summer Reading

first good luck on your upcoming nuptials.
my son is getting married in november and i can identify with your excitement.
 
second i would like to recommend two books:
 
1-in case we're separated, alice mattison-interrelated stories about the kaplowitz family. you can find a review here: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/results.asp?WRD=in+case+we%27re+separated, and here http://www.powells.com/biblio/1-0066213770-0
 
2-awake in the dark, shira nayman-stories about children of holocaust survivors. you can find a review here:  http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbninquiry.asp?r=1&ean=0743292685
Rahel wrote:
... So if there are other books you've wanted to discuss, this would be a great time. At the moment, I'm deep in wedding planning...

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Re: Jewish Encounters Summer Reading


thewanderingjew wrote:
second i would like to recommend two books:
1-in case we're separated, alice mattison-interrelated stories about the kaplowitz family. you can find a review here: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/results.asp?WRD=in+case+we%27re+separated, and here



Hi, Wandering Jew,
Welcome to Jewish Encounters, and congratulations on your son's upcoming wedding. The books you suggested look great -- I'll have to add them to my list. I also noticed that in a post on another board you mentioned The Book Thief, which is a book that I found absolutely amazing. I would be thrilled to discuss it further if you'd like -- I thought the author's choice of narrative voice is absolutely incredible.
This past weekend, while home from work over Shavuot, I read the book The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon, which is the story of a young Jewish man in Lisbon in the early 16th Century during the Inquisition. It's kind of a historical thriller, with a lot of kabbalah thrown in -- a fun read, but maybe because I'm not much of a mystic myself I found the protagonist's visions a bit too convenient when the plot needs them, and I had a hard time keeping track on the circle of kabbalists who are suspected in the mystery. But some nice local color for life as "New Christians," and it reminded me a bit of our conversation about Spinoza, who of course is descended from the Portuguese Jewish community, just a couple of generations later.
Talk to you soon,
Rahel
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Re: Jewish Encounters Summer Reading

Also on the topic of summer reading, Nextbook, the organization which with Schocken Books publishes the Jewish Encounters series, has a great summer reading list on its website. Not only do many of the Nextbook writers and editors share the books they are reading and rereading this summer, but they also offer brief reviews to help readers choose what to pick up next. Check it out -- it's made me want to read The Book of Daniel and Growing Up Rich, and reread Daniel Deronda (especially since we'll be discssing Adam Kirsch's forthcoming biography of Benjamin Disraeli next year, and I want to brush up on my British proto-Zionists!), and I'll probably dive into a few others, too.
Do you guys have any recommendations from within this list or in general?
Thanks
Rahel
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Re: Jewish Encounters Summer Reading

just a quick note...(i ramble so i am not usually quick, sorry.) regarding the book thief, i often make the mistake of calling it the body thief. i think in my mind, because the narrator was death, he/she was exactly that. perhaps the "book thief" title is also a metaphor for "death" itself since so many of the books were "stolen" in incidents based on loss or death or written in situations revolving around the risk of death. in the end, death even recovers liesel's notebook when it is left behind. however, i believe for liesel, the books represented her quest for life. they opened up the world for her. 
the narrator was portrayed, almost as an extra, a kind of gentle innocent bystander, who found himself in situations not of his own choosing, but he was just doing his job. i think it made the book more readable, especially because it was written for young adults. if the author had portrayed "death" as a more horrifying creature, with black circled eyes or as a skeleton, cloaked in black robes, it would have given the book a different, more frightening aura.
in addition, for me, contrasting the danger liesel often puts herself into, to steal the books, with the greater dangers of the holocaust, occurring all around her, somehow made the subject matter easier for me to process. oddly, it added a human touch to the inhuman behavior.
i felt it was a great way to get young people to read a book that could give them a historic perspective on a horrible era, the holocaust, without overwhelming them or making them feel that they were actually reading history or reading about a subject they may have felt they had already heard/read enough about, which might make them not read it in the end, because they would think it was boring or too unpleasant. it dealt with that period in such a new way that every reader could find it interesting and palatable. it showed the reader the horrors and suffering of the holocaust yet it allowed the reader to read about man's inhumanity to man without closing the book and running from the room.
i am not sure why zusak directed his book to young adults or why it is kept in the young adult section of book stores, since every "old" adult i know who has read it, has loved it. i think it is a book that transcends all age levels.
thank you for the warm welcome and congratulations. when you have time, i would love to read your thoughts.
twj

Rahel wrote:

...Welcome to Jewish Encounters, and congratulations on your son's upcoming wedding. The books you suggested look great -- I'll have to add them to my list. I also noticed that in a post on another board you mentioned The Book Thief, which is a book that I found absolutely amazing. I would be thrilled to discuss it further if you'd like -- I thought the author's choice of narrative voice is absolutely incredible...
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Re: Jewish Encounters Summer Reading

i recently read "dead heat" and was disappointed with its message. has anyone else on this board read it? it is being marketed as a political thriller but it appears to be a thinly disguised book to proselytize all "non-believers" to Jesus/Christianity before the end days, to avoid being left behind in the rapture.

 

it is written by joel rosenberg. although he has a Hebrew background through is father and grandparents, he was ultimately raised as a Christian. his mom was born a Methodist but became an evangelical Christian. following the epilogue of the book he gives his websites which appear to be asking for "help", donations and or converts.

 

i am not opposed to the message but i am opposed to the duplicity of the marketing. does anyone else have any opinions on this?

twj

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Re: Jewish Encounters Summer Reading



i am not sure why zusak directed his book to young adults or why it is kept in the young adult section of book stores, since every "old" adult i know who has read it, has loved it. i think it is a book that transcends all age levels.

twj



TWJ --

A long overdue response to your post about  The Book Thief.

There was an essay in the New York Times Book Review a few weeks ago about how books get shelved in either adult or young adult. Certainly, Zusak's book is one that would be of great interest to adults -- I truly think it is one of the best Holocaust novels I've ever read. Maybe we in publishing need to come up with some sort of designation for crossover books, or maybe American publishers can do what British publishers apparently do, and publish dual editions.

Best,

Rahel 

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Summer reading and summer eating

Hi, all.

I don't have a Jewish-themed book to mention at the moment, but I do have some fun reading I wanted to mention. There is a new blog, Eating the Bible, on Nextbook that I think is a fantastic idea. Jonathan Dixon is not only writing about Biblical food, but trying to approximate the recipes and see how they taste. It's a great way to look at the Bible, particularly for someone like me, with a great fondness for food and food-writing.

Enjoy!

Rahel 

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Re: Summer reading and summer eating


Rahel wrote:

Hi, all.

I don't have a Jewish-themed book to mention at the moment, but I do have some fun reading I wanted to mention. There is a new blog, Eating the Bible, on Nextbook that I think is a fantastic idea. Jonathan Dixon is not only writing about Biblical food, but trying to approximate the recipes and see how they taste. It's a great way to look at the Bible, particularly for someone like me, with a great fondness for food and food-writing.

Enjoy!

Rahel 

Thanks Rahel.  The link didn't work but I definitely want to see the blog sometime.  I'm taking a course at the moment on the first cities.  Very interesting.  And it's amazing that Judaism was practiced then and now!

 

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Re: Jewish Encounters Summer Reading

Timbuktu --

Sorry about that link. Here is Eating the Bible once again, and also in non-fancy format in case it still doesn't work: http://www.nextbook.org/cultural/blogs.html?blog=Eating_the_Bible

 

TWJ --

Further to the conversation about Young Adult literature, there were several letters in this week's NY Times Book Review that addressed the question of which books are yound adult and why, and one of them specifically mentioned The Book Thief! So we aren't the only ones who think it is a great book for adults!

Best,

Rahel 

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Hebrew Language

Dear Readers,

I wanted to bring your attention to an interesting article, Quandary for Hebrew in today's New York Times. The article is a brief introduction to complex and fascinating story of the Hebrew language, a story which is told with great flair by Ilan Stavans in his forthcoming Resurrecting Hebrew. Ilan brings together his personal story and the many characters of the Hebrew revival in a rich polyglot brew. Some of those mentioned in today's article are major characters in his book, and the debate over the constant evolution of modern Hebrew is covered more fully.

 

For myself, as a fluent Hebrew speaker (not to brag, but I have been mistaken for Israeli) who, sadly, often goes more than a year between visits to Israel, I am often astounded at the speed with which new slang is incorporated. I long ago gave up on newspapers, which use an incredible array of acronyms that I find utterly impenetrable. Books I can handle, if I have a very long time to work my way through, and a good dictionary. But it is spoken conversation that is the wildest -- I am always asking my Israeli cousins to explain the new slang -- words that come in from Arabic, from English, and many other languages. Perhaps because of the way that Hebrew conjugates its verb roots to mean many things, an English word can be integrated as a root into Hebrew, and often emerges unrecognizable. One of my favorites is "Fax" which comes out as "le-fakses." And another f-word, which I won't use here, gets conjugated into Hebrew in the reflexive as, for example, "nidfakti" -- "I messed up." It's a language that is very much alive, something that would have astounded most of the people whose lives we have discussed on this board.

 

So get a copy of Resurrecting Hebrew and be ready when Ilan Stavans comes to chat with us later this fall. 

Best,

Rahel 

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Re: Hebrew Language and weddings

Dear Friends,

Friends and family have begun to arrive in town for my wedding (which is in 5 days!) and I had the great pleasure of spending shabbat with one of my Israeli cousins and his wife and kids, age 7 and 3. It was so exciting for me to finally be able to introduce my fiance to that side of the family -- it was also a fun experiment in bilingual conversation. Both my fiance and I are quite good at understanding Hebrew, and I am very fluent in speaking, but understanding 3-year-old pronunciation is another matter! And my 7-year-old-cousin, who was under instruction to work on her English, was making a great effort. It was a lot of fun to watch the kids work with the two languages -- you could almost see the mental effort. And we adults were struggling, too -- one word that got a lot of debate was "Noy," which is Hebrew for "beauty." But none of us was quite sure how it is used as a part of speech. In Hebrew it is used in phrases like "gan noy," which in English would be a "decorative garden," but "noy" is actually a noun, not an adjective. Very complicated, and another plug for the discussion of the Hebrew language in Ocotber with author Ilan Stavans.

Best,

Rahel

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Re: Hebrew Language and weddings

Mazal Tov!
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Re: Hebrew Language and weddings

Hi, everyone!

 

I'm back online after my wedding, which I will say was fantastic, and after my move from New York to Baltimore, which feels like it is still in process. When an editor marries an academic, you end up with a lot of books! We probably have over 60 boxes of books, and we will definitely need to figure out an organizing principle for what is going where. We probably need new bookcases, too, and then we'll see what my husband (still very exciting to use that word, although the word itself isn't a favorite of mine. Any suggestions for a word that doesn't smack of household management or some such? Hebrew is far worse -- husband in Hebrew is "Ba'al," which literally means "owner." And also the ancient pagan god. Dreadful. I should've thought to ask my Israeli cousins if there is a nicer word in use in contemporary Hebrew. But titles aside, it's very exciting to be married and setting up our life together) will want to take to his office. I certainly can't wait to get my books out of boxes. 

 

In Jewish Encounters news, we will be starting a new discussion on Tuesday with Jonathan Rosen, series editor of Jewish Encounters, and author of

The Life of the Skies

Joy Comes in the Morning

The Talmud and the Internet
and Eve's Apple.

 

As you'll see by checking out any of his books, Jonathan is a wonderful writer of both fiction and nonfiction, as well as a fantastic editor. I'm thrilled that to have the chance to have a conversation with Jonathan and hope you will all be here to welcome him next week!

 

Best,

Rahel 

 

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Re: Hebrew Language and weddings

Mazel  tov!!!!
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Re: Hebrew Language and weddings

Mazal tov!

 

A good alternative for "ba'al" used often is "ben-zug", or partner - and of course, "bat-zug" for the female partner.  It shows equality between the partners, and many Israelis use the terms. 

Chana

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Re: Hebrew Language and weddings


chana56 wrote:

Mazal tov!

 

A good alternative for "ba'al" used often is "ben-zug", or partner - and of course, "bat-zug" for the female partner.  It shows equality between the partners, and many Israelis use the terms. 


Chana --

thanks so much -- that is definitely better than "ba'al." I felt very weird when I was saying birkat hamazon (the Grace After Meals) this shabbat and there is a special thank-you for one's family, and I was saying "ba'ali" (my husband, except it also sounds like owner). I think I'll be changing that!

And welcome to Jewish Encounters!

Rahel

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