Please note that most of our programming has transitioned to being held virtually. For a full, regularly updated schedule, visit cbebk.org/virtualprogramming.

Basic Judaism: An Intro to Jewish Life, Text, and Ideas

Tuesdays, 7:30 PM – 9 PM beginning October 27, 2020
This is an overview course in broad strokes about Jewish life, culture, belief, non-belief, and thought. Designed in a 24 week module, this course will attempt to give the participants a solid background to the ideas, practices, and expressions of Jewish life from ancient times to the present, and serves as a prerequisite for conversion at CBE and in many other communities. The course is primarily taught by Rabbi Matt Green, with some guest teaching by other CBE clergy.
Cost: $325 for CBE members / $425 for non-members
Click here to register and for more information

Parsha Study

Wednesdays, 7:00-8:00 PM
Taught by Rabbi Timoner, join us for an exploration of the weekly Torah portion. We’ll examine the parsha, alongside both classical and contemporary commentaries. No experience, Hebrew, or Torah knowledge necessary. No registration needed.

Jewish Thought with Rabbi Joe Schwartz

Mondays, 9:30 AM

Chevrah Torah Study with Rabbi David Kline

Saturdays, 11:15 AM – 12:30 PM (year round)
An engaging weekly discussion and exploration of the stories, themes, and lessons from the weekly Torah portion. New students are always welcome!

Book Group

Join us for a discussion of a book or books determined by this lay-led group. All are welcome! If you have any questions, please email cbebookgroup@cbebk.org

On April 21, 2020, we were delighted to virtually welcome author Jamie Bernstein to CBE to discuss her memoir Famous Father Girl. She was in conversation with CBE Book Group lay leader Linda Quigley. The conversation was recorded via Zoom, click here to watch.

On June 28, 2020, we were delighted to virtually welcome author Matti Friedman to CBE to discuss his novel Spies of No Country: Secret Lives at the Birth of Israel. He was in conversation with CBE’s Assistant Rabbi Matt Green and CBE Book Group lay leader Linda Quigley. The conversation was recorded via Zoom, click here to watch.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020 - A Terrible Country by Keith Gessen

A New York Times Editors’ Choice Named a Best Book of 2018 by Bookforum, Nylon, Esquire, and Vulture “This artful and autumnal novel, published in high summer, is a gift to those who wish to receive it.” Dwight Garner, The New York Times “Hilarious heartbreaking A Terrible Country may be one of the best books you’ll read this year.” —Ann Levin, Associated Press “The funniest work of fiction I’ve read this year.”—Christian Lorentzen, Vulture.com A literary triumph about Russia, family, love, and loyalty—the first novel in ten years from a founding editor of n+1 and author of All the Sad Young Literary Men. When Andrei Kaplan’s older brother Dima insists that Andrei return to Moscow to care for their ailing grandmother, Andrei must take stock of his life in New York. His girlfriend has stopped returning his text messages. His dissertation adviser is dubious about his job prospects. It’s the summer of 2008, and his bank account is running dangerously low. Perhaps a few months in Moscow are just what he needs. So Andrei sublets his room in Brooklyn, packs up his hockey stuff, and moves into the apartment that Stalin himself had given his grandmother, a woman who has outlived her husband and most of her friends. She survived the dark days of communism and witnessed Russia’s violent capitalist transformation, during which she lost her beloved dacha. She welcomes Andrei into her home, even if she can’t always remember who he is. Andrei learns to navigate Putin’s Moscow, still the city of his birth, but with more expensive coffee. He looks after his elderly—but surprisingly sharp!—grandmother, finds a place to play hockey, a café to send emails, and eventually some friends, including a beautiful young activist named Yulia. Over the course of the year, his grandmother’s health declines and his feelings of dislocation from both Russia and America deepen. Andrei knows he must reckon with his future and make choices that will determine his life and fate. When he becomes entangled with a group of leftists, Andrei’s politics and his allegiances are tested, and he is forced to come to terms with the Russian society he was born into and the American one he has enjoyed since he was a kid. A wise, sensitive novel about Russia, exile, family, love, history and fate, A Terrible County asks what you owe the place you were born, and what it owes you. Writing with grace and humor, Keith Gessen gives us a brilliant and mature novel that is sure to mark him as one of the most talented novelists of his generation.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020 - The Mandelbaum Gate by Muriel Spark

In 1965, it won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. In 2012, it was shortlisted for the Best of the James Tait Black. It was included in Anthony Burgess’s 1984 book Ninety-Nine Novels: The Best in English since 1939 – A Personal Choice. When Barbara Vaughan’s fiancé joins an archaeological excursion to the Dead Sea Scrolls, she takes the opportunity to explore the Holy Land. It is 1961, and the nation of Israel is still in its infancy. For Barbara, a half-Jewish Catholic convert, this is a journey of faith, and she ignores warnings not to cross the Mandelbaum Gate from Israel into Jordan. An adventure of espionage and abduction, from pilgrimage to flight, The Mandelbaum Gate is one of Spark’s most compelling novels. Muriel Spark (1918–2006) was a prolific Scottish novelist, short story writer, and poet whose darkly comedic voice made her one of the most distinctive writers of the twentieth century. Spark grew up in Edinburgh and worked as a department store secretary, writer for trade magazines, and literary editor before publishing her first novel in 1957. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961), considered her masterpiece, was made into a stage play, a TV series, and a film. Spark became a Dame of the British Empire in 1993.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020 - Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan by Ruth Gilligan

Three intertwining voices span the twentieth century to tell the unknown story of the Jews in Ireland. A heartbreaking portrait of what it means to belong, and how storytelling can redeem us all. At the start of the twentieth century, a young girl and her family emigrate from Lithuania in search of a better life in America, only to land on the Emerald Isle instead. In 1958, a mute Jewish boy locked away in a mental institution outside of Dublin forms an unlikely friendship with a man consumed by the story of the love he lost nearly two decades earlier. And in present-day London, an Irish journalist is forced to confront her conflicting notions of identity and family when her Jewish boyfriend asks her to make a true leap of faith. These three arcs, which span generations and intertwine in revelatory ways, come together to tell the haunting story of Ireland’s all-but-forgotten Jewish community. Ruth Gilligan’s beautiful and heartbreaking Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan explores the question of just how far we will go to understand who we really are, and to feel at home in the world. “With Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan, Ruth Gilligan strikes out into ambitious literary territory. Gilligan weaves history into the present moment with assurance and style. Reminiscent of Tea Obreht, Nicole Krauss, and Maggie O’Farrell, Gilligan captures the pulse of one of Ireland’s untold stories, and asks us to consider the age-old dictum that the past is not dead, it is not even past. A wonderful new novel from a writer to look out for.” – Colum McCann “In a boldly ambitious novel of family and belonging, Gilligan chronicles the history of Jewish immigrants in Ireland by weaving together three interconnected stories spanning more than a century. All three stories―more intertwined than any of the participants know―are gripping, nuanced, and clever, occupying a rich and hazy space between realism and metaphor.”- Kirkus, Starred Review

Tuesday, October 27, 2020 - The Words of My Father by Yousef Bashir

A Palestinian-American activist recalls his adolescence in Gaza during the Second Intifada, and how he made a strong commitment to peace in the face of devastating brutality in this moving, candid, and transformative memoir that reminds us of the importance of looking beyond prejudice, anger, and fear. “Captivating.”–Robin Wright, The New Yorker Yousef Bashir’s story begins in Gaza, on a verdant ten-acre farm beside an Israeli settlement and military base. When the soccer-mad Yousef was eleven, the Second Intifada exploded. First came the shooting, then the occupation. Ordered to leave their family home, Yousef’s father refused, even when the Israeli soldiers moved in, seizing the top two floors. For five long years, three generations of the Bashir family were virtual prisoners in their own home. Despite this, Yousef’s father—a respected Palestinian schoolteacher whose belief in coexisting peacefully with his Israeli neighbors was unshakeable—treated the soldiers as honored guests. His commitment to peace was absolute. Though Yousef’s family attracted international media attention, and received letters of support from around the world, Yousef witnessed the destruction of his home, his neighborhood, and the happy life he had known with growing frustration and confusion. For the first time he wondered if his father’s belief in peace was justified and whether he was strong enough—or even wanted—to follow his example. At fifteen, that doubt was tested. Standing in his front yard with his father and three United Nations observers, he was shot in the spine by an Israeli soldier, leaving him in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down, for a year. While an Israeli soldier shot him, it was Israeli doctors who saved Yousef and helped him eventually learn to walk again. In the wake of that experience, Yousef was forced to reckon with the words of his father. And like the generous, empathetic man who raised him, he too became an outspoken activist for peace. Amid the tragedy of the ongoing Middle Eastern conflict, The Words of My Father is a powerful tale of moral awakening and a fraught, ferocious, and profound relationship between a son and his father. Bashir’s story and the ideals of peace and empathy it upholds are a soothing balm for these dangerous and troubled times, and a reminder that love and compassion are a gift—and a choice.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020 - Revolutionaries by Joshua Furst

An Austin Chronicle Best Book of the Year Fred, given name Freedom, is the sole offspring of Lenny Snyder, the infamous pied piper of 1960s counterculture. From a young age, Fred has been exploited by his father and used to enhance Lenny’s mystique. Now middle-aged, Fred looks back on life with this charismatic, brilliant, and volatile ringmaster, who is as captivating in these pages as he was to his devoted disciples back then. We see Lenny in his prime and then as he gradually loses his magnetic confidence and leading role at the end of the sixties. Lenny demands loyalty but gives none back in return; he preaches love but treats his family with almost reflexive cruelty. And Fred remembers all of it–the chaos, the spite, the affection. A kaleidoscopic saga, this novel is at once a profound allegory for America and a deeply intimate portrait of a father and son. “Deeply felt and often beautiful . . . Furst’s richly researched and detailed book gives us a vivid portrait of the Lower East Side in the ’60s and ’70s from the perspective of a radical milieu, but also from a child’s eye, street-level view…a chaotic, ramshackle place. Revolutionaries examines the [period] from every angle, orbiting the evidence and arguments . . .The novel’s ultimate beauty—like its characters’—is spiritual. It refuses to sanctify or condemn anyone.” — The New York Times Book Review“ Furst vividly depicts figures from the [the sixties and seventies] . . . [and Revolutionaries] knows . . . how to turn down the political and historical volume to let a reader see instead of just hear.” —The New Yorker

Tuesday, December 22, 2020 - The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

New York Time Bestseller, GoodReads Choice Awards Semifinalist “Moving . . . a plot that surprises and devastates.”—New York Times Book Review” A masterful epic.”—People magazine” Mesmerizing . . . The Women in the Castle stands tall among the literature that reveals new truths about one of history’s most tragic eras.”—USA Today Three women, haunted by the past and the secrets they hold. Set at the end of World War II, in a crumbling Bavarian castle that once played host to all of German high society, a powerful and propulsive story of three widows whose lives and fates become intertwined—an affecting, shocking, and ultimately redemptive novel from the author of the New York Times Notable Book The Hazards of Good Breeding. Amid the ashes of Nazi Germany’s defeat, Marianne von Lingenfels returns to the once-grand castle of her husband’s ancestors, an imposing stone fortress now fallen into ruin following years of war. The widow of a resister murdered in the failed July 20, 1944, plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Marianne plans to uphold the promise she made to her husband’s brave conspirators: to find and protect their wives, her fellow resistance widows. First Marianne rescues six-year-old Martin, the son of her dearest childhood friend, from a Nazi reeducation home. Together, they make their way across the smoldering wreckage of their homeland to Berlin, where Martin’s mother, the beautiful and naive Benita, has fallen into the hands of occupying Red Army soldiers. Then she locates Ania, another resister’s wife, and her two boys, now refugees languishing in one of the many camps that house the millions displaced by the war. As Marianne assembles this makeshift family from the ruins of her husband’s resistance movement, she is certain their shared pain and circumstances will hold them together. But she quickly discovers that the black-and-white, highly principled world of her privileged past has become infinitely more complicated, filled with secrets and dark passions that threaten to tear them apart. Eventually, all three women must come to terms with the choices that have defined their lives before, during, and after the war—each with their own unique share of challenges. Jessica Shattuck’s evocative and utterly enthralling novel offers a fresh perspective on one of the most tumultuous periods in history. Combining piercing social insight and vivid historical atmosphere, The Women in the Castle is a dramatic yet nuanced portrait of war and its repercussions that explores what it means to survive, love, and, ultimately, to forgive in the wake of unimaginable hardship. “Moving . . . Shattuck’s achievement―beyond unfolding a plot that surprises and devastates―is in her subtle exploration of what a moral righteousness looks like in the aftermath of the war, when communities and lives must be rebuilt, together.” (New York Times Book Review)

Tuesday, January 19, 2020 - A Good American Family: The Red Scare and My Father by David Maraniss

Pulitzer Prize–winning author and “one of our most talented biographers and historians” (The New York Times) David Maraniss delivers a “thoughtful, poignant, and historically valuable story of the Red Scare of the 1950s” (The Wall Street Journal) through the chilling yet affirming story of his family’s ordeal, from blacklisting to vindication. Elliott Maraniss, David’s father, a WWII veteran who had commanded an all-black company in the Pacific, was spied on by the FBI, named as a communist by an informant, called before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1952, fired from his newspaper job, and blacklisted for five years. Yet he never lost faith in America and emerged on the other side with his family and optimism intact. In a sweeping drama that moves from the Depression and Spanish Civil War to the HUAC hearings and end of the McCarthy era, Maraniss weaves his father’s story through the lives of his inquisitors and defenders as they struggle with the vital 20th-century issues of race, fascism, communism, and first amendment freedoms. “Remarkably balanced, forthright, and unwavering in its search for the truth” (The New York Times), A Good American Family evokes the political dysfunctions of the 1950s while underscoring what it really means to be an American. It is “clear-eyed and empathetic” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) tribute from a brilliant writer to his father and the family he protected in dangerous times.

Tuesday, February 23, 2020 - Apeirogon by Colum McCann

New York Times Bestseller “A quite extraordinary novel. Colum McCann has found the form and voice to tell the most complex of stories, with an unexpected friendship between two men at its powerfully beating heart.”—Kamila Shamsie, author of Home Fire From the National Book Award–winning and bestselling author of Let the Great World Spin comes an epic novel rooted in the unlikely real-life friendship between two fathers. Bassam Aramin is Palestinian. Rami Elhanan is Israeli. They inhabit a world of conflict that colors every aspect of their lives, from the roads they are allowed to drive on to the schools their children attend to the checkpoints, both physical and emotional, they must negotiate. But their lives, however circumscribed, are upended one after the other: first, Rami’s thirteen-year-old daughter, Smadar, becomes the victim of suicide bombers; a decade later, Bassam’s ten-year-old daughter, Abir, is killed by a rubber bullet. Rami and Bassam had been raised to hate one another. And yet, when they learn of each other’s stories, they recognize the loss that connects them. Together they attempt to use their grief as a weapon for peace—and with their one small act, start to permeate what has for generations seemed an impermeable conflict.
This extraordinary novel is the fruit of a seed planted when the novelist Colum McCann met the real Bassam and Rami on a trip with the non-profit organization Narrative 4. McCann was moved by their willingness to share their stories with the world, by their hope that if they could see themselves in one another, perhaps others could too. With their blessing, and unprecedented access to their families, lives, and personal recollections, McCann began to craft Apeirogon, which uses their real-life stories to begin another—one that crosses centuries and continents, stitching together time, art, history, nature, and politics in a tale both heartbreaking and hopeful. The result is an ambitious novel, crafted out of a universe of fictional and nonfictional material, with these fathers’ moving story at its heart.

Tuesday, March 23, 2020 - The Escape Artist by Helen Fremont

A luminous family memoir from the author of the critically acclaimed Boston Globe bestseller, After Long Silence, lauded as “mesmerizing” (The Washington Post Book World), “extraordinary” (The Philadelphia Inquirer), and “a triumphant work of art” (Publishers Weekly, starred review). “[A] crackling second book, The Escape Artist is a standalone work. Graceful, gracious, and engrossing.” — Alexandra Styron, The New York Times Book Review A luminous new memoir from the author of the critically acclaimed national bestseller After Long Silence, The Escape Artist has been lauded by New York Times bestselling author Mary Karr as “beautifully written, honest, and psychologically astute. A must-read.” In the tradition of Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home and George Hodgman’s Bettyville, Fremont writes with wit and candor about growing up in a household held together by a powerful glue: secrets. Her parents, profoundly affected by their memories of the Holocaust, pass on to both Helen and her older sister a zealous determination to protect themselves from what they see as danger from the outside world. Fremont delves deeply into the family dynamic that produced such a startling devotion to secret keeping, beginning with the painful and unexpected discovery that she has been disinherited in her father’s will. In scenes that are frank, moving, and often surprisingly funny, She writes about growing up in such an intemperate household, with parents who pretended to be Catholics but were really Jews—and survivors of Nazi-occupied Poland. She shares tales of family therapy sessions, disordered eating, her sister’s frequently unhinged meltdowns, and her own romantic misadventures as she tries to sort out her sexual identity. Searching, poignant, and ultimately redemptive, The Escape Artist is a powerful contribution to the memoir shelf.

Books We've Read

Spies of No Country: Secret Lives at the Birth of Israel by Matti Friedman (Click here to watch a recording of our conversation with the author)

The Parisian by Isabella Hammad

Famous Father Girl by Jamie Bernstein

Disoriental by Négar Djavadi

The Imposter: A True Story by Javier Cercas

Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck

Salt Houses by Hala Alyan

Inheritance by Dani Shapiro



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