Weekly Shabbat Study
Shabbat Study with Rabbi Rachel Timoner
Saturdays, 12:00 – 12:25 PM
After services, pick up some treats at kiddush and head into Rabbi Timoner’s study for 20 minutes of learning on a big Jewish question. We will begin after kiddush, usually around noon. Duration is 20 minutes, we will always finish by 12:25 PM.
Theme for the fall: Nationalism and Jewish Peoplehood.
Talmud Study with Rabbi Joe Schwartz
Saturdays, 8:15 AM
Talmud Study is back! No RSVP required, but feel free to be in touch with Rabbi Schwartz at email@example.com with any questions.
Chevre 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!
Wednesdays, 7:00-8:00 PM, Board Room
Taught by Rabbi Timoner, Rabbi Green, Rabbi Epstein, and Cantor Breitzer in rotation, 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.
Basic Judaism: An Intro to Jewish Life, Text, and Ideas
Oct 29, 2019-April 28, 2020, Tuesdays at 7:30 PM – 9:00 PM, CBE Study (1st Floor of Temple House)
Check our calendar for specific dates
Through ancient texts and modern media, participants learn to navigate Jewish tradition, holidays, history, and life-cycle events and learn how to introduce Jewish rituals at home.
Cost: $325 for CBE members / $425 for non-members
Click here to register and for more information
Lunch and Learn
Alternate Thursdays from 12:30 to 1:30 PM
Check our calendar for specific dates
In each session, we will examine concepts in Jewish political thought. We will explore big themes in political thought such as monarchy, democracy, dissent, welfare, and so on, through the lens of biblical, rabbinic, medieval, and modern Jewish texts. As in years past, will continue the tradition of holding this class every other Thursday. Bring lunch for yourself and Rabbi Green will supply the learning.
Join us for a discussion of a book or books determined by this lay-lead group. All are welcome!
For further information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
New York Times Notable Book 2018; Foreign Affairs Best Book of 2018; MLA LOIS ROTH AWARD WINNER An unforgettable German bestseller about the European refugee crisis: “Erpenbeck will get under your skin” (Washington Post Book World) Go, Went, Gone is the masterful new novel by the acclaimed German writer Jenny Erpenbeck, “one of the most significant German-language novelists of her generation” (The Millions). The novel tells the tale of Richard, a retired classics professor who lives in Berlin. His wife has died, and he lives a routine existence until one day he spies some African refugees staging a hunger strike in Alexanderplatz. Curiosity turns to compassion and an inner transformation, as he visits their shelter, interviews them, and becomes embroiled in their harrowing fates. Go, Went, Gone is a scathing indictment of Western policy toward the European refugee crisis, but also a touching portrait of a man who finds he has more in common with the Africans than he realizes. Exquisitely translated by Susan Bernofsky, Go, Went, Gone addresses one of the most pivotal issues of our time, facing it head-on in a voice that is both nostalgic and frightening. “This timely novel brings together a retired classics professor in Berlin and a group of African refugees. The risk of didacticism is high, but the book’s rigor and crystalline insights pay off, aesthetically and morally.”- The New York Times
From the award-winning author of Soldiers of Salamis, a propulsive and riveting narrative investigation into an infamous fraud: a man who has been lying his entire life. Who is Enric Marco? An elderly man in his nineties, living in Barcelona, a Holocaust survivor who gave hundreds of speeches, granted dozens of interviews, received important national honors, and even moved government officials to tears. But in May 2005, Marco was exposed as a fraud: he was never in a Nazi concentration camp. The story was reported around the world, transforming him from hero to villain in the blink of an eye. Now, more than a decade later–in a hypnotic narrative that combines fiction and nonfiction, detective story and war story, biography and autobiography–Javier Cercas sets out to unravel Marco’s enigma. With both profound compassion and lacerating honesty, Cercas takes the reader on a journey not only into one man’s gigantic lie, but also–through its exploration of our infinite capacity for self-deception, our opposing needs for fantasy and reality, our appetite for affection–into the deepest, most flawed parts of our humanity. “It is thrilling to be in the room with the two of them once their cat-and-mouse game commences. . . [The Impostor] vibrates with an insomniac energy. I did, too, while in its throes. There’s no looking away from it; it has the hot, charged energy of sitting through a trial. . . The brilliance of The Impostor is how Cercas connects Marco’s desire for reinvention with Spain’s national project of burying its history as it transitioned from dictatorship to democracy. . . The language is precise, distinctive and delicious. . . Is there a more gifted or versatile translator working today than Frank Wynne?. . . The voice of this book, the voice of Cercas, with its beautiful grain and restlessness, its swerves from pity to fury, from calm to hysteria, owe much to Wynne’s almost musical modulations.”—Parul Sehgal, The New York Times
Shortlisted for the 2018 National Book Awards One of The Globe & Mail’s Best Books of 2018 Winner: Le Prix du Roman News, Style Prize, Lire Best Debut Novel 2016, la Porte Dorée Prize Kimiâ Sadr fled Iran at the age of ten in the company of her mother and sisters to join her father in France. Now twenty-five and facing the future she has built for herself as well as the prospect of a new generation, Kimiâ is inundated by her own memories and the stories of her ancestors, which come to her in unstoppable, uncontainable waves. In the waiting room of a Parisian fertility clinic, generations of flamboyant Sadrs return to her, including her formidable great-grandfather Montazemolmolk, with his harem of fifty-two wives, and her parents, Darius and Sara, stalwart opponents of each regime that befalls them.
In this high-spirited, kaleidoscopic story, key moments of Iranian history, politics, and culture punctuate stories of family drama and triumph. Yet it is Kimiâ herself––punk-rock aficionado, storyteller extraordinaire, a Scheherazade of our time, and above all a modern woman divided between family traditions and her own “disorientalization”––who forms the heart of this bestselling and beloved novel. “In her remarkable novel, ‘Disoriental,’ Negar Djavadi. . . beautifully captures the ‘disorientation’ of exile and the attempt to reconstruct a self through family stories.”―Dalia Sofer, The New York Times
Jamie Bernstein will be joining us!
The oldest daughter of revered composer/conductor Leonard Bernstein offers a rare look at her father on the centennial of his birth in a deeply intimate and broadly evocative memoir. The composer of On the Town and West Side Story, chief conductor of the New York Philharmonic, television star, humanitarian, friend of the powerful and influential, and the life of every party, Leonard Bernstein was an enormous celebrity during one of the headiest periods of American cultural life, as well as the most protean musician in twentieth century America. But to his eldest daughter, Jamie, he was above all the man in the scratchy brown bathrobe who smelled of cigarettes; the jokester and compulsive teacher who enthused about Beethoven and the Beatles; the insomniac whose 4 a.m. composing breaks involved spooning baby food out of the jar. He taught his daughter to love the world in all its beauty and complexity. In public and private, Lenny was larger than life. In Famous Father Girl, Bernstein mines the emotional depths of her childhood and invites us into her family’s private world. A fantastic set of characters populates the Bernsteins’ lives, including: the Kennedys, Mike Nichols, John Lennon, Richard Avedon, Stephen Sondheim, Jerome Robbins, and Betty (Lauren) Bacall. An intoxicating tale, Famous Father Girl is an intimate meditation on a complex and sometimes troubled man, the family he raised, and the music he composed that became the soundtrack to their entwined lives. Deeply moving and often hilarious, Bernstein’s beautifully written memoir is a great American story about one of the greatest Americans of the modern age.
October 22, 2019- Salt Houses by Hala Alyan
Winner of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize and the Arab American Book Award Named a Best Book of the Year by NPR * Nylon * Kirkus Reviews * Bustle * BookPage
“Moving and beautifully written.” — Entertainment Weekly On the eve of her daughter Alia’s wedding, Salma reads the girl’s future in a cup of coffee dregs. She sees an unsettled life for Alia and her children; she also sees travel and luck. While she chooses to keep her predictions to herself that day, they will all soon come to pass when the family is uprooted in the wake of the Six-Day War of 1967. Lyrical and heartbreaking, Salt Houses follows three generations of a Palestinian family and asks us to confront that most devastating of all truths: you can’t go home again.“[Alyan is] a master.” — Los Angeles Review of Books “Beautiful . . . An example of how fiction is often the best filter for the real world around us.” — NPR “Gorgeous and sprawling . . . Heart-wrenching, lyrical and timely.” — Dallas Morning News “[Salt Houses] illustrate[s] the inherited longing and sense of dislocation passed like a baton from mother to daughter.” — New York Times Book Review
November 19, 2019- Inheritance by Dani Shapiro
New York Times Bestseller “A gripping genetic detective story, and a meditation on the meaning of parenthood and family.” —Jennifer Egan, author of Manhattan Beach From the acclaimed, best-selling memoirist and novelist—“a writer of rare talent” (Cheryl Strayed)—a memoir about the staggering family secret uncovered by a genealogy test: an exploration of the urgent ethical questions surrounding fertility treatments and DNA testing, and a profound inquiry of paternity, identity, and love. What makes us who we are? What combination of memory, history, biology, experience, and that ineffable thing called the soul defines us? In the spring of 2016, through a genealogy website to which she had whimsically submitted her DNA for analysis, Dani Shapiro received the stunning news that her father was not her biological father. She woke up one morning and her entire history–the life she had lived–crumbled beneath her. Inheritance is a book about secrets–secrets within families, kept out of shame or self-protectiveness; secrets we keep from one another in the name of love. It is the story of a woman’s urgent quest to unlock the story of her own identity, a story that has been scrupulously hidden from her for more than fifty years, years she had spent writing brilliantly, and compulsively, on themes of identity and family history. It is a book about the extraordinary moment we live in–a moment in which science and technology have outpaced not only medical ethics but also the capacities of the human heart to contend with the consequences of what we discover. New York Times Editors’ Choice A Washington Post, Vulture, Bustle, Real Simple, PopSugar, and LitHub Most Anticipated Book of 2019 “Profound… The true drama of Inheritance is not Shapiro’s discovery of her father’s identity but the meaning she makes of it…Shapiro’s account is beautifully written and deeply moving —it brought me to tears more than once.”—Ruth Franklin, The New York Times Book Review
September 24, 2019- History by Elsa Morante
History was written nearly thirty years after Elsa Morante and Alberto Moravia spent a year in hiding among remote farming villages in the mountains south of Rome. There she witnessed the full impact of the war and first formed the ambition to write an account of what history – the great political events driven by men of power, wealth, and ambition – does when it reaches the realm of ordinary people struggling for life and bread. The cramped and squalid slums of wartime Rome witness and harbor the struggles of a desperately poor, ill-educated, half-Jewish widow, her uncontrollable, charming, delinquent older son, and the precocious, frail, and vulnerable child fathered by a young German soldier Written in 1974 but first published in the United States in 1977, this was Morante’s first novel in 18 years. As the cryptic title indicates, the theme of this novel, said Library Journal’s reviewer, is how “history obscures individual lives.” Though the book portrays the brutal existence of one Italian family after World War II, LJ’s reviewer added that “there is so much to praise in this long, wonderfully rich novel, including the effortless translation, that its flaws – occasional clumsiness of narration, repetition are minor indeed” (LJ 4/15/77 “One of the few novels in any language that renders the full horror of Hitler’s war, the war that never gets into the books . . .” — Alfred Kazan, Esquire “A storyteller who spellbinds.” — Stephen Spender, The New York Review of Books “A marvel of a novel . . . all the pleasures that fiction can offer.” — Doris Grumbach, Saturday Review
May 14, 2019- Gateway to the Moon by Mary Morris
Mary Morris will be joining us!
“If you haven’t read Mary Morris yet, start here. Now. Immediately.” —Jodi Picoult, New York Times bestselling author of Small Great Things From award-winning novelist Mary Morris comes the remarkable story of a remote New Mexican town coming to grips with a dark history it never imagined. In 1492, the Jewish and Muslim populations of Spain were expelled, and Columbus set sail for America. Luis de Torres, a Spanish Jew, accompanies Columbus as his interpreter. His journey is only the beginning of a long migration, across many generations. Over the centuries, de Torres’ descendants travel from Spain and Portugal to Mexico, finally settling in the hills of New Mexico. Five hundred years later, it is in these same hills that Miguel Torres, a young amateur astronomer, finds himself trying to understand the mystery that surrounds him and the town he grew up in. Entrada de la Luna is a place that holds a profound secret–one that its residents cannot even imagine. It is also a place that ambitious children, such as Miguel, try to leave. Poor health, broken marriages, and poverty are the norm. Luck is unusual. When Miguel sees a flyer for a babysitting job, he jumps at the opportunity, and begins work for a Jewish family new to the area. Rachel Rothstein is not the sort of parent Miguel expected. A frustrated artist, Rachel moved her family from New York in search of a fresh start, but so far New Mexico has not solved any of the problems she brought with her. Miguel loves the work, yet he is surprised to find many of the Rothstein family’s customs similar to ones he’s grown up with and never understood. Interwoven throughout the present-day narrative are the powerful stories of the ancestors of Entrada’s residents, highlighting the torture, pursuit, and resistance of the Jewish people. A beautiful novel of shared history, Gateway to the Moon is a moving and memorable portrait of a family and its journey through the centuries.
April 8, 2019- The Reunion by Fred Uhlman
A daring novella about the loss of innocence in pre-war Germany. Reunion is the story of intense and innocent devotion between two young men growing up in “the soft, serene, bluish hills of Swabia,” and the sinister (but all too mundane) forces that end both their friendship and their childhood. The year is 1932. Hans Schwartz is Jewish, the son of a Stuttgart doctor who asserts that the rise of the Nazis is “a temporary illness, something like measles which will pass off as soon as the economic situation improves.” The Holocaust would be unthinkable for these characters, but of course it looms over the story: Hans’s friend, the young Count Konradin von Hohenfels, has a mother who keeps a portrait of Hitler on her dresser. The two boys share their most private thoughts and trips to the countryside of southwest Germany, discuss poetry and the past and present of their country, and argue the existence of a benevolent God. The eventual disintegration of this cherished relationship foreshadows the fate of Europe’s Jews– but Uhlman doesn’t end his story with neat polarities. Years later, exiled in America, Hans comes upon a revelation about von Hohenfels which provides a stunning denouement and leaves the reader recalling Uhlman’s haunting, lyrical descriptions of the vineyards, opera houses, and dark forests of Württemberg. “Hundreds of bulky tomes have now been written about the age when corpses were melted into soap to keep the master race clean; yet I sincerely believe that this slim volume will find its lasting place on the shelves.”–Arthur Koestler, from the Introduction
March 19, 2019- Sepharad by Antonio Munoz Molina
From one of Spain’s most celebrated writers, an extraordinary, inspired book—at once fiction, history, and memoir—that draws on the Sephardic diaspora, the Holocaust, and Stalin’s purges to tell a twentieth-century story. Shifting seamlessly from the past to the present and following the routes of escape across countries and continents, Muñoz Molina evokes people real and imagined who come together in a richly allusive pattern—from Eugenia Ginsburg to Grete Buber-Neumann, the one on a train to the gulag, the other heading toward a Nazi concentration camp; from a shoemaker and a nun who become lovers in a small Spanish town to Primo Levi bound for Auschwitz. From the well known to the virtually unknown—all of Molina’s characters are voices of separation, nostalgia, love, and endless waiting. Written with clarity of vision and passion, in a style both lyrical and accessible, Sepharad makes the experience our own. A brilliant achievement. Antonio Munoz Molina has twice been awarded the Premio Nacional de Literatura in Spain in addition to winning the Prix Femina in France. He lives in Madrid and New York.
February 19, 2019- An Odyssey: A Father, a Son, and an Epic by Daniel Mendelsohn
Named a Best Book of 2017 by NPR, Library Journal, The Christian Science Monitor, and Newsday, A Kirkus Best Memoir of 2017, Shortlisted for the 2017 Baillie Gifford Prize. From award-winning memoirist and critic, and bestselling author of The Lost: a deeply moving tale of a father and son’s transformative journey in reading–and reliving–Homer’s epic masterpiece. When eighty-one-year-old Jay Mendelsohn decides to enroll in the undergraduate Odyssey seminar his son teaches at Bard College, the two find themselves on an adventure as profoundly emotional as it is intellectual. For Jay, a retired research scientist who sees the world through a mathematician’s unforgiving eyes, this return to the classroom is his “one last chance” to learn the great literature he’d neglected in his youth–and, even more, a final opportunity to more fully understand his son, a writer and classicist. But through the sometimes uncomfortable months that the two men explore Homer’s great work together–first in the classroom, where Jay persistently challenges his son’s interpretations, and then during a surprise-filled Mediterranean journey retracing Odysseus’s famous voyages–it becomes clear that Daniel has much to learn, too: Jay’s responses to both the text and the travels gradually uncover long-buried secrets that allow the son to understand his difficult father at last. As this intricately woven memoir builds to its wrenching climax, Mendelsohn’s narrative comes to echo the Odyssey itself, with its timeless themes of deception and recognition, marriage and children, the pleasures of travel and the meaning of home. Rich with literary and emotional insight, An Odyssey is a renowned author-scholar’s most triumphant entwining yet of personal narrative and literary exploration.
January 22, 2019- Waking Lions by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen
Winner of the Jewish Quarterly Wingate Prize, 10 Women to Watch in 2017—BookPage, A New York Times Notable Book of 2017. After one night’s deadly mistake, a man will go to any lengths to save his family and his reputation. Neurosurgeon Eitan Green has the perfect life–married to a beautiful police officer and father of two young boys. Then, speeding along a deserted moonlit road after an exhausting hospital shift, he hits someone. Seeing that the man, an African migrant, is beyond help, he flees the scene. When the victim’s widow knocks at Eitan’s door the next day, holding his wallet and divulging that she knows what happened, Eitan discovers that her price for silence is not money. It is something else entirely, something that will shatter Eitan’s safe existence and take him into a world of secrets and lies he could never have anticipated. Waking Lions is a gripping, suspenseful, and morally devastating drama of guilt and survival, shame and desire from a remarkable young author on the rise. “Waking Lions offers a commentary on privilege and otherness, challenging readers to confront their own blind spots and preconceptions….Trained as a clinical psychologist, Gundar-Goshen examines her characters with the same formidable gaze. Nobody emerges unscathed….Gundar-Goshen is adept at instilling emotional depth into a thriller plot, delivering the required twists and turns along with an incisive portrayal of her characters’ guilt, shame and desire, fluidly shifting between their perspectives….Readers will be rewarded by [Waking Lions’] exhilarating, cinematic finale. Skillfully translated by Sondra Silverston, Waking Lions is a sophisticated and darkly ambitious novel, revealing an aspect of Israeli life rarely seen in its literature.”―Ayelet Tsabari, New York Times Book Review
December 18, 2018- Improvement by Joan Silber
Winner of the 2018 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, Author is the Winner of the 2018 PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story, Named 1 of 50 Notable Works of Fiction in 2017 by The Washington Post, Named 1 of 10 Top Fiction Titles of 2017 by the Wall Street Journal, A Newsday Best Book of 2017, A Kirkus Best Book of 2017, A New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice One of our most gifted writers of fiction returns with a bold and piercing novel about a young single mother living in New York, her eccentric aunt, and the decisions they make that have unexpected implications for the world around them. Reyna knows her relationship with Boyd isn’t perfect, yet as she visits him throughout his three-month stint at Rikers Island, their bond grows tighter. Kiki, now settled in the East Village after a journey that took her to Turkey and around the world, admires her niece’s spirit but worries that she always picks the wrong man. Little does she know that the otherwise honorable Boyd is pulling Reyna into a cigarette smuggling scheme, across state lines, where he could risk violating probation. When Reyna ultimately decides to remove herself for the sake of her four-year-old child, her small act of resistance sets into motion a tapestry of events that affect the lives of loved ones and strangers around them. A novel that examines conviction, connection, and the possibility of generosity in the face of loss, Improvement is as intricately woven together as Kiki’s beloved Turkish rugs, as colorful as the tattoos decorating Reyna’s body, with narrative twists and turns as surprising and unexpected as the lives all around us. The Boston Globe says of Joan Silber: “No other writer can make a few small decisions ripple across the globe, and across time, with more subtlety and power.” Improvement is Silber’s most shining achievement yet. “It feels vital to love Silber’s work. . . Now is the moment to appreciate that she is here, in our midst: our country’s own Alice Munro. Silber’s great theme as a writer is the way in which humans are separated from their intentions, by desires, ideas, time. . . Like Grace Paley and Lucia Berlin, she’s a master of talking a story past its easiest meaning; like Munro, a master of the compression and dilation of time, what time and nothing else can reveal to people about themselves.” ―Washington Post
June 19, 2018- The Mathematician’s Shiva by Stuart Rojstaczer
Winner of the 2014 National Jewish Book Award for Outstanding Debut Fiction For readers of This Is Where I Leave You and Everything Is Illuminated, “a brilliant and compelling family saga full of warmth, pathos, history and humor” (Jonathan Evison, author of West of Here) When the greatest female mathematician in history passes away, her son, Alexander “Sasha” Karnokovitch, just wants to mourn his mother in peace. But rumor has it the notoriously eccentric Polish émigré has solved one of the most difficult problems in all of mathematics, and has spitefully taken the solution to her grave. As a ragtag group of mathematicians from around the world descends upon Rachela’s shiva, determined to find the proof or solve it for themselves–even if it means prying up the floorboards for notes or desperately scrutinizing the mutterings of her African Grey parrot–Sasha must come to terms with his mother’s outsized influence on his life. Spanning decades and continents, from a crowded living room in Madison, Wisconsin, to the windswept beach on the Barents Sea where a young Rachela had her first mathematical breakthrough, The Mathematician’s Shiva is an unexpectedly moving and uproariously funny novel that captures humanity’s drive not just to survive, but to achieve the impossible.
May 23, 2018- “A Horse Walks Into a Bar” by David Grossman
Winner of The 2017 Man Booker International Prize The award-winning and internationally acclaimed author of the To the End of the Land now gives us a searing short novel about the life of a stand-up comic, as revealed in the course of one evening’s performance. In the dance between comic and audience, with barbs flying back and forth, a deeper story begins to take shape—one that will alter the lives of many of those in attendance. In a little dive in a small Israeli city, Dov Greenstein, a comedian a bit past his prime, is doing a night of stand-up. In the audience is a district court justice, Avishai Lazar, whom Dov knew as a boy, along with a few others who remember Dov as an awkward, scrawny kid who walked on his hands to confound the neighborhood bullies. Gradually, as it teeters between hilarity and hysteria, Dov’s patter becomes a kind of memoir, taking us back into the terrors of his childhood: we meet his beautiful flower of a mother, a Holocaust survivor in need of constant monitoring, and his punishing father, a striver who had little understanding of his creative son. Finally, recalling his week at a military camp for youth—where Lazar witnessed what would become the central event of Dov’s childhood—Dov describes the indescribable while Lazar wrestles with his own part in the comedian’s story of loss and survival. Continuing his investigations into how people confront life’s capricious battering, and how art may blossom from it, Grossman delivers a stunning performance in this memorable one-night engagement (jokes in questionable taste included).
April 24, 2018- “Exit West” by Mohsin Hamid
An instant New York Times Bestseller “It was as if Hamid knew what was going to happen to America and the world, and gave us a road map to our future… At once terrifying and … oddly hopeful.” –Ayelet Waldman, The New York Times Book Review “Moving, audacious, and indelibly human.” –Entertainment Weekly, “A” rating “A breathtaking novel…[that] arrives at an urgent time.” –NPR.org As featured in the Skimm, on Late Night with Seth Meyers, Fresh Air, PBS Newshour, the cover of the New York Times Book Review, and more, an astonishingly visionary love story that imagines the forces that drive ordinary people from their homes into the uncertain embrace of new lands. In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair, and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through. . . . Exit West follows these remarkable characters as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are. Profoundly intimate and powerfully inventive, it tells an unforgettable story of love, loyalty, and courage that is both completely of our time and for all time.
March 27, 2018- “All the Rivers” by Dorit Rabinyan
A controversial, award-winning story about the passionate but untenable affair between an Israeli woman and a Palestinian man, from one of Israel’s most acclaimed novelists. When Liat meets Hilmi on a blustery autumn afternoon in Greenwich Village, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Charismatic and handsome, Hilmi is a talented young artist from Palestine. Liat, an aspiring translation student, plans to return to Israel the following summer. Despite knowing that their love can be only temporary, that it can exist only away from their conflicted homeland, Liat lets herself be enraptured by Hilmi: by his lively imagination, by his beautiful hands and wise eyes, by his sweetness and devotion. Together they explore the city, sharing laughs and fantasies and pangs of homesickness. But the unfettered joy they awaken in each other cannot overcome the guilt Liat feels for hiding him from her family in Israel and her Jewish friends in New York. As her departure date looms and her love for Hilmi deepens, Liat must decide whether she is willing to risk alienating her family, her community, and her sense of self for the love of one man. Banned from classrooms by Israel’s Ministry of Education, Dorit Rabinyan’s remarkable novel contains multitudes. A bold portrayal of the strains—and delights—of a forbidden relationship, All the Rivers (published in Israel as Borderlife) is a love story and a war story, a New York story and a Middle East story, an unflinching foray into the forces that bind us and divide us.
February 27, 2018- “The Glass Room” by Simon Mawer
Honeymooners Viktor and Liesel Landauer, a rich Jewish mogul married to a thoughtful, modern gentile, are filled with the optimism and cultural vibrancy of central Europe of the 1920s when they meet modernist architect Rainer von Abt. He builds for them a home to embody their exuberant faith in the future, and the Landauer House becomes an instant masterpiece. Viktor and Liesel pour all of their hopes for their marriage and budding family into their stunning new home, filling it with children, friends, and a generation of artists and thinkers eager to abandon old-world European style in favor of the new and the avant-garde. The radiant honesty and idealism of 1930 quickly evaporate beneath the storm clouds of World War II. As Nazi troops enter the country, the family must leave their old life behind and attempt to escape to America before Viktor’s Jewish roots draw Nazi attention, and before the family itself dissolves. As the Landauers struggle for survival abroad, their home slips from hand to hand, from Czech to Nazi to Soviet possession and finally back to the Czechoslovak state, with new inhabitants always falling under the fervent and unrelenting influence of the Glass Room. Its crystalline perfection exerts a gravitational pull on those who know it, inspiring them, freeing them, calling them back, until the Landauers themselves are finally drawn home to where their story began.
January 23, 2018- “Judas” by Amos Oz
Short-listed for The Man Booker International Prize. “Oz pitches the book’s heartbreak and humanism perfectly from first page to last, as befits a writer who understands how vital a political role a novelist can play.” “An old-fashioned novel of ideas that is strikingly and compellingly modern.” 1959. Shmuel Ash, a biblical scholar, is adrift in his young life when he finds work as a caregiver for a brilliant but cantankerous old man named Gershom Wald. There is, however, a third, mysterious presence in his new home. Atalia Abarbanel, the daughter of a deceased Zionist leader, a beautiful woman in her forties, entrances young Shmuel even as she keeps him at a distance. Piece by piece, the old Jerusalem stone house, haunted by tragic history and now home to the three misfits and their intricate relationship, reveals its secrets. At once an exquisite love story and coming-of-age novel, an allegory for the state of Israel and for the biblical tale from which it draws its title, Judas is Amos Oz’s most powerful novel in decades.
December 19, 2017- “Looking for Palestine: Growing Up Confused in an Arab-American Family” by Najla Said
A frank and entertaining memoir, from the daughter of Edward Said, about growing up second-generation Arab American and struggling with that identity. The daughter of a prominent Palestinian father and a sophisticated Lebanese mother, Najla Said grew up in New York City, confused and conflicted about her cultural background and identity. Said knew that her parents identified deeply with their homelands, but growing up in a Manhattan world that was defined largely by class and conformity, she felt unsure about who she was supposed to be, and was often in denial of the differences she sensed between her family and those around her. The fact that her father was the famous intellectual and outspoken Palestinian advocate Edward Said only made things more complicated. She may have been born a Palestinian Lebanese American, but in Said’s mind she grew up first as a WASP, having been baptized Episcopalian in Boston and attending the wealthy Upper East Side girls’ school Chapin, then as a teenage Jew, essentially denying her true roots, even to herself—until, ultimately, the psychological toll of all this self-hatred began to threaten her health. As she grew older, making increased visits to Palestine and Beirut, Said’s worldview shifted. The attacks on the World Trade Center, and some of the ways in which Americans responded, finally made it impossible for Said to continue to pick and choose her identity, forcing her to see herself and her passions more clearly. Today, she has become an important voice for second-generation Arab Americans nationwide.
November 21, 2017- “The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between” by Hisham Matar
When Hisham Matar was a nineteen-year-old university student in England, his father went missing under mysterious circumstances. Hisham would never see him again, but he never gave up hope that his father might still be alive. Twenty-two years later, he returned to his native Libya in search of the truth behind his father’s disappearance. The Return is the story of what he found there.
October 24, 2017- “Their Promised Land: My Grandparents in Love and War” by Ian Buruma
Ian Buruma’s account of his grandparents’ enduring love through the terror and separation of two world wars is a family history of unsurpassing beauty and power. During the almost six years England was at war with Nazi Germany, Winifred and Bernard Schlesinger, Ian Buruma’s grandparents, and the film director John Schlesinger’s parents, were, like so many others, thoroughly sundered from each other. Their only recourse was to write letters back and forth. And write they did, often every day. In a way they were just picking up where they left off in 1918, at the end of their first long separation because of the Great War that swept Bernard away to some of Europe’s bloodiest battlefields. The thousands of letters between them were part of an inheritance that ultimately came into the hands of their grandson, Ian Buruma. Now, in a labor of love that is also a powerful act of artistic creation, Ian Buruma has woven his own voice in with theirs to provide the context and counterpoint necessary to bring to life, not just a remarkable marriage, but a class, and an age. Winifred and Bernard inherited the high European cultural ideals and attitudes that came of being born into prosperous German-Jewish émigré families. To young Ian, who would visit from Holland every Christmas, they seemed the very essence of England, their spacious Berkshire estate the model of genteel English country life at its most pleasant and refined. It wasn’t until years later that he discovered how much more there was to the story. At its heart, Their Promised Land is the story of cultural assimilation. The Schlesingers were very British in the way their relatives in Germany were very German, until Hitler destroyed that option. The problems of being Jewish and facing anti-Semitism even in the country they loved were met with a kind of stoic discretion. But they showed solidarity when it mattered most. As the shadows of war lengthened again, the Schlesingers mounted a remarkable effort, which Ian Buruma describes movingly, to rescue twelve Jewish children from the Nazis and see to their upkeep in England. Many are the books that do bad marriages justice; precious few books take readers inside a good marriage. In Their Promised Land, Buruma has done just that; introducing us to a couple whose love was sustaining through the darkest hours of the century.
September 26, 2017- “The Golem and the Jinni” by Helene Wecker
A chance meeting between mythical beings takes readers on a dazzling journey through cultures in turn-of-the-century New York. Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life to by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. Chava is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York harbor in 1899. Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire born in the ancient Syrian desert, trapped in an old copper flask, and released in New York City, though still not entirely free. Ahmad and Chava become unlikely friends and soul mates with a mystical connection. Marvelous and compulsively readable, Helene Wecker’s debut novel The Golem and the Jinni weaves strands of Yiddish and Middle Eastern literature, historical fiction and magical fable, into a wondrously inventive and unforgettable tale.
June 20, 2017 – “The Lady with the Borzoi: Blanche Knopf, Literary Tastemaker Extraordinaire” by Laura Claridge
The untold story of Blanche Knopf, the singular woman who helped define American literature. Left off her company’s fifth anniversary tribute but described by Thomas Mann as “the soul of the firm,” Blanche Knopf began her career when she founded Alfred A. Knopf with her husband in 1915. With her finger on the pulse of a rapidly changing culture, Blanche quickly became a driving force behind the firm. A conduit to the literature of Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance, Blanche also legitimized the hard-boiled detective fiction of writers such as Dashiell Hammett, James M. Cain, and Raymond Chandler; signed and nurtured literary authors like Willa Cather, Elizabeth Bowen, and Muriel Spark; acquired momentous works of journalism by John Hersey and William Shirer; and introduced American readers to Albert Camus, André Gide, and Simone de Beauvoir, giving these French writers the benefit of her consummate editorial taste. As Knopf celebrates its centennial, Laura Claridge looks back at the firm’s beginnings and the dynamic woman who helped to define American letters for the twentieth century. Drawing on a vast cache of papers, Claridge also captures Blanche’s “witty, loyal, and amusing” personality, and her charged yet oddly loving relationship with her husband. An intimate and often surprising biography, The Lady with the Borzoi is the story of an ambitious, seductive, and impossibly hardworking woman who was determined not to be overlooked or easily categorized.
May 24, 2017: “The Book of Aron” by Jim Shepard
Small and sullen, Aron is eight years old when his family moves from a rural Polish village to hectic Warsaw. At first gradually and then ever more quickly, his family’s opportunities for a better life vanish as the occupying German government imposes harsh restrictions. Officially confined to the Jewish quarter, with hunger, vermin, disease and death all around him, Aron makes his way from apprentice to master smuggler until finally, with everyone for whom he cared stripped away from him, his only option is Janusz Korczak, the renowned doctor, children’s rights advocate, and radio host who runs a Jewish orphanage. And Korczak in turn awakens the humanity inside the boy. “A masterpiece…A story of such startling candor about the complexity of heroism that it challenges each of us to greater courage.” —The Washington Post
April 25, 2017 – “The Meursault Investigation” by Kamel Daoud and “The Stranger” by Albert Camus
A New York Times Notable Book of 2015 — Michiko Kakutani, The Top Books of 2015, New York Times — TIME Magazine Top Ten Books of 2015 — Publishers Weekly Best Books of the Year — Financial Times Best Books of the Year “A tour-de-force reimagining of Camus’s The Stranger, from the point of view of the mute Arab victims.” —The New Yorker He was the brother of “the Arab” killed by the infamous Meursault, the antihero of Camus’s classic novel. Seventy years after that event, Harun, who has lived since childhood in the shadow of his sibling’s memory, refuses to let him remain anonymous: he gives his brother a story and a name—Musa—and describes the events that led to Musa’s casual murder on a dazzlingly sunny beach. In a bar in Oran, night after night, he ruminates on his solitude, on his broken heart, on his anger with men desperate for a god, and on his disarray when faced with a country that has so disappointed him. A stranger among his own people, he wants to be granted, finally, the right to die. The Stranger is of course central to Daoud’s story, in which he both endorses and criticizes one of the most famous novels in the world. A worthy complement to its great predecessor, The Meursault Investigation is not only a profound meditation on Arab identity and the disastrous effects of colonialism in Algeria, but also a stunning work of literature in its own right, told in a unique and affecting voice.
“All Who Go Do Not Return” by Shulem Deen
“On the Move” by Oliver Sacks
“The Yid” by Paul Goldberg
“The Heart of Loneliness: How Jewish Wisdom Can Help You Cope and Find Comfort” by Rabbi Marc Katz
“Confessions” by Rabee Jaber and “The Mehlis Report” by Rabee Jaber
“The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav klimt’s Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer” by Anne-Marie O’Connor
“The Door” by Magda Szabo
“The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics” by Daniel James Brown
“Honeydew” by Edith Pearlman
“The Hilltop” by Assaf Gavron
“The Post Office Girl” by Stefan Zweig
“The Train to Crystal City” by Jan Jarboe Russell
“An Officer and a Spy” by Robert Harris
“Dora Bruder” by Patrick Modiano
“All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr
“Solving the Mystery of a Strange and Dangerous Life” by Tom Reiss
“Ali and Nino” by Kurban Said
“The Moor’s Last Sigh” by Salmon Rushdie
“The Assistant” by Bernard Malamud
“Hour of the Star” and “Near to the Wild Heart” by Clarice Lispector
“Little Failure by Gary Shteyngart
“The Aleppo Codex” by Matti Friedman
“There Are Jews in My House” by Lara Vapnyar
“Stranger in My Own Country” by Yascha Mounk
“Jews Without Money” by Michael Gold
“Adjusting Sights” and “The Dawning of the Day: A Jerusalem Tale” by Haim Sabato
“Dissident Gardens” by Jonathan Lethem.
Tuesdays, 10:30 AM and Wednesdays, 7:00 PM
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