CBE 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
The CBE Book Group has been privileged to welcome several acclaimed authors to speak about their works. To view recordings of some of these talks, including conversations with Jamie Bernstein, Matti Friedman, Yousef Bashir, David Maraniss, Helen Fremont, Julie Metz, and Sherry Turkle, click here.
Winner of the Choix Goncourt Prize. Anne Berest’s The Postcard is a vivid portrait of twentieth-century Parisian intellectual and artistic life, an enthralling investigation into family secrets, and poignant tale of a Jewish family devastated by the Holocaust and partly restored through the power of storytelling. January, 2003. Together with the usual holiday cards, an anonymous postcard is delivered to the Berest family home. On the front, a photo of the Opéra Garnier in Paris. On the back, the names of Anne Berest’s maternal great-grandparents, Ephraïm and Emma, and their children, Noémie and Jacques—all killed at Auschwitz. Fifteen years after the postcard is delivered, Anne, the heroine of this novel, is moved to discover who sent it and why. Aided by her chain-smoking mother, family members, friends, associates, a private detective, a graphologist, and many others, she embarks on a journey to discover the fate of the Rabinovitch family: their flight from Russia following the revolution, their journey to Latvia, Palestine, and Paris. What emerges is a moving saga that shatters long-held certainties about Anne’s family, her country, and herself. “Powerful, meticulously imagined… The Postcard (translated into a lucid and precise English by Tina Kover) takes its readers on a deep dive into one Jewish family’s history, and, inextricably, into the devastating history of the Holocaust in France… [A] powerful literary work… that contains a single grand-scale act of self-discovery and many moments of historical illumination.” —Julie Orringer, The New York Times Book Review
“Isabella Hammad is a master of subtle nuance.” ― New York Times After years away from her family’s homeland, and reeling from a disastrous love affair, actress Sonia Nasir returns to Haifa to visit her older sister Haneen. This is her first trip back since the second intifada and the deaths of their grandparents: while Haneen made a life here commuting to Tel Aviv to teach at the university, Sonia remained in London to focus on her acting career and now dissolute marriage. On her return, she finds her relationship to Palestine is fragile, both bone-deep and new. At Haneen’s, Sonia meets the charismatic and candid Mariam, a local director, and finds herself roped into a production of Hamlet in the West Bank. Sonia is soon rehearsing Gertrude’s lines in Classical Arabic and spending more time in Ramallah than Haifa, along with a dedicated group of men from all over historic Palestine who, in spite of competing egos and priorities, each want to bring Shakespeare to that side of the wall. As opening night draws closer it becomes clear just how many violent obstacles stand before a troupe of Palestinian actors. Amidst it all, the life Sonia once knew starts to give way to the daunting, exhilarating possibility of finding a new self in her ancestral home. A stunning rendering of present-day Palestine, Enter Ghost is a story of diaspora, displacement, and the connection to be found in family and shared resistance. Timely, thoughtful, and passionate, Isabella Hammad’s highly anticipated second novel is an exquisite feat, an unforgettable story of artistry under occupation.
Winner of the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature A fresh portrait of the Polish-Jewish writer and artist, and a gripping account of the secret operation to rescue his last artworks. The twentieth-century artist Bruno Schulz was born an Austrian, lived as a Pole, and died a Jew. First a citizen of the Habsburg monarchy, he would, without moving, become the subject of the West Ukrainian People’s Republic, the Second Polish Republic, the USSR, and, finally, the Third Reich. Yet to use his own metaphor, Schulz remained throughout, a citizen of the Republic of Dreams. He was a master of twentieth-century imaginative fiction who mapped the anxious perplexities of his time; Isaac Bashevis Singer called him “one of the most remarkable writers who ever lived.” Schulz was also a talented illustrator and graphic artist whose masochistic drawings would catch the eye of a sadistic Nazi officer. Schulz’s art became the currency in which he bought life. Drawing on extensive new reporting and archival research, Benjamin Balint chases the inventive murals Schulz painted on the walls of an SS villa―the last traces of his vanished world―into multiple dimensions of the artist’s life and afterlife. Sixty years after Schulz was murdered, those murals were miraculously rediscovered, only to be secretly smuggled by Israeli agents to Jerusalem. The ensuing international furor summoned broader perplexities, not just about who has the right to curate orphaned artworks and to construe their meanings, but about who can claim to stand guard over the legacy of Jews killed in the Nazi slaughter. By re-creating the artist’s milieu at a crossroads not just of Jewish and Polish culture but of art, sex, and violence, Bruno Schulz itself stands as an act of belated restitution, offering a kaleidoscopic portrait of a life with all its paradoxes and curtailed possibilities.
“The lives of a Jewish boy escaping Nazi-occupied Europe and a mother and daughter fleeing twenty-first-century El Salvador intersect in this ambitious, intricate novel about war and immigration” (People), from the New York Times bestselling author of A Long Petal of the Sea and Violeta “Allende’s storytelling walks a lyrical romanticism on roads imposed by social and political turmoil.”—NPR Vienna, 1938. Samuel Adler is five years old when his father disappears during Kristallnacht—the night his family loses everything. As her child’s safety becomes ever harder to guarantee, Samuel’s mother secures a spot for him on a Kindertransport train out of Nazi-occupied Austria to England. He boards alone, carrying nothing but a change of clothes and his violin. Arizona, 2019. Eight decades later, Anita Díaz and her mother board another train, fleeing looming danger in El Salvador and seeking refuge in the United States. But their arrival coincides with the new family separation policy, and seven-year-old Anita finds herself alone at a camp in Nogales. She escapes her tenuous reality through her trips to Azabahar, a magical world of the imagination. Meanwhile, Selena Durán, a young social worker, enlists the help of a successful lawyer in hopes of tracking down Anita’s mother. Intertwining past and present, The Wind Knows My Name tells the tale of these two unforgettable characters, both in search of family and home. It is both a testament to the sacrifices that parents make and a love letter to the children who survive the most unfathomable dangers—and never stop dreaming.
A timely, riveting book that presents for the first time an alternative history of 1930s Britain, revealing how prominent fascist sympathizers nearly succeeded in overturning British democracy—using the past as a road map to navigate the complexities of today’s turn toward authoritarianism. Hitler’s Girl is a groundbreaking history that reveals how, in the 1930s, authoritarianism nearly took hold in Great Britain as it did in Italy and Germany. Drawing on recently declassified intelligence files, Lauren Young details the pervasiveness of Nazi sympathies among the British aristocracy, as significant factions of the upper class methodically pursued an actively pro-German agenda. She reveals how these aristocrats formed a murky Fifth Column to Nazi Germany, which depended on the complacence and complicity of the English to topple its proud and long-standing democratic tradition—and very nearly succeeded. As she highlights the parallels to our similarly treacherous time, Young exposes the involvement of secret organizations like the Right Club, which counted the Duke of Wellington among its influential members; the Cliveden Set, which ran a shadow foreign policy in support of Hitler; and the shocking four-year affair between socialite Unity Mitford and Adolf Hitler. Eye-opening and instructive, Hitler’s Girl re-evaluates 1930s England to help us understand our own vulnerabilities and poses urgent questions we must face to protect our freedom. At what point does complacency become complicity, posing real risk to the democratic norms that we take for granted? Will democracy again succeed—and will it require a similarly cataclysmic event like World War II to ensure its survival? Will we, in our own defining moment, stand up for democratic values—or will we succumb to political extremism? “Defense analyst Young explores the pro-Nazi sentiments of ‘an influential segment of [Britain’s] elite’ in this . . . intriguing history . . . The brisk narrative contains many shocking revelations.” — Publishers Weekly “A fresh analysis of fascism in 1930s Britain. . . . Thanks to newly opened and expanded archives, the author is able to expose a host of fascist-leaning figures during the 1930s, revealing the shockingly broad complacency and complicity among the aristocratic class.” — Kirkus Reviews
“Extraordinary . . . No single historical or fictional work has been more tellingly or insightfully depicted . . . the insidious manner in which Nazism began to permeate the fabric of German society than Lion Feuchtwanger’s great novel.” — New York Times First published in 1934 but fully imagining the future of Germany over the ensuing years, The Oppermanns tells the compelling story of a remarkable German Jewish family confronted by Hitler’s rise to power. Compared to works by Voltaire and Zola on its original publication, this prescient novel strives to awaken an often unsuspecting, sometimes politically naive, or else willfully blind world to the consequences of its stance in the face of national events — in this case, the rising tide of Nazism in 1930s Germany. The past and future meet in the saga of the Oppermanns, for three generations a family commercially well established in Berlin. In assimilated citizens like them, the emancipated Jew in Germany has become a fact. In a Berlin inhabited by troops in brown shirts, however, the Oppermanns have more to fear than an alien discomfort. For along with the swastikas and fascist salutes come discrimination, deceit, betrayal, and a tragedy that history has proved to be as true as this novel’s astonishing, profoundly moving tale.
The Empathy Diaries by Sherry Turkle
The Tunnel by A. B. Yehoshua
Culture Warlords: My Journey into the Dark Web of White Supremacy by Talia Lavin
The Slaughterman’s Daughter by Yaniv Iczkovits
Who by Fire: Leonard Cohen in the Sinai by Matti Friedman
The Netanyahus: An Account of a Minor and Ultimately Even Negligible Episode in the History of a Very Famous Family by Joshua Cohen
More Than I Love My Life by David Grossman
The King of Warsaw by Szczepan Twardoch
The Polish Boxer, Monastery, and Mourning by Eduardo Halfon
The Orchard by David Hopen
Eva and Eve by Julie Metz
The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste
The Art of Leaving by Ayelet Tsabari
A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win WWII by Sonia Purnell
Gun Island by Amitav Ghosh
The Escape Artist by Helen Fremont
Apeirogon by Colum McCann
A Good American Family: The Red Scare and My Father by David Maraniss
The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck
Revolutionaries by Joshua Furst
The Words of My Father by Yousef Bashir
Nine Folds Make a Paper Swan by Ruth Gilligan
The Mandelbaum Gate by Muriel Spark
A Terrible Country by Keith Gessen
Spies of No Country: Secret Lives at the Birth of Israel by Matti Friedman
The Parisian by Isabella Hammad
Famous Father Girl by Jamie Bernstein
Family Papers: A Sephardic Journey Through the Twentieth Century by Sarah Abrevaya Stein
I Want You to Know We’re Still Here: A Post-Holocaust Memoir by Esther Safran Foer
CBE Community Art Show
The CBE Community Art Show is a weekend packed with art, food, music, and great conversation. For years, artists of all mediums within the CBE community have displayed their works in a weekend-long show at CBE. In 2023, the show took place during the weekend of May 5–7. Information about the 2024 art show will be announced at a later date.
Hosted by member author Anna Solomon
At CBE, we count many acclaimed authors, journalists, and screenwriters among our membership. Join us for our quarterly series, The Schmutz: CBE Writers Get Real, where the writers in our midst will introduce us to the books, ideas, and authors they can’t stop thinking about.
May 23, 2023
Felicia Berliner, author of Schmutz, in conversation with CBE member Courtney Zoffness
February 8, 2023
Marjorie Ingall, co-author of Sorry, Sorry, Sorry: The Case for Good Apologies, in conversation with CBE member Ron Lieber
December 7, 2022
Stephen Mills, author of The Chosen, in conversation with CBE member Anna Solomon
Brooklyn By the Book
Brooklyn By the Book is a collaboration between the Community Bookstore of Park Slope and Congregation Beth Elohim (CBE). We host best-selling authors here at CBE to talk about their new works and engage in conversation with our community.
Community Bookstore of Park Slope is one of the oldest surviving—and thriving—independent bookstores in New York City. In 2010, Ezra Goldstein and Stephanie Valdez took over the management of the store, which they then purchased in December 2011. During the store’s 40 year history, it has hosted hundreds of readings, both in the store and off-site.
Stephanie Valdez, Community Bookstore and Terrace Books Co-Owner and Event Director
Brooklyn by the Book with Franklin Foer
Tuesday, September 12 at 7:30 PM in the CBE Sanctuary
In collaboration with Community Bookstore, we are pleased to welcome Franklin Foer discussing The Last Politician in conversation with Jodi Kantor. The Last Politician tells the definitive insider story of the first two years of the Biden presidency, with exclusive access to Biden’s longtime team of advisers, and presents a gripping portrait of a president during this momentous time in our nation’s history. Click here for tickets.
Brooklyn By the Book with Jeff Tweedy
Monday, November 6 at 8:00 PM in the CBE Sanctuary
This November, Jeff Tweedy joins CBE and our friends at Community Bookstore to discuss his new book, World Within a Song, with Amanda Petrusich. After two New York Times bestsellers that cemented and expanded his legacy as one of America’s best-loved performers and songwriters, Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back) and How to Write One Song, Jeff Tweedy is back with another disarming, beautiful, and inspirational book about why we listen to music, why we love songs, and how music can connect us to each other and to ourselves. Click here for tickets.
April 24, 2023
Don’t Tell Anybody the Secrets I Told You, Lucinda Williams with Steve Earle
April 20, 2023
On Grief, Jennifer Senior with Andrew Solomon
November 12, 2022
Walking Beauty and Orwell’s Roses, Rebecca Solnit with Sabrina Imbler
October 19, 2022
Liberation Day, George Saunders with Brandon Taylor
June 13, 2022
How to Raise An Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi with Mira Jacobs
October 6, 2019:
She Said, Jodi Kantor & Megan Twohey
September 26, 2019:
Year of the Monkey, Patti Smith
August 13, 2019:
How to Be An Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi
May 28, 2019:
How to Change Your Mind, Michael Pollan
November 18, 2018:
We Were Eight Years in Power, Ta-Nehisi Coates
October 23, 2018:
Ottolenghi Simple, Yotam Ottolenghi
September 12, 2017:
Forest Dark, Nicole Krauss
September 7, 2017:
The Golden House, Salman Rushdie
July 13, 2017:
A Stone of Hope, by Jim St. Germain
March 2, 2017:
4 3 2 1, by Paul Auster
February 15, 2017:
Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders
November 9, 2016:
Thus Bad Begins, Javier Marías
October 19, 2016:
A Gambler’s Anatomy, Jonathan Lethem
September 15, 2016:
M Train, Patti Smith