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Saturday, August 17, 2019

Lioness: Golda Meir and the Nation of Israel

by Francine Klagsbrun, Schocken, October 2017.

Golda Meir was a world figure unlike any other. Born in tsarist Russia in 1898, she immigrated to America in 1906 and grew up in Milwaukee, where from her earliest years she displayed the political consciousness and organizational skills that would eventually catapult her into the inner circles of Israel’s founding generation. Moving to mandatory Palestine in 1921 with her husband, the passionate socialist joined a kibbutz but soon left and was hired at a public works office by the man who would become the great love of her life. A series of public service jobs brought her to the attention of David Ben-Gurion, and her political career took off. Fundraising in America in 1948, secretly meeting in Amman with King Abdullah right before Israel’s declaration of independence, mobbed by thousands of Jews in a Moscow synagogue in 1948 as Israel’s first representative to the USSR, serving as minister of labor and foreign minister in the 1950s and 1960s, Golda brought fiery oratory, plainspoken appeals, and shrewd deal-making to the cause to which she had dedicated her life—the welfare and security of the State of Israel and its inhabitants.

As prime minister, Golda negotiated arms agreements with Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger and had dozens of clandestine meetings with Jordan’s King Hussein in the unsuccessful pursuit of a land-for-peace agreement with Israel’s neighbors. But her time in office ended in tragedy, when Israel was caught off guard by Egypt and Syria’s surprise attack on Yom Kippur in 1973. Analyzing newly available documents from Israeli government archives, Francine Klagsbrun looks into whether Golda could have prevented that war and whether in its darkest days she contemplated using nuclear force. Resigning in the war’s aftermath, she spent her final years keeping a hand in national affairs and bemusedly enjoying international acclaim. Klagsbrun’s superbly researched and masterly recounted story of Israel’s founding mother gives us a Golda for the ages.

 

Adolfo Kaminsky: A Forger’s Life

by Sarah Kaminsky, DoppelHouse Press, October 2016.

Reader’s Choice Award—Elle Magazine, France

Wall Street Journal’s Top 10 Most Anticipated Non-Fiction: Fall Books 2016

Best-selling author Sarah Kaminsky takes readers through her father, Adolfo Kaminsky’s, perilous and clandestine career as a real-life forger for the French Resistance, the FLN, and numerous other freedom movements of the 20th century. Recruited as a young Jewish teenager for his knowledge of dyes, Kaminsky became the primary forger for the French Resistance during the Nazi occupation of Paris. Then, as a professional photographer, Kaminsky spent the next 25 years clandestinely producing thousands of counterfeit documents for immigrants, exiles, underground political operatives and pacifists across the globe. Kaminsky kept his past cloaked in secrecy well into his 80s, until his daughter convinced him to share the details of the life-threatening work he did on behalf of people fighting for justice and peace throughout the world.

 

#Parasha: Weekly Insights From a Leading Israeli Journalist

by Sivan Rahav-Meir, Menorah Books, August, 2017.

For Sivan Rahav-Meir, the Torah is a fountain of wisdom for relationships, education, government, finances, self-growth and beyond. A seasoned journalist in Israel, Rahav-Meir has interviewed heads of state and senior political officials and has uncovered exclusive stories that have impacted the discourse in Israel. With a wealth of real-life experience, she applies her insights to the weekly Torah portion.

This book is Rahav-Meir’s debut book in English. Translated from her bestselling Hebrew parsha book, Rahav-Meir shares brief reflections on the Torah from sources past and present, infused with a thought-provoking message for the entire family. What began as short posts shared on social media has stimulated ongoing conversation amongst religious, traditional and progressive families. Now, she brings her inspiration to the English-speaking public.

 

Ceremony & Celebration: Introduction to the Holidays

by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Maggid, August 2017.

[Note: This is a compilation of all of the introductions in Rabbi Sacks’ Koren Mahzorim.]

When did Rosh Hashanah, the anniversary of creation, become a day of judgment? How does Yom Kippur unite the priest’s atonement with the prophet’s repentance? What makes Kohelet, read on Sukkot, the most joyful book in the Bible? Why is the remembrance of the Pesach story so central to Jewish morality? And which does Shavuot really celebrate—the law or the land?

Bringing together Rabbi Sacks’ acclaimed introductions to the Koren Sacks Mahzorim, “Ceremony & Celebration” reveals the stunning interplay of biblical laws, rabbinic edicts, liturgical themes, communal rituals and profound religious meaning of each of the five central Jewish holidays.

 

Timeless Travels: Tales of Mystery, Intrigue, Humor and Enchantment

by Joseph Rotenberg, Gefen Publishing House, October 2017.

In the style of a modern-day maggid, author Joseph Rotenberg offers up an amazing treat for readers telling the story of Jewish America through personalities, introducing them to most of us for the very first time. Jewish Link publisher Moshe Kinderlehrer wrote that the stories in the book “run the gamut of the contemporary American Jewish experience over the past half-century. The settings for his stories range from the Sinai Desert to contemporary Teaneck. All are infused with a love for tale-telling and his characters. Joe sees himself as a modern-day storyteller of sorts, and in reading through his stories, this sense definitely comes across quite strongly. Many of the stories contain the sense of humor I have come to identify as uniquely Joe’s. Nearly all of his stories have strong and proudly Jewish protagonists.”

 

Waking Lions

by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen; Little, Brown and Company; February 2017.

Winner of the Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Prize

10 Women to Watch in 2017—BookPage

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.

 

Eternal Life: A Novel

by Dara Horn, W. W. Norton & Company, Coming out in January 2018.

What would it really mean to live forever?

Rachel is a woman with a problem: she can’t die. Her recent troubles—widowhood, a failing business, an unemployed middle-aged son—are only the latest in a litany spanning dozens of countries, scores of marriages and hundreds of children. In the 2,000 years since she made a spiritual bargain to save the life of her first son back in Roman-occupied Jerusalem, she’s tried everything to free herself, and only one other person in the world understands: a man she once loved passionately, who has been stalking her through the centuries, convinced they belong together forever.

But as the 21st century begins and her children and grandchildren—consumed with immortality in their own ways, from the frontiers of digital currency to genetic engineering—develop new technologies that could change her fate and theirs, Rachel knows she must find a way out.

Gripping, hilarious and profoundly moving, “Eternal Life” celebrates the bonds between generations, the power of faith, the purpose of death and the reasons for being alive.

 

Famous Nathan: A Family Saga of Coney Island, the American Dream, and the Search for the Perfect Hot Dog

by Lloyd Handwerker, Flatiron Books,
May 2017.

Before the gut-busting eating contests and franchise stores across the country, there was a single man, Nathan Handwerker. An Eastern European Jewish immigrant who left the small provincial world he knew for a fresh start in America, Nathan arrived at Ellis Island speaking not a word of English, unable to read or write, and with $25 hidden in his shoes. He had a simple goal: work hard and carve out a piece of the American dream. But history had bigger plans for Nathan.

Beginning in 1916, with just 5 feet of counter space on Coney Island’s Surf Avenue, Nathan sells his frankfurters for 5 cents. As New York booms, bringing trains and patrons to the seashore, so too does Nathan’s humble frankfurter stand. Soon Nathan’s Famous takes over the whole block, and Nathan gathers around him a dedicated core of workers (many who stay for decades) who help launch the hot dog as an American food staple.

Even as the business soars, Nathan remains fiercely loyal to what matters most: his customers, workers and family. There’s Ida, the wife he fell in love with because no one could peel an onion faster; Sammy, the counterman who could serve an astonishing 60 franks per minute; and then there are the heirs to the empire, Murray and Sol, whose differing visions for the future lead to clashes with their eternally demanding father. Success brings difficulties, and as the two sons vie over control of the family business, a universal story of success and ambition plays out, mirroring the corporatization of the American food industry.

Written by Nathan’s own grandson, and at once a portrait of a man, a family and the changing face of a nation through a century of promise and progress, ”Famous Nathan” is a dog’s tale that snaps and satisfies with every page.

 

The Koren Rav Kook Siddur, adapted and translated by Rabbi Bezalel Naor, Koren, 2017.

Abraham Isaac Hakohen Kook (1865-1935), first Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Eretz Israel, was renowned for his harmonious blending of both the body and the soul of the Torah. Culled from Rav Kook’s own commentary to the Siddur, ‘Olat Re’iyah, and other writings of the master, as well as rich anecdotes transmitted by Rav Kook’s son and major disciples, The Koren Rav Kook Siddur speaks to the soul, while it connects us all to the sacred soil of the Holy Land.

The Siddur retains Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks’ immensely popular English translation, while it features a digest of Rav Kook’s commentary, never before seen in English. The work includes an introduction about Rav Kook’s overall philosophy of prayer.

The commentary, based on Rav Kook’s writings, has been adapted and translated by Rabbi Bezalel Naor, an acknowledged interpreter of Rav Kook’s thought.

 

When Basketball Was Jewish: Voices of Those Who Played the Game

by Douglas Stark, University of Nebraska Press, September 2017.

In the 2015-16 NBA season, the Jewish presence in the league was largely confined to Adam Silver, the commissioner; David Blatt, the coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers; and Omri Casspi, a player for the Sacramento Kings. Basketball, however, was once referred to as a Jewish sport. Shortly after the game was invented at the end of the 19th century, it spread throughout the country and became particularly popular among Jewish immigrant children in northeastern cities because it could easily be played in an urban setting. Many of basketball’s early stars were Jewish, including Shikey Gotthoffer, Sonny Hertzberg, Nat Holman, Red Klotz, Dolph Schayes, Moe Spahn and Max Zaslofsky.

In this oral history collection, Douglas Stark chronicles Jewish basketball throughout the 20th century, focusing on 1900 to 1960. As told by the prominent voices of 20 people who played, coached and refereed it, these conversations shed light on what it means to be a Jew and on how the game evolved from its humble origins to the sport enjoyed worldwide by billions of fans today. The game’s development, changes in style, rise in popularity and national emergence after World War II are narrated by men reliving their youth, when basketball was a game they played for the love of it.

“When Basketball Was Jewish” reveals, as no previous book has, the evolving role of Jews in basketball and illuminates their contributions to American Jewish history as well as basketball history.

 By Phil Jacobs