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Monday, December 17, 2018

“The Weight of Ink,” by Rachel Kadish, 2018. Mariner Books. Hardcover. Paperback, 592 pages. ISBN-13: 978-1328915788.

Winner of the Assoc. of Jewish Library’s Jewish Fiction Award, “The Weight of Ink” is set in London of the 1660s and of the early 21st century. Electrifying and ambitious, “The Weight of Ink” is about women separated by centuries—and the choices and sacrifices they must make in order to reconcile the life of the heart and mind.


“The Trick,” by Emanuel Bergmann, 2018. Atria Books. Paperback, 384 pages. ISBN-13: 978-1501155833

A deeply moving, humorous story of a boy who believes in everything and an old man who believes in nothing. Recalling the melancholy humor of Isaac Bashevis Singer and the heartbreaking pathos of the film ”Life is Beautiful,” this outstanding first novel is an irreverent yet deeply moving story about a young boy who believes in magic and a disillusioned old man who believes in nothing, as well as a gripping and heartfelt tale about the circle of life.


“Necessary Stories,” by Haim Watzman. 2017. West 26th street Press. Paperback, 174 pages. ISBN-13: 978-1630640576

Twenty-four stories of Israeli and Jewish life, chosen from the more than 100 Haim Watzman has written over the last nine years in his “Necessary Stories” column in the The Jerusalem Report. Bookended by a flashback to his first weekend in Israel 40 years ago and a storytelling encounter on a recent flight back home from the US, these stories—funny, meditative and sad, set in immigrant camps, the army and the author’s own neighborhood in south Jerusalem—uniquely capture what it is like, in our age, to be an Israeli and a Jew.


“Claiming My Place: Coming of Age in the Shadow of the Holocaust,” by Planaria Price and Helen Reichmann West. 2018. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Hardcover, 272 pages. Age range: 12-18 years ISBN-13: 978-0374305291.

This book employs a first-person narration, and although the story is true, it’s classified as historical fiction because the dialogue is invented.

Meet Barbara Reichmann, once known as Gucia Gomolinska: smart, determined Jewish girl growing up in Poland during the 1920s and ’30s. Her world is turned upside down when Nazis invade Poland and as the war escalates, Gucia and her family, friends and neighbors suffer starvation, disease and worse. She decides to hide her identity as a Jew and leaves behind everything and everyone she has ever known in order to claim a new life for herself.


“Hunting the Truth: Memoirs of Beate and Serge Klarsfeld,” 2018. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Hardcover, 464 pages. ISBN-13: 978-0374279820.

They were born on opposite sides of the Second World War, met on the Paris Métro and fell in love. For the past half century, Beate and Serge Klarsfeld have hunted and exposed Nazi war criminals all over the world. They have been sent to prison for their beliefs and have risked their lives protesting anti-Semitism and all while raising their children and sustaining their marriage. Now, for the first time, in ”Hunting the Truth,” a major memoir written in their alternating voices, Beate and Serge Klarsfeld tell the thrilling story of a lifetime dedicated to combating evil.


“From Forbidden Fruit to Milk and Honey: A Commentary on Food in the Torah,” by Diana Lipton. 2018. Urim Publications. Hardcover, 236 pages. ISBN-13: 978-9655242522.

Food is at the heart of Jewish life and culture. “From Forbidden Fruit to Milk and Honey” spotlights food in the Torah itself, as it explores themes like love, compassion, social justice, memory, belonging, deception, life and death. Originally an online project to support the food rescue charity, Leket Israel,the book comprises short essays on food in the parsha by 52 internationally acclaimed scholars and Jewish educators, and a verse-by-verse commentary by Diana Lipton.


“Consumer Culture and the Making of Modern Jewish Identity,” by Dr. Gideon Reuveni. 2017. Cambridge University Press. Hardcover, 280 pages. ISBN-13: 978-1107011304.

Anti-Semitic stereotypes of Jews as capitalists have hindered research into the economic dimension of the Jewish past. But the economy has been central to Jewish life and the Jewish image in the world—Jews not only made money but spent money. This book is the first to investigate the intersection between consumption, identity and Jewish history in Europe. It aims to examine the role and place of consumption within Jewish society and the ways consumerism generated and reinforced Jewish notions of belonging from the end of the 18th century to the beginning of the new millennium. It shows how the advances of modernization and secularization in the modern period increased the importance of consumption in Jewish life, making it a significant factor in the process of redefining Jewish identity.


“Maybe Esther: A Family Story,” by Katja Petrowskaja. 2018. Harper. Hardcover, 272 pages. ISBN-13: 978-0062337542.

Katja Petrowskaja’s idea of tracking her family tree across 20th-century Russia, Ukraine, Poland and Germany blossomed into this striking and highly original work of narrative nonfiction, an account of her search for meaning within the stories of her ancestors. Petrowskaja delves into family legends, introducing a remarkable cast of characters, but how do you talk about what you can’t know? To answer this complex question, Petrowskaja visits the scenes of these events, bringing to light family figures who threaten to drift into obscurity. “Maybe Esther” is a poignant, haunting investigation of the effects of history on one family.


“C5: From Impact to Recovery,” by Judith Jo Pachino. 2018. ExhaleBooks Publishing Paperback, 244 pages. ISBN-13: 978-0692966051.

On May 3, 2013, Pachino’s husband suffered a spinal cord injury. The months that followed were the stuff of nightmares. “C5” is the poignant, inspirational account of the first year of life and recovery post-accident. Pachino brings the reader into the hospital rooms, the therapy gyms and her very thoughts as her husband battles the unthinkable and perseveres with faith and grit. Compelling and thought-provoking, her story is often raw yet filled with hope. This is a story that will resonate with you long after the turn of the last page.

Pachino’s husband, Mel, is a well-known pharmacist and basketball coach in Baltimore’s frum community.


“Drop by Drop: A Story of Rabbi Akiva,” by Jacqueline Jules. 2017. Kar-Ben Publishing. Paperback, 32 pages. Age Range: 3-6 years. ISBN-13: 978-1512420913.

Akiva is just a poor shepherd living an ordinary life, until he falls in love with Rachel. Rachel thinks her husband could become a great man of learning but Akiva can’t even read! Is he too old to be a scholar or can he follow the example of the water in the nearby brook? Water is soft, yet drop by drop, it can soften the hardest stone.


“The Spy Who Played Baseball,” by Carrie Jones. 2018. Kar-Ben Publishing. Paperback, 32 pages. Age Range: 5-9 years. ISBN-13: 978-1512458640.

Moe Berg is not a typical baseball player. He’s Jewish—very unusual for the major leagues in the 1930s—has a law degree, speaks several languages and loves traveling the world. He also happens to be a spy for the U.S. government. When World War II begins, Moe trades his baseball career for a life of danger and secrecy. Using his unusual range of skills, he sneaks into enemy territory to gather crucial information that could help defeat the Nazis. But he also has plenty of secrets of his own.

Influenced by illuminated manuscripts, Karla Gudeon’s illustrations bring Ben Zion—and the rebirth of Hebrew—to life.


“Irving Berlin: The Immigrant Boy Who Made America Sing,” by Nancy Churnin. 2018. Creston Books. Hardcover: 32 pages. Age Range: 6-9 years. ISBN-13: 978-1939547446.

Irving Berlin came to the United States as a refugee from Tsarist Russia, escaping a pogrom that destroyed his village. Growing up on the streets of the Lower East Side, the rhythms of jazz and blues inspired his own song-writing career. Starting with his first big hit, Alexander’s Ragtime Band, Berlin created the soundtrack for American life with his catchy tunes and irresistible lyrics. With “God Bless America,” he sang his thanks to the country which had given him a home and a chance to express his creative vision.


“The Children of Willesden Lane: A True Story of Hope and Survival During World War II,” [Young Reader’s Edition] by Mona Golabek and Lee Cohen (adapted by Emil Sher). 2017. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. Paperback, 224 pages. Age Range: 8-12 years. ISBN-13: 978-0316554886.

Fourteen-year-old Lisa Jura was a musical prodigy who hoped to become a concert pianist. But when Hitler’s armies advanced on pre-war Vienna, Lisa’s parents were forced to make a difficult decision. Able to secure passage for only one of their three daughters through the Kindertransport, they chose to send gifted Lisa to London for safety.

As she yearned to be reunited with her family while she lived in a home for refugee children on Willesden Lane, Lisa’s music became a beacon of hope. A memoir of courage, survival and the power of music to uplift the human spirit, this compelling tribute to one special young woman and the lives she touched will both educate and inspire young readers.


“The Six-Day Hero,” by Tammar Stein. 2017. Kar-Ben Publishing. Paperback, 256 pages.Age Range: 8-13 years. ISBN-13:
978-1512428568.

Motti knows that war is coming. Israel is only 19 years old, the same age as Motti’s brave older brother, Gideon, and the tiny country is surrounded by enemies. It’s only a matter of time before Egypt, Jordan and Syria attack. Motti wishes he could join the Israeli army like Gideon and be a hero. But when his best friend’s family flees the country and his brother goes off to fight, Motti realizes this war isn’t a game. His family is in danger, and Israel’s very survival is at stake.


“What the Night Sings: A Novel,” by Vesper Stamper. 2018. Knopf Books for Young Readers. Hardcover, 272 pages. Age Range: 12-17 years. ISBN-13: 978-1524700386.

For fans of “The Book Thief” and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” comes a lushly illustrated novel about a teen Holocaust survivor, who must come to terms with who she is and how to rebuild her life. “‘What the Night Sings’ is a book from the heart, of the heart and to the heart. Vesper Stamper’s Gerta will stay with you long after you turn the last page. Her story is one of hope and redemption and life—a blessing to the world.” —Deborah Heiligman, award-winning author of “Charles and Emma” and “Vincent and Theo.”


“Thou Shalt Innovate: How Israeli Ingenuity Repairs the World,” by Ari Jorisch. 2018. Gefen Publishing House. Hardcover, 284 pages. ISBN-13: 978-9652299345.

“Thou Shalt Innovate” profiles wondrous Israeli innovations that are collectively changing the lives of billions of people around the world and explores why Israeli innovators of all faiths feel compelled to make the world better. This is the story of how Israelis are helping to feed the hungry, cure the sick, protect the defenseless and make the desert bloom. Israel is playing a disproportionate role in helping solve some of the world’s biggest challenges by tapping into the nation’s soul: the spirit of tikkun olam, the Jewish concept of repairing the world.


“Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor,” by Yossi Klein HaLivni. 2018. Harper. Hardcover: 224 pages. ISBN-13: 978-0062844910.

Attempting to break the agonizing impasse between Israelis and Palestinians, the Israeli commentator and award-winning author of “Like Dreamers” directly addresses his Palestinian neighbors in this taut and provocative book, empathizing with Palestinian suffering and longing for reconciliation as he explores how the conflict looks through Israeli eyes.

Halevi untangles the ideological and emotional knot that has defined the conflict for nearly a century. Halevi’s letters speak not only to his Palestinian neighbor, but to all concerned global citizens, helping us understand the painful choices confronting Israelis and Palestinians that will ultimately help determine the fate of the region.


“A Torah Giant: The Intellectual Legacy of Rabbi Dr. Irving (Yitz) Greenberg,” by Shmuly Yanklowitz. 2018. Urim Publications. Hardcover, 320 pages.ISBN-13: 978-9655242713.

Discover the breadth of wisdom provided by this generation’s giant of Torah: Rabbi Irving “Yitz” Greenberg. Rabbi Greenberg is one of the most renowned leaders in contemporary Jewish communal life. His dedication to a more interconnected and vibrant Judaism has been felt across the academic and broader world. In this new work, the legacy of Rabbi Greenberg is discussed at length by those who have been affected by his inclusive model of contemporary Judaism, his approachable erudition, commitment to fostering meaningful interfaith dialogue, and constant striving to make the world a more just place.


“The Talmud: A Biography,” by Barry Scott Wimpfheimer. 2018. Princeton University Press. Hardcover, 320 pages.ISBN-13: 978-0691161846.

The life and times of an enduring work of Jewish spirituality.

The Babylonian Talmud, a post-biblical Jewish text that is part scripture and part commentary, is an unlikely bestseller. Written in a hybrid of Hebrew and Aramaic, it is often ambiguous to the point of incomprehension, and its subject matter reflects a narrow scholasticism that should hardly have broad appeal. Yet the Talmud has remained in print for centuries and is more popular today than ever. Barry Scott Wimpfheimer tells the remarkable story of this ancient Jewish book and explains why it has endured for almost two millennia.


“The Great Shift: Encountering God in Biblical Times,” by James L. Kugel. 2017. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Hardcover, 496 pages. ISBN-13: 978-0544520554.

Why does the Bible depict a world in which humans, with surprising regularity, encounter the divine—wrestling an angel, addressing a burning bush, issuing forth prophecy without any choice in the matter? Over the course of the 1000-year Biblical Era, encounters with God changed dramatically. As James L. Kugel argues, this transition allows us to glimpse a massive shift in human experience—the emergence of the modern, Western sense of self.

In this landmark work, Kugel fuses revelatory close readings of ancient texts with modern scholarship from a range of fields, including neuroscience, anthropology, psychology and archaeology, to explain the origins of belief, worship and the sense of self, and the changing nature of God through history. “The Great Shift” tells the story of a revolution in human consciousness and the enchantment of everyday life.


“Real-Life Kosher Cooking: Family-Friendly Recipes for Every Day and Special Occasions,” by Miriam Pascal. 2017. Mesorah Publications Ltd. Hardcover, 304 pages. ISBN-13:978-1422619438

Hundreds of thousands of home cooks turn to Miriam Pascal’s overtimecook.com food site. They know that they will find recipes there for food that is wholesome yet elegant, adventurous yet doable—and fun! Thousands of her fans asked for it, and now, finally, here it is: Miriam’s stunning collection of recipes for real-life cooking—and real people.

In “Real-Life Kosher Cooking” Miriam shows us that you don’t need hard-to-find ingredients or pricey equipment to make interesting food; all you need is a touch of passion, a dash of caring and a hearty helping of creativity.


“Millennial Kosher: Recipes Reinvented for the Modern Palate,” by Chanie Apfelbaum. 2018. Mesorah Publications Ltd. Hardcover, 320 pages. ISBN-13: 978-1422620557.

Chanie Apfelbaum, creator of world-renowned kosher food blog Busy In Brooklyn, makes her cookbook debut with a collection of modern, cultural, trendy and bold dishes that reflect her passion for reinventing traditional foods with a Millennial vibe.

The millennial kosher kitchen is one in which food is reinvented and reimagined in new and exciting ways with ingredients that are healthier, fresher and more vibrant than ever before. There’s an emphasis on fresh and seasonal ingredients, fewer processed foods and healthier non-dairy alternatives. Modern kosher food reinterprets and reinvents tradition, while still staying true to our heritage. (See our full review in the Food and Wine Link on page 67.)

By Phil Jacobs