rebbeWhat will you be reading this Summer in the Northern Hemisphere of Earth?

Please add your recommendations in the comments below.

Among the book I have started to read or am recommending are:


How to Succeed in Business
Without Really Crying

Lessons from a life in Comedy
by Carol Leifer

I already finished this Summer read. It is a great read for any graduating Senior. Comedian Carol Leifer tells her story of working hard, focusing, and persevering in the world of entertainment.

How should you network? How should you not screw over people? How to be nice to waiters, since one day they might be writers, producers, actors, or fans? How to approach celebrities whom you know, even if they spent the might drinking with you and can’t remember you. How to interview and ask questions, dress appropriately, write personalized thank-you notes, be reasonable, and be willing to offer assistance on scripts for free, since it might lead to a paying gig.

Leifer grew up on Long Island. Her parents played all the important comedy record albums of the time: from Mel Brooks to Mickey Katz. They let Carol stay up late to watch the great comedians on Ed Sullivan. They once drove her into Manhattan to eat at the same West Village bistro as her idol – Soupy Sales (what kind of parents did that sort of stuff? Great ones.)

When she went to what is now called SUNY Binghamton for college, her dormitory floor-mate was a guy named Paul Reiser. He became a friend and college boyfriend. They both did acting and stand-up, and came down to NYC on Route 80 for gigs. There they met two up and coming comics: Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld. Carol’s father supported her decision to drop out of college to pursue stand-up, striking while the iron was hot. From gigs at brick-walled comedy shops and campuses, where being a woman was a novelty, but also – as Carol explains – a strength. Leifer worked her way up the stand-up comedy ladder. She also landed writing spots. From Late Night with David Letterman and Saturday Night Live to Seinfeld and Larry Sanders, from co-creating The Ellen Show to writing for seven Oscar’s and Modern Family, Carol has written for and/or performed on some of the best TV comedies. She even got her own situation comedy which was well reviewed, but hey, it was on the WB channel, and most Americans did not even know that channel existed. In very short chapters, Carol shares her experiences and anecdotes and teaches important career lessons. She shares successes and also the errors that led to temporary downfalls. Can you ever rest? Unlikely. If The Tonight Show with Carson says “no, thanks” twenty times, should you audition a twenty-first time? Even though she has written for The Oscars more than half a dozen times, she still needs to audition for the show. Why is Larry David’s shoulder key to his liking or disliking an idea for an episode? Should you burn a bridge after getting rejected by the Larry Sanders Show? No way. Her graciousness ended up landing her a writing gig after the other finalist candidate didn’t work out. The read is funny, Jewishy, and educational. But hey Carol.. you dont have to mention that your girlfriend is “your partner” in every chapter.

Lovers at the Chameleon Club,
Paris 1932:
A Novel
By Francine Prose

Prose, who is separated from her literary lover, Jonathan Safran Foer, wanted to write a non fiction book about a club in Paris. Then she saw it would work better as a novel. This is a richly imagined masterpiece of love, art, and betrayal, exploring the genesis of evil, the unforeseen consequences of love, and the ultimate unreliability of storytelling itself. Paris in the 1920s shimmers with excitement, dissipation, and freedom. It is a place of intoxicating ambition, passion, art, and discontent, where louche jazz venues like the Chameleon Club draw expats, artists, libertines, and parvenus looking to indulge their true selves. It is at the Chameleon where the striking Lou Villars, an extraordinary athlete and scandalous cross-dressing lesbian, finds refuge among the club’s loyal denizens, including the rising Hungarian photographer Gabor Tsenyi, the socialite and art patron Baroness Lily de Rossignol; and the caustic American writer Lionel Maine.

As the years pass, their fortunes—and the world itself—evolve. Lou falls desperately in love and finds success as a race car driver. Gabor builds his reputation with startlingly vivid and imaginative photographs, including a haunting portrait of Lou and her lover, which will resonate through all their lives. As the exuberant twenties give way to darker times, Lou experiences another metamorphosis— sparked by tumultuous events—that will warp her earnest desire for love and approval into something far more.


The Life and Teachings of Menachem M. Schneerson,
the Most Influential Rabbi in Modern History
by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin

Harper Wave
Can you believe that a book on the leader of Chabad is on the American best sellers list in June 2014? Is it a Hasidic miracle? Rabbi Telushkin, who gave us Jewish Wisdom and Jewish Literacy, and a cartload of other books, tells the inspiring story of the late Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who rebuilt a dwindling post-holocaust Jewish spiritual community into a widespread influential Jewish organization. I mean, it is not a simple task to motivate and distribute rabbis from Nepal to Israel to North Dakota and Winnipeg.

From a small synagogue In Crown Heights, Brooklyn, the late Rebbe Schneerson impacted the policies of U.S. presidents and politicians, counseled some of our greatest thinkers, and spread his teachings of love and righteousness to the far corners of the world. An ambassador for Jews globally, his role was unprecedented within a fragmented religion, comprised of diverse, often divided, sects. Many Jews—especially those involved in Chabad—believed that the Rebbe was the messiah while he was still alive.
Drawn from the Rebbe’s private correspondence, Rebbe is a rich and illuminating portrait of this remarkable man who was a devoted spiritual leader and tireless counselor; controversial advocate for women’s rights and community openness; and an accomplished scholar fluent in dozens of languages. Joseph Telushkin illuminates the Rebbe’s rich private life and chronicles his achievements, from his close bond with his congregants to his influence on presidents. Telushkin pays tribute to the Rebbe’s legacy, but he has not written a gushing hagiography.


The Marrying of Chani Kaufman
by Eve Harris

Grove Press

Perhaps the most surprising and intriguing novel on the Man Booker Prize longlist, The Marrying of Chani Kaufman is a debut originally published by a small independent Scottish press. It is London, 2008. Chani Kaufman is 19; betrothed to Baruch Levy, a young man whom she has seen only four times. The novel begins with Chani standing “like a pillar of salt,” wearing a wedding dress that has been passed between members of her family and has the yellowed underarms and rows of alteration stitches to prove it. All of the cups of cold coffee and small talk with men referred to Chani’s parents have led up to this moment. But the happiness Chani and Baruch feel is more than counterbalanced by their anxiety: about the realities of married life; about whether they will be able to have fewer children than Chani’s mother, who has eight daughters; and, most frighteningly, about the unknown, unspeakable secrets of the wedding night. As the book moves back to tell the story of Chani and Baruch’s unusual courtship, it throws into focus a very different couple: Rabbi Chaim Zilberman and his wife, Rebbetzin Rivka Zilberman. As Chani and Baruch prepare for a shared lifetime, Chaim and Rivka struggle to keep their marriage alive—and all four, together with the rest of the community, face difficult decisions about the place of faith and family life in the contemporary.


The Angel of Losses
A Novel
by Stephanie Feldman

July 2014, ecco

The Tiger’s Wife meets A History of Love in this inventive, lushly imagined debut novel that explores the intersections of family secrets, Jewish myths, the legacy of war and history, and the bonds between sisters. When Eli Burke dies, he leaves behind a mysterious notebook full of stories about a magical figure named The White Rebbe, a miracle worker in league with the enigmatic Angel of Losses, protector of things gone astray, and guardian of the lost letter of the alphabet, which completes the secret name of God. When his granddaughter, Marjorie, discovers Eli’s notebook, everything she thought she knew about her grandfather—and her family—comes undone. To find the truth about Eli’s origins and unlock the secrets he kept, she embarks on an odyssey that takes her deep into the past, from 18th century Europe to Nazi-occupied Lithuania, and back to the present, to New York City and her estranged sister Holly, whom she must save from the consequences of Eli’s past. This debut novel interweaves history, theology, and both real and imagined Jewish folktales, The Angel of Losses is a family story of what lasts, and of what we can—and cannot—escape.


The Pat Boone Fan Club
My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew
by Sue William Silverman

(Vermont College of Fine Art)
University of Nebraska Press? Yes, Nebraska has gobs of Jewish themed reads and is the distributor for the Jewish Publicaton Society. I nthis memoir, follow Sue William Silverman, a one-woman cultural mash-up, on her exploration of identity among the mishmash of American idols and ideals that confuse most of us—or should. Pat Boone is our first stop. Now a Tea Party darling, Boone once shone as a squeaky-clean pop music icon of normality, an antidote for Silverman’s own confusing and dangerous home, where being a Jew in a Christian school wasn’t easy, and being the daughter of the Anti-Boone was unspeakable. And yet somehow Silverman found her way, a “gefilte fish swimming upstream,” and found her voice, which in this searching, bracing, hilarious, and moving book tries to make sense of that most troubling American condition: belonging, but to what? She picked fruit on a kibbutz, tramped cross-country in a VW, appeared in a made-for-television show: Silverman is a bobby-soxer, a baby boomer, a hippy, a lefty, and a rebel with something to say to those of us—most of us—still wondering what to make of ourselves.


Judaism in Transition
How Economic Choices Shape Religious Tradition
by Carmel Chiswick

(Research Professor of Economics at George Washington University)
Stanford University Press
Stanford published it. It must be right. At the core of Judaism stands a body of traditions that have remained consistent over millennia. Yet, the practice of these rituals has varied widely across historical and cultural contexts. In “Judaism in Transition,” Professor Carmel U. Chiswick draws on her Jewish upbringing, her journey as a Jewish parent, and her perspective as an Economist to consider how incentives affect the ways that mainstream American Jews have navigated and continue to manage the conflicting demands of everyday life and religious observance. Arguing that economics is a blind spot in our understanding of religion, Chiswick blends her personal experiences with economic analysis to illustrate the cost of Jewish participation—financially and, more importantly, in terms of time and effort.

Because, seriously, Jewish practice costs. There are special foods and diets, memberships, modes of dress, schools, and charities to consider. You need to live near a community, and it might be a costly area. Should you work Saturdays? Should you work for yourself or others? Should you be a radiologist with holidays off, or an OB/GYN? The history of American Jews is almost always told as a success story in the secular world. Chiswick recasts this story as one of innovation in order to maintain a distinctive Jewish culture while keeping pace with the steady march of American life. She shows how TRADEOFFS, often made on an individual and deeply personal level, produce the brand of Judaism which predominates in America today. Along the way, Chiswick explores salient and controversial topics—from intermarriage to immigration, from egalitarianism to connections with Israel. At once a portrait of American Jewish culture and a work that outlines how economic decisions affect religion, Judaism in Transition shows how changes in our economic environment will affect the Jewish community for decades to come


A Possibility of Violence
A Thriller Mystery Novel
by D. A. Mishani

July 2014, Harper

Haunted by the past and his own limitations, Israeli Detective Avraham Avraham must stop a criminal ruthless enough to target children in this evocative and gripping tale of mystery and psychological suspense that is the follow-up to The Missing File, the acclaimed first novel in D. A. Mishani’s literary crime series that was shortlisted for the CWA International Dagger Award.

An explosive device is found in a suitcase near a daycare center in a quiet suburb of Tel Aviv. A few hours later, a threat is received: the suitcase was only the beginning. Inspector Avraham Avraham, back in Israel after a much-needed vacation, is assigned to the investigation. Tormented by the trauma and failure of his past case, Avraham is determined not to make the same mistakes—especially with innocent lives at stake. He may have a break when one of the suspects, a father of two, appears to have gone on the run. Is he the terrorist behind the threat? Is he trying to escape Avraham’s intense investigation? Or perhaps he’s fleeing a far more terrible crime that no one knows has been committed?
No matter how much Avraham wants to atone for the past, redemption may not be possible—not when he’s entangled in a case more deceptive and abominable than any he’s ever faced.



JENNIFER WEINER, author of GOOD IN BED and IN HER SHOES and her latest, ALL FALL DOWN recommends this novel by Ayelet Waldman. Ayelet – the wife of Michael Chabon – spent some high school time in Israel.



A spellbinding new novel of contraband masterpieces, tragic love, and the unexpected legacies of forgotten crimes, Ayelet Waldman’s Love and Treasure weaves a tale around the fascinating, true history of the Hungarian Gold Train in the Second World War. In 1945 on the outskirts of Salzburg, victorious American soldiers capture a train filled with unspeakable riches: piles of fine gold watches; mountains of fur coats; crates filled with wedding rings, silver picture frames, family heirlooms, and Shabbat candlesticks passed down through generations. Jack Wiseman, a tough, smart New York Jew, is the lieutenant charged with guarding this treasure—a responsibility that grows more complicated when he meets Ilona, a fierce, beautiful Hungarian who has lost everything in the ravages of the Holocaust. Seventy years later, amid the shadowy world of art dealers who profit off the sins of previous generations, Jack gives a necklace to his granddaughter, Natalie Stein, and charges her with searching for an unknown woman—a woman whose portrait and fate come to haunt Natalie, a woman whose secret may help Natalie to understand the guilt her grandfather will take to his grave and to find a way out of the mess she has made of her own life.

A story of brilliantly drawn characters—a suave and shady art historian, a delusive and infatuated Freudian, a family of singing circus dwarfs fallen into the clutches of Josef Mengele, and desperate lovers facing choices that will tear them apart—Love and Treasure is Ayelet Waldman’s finest novel to date: a sad, funny, richly detailed work that poses hard questions about the value of precious things in a time when life itself has no value, and about the slenderest of chains that can bind us to the griefs and passions of the past.

JP MORGAN CHASE… the bank… recommends:

“Things a Little Bird Told Me,” by Biz Stone. Biz Stone write about how he co-founded Twitter.
“Talk Like TED,” by Carmine Gallo
“Olives, Lemons & Za’atar,” by Rawia Bishara. A Palestinian Brooklyn cookbook
“The Future of the Mind,” by Michio Kaku

BILL GATES, co-founder of Microsoft, recommends:
“The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined” by Montreal born Jewish Canadian thinker, Steven Pinker. “Steven Pinker’s carefully researched study stands out as one of the most important books I’ve ever read. Pinker paints a remarkable picture showing that the world has evolved over time to be a far less violent place than before. It offers a fresh perspective on how to achieve positive outcomes in the world.”

STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL, an American military leader, recommends:
My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel by Ari Shavit. “A deeply personal account of patriotism and national identity, and an examination of how a country’s citizenry sometimes struggles to balance heritage and tradition with modernity and the contemporary.”

Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink. “A powerful window into collective decision-making during crisis, and an illustration of how individuals and organizations face dilemmas where there seems to be no good outcome.”

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg (for graduates) . “Written by a new friend, this book is an important reminder that the very best organizations always set the conditions for personal success, where each of us can accomplish and contribute the very best
 of ourselves.”

RABBI ANDREW ETTIN, Temple Israel, Salisbury Florida.
The December Project, by Sara Davidson. Ms. Davidson, a best-selling author who describes herself as “a skeptical seeker,” interviews the influential, colorful Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi in his late 80s as he reflects on a lifetime of living, learning, teaching and spiritual exploration in Europe and the U.S. They converse candidly and often amusingly about aging, along with the challenges and opportunities that come as one nears the end of life’s calendar.

The Sabbath, by Abraham Joshua Heschel. “Heschel, one of the leading religious figures of the 20th century, writes movingly about the beauty and value of a day given to our inner lives and our spiritual connection with something greater than ourselves,” Ettin says. “At a time when we are all connected and available electronically 24/7, Heschel’s lessons seem even more important now, several decades after the book’s first publication.”

The Fledglings by David Homel: For Bluma Goldberg, the teenaged daughter of a Jewish bootlegger, Prohibition-era Chicago is the furthest place one can get from law and temperance. Her first steps into womanhood are made all the more uncertain by the dangers of her father’s shadowy world. Decades later, her loving son, Bobby Krueger – a man coming off his own share of emotional turmoil – remains mystified by the person he’s known all his life. Who is she really? Fighting through Bluma’s stubborn refusals to cooperate, Bobby pieces together her memories in order to understand the story of the most interesting woman he has ever known. In The Fledglings, David Homel summons complex personalities and weaves them into a vividly-reconstructed historical landscape, taking readers on a fascinating journey into the inner thoughts and intricate relationships of a remarkable character.

DISSIDENT GARDENS by Jonathan Lethem, Now in paperback. Rose Zimmer, the aptly nicknamed Red Queen of Sunnyside, Queens, is an unreconstructed Communist who savages neighbors, family, and political comrades with the ferocity of her personality and the absolutism of her beliefs. Her equally passionate and willful daughter, Miriam, flees Rose’s influence for the dawning counterculture of Greenwich Village. Despite their differences, they share a power to enchant the men in their lives: Rose’s aristocratic German Jewish husband, Albert; her feckless chess hustler cousin, Lenny; Cicero Lookins, the brilliant son of her black cop lover; Miriam’s (slightly fraudulent) Irish folksinger husband, Tommy Gogan; and their bewildered son, Sergius.

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  • Admit it, Jewlicious: we *can’t help* but love that quirky genre of book that artfully blends an intriguing life story, Jewish anecdotes, a good smattering of history and culture, and the real wisdom that comes from a unique perspective on Judaism. Yes, I have just such a book! I’m reading a sensitive, moving work. “The Finkler Question”. 10/10.

    Hope to see you all dead in my lifetime.

  • I just read everything by Gary Shteyngart. I know I am late to the party but whatever! Loved it all!