[book]
KILLING A KING
The Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin
and the Remaking of Israel
by Dan Ephron

November 2015
Norton

Incisive and gripping. Ephron sheds new light on Rabin’s assassination. A riveting story about the murder that changed a nation Ephron relates the parallel stories of Rabin and Amir over the two years leading up to the assassination in November 1995, as one of them plotted political deals he hoped would lead to peace and the other plotted murder.

Ephron got the idea to explore the issue in greater depth after browsing Youtube and seeing a 20 seconds video of the police interrogation of Yigal Amir. If they have 20 seconds, they must have more… eight hours more, in addition to the taxi driver video of Amir being taken to the scene of the crime at 2AM a few days after the murder, and the Israeli “Zapruder” film of the actual shooting.


[book]
OSKAR AND THE EIGHT BLESSINGS
by Tanya Simon
and Richard Simon
Illustrated by Mark Siegel

Fall 2015
Roaring Brook Press

A refugee seeking sanctuary from the horrors of Kristallnacht, Oskar arrives by ship in New York City with only a photograph and an address for an aunt – Aunt Esther – he has never met. It is both the seventh day of Hanukkah and Christmas Eve, 1938.

As Oskar walks the length of Manhattan, from the Battery at the Southern tip to his new home in the north of the city, he passes experiences the city’s many holiday sights, and encounters it various residents. Each offers Oskar a small act of kindness, welcoming him to the city and helping him on his way to a new life in the new world.
Even in Bad times, People Can Be Good, and You Have to Look For Blessings.
Count Basie shows up as does Eleanor Roosevelt in this heartwarming children’s picture book.


[book]
DOOMED TO SUCCEED
The U.S.- Israel Relationship from Truman
To Obama
By Dennis Ross

October 2015
FSG

A must read by someone who was actually there, and not some guywho thinks he knows everything at your synagogue. Dennis Ross has consulted to Israeli PM’s, American ambassadors to Mideast countries, and American Presidents for three decades. He was there on the scene. He was there when Obama had to defend Israel and Netanyahu against the threats from European leaders. A fascinated analysis. A necessary and unprecedented account of America’s changing relationship with Israel

When it comes to Israel, U.S. policy has always emphasized the unbreakable bond between the two countries and our ironclad commitment to Israel’s security. Today our ties to Israel are close–so close that when there are differences, they tend to make the news. But it was not always this way.

Dennis Ross has been a direct participant in shaping U.S. policy toward the Middle East, and Israel specifically, for nearly thirty years. He served in senior roles, including as Bill Clinton’s envoy for Arab-Israeli peace, and was an active player in the debates over how Israel fit into the region and what should guide our policies. In Doomed to Succeed, he takes us through every administration from Truman to Obama, throwing into dramatic relief each president’s attitudes toward Israel and the region, the often tumultuous debates between key advisers, and the events that drove the policies and at times led to a shift in approach. Ross points out how rarely lessons were learned and how distancing the United States from Israel in the Eisenhower, Nixon, Bush, and Obama administrations never yielded any benefits and why that lesson has never been learned. Doomed to Succeed offers compelling advice for how to understand the priorities of Arab leaders and how future administrations might best shape U.S. policy in that light.


[book]
IN THE UNLIKELY EVENT
A Novel
By Judy Blume

Knopf
June 2015

In 1987, Miri Ammerman returns to her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey, to attend a commemoration of the worst year of her life. It was 1951-1952 when three plane crashes ended in deaths.

Thirty-five years earlier, when Miri was fifteen, and in love for the first time, a succession of airplanes fell from the sky, leaving a community reeling. Against this backdrop of actual events in the early 1950s, when airline travel was new and exciting and everyone dreamed of going somewhere, Judy Blume imagines and weaves together a haunting story of three generations of families, friends, and strangers, whose lives are profoundly changed by these disasters. She paints a vivid portrait of a particular time and place—Nat King Cole singing “Unforgettable,” Elizabeth Taylor haircuts, young (and not-so-young) love, explosive friendships, A-bomb hysteria, rumors of Communist threat. And a young journalist who makes his name reporting tragedy. Through it all, one generation reminds another that life goes on.

We learn of the events from several perspectives. Miri. Her single mother Rusty. Her uncle. Her grandmother. Her best friend Natalie. Christina, a Greek girl in a secret dating relationship with an Irish boy. Passengers on a plane.


[book]
PASTRAMI ON RYE
An Overstuffed History of the Jewish Deli
by Ted Merwin

Associate Professor of Religion
and Judaic Studies at Dickinson College
September 2015
NYU Press

For much of the twentieth century, the New York Jewish deli was an iconic institution in both Jewish and American life. As a social space it rivaled—and in some ways surpassed—the synagogue as the primary gathering place for the Jewish community. In popular culture it has been the setting for classics like When Harry Met Sally. And today, after a long period languishing in the trenches of the hopelessly old-fashioned, it is experiencing a nostalgic resurgence.

Pastrami on Rye is the first full-length history of the New York Jewish deli. The deli, argues Ted Merwin, reached its full flowering not in the immigrant period, as some might assume, but in the interwar era, when the children of Jewish immigrants celebrated the first flush of their success in America by downing sandwiches and cheesecake in theater district delis. But it was the kosher deli that followed Jews as they settled in the outer boroughs of the city, and that became the most tangible symbol of their continuing desire to maintain a connection to their heritage. Ultimately, upwardly mobile American Jews discarded the deli as they transitioned from outsider to insider status in the middle of the century. Now contemporary Jews are returning the deli to cult status as they seek to reclaim their cultural identities. Richly researched and compellingly told, Pastrami on Rye gives us the surprising story of a quintessential New York institution
(Note: I was in a Havurah with the author over a decade ago)


[book]
BLACK EARTH
The Holocaust as History and Warning
by Timothy Snyder

September 2015
Tim Duggan Books

A brilliant, haunting, and profoundly original portrait of the defining tragedy of our time.

In this epic history of extermination and survival, Timothy Snyder presents a new explanation of the great atrocity of the twentieth century, and reveals the risks that we face in the twenty-first. Based on new sources from eastern Europe and forgotten testimonies from Jewish survivors, Black Earth recounts the mass murder of the Jews as an event that is still close to us, more comprehensible than we would like to think, and thus all the more terrifying.

The Holocaust began in a dark but accessible place, in Hitler’s mind, with the thought that the elimination of Jews would restore balance to the planet and allow Germans to win the resources they desperately needed. Such a worldview could be realized only if Germany destroyed other states, so Hitler’s aim was a colonial war in Europe itself. In the zones of statelessness, almost all Jews died. A few people, the righteous few, aided them, without support from institutions. Much of the new research in this book is devoted to understanding these extraordinary individuals. The almost insurmountable difficulties they faced only confirm the dangers of state destruction and ecological panic. These men and women should be emulated, but in similar circumstances few of us would do so.

By overlooking the lessons of the Holocaust, Snyder concludes, we have misunderstood modernity and endangered the future. The early twenty-first century is coming to resemble the early twentieth, as growing preoccupations with food and water accompany ideological challenges to global order. Our world is closer to Hitler’s than we like to admit, and saving it requires us to see the Holocaust as it was — and ourselves as we are. Groundbreaking, authoritative, and utterly absorbing, Black Earth reveals a Holocaust that is not only history but warning.


[book]
THE RAGING SKILLET
The True Life Story of Chef Rossi
by Rossi

November 10, 2015
Feminist Press

Once I began to read this on the subway, I stayed for extra stops just so I could read more pages of it. It is too funny and engrossing.

When their high-school-aged, punk, runaway daughter is found hosting a Jersey Shore hotel party in Point Pleasant, Rossi’s parents feel they have no other choice: they ship her off to live with a Chabad Hasidic rabbi in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Heck… even the Lubavitcher rebbe gives her some wine to drink. Within the confines of this restrictive culture, Rossi’s big city dreams take root. Once she makes her way to Manhattan, Rossi’s passion for cooking, which first began as a revolt against her mother’s microwave, becomes her life mission. The Raging Skillet is one woman’s story of cooking her way through some of the most unlikely kitchens in New York City — at a “beach” in Tribeca, an East Village supper club, and a makeshift grill at ground zero in the days immediately following 9/11. Forever writing her own rules, Rossi ends up becoming the owner of one of the most sought-after catering companies in the city. This heartfelt, gritty, and hilarious memoir shows us how the creativity of the kitchen allows us to give a nod to where we come from, while simultaneously expressing everything that we are. Includes unpretentious recipes for real people everywhere (lots of hot dog recipes).

Rossi is the owner and executive chef of The Raging Skillet, described as a “rebel anti-caterer” by the New York Times. Rossi has written for many publications, including Bust, the Daily News, the New York Post, the Huffington Post, Time Out New York, and McSweeney’s. She is the host of a long-running radio show in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

KIRKUS WRITES: “Growing up as an overweight Orthodox Jew, Rossi’s first introduction to cooking came about as a means to survive after her mother started microwaving all of the family food instead of creating goulashes and stews that simmered on the stove all day. “Suddenly,” she writes, “that elusive sensation of being the only one who could provide what everyone wanted was in my grasp, wedged between the kitchen mitts and the platter of cheese ravioli.” From the pizza bagels that launched her career in the kitchen, Rossi wends her way through the ups and downs and side streets of her rise to cooking fame. With a good shot of humor, a splash of self-deprecation, and a smidgen or two of sadness and regret, she chronicles her introductions to bartending and cooking, her coming out as a lesbian and non–Orthodox Jew to her family, and her rocky relationship with her mother, who, like many good Jewish mothers, used guilt as her favorite spice. Rossi intertwines character descriptions of the chefs, cooks, and waiters she’s worked with and for over the years as she moves through the decades and the numerous positions she held before she launched her own catering service. There’s Big S, who was “stirring tomato sauce, wearing nothing but a black lace bra, matching panties, and an apron,” and the French chef who abhorred having women in the kitchen, let alone a gay Jewish woman. Each of the author’s stories is well-rounded, redolent of salty sweat, sweet love, and the joy of food. The inclusion of numerous recipes related to each narrative is an added garnish to an already satisfying meal. A humorous and witty chronicle of a woman’s pulling-herself-up-by-her-bootstraps rise through the culinary ranks.”


sensualgodTHE SENSUAL GOD
HOW THE SENSES MAKE
THE ALMIGHTY SENSELESS
BY AVIAD KLEINBERG
Columbia University Press
September 2015

In the Hebrew Bible, God wrestles with a man (and loses). In the Talmud, God wriggles his toes to make thunder and takes human form to shave the king of Assyria. In the New Testament, God is made flesh and dwells among humans. For religious thinkers trained in Greek philosophy and its deep distaste for matter, sacred scripture can be distressing. A philosophically respectable God should be untainted by sensuality, yet the God of sacred texts is often embarrassingly sensual.

Setting experts’ minds at ease was neither easy nor simple, and often faith and logic were stretched to their limits. Focusing on examples from both Christian and Jewish sources, from the Bible to sources from the Late Middle Ages, Aviad Kleinberg examines the way Christian and Jewish philosophers, exegetes, and theologians attempted to reconcile God’s supposed ineffability with numerous biblical and postbiblical accounts of seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, and even tasting the almighty. The conceptual entanglements ensnaring religious thinkers, and the strange, ingenious solutions they used to extricate themselves, tell us something profound about human needs and divine attributes, about faith, hope, and cognitive dissonance.


[book]
THE CRIME AND THE SILENCE:
Confronting the Massacre of Jews
in Wartime Jedwabne
by Anna Bikont
Translated from Polish by Alissa Valles

September 2015
FS&G

Part history. Part memoir. A monumental work of nonfiction on a wartime atrocity, its sixty-year denial, and the impact of its truth by one of Poland’s award winning journalists who wrote about issues that people want to forget. In 2001, Jan Gross’s hugely controversial NEIGHBORS was a historian’s disclosure of the events in the small Polish town of Jedwabne on July 10, 1941, when the citizens rounded up the Jewish population and burned them alive in a barn. The massacre was a shocking secret that had been suppressed for more than sixty years, and it provoked the most important public debate in Poland since 1989. From the outset, Anna Bikont reported on the town, combing through archives and interviewing residents who survived the war period and survivors in Poland, Central America, Israel and the USA. Her writing became a crucial part of the debate and she herself an actor in a national drama.


[book]
HUNGER MAKES ME A MODERN GIRL
A Memoir
By Carrie Brownstein

October 27, 2015
Riverhead

From the guitarist of the pioneering riot grrrrl band Sleater-Kinney, the book Kim Gordon says “everyone has been waiting for” — a candid, funny, and deeply personal look at making a life—and finding yourself—in music. Before Carrie Brownstein became a music icon, she was a young girl growing up in the Pacific Northwest just as it was becoming the setting for one the most important movements in rock history. Seeking a sense of home and identity, she would discover both while moving from spectator to creator in experiencing the power and mystery of a live performance. With Sleater-Kinney, Brownstein and her bandmates rose to prominence in the burgeoning underground feminist punk-rock movement that would define music and pop culture in the 1990s. They would be cited as “America’s best rock band” by legendary music critic Greil Marcus for their defiant, exuberant brand of punk that resisted labels and limitations, and redefined notions of gender in rock.

HUNGER MAKES ME A MODERN GIRL is an intimate and revealing narrative of her escape from a turbulent family life (anorexic mother, corporate lawyer father) into a world where music was the means toward self-invention, community, and rescue.

[book]
ON THE MOVE
A Life
by Oliver Sacks, MD, OBE
Knopf

Spring 2015

“All sorts of generalization are made possible by dealing with population, but one needs the concrete, the particular, the personal, too.” Sacks, 81, who passed away a few months ago, enned this final memoir. We knew him as an erudite neurologist with a British accent. The memoir shows him as a weight lifting Jewish guy who used LSD and was addicted to pills for years in the 1960s, and later wrote The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat; Mr. Tungsten; A Leg To Stand On; and Hallucinations.
Sacks wrote an essay in February 2015 in The New York Times that it makes life easier, since you don’t have to worry about world affairs. With limited time on Earth, one focuses on other issues.

From its opening pages on his youthful obsession with motorcycles and speed, On the Move is infused with his restless energy. How he survived the accidents, I have no idea. I came away learning that sometimes happy accidents lead people to discoveries and life purposes. Bosses threatened him not to focus on topics, he didn’t listen, he succeeded and they didn’t. He took chances in the water, nearly died, and was saved at the last moment. He thought he’d be one type of physician or scientist, but followed his strength instead of his plans, and succeeded. He recounts his experiences as a wartime youth in England, the victim of beatings from a sadistic headmaster, a homosexual teen in the days when gays like Alan Turing were imprisoned, castrated, or hounded to death, a kibbutznik in the 1950s, his travels in Canada, a young neurologist in the early 1960s, his internship at Zion in San Francisco, his motorcycles, his drug addiction, his travels across the USA, hitching with truck drivers, more motorcycles, muscle beach weight lifting, his parents, his brother’s psychosis and schizoid outbursts, and his arrival in New York City, where he discovered a long-forgotten illness in the back hospital wards.
He also explores – briefly – his sex and love affairs, his lack of sex and love affairs, his time at the YMCA in SF (knock knock), his sexless midlife, his mother who wished he had not been born when he said he was gay in the 1950s (just a sudden outburst), Yosemite, and the heart(s) he broke. Along the way we see how his engagement, attachment, and detachment with patients and his inabilities to believe, belong and bond with friends have come to define his life. With unbridled honesty and humor, Sacks shows us that the same energy that drives his physical passions — weight lifting and swimming — also drives his cerebral passions. The book is also infused with glimpses of his religious Jewish family, synagogue life, kibbutz life in Israel, and his fondness of Shabbat.


[book]
SUBMISSION
A Novel
by Michel Houellebecq
Translated from French by Lorin Stein

October 20, 2015
FS&G

A controversial, intelligent, and mordantly funny new novel from France’s most famous living literary figure. Set in France in the year 2022. In an alliance with the Socialists, France’s new Islamic party sweeps to power. Islamic law comes into force. Women are veiled, polygamy is encouraged, and François, a lazy professor at the Sorbonne who sleeps with his students and is adicted to porn is offered an irresistible academic advancement–on the condition that he convert to Islam.

Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker has said of Submission that “Houellebecq is not merely a satirist but–more unusually–a sincere satirist, genuinely saddened by the absurdities of history and the madnesses of mankind.” Michel Houellebecq’s new book may be satirical and melancholic, but it is also hilarious, a comic masterpiece by one of France’s great novelists.


zahavZAHAV
A World of Israeli Cooking
by Chef Michael Solomonov with Steven Cook
October 2015
Houghton Mifflin Holt

Since it opened in 2008, I have tried to eat at Zahav in Philadelphia, PA at least three times, but each time, a reservation could not be scored. Zahav, the book upon which the restaurant is based, is by Michael Solomonov, a James Beard Award–winning chef and Restaurant co-owner. The cuisine is modern Israeli, and the main ingredient is… tehina (or tehini). Reviewers have said that Zahav defines modern Israeli cuisine in America. The New York Times Book Review wrote that one can taste the bravado and enthusiasm found in the book. Zahav showcases the melting-pot cooking of Israel, especially the influences of the Middle East, North Africa, the Mediterranean, and Eastern Europe. Solomonov’s food includes little dishes called mezze, such as the restaurant’s insanely popular fried cauliflower; a hummus so ethereal that it put Zahav on the culinary map; and a pink lentil soup with lamb meatballs that one critic called “Jerusalem in a bowl.” It also includes a majestic dome of Persian wedding rice and a whole roasted lamb shoulder with pomegranate and chickpeas that’s a celebration in itself. All Solomonov’s dishes are brilliantly adapted to local and seasonal ingredients. Highlights include “My Mom’s Coffee-Braised Brisket” (unfortunately brisket is no longer cheap… my grandmother made her brisket with carrots, potatoes, and Heinz Chili Sauce… My mother added coffee – she doesnt remember why, but she’s pretty brilliant, actually. Unlike stock… that takes hours to make, coffee is ready in minutes. And its deep roasted flavors work really well with beef (coffee makes a great addition to bbq sauce, too.); Israeli Salas with Mango, Cucumber, and Sumac Onions; Tehina (The Secret Sauce); and Hummus.


[book]
LEAVING BERLIN
A Novel
By Joseph Kanon

March 2015
Atria Books

From the bestselling author of Istanbul Passage — called a “fast-moving thinking man’s thriller” by The Wall Street Journal — comes a sweeping, atmospheric novel of postwar East Berlin, a city caught between political idealism and the harsh realities of Soviet occupation. Set in a ruined blockaded Berlin in 1948. Espionage, like the black market, is a fact of life. Alex Meier, a young Jewish writer, fled the Nazis for America before the war. But the politics of his youth have now put him in the crosshairs of the McCarthy witch-hunts and Berlin is luring him back. Faced with deportation and the loss of his family, he makes a desperate bargain with the fledgling CIA: he will earn his way back to America by acting as their agent in his native Berlin. But almost from the start things go fatally wrong.

About the author

larry

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