Sitting in a sukkah during the intermediate days of the chag offers a nice time to stock up on new September releases. Some recommendations are:

Reports from a Haunted Present
by Dara Horn
Publication Date: September 7, 2021

Dara Horn is popular among Jewish readers for her novels. In this collection of essays with a provocative title, she ponders why she is called upon to write about Jewish deaths, tragedies and deadly anti-Semitic attacks – perhaps it is what sells. As they say in TV News… if it bleeds it leads. Ms. Horn reflects on the international VENERATION of Anne Frank; the mythology that Jewish family names were changed at Ellis Island: the 2019 shootings at a kosher grocery in Jersey City, NJ; the blockbuster traveling exhibition “Auschwitz” at a museum focused on dead Jews (they need a separate museum for this instead of supporting an existing Jewish museum), the marketing of the Jewish history of Harbin, China, and the little-known life of the “righteous Gentile” Varian Fry.

Into the Forest:
A Holocaust Story of Survival, Triumph, and Love
by Rebecca Frankel
Publication Date: September 7, 2021
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

From a little-known chapter of Holocaust history, Rebecca Frankel’s Into the Forest is one family’s inspiring true story of love, escape, and survival. In the summer of 1942, the Rabinowitz family narrowly escaped the Nazi ghetto in their Polish town by fleeing to the forbidding Bialowieza Forest, the immense ancient (Bialowiea) place. They miraculously survived two years in the woods-through brutal winters, Typhus outbreaks, and merciless Nazi raids-until they were liberated by the Red Army in 1944. After the war they trekked across the Alps into Italy where they settled as refugees before eventually immigrating to the United States. During the first ghetto massacre, Miriam Rabinowitz rescued a young boy named Philip by pretending he was her son. Nearly a decade later, a chance encounter at a wedding in Brooklyn would lead Philip to find the woman who saved him. And to discover her daughter Ruth was the love of his life. From a little-known chapter of Holocaust history, one family’s inspiring true story.

An Observant Wife:
A Novel
by Naomi Ragen
Publication Date: September 14, 2021
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

In her newest, An Observant Wife, Naomi Ragen continues the love story between newly observant California-girl Leah and ultra-Orthodox widower Yaakov from “An Unorthodox Match.” From the joy of their wedding day surrounded by supportive friends and family, Yaakov and Leah are soon plunged into the complex reality of their new lives together as Yaakov leaves his beloved yeshiva to work in the city, and Leah confronts the often agonizing restrictions imposed by religious laws governing even the most intimate moments of their married lives. Adding to their difficulties is the hostility of some in the community who continue to view Leah as the outsider, dangerous baal teshuva interloper. The question her sincerity and adherence to halacha; they spread outrageous rumors. They attempt to reach a balance, and learn a secret, forbidden relationship between troubled teenage daughter Shaindele and a local boy.

Jews Don’t Count:
A London Times Book of the Year 2021
by David Baddiel
U.S. Publication date: September 7, 2021
Publisher: TLS

The North American Edition of the UK Bestseller. Baddiel writes that identity politics is all the rage in the zeitgeist bu that it has failed one particular identity: Jews. Jews Don’t Count is a book for people who consider themselves on the right side of history. People fighting the good fight against homophobia, disablism, transphobia and, particularly, racism. But, Baddiel argues, that those who think of themselves as on the right side of history have often ignored the history of anti-Semitism. He outlines why and how, in a time of intensely heightened awareness of minorities, Jews don’t count as a real minority: and why they should. Why is anti-Semitism ignored and seen as a lesser form of racism, with a particular focus on the political left? To be Jewish, explains Baddiel, is to be subject to the contradictory belief that “Jews are somehow both sub-human and humanity’s secret masters”. Anti-semitic tropes are everywhere – yet, he argues, few of those who consider themselves alert to racism notice, let alone care. How, Baddiel asks, can Dave Whelan, the owner of Wigan Athletic football club, say that “Jewish people chase money more than everybody else” and believe it to be a compliment? He ponders Jeremy Corbyn’s insistence that the scale of the anti-Semitism problem during his Labour leadership had been exaggerated for political reasons. And wonders why the powers that be at Radio 4 decided it was acceptable, in 2017, to broadcast a poem of TS Eliot’s containing the words: “The rats are underneath the piles. The Jew is underneath the lot.”

Publication Date: September 7, 2021
Publisher: Scribner

From one of today’s most brilliant and beloved novelists, a dazzling, epic family saga set across a half-century spanning World War I, the rise of Hitler, World War II, and the Cold War. Widely reviewed, his new novel opens in a provincial German city at the turn of the twentieth century, where the boy, Thomas Mann, grows up with a conservative father, bound by propriety, and a Brazilian mother, alluring and unpredictable. Young Mann hides his artistic aspirations from his father and his homosexual desires from everyone. He is infatuated with one of the richest, most cultured Bavarian Jewish families in Munchen, and marries its daughter Katia. They have six children (In fact, Erika was his favorite child. He gave her food and denied it to other children, since he felt children should get used to the injustice in life early). On a holiday in Italy, he longs for a boy he sees on a beach and writes the story “Death in Venice.” (Der Tod in Venedig, 1912). He is the most successful novelist of his time, winner of the Nobel Prize in literature, a public man whose private life remains secret. He is expected to lead the condemnation of Hitler, whom he underestimates. His oldest daughter and son, leaders of Bohemianism and of the anti-Nazi movement, share lovers. He flees Germany for Switzerland, France and, ultimately, America, living first in Princeton and then in Los Angeles. It is a novel that married fact and imagination. The Magician is an intimate, astonishingly complex portrait of Mann, his magnificent and complex wife Katia, and the times in which they lived—the first world war, the rise of Hitler, World War II, the Cold War, and exile.

The Dressmakers of Auschwitz:
The True Story of the Women Who Sewed to Survive
by Lucy Adlington
Publication Date: September 14, 2021
Pubilsher: Harper

Adlington, a British fashion historian, fictionalized the story of these women for a YA novel, The Red Ribbon. Here she write non fiction and emphasizes the importance of clothing in the making of the Nazi Aryan culture (brownshirts, swastikas, the clothes Jews could not wear). When several young seamstresses arrived at Auschwitz from Bratislava, they were saved from the gas chambers to become sewers. At Auschwitz, Höss – the wife of the Nazi commandant, established a salon near her villa, run largely by Fuchs, called the Upper Tailoring Studio. Fuchs incorporated in the team of seamstresses her friends and acquaintances as a way to save them from punishing labor and certain death in the gas chambers. Nazi wives would plunder the camp warehouse, crammed with stolen clothes and possessions from the enslaved workers. The book is a chronicle of the 25 women who used their sewing skills to survive the Holocaust, stitching beautiful clothes at an extraordinary fashion workshop created within one of the most notorious WWII death camps. It draws on interviews with the last surviving seamstress.

Moshkeleh the Thief:
A Rediscovered Novel
by Sholom Aleichem
Curt Leviant (Translator)
Publication Date: September 1, 2021
Publisher: JPS: Jewish Publication Society

This first English translation of Sholom Aleichem’s rediscovered novel, Moshkeleh the Thief, has a riveting plot, an unusual love story, and a keenly observed portrayal of an underclass Jew replete with characters never before been seen in Yiddish literature. Moshkeleh is a horse thief. When Tsireleh, daughter of a tavern keeper, flees to a monastery with the man she loves (hints of Fiddler on the Roof) — a non-Jew she met at the tavern — the humiliated tavern keeper’s family turns to Moshkeleh for help, not knowing he too is in love with her. Moshkeleh the Thief shows Jews interacting with non-Jews in the Russian Pale of Settlement. Moshkeleh contains violence which was shunned in refined Yiddish lit., which is why it was probably left out of the early canon.

A Complicated Jew:
Selected Essays
by Hillel Halkin
Publication Date: September 7, 2021
Publisher: Wicked Son

HILLEL HALKIN is the author or translator of over forty notable books, and many others and essays. I guess I first read him in the late 70s, with Letters to an American Jewish Friend: A Zionist’s Polemic (1977). Born in the US (his father was a teacher at JTS, his mother a Bar-Ilan), he emigrated to Israel in 1970. Elegant and learned, personal and universal, literary, philosophical, and historical—Hillel Halkin’s finely wrought essays on themes of Jewish culture and life are an education in themselves. Hillel Halkin is widely admired for his works of literary criticism, biography, fiction, and nonfiction, as well as for his celebrated achievements as a translator. In A Complicated Jew, Halkin assembles a selection of essays that form, if not a conventional memoir, a haunting and intimate record of a profoundly Jewish life that defies categorization. It is a banquet for the mind.

BY BRAD RICCA, PHD (Case Western Reserve)
Publication Date: September 21, 2021
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Oh those crazy academics a century ago. We know the Indiana Jones film, but there really WAS an expedition, sans Nazis. This book tells the story of Monty Parker, a British rogue nobleman who, after being dared to do so by Ava Astor, the so-called “most beautiful woman in the world,” headed a secret 1909 expedition to find the fabled lost Israelite’s Ark of the Covenant. In 1908, Monty is approached by a strange Finnish scholar named Valter Juvelius who claims to have discovered a secret code in the Bible that reveals the location of the Ark. Monty assembles a ragtag group of British aristocratic adventurers, a renowned psychic, and a Franciscan father, to engage in a secret excavation just outside the city walls of Jerusalem. Using recently uncovered records from the original expedition and several newly translated sources, True Raiders is the telling of this group’s adventures– in the space between fact and faith, science and romance. Parker, an English nobleman and veteran of the Second Boer War, led an expedition to Palestine in search of the Ark of the Covenant. Following the scholar’s map and the findings of an earlier British explorer, Charles Warren, Parker and his team of amateur archaeologists excavated Hezekiah’s Tunnel, believed to have been built in the 8th century BCE to provide Jerusalem with water during a siege by the king of Assyria. Ricca details the history of biblical sites including Gihon Spring, also known as the Virgin’s Fountain, as well as a strike by local laborers, the race to beat a RIVAL expedition funded by Baron Edmond de Rothschild, and allegations that Parker stole antiquities from the Mosque of Omar. Parker’s rumored romance with Ava Astor, the estranged wife of John Jacob Astor, provides a touch of glamour.

RBG’s Brave and Brilliant Women:
33 Jewish Women to Inspire Everyone
by Nadine Epstein (Moment Magazine)
Bee Johnson (Illustrator)
Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Introduction)
September 21, 2021
Delacorte Press
Ages 10 and up

I love the cover. This collection of biographies of brave and brilliant Jewish female role models–selected in collaboration with Ruth Bader Ginsburg and including an introduction written by the iconic Supreme Court justice herself– provides young people with a roster of inspirational role models, all of whom are Jewish women, who will appeal not only to young people but to people of all ages, and all faiths.

by Marvano
Publication DateL September 28, 2021
Publisher: Dead Reckoning

A graphic book. In the waning years of World War II, as the tragic plight of the European Jews was coming to light in ever more horrific detail, a Jewish fighting force, known as the Jewish Infantry Brigade Group, was born as part of the British Eighth Army. Leslie Toliver, a racecar driver in the pre-war years, eagerly joined the all-volunteer force for a chance to fight with his people against those who sought to murder them. When the war in Europe ends and the “savage continent” sits on the brink of continental civil war from chaos, terror, and famine, Leslie and the Brigade move to Tarvisio, Italy, a border triangle city perfect for covert action. While out searching for Holocaust survivors, Leslie undertakes vigilante missions in Soviet occupied Eastern Europe hunting down Nazis on the run for both vengeance and justice. With each Nazi found or refugee rescued, he looks for more information to complete his most personal mission: to find his mother and fiancée who went missing in the upheaval of the war. Born in Belgium, Marc Vanoppen, known as Marvano, started out as an interior designer. Years later, he began an alternate career as an illustrator, eventually becoming editor-in-chief of the magazine Kuifje, then managing the comics department of Flemish publisher Den Gulden Engel.

Flavors of the Sun:
The Sahadi’s Guide to Understanding,
Buying, and Using Middle Eastern Ingredients
by Christine Sahadi Whelan
Kristin Teig (Photographer)
Publication Date: September 7, 2021
Publisher: Chronicle Books

Decades ago, when I lived in Brooklyn and attended the Kane Street synagogue in Cobble Hill, we all shopped for middle eastern flavors and groceries on Atlantic Ave at Court STreet at SAHADiS and ate at all the Yemenite restaurants. Of course, now you can get hummus and spices everywhere and anywhere. But our Atlantic Avenue neighbor is still around and they have created a comprehensive guide to vibrant Middle Eastern ingredients, with more than 120 recipes that let them shine. Sumac. Urfa pepper. Halvah. Pomegranate molasses. Preserved lemons. The seasonings, staples, and spice blends used throughout the Middle East offer deliciously simple ways to transform food—once you know how to use them.

I HOPE YOU ENJOY SOME OF THESE RECENTLY PUBLISHED BOOKS. If you want my full Fall 2021 list, you can visit HERE

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