I decided to put this on my blog. I have alway wandered about this. What Makes A Book Jewish? There is not any easy answer to this. When our book club picks what we read we sometimes have issues. For example is it Jewish content? Is the author Jewish? If not should we still pick the book if it has Jewish content? Is the book or author Jewish enough? There is a author that has written a novel that is a gentile but vey Yiddishkeit. Now, what do we do?
What are your thoughts about this??This can bring in a very hot and tempered conversation. I try to stay away from this subject. But when it deals with a book we need to discuss sometimes it can not be helped.
What Makes a book Jewish By Josh Lambert Copied from Jewish Book World Summer 2009
since you’re reading Jewish Book World, this is probably a question you’ve asked yourself, at least briefly, at one point or another. If you’re a librarian or bookstore owner, editor or reviewer, literary scholar, or book group leader, you may even have decided which books count as Jewish and which books don’t for a particular project, issue, display, or collection. I had to think about this all the time while writing my book, American Jewish Fiction: A JPS Guide, which explores the field through short reviews of 125 classic novels and short story collections published between 1867 and 2007. What books would I include, and which ones would I leave out? Many of these decisions are easy enough to make. Everyone agrees that a book written in a Jewish language like Hebrew, Yiddish, or Ladino, can be counted as a Jewish book. Even when they have nothing to do with Jews or Judaism, it would be hard to deny that such books maintain some relation to Jewish writers and readers. Sure, the Yiddish translation of the New Testament was produced to help Christians convert Jews, but the book remains Jewish in a sense because of its language and its intended audience. Since my focus was on American fiction, I could immediately and enthusiastically add to my list many novels written in Yiddish, including works by David Pinski, I. J. Singer, I. B. Singer, and Chaim Grade; my publishers requested that I steer clear of any books that have not been translated into English, which meant picking Isaac Raboy’s Der yiddisher kauboy (Jewish Cowboy, 1942), rather than his earlier and somewhat similar novel Herr Goldenbarg (1913), and leaving out books like David Ignatov’s In keslgrub (1918) that have not yet been translated. Sadly, this requirement meant excluding many novels and short story collections written in Hebrew 12 Jewish Book World Summer 5769/2009 www.jewishbookcouncil.org by Josh Lambert What makes a book Jewish?
about life in America by writers including Simon Halkin, Reuben Wallenrod, Razia Ben-Gurion, and Maya Arad (though I mention several of these in an appendix for those able to read them in the original). But I never had to think too deeply about whether these Yiddish and Hebrew books should be considered Jewish. Even when dealing with non-Jewish languages— in the case of my own book, particularly with novels written in English—some decisions pose no great difficulty. Who would deny that Milton Steinberg’s As a Driven Leaf (1939), which dramatizes a set of stories from the Talmud, is a Jewish book simply because Steinberg, a congregational rabbi, chose to write it in English? The real complications begin with writers who were not rabbis and with stories drawn not from central and traditional Jewish texts, like the Talmud, but from modern experience in all of its ambiguity and dynamism. A few borderline cases will help to demonstrate the problems that tend to crop up. Nathanael West (né Weinstein) wrote extraordinarily dark and resonant satires of American culture in which Jews do not figure as primary characters, and while J. D. Salinger was a rabbi’s grandson, his stories of alienated young geniuses and dysfunctional urban families, including Catcher in the Rye (1951), barely mention Jewishness. An even more resonant case is that of the famed Czech writer Franz Kafka, whose diaries and letters reveal an intense fascination with and attention to Jewish life and history, but who never mentions the word “Jew” or “Jewish” in a single one of his novels or stories. To justify including works by these writers in the category of Jewish literature, critics often argue that their books subtly symbolize something fundamental about the modern Jewish experience, even if they don’t explicitly mention Jews. Saul Bellow, for example, characterized a Jewish book as one in which “laughter and trembling” are “curiously mixed,” and by this standard, West and Kafka would be shoo-ins, while Salinger would have a fair shot. Cynthia Ozick, meanwhile, has called for a “liturgical literature,” and depending on how one defines that purposely vague term, West, Salinger, and Kafka could all be in, or out. Ruth Wisse, professor of Jewish literature at Harvard, proposes that “in Jewish literature the authors or characters know and let the reader know that they are Jews,” under which criterion West, Salinger, and Kafka would all be summarily excluded; nevertheless, Wisse insists on including Kafka in her Modern Jewish Canon (2000), as she perceives “the permanent anxiety of a Jew writing in German” in The Trial (1925). Noting the long history of such disagreements and confusions, Hana Wirth-Nesher remarks, in an anthology of essays on this topic, titled What Is Jewish Literature? (1994), that “there is no consensus nor is it likely that there will ever be one.” Why not say, then, as Michael Kramer, a professor of English literature at Bar Ilan University, does, that “Jewish literature is simply literature written by Jews”? Kramer means this literally and absolutely: he includes any books written by any Jew “regardless of any relationship to Judaism or yiddishkayt or any of the many versions of Jewishness that have strutted across the stage of modern Jewish history.” For Kramer, if it turns out that a Jewish person wrote PowerPoint for Dummies, well, then that’s a Jewish book. For many readers, Kramer’s approach will seem needlessly broad—does he really imagine that the Jewish section at Barnes and Noble could include every book written by a Jewish author? And who exactly is supposed to check to see whether the author of The Bacon Cookbook had a bat mitzvah?—but even this inclusive approach is also not nearly broad enough. Plenty of books written by proud and unambiguously identified non-Jews surely deserve mention in any discussion of Jewish literature, from George Eliot’s influential proto-Zionist novel Daniel Deronda (1876) to the most recent winner of the National Jewish Book Award for fiction, Peter Manseau’s Songs for the Butchers Daughter (2008). Manseau’s book appeared too late for me to include it in American Jewish Fiction, but I did include works by non-Jewish authors including Henry Harland, Edward King, and John Updike. I particularly recommend Gish Jen’s Mona in the Promised Land (1996), which features a young Chinese-American convert to Judaism. It seems to me, finally, that the way to answer the question about what makes a book Jewish is to decide why you think anyone should read such books. Are these books meant to bring Jews closer to God? To explain Jewish life to non-Jews? To educate, to entertain, to perplex, to enlighten? Personally, I hope Jewish books can do all of these things, and that helped me to make my choices. After consulting with experts, literary scholars, and many voracious readers, I eventually chose novels about religious and secular Jews, about the Holocaust and Israel, about conversion and intermarriage, about Jews who are proud to be Jewish and about Jews who aren’t exactly sure what being Jewish means. And, for the record, I included novels by West and Kafka, but not Salinger. I imagine that not everyone will agree with these choices. In fact, I hope they won’t. That’s why I created a companion website, www.AmericanJewishFiction. com, where readers can let me know what books and authors I neglected and help me to build a more complete list. We may never be able to agree, as Wirth- Nesher suggests, on what exactly makes a book Jewish. But by staking out positions and arguing about them, we’ll develop richer and more complex ideas about our literature, and even, perhaps, about what “Jewish” means. Josh Lambert (JL) is a doctoral candidate in English literature at the University of Michigan, and the author of American Jewish Fiction: A JPS Guide (2009). He contributes regularly to the Forward, Nextbook.org, and other publications, and his website is epikores.com. www.jewishbookcouncil.org Summer 5769/2009 Jewish Book World 13 That’s why I created a companion website, www.americanjewishfiction.com, where readers can let me know what books and authors I neglected and help me to build a more complete list.
Those of you that follow my blog know that I have had a hard time keeping Our book club, The 38th Ave. Diva Readers, going this year.The 38th Ave. I am not sure what is going to happen.
Now for some good news. Our new Jewish book club was formed this evening. Unfortunately, we forgot to name our selves. But that can be next time. Our first meeting was wonderful. We discussed Who By Fire By Diana Spechler.
I read this a second time around and appreciated it much more. The book is about a family of three siblings. The youngest sibling is kidnapped. Ellie asked Ash to watch his younger sister, Alena.
The husband eventually leaves the family. The whole family has emotional issues and baggage. They have guilt and blame toward each other and themselves.
Bits deals with the kidnapping by compulsively having sex. Ash deals with the kidnapping by becoming a Bal T'shuva( return Jew). Bits decides to take the plunge and move to Israel and live in a Yeshiva( house of study). The Ellie falls in love with Jonathan. Jonathan and Ellie work together to form a plan to get Ash out of the "cult" in Israel. Jonathan hires a young girl to lure Ash out of the Yeshiva.
Bits, flys to Israel to attempt to bring Ash back. Through all this the family has made several attempts to contact Ash. Ash has cut all contact with the family. Ellie, the mother informs Bits, that her sister's hairs were dug up and found. Bits plans to bring Ash back to the U.S. for the funeral. Ash doesn't want any part of it. Ash has religious searching to do. Ash leave the Yeshiva and meets a Chabad rabbi on the beach. The Rabbi talks him into returning to the states to help the family.
In time we find out that Jonathan is working with a young girl to get Ash out of the cult. There is something suspicious about Jonathan. He is conning Ellie for more money, and he has done this in the past. Jonathan keeps claiming that this kind of Jewish life is a cult. "We have to get him out"
Bits finds out from her aunt that there was not going to be a funeral after all. Her sister's body was never found. This was a story to make Ash come back to the states.
Ash does eventually come back to help take care of her sister. Bits finds out that Bits is pregnant. Ash is staying till he knows she can take care of herself, and the baby. He does plan to go back to Israel when he is no longer needed.
My reaction to the story is this is a dysfunctional family. They are all nuts. The family has a hard time communicating with one another and telling them the truth. They seem to all want to rescue each other. The sister wants to rescue Ash. The mother wants to rescue Ash and Bits, Ash wants to rescue Bits. The whole family is full of guilt and blame.
I don't like the mother she seems to deal with the guilt by blaming both of the kids. Especially placing the blame on Bits for everything that her brother does. The brother has guilt because he was suppose to be watching Alena when she went out to play and she was kidnapped and never found. He becomes more observant to deal with his sister's kidnapping since this is the only way for him to deal with it. Both of the children live with the guilt that the mother puts on them every day.
I love character study and that is what this book was. It was not a straight narrative. It went back and forth to the characters. I just enjoyed reading this book becauses of this. Everyone was trying to rescue everyone and blame and shame.
Here is what happens when you try to rescue someone. You find out you are the one that needs the rescuing
On Yom Kippur, the most holiest day of the Jewish calendar. This is judgement day. On Yom Kippur is will be sealed How many shall pass away How many shall be born Who shall live and who will die Who shall reach end of his days and who shall not. Who shall perish by water and WHO BY FIRE
The book club reaction: None of them liked the book. The thought the story was totally bizarre. Which I tend to agree with them. When people say they hate the book they tend not to discuss and that makes not a very good meeting. I thought even though I did not particular like the story. I did like the character study. There was alot to discuss.
Administrative Notes: We will be meeting four times a year. We will read Jewish books either with content or the author is Jewish. The person that decides on the book will be hostess. Even though it technically is not a Jewish book. But does take place in Europe during WW2. We decided on this one. We will be Monday, September 14th at 7PM. We are going to read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
On Wednesday morning, there was a fatal shooting of a security guard. The unfortunate events still say there is much hatred and denial of the holocaust. It is ironic that the holocaust museum was built to promote less hatred and tolerance of all peoples and cultures. Unfortunately it did not reach Vonn Brunn.
I decided not post his picture. I did not want to give him publicity for his actions. Instead I am giving the honor to the security guard, Stephen T. Johns. He was killed by the hand of Vonn Brunn
On Wednesday morning a security guard Johns was opening the door to the museum. A 88 yr.old man, Vonn Brunn walked in as the museu and shot a guard. The guard was rushed to the hospital unfortunately he died 2 hours later.
There was a note left in his car with much anti semitism sendiment. The biography of this man gives you a bad taste in your mouth. He was a soldier in WW2. He hold a bacholor of science degree in journalism. later on in the 80's he was arrested and sent to jail for his views and sentiments about the government and the holocaust. It also has been said he was a leader in various groups of holocaust deniers and on the internet.
He does have a bachelor's degree in Journalism. What a waste he could have used his background in much better ways then hatred.
This is the exact reason why the museum was built to stop hatred and educate people to understand the diversity of all peoples. It just too bad that no one could help this man.
Hugo Schiller, a holocaust survivor. He is a member of my temple. Later in life he decided to educate people about the holocaust. He belives educating children. He tours around the area and talks about his experience in the holocaust.
A friend of mine, Joy Glunt( she has a pen name for the book) wrote a book about his life, I Remember Singing. The reason she told me that she wrote this book was to educate people. She hoped that if she reached one person to understand then she helped the world.
Mr. Schiller and Joy were invited just a week ago to the museum to speak about the book and a book signing. Perhaps they did reach someone at the book signing. Hopefully the book reached a young child that will make a difference.
If you live in the Washington D.C. area and and will be going to the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington this weekend. There will be a book signing, I Remember Singing, a children's biography about a holocaust survivor Hugo Schiller. His wife, Ellie will also be in attendance at the museum.
please support this wonderful children's book. It is a biography about a Holocaust survivor, Hugo Schiller. I don't want to blog to much more. That will be written at another time. I wanted to tell you about this book to spread the word. My friend self-published this book so any of you bloggers are reading this. You all know how hard it is to get recognized in mass book market. Can you imagine how hard it is being self published. You can also purchase it at Amazon.com.
Synopsis: Product Description "This I remember was very special about Hugo; he sang for the little ones to comfort them when they were scared and missing their families."Alice Resch Synnestvedt, Rescuer of Jewish children during the Holocaust. Hugo Schiller was seven years old when Hitler's Nazis dragged his father Oskar from their home in Grünsfeld, Germany and took him to the concentration camp Dachau. Two weeks later they brought him back without explanation, and forced him to sell Rosenbusch & Company, the family store. When Hugo's school principal informed him that he could no longer go to school because he was Jewish, Hugo's parents sent him to Offenbach, Germany to live with two aunts and go to school. The morning after he arrived home for vacation break, Hitler's uniformed Nazi troops came for the family, giving them one hour to pack a suitcase and leave. Hugo and his family were deported to Gurs, a refugee camp in the South of France where they were held behind barbed wire in intolerable living conditions and with scanty food. At the muddy Gurs camp near the Pyrenees Mountains, Hugo sang for bread for his Mother Selma and Aunt Hilda who were starving. One day cheerful Alice Resch drove into Camp de Gurs in a truck with a canvas flapping on the back. Working with the Quaker Refugee Relief agency, she had gained permission from the Vichy French Government to help feed the children. Soon after, she gained permission to take Hugo and the other children from Gurs to the children's home in Aspet. In Hugo's true story there is unspeakable loss but also great triumph on many levels. Hugo Schiller, child-hero, bravely survived the Holocaust by helping others. Today, he speaks about his experiences and about how to help make certain a Holocaust never happens again.
About the Author "Today, I write because I want to help make certain that our world becomes a more humane and peaceful place for our children, grandchildren, families and friends," She said, "and to do that it is necessary to expose those elements that lead to Holocausts." Arielle Aaron writes children's books, poetry, and non-fiction, participates in the Grand Strand Creative Artists' Exhibit, and photographs Brookgreen Gardens. She has published poetry, non-fiction articles, a play, children's stories and a book for her sons titled: THINGS I MEANT TO TELL YOU...IF I DIDN'T. She earned her B.A. degree in English/Writing and Editing, a track in Speech Communications and completed studies for a concentration in Journalism at NC State University. In 1993, she won a Dewitt Wallace Fellowship to study graduate Literature at The Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College in Vermont; has completed coursework at the University of South Carolina; attended the Governor's School on Foreign Language at UNC Chapel Hill & Appalachian State University; and did graduate work at Campbell College at Buies Creek. She participated in the North Carolina Writing Project at UNC Wilmington, and participated as a Teacher-Scholar "Writing Children's Books" at the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching. She recently re-organized the Hugo Schiller Holocaust Resource Center for teachers, and participates in "South Carolina Reads about the Holocaust." "In fourth grade--in a little country school--I wrote about Holocaust children. In my stories some of the children survived." She says. "Imagine my surprise upon meeting brave child-hero Hugo Schiller who did survive the Holocaust. The world is a better place because this good man survived."
I will be blogging about Jewish books, mainly fiction. I will have book reviews, book news, and Jewish news that promotes the Jewish authors. And of course any happenings in Temple Emanu-El of Myrtle Beach. If you are looking for a temple in Myrtle Beach. Visit Temple Emanu-El, a conservative temple at http://www.mbsynagogue.org/ We are a warm and friendly shul. Our spiritual leader, Rabbi Avi our and his wife Mira are friendly and kind, friendly and very sympathetic to each of our members. We are a small shul but that only adds to our uniqueness and our shuls warmth. If you are ever in the Myrtle Beach area come, and stop for a visit.
If you are looking for info. on the secular side of books you can visit my other blog, http://susansliterarycafe.blogspot.com. You are welcome to leave a comment. And thanks for stopping by.