Congregational Learning: TBA Book GroupWith Rabbi Clifford Kulwin
Book Group members know that modern Jewish fiction falls mainly into three categories: books about Israel, books about the Holocaust and books about Jewish life in the Diaspora. In our twentieth year, we read works from each: Some are classics and some are new, and some approach their subject in unusual ways.
Thursday, October 4, 7:30 PM
Esau by Meir Shalev
The Biblical rivalry of Jacob and Esau is the opening through which Shalev, one of Israel’s most celebrated novelists, chronicles the multigenerational Levi family, all bakers, from World War I through the mid-seventies. The twins have to share one pair of glasses; quite literally, they are the lens through which the story is told.
Thursday, November 1, 7:30 PM
Sadness is a White Bird by Moriel Rothman-Zecher
In Rothman-Zecher’s debut novel, 17-year-old Israeli American Jonathan returns to Israel, eager to join the army. Waiting for his induction, he becomes friendly with Israeli Arabs Nimreen and Laith, twin children of his mother’s best friend. As their friendship deepens, his feeling toward Israel is no less strong, but it is not as simple as it once was.
Thursday, December 6, 7:30 PM
Let It Be Morning by Sayed Kashuah
A young journalist, recently married and a new father, seeks a quieter life away from the city and buys a large house in his parents’ hometown, an Arab village in Israel. Reviewers have written that Kashuah, an Israeli Arab who writes in Hebrew, is comparable to Orwell and Kafka in his ability to convey otherworldly futility.
Thursday, January 3, 7:30 PM
Good People by Nir Baram
Germany and Russia, 1938. In Berlin, Thomas performs market research for an American company, while Sasha, in Leningrad, is an aspiring intellectual. Each has a grand plan, but it doesn’t matter. Thomas ends up writing propaganda for the Nazis; Sasha edits confessions from the victims of Stalin’s secret police. Then they meet.
Thursday, February 7, 7:30 PM
Maus by Art Spiegelman
Maus was perhaps the literary event of 1973. Holocaust literature was still a young genre, yet Spiegelman writes a serious story of the Shoah as a graphic novel, a term then barely in use? After the initial shock, it became clear that Maus was a masterpiece. It still is, and its numerous accolades include a Pulitzer Prize.
Thursday, March 7, 7:30 PM
Mischling by Affinity Konar
In 1944, Polish twins Pearl and Stasha are sent to Auschwitz, where they soon become part of Josef Mengele’s notorious experiments with twins. Pearl disappears and after liberation by the Red Army, Stasha and Feliks, whose twin had also disappeared, search Poland for their missing siblings. They also seek vengeance on perhaps the most evil doctor in history.
Thursday, April 11, 7:30 PM
The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain
Winner of the National Jewish Book Award, The Gustav Sonata begins with the meeting of two five-year- olds, in kindergarten, in a small town in Switzerland just after the war. A lifelong friendship ensues, indelibly marked by what they uncover in their town¾and about their families¾from before they were born.
The North American Diaspora
Thursday, May 2, 7:30 PM
The Far Euphrates by Aryeh Lev Stollman
Stollman, an academic physician by day, has achieved critical acclaim through his moonlighting as a novelist. Through the story of Alexander, son of a rabbi in Windsor, Ontario, The Far Euphrates is what The Times called an exploration of our effort to “solve for ourselves the riddle of God’s existence and cultivate a sense of mercy in an unforgiving age.”
Thursday, June 6, 7:30 PM
American Pastoral by Philip Roth
Given our common Newark roots and Roth’s undisputed seat in the pantheon of great American authors, it is no surprise that the TBA Book Group has read him more than any other author. American Pastoral traces the life of Swede Levov, Weequahic athlete turned successful businessman, through whom we witness the impact of the 1960s on American society and gain a greater, if sadder, understanding of how little we can know about what goes on inside others.