TBA Book Groupwith Rabbi David Z. Vaisberg, M.A.R.E, M.A.H.L.
The B’nai Abraham Book Group will have engaging, meaningful, and edifying conversations about different books each month. Books are available for purchase on Amazon and other book sellers.
Book Selections 2020-2021
Wednesdays, 7:30 PM with Rabbi Vaisberg, via Zoom
December 9 – Homesick by Eshkol Nevo
Summary: This heart-warming, charming and clever first novel dips into the lives of each of the inhabitants of a village in Israel. We meet Noa and Amir, a student couple, who have decided to move in together in a village in the hills, midway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, where they each work. There is Yotam, the younger brother left behind, forgotten by his parents, who are grieving for their eldest son who was killed in Lebanon turns to Amir for support family. Another character is Saddiq, who watches the house from which his family was driven by the Jews when he was a boy, and to which his mother still has a rusty key. Despite friendships that develop and lives that become entwined, tensions among this melting pot of characters seem to be rising to the surface. This enchanting and irresistible novel offers us windows into the characters’ lives. Homesick is a beautiful and moving story about history, love, family and the true meaning of home.
Author: Eshkol Nevo was born in Jerusalem in 1971. He studied copywriting at the Tirza Granot School and psychology at Tel Aviv University. Today, Nevo owns and co-manages the largest private creative writing school in Israel and is considered the “godfather” of many upcoming young Israeli writers. He has published novels, short stories and nonfiction. His novels have all been top bestsellers.
January 13 – Seven Good Years by Etgar Keret
Summary: The seven years between the birth of Etgar Keret’s son and the death of his father were good years, though still full of reasons to worry. Lev is born in the midst of a terrorist attack. Etgar’s father gets cancer. The threat of constant war looms over their home and permeates daily life. What emerges is a series of sublimely absurd ruminations on everything from Etgar’s three-year-old son’s impending military service to the terrorist mind-set behind Angry Birds. Etgar’s siblings, all very different people who have chosen radically divergent paths in life, come together after his father’s shivah to experience the grief and love that tie a family together forever. This wise, witty memoir—Etgar’s first non-fiction book, and told in his inimitable style—is full of wonder and life and love, poignant insights, and irrepressible humor.
Author: Etgar Keret is an Israeli writer known for his short stories, graphic novels, and scriptwriting for film and television. His books had been published in more than thirty languages. Keret has received the Prime Minister’s award for literature, as well as the Ministry of Culture’s Cinema Prize and many other awards.
February 10 – Caste: the Origins of our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
Summary: The Pulitzer Prize–winning, bestselling author of The Warmth of Other Suns examines the unspoken caste system that has shaped America and shows how our lives today are still defined by a hierarchy of human divisions. “As we go about our daily lives, caste is the wordless usher in a darkened theater, flashlight cast down in the aisles, guiding us to our assigned seats for a performance. The hierarchy of caste is not about feelings or morality. It is about power—which groups have it and which do not.” In this brilliant book, Isabel Wilkerson gives us a masterful portrait of an unseen phenomenon in America as she explores, through an immersive, deeply researched narrative and stories about real people, how America today and throughout its history has been shaped by a hidden caste system, a rigid hierarchy of human rankings.
Author: Isabel Wilkerson winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Humanities Medal, is the author of the critically acclaimed New York Times bestseller The Warmth of Other Suns. Her debut work won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction and was named to Time’s 10 Best Nonfiction Books of the 2010s and The New York Times’s list of the Best Nonfiction of All Time. She has taught at Princeton, Emory, and Boston Universities and has lectured at more than two hundred other colleges and universities across the United States and in Europe and Asia.
March 10 – The Great Kosher Meat War of 1902: Immigrant Housewives and the Riots That Shook New York City by Scott D Seligman – Author will be speaking a Book Group.
Summary: In the wee hours of May 15, 1902, three thousand Jewish women quietly took up positions on the streets of Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Convinced by the latest jump in the price of kosher meat that they were being gouged, they assembled in squads of five, intent on shutting down every kosher butcher shop in New York’s Jewish quarter. The Great Kosher Meat War of 1902 tells the twin stories of mostly uneducated female immigrants who discovered their collective consumer power and of the Beef Trust, the midwestern cartel that conspired to keep meat prices high despite efforts by the U.S. government to curtail its nefarious practices. With few resources and little experience but a great deal of steely determination, this group of women organized themselves into a potent fighting force and, in their first foray into the political arena in their adopted country, successfully challenged powerful vested corporate interests and set a pattern for future generations to follow.
Author: Scott D Seligman is a writer and historian. He is the author of several books, including the award-winning The Third Degree: The Triple Murder That Shook Washington and Changed American Criminal Justice (Potomac Books, 2018) and The First Chinese American: The Remarkable Life of Wong Chin Foo. His articles have appeared in the Washington Post and the Seattle Times, among other publications.
April 14 – The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman
Summary: In 1941, during humanity’s darkest hour, three unforgettable young women must act with courage and love to survive. In Berlin, at the time when the world changed, Hanni Kohn knows she must send her twelve-year-old daughter away to save her from the Nazi regime. She finds her way to a renowned rabbi, but it’s his daughter, Ettie, who offers hope of salvation when she creates a mystical Jewish creature, a rare and unusual golem, who is sworn to protect Lea. Once Ava is brought to life, she and Lea and Ettie become eternally entwined, their paths fated to cross, their fortunes linked. What does it mean to lose your mother? How much can one person sacrifice for love? In a world where evil can be found at every turn, we meet remarkable characters that take us on a stunning journey of loss and resistance, the fantastical and the mortal, in a place where all roads lead past the Angel of Death and love is never ending.
Author: Alice Hoffman is the author of more than thirty works of fiction, including The World That We Knew, The Rules of Magic, The Marriage of Opposites, Practical Magic, The Red Garden, the Oprah’s Book Club selection Here on Earth, The Museum of Extraordinary Things, and The Dovekeepers. Her most recent novel is The World That We Knew. She lives near Boston.
May 12 – Dangerous Religious Ideas: the Deep Roots of Self-Critical Faith in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam by Rachel Mikva- Author will be speaking at Book Group.
Summary: Reveals how faith traditions have always passed down tools for self-examination and debate, because all religious ideas–not just extremist ones–can cause harm, even as they also embody important moral teachings. Scripture’s abiding relevance can inspire great goodness, such as welcoming the stranger and extending compassion for the poor. But its authority has also been wielded to defend slavery, marginalize LGBTQ individuals, ignore science, and justify violence. Grounded in close readings of scripture and tradition in Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, religious scholar Rachel Mikva shows us that the Abrahamic religions have always been aware of their tremendous power both to harm and to heal. And so they have transmitted their sacred stories along with built-in tools–interpretive traditions–to do the necessary work of taking on dangerous religious ideas and fostering self-critical faith. Dangerous Religious Ideas reframes the way we talk about faith to create a space where public discussion of religion is more constructive, nuanced, and socially engaged.
Author: Rachel S. Mikva serves as the Rabbi Herman E. Schaalman Chair in Jewish Studies and the Senior Faculty Fellow of the InterReligious Institute at Chicago Theological Seminary. Rabbi Mikva went to teach and earn her PhD at Jewish Theological Seminary, focusing on rabbinic literature and the history of biblical interpretation. Her courses and research address a range of Jewish and comparative studies, with a special interest in the intersections of scripture, culture, and ethics.
June 9 – Beyond the Ghetto Gates by Michelle Cameron
Summary: When French troops occupy the Italian port city of Ancona, freeing the city’s Jews from their repressive ghetto, it unleashes a whirlwind of progressivism and brutal backlash as two very different cultures collide. Mirelle, a young Jewish maiden, must choose between her duty-an arranged marriage to a wealthy Jewish merchant-and her love for a dashing French Catholic soldier. Meanwhile, Francesca, a devout Catholic, must decide if she will honor her marriage vows to an abusive and murderous husband when he enmeshes their family in the theft of a miracle portrait of the Madonna.
Set during the turbulent days of Napoleon Bonaparte’s Italian campaign (1796–97), Beyond the Ghetto Gates is both a cautionary tale for our present moment, with its rising tide of anti-Semitism, and a story of hope-a reminder of a time in history when men and women of conflicting faiths were able to reconcile their prejudices in the face of a rapidly changing world.
Author: Michelle Cameron is a director of the Writers Circle, an NJ-based organization that offers creative writing programs to kids and adults, and the author of works of historical fiction and poetry: The Fruit of Her Hands: The Story of Shira of Ashkenaz (Pocket, 2009), In the Shadow of the Globe (Lit Pot Press, 2003). She lived in Israel for fifteen years (including three weeks in a bomb shelter during the Yom Kippur War) and served as an officer in the Israeli army teaching air force cadets technical English.
November: Kaddish.com by Nathan Englander
Read 2019- summer 2020:
Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Letters to my Palestinian Neighbor by Yossi Klein HaLevi
The Liar by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen
Solomon Gursky Was Here by Mordechai Richler
Sapiens: a Brief History of Human Kind by Yuval Noah Harari
A Pigeon and A Boy by Meir Shalev
New American Haggadah by Jonathan Safran Foer & Nathan Englander