The Real Gittel of "Gittel's Journey: An Ellis Island Story"
By Lesléa Newman for Jewish Book Council
“The world is made of stories, / Not of atoms” the poet Muriel Rukeyser once wrote. All of us are made of stories: stories we’ve heard, stories we’ve read, stories we’ve made up, stories we’ve experienced, stories that come to us in dreams. Like Russian matryoshka dolls, there are stories and stories and stories nesting inside each of us just waiting to be born.
The Alter Bible
By Adam Kirsch for Tablet Magazine
In a landmark new translation, Robert Alter revives the literary power of a Hebrew masterpiece
The Bible is a refractory book, never behaving quite as we expect it to. Indeed, much of the creativity of Jewish tradition has been devoted to harmonizing the actual Bible with Judaism’s changing expectations of what it should be. The rabbinic genre of midrash tries to make sense of the text’s many narrative contradictions and ethical perplexities. The Talmud assumes that every word in the Torah is there to teach a point of halacha, while Maimonides insisted that the Bible actually teaches the same truths as Greek philosophy, though it uses an allegorical method that can easily mislead the ignorant. And the mystical Zohar, written in medieval Spain, says that if all there were to the Torah were its surface meaning, it would be easy to write a better book: It is only the hidden, esoteric content of the Torah that makes it sacred.
Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love
By Sandee Brawarsky for The Jewish Week
‘I Never Dreamt That I Was The (Family) Secret’
Dani Shapiro’s Connecticut home has sepia portraits of her late father as a child and members of his distinguished Orthodox family on the walls, photographs she has known all of her life. These faces have, in silence, supported her, spoken to her, even comforted her. Her identity is stamped by theirs.
Descendants of Crypto-Jews in ‘Gateway to the Moon’
By Amy Klein for Hadassah Magazine
In the epic Gateway to the Moon: A Novel, Mary Morris follows seven generations of the de Torres family from 15th-century Spain to the hills of New Mexico in 1992. The saga connects the thread between the conversos and their descendants—poor, simple Catholics practicing strange traditions whose origins they no longer remember and who are beset with a yearning they don’t understand.
Talking with Debut Novelist Kim Sherwood
By Amy Spungen for Jewish Book Council
Kim Sherwood’s debut novel, Testament, tells the story of a young woman whose beloved grandfather dies, triggering her quest to find the truth of his past. A Jewish native of Budapest, Joseph Silk is forever changed by the Holocaust, and the effects of his experience and the choices he makes afterward weave together themes of survival, betrayal, forgiveness, and the redemptive power of art. Sherwood recently answered some questions about her novel.
Amy Spungen: Kim, Testament focuses on the experience of Jews in Central Europe, especially Hungary, during the Holocaust. Can you tell us why you chose this geographic area? Is this story personal for you?
Kim Sherwood: My paternal grandmother is a Hungarian Jewish survivor, and she lived with us in London while I was growing up. We’ve always been very close, but she only began talking about her experiences a few years ago. I wanted some way to understand what she went through, so I began researching the Holocaust in Hungary. The novel grew from there.