Have a Read!!!

Books of Jewish Interest (BJI) 2019 – Book Selection

Gail Robinson

We are starting our 2019 season. Join in a lively discussion of Jewish-themed books from a variety of genres—whether its how gentrification or Jewish conversion exposes hidden prejudices or how one can survive anti-Semitism and still keep true to oneself, these books will totally captivate you. 

I invite all to join Books of Jewish Interest (BJI). Participants are expected to read the book listed for the date. We have four wonderful discussants for each of the books. Like last year, the leader will present an informative summary of the book’s story or thesis and provided questions to stimulate the discussion and bring a snack for about 15 people.

Our co-sponsor, Bethlehem Public Library will be hosting BJI again this year. The Library has conference call capability. It is also handicapped accessible and has plenty of parking. We will be meeting at the Library (2245 Main St, Bethlehem, NH 03574) on Wednesday afternoon at 4 p.m. on July 11, July 25, August 8, and August 22.

Books selected for this season are:

  • July 11th: The Plot Against America, Philip Roth. I must admit, it was a review article in the New Yorker that convinced me to pick this Philip Roth’s book. It is a masterwork of counterfactual history, a what-if story in which Charles Lindbergh, the aviation hero and Nazi sympathizer, is elected President in 1940, leading to the widespread persecution of Jews in the United States. Roth focuses on one family to tell this story and the reader watches as each member choses to “survive” in different ways. For some background on Philip Roth, watch PBS American Masters Program https://www.cambridge.org/us/academic/subjects/politics-international-relations/international-relations-and-international-organisations/international-migration-evolving-trends-early-twentieth-century-present. Steve Monsein will lead the discussion.

  • July 25th: Bethlehem Road Murder, Batya Gur. Bethlehem Road Murder is no ordinary whodunit. In fact, the mystery takes a back step to the Bethlehem Road. Where the schisms in modern day Jerusalem are in full display – Palestinians renovating former Arab houses for Jews; Ashkenazi and Yemini Jews suspicious of each others’ traditions (while their children date each other); and old poor settlers worried about rising rents and young hip professionals wanting to gentrify the neighborhood. Her detective, Chief Superintendent Michael Ohayon of the Jerusalem police, was not only tall, dark-eyed and compassionate; he was also cerebral, introspective and melancholic. Trained in history and literature at Cambridge, he was the author of an unfinished doctoral dissertation on medieval guilds. He also has just bought an apartment in this neighborhood and is Yemini. In order to solve the murder, he must unearth Israel’s pastFor more information on the disappeared children of Israel, check out this NYT article: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/20/world/middleeast/israel-yemenite-children-affair.html . Gail Robinson and Martin Kessel will co-lead this discussion.

  • August 14th: Lovesong:Becoming a Jew, Julius Lester. Lester's central story is of his movement from nominal Protestantism, through a flirtation with Catholicism and an interest in American Indian religions, to the synagogue he was formally received into at age 43, on Jan. 3, 1983. At the same time, it's necessarily the story of his public life and, above all, his sense of self, particularly of being black and Jewish. Lester taught at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, MA, first in Black Studies and then in Jewish and Judiac and Near Eastern Studies. This book led to his ouster from Black Studies. Lester also led the Congregation at Beth El in St. Johnsbury for a while. Many of our congregants knew Lester. Marvin Swartz will lead the discussion. Marvin was a close colleague and friend of Julius. 

  • August 28th:The Tattooist of Auschwitz, Heather Morris. This novel tries to answer the hard questions that arise about those perceived to have cooperated with their captors. How does one justify saving one’s life over others? The reader like the hero is constantly moving the goalpost. The novel is based on real people, Lale and Gita Sokolov, who both survived Auschwitz and immigrated to Australia. Melissa Potter will lead the discussion.

All books are available at Amazon and Abe’s Books https://www.abebooks.com and are available at the Bethlehem Public Library.  Gail Robinson will also loan out her copies.

Meetings are open to anyone and everyone interested in participating in a reading group. The actual dates for each book will depend on volunteer and Author availability. Please call (202) 744-4646 or email Gail Robinson at gailkr48@gmail.com if you have any questions. 

 

 

Recap of 2018 season…

MeetUp this Summer – Books of Jewish Interest (BJI) takes place Wednesdays at 4 PM 
at the Bethlehem Public Library

2018 BJI .001.jpg

Read, and dive into a new world. Join in a lively discussion of Jewish-themed books from a variety of genres—fiction, memoir, history and more. We are starting our 2018 season. Books of Jewish Interest (BJI) Club will meet at the Bethlehem Public Library on Wednesday, July 11th at 2PM, and at 4PM on following Wednesdays.

Gail Robinson, the convener, invites all to join BJI. Participants are expected to read the book listed for the date. Building on last year’s success in hosting John Clayton, Michele Brafman and Michel Adler, we have approached this year’s authors to discuss their books this summer. Three of our authors will participate via phone, and New York Times best selling author and nephew of Judy Felsen and Jack Karp will be presenting in person. 

Books selected for this season are: 

  • July 11 at 2 PM-- All Other Nights, Dara Horn. The complex world of Judah Benjamin, Secretary of State in the Confederacy and other Jewish Americans during the Civil War is chronicled in Dara Horn's vibrant and compelling third novel, "All Other Nights," which examines the tenuous relationships of American Jewish spies -- between each other, to their religion and to their country -- during the Civil War. Dara will present her thriller via phone. Jacki Katzman will be leading the discussion.

  • July 25 at 4 PM -- Russ & Daughters: Reflections and Recipes from the House that Herring Built, Mark Russ Federman. The former owner/proprietor of the beloved appetizing store on Manhattan’s Lower East Side tells the delightful, mouthwatering story of an immigrant family’s journey from a pushcart in 1907 to “New York’s most hallowed shrine to the miracle of caviar, smoked salmon, ethereal herring, and silken chopped liver”. Mark will present his book by phone. Steve Monsein will be leading the discussion.

 

Our co-sponsor, Bethlehem Public Library will be hosting BJI again this year. The Library has conference call capability. It is also handicapped accessible and has plenty of parking. We will be meeting at the Library (2245 Main St, Bethlehem, NH 03574) on Wednesday afternoon.

 

 

 


August 1 at 4 PM – Green, Sam Graham-FelsenGreen is a classic coming-of-age story set in 1992 – 1993, told by six-grader, DavidGreenfeld. David lives in Boston’s historic Jamaica Plain neighborhood along with his parents and his younger brother. He is one of the only white students at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, where he tries his best to fly under the radar of his peers, who pick on him for his clothes, his newly pubescent awkwardness, and—sometimes implicitly, sometimes explicitly—his skin color. His best friend is a black classmate, who like David is an outsider. Sam will present his novel in person at Bethlehem Public Library. Jack Karp will be moderating the discussion.

  • August 8 at 4 PM -- Tough Jews: Fathers, Sons, and Gangster Dreams, Rich Cohen. In an L.A. delicatessen, a group of Brooklyn natives gets together to discuss basketball, boxing, the weather back east, and the Jewish gangsters of yesteryear. Meyer Lansky. Bugsy Siegel. Gurrah Shapiro. Louis Lepke, the self-effacing mastermind of Murder, Inc. Red Levine, the Orthodox hit man who refused to kill on the Sabbath. Abe "Kid Twist" Reles, who looked like a mama's boy but once buried a rival alive. These are just some of the vibrant, vicious characters Rich Cohen's father reminisced about and the author evokes so pungently in Tough Jews. Rich will be presenting his book via phone.  Robert Parker will be leading the discussion.

  • August 22 at 4 PM --The Family Markowitz, Allegra Goodman. This novel is based on short stories originally published in the New Yorker Magazine. Centered on a middle-class American Jewish family, The Family Markowitz touches on themes ranging from religiosity to ageing and homosexuality to intermarriage. The novel tells the story of four main characters: Rose Markowitz (the matriarch), her sons Ed and Henry, and her daughter-in-law, Sarah. Through these characters, the reader meets many other members of the family including Ed's four children, Henry's wife, and Rose's stepdaughter. Ed Cowan will be leading the discussion.

All books are available at Abe’s Books https://www.abebooks.com and will soon be available at the Bethlehem Public Library.  Gail Robinson will also loan out her copy. Books are available on Amazon or through the Little Village Toy and Book Shop in Littleton. 

Meetings are open to anyone and everyone interested in participating in a reading group. The actual dates for each book will depend on volunteer and Author availability. Please call (202) 744-4646 or email Gail Robinson at gailkr48@gmail.com if you have any questions.