Typically meeting the second Tuesday of each month from 1:30 - 3:00 PM at the Uptown JCC, the JCC Book Club offers engaging and insightful discussions in a laid back environment. Free and open to the community - all are welcome. Books are available for purchase at our neighborhood partner bookstore, Octavia Books.
All JCC Book Club discussion are now held virtually. For more information, please contact Judy Yaillen. If you would like to be placed on our Book Club email list, send an email to Beth Orgeron with your request.
The Book of Words: Talking Spiritual Life, Living Spiritual Talk
by Lawrence Kushner
Reviewed by Rabbi Deborah Silver, Congregation Shir Chadash
An Undisturbed Peace
by Mary Glickman
With creativity and poetry (and occasional heresy) Kushner dusts off thirty classical Hebrew words, shakes them free of the effects of generations of overuse, "re-translates" them and liberates their ancient holy power. The result is a contemporary spiritual guide for your personal religious life. According to the Hebrew Bible, God made the world with words. God just spoke and the world came into being. Words therefore are not merely sounds signifying something else; they are instruments of creation, primary reality itself. They need only to be read, spoken and interpreted. And to know them is to know reality itself.
Kushner has designed the book himself, seamlessly blending graphics and content. In doing so he evokes the aesthetics of an ancient manuscript and a vision of our power to shape the future.Each finely crafted chapter begins with a Hebrew word and Kushner’s provocative English translation. At the bottom of the page is a transliteration of the Hebrew along with its more customary English rendering. In addition to his own intriguing definition, he includes a biblical citation anchoring the word, along with a more recent text showing the word’s evolution. Finally, we are offered a personal, meditative exercise designed to enable you to “live in the word.”
Reviewed by Molly Travis, Associate Professor of English and Associate Dean of Newcomb-Tulane College
by S. Y. Agnon
Israeli Nobel Laureate S.Y. Agnon's famous masterpiece, his novel Only Yesterday, here appears in English translation for the first time. Published in 1945, the book tells a seemingly simple tale about a man who immigrates to Palestine with the Second Aliya--the several hundred idealists who returned between 1904 and 1914 to work the Hebrew soil as in Biblical times and revive Hebrew culture. Only Yesterday quickly became recognized as a monumental work of world literature, but not only for its vivid historical reconstruction of Israel's founding society. This epic novel also engages the reader in a fascinating network of meanings, contradictions, and paradoxes all leading to the question, what, if anything, controls human existence?
Seduced by Zionist slogans, young Isaac Kumer imagines the Land of Israel filled with the financial, social, and erotic opportunities that were denied him, the son of an impoverished shopkeeper, in Poland. Once there, he cannot find the agricultural work he anticipated. Instead Isaac happens upon house-painting jobs as he moves from secular, Zionist Jaffa, where the ideological fervor and sexual freedom are alien to him, to ultra-orthodox, anti-Zionist Jerusalem. While some of his Zionist friends turn capitalist, becoming successful merchants, his own life remains adrift and impoverished in a land torn between idealism and practicality, a place that is at once homeland and diaspora. Eventually he marries a religious woman in Jerusalem, after his worldly girlfriend in Jaffa rejects him.Led astray by circumstances, Isaac always ends up in the place opposite of where he wants to be, but why? The text soars to Surrealist-Kafkaesque dimensions when, in a playful mode, Isaac drips paint on a stray dog, writing "Crazy Dog" on his back. Causing panic wherever he roams, the dog takes over the story, until, after enduring persecution for so long without "understanding" why, he really does go mad and bites Isaac. The dog has been interpreted as everything from the embodiment of Exile to a daemonic force, and becomes an unforgettable character in a book about the death of God, the deception of discourse, the power of suppressed eroticism, and the destiny of a people depicted in all its darkness and promise.
Reviewed by Omri Einav, Adjunct Hebrew Professor at Tulane University
by Stefan Hertmans
Reviewed by Rabbi Josh Pernik, Congregation Beth Israel
The First Mrs. Rothschild
by Sara Aharoni
In this award-winning historical saga, passionate young lovers in a Jewish ghetto rise to become the foremost financial dynasty in the world.
It is the turn of the eighteenth century in Frankfurt, Germany, and young Gutle and Meir Amschel Rothschild struggle to establish themselves in the cramped and restricted Judengasse. But when Meir’s talents as a novice banker catch the attention of a German prince, Meir is suddenly afforded entrée into the European world of finance and nobility, and the Rothschilds’ lives are changed forever. As proud as Gutle is of her husband’s success, she is also cautious—very much aware of the fact that her husband’s rise is tied to his patrons’ willingness to “see past” his Jewishness. As their family grows, and a dream of fortune comes true, so does their belief that money will ultimately bring the power needed to establish Jewish civil rights.
Told through Gutle’s intimate journals, revealed across decades—from the French Revolution through personal tragedies and triumphs—The First Mrs. Rothschild paints a rich and intimate tapestry of family drama, world-changing history, and one woman’s steadfast strength.
Reviewed by Judy Yaillen, New Orleans JCC Director of Jewish Family Life
The Flight Portfolio
by Julie Orringer
Reviewed by Debbie Pesses, Former New Orleans JCC Jewish Enrichment Director