Books & Book Club News

Jewish in Hawaiʻi Book Club

The JIH Book Club reads Jewish fiction and non-fiction picks which are selected by the group. Members rotate as “wranglers” leading the group in lively and interesting discussion. The group is a fun mixture of couples & singles, young adults & seniors and everyone in between. Affiliated and unaffiliated, however you roll — all are welcome, kids too! They meet at 2:00pm on the LAST Sunday of every month at Ala Moana Park, adjacent the first parking lot all the way to the back, on the grass, under one of the big shade trees. Bring something to sit on, snacks (if you wish), see old friends and make some new ones!
The group leader is David Emert.
The June 2022 pick is The Garden of Emuna: A Practical Guide to Life by Rabbi Shalom Arush, Translated by Rabbi Lazer Brody.


Who By Fire?

Leonard Cohen in the Sinai, by Matti Friedman

May 2, 2022

Book Review by Beth Dwoskin, Jewish Book Council

Leonard Cohen fans know that Judaism was a critical part of his identity. Experts know that secular Israelis revere his memory. These two facts come together in this riveting book by Matti Friedman. When the Yom Kippur War began in 1973, Cohen was one of so many diaspora Jews who went to Israel with the common and naive expectation that they would work the harvest in kibbutzim in place of mobilized soldiers. Living on the remote Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was thirty-nine, in an unhappy relationship and a stalled career. He hopped a boat to Israel without even a guitar and landed in the middle of the Tel Aviv music scene, where several of Israel’s top performers convinced him to ride along and entertain the soldiers who were fighting and dying in the Sinai.

This story has never been told before in full, but Friedman takes it on in a spare, incisive, informative style. He provides the background and military narrative of the war from the viewpoint of Israeli forces on the ground in the Sinai. Friedman captures the harrowing reality of fighter pilots dying by the dozen while Israeli civilians went about their complacent lives. Even more remarkable, Friedman gained access to the notebook that Leonard Cohen kept with him during his weeks in the Sinai, and it is excerpted here for the first time. He also acquired amateur photographs and reminiscences from soldiers and musicians who encountered Cohen at that pivotal period of Israel’s history. This book tells two stories together, economically, yet in depth — the story of the Yom Kippur War and its influence on Israeli musical culture, and the story of the relationship that developed between Leonard Cohen and the land of Israel.


Morningside Heights

April 2, 2022

From the Jewish Book Council

The title of Joshua Henkin’s new novel, Morningside Heights, refers to the Upper West Side neighborhood in Manhattan crowned by Columbia University, where the book is set and where the main character, Spence Robin, is an esteemed professor of English literature. He and his wife, Pru, met when she was his doctoral student; she subsequently dropped her studies and began working in Barnard College’s Office of Development.

Many pivotal scenes take place in beloved local haunts like the Hungarian Pastry Shop, the West End Bar, and Chock Full O’Nuts. But the title Morningside Heights may also serve as a bittersweet hint about the slow deterioration that Spence endures over the brief course of his life. Once the smooth, swinging star of his academic department (lover of not only Pru, but also another former student, Linda, with whom he has a son), while still in his fifties Spence is sinking into the evening of his life and the depths of mortal humiliation as he loses his mind to early-onset Alzheimer’s.

Still, though diapered and often incoherent, Spence continues to be the sun around which a fascinating constellation of characters revolve, and in whose light and warmth they thrive — or don’t. After marrying Spence, Pru decided not to pursue academia; her husband warned her to stay away from his turf. This secondary status is echoed by her job at Barnard, where she unhappily flatters donors.

Meanwhile, the free-spirited Linda has borne Spence a child, Arlo, but she seeks other lovers, raising her son here and abroad. Arlo’s rarely satisfied yearning for his father is the major motivator of his life. Pru and Spence’s own child, Sarah, declines the opportunity to attend Columbia for free as a faculty child, choosing to escape her father’s shadow by moving to the West Coast.

While the characters each move in their own orbit, Spence’s illness draws them all in. Running through the novel is a golden thread of Yiddishkeit. Despite his non-Jewish name (changed from the original Shulem), Spence is Jewish. His sister, Enid, who is institutionalized with a severe brain injury, loves to croon a Yiddish song from time to time at the institution; these melodies, and their language, atavistically soothe Arlo when he meets her.

Pru’s family is also Jewish; as a newlywed, she took the step of kashering the kitchen that she and Spence shared in their first marital home. This Jewish element, like the Morningside Heights setting, lends a haimishe feel to Henkin’s novel. While families may fracture, and neurons tangle, there is a sense of home base to the book, a gravitational pull that holds love at its center.


Calendar and Reading List 2022 –

Held Sundays on Zoom

March 2, 2022

 Date  Author   Book & Info
1/30/22 Elinor Lipman The Inn at Lake Devine | Novel: It is funny and makes a great point about Jewish restricted entry to an inn.
3/13/22 Irving Abella and Harold Troper None is too many: Canada and the Jews of Europe, 1933-1948 | History: Canada’s refusal to offer aid or sanctuary, to Jews fleeing Nazi persecution. National Jewish Book Award Winner
4/17/22 David Grossman Horse Walks Into a Bar | Novel: Israeli comedian reveals dark moments during his comedy act
6/12/22 S.Y. Agnon The Bridal Canopy | Novel: Jewry of Eastern Europe and their traumatized history and decline in spirituality.
7/24/22 Laura Z. Dobson Gentleman’s Agreement | Novel: classic reflection of USA anti-Semitism. From 30 essential works by Jewish authors
8/28/22 Lawrence Kushner Kabbalah: A Love Story | Novel: Jewish mysticism and spiritual insight that uses rich metaphor and prose to immerse the reader in an experience
10/9/22

 

Jonathan Kaufman The Last Kings of Shanghai: The Rival Jewish Dynasties That Helped Create Modern China | Nonfiction: Two Jewish families, both originally from Baghdad, stood astride Chinese business and politics for 175+ years.
11/20/22 Chaim Potok Old Men at Midnight | Novella: Davita (of Davita’s Harp) ties 3 short stories together.
12/25/22 Edmund de Waal Letters to Camondo | Novel: tragic family history told in a collection of imaginary letters addressed to Sephardic banking dynasty heir Moise de Camondo, the fin-de siècle art collector French Jew whose elegant Parisian home is now a museum.

2021: Book Club Year in Review

News from Carolann Biederman

December 28, 2021

What we read in 2021: Here is a table of what the SOF Book Club read in 2021. If you’d like to help choose what we’ll be reading in 2022, contact Carolann Biederman about joining the book club.

1/31/21  If All the Seas Were Ink: A Memoir Ilana

Kurshan

Non-fiction. Author’s connection to Daf Yomi, the commitment to read a page of Talmud a day and complete it in 7 years.
3/7/21  Bee Season Myla

Goldberg

Debut novel coming of age for a female spelling bee champion.
5/30/21  Beneath a Scarlet Sky Mark

Sullivan

Based on true experiences of Pino Lella, an unsung Italian WWII hero, who joins an underground railroad helping Jews escape  over the Alps and falls for a beautiful widow.
7/11/21  Davita’s Harp Chaim

Potok

His only novel with a female protagonist.
8/22/21  The Golem and The Jinni Helen

Weckier

History and fantasy set in circa 1899 NYC
10/3/21  White Houses Amy

Bloom

Eleanor Roosevelt & Lorena Hickok, her real-life aide. Imagines their life after their love affair
11/14/21  My Mother’s Son David

Hirshberg

Debut novel with emotional punch and a vivid portrait of 1950s Jewish American life in post-WWII Boston
12/19/21  Can’t we talk about something more pleasant? Roz

Chast

Memoir-New Yorker cartoonist, part graphic and part text. Looks at the last years of her nonagenarian parents.

Book Club Schedule

Sundays Pages Kindle? Title Author Focus
1/31/21

 

 

 

320

 

 

 

yes

 

 

 

If All the Seas Were Ink: A Memoir 

 

Ilana Kurshan

 

 

Non-fiction. Author’s connection to Daf Yomi, the commitment to read a page of Talmud a day and complete it in 7 years.

 

3/7/21

 

275

 

yes

 

Bee Season

 

Myla Goldberg

 

Debut novel coming of age for a female spelling bee champion.

 

5/30/21

 

 

 

 

465

 

 

 

 

yes

 

 

 

 

Beneath a Scarlet Sky 

 

 

 

Mark Sullivan

 

 

 

Based on true experiences of Pino Lella, an unsung Italian WWII hero, who joins an underground railroad helping Jews escape over the Alps and falls for a beautiful widow.

 

7/11/21

 

371

 

yes

 

Davita’s Harp 

 

Chaim Potok

 

His only novel with a female protagonist.

 

8/22/21

 

468

 

yes

 

The Golem and The Jinni  Helen Wecker

 

History and fantasy set in circa 1899 NYC

 


Book Club Anniversary

December 12, 2019

Sof Maʻarav Book Club

The Sof Ma’arav book club is celebrating its 14th anniversary. During that time, members have met several times a year to discuss important works by Jewish authors and about Jewish life. Listed below are the books enjoyed by book club members over the past 14 years.

The Chosen by Chaim Potok

An Interrupted Life, The Diaries 1941-1943 by Etty Hillesum

Three Daughters by Letty Cottin Pogrebin

Call It Sleep by Henry Roth

Night by Elie Wiesel

Paradise Park by Allegra Goodman

Rashi’s Daughters, Book 1 – Joheved by Maggie Anton

Patrimony by Philip Roth

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frank

The World to Come by Dara Horn

The Jew in the Lotus by Rodger Kamentz

As a Driven Leaf by Milton Steinberg

A Tale of Love and Darkness by Amos Oz

The Covenant by Naomi Ragen

The Orientalist by Tom Reiss

Betraying Spinoza by Rebecca Goldstein

The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon by Richard Zimler

The Periodic Table by Primo Levi

Rashi’s Daughters, Book 2 – Mariam by Maggie Anton

Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer

The Zookkeeper’s Wife: A War Story by Diane Ackerman

Rembrandt’s Jews by Steven Nadler

Joy Comes in the Morning by Jonathan Rosen

The Yiddish Policemen’s Union: A Novel by Michael Chabon

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

The Book Thief by Markus Zuzak

The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit by Lucette Lagnado

A Woman in Jerusalem by A.B. Yehoshua

Away by Amy Bloom

My Life by Golda Meir

A Pigeon and A Boy by Meir Shalev

My Father’s Paradise by Ariel Sabar

For the Relief of Unbearable Urges by Nathan Englander

In My Father’s Court by I.B. Singer

Love Song by Julius Lester

Song for the Butcher’s Daughter by Peter Manseau

All Other Nights by Dara Horn

The Fixer by Bernard Malamud

The Haunted Smile by Lawrence Epstein

Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum

The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson

To the End of the Land by David Grossman

Kaaterskill Falls by Allegra Goodman

A Fine Romance: Jewish Songwriters, American Songs

by David Lehman

Raquela by Ruth Gruber

The Hare with the Amber Eyes by Edmund De Waal

Wandering Stars by Sholem Aleichem

The Girl from Foreign by Sadia Shepard

 The Sunflower by Simon Wiesenthal

The Free World by David Bezmozgis

The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow

Sacred Trash by Adina Hoffman & Peter Cole

Pictures at an Exhibition by Sara Houghteling

Friendly Fire by A.B. Yehoshua

My Russian Grandmother and Her American Vacuum                                         

  Cleaner by Meir Shalev

The Fish That Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of                                           

   America’s Banana King by Rich Cohen

A Jewish Girl and A Not-so-Jewish Boy by Sandra Armstrong

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

Rashi by Elie Wiesel

The Bielski Brothers by Peter Duffy

The Book of Job by Harold Kushner

Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths by Bruce Feiler

Russ and Daughters by Mark Russ Federman

God Knows by Joseph Heller

Jews and Words by Amos Oz & Fania Oz-Salzberger

This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

Peony by Pearl S. Buck

A Tranquil Star by Primo Levi

When General Grant Expelled the Jews by Jonathan Sarna

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Scenes From Village Life by Amos Oz

Invisible Wall: A Love Story That Broke Barriers by Harry Bernstein

My Promised Land by Ari Shavit

An Officer and A Spy by Robert Harris

Kvetch: One Bitch of a Life by Greta Beigel

Zealot-The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan

The Mezuzah in the Madonna’s Foot by Trudi Alexy

Leonard Bernstein: An American Musician by Allen Shawn

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

Dona Gracia of the House of Nasi by Cecil Roth

The Puttermesser Papers: A Novel by Cynthia Ozick

The Gershwins and Me by Michael Feinstein

Total Immersion by Allegra Goodman

An Improbable Friendship by Anthony David

The Street of Crocodiles and Other Stories by Bruno Schultz

The Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik

Day of Atonement by David Liss

All Who Go Do Not Return: A Memoir by Shulem Deen

The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks

Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

Playing with Fire by Tess Gerritsen

Fever at Dawn by Peter Gardos

The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem by Sarit Yishai-Levi

Little Failure: A Memoir by Gary Shteyngart

Yiddish: A Nation of Words by Miriam Weinstein

Pumpkinflowers – A Solider’s Story by Matti Friedman

Moonglow by Michael Chabon

Maus I and II by Art Spiegelman

A Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell

The Last Minyan in Havana by Betty Heisler

Judas by Amos Oz

The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman

The Plot Against America by Philip Roth

Lost in Translation: Life in a New Language by Eva Hoffman

The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish

Shylock is My Name by Howard Jacobson

Moses, A Human Life by Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg

My Mother’s Sabbath Days by Chaim Grade

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