“Read It & Meet” Book Discussions

Books in stack

Do you have a favorite book you'd like to share … one by a Jewish author or with Jewish content? Our "Read It & Meet" Book Discussions are held once a month and are open to everyone! We discuss selected books and share our experiences, reactions, and ideas. Occasionally, we have an "author-in-residence" as a special guest.

Most book discussions take place Shabbat afternoons (exceptions are noted below) following Kiddush with the congregation (approximately 12:00 noon). Moderators are needed to facilitate each book discussion. If you would like to suggest a book, act as a moderator, or would like more information, please contact Vicki Kaufman or Rayna Gellman.

DATE BOOK/AUTHOR/SYNOPSIS MODERATOR

October 5, 2013

This “RIM” is in tribute to, and in memory of, Dr. Klara Swimmer, a Holocaust survivor.

The End of the Holocaust by Alvin H. Rosenfeld

In this provocative work, the author contends that the proliferation of books, films, television programs, museums, and public commemorations related to the Holocaust has – perversely – brought about a diminution of its meaning and a denigration of its memory. Investigating a wide range of events and cultural phenomena, such as Ronald Reagan's 1985 visit to the German cemetery at Bitburg, the distortions of Anne Frank's story, and the ways in which the Holocaust has been depicted by such artists and filmmakers as Judy Chicago and Steven Spielberg, Rosenfeld charts the cultural forces that have minimized the Holocaust in popular perceptions. He contrasts these with sobering representations by Holocaust witnesses such as Jean Améry, Primo Levi, Elie Wiesel, and Imre Kertész. The book concludes with a powerful warning about the possible consequences of "the end of the Holocaust" in public consciousness.

Rayna Gellman
November 2

The Lady in Gold by Anne-Marie O’Connor

The spellbinding story—part fairy tale, part suspense—of Gustav Klimt's most famous painting, one of the most emblematic portraits of its time: the beautiful, seductive Viennese Jewish salon hostess who sat for it; the notorious, "degenerate'' artist who painted it; the now vanished turn-of-the-century Vienna that shaped it; and the strange twisted fate that befell it.

Susan Wortman
December 7

The Lawgiver by Herman Wouk

For more than 50 years, legendary author Herman Wouk dreamed of writing a novel about the life of Moses. Finally, at age 96, he found an ingeniously witty way to tell the tale in The Lawgiver, a romantic and suspenseful epistolary novel about a group of people trying to make a movie about Moses in the present day. At the center of The Lawgiver is Margo Solovei, a brilliant young writer-director who has rejected her rabbinical father’s strict Jewish upbringing to pursue a career in the arts. When an Australian multi-billionaire promises to finance a movie about Moses if the script meets certain standards, Margo does everything she can to land the job, including a reunion with her estranged first love, an influential lawyer with whom she still has unfinished business.

Rabbi Robert Eisen
January 4, 2014

The Outside World by Tova Mirvis

Tzippy Goldman was born for marriage. She and her mother had always assumed she’d graduate high school, be set up with the right boy, and have a beautiful wedding with white lace and pareve vanilla cream frosting. But at 22, Tzippy is fast approaching spinsterhood. She dreams of escape; instead, she leaves for a year in Jerusalem. There she meets–re-meets–Baruch, the son of her mother’s college roommate. When Tzippy last saw him, his name was Bryan and he wore a Yankees-logo yarmulke. Now he has adopted the black hat of the ultra-orthodox, the tradition in which Tzippy was raised. Twelve weeks later, they’re engaged…and discovering that desire and tradition, devotion and individuality aren’t the easiest balance.

Joni Belzer
February 1

In the Garden of the Beasts by Erik Larson

In 1933 Berlin, William E. Dodd becomes America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Nazi Germany, the mild-mannered professor from Chicago, brings along his wife, son, and flamboyant daughter, Martha. At first Martha is entranced by the parties and pomp, and the handsome young men of the Third Reich with their infectious enthusiasm for restoring Germany to a position of world prominence. Enamored of the “New Germany,” she has one affair after another, including with the surprisingly honorable first chief of the Gestapo, Rudolf Diels. But as evidence of Jewish persecution mounts, confirmed by chilling first-person testimony, her father telegraphs his concerns to a largely indifferent State Department back home. Dodd watches with alarm as Jews are attacked, the press is censored, and drafts of frightening new laws begin to circulate. This work speaks volumes about why the world did not recognize the grave threat posed by Hitler until Berlin, and Europe, were awash in blood and terror.

Lily Brull
March 1

Jihad Incorporated by Steven Emerson

An incredibly informative look into the infiltration of terrorism into American society both before and after 9/11. The extent of the radical activity here in the United States that is uncovered in this book is truly eye opening, a scary reminder of the prevalence of terrorism in American society. In a dangerous age, this is an important book for all Americans to read.

Barbara Benjamin
April 3

"Read It & Meet" 2014-15 Planning Meeting, 11:45am, Fifth Street Deli (5th St./Rosemont)

Know some great books? Anyone interested in reading, and books with Jewish content or authors, is invited to help us select the reading list for the coming year. Meet us for lunch at Fifth Street Deli (“dutch treat”) to share your favorite books. For more information, contact Vicki Kaufman.

 
April 5

The Innocents by Francesca Segal

Newly engaged and unthinkingly self-satisfied, 28-year-old Adam Newman is the prize catch of Temple Fortune, a small, tight-knit Jewish suburb of London. He has been dating Rachel Gilbert since they were both 16 and now, to the relief and happiness of the entire Gilbert family, they are finally to marry. To Adam, Rachel embodies the highest values of Temple Fortune; she is innocent, conventional, and entirely secure in her community. Marrying Rachel will cement Adam's role in a warm, inclusive family he loves. But as the vast machinery of the wedding gathers momentum, Adam feels the first faint touches of claustrophobia, and when Rachel's younger cousin Ellie Schneider moves home from New York, she unsettles Adam more than he'd care to admit.

Vicki Kaufman
May 3

My Russian Grandmother and her American Vacuum Cleaner by Meir Shalev

Grandma Tonia arrived in Palestine by boat from Russia in 1923 and lived in a constant state of battle with what she viewed as the family’s biggest enemy in their new land: dirt. Grandma Tonia received visitors outdoors and allowed only the most privileged guests to enter her spotless house. Hilarious and touching, Grandma Tonia and her regulations come richly to life in a narrative that circles around the arrival into the family’s dusty midst of the big, shiny American sweeper sent as a gift by a great-uncle who had shockingly emigrated to the sinful capitalist heaven of Los Angeles! America was seen as a land of hedonism and enchanting progress. The sweeper was symbolic of the conflicts and visions of the family in every respect.

Rayna Gellman

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