SBE Jewish Book Club


Books and Schedule (All meetings at 7:30 pm at synagogue because of its accessibility)

**I am happy to order books from Amazon for you!**

Shelly Sanders

  • Moonglow by Michael Chabon (non-fiction)

    Michael Chabon’s new book is described on the title page as “a novel,” in an author’s note as a “memoir” and in the acknowledgments as a “pack of lies.” This is neither as confusing nor as devious as it might sound, since “Moonglow” is less a self-conscious postmodern high-wire act than an easygoing hybrid of forms. Chabon has what sounds like a mostly true story to tell — about characters whose only names are “my grandmother” and “my grandfather,” and also about mental illness, snake hunting, the Holocaust and rocket science — and he may not have wanted to be bound too tightly by the constraints of literal accuracy in telling it. At the same time, he has shaken loose the formal conventions of fiction, liberating himself in particular from the tyranny of plot.

  • And They Shall Be my People by Paul Wilkes (non-fiction)

    Wilkes spent a year with Rabbi Jay Rosenbaum, leader of Congregation Beth Israel, a Conservative Jewish synagogue in Worcester, Mass. This report is a searching meditation based on the assumption that American Jewry is fragmented, diluted and facing a precarious future. Rabbi Rosenbaum, who zealously attempts to reach alienated Jews and to nudge the marginally observant toward greater commitment, emerges as confident yet deeply frustrated as he copes with intermarriages, declining membership, a stagnant budget and the resentment of congregants uncomfortable with his demands for stricter observance. A congregational trip to Israel unleashes pent-up emotions in the rabbi and his wife, Janine, who contemplate relocating there. (For most of the book, Janine seems bitterly disillusioned and peeved at her frequently absent husband.) Wilkes (In Mysterious Ways: The Death and Life of a Parish Priest), who is Catholic, brings a sympathetic perspective to this probe. (Oct.)

  • The Last Flight of Poxl West by Daniel Torday; finalist in Sami Rohr Prize

    “It’s Mr. Torday’s ability to shift gears between sweeping historical vistas and more intimate family dramas, and between old-school theatrics and more contemporary meditations on the nature of storytelling that announces his emergence as a writer deserving of attention.”
    – The New York Times

  • Come Back for Me by Sharon Hart-Green

    Artur Mandelkorn is a young Hungarian Holocaust survivor whose desperate quest to find his sister takes him to post-war Israel. Intersecting Artur’s tale is that of Suzy Kohn, a Toronto teenager whose seemingly tranquil life is shattered when her uncle’s sudden death tears her family apart, leading her into a troubled relationship with a charismatic musician. Their stories eventually come together in Israel following the Six-Day War, where love and understanding become the threads that bind the two narratives together.

  • Kabbalah: A Love Story by Rabbi Kushner *

    Sometime, somewhere, someone is searching for answers . . .
    . . . in a thirteenth-century castle
    . . . on a train to a concentration camp
    . . . in a New York city apartment

    Hidden within the binding of an ancient text that has been passed down through the ages lies the answer to one of the heart’s eternal questions. When the text falls into the hands of Rabbi Kalman Stern, he has no idea that his lonely life of intellectual pursuits is about to change once he opens the book. Soon afterward, he meets astronomer Isabel Benveniste, a woman of science who stirs his soul as no woman has for many years. But Kalman has much to learn before he can unlock his heart and let true love into his life. The key lies in the mysterious document he finds inside the Zohar, the master text of the Kabbalah.

    • We are working to bring Rabbi Kushner to the Book Club to discuss his novel, so date might change based on his availability 
  • The Fortunate Ones by Ellen Umansky

    The mystery surrounding the disappearance of Chaim Soutine’s painting The Bellhop is the thread that ties two women’s lives together in this well-imagined novel. 

    When she is eleven years old, Rose and her brother Gerhard are sent from Vienna to England on the Kindertransport after the Nazis take over Austria in 1938. Their beloved parents perish during the war, and scarred by this experience, Rose is plagued by thoughts of what could have happened to her mother’s favorite painting—The Bellhop, which she purchased years ago from a Parisian gallery. Rose never stops searching for traces of its whereabouts.

    Fast-forward to present-day Los Angeles, where Lizzie Goldstein is mourning the loss of her own father. After the war, The Bellhop made its way to a gallery in New York and was bought by her father—but then stolen during a party that Lizzie had arranged. This event has continued to haunt Lizzie, now a successful attorney in New York who has come to Los Angeles to help her sister settle their father’s estate.

    Umansky details the two women’s personal stories as she skips between 1936 and 2008. Rose and Lizzie, more than a generation apart, share a seminal psychological trauma of loss of childhood security though the loss of a parent. When they do meet because of their shared passion—the search for the fate of the painting—the immediate empathy they feel for each other despite their vastly different life experiences is credible, and a tribute to the author’s understanding of human nature. Neither woman has strong Jewish ties, yet Umansky includes an attempt by Lizzie to find solace when she goes to temple to say kaddish for her father.

  • Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

    Inspired by the life of a real World War II heroine, this debut novel reveals a story of love, redemption, and secrets that were hidden for decades.
      New York socialite Caroline Ferriday has her hands full with her post at the French consulate and a new love on the horizon. But Caroline’s world is forever changed when Hitler’s army invades Poland in September 1939—and then sets its sights on France.
      An ocean away from Caroline, Kasia Kuzmerick, a Polish teenager, senses her carefree youth disappearing as she is drawn deeper into her role as courier for the underground resistance movement. In a tense atmosphere of watchful eyes and suspecting neighbors, one false move can have dire consequences.
      For the ambitious young German doctor, Herta Oberheuser, an ad for a government medical position seems her ticket out of a desolate life. Once hired, though, she finds herself trapped in a male-dominated realm of Nazi secrets and power.
      The lives of these three women are set on a collision course when the unthinkable happens and Kasia is sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious Nazi concentration camp for women. Their stories cross continents—from New York to Paris, Germany, and Poland—as Caroline and Kasia strive to bring justice to those whom history has forgotten.

  • Facism: A Warning by Madeleine Albright (Former US Secretary of State)

    Fascism is back in fashion. That, at least, is the message that former secretary of state Madeleine Albright wants to convey with her new book, “Fascism: A Warning.” In many places, she notes, we see strongmen on the rise, and this authoritarian resurgence is accompanied by a conspicuous surge of ideas from the far right. Racists and xenophobes are popping up in places — university campuses, high political office — where we never expected to see them.

    So are we experiencing a revival of the most virulent forms of extreme right-wing ideology, of the sort that the West thought it had vanquished back in 1945? Albright believes that answering this question is crucial to understanding the current political moment. The first chapters of her book follow the careers of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler in the 1920s and ’30s. Her account gains additional force from her own biography: As a little girl, she had to leave her native Czechoslovakia with her family after the Nazis invaded in 1939. (Her maternal grandmother, who was Jewish, was murdered by the Nazis in World War II.)

  • The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow

    As soon as it first appeared in 1953, this gem by the great Saul Bellow was hailed as an American classic. Bold, expansive, and keenly humorous, The Adventures of Augie March blends street language with literary elegance to tell the story of a poor Chicago boy growing up during the Great Depression. A “born recruit,” Augie makes himself available for hire by plungers, schemers, risk takers, and operators, compiling a record of choices that is—to say the least—eccentric.