The Pater: My Father, My Judaism, My Childlessness By Elliot Jager Toby Press, 189 pages


Elliot Jager, who unwillingly has no children, strongly protests what he says is Judaism’s stigmatization of the childless. He’s “searching for a defense counsel, someone to offer perspective to my bill of particulars charging Judaism’s canon with disrespect, disregard, even disdain for the childless.” That idea never had entered my mind. Nor, I suspect, does… Read More

Disraeli: The Novel Politician, By David Cesarani Yale University Press, 282 pages


Benjamin Disraeli, the only Jewish-born prime minister of the United Kingdom, may have been Jewish by birth, but his life and  descriptions of the Jewish people were anything but orthodox. David Cesarani’s new monograph of the historic leader begins with a short introduction about Disraeli’s father and grandfather. As a child, Disraeli becomes a Christian… Read More

Return to Zion: The History of Modern Israel By Eric Gartman University of Nebraska Press, 331 pages


Most people are familiar with the history of Israel, but they weren’t standing on Masada more than 2,000 years ago when what had been the last Jewish stronghold fell to the Roman Empire. That is where Eric Gartman’s account of modern Israeli history begins before fast-forwarding to the turn of the 20th century, the rise… Read More

The 613 By Archie Rand Blue Rider Press, 622 pages


It took Archie Rand almost five years to produce the paintings featured in “The 613,” an illustrated interpretation of the 613 mitzvot, or commandments, from the Torah. Each panel measures 20 inches by 16 inches and takes up about 1,700 square feet of wall space when exhibited together, which has happened only once, for four… Read More

Let There Be Water: Israel’s Solution for a Water-Starved World By Seth M. Siegel Thomas Dunne Books, 352 pages


Speaking from Austin, Texas, in between his 55th and 56th speaking engagements, author Seth M. Siegel laments how the Barnes & Noble retailer places his book in the wildlife section. There isn’t a single animal mentioned anywhere in the volume. “They have me in the wildlife section because they don’t have a context,” Siegel says…. Read More

My Father’s Guitar and Other Imaginary Things By Joseph Skibell Algonquin Trade Paperback, 224 pages


Perhaps Joseph Skibell’s unusual approach to life’s occurrences is related to his family’s unusual pronunciation of the truncated version of its European name. Americanized — sort of — Skibelski became, “against all orthographic convention,” SKY-bell, which, the author says, almost everyone mispronounces. The author also has experiences and views not always conventional, as shown in… Read More

Good Reads

“Being Nixon: A Man Divided” By Evan Thomas Random House, 531 pages “One Man Against the World: The Tragedy of Richard Nixon” By Tim Weiner Henry Holt and Company, 317 pages “The Last of the President’s Men” By Bob Woodward Simon & Schuster, 182 pages   Richard Nixon was the most reviled American president of… Read More

Killing a King: The Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and the Remaking of Israel By Dan Ephron Norton, 336 pages


Yigal Amir believed that killing Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin would prevent a transfer of the ancient Jewish heartland to Arab control, and he was willing to die to do it. Rabin’s assassination at a pro-peace rally on Nov. 4, 1995 “triggered a violent backlash by both Palestinians and Israelis opposed to the conciliation process,” says… Read More

Abraham: The World’s First (But Certainly Not Last) Jewish Lawyer By Alan M. Dershowitz Schocken, 208 pages

In his latest sharp-witted work, the world’s perhaps best-known Jewish lawyer profiles the man he considers to the first-ever Jewish lawyer: the biblical patriarch Abraham. Retired Harvard Law School professor Alan M. Dershowitz, who has been called “the nation’s most peripatetic civil liberties lawyer” and one of its “most distinguished defenders of individual rights,” says… Read More

Nine Essential Things I’ve Learned About Life By Rabbi Harold S. Kushner Knopf, 171 pages


When bad events challenge our childhood faith in God’s goodness or even in God’s existence, “it is not only permissible but a religious obligation” to question our beliefs, says Rabbi Harold Kushner. But then seek answers to the questions. “The only religiously unacceptable response is to reject religion entirely and close your mind to further… Read More