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22 November 2017 - 4 Kislev 5778 - ד' כסלו ה' אלפים תשע"ח
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Holocaust Survivor Cookbook
Edited by the Caras Family
2007, Caras & Associates, Inc, Port St. Lucie, Florida, 350 pages

Although I had the amazing good fortune to survive with both of my parents, I have lived all of my life knowing that I survived because of them, that even though I kept on breathing and did not die, and I was always excruciatingly obedient. I didn’t survive by any wits, intelligence, or skills of my own. My parents and grandparents were the survivors; I still occasionally question whether I was/am.

This book bills itself as, “the most important cookbook you will ever own,” and it lives up to that promise. The book is not truly a cookbook but a collection of stories and photographs of survivors along with recipes that they have submitted. The book is laid out like a family scrap album and as the editors profess, “a true labour of love.” Each vignette, each amazing tale of survival, is a glance at a family album. It is a snapshot of the richness of Jewish life before the war and the richness of life that these survivors managed to regain.

(Reviewed in JTA Issue November 2008)

 

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Non- Violence: The History of a Dangerous Idea
By Mark Kurlansky
2006, Random House, New York, New York, 184 pages

The sixth of these commandments is “You shall not kill.” It is one of the shortest commandments and offers no commentary, explanation or variations. It does not say, as many Jews claim, “except in self-defense,” nor does it say “except when absolutely necessary.” It is one of the most plain declarative sentences in the Bible.

Like all of Kurlansky’s works, this is a clear and easy to read history. He starts out by stating that there is no word for non-violence other than the absence of violence and concludes with twenty-five important lessons. The book spans the history of the world from the ancient times through the modern day. It is an important and critical examination of a number of different worldviews and the utter failure of violence to resolve conflict. For a more powerful message, Kurlansky could have focused more thoroughly on contemporary confl icts which he barely touches.

(Reviewed in JTA Issue October 2008)

 

 

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OUTWITTING HISTORY
By Aaron Lansky
Workman Publishing, 328 pages

“This is an emergency! There are thousands of Yiddish books in a garbage Dumpster on Sixteenth Street and it looks like it’s going to rain. How soon can you be here?”

So begins the story of how a million Yiddish books were rescued from dumpsters, basements, and storage rooms by Aaron Lansky and his merry band, who (many donations, lectures, and a Macarthur grant later) established the National Yiddish Book Center. Lansky, studying Ashkenazi Jewish culture, reaches a dead end when he realises the complete picture exists only in Yiddish. He begins by rescuing individual libraries from elderly Jews simply to find literature in the language he’s chosen to learn and quickly realises he’s in a race against the clock. The book reads like a murder mystery. I couldn’t put it down.

(Reviewed in JTA Issue June 2006)

 

 

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JEWS
By Arthur Hertzberg and Aron Hirt-Manheime
HarperSanFrancisco, 294 pages

“Throughout their history, the Jews have divided into two camps: those for whom the survival of their Jewishness is central to their lives, and those for whom the ideal is fitting into the majority culture.”

In Jews, Hertzberg and Hirt-Manheimer set about painting a portrait of the Jewish character. They admit the political incorrectness of such a thing. They were turned down by publishers in the US and Europe for fear of the “Jewish establishment.” The book examines chosenness, factiousness, and the Jew as outsider. A historical framework is followed. The authors make no claim for simplification, only for clarification; with the result that clichés are forsaken for careful, thorough reasoning. This book is not a quick read but is well worth it.

(Reviewed in JTA Issue June 2006)

 

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