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TBA Book Club with Rabbi David Z. Vaisberg, M.A.R.E, M.A.H.L.

The Temple B’nai Abraham Book Group has engaging, meaningful, and edifying conversations about a different book each month. Books are available for purchase on Amazon and at other booksellers.

Each month, Book Group is on Zoom from 7:30-8:30 p.m.

Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel's Targeted Assassinations 
by Ronen Bergman – March 13

The Talmud says: “If someone comes to kill you, rise up and kill him first.” This instinct to take every measure, even the most aggressive, to defend the Jewish people is hardwired into Israel’s DNA. From the very beginning of its statehood in 1948, protecting the nation from harm has been the responsibility of its intelligence community and armed services, and there is one weapon in their vast arsenal that they have relied upon to thwart the most serious threats: Targeted assassinations have been used countless times, on enemies large and small, sometimes in response to attacks against the Israeli people and sometimes preemptively.

In this page-turning, eye-opening book, journalist and military analyst Ronen Bergman offers a riveting inside account of the targeted killing programs: their successes, their failures, and the moral and political price exacted on the men and women who approved and carried out the missions.

Bergman has gained the exceedingly rare cooperation of many current and former members of the Israeli government, as well as high-level figures in the country’s military and intelligence services: the IDF, the Mossad, Caesarea, and the Shin Bet.

Bergman was born in 1972, and grew up in Kiryat Bialik. His mother was a teacher and his father was an accountant. He is the youngest of three children. As a boy, he was a reporter for a youth television show. He studied law at the University of Haifa and graduated cum laude from its law school. He is a member of the Israeli Bar. He also studied history and international relations at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, and was awarded an M.Phil. degree in international relations, and then a PhD for his dissertation on the Israeli Mossad. He is a member of the Körber Foundation "Munich Young Leaders 2010" and participated in the prestigious "Munich 46 Security Conference". He is a former senior staff feature writer for Haaretz. Bergman is the recipient of the 1995 Bnei Brith Worlds Center Award for Journalism and the 1996 Ha’aretz award for Best Story. 

 

The Night Travelers
by Armando Lucas Correa – April 17

Berlin, 1931: Ally Keller, a talented young poet, is alone and scared when she gives birth to a mixed-race daughter she names Lilith. As the Nazis rise to power, Ally knows she must keep her baby in the shadows to protect her against Hitler’s deadly ideology of Aryan purity. But as she grows, it becomes more and more difficult to keep Lilith hidden so Ally sets in motion a dangerous and desperate plan to send her daughter across the ocean to safety.

Havana, 1958: Now an adult, Lilith has few memories of her mother or her childhood in Germany. Besides, she’s too excited for her future with her beloved Martin, a Cuban pilot with strong ties to the Batista government. But as the flames of revolution ignite, Lilith and her newborn daughter, Nadine, find themselves at a terrifying crossroads.

Berlin, 1988: As a scientist in Berlin, Nadine is dedicated to ensuring the dignity of the remains of all those who were murdered by the Nazis. Yet she has spent her entire lifetime avoiding the truth about her own family’s history. It takes her daughter, Luna, to encourage Nadine to uncover the truth about the choices her mother and grandmother made to ensure the survival of their children. And it will fall to Luna to come to terms with a shocking betrayal that changes everything she thought she knew about her family’s past.

Separated by time but united by sacrifice, four women embark on journeys of self-discovery and find themselves to be living testaments to the power of motherly love.

Armando Lucas Correa is a Cuban author, editor, and an award-winning journalist, and the recipient of several awards from the National Association of Hispanic Publications and the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the author of the international bestseller The German Girl (Atria Books/Simon & Schuster), which is now being published in sixteen languages and in more than 30 countries. For The Night Travelers, Correa received the Creative Writing Awards of the Cintas Foundation. He lives in Manhattan with his husband and their three children.

 

Catch-67:  The Left, the Right, and the Legacy of the Six-Day War
by Micah Goodman – May 8

Since the Six-Day War, Israelis have been entrenched in a national debate over whether to keep the land they conquered or to return some, if not all, of the territories to Palestinians.

In a balanced and insightful analysis, Micah Goodman deftly sheds light on the ideas that have shaped Israelis' thinking on both sides of the debate, and among secular and religious Jews about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Contrary to opinions that dominate the discussion, he shows that the paradox of Israeli political discourse is that both sides are right in what they affirm — and wrong in what they deny. Although he concludes that the conflict cannot be solved, Goodman is far from a pessimist and explores how instead it can be reduced in scope and danger through limited, practical steps. Through philosophical critique and political analysis, Goodman builds a creative, compelling case for pragmatism in a dispute where a comprehensive solution seems impossible.

Micah Goodman is the author of four best-selling books in Israel including Maimonides and the Book That Changed Judaism. He is president of Beit Midrash Yisraeli–Ein Prat, and a senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem.

 

The Woman Beyond the Sea
by Sarit Yishai-Levi - June 5

An immersive historical tale spanning the life stories of three women, The Woman Beyond the Sea traces the paths of a daughter, mother, and grandmother who lead entirely separate lives, until finally their stories and their hearts are joined together.

Eliya thinks that she’s finally found true love and passion with her charismatic and demanding husband, an aspiring novelist — until he ends their relationship in a Paris café, spurring her suicide attempt. Seeking to heal herself, Eliya is compelled to piece together the jagged shards of her life and history. 

Eliya’s heart-wrenching journey leads her to a profound and unexpected love, renewed family ties, and a reconciliation with her orphaned mother, Lily. Together, the two women embark on a quest to discover the truth about themselves and Lily’s own origins…and the unknown woman who set their stories in motion one Christmas Eve.

 

Sarit Yishai-Levi was born in Jerusalem in 1947 to a Sephardic family that has lived in the city for seven generations. Before turning to journalism, Yishai-Levi acted in theater and film for several years. Yishai-Levi has published four non-fiction books. Her first novel, The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem, was a bestseller in Israel. It is now a series on Netflix.


Previously read this year:

 

Signal Fires: A Novel
by Dani Shapiro – February 7

Division Street is full of secrets. An impulsive lie begets a secret — one which will forever haunt the Wilf family. And the Shenkmans, who move into the neighborhood many years later, bring secrets of their own. Spanning fifty kaleidoscopic years, on a street — and in a galaxy — where stars collapse and stories collide, these two families become bound in ways they never could have imagined.

Dani Shapiro is the best-selling author of the memoirs Hourglass, Still Writing, Devotion, and Slow Motion, and five novels including Black & White and Family History. Dani's latest book, Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love was published in 2019.

Eulogy
by Michael Laser – January 10

You think you know your father — but what if he kept secrets until the day he died? Just hours after delivering his father's eulogy, Ken Weintraub learns that this hard-working, unassuming man spent three years in prison. Consumed by the astonishing news, Ken sets out to unravel the mystery. 

Michael Laser writes novels for adults and younger readers. His website is michaellaser.com. 

Kantika
by Elizabeth Graver – October 4

A kaleidoscopic portrait of one family’s displacement across four countries, Kantika ― “song” in Ladino ― follows the joys and losses of Rebecca Cohen, feisty daughter of the Sephardic elite of early 20th-century Istanbul. 

Exploring identity, place, and exile, Kantika also reveals how the female body―in work, art and love―serves as a site of both suffering and joy.

Elizabeth Graver was long-listed for the 2013 National Book Awards Long List in Fiction for her 2013 novel, The End of the Point. Graver is the author of three other novels: Awake, The Honey Thief, and Unravelling

 

Unearthed:  A Lost Actress, a Forbidden Book, and a Search for Life in the Shadow of the Holocaust
by Meryl Frank – November 15

As a child, Meryl Frank's Aunt Mollie told her about Meryl’s cousin, the radiant Franya Winter. Franya was the leading light of Vilna’s Yiddish theater, a remarkable and precocious woman. Yet there was one thing her aunt Mollie would never tell Meryl: how Franya died. 

Unearthed is the story of Meryl’s search for Franya and a timely history of hatred and resistance. How do we honor such memories while keeping them from consuming us? And what do we teach our children about tragedy?

Meryl Frank is an international champion of women’s leadership, human rights, and political participation. She is also a frequent speaker on gender, health, environment, and refugee issues worldwide.

 

Leaving Eastern Parkway
by Matthew Daub – December 6

1991. As a fifteen-year-old Hasidic boy living in Crown Heights, Zev's parents are killed in a hit-and-run and everything changes. When his new living arrangement becomes problematic, Zev heads to Urbana, Illinois, to stay with his sister, Frida. The trouble is that she left the Jewish faith behind years ago, and going to her means Zev must turn his back on the only sort of life he knows.

The culture shock is intense. It’s a world full of choices he’s never had to consider. And now, like it or not, he must decide the type of man he wants to be.

Matthew Daub's watercolors and drawings have been widely exhibited for over four decades. He's had more than twenty solo exhibitions at galleries and museums throughout the United States. Leaving Eastern Parkway is his first novel.

Books read and discussed Previously 
2022-23:

The Sensualist by Daniel Torday - June 28

Winner of the 2012 National Jewish Book Award for Outstanding Debut Fiction. Raised in Baltimore in the '90s, 17-year-old Samuel Gerson is ready to be rid of his high school baseball team, his protective upbringing, and the tight-knit Jewish community in which he's spent his whole life.
A quietly devastating portrait of late adolescence, The Sensualist examines the culture we inherit as it collides with the one we create.

This book is fast and warm, fraught and intimate--and no slouch in the funny department, either. Daniel Torday's voice is entirely his own. Baltimore is his. Dmitri Zilber is a brilliant character.

Daniel Torday is a two-time National Jewish Book Book Award recipient and winner of the 2017 Sami Rohr Choice Award for The Last Flight of Poxl West. He is the Director of Creative Writing at Bryn Mawr College. 

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin - May 10

It's 1969 in New York City's Lower East Side, and word has spread of the arrival of a mystical woman, a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day they will die. The Gold children—four adolescents on the cusp of self-awareness—sneak out to hear their fortunes. The prophecies inform their next five decades. 

A sweeping novel of remarkable ambition and depth, The Immortalists probes the line between destiny and choice, reality and illusion, this world and the next. It is a deeply moving testament to the power of story, the nature of belief, and the unrelenting pull of familial bonds. 

Chloe Benjamin is the author of The Anatomy of Dreams, which received the Edna Ferber Fiction Book Award and was longlisted for the 2014 Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize.

By the Waters of Babylon by Christopher Farrar - April 19

When twelve-year-old Ya'el is taken prisoner by the Babylonians, her ability to write saves her life. A girl scribe, unique in the Empire, she's destined for slavery in the palace of king Nebuchadnezzar. Days later, her ruined city of Jerusalem is far behind. She struggles to survive on the long brutal trek, while strange dreams disturb her sleep.

Christopher Farrar brings the period of the Bible alive with stories of ordinary people caught up in the world-shaping events of the Hebrew scriptures (Old Testament). He hopes to help people get a feeling for life in Biblical times, for how the people who lived then saw their world and how, out of that world the Bible emerged.

Eternal Life by Dara Horn –  March 8

Rachel is a woman with a problem: she can’t die. In the 2,000 years since she made a spiritual bargain to save the life of her first son back in Roman-occupied Jerusalem, she’s tried everything to free herself.

Gripping, hilarious, and profoundly moving, Eternal Life celebrates the bonds between generations, the power of faith, the purpose of death, and the reasons for being alive. 

Dara Horn, the author of the novels All Other Nights, The World to Come, and In the Image, is one of Granta’s "Best Young American Novelists" and the winner of two National Jewish Book Awards. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and four children. 

Free as a Jew: A Personal Memoir of National Self-Liberation by Ruth R. Wisse – February 8

First came parents with the good sense to flee Europe in 1940 and the good fortune to reach the land of freedom. Their daughter, Ruth, grew up in the shadow of genocide—but in tandem with the birth of Israel, which remained her lodestar. She learned that although Jewishness is biologically transmitted, democracy is not, and both require intensive, intelligent transmission through education in each and every generation. They need adults with the confidence to teach their importance. Ruth tried to take on that challenge as dangers to freedom mounted and shifted sides on the political spectrum. At the high point of her teaching at Harvard University, she witnessed the unraveling of standards of honesty and truth until the academy she left was no longer the one she had entered.

Ruth R. Wisse was Professor of Yiddish literature and Comparative Literature at Harvard University from 1993 to 2014 and before that helped found the Jewish Studies Department at McGill University. Currently a senior fellow at the Tikvah Fund and recipient of its Herzl Prize, she has written widely on cultural and political subjects. Click here to purchase Free as a Jew: A Personal Memoir of National Self-Liberation on Amazon.com

The Memory Monster by Yishai Sarid, Yardenne Greenspan (Translator) – December 21 

Written as a report to the chairman of Yad Vashem, our unnamed narrator recounts his own undoing. Hired as a promising young historian, he soon becomes a leading expert on Nazi methods of extermination at concentration camps in Poland during World War II and guides tours through the sites for students and visiting dignitaries. 

Spending so much time immersed in death, his connections with the living begin to deteriorate. 

The Memory Monster confronts difficult questions that are all too relevant to Israel and the world today: How do we process human brutality? What makes us choose sides in conflict? And how do we honor the memory of horror without becoming consumed by it?

Yishai Sarid is an Israeli author, novelist and lawyer. 
Click here to purchase Memory Monster on Amazon.com

Click here to purchase Memory Monster on Amazon.com


Koshersoul: The Faith and Food Journey of an African American Jew by Michael Twitty – January 11 - rescheduled for Feb. 8

In Koshersoul, Michael W. Twitty considers the marriage of two of the most distinctive culinary cultures in the world today: the foods and traditions of the African Atlantic and the global Jewish diaspora. To Twitty, the creation of African-Jewish cooking is a conversation of migrations and a dialogue of diasporas offering a rich background for inventive recipes and the people who create them.

Michael W. Twitty is a food writer, independent scholar, culinary historian, and historical interpreter personally charged with preparing, preserving and promoting African American foodways and its parent traditions in Africa and her Diaspora and its legacy in the food culture of the American South. He is also a Judaic studies teacher from the Washington D.C. Metropolitan area and his interests include food culture, food history, Jewish cultural issues, African American history and cultural politics.

Click here to purchase Koshersoul on Amazon.com

Forget Russia by L. Bordetsky-Williams – Nov. 9

In 1980, Anna is a naïve UConn senior studying abroad in Moscow at the height of the Cold War—and a second-generation Russian Jew. As Anna dodges date rapists, KGB agents, and smooth-talking black marketeers while navigating an alien culture for the first time, she must come to terms with the aspects of the past that haunt her own life.

 

This is Real and You are Completely Unprepared: The Days of Awe as a Journey of Transformation by Alan Lew – September 14

The Days of Awe encompass the weeks preceding Rosh Hashanah up to Yom Kippur, a period in which Jews take part in a series of rituals and prayers that reenact the journey of the soul through the world from birth to death. This is a period of contemplation and repentance, comparable to Lent and Ramadan. Yet, for Rabbi Alan Lew, the real purpose of this annual passage is for us to experience brokenheartedness and open our hearts to God.

In This is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared, Lew has marked out a journey of seven distinct stages, one that draws on these rituals to awaken our soul and wholly transform us. Weaving together Torah readings, Buddhist parables, Jewish fables and stories from his own life, Lew lays bare the meanings of this ancient Jewish passage. He reveals the path from terror to acceptance, confusion to clarity, doubt to belief, and from complacency to awe.

Rabbi Alan Lew was the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Sholom in San Francisco for over a decade and was the founder of Makor Or, the first meditation center connected to a synagogue. He was also the author of Be Still and Get Going: A Jewish Meditation Practice for Real Life; One God Clapping: The Spiritual Path of a Zen Rabbi, which won the PEN Josephine Miles Award for Literary Excellence; and numerous works of poetry.

in 2021-22

The Messiah of Stockholm by Cynthia Ozick

The Lost Shtetl by Max Gross 

The Quiet Boy by Ben Winters 

When Time Stopped:  A Memoir of My Father’s War and What Remains by Ariana Neumann

Spies of No Country: Secret Lives at the Birth of Israel by Matti Friedman

The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred by Chanda Prescod-Weinstein

Negative Space by Lilly Dancyger 

The Netanyahus by Joshua Cohen 

2020-21

Kaddish.com by Nathan Englander

Beyond the Ghetto Gates by Michelle Cameron 
Dangerous Religious Ideas: the Deep Roots of Self-Critical Faith in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam by Rachel Mikva
The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman-November

The Great Kosher Meat War of 1902: Immigrant Housewives and the Riots That Shook New York City by Scott D. Seligman, who spoke at Book Group
Caste: the Origins of our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
Seven Good Years by Etgar Keret
Homesick by Eshkol Nevo

2019-20

Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Letters to my Palestinian Neighbor by Yossi Klein HaLevi
The Liar by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen
Solomon Gursky Was Here by Mordechai Richler
Sapiens: a Brief History of Human Kind by Yuval Noah Harari
A Pigeon and A Boy by Meir Shalev
New American Haggadah by Jonathan Safran Foer & Nathan Englander

TBA Book Club

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Thu, February 29 2024 20 Adar I 5784