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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.


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 for The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, National Affairs, and other publications. Her books include The Schlemiel as Modern Hero, The Modern Jewish Canon: A Journey Through Literature and Culture, No Joke: Making Jewish Humor, If I Am Not for Myself: The Liberal Betrayal of the Jews, and Jews and Power

Click here to purchase Free as a Jew: A Personal Memoir of National Self-Liberation on Amazon.com


Eternal Life by Dara Horn –  March 8

Rachel is a woman with a problem: she can’t die. Her recent troubles—widowhood, a failing business, an unemployed middle-aged son—are only the latest in a litany spanning dozens of countries, scores of marriages, and hundreds of children. 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, and only one other person in the world understands: a man she once loved passionately, who has been stalking her through the centuries, convinced they belong together forever.

But as the twenty-first century begins and her children and grandchildren—consumed with immortality in their own ways, from the frontiers of digital currency to genetic engineering—develop new technologies that could change her fate and theirs, Rachel knows she must find a way out.

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. 

Click here to purchase Eternal Life on Amazon.com


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. Her impulsiveness and passion for learning earn her hostility from fellow prisoners and murderous hatred from Babylonian guards. Desperate to avoid her looming fate, she's forced to confront her own complicity in the vitriol directed at her. And the dreams are getting stranger.

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 does this with the use of scholarly works, popular books, TV programs, trips to Israel with tours of Biblical sites, learning Hebrew, attending archaeology conferences and taking university courses. 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.

Click here to purchase By the Waters of Babylon on Amazon.com


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. Golden-boy Simon escapes to the West Coast, searching for love in '80s San Francisco; dreamy Klara becomes a Las Vegas magician, obsessed with blurring reality and fantasy; eldest son Daniel seeks security as an army doctor post-9/11; and bookish Varya throws herself into longevity research, where she tests the boundary between science and immortality.

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. A graduate of Vassar College and the M.F.A. in fiction at the University of Wisconsin, Chloe lives with her husband in Madison, WI.

Click here to purchase The Immortalists on Amazon.com


The Sensualist by Daniel Torday - June 14

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. But when he befriends enigmatic Dmitri Zilber, a recent Russian Jewish immigrant who is obsessed with the works of Dostoevsky, Samuel's world begins to shift. In the wake of his grandfather's suicide, as his life increasingly entangles with that of Dmitri and his beautiful sister Yelizaveta, it sets in motion a series of events that culminates in a disturbing act of violence. 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. Torday's work has appeared in Conjunctions, The New York Times, Paris Review Daily, Tin House, and on NPR, and has been honored in both the Best American Short Stories and Best American Essays series. He is the Director of Creative Writing at Bryn Mawr College. 

Click here to purchase The Sensualist on Amazon.com


Previously read this year: 

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.

Click here to purchase This is Real and You are Completely Unprepared on Amazon.com

Books read and discussed Previously 2022-23

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.

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 9 2023 18 Shevat 5783