It is with great sadness that JBS acknowledges the passing of one of our founders and inspiration, Kenneth Schwartz. Kenny was always a happy, positive and supportive friend who worked alongside us to encourage discussion and raise awareness about issues within the Jewish community. An activist and supporter for many causes, Kenny was intelligent, articulate and passionate, but more than all else he was kind and considerate. He will be missed as a colleague and friend. May his family find comfort among the mourners of Jerusalem.
Jewish Interest
Glorious, Accursed Europe
A Jewish Book Reviews Exclusive
My first venture into Eastern Europe was stepping off a Belorussian airliner onto the tarmac of a deserted airport. The Stalinesque terminal building, it's orange brick and marble stained with soot and jet exhaust, was a landscape painted with foreboding. The land was as flat as Dorothy's Kansas, empty of people, buildings, cars, trucks, horses and cattle. Grasslands, dry and brown, extending beyond the horizon. Even as late as 1998, Lukashenko's Belarus was still a hard-line communist state. He was also Sadaam Hussein's most fervent political ally. I knew that all the phones would be tapped; that there was a replica of the KGB's Lubyanka prison in downtown Minsk across from the biggest department store; that I would be one of only 12 Americans then in the country; that I had been advised to discuss nothing remotely political with my translator because it might endanger both him and his family; and that if Lukashenko made a surprise visit to the film studio where I'd be working for a few days, I should hide. Yet my overwhelming emotion was not the fear or paranoia that I thought I might experience as a character in my own personal Le Carre novel, but the sense that I had come home.
 

 
The Gift of the Jews
A Jewish Book Reviews Exclusive
Walking the line between history and theology, Cahill demonstrates that in ancient times the two were intertwined, perhaps to the point of being indistinguishable. The history of ancient man  roaming Mesopotamia more than five millennia ago  was consumed with a quest to make sense of the natural, unexplainable events man witnessed daily. The initial effort led to the belief in many Gods, each responsible for a specific phenomena and each prayed to in an effort to exercise some degree of control. As Cahill states, "Long before the cities of Sumer has risen above the Tigris and Euphrates, long before farming and herding had been thought of, the first earthly beings looked up at the sky with attention and intelligence had thought these thoughts  the perceptions of the contingent life of earth as a fleeting reflection of the eternal life of the heavens, the insight that the moon especially mirrors our earthly condition of birth, copulation, and personal death, and then regeneration of species. Such thoughts express mankind's original religious experience and form the foundation for all the world's most ancient religions."
 

 
A Fine Romance by David Lehman
A Jewish Book Reviews Exclusive
Perhaps you can't remember where or when special moments in your life occurred but it's a lilting melody that will time after time bring the joy or the heartbreak flooding back in a major way and probably in a minor key. David Lehman's "A Fine Romance" Jewish Songwriters, American Songs will take you on the yellow brick road, stopping along the way to point out the shtetl background where most of these songs now residing in the American Song Book found their origin.
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The Jewish Mind by Raphael Patai
A Jewish Book Reviews Exclusive
To study Judaism deeply results in a greater understanding of humanity; The Jewish Mind is a chronology with strong purpose - a historic telling of an outstanding tenacity of spirit through the succinct and unwavering view embedded in the Jewish Mind. Patai passionately puts forth important questions, exploring the vast body of external influences upon the Jewish psyche and ultimately, addressing the question what is the essence of Jewishness? The Jewish Mind originates as a chapter in Patai's collaboration with his daughter Jennifer in The "Myth of the Jewish Race" published in 1975. An evaluation of the Jewish faith and culture as affected by Gentiles and the trials of Jewish history, The Jewish Mind though extremely informative, presents its case in painstaking detail, often repeating itself many times over, establishing and re-establishing already proved points.
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The Jokes of Oppression: The Humor of Soviet Jews by David A. Harris & Izrail Rabinovich
A Jewish Book Reviews Exclusive
Is it any wonder why humor is such a central element of the Jewish condition? From Groucho Marx to Jerry Seinfeld, humor has certainly been a part of the American Jewish experience. But what about Jewish communities in other countries, especially those countries where anti-Semitism is still widespread or even government sanctioned?

The Jews of the Soviet Union relied on humor as a way to help cope with the institutionalized persecution they were subject to daily. They used this humor to emphasize the hypocrisy, poke fun at those in power, and maintain their identities. Although the Soviet Union disintegrated and the Jews of the Soviet Union were able to escape the persecution, the legacy of their humor remains as a testimony to their humanity and a record of their good humor in the face of unspeakable hardships and cruelty.

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Herzog by Saul Bellow
A Jewish Book Reviews Exclusive
Herzog, a 1964 novel for which Saul Bellow won the National Book Prize, is possibly the funniest book about the saddest man: Moses E. Herzog. An academic by profession and a philosopher at heart, Herzog finds himself suddenly in limbo when his wife Madeline, who unbeknownst to Herzog has been having an affair with his best friend Gersbach, throws him out of their new Chicago home and estranges him from their daughter, June. This is Herzog's second divorce and one that leaves him in a considerable amount of pain. Daisy, his first wife with whom he has a son Marco, appears benign in contrast to the manipulative and demanding Madeline. It is for Madeline that he quits his position as a lecturer in New York and it is for her that he spends his entire inheritance on a cottage in the Berkshires in an attempt to return to his more intellectual pursuits. The crumbling Berkshire cottage mirrors at first Herzog's crumbling marriage and then his crumbling psyche. Facing financial ruin, Herzog flits between New York, Chicago and the Berkshires, often borrowing money from his wealthy brothers even as Madeline continues to send him her credit card bills.
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The Chosen by Chaim Potok
A Jewish Book Reviews Exclusive
The themes of the Chosen are universal. This book, which on the surface seems to be about two Jewish teenage boys is much more than that. It brings quite an accurate, albeit superficial, overview of the end of World War II, and of the political process that led to the creation of the State of Israel. But, above all, The Chosen is about different kind of relationships. Relationships between: fathers and sons, friends; Jews and God, American Jews and European Jews, religions and Zionism, Chassidism and those who oppose it, words and silence.  It is also a story about following personal dreams, which sometimes goes against ones' parents' hopes or culture. In a Jewish sense, Potok uses an interesting metaphor to show the reader that no matter how different we might dress, no matter what rituals and traditions we may or may not follow, what we may or may not believe in, we are not altogether that different. The Chosen shows how the constant search for answers has been part of the Jewish experience since the days of the Bible. In this way, the struggles of the characters of this book represent the struggles of every Jew, regardless of his or her level of observance. It also represents the inner struggle of every individual that tries to determine how much can he take from the outside culture without losing his identity.
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