Writer. Reader. Reviewer. Resource Maven.

My Machberet

“Machberet” is the Hebrew word for notebook. Since it’s also (appropriately) one of the very first words I learned in my first Hebrew school in Brooklyn (and, I confess, one of the few conversational Hebrew words I still remember), I’ve chosen it to title this blog, where I offer write-ups on Jewish news (especially of the literary sort) and occasional commentary.

From My Bookshelf: Lesléa Newman’s I CARRY MY MOTHER

Earlier this year, I shared one line from a poem by Lesléa Newman (“Sitting Shiva,” which I’d discovered thanks to Keshet/MyJewishLearning.com) as a “Sunday Sentence” on the Practicing Writing blog. Simultaneously, I ordered a copy of the collection in which that poem appears, I Carry My Mother, in which the poet recounts her mother’s dying and her own grief. But it took me until this week to sit down and actually read the book.

It is a searing collection. I dare anyone to read it without shedding tears at least once. (Maybe I suspected that would be the case, and maybe I needed some time to steel myself before engaging with the full collection.)

It is also a remarkably instructive volume for anyone interested in the practice of poetry. And since April is National Poetry Month, it seems appropriate to comment on this quality. Continue reading ›

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Pre-Shabbat Jewish Lit Links

Photo Credit: Reut Miryam Cohen

Photo Credit: Reut Miryam Cohen


Every Friday My Machberet presents an array of Jewish-interest links, primarily of the literary variety.

  • On the Reform Judaism blog: another nice review of Anita Diamant’s The Boston Girl that hits a lot of notes I’ve been thinking about re: this novel, too.
  • Another review with which I concur: Gloria Kestenbaum’s take on Gina Nahai’s The Luminous Heart of Jonah S., which Kestenbaum calls “[b]y turns hilariously funny and painfully sad.”
  • In time for Passover: Jewish kidlit recommendations from Lisa Silverman (Jewish Journal) and Marjorie Ingall (Tablet).
  • Via Shelf Awareness: a nifty one-stop-“shop”/newsletter for learning all about Fig Tree Books (my employer!) and the novels of American Jewish experience it is publishing this spring.
  • And as we prepare for the final episodes of Mad Men, The Forward’s Anne Cohen talks with Matthew Weiner by phone “to ask him what comes next, what he kept from the set, and really, what’s the deal with all the Jews?” on the show.
  • Shabbat shalom!

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    Pre-Hiatus Jewish Lit Links

    Photo Credit: Reut Miryam Cohen

    Photo Credit: Reut Miryam Cohen

    Every Friday, My Machberet presents an array of Jewish-interest links, primarily of the literary variety. Yes, I know it’s not Friday. But I won’t be able to post then, as I’ll be on a brief “off-the-grid” hiatus. So here are the links, just a bit early. See you again next week!

  • Last Thursday I attended the National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) awards ceremony. I was happy to see that The Essential Ellen Willis won in the Criticism category. I read that book after I discovered “Is There Still a Jewish Question? Why I’m an Anti-Anti-Zionist,” a truly “essential” essay. (Also taking top honors at the NBCC ceremony: Roz Chast’s Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? – one of my favorite reads of 2014.)
  • The March Jewish Book Carnival was posted on Sunday. Always worth reading.
  • UK-based Jewish Quarterly is hiring paid interns in journalism and in social media.
  • Also worthwhile: a cyber-roundtable with Jewish-fiction editors Yona Zeldis McDonough, Nora Gold, and Michelle Caplan (my colleague!), hosted by Barbara Krasner.
  • On the Fig Tree Books website, Rebekah Bergman reviews Lynne Sharon Schwartz’s Leaving Brooklyn.
  • And speaking of Fig Tree Books–last, but definitely not least: the March newsletter, with info on three ongoing giveaways of titles of Jewish interest and a whole lot more.
  • Shabbat shalom–and see you next week!

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    From My Bookshelf: Myron S. Kaufmann’s REMEMBER ME TO GOD

    Can't explain the coloring on the cover of my library copy!

    Can’t explain the coloring on the cover of my library copy!

    “Though it was hailed on publication as one of the finest novels ever written about American Jews and remained on The New York Times bestseller list for an entire year,” Josh Lambert has written for Tablet, “almost no one remembers [Myron S. Kaufmann’s Remember Me to God] today. It goes unmentioned in bibliographies of American Jewish fiction, and so obscure is Kaufmann in this Internet age that searching for his name turns up nary a stub on Wikipedia.”

    Lambert’s essay explores the possible reasons behind the book’s obscurity. Having recently immersed myself in the novel (you can find a summary here), I can appreciate Lambert’s arguments and hypotheses. I’m in particular agreement with the suggestion that one should accord attention and respect to the characters of Adam Amsterdam and his daughter Dorothy. But I can’t get away from how unpleasant—dare I say, how unsympathetic—I found the ostensible protagonist, Richard Amsterdam (Adam’s son and Dorothy’s brother).

    This character is so repellent that he made it challenging for me to stick with the novel—which runs more than 600 pages—despite the book’s unquestionable artistic merits as (again borrowing from Lambert) “a finely wrought triumph of midcentury realism.” Like Lambert, I have personal connections to Harvard, where much of the novel unfolds, and innumerable details within the novel struck chords of not-unpleasant memory. But Richard Amsterdam (and, to a lesser extent, Richard’s mother) so appalled me that I’m not sure how comfortable I’d feel recommending this book to others without some warnings.

    Still, I can understand Lambert’s enthusiasm. And I’m not sorry that I read it.

    Have you read Remember Me to God? What was your take?

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    Pre-Shabbat Jewish Literary Links

    Photo Credit: Reut Miryam Cohen

    Photo Credit: Reut Miryam Cohen


    Every Friday My Machberet presents an array of Jewish-interest links, primarily of the literary variety.

  • Paid summer internship opportunity with Tablet.
  • Speaking of Tablet: check out this sweet, brief documentary: “The Last of the Morrises,” about author/critic/scholar Morris Dickstein.
  • On my to-listen list: the newest episode of The Book of Life podcast, hosted by librarian Heidi Estrin, which features an interview with Tova Mirvis about her newest novel, Visible City.
  • Finally: “The Isaac Anolic Memorial Annual Jewish Book Arts Award is now taking applications.” (Thanks to Elizabeth Edelglass for info about the Jewish Art Salon and its current exhibit.)
  • Shabbat shalom.

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    On Attending a Performance of “Defiant Requiem”

    Rafael Schächter, the conductor at the heart  of the Defiant Requiem.

    Rafael Schächter, the conductor at the heart of the Defiant Requiem.


    For a long time, I was known to describe Verdi’s as “my favorite Requiem.” The first time I attended a live choral performance, I was overwhelmed by it.

    That was many years ago. Since that first performance, I have listened over and over to a CD. But Monday evening I attended another live performance. And I can’t quite find the words to articulate how extraordinary it was.

    So I’ll borrow from others.

    From the Defiant Requiem Foundation website: Continue reading ›

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