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From My Screen: ABOVE AND BEYOND

Over the Shavuot/Memorial Day weekend, I watched an extraordinary film. In its simplest terms, the film might be described (as a New York Times reviewer has written) as follows: “Produced by Nancy Spielberg (sister of Steven Spielberg), the documentary ‘Above and Beyond’ recounts the story of Jewish American pilots who, beginning in 1948, secretly fought for Israel in its war of independence, when the Israeli military was nascent.”

It’s an amazing story. To be sure, it’s not without its discomforts. For starters, the American Jews who participated in this effort were risking their U.S. citizenship. But by the end of the film, one can’t help thinking of the devastating consequences had they not made the choices that they did.

The same NYT reviewer mentioned above also notes that “the movie’s one-sided view of history is bound to start arguments.” Maybe. But if this is a “one-sided view of history,” it’s also an accurate view of history. For instance, the Arab countries’ 1947 rejection of the U.N. Partition Plan that would have created the first-ever Palestinian state is included as part of the prelude to Israel’s War of Independence. Not everyone is cognizant of this pre-history to Israel’s declaration of statehood. Is its inclusion what the reviewer means by “one-sided”?

Regardless, I strongly recommend this film, especially for anyone who wants to learn more about the establishment of the State of Israel and the contributions of American Jews to that achievement. Above and Beyond can be viewed via (some) on-demand cable companies, iTunes, and at screenings. You’ll find more information on the film’s website.

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Words of the Week

Shavit_Ari“We have a decade.”

Usually, I use these “words of the week” posts to point you to something I’ve found especially resonant or urgent in the press regarding Israel or another aspect of Jewish life. Almost always, I point you to something that you can read for yourself online.

But this week, I’m doing something different. And here’s why. Continue reading ›

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My Year in Jewish Books

StarFor the past three years, I’ve found it useful (and kind of fun) to look back on “my year in Jewish books.” So, borrowing some of the same introductory wording, I’m going to attempt to do something similar for 2014.

Reviewing my reading for 2014 (thank you, Goodreads!), I can see that I do not and would not ever limit my reading to “Jewish books” exclusively; it seems that this list comprises about half of the titles I read this year in toto. (By the way, in case you haven’t heard me say this before, I define “Jewish books” in the simplest terms as books with substantive Jewish content. In my view, non-Jewish authors can write “Jewish books.” And Jewish authors can write books that don’t strike me as overtly Jewish.)

But this year, as usual, I did read quite a few books that fall within the “Jewish book” category. And, as an advocate for Jewish literature, I’m proud of that.

Below, you will find these books presented in the order in which I read them (most recent first, this year). Please note that, where appropriate, I have included links to reviews, essays, and newsy items I have written; interviews I have conducted; “Sunday Sentence” citations; and the odd blog post. I have also disclosed how I obtained each book: P (purchase), R (complimentary review copy), L (library). This year, I’m adding a category: FTB, for books I’ve read in manuscript prior to their release from Fig Tree Books in my job as FTB media editor. Continue reading ›

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Words of the Week

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/whitehouse/15857940828/in/photostream/

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/whitehouse/15857940828/in/photostream/

“Chag sameach,” he said. “What a blessing to be a citizen of the United States of America. Thank you President Obama for everything you have done today.”

–Alan Gross, quoted by JTA

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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.

  • The Jewish Week serves up its fall literary special section, with an emphasis on “the next wave of Russian-Jewish literature.”
  • “In the Schwarzwald,” a new poem by Lawrence Schimel.
  • From Tablet magazine: “Miriam Michelson, American Jewish Feminist Literary Star of the Western Frontier.”
  • “One author, raised in liberal Judaism’s bosom, has been quietly redefining what it means to be a Jew in the 21st century.” Batya Ungar-Sargon profiles Adam Kirsch for The Forward.
  • And the Fig Tree Books blog presents another roundup of links relating to American Jewish Experience in “AJE Around the Web.”
  • Shabbat shalom!

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    Lee Mandel’s “Unlikely Warrior: A Pacifist Rabbi’s Journey from the Pulpit to Iwo Jima”

    9781455619870Lee Mandel is another author I’ve come to know via our online interactions. I’m delighted to present his latest book–an important history you can learn more about here. And I have Lee’s permission to share his kind email message with you.

    Hi Erika- you probably know that you are a mentor to a lot of aspiring writers such as myself. I mentioned in the past that I frequently read your web postings. My new book, Unlikely Warrior: A Pacifist Rabbi’s Journey From the Pulpit to Iwo Jima, is due out late December (it’s been delayed from the original publication date of September 30). Last year I saved a file from your website “Advice for Writers: Six Ways to Publicize Your Jewish Book.” In it you mentioned that one of your first speaking engagements for Quiet Americans was at the National Museum of American Jewish Military History. Well, I followed your lead and contacted Mike Rugel at the museum and I’m pleased to say that I’ll be speaking there on March 8. I thank you so much for the advice! Although the book isn’t out yet, I’ve already given two talks and the response has been highly favorable. My publisher (Pelican Publishing Company in New Orleans) is arranging several more and they have contacted the World War II Museum in New Orleans. They are very interested in the book, especially given that the 70th anniversary of the battle of Iwo Jima is this coming February. Once again Erika, thanks for the guidance you provide to us all on your website!

    And thank you, Lee, for sharing the news of your book–and my small role in helping you help others get to know it.

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