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From My Bookshelf: THE HOPE: American Jewish Voices in Support of Israel

I need not tell you how absorbed I’ve been in certain current events of late–a look at the recent “Words of the Week” posts attests to that. But I have not yet shared one of the actions I’ve taken in response to those events: contributing a poem to a new anthology, the sales proceeds of which are being donated to The Lone Soldier Center (in memory of Michael Levin).

Edited by the indefatigable Rabbi Menachem Creditor, the book features an array of American Jewish voices that, as Rabbi Creditor notes, are united when it comes to “one sacred truth: Am Yisrael Chai!”. You can read more about the book via Jweekly.com, and you can take a “look inside” on The Hope‘s Amazon page.

If you are so inclined, I ask you to please spread the word about this meaningful volume. Thank you.

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From My Bookshelf: Rachel Mennies’s Jewish Poems

290_glad handMy online path recently crossed that of poet Rachel Mennies, and how glad I am that it did. Soon enough, I was immersed in Mennies’s debut full-length poetry collection, The Glad Hand of God Points Backwards. The book was published this year as the winning manuscript in the Walt McDonald First-Book Series in Poetry, housed at Texas Tech University Press.

Here, in part, is how ImageUpdate has described the collection:

Rachel Mennies’s first collection is a powerful lyric account of a woman’s search for self through her relationship to God, Judaism, and history. These carefully-shaped poems arrest the reader with startling imagery and sound. With a compelling voice that is at once anguished and utterly composed, these poems ask: how does one reconcile one’s personal faith and struggles with those of one’s ancestors? And how, within the context of this history, does one come to terms with a God of witness and mercy?

But, wait–there’s more. I’m so grateful to Mennies for the permission to publish this sample from the book: Continue reading ›

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From My Bookshelf: ISRAEL-A HISTORY by Anita Shapira

About 18 months ago, I purchased a new book for my Kindle: Anita Shapira’s Israel: A History (translated from the Hebrew by Anthony Berris). But soon after that, I began attending a weekly seminar titled “Zionist Thought and Statesmanship”; that wonderful course came complete with its own considerable reading list. I put aside Shapira’s book for another time.

It’s not that I’m glad that it has taken me so long to return to the book, which I’m about halfway through right now (I’m reading slowly). But I can’t help feeling that approaching it with at least a little more knowledge of Israeli history already in my mind has enriched my reading experience. Similarly, what I’ve read so far in Shapira’s book has reinforced and complemented the readings from my earlier seminar very, very nicely.

I’m not quite prepared to write a review of my own, but I’ll point you to some reviews that piqued and sustained my interest in the book over time. In the meantime, I can assure you that this is a book very much worth reading.

  • In The Forward, Jerome Chanes wrote: “Anita Shapira ups the ante in her history, which recently won a 2012 National Jewish Book Award, offering a truly comprehensive narrative of Israel, from its genesis in the first stirrings of Zionism in the 19th century to present day’s unsettled Israeli society. Shapira is a historian who believes things actually happened in history and they deserve a good telling. But the author, who has had a distinguished academic career, is a superb analyst, as well.”
  • In the Jewish Review of Books, Allan Arkush noted: “Shapira, for one thing, has done away with all sorts of errors that have been passed through the years from one short history of Israel to another.”
  • In The Jewish Week, Francine Klagsburn wrote: “Unlike other histories that often tell Israel’s story by jumping from one war to the next, this one…captures the nation’s diversity and cultural richness along with its existential struggles.”
  • P.S. Yesterday came the tragic news about the three missing boys in Israel. It’s hard not to feel totally helpless and devastated at a time like this. But thinking of those boys and filled with the spirit of Jewish peoplehood, I will do something simple: continue my reading, mindful of my connections to Israel, and to those boys (one of whom is also connected through our common American citizenship).

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    Words of the Week: Antoine de Saint-Exupery

    Saint-Exupery-Lettre-a-un-otage
    Toi si Français, je te sens deux fois en péril de mort, parce que Français, et parce que juif.

    (My attempt at a translation: You who are so French, I sense that you are doubly in mortal danger, because you are a Frenchman, and because you are a Jew.)

    Source: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Lettre à un otage (“Letter to a Hostage”), first published in 1943. (My copy lists a 1944 copyright.)

    There’s more about this text, and Saint-Exupéry’s friendship with Léon Werth, the titular though never-named hostage, in Stacy Schiff’s Saint-Exupéry biography. (Werth is the same friend to whom Saint-Exupéry dedicated Le Petit Prince.) I am currently awaiting the arrival of one of Werth‘s works about the wartime period, 33 Jours.

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    From My Bookshelf: “The Hope,” by Faye Rapoport DesPres

    Faye Rapaport DesPres

    Faye Rapaport DesPres

    Sometimes I marvel over the literary connections that the Internet has brought into my life–and the many pages of beautiful, important writing to which they’ve led me. Case in point: I have yet to meet Faye Rapoport DesPres face-to-face. But I feel as though I know her, in part through our social-media exchanges, and in part through her memoiristic writing.

    Recently, I’ve had the pleasure of reading an advance copy of Faye’s memoir-in-essays, Message from a Blue Jay: Love, Loss, and One Writer’s Journey Home (Buddhapuss Ink). The book, available this month, includes one essay that I wanted to spotlight for My Machberet‘s readers. I’m delighted that Faye agreed to answer my questions (especially since she also took the time to participate in another interview about the broader collection; that Q&A will appear in the next issue of The Practicing Writer).

    Faye Rapoport DesPres was born in New York City, and over the years she has lived in upstate New York, Colorado, England, Israel, and Massachusetts. Early in her career, Faye worked as a writer for environmental organizations that focused on protecting wildlife and natural resources. In 1999, after switching to journalism, she won a Colorado Press Association award as a staff writer for a Denver weekly newspaper, where she wrote news stories, features, and interviews. Faye’s freelance work has since appeared in The New York Times, Animal Life, Trail and Timberline, and a number of other publications.

    In 2010, Faye earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Pine Manor College’s Solstice Low-Residency MFA Program, where she studied creative nonfiction. Her personal essays, fiction, book reviews, and interviews have appeared in a variety of literary journals and magazines, including Ascent, Connotation Press: An Online Artifact, Eleven Eleven, Fourth Genre, Hamilton Stone Review, Necessary Fiction, Platte Valley Review, Prime Number Magazine, Superstition Review, and The Writer’s Chronicle. Continue reading ›

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