How I’m Spending My (Modern Jewish) Holidays, 5780/2020

Yesterday was Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and civilian victims of terrorism. Swiftly on its heels, today brings Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day. (Learn a bit more about them here.) And this year, as you might expect, there are many, many ways to observe online.

Israeli flag
Image by dror lahat from Pixabay

It’s impossible to do—or even list—everything that’s out there. I’m just going to share with you a few events that I’ve attended/plan to attend this year.

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Jewish Literary Links

an open book (with Hebrew pages visible); subtitle reads "Jewish Literary Links"
Image by Yedidia Klein from Pixabay

Each week as Shabbat approaches, the My Machberet blog presents an array of Jewish-interest links, primarily of the literary variety.

A quick prefatory note: Like many of you, I’ve been awash in Jewishly-focused online offerings lately. This week’s links reflect that current reality.

  • One evening this week, I celebrated Ellen Meeropol’s newest novel, Her Sister’s Tattoo, by joining in an online book party featuring some short readings. (I’d been looking forward to learning more about the book after reading an essay that Elli published in Lilith last fall.)
  • Prompted by another evening’s online discussion, I’ve just finished reading The Drive by Yair Assulin (trans. Jessica Cohen; New Vessel Press, 2020). In the tradition of the short novel set within a brief time span—in this case, a drive to a psychiatric appointment and the visit that follows—we meet a young Israeli soldier who is seeking relief from the emotional suffering he’s experiencing in his post. I’m not certain that, by the end, the novel is quite as “anti-militarist” as the publisher argued in the event description, but that’s a more complicated topic than I can take on here. Interested readers will some helpful background provided in this Los Angeles Review of Books interview.
  • I’d intended to follow the Forward‘s discussion of “(Jewish) Journalism in the (Coronavirus) Crisis” as it unfolded on Zoom, but shortly before it began, I learned that my friend Aimee Pozorski was virtually addressing a library gathering on Philip Roth’s novel The Plot Against America at the same time. So over to Aimee I went! I don’t believe that Aimee’s event was recorded, but the Forward‘s was, and I plan to catch it on YouTube sometime soon.
  • Speaking of The Plot Against America—the HBO adaptation (and its accompanying podcast series) ended this week. I’m still catching up on a number of the related commentaries that are out there to absorb, but for the moment, I’ll point you to this one, by Gabe Friedman.
  • This week also brought us Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day). Mindful that we’re also still observing National Poetry Month, I’ll point you to an online poetry event, curated by Erika Meitner, that I “attended” Tuesday evening; to these poems by Edith Bruck (b. 1932), translated by Jeanne Bonner; and to one of the Holocaust-related poems in my own poetry collection, re-published this week by on the website of the Sami Rohr Prize.

Shabbat shalom.

My Year in Jewish Books (2019 edition)

For a number of years, I have found it useful (and kind of fun) to look back on “my year in Jewish books.” Here’s my attempt to do something similar for 2019.

blue Star of David on white background

Reviewing my reading for the past year, I can see that, again, I do not and would not ever limit my reading to “Jewish books” exclusively. (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. Occasionally, something may pop up that doesn’t seem to fit this description. I can be flexible.)

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.

What you won’t find here: My own book (Birthright: Poems), which you can be sure I read this year! Nor will you find all the works that I reread in preparation for the course on 21st-Century Jewish Literature that I taught at Baruch College this past fall.

With all of that in place, I’m happy to present the list, complete with annotations that I’ve updated slightly since first writing them as “brief book reviews” immediately after finishing each book:

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