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Posts tagged 'Jewish Literature'

Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer

JSFoerAquiFoer, author of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, as well as Everything is Illuminated, again has written an edgy, thought-provoking book. Here I Am explores identity –as a writer, a father, a husband, and an American Jew—in a profoundly personal way.

The title forms a major theme that permeates every character’s life. In Genesis, Abraham is called upon by God to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. When God calls Abraham, he answers, “Here I am.” Similarly, when an angel calls to Abraham as he is about to put the knife to his son’s neck, he responds, “Here I am.” Those words, Hineni in Hebrew, are uttered by a man fully present to God and to the angel. Abraham is everything that the narrator, Jacob, is not.

Jacob is a nebbish who, to escape unpleasantness, listens to NPR science podcasts. He is a financially successful writer of an HBO program. He believes he has squandered his talents and secretly crafts a program about his multi-generational family. He hides this project in a drawer. Worse, still, is something else he writes. Hidden in another drawer is a phone with sexts to a colleague. These sexts are cleverly scattered throughout the first part of the book and seem to appear out of nowhere. Julia, his wife of 15 years, discovers the phone and their marriage unravels. The book is the story of that unraveling.

Juxtaposed against this family drama is a crisis in Israel—one of such magnitude that its very existence is threatened. A terrible earthquake has struck the region. The prime minister has asked that Jews throughout the Diaspora come to Israel to help. Jacob decides to go, despite Julia’s objections, further straining their relationship.

Sara Picks  Jewish Literature  Family Drama  Contemporary

12/09/16
 

Casting Lots: Creating a Family in a Beautiful, Broken World by Susan Silverman

SilvermanI first heard of this book when listening to Terry Gross interview its author, Rabbi Susan Silverman, sister of comedian Sarah Silverman.

The writer was only two years old when her infant brother, Jeffrey, died in a crib accident while her parents were away on vacation. Their marriage was never the same after that, marred by constant arguments and eventual divorce. Growing up, Susan suffered from such horrible separation that even going to school was pure agony. She still imagines the worst disasters when family members are delayed and fail to call. “Therapy and Zoloft have helped her life immensely,” she wryly comments in one of her many interviews.

In college, at Boston University, she met Yosef Abramowitz at an anti-Apartheid rally. He was a devout Jew and fervent activist for social justice. Susan was instantly smitten. The book is a moving depiction of Susan’s journey from anxiety-ridden child of liberal, atheist parents through her decision to go to seminary in Israel to be near her beloved and to learn about Judaism. Finally, it is the story of their marriage, the birth of their children, and Susan’s life-long yearning to adopt children from abroad.

Casting Lots is remarkable in terms of its heartfelt prose, its humor, and its realistic portrayal of marriage and family. The spirituality and love she shares with her husband allow them to lead a life filled with loving-kindness. “We are all broken,” she writes. But if we are a little lucky, and very willing to learn how, our shards and pieces can form mosaics of love and relationship—unwieldy, vibrant, and cracked as they must be” (Casting Lots, p. 97). Indeed, both she and Yosef quietly fulfill the Talmudic edict, “He who saves a single life, saves the entire world.”

Sara's Picks  Religion  Memoirs  Jewish Literature  Family Drama  Biographies  Adoption

07/29/16