Library Corner

Big Jewish Lives

Posted on June 1, 2015

By Robin Jacobson.  Why read biographies? When I googled that question, all kinds of responses popped up, some grand and lofty, others more prosaic. But whether you read biographies “to stand on the shoulders of giants” or whether (like me) you find that the life stories of famous persons offer an easy, entertaining way to […] Continue Reading »

Hot off the Presses: New Torah Commentaries

Posted on May 8, 2015

By Robin Jacobson. Around the world, Torah scrolls will unfurl this May to the concluding portions of Leviticus (Vayikra) and then reach Numbers (Bamidbar). And, just in time, Torah scholars Rabbi Jonathan Sacks and Dr. Avivah Zornberg have published new commentaries on Leviticus and Numbers, to the delight of their legions of fans. Look for […] Continue Reading »

The Pull of the Past

Posted on April 1, 2015

By Robin Jaconbson. Every family has its story. We are shaped by our family’s story – or what we think is our family’s story. This theme runs through two compelling new books about a woman’s journey (one imagined and one real) to understand her family’s past. Don’t miss congregant Michelle Brafman’s Washing the Dead or […] Continue Reading »

Humor and Pathos, Soviet Style

Posted on March 1, 2015

By Robin Jacobson.  In the literary world, Soviet Jews are everywhere. The last year alone saw such a bumper crop of novels and memoirs by Soviet Jewish émigrés that the Forward named 2014 “the Year of the Soviet Jew.”  Two of my favorites from this émigré genre are The Betrayers by David Bezmozgis and A […] Continue Reading »

In Search of Children’s Books for Tu B’Shevat

Posted on February 1, 2015

By Robin Jacobson. It is an unfortunate fact of Jewish library life that some holidays are richer in children’s books than others. Our library’s shelves overflow with Hanukkah books. Alas, Tu B’Shevat, the New Year for Trees, does not equally excite the imaginations of book publishers, despite the holiday’s links to trendy environmental topics. Even […] Continue Reading »

Reading Stories with Rabbi Portnoy

Posted on January 1, 2015

By Robin Jacobson  I had heard about the famous Rabbi Mindy Portnoy for many years before I met her. She is a trailblazer, one of the first women rabbis. She is an author of children’s books, including the breakthrough Ima on the Bima and the sensitive Where Do People Go When They Die, which has […] Continue Reading »

Medical Miracles in Wartime

Posted on December 19, 2014

By Robin Jacobson  Today we worry about Ebola. During World War II, the disease to dread was typhus, which ran rampant through vulnerable populations. Anne Frank and her sister Margot were among 17,000 inmates at Bergen-Belsen who succumbed to typhus in the final weeks of the war. Two Polish typhus researchers, one Aryan and one […] Continue Reading »

Books as Weapons: Doctor Zhivago and the CIA

Posted on November 10, 2014

By Robin Jacobson. In the midst of the Cold War, the celebrated Soviet Jewish poet Boris Pasternak proudly completed his first and only novel – an epic tale of the life and loves of a doctor-poet who becomes disillusioned with the Soviet state. Disturbed by the book’s unpatriotic tone, the Soviet literary establishment refused to […] Continue Reading »

Food Cravings

Posted on September 29, 2014

By Robin Jacobson. Every day we eat. During Jewish holidays and celebrations we eat more. After all, the Talmud itself links eating and drinking with rejoicing (Pesachim 109a). So it comes as no surprise that many books on the Jewish bookshelf, besides cookbooks, relate to food in some way. Two recently-published examples are The Middlesteins, […] Continue Reading »

Saving Monticello

Posted on September 2, 2014

By Robin Jaconbson.  One of America’s most sacred spaces sits on a Virginia hilltop, roughly 125 miles from Bethesda. Millions have visited Monticello, beloved home of President Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence. Visitors wander through the rooms Jefferson designed, marvel at his ingenious inventions, and view the quarters where slaves lived and […] Continue Reading »