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JTS Library Book Talks

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An ongoing lecture series featuring authors of newly published books.

An ongoing lecture series featuring authors of newly published books.
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An ongoing lecture series featuring authors of newly published books.




Introducing What Now? A JTS Podcast

In this opening episode of JTS’s new podcast, What Now?, host Sara Beth Berman tells her story and speaks with Professor Alan Mittleman. Dr. Mittleman shares his own experiences with loss, framing tragedies as taking place in a world that is nevertheless good and that gives us reason for hope. We also learn why giving Professor Mittleman advice is never a good idea. Subscribe now: RSS: https://www.spreaker.com/show/3550593/episodes/feed Apple Podcasts:...


The Paris Photo

Dr. Jane S. Gabin's historical novel looks at the complicated life and aftermath of the occupation of Paris during WWII and spotlights Jewish experiences during the Nazi occupation of the city. Her debut novel intertwines the two timelines of postwar Paris and the current day as a young woman seeks answers when she finds an old picture of her father, a U.S. Army private, with two women and a small boy in Paris after the war. Wishing to learn more about her father, she travels to Paris to try...


Movies and Midrash

Dr. Wendy Zierler's Movies and Midrash pioneers the use of cinema as a springboard to discuss central Jewish texts and matters of belief. Exploring what Jewish tradition, text, and theology have to say about the lessons and themes arising from influential and compelling films, Zierler uses the method of “inverted midrash”: while classical rabbinical midrash begins with exegesis of a verse and then introduces a mashal (parable) as a means of further explication, Zierler turns that process...


The Art of Mystical Narrative

Watch the event video at http://www.jtsa.edu/the-art-of-mystical-narrative-a-zohar-symposium In The Art of Mystical Narrative: A Poetics of the Zohar (Oxford University Press, 2018), Dr. Eitan Fishbane reveals the Zohar as an extraordinary narrative—the tale of a wandering kabbalist sage seeking wisdom in ancient Galilee—a fiction invented by 13th-century Jewish mystics in Spain. Calling it “one of the greatest works of world religious literature,” Dr. Fishbane explores the Zohar’s...


The Soul of the Stranger: Reading God and Torah from a Transgender Perspective

Reading some of the best-known Torah stories through the lens of transgender experience, Joy Ladin explores fundamental questions about how religious texts, traditions, and the understanding of God can be enriched by transgender perspectives, and how the Torah and trans lives can illuminate one another. Drawing on her own experience and lifelong reading practice, Ladin shows how the Torah speaks both to practical transgender concerns, such as marginalization, and to the challenges of living...


Waking Lions

Important next-generation Israeli author Ayelet Gundar-Goshen’s gripping novel narrates the aftermath of an Israeli neurosurgeon’s accidental killing of an Eritrean migrant. Newly translated from Hebrew, this tightly crafted story is as timely as it is riveting.


If All the Seas Were Ink: A Memoir

At the age of 27, alone in Jerusalem in the wake of a painful divorce, Ilana Kurshan decided to begin learning daf yomi, the “daily page” of the Talmud. By the time she completed the Talmud after seven and a half years, Kurshan was remarried with three young children. If All the Seas Were Ink is her moving and remarkable memoir of this journey through heartache and humor, love and loss, marriage and motherhood—all guided by the pages of the Talmud, which become for Kurshan a conversation...


The Ruined House: A Novel

Ruby Namdar’s The Ruined House received the Sapir Prize, Israel’s most prestigious literary award. Now newly translated into English, Namdar’s tale of a man whose comfortable secular life begins to unravel in the face of haunting religious visions cuts to the core of contemporary Jewish-American identity.


Maimonides and the Merchants: Jewish Law and Society in the Medieval Islamic World

The advent of Islam in the seventh century brought profound economic changes to the Middle East and to the Jews living there. The Talmud, written in and for an agrarian society, was in many ways ill-equipped for the new economy. In the early Islamic period, the Babylonian Geonim made accommodations through their responsa, through occasional taqqanot, and especially by applying the concept that custom can be a source of law. Not previously noticed, in the Mishneh Torah Maimonides made his own...


Lioness: Golda Meir and the Nation of Israel

Francine Klagsbrun's definitive new biography of Golda Meir brings to life a world figure unlike any other. An iron-willed leader, chain-smoking political operative, and tea-and-cake-serving grandmother who became the fourth prime minister of Israel, Meir was one of the most notable women of our time. Born in czarist Russia in 1898, Meir immigrated to America in 1906 and grew up in Milwaukee, where from her earliest years she displayed the political consciousness and organizational skills...


The Other Peace Process

A discussion with Rabbi Ron Kronish on his new book, The Other Peace Process: Interreligious Dialogue, A View from Jerusalem.Drawing on personal experiences from his 25-year career as founding director of the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel, Rabbi Ron Kronish describes the theory and practice of interreligious dialogue, education, and action in Israel and Palestine in the context of the political peace process. The Rev. Chloe Breyer and Iman Boukadoum of the Interfaith Center...


The Arabic Translation and Commentary of Yefet ben Eli on the Book of Proverbs

Ilana Sasson, instructor at Sacred Heart University and JTS alumna, discusses her new critical edition of a key Arabic translation and commentary on the book of Proverbs. Working in the 10th century, Yefet ben Eli ha-Levi's commentary attests to his rationalistic and revisionist ideology and egalitarian approach.


Nathan Englander: Dinner at the Center of the Earth

Dinner at the Center of the Earth, a new political thriller from Pulitzer finalist and best-selling author Nathan Englander, unfolds in the highly charged territory of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A prisoner in a secret cell. The guard who has watched over him a dozen years. An American waitress in Paris. A young Palestinian man in Berlin who strikes up an odd friendship with a wealthy Canadian businessman. And the General, Israel's most controversial leader, who lies dying in a...


Braced: A Book Talk and Discussion

Aly Gerber’s young adult novel, Braced, is the story of a 12-year-old soccer player who learns she needs to wear a back brace 23 hours a day for her worsening scoliosis. As she adjusts to life with the brace, her confidence and self-image are shaken. Ultimately she discovers her own voice and learns how to face this challenge—plus all the others associated with being a preteen.Gerber will share the personal experience that inspired Braced. She and Dr. Epstein will discuss how educators,...


Anti-Jewish Riots in the Crown of Aragon and the Royal Response, 1391-1392

In his new book, the winner of the 2016 National Jewish Book Award for Scholarship, JTS's Dina and Eli Field Family Chair in Jewish History Dr. Benjamin R. Gampel uses rich new archival data to illuminate one of the major disasters that struck medieval Jewry: the anti-Jewish riots of 1391-92 in the lands of Castile and Aragon. Offering the most exhaustive and profound record to date of the ten fateful months between June 1391 and March 1392, during which hundreds if not thousands of Jews...


Kohelet's Pursuit of Truth: A New Reading of Ecclesiastes

In his book Kohelet’s Pursuit of Truth, Rabbi Benjamin J. Segal, former president of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, presents an arresting new translation and commentary on Ecclesiastes that unlocks the ancient wisdom of one of the deepest and most controversial books of the Tanakh. Segal's most striking innovations include the tracing of change within the book, an exploration of the charatcer of the main speaker, an appreciation of the literary structure, and a...


Communings of the Spirit: The Journals of Mordecai M. Kaplan (Vol. 2 1934-1941)

Kaplan was a compulsive diarist. His journal of twenty seven volumes is one of the longest on record. Communings of the Spirit, volume 2, edited by Dr. Mel Scult, contains in vivid detail the edited selections from 1934-1941. He reacts passionately to the momentous events of the thirties paying particular attention to the rise of Fascism. We meet a host of Jewish notables including Judah Magnes and Martin Buber. In addition the diary allows us to enter the inner processes of his very...


Vulture in a Cage: Poems by Solomon ibn Gabirol

Named after Solomon Ibn Gabirol’s own sharp self-description, Vulture in a Cage is the most extensive collection of the eleventh-century Hebrew poet’s works ever to be published in English. Here, vital poems of praise, lament, and complaint sit along­side devotional poetry, love poetry, descrip­tive meditations on nature, and epigrams. Obsessed with the impediments of the body and the material world, Ibn Gabirol ambitiously dreamed of breaking through corporeal constraints and...


Reading Genesis: Beginning

Reading Genesis: Beginnings, edited by Beth Kissileff, gathers intellectuals and thinkers who use their professional knowledge to create an original constellation of modern readings of Genesis: a scientist of appetite on Eve’s eating behavior; law professors on contracts and collective punishment; an anthropologist on the nature of human strife in the Cain and Abel story; political scientists on the nature of Biblical games, Abraham's resistance, and collective action.


Aphrodite and the Rabbis: How the Jews Adapted Roman Culture to Create Judaism as We Know It

Judaism as we know it is a western Roman religion, argues Rabbi Burton Visotzky. Yes, the very empire that destroyed the Jerusalem Temple in 70 CE served as the culture in which Judaism was nurtured and became the religion of the rabbis that we still celebrate today.