Combating Anti-Semitism: A Reading List
The Prosen People for Jewish Book Council
The following is an excerpt from the 2019 issue of Paper Brigade, the Jewish Book Council's annual literary journal. You can pre-order the issue here.
Amid the recent upsurge of anti-Semitism, we asked prominent authors of recent or forthcoming nonfiction to recommend a book for this list. The breadth of topics and time periods covered by the works below attests to the insidiousness of anti-Semitism, but also to the impressive range of scholarship devoted to examining and overcoming it. Even the spelling of "anti-Semitism"/"antisemitism" is currently under scrutiny; to reflect this, the recommenders’ chosen spellings of the word have been left intact.
THE MOST FAMOUS ISRAELI YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF
By Letty Cottin Pogrebin for Tablet Magazine
As an educator and feminist activist, Alice Shalvi has been a major force for decades. At 92, she shares her life story in her new memoir, ‘Never a Native.’
Alice Shalvi, now 92, is the most famous Israeli whom the average American Jew has never heard of. Revered Hebrew University English professor, principal of the Pelech school, founder of the Israel Women’s Network, rector of the Schechter Institutes, intrepid feminist activist, prominent advocate for Israeli-Palestinian peace, and winner of multiple honors—among them, the Israel Prize, the country’s Nobel—Shalvi nonetheless remains virtually anonymous in the mainstream Jewish world.
A Leap of ‘Faith’
By David P. Goldman for Tablet Magazine
Taking on the New Atheists, Scott Shay’s new book sparks a conversation about the existence of God
Scott Shay is a banker, not a rabbi or professor. He’s a founder and chairman of Signature Bank, a New York lender catering to local middle-market businesses and one of the financial success stories of the past decade. He dedicates a large part of his time to Jewish community work—the Chai Mitzvah movement, the local Jewish Federation, his Modern Orthodox synagogue Kehilath Jeshurun—and in 2006 published a well-received book about Jewish outreach and engagement through community initiatives.
The First Book of Jewish Jokes edited by Elliott Oring
BY EITAN KENSKY for Moment Magazine
It’s the inherent vice of joke books that their jokes are stale, wizened, practically in full beards. Paper doesn’t just flatten the delivery; it kills. (Take my joke—please!) There’s no joke teller, no emphasis on sound or detail, no voice. Lenny Bruce’s now-canonical “Jewish and Goyish” is funny because of the rhythm, and because of the intense personality it barely restrains. Joke books have no rhythm and no persons; they are disembodied words. The surprise of The First Book of Jewish Jokes is that a joke book from 1812 still sometimes shows a faint pulse. After all, when’s the last time you heard a good one about the learned philosopher Moses Mendelssohn?
Jewish Astronauts and Nazi Scientists
By Tom Seigel for Jewish Book Council
It was 2003, and Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut, had died in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. I was struck, as I’m sure many were, by the fact that both Ramon and Judith Resnik, the first Jewish American in space, suffered the same terrible fate in two separate shuttle accidents. It felt like more than just a sad coincidence or very bad luck. It felt like an atavistic curse: “Let there be no escape.” In one of those ineffable moments of unconscious thought we might call inspiration, I remembered the MS St. Louis, the German ocean liner that, in 1939, carried Jewish refugees from port to port in desperate search of safe harbor from the growing menace in Europe. Instead of finding the welcoming light of the Statue of Liberty, they found the golden door slammed shut by the dark and bigoted immigration policies of the era.