The art review JArts | JewBoston

As we seek to share the diverse and complex stories that make up the Jewish tradition, we are launching a blog series through which we will share the insights and expertise of JArts’ artistic advisors.

Here are some new and rated books, as well as some delicious but goodie old ones.


Theodor Herzl: the charismatic leaderBy Derek Penslar (Yale University Press, 2020)

Derek Penslar offers a carefully researched psychological portrait of the complicated man behind the myth. During his short life, Theodor Herzl (1860-1904) worked as a playwright, author, lawyer, journalist, and founder of modern Zionism. We meet Herzl as a supreme organizer and charming diplomat, a tall, dark, handsome Austrian journalist, as well as a depressed and distant father and an unhappy husband. He abandoned his wife and three children to travel across Europe and the Middle East to gain support for the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine, after unsuccessfully offering a temporary home for refugees from the Russian pogroms in Africa or Latin America.

Equally assimilated, he was nonetheless a proud Jew who desperately strove to earn the loyalty of Eastern European religious communities as well as Western European lay Jewish bankers and philanthropists. He brought hope to the Jews at a time of extreme anti-Semitism (the Dreyfus affair in France, pogroms in Russia). As a self-proclaimed “Torah-less” leader, he has been both praised as modern Moses and condemned as a false Messiah. Herzl died of heart disease at the age of 44. His vision of a modern Israel, including agricultural development, new technologies and Jewish self-respect, was prescient. This is the award-winning “Jewish Lives” series.

Fictional short film

In the mouth: stories and novelsBy Eileen Pollack (Four Way Books, 2008)

Eileen Pollack, a multitalented author of fiction and non-fiction, grew up in Liberty, New York, in the heart of the Catskills, where her grandparents ran a small hotel and her father was the local dentist. After studying physics at Yale, she turned to creative writing, earned her Masters of Fine Arts from the University of Iowa, and eventually led the University’s Masters of Creative Writing program. from Michigan.

Pollack displays fierce talent and unconscious pride in writing on Jewish themes, often with humor and irony. This short collection, which includes four short stories and two short stories, includes a tragic / comedy story of a breakage asked by a dying father as his son remains in shock. Pollack’s book won the Edward Lewis Wallant Prize, awarded annually to an American writer whose published work of fiction is considered to be of importance to the American Jew.

She is also an essayist, novelist and creative non-fiction writer. His Jewish-themed publications include “Paradise, New York,” a novel, and the short story collection “The Rabbi in the Attic.” In ‘The Bible of Dirty Jokes’, his 2018 novel, Pollack brings the story of the Borscht Belt comedy, the Catskills resorts and the Jewish crowd to life.


Kosher Chinese: Living, teaching and eating with the other billion ChineseBy Michael Levy (Holt Paperback, 2011)

Here’s a terrific return that you’ve probably never heard of. What happens to a practicing Jewish boy from New York who volunteers with the Peace Corps in 2005 and is sent to teach English to poor students in China’s remote interior?

Michael Levy’s hilarious story includes his welcome by the villagers when he graciously refuses a meal of fried insects on the grounds that it is kosher. No one had ever met a Jew there before. Levy, known to locals as the “Jew of Friendship,” tells a funny and heart-wrenching story of survival and cultural clash in one of China’s poorest regions, where residents young and old alike continue. to fight against “capitalism with Chinese aspect.”


The cellist»By Daniel Silva (Harper, 2021)

Fans of fictional Israeli spy Gabriel Allon can look forward to another book in the blockbuster series to be released in July 2021. Daniel Silva features an action-packed spy and suspense story starring the restaurateur d art and spy Allon. As the publisher describes it, “The fatal poisoning of a Russian billionaire sends Allon on a dangerous journey through Europe and into the orbit of a music virtuoso. The plot he uncovers leads to secret channels of money and influence that go to the very heart of Western democracy.

Other books in the Allon series include “The Kill Artist”, “The English Assassin” and “The Rembrandt Affair”. Silva’s books are critically acclaimed and have been translated into 30 languages. Full Disclosure: Silva is one of my spouse’s favorite authors, especially when read on vacation or in quarantine.

Nina Schneider is an Ambassador and Artistic Advisor for JArts, as well as a Senior Associate at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and a Teaching Officer at the McMullan Museum of Art at Boston College. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from Emerson College.

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