Dear TEE community,
One of the pleasures of the pandemic shut down for me has been having more time to read. Under ordinary circumstances, much of my day is spent driving from one meeting, appointment, or visit to another. While I miss the contact with other people, I don’t miss the busy-ness and appreciate extended periods of time in one place.
There are certain types of reading I do on a regular basis. In addition to the newspapers, I study Talmud every day and prepare for Torah study at least once a week. But over the past few years I realized I had stopped reading books as often as I used to. Being at home more has given me an opportunity to correct that.
The books I most enjoy are those that take me into another world. As a child, that meant fantasies like the Narnia series or historical books like Julius Lester’s retelling of slave narratives for young people, To Be A Slave. Like many young Jews, reading The Diary of Anne Frank was a profound glimpse into the experience of Jews during the Shoah while Sidney Taylor’s All-of-a-Kind Family stories connected me to the life of Jewish immigrants in the early twentieth century.
As an adult, books have continued to be a gateway into other lives and other times. The one I’ve chosen for this month’s Rabbi’s Book Club, Family Papers, takes the reader into the lives of Ottoman Jews and their descendants through portraits of a family whose letters and papers left a document trail which historian Sarah Abrevaya Stein followed all over the world. In the stories of the Levy family we learn about Jewish experience throughout Europe in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries from a Sephardi perspective. Each chapter provides a portrait of one of the Levys, giving a snapshot of a time and place as well as the larger social and political changes going on around them.
I hope you will find the time to read this book and join me on Sunday February 28th to discuss this fascinating and surprising insight into Jewish experience.
Be well / Zei gesunt / Sano,
Rabbi Drorah Setel
For information about ordering the book and the Zoom link for The Rabbi’s Book Club, click here: Rabbi’s Book Club.