Temple Emanu-El’s Recommended Books

The books on this list have all been recommended by Temple Emanu-El members. A very nice online bookstore to buy from is BookShop – Bookshop’s mission is to financially support local, independent bookstores. If you prefer to do your reading digitally, SimplyE, a free app available from the New York City Public Library, offers more than 300,000 ebooks to borrow.

To suggest a book for inclusion on the list, contact Carl Wetzstein (585-266-6982, carlwetzstein38@gmail.com). New books will be added as recommendations are received, and will be starred for easy recognition. Enjoy!

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Once we Were Brothers, by Ron Balson (fiction)

The story of two Polish boys, once as close as brothers, who wind up on opposite sides of the Holocaust.

Submitted by Marty and Thelma Nemeroff, posted: May 19, 2020

 

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A Bend in the Stars, by Rachel Barenbaum (fiction)

The story takes place in the summer of 1914 in Russia, and is both an epic love story and a journey by an ambitious young doctor to solve one of the mysteries of the universe.

Submitted by Judy Goldstein, posted: May 19, 2020

 

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The Immortalists, by Chloe Benjamin (fiction)

The story starts in New York’s Lower East Side, when four teenagers consult a psychic about their destinies. Was it those prophecies or other influences that affected their adult lives?  NPR and the Washington Post called The Immortalists one of the best books of the year.

Submitted by Judy Goldstein, posted: May 19, 2020

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The Boys in the Boat – Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, by Daniel James Brow (nonfiction)

The story of the rowing team from the University of Washington that first had to overcome the prejudice of the American Olympic Committee in favor of the Ivy league schools and then the tough competition at the Berlin Olympics.

Submitted by Marty and Thelma Nemeroff, posted: May 19, 2020

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*White Fragility – Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, by Robin DiAngelo and Michael Eric Dyson (nonfiction)

White Fragility discusses the response of people who are unable to handle the feedback that they may be racist and not realize it, by getting defensive and angry and refusing to listen. The book makes the reader aware of the struggles that people of color go through.

Submitted by Cathy Leora Dayan, posted: August 9, 2020

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The World to Come, by Dara Horn (fiction)

The process of unraveling the mystery of a stolen Chagall painting includes the actual story of Chagall and other writers that he worked with.  Another interesting part is the author’s telling the story of how a soul is being prepared for both birth and life on earth.

Submitted by Carl Wetzstein, posted: May 19, 2020

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Here All Along: Finding Meaning, Spirituality, and a Deeper Connection to Life – in Judaism (After Finally Choosing to Look There), by Sarah Hurwitz (nonfiction)

The author found her introduction to Judaism and Torah in Hebrew School meaningless. As an adult, she set out to learn about Judaism – this book tells her story. The book was discussed by Rabbi Setel in her Rabbi’s Reading Group.

Submitted by Carl Wetzstein, posted: May 19, 2020

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The People and The Books: 18 Classics of Jewish Literature, by Adam Kirsch (nonfiction)

The classics discussed here deal with many issues and questions faced by Jews over time – God, Israel, Diaspora, and others.

Submitted by Carl Wetzstein, posted: May 19, 2020

 

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Overcoming Life’s Disappointments, by Rabbi Harold Kushner (nonfiction)

With his usual spiritual wisdom and practical advice, Rabbi Harold Kushner writes how to cope with everyday (but especially today’s) frustrations.

Submitted by Judy Goldstein, posted: May 19, 2020

 

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The Last Watchman of Old Cairo, by David Michael Lukas (fiction)

A remarkable history of the actual discovery in the 1880’s of the geniza (store room) in a Cairo synagogue that contained many documents of the Jewish community dating to the 9th century.  Also told is the story of the fictional family who for centuries were watchmen of the synagogue.

Submitted by Carl Wetzstein, posted: May 19, 2020

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The Ultimate Book of Jewish Jokes, by David Minkoff (nonfiction)

And now something lighter, OY!   We can all use a joke today–have you heard this one?  2 Jews go into a bar and….

Submitted by Judy Goldstein, posted: May 19, 2020

 

 

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*For Small Creatures Such as We: Rituals for Finding Meaning in Our Unlikely World, by Sasha Sagan (non-fiction)

Sasha is the daughter of scientist Carl Sagan. Her parents taught her that “nature, as revealed by science was a source of great, stirring pleasure. Logic, evidence, and proof did not detract from the feeling that something was transcendent – quite the opposite. It was a source of its magnificence.” Though raised in a secular home, she recognized the need for rituals, customs and traditions, and describes those of many communities throughout the world. She also talks about her personal life and her close relationship with her parents.

Submitted by Carl Wetzstein, posted: August 9, 2020

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Nobody’s Child: A Tragedy, a Trial, and a History of the Insanity Defense, by Susan Vinocour (nonfiction)

Susan writes compellingly about a case in Rochester in which she served as a forensic psychologist, and about where the insanity law stands today. The NY Times gave it a very nice review.   Mazel Tov to Susan, our very own Temple Emanu-El member!

Submitted by Judy Goldstein, posted: May 19, 2020

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((( Semitism ))):  Being Jewish in America in the Age of Trump, by Jonathan Weisman (nonfiction)

A chilling look at the resurgence of anti-semitism, drawing on the author’s personal experience as the target of “alt-right” supporters.

Submitted by Judy Goldstein, posted: May 19, 2020

 

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*White Like Me – Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son, by Tim Wise
(non-fiction)

Tim grew up in a Black neighborhood, and now lectures throughout the United States on racism and white privilege. His memoir describes his growing realization of the differences of opportunities between whites and Blacks.

Submitted by Cathy Leora Dayan, posted: August 9, 2020

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