Sign In Forgot Password

Reading with the Rabbi

Join us for a special program to kick-off this year’s Reading with the Rabbi.

Fiction Writing as Activism: A Conversation with Rachel Lewis, Author of the Rabbi Vivian Mystery Books  

October 18, 7:30-9:00  

Rachel Lewis, author of The Rabbi Who Prayed With Fire, and The Rabbi Who Prayed for the City, will join us to speak about her latest book, The Rabbi Who Prayed for the City, as well as her work as a writer and activist. Rachel will sign copies for people who will bring their own. 

About the Author

Rachel Sharona Lewis is an accidental mystery novelist based in Watertown, MA. By day, she organizes faith communities in the Boston area around local social justice efforts. In her free time, she enjoys reading fiction and non-fiction alike, attending committee meetings and playing the trombone with enthusiastic mediocrity.
This special event is co-sponsored by Base Boston.

RSVP here!

The Rabbi Who Prayed for the City by Rachel Sharona Lewis

Seven years into Rabbi Vivian's tenure at Beth Abraham, the congregation's senior rabbi is finally talking about retirement. But for now, Vivian is still stuck with his priorities...and with the congregants who call him "the Rabbi." Beyond the synagogue walls, the city's Office of Climate Resiliency is facing down some disturbing statistics, and a tech company new to town is building robots to settle Mars - and join Israel's military. Meanwhile, Vivian's attempts to steer her congregation's reactions to all this hardly leave her enough time to address the other big question that's nagging at her: Should she and her wife try to have a kid? And if so...what makes the perfect sperm donor?

When a multimillion-dollar robot goes missing, and there are only days to find it before a huge hurricane hits Providence, the city - and Beth Abraham - are tested in every way. Both a community macher and a close personal friend of Vivian's get swept up in the mystery... along with Vivian herself. Who's really responsible for what happened - and who will be forced to take the blame? And what will the city, the congregation, and Rabbi Vivian's life look like in the aftermath of it all?

Some Past Reads...

Last Summer at the Golden Hotel by Elyssa Friedland


In its heyday, The Golden Hotel was the crown jewel of the hotter-than-hot Catskills vacation scene. For more than sixty years, the Goldman and Weingold families – best friends and business partners – have presided over this glamorous resort which served as a second home for well-heeled guests and celebrities. But the Catskills are not what they used to be – and neither is the relationship between the Goldmans and the Weingolds. As the facilities and management begin to fall apart, a tempting offer to sell forces the two families together again to make a heart-wrenching decision. Can they save their beloved Golden or is it too late?

Long-buried secrets emerge, new dramas and financial scandal erupt, and everyone from the traditional grandparents to the millennial grandchildren wants a say in the hotel’s future. Business and pleasure clash in this fast-paced, hilarious, nostalgia-filled story, where the hotel owners rediscover the magic of a bygone era of nonstop fun even as they grapple with what may be their last resort.

Gateway to the Moon by Mary Morris


From award-winning novelist Mary Morris comes the remarkable story of a remote New Mexican town coming to grips with a dark history it never imagined. In 1492, the Jewish and Muslim populations of Spain were expelled, and Columbus set sail for America. Luis de Torres, a Spanish Jew, accompanies Columbus as his interpreter. His journey is only the beginning of a long migration, across many generations. Over the centuries, de Torres' descendants travel from Spain and Portugal to Mexico, finally settling in the hills of New Mexico. Five hundred years later, it is in these same hills that Miguel Torres, a young amateur astronomer, finds himself trying to understand the mystery that surrounds him and the town he grew up in.

​​Entrada de la Luna is a place that holds a profound secret - one that its residents cannot even imagine. It is also a place that ambitious children, such as Miguel, try to leave. Poor health, broken marriages, and poverty are the norm. Luck is unusual. When Miguel sees a flyer for a babysitting job, he jumps at the opportunity, and begins work for a Jewish family new to the area. Rachel Rothstein is not the sort of parent Miguel expected. A frustrated artist, Rachel moved her family from New York in search of a fresh start, but so far New Mexico has not solved any of the problems she brought with her. Miguel loves the work, yet he is surprised to find many of the Rothstein family's customs similar to ones he's grown up with and never understood.

Interwoven throughout the present-day narrative are the powerful stories of the ancestors of Entrada's residents, highlighting the torture, pursuit, and resistance of the Jewish people. A beautiful novel of shared history, Gateway to the Moon is a moving and memorable portrait of a family and its journey through the centuries.

Shmutz: A Novel by Felicia Berliner

PictureLike the other women in her Brooklyn Hasidic community, Raizl expects to find a husband through an arranged marriage. Unlike the other women, Raizl has a secret.

With a hidden computer to help her complete her college degree, she falls down the slippery slope of online pornography. As Raizl dives deeper into the world of porn at night, her daytime life begins to unravel. Between combative visits with her shrink to complicated arranged dates, Raizl must balance her growing understanding of her sexuality with the more conventional expectations of the family she loves. 

A singular, stirring, and compulsively readable debut novel, Shmutz explores what it means to be a fully realized sexual and spiritual being caught between the traditional and modern worlds.

The River Midnight by Lillian Nattel

PictureCanadian author Nattel's debut novel poignantly and humorously evokes shtetl life by interweaving stories of four Jewish women in Blaszka, a turn-of-the-century Polish village. As vilda hayas (wild children), they romp in the woods. As adults, they bind their community together through their shared joys, sorrows, schemes and scandals.

Married to the butcher and running his shop with wily efficiency, childless Hanna-Leah likes to bathe and dream in the Polnocna (Midnight) River. Restless Faygela has several children, the eldest in jail for helping her American cousin spread revolutionary ideas. After Zisa-Sara dies in America, her orphaned children are returned to her native village to be raised by friends.

Looming over all is earth-goddess Misha, a strong, independent midwife who divorces her husband and refuses to remarry or reveal the father of her child. Blaszka plays host to Russians, Poles, Jews, non-Jews, players, peddlers, drifters and demons. As villagers travel, the reader also glimpses the streets of Plotsk, Paris, Warsaw, and immigrant New York.

When the Angels Left the Old Country by Sacha Lamb

PictureUriel the angel and Little Ash (short for Ashmedai) are the only two supernatural creatures in their shtetl (which is so tiny, it doesn't have a name other than Shtetl). The angel and the demon have been studying together for centuries, but pogroms and the search for a new life have drawn all the young people from their village to America. When one of those young emigrants goes missing, Uriel and Little Ash set off to find her.

Along the way the angel and demon encounter humans in need of their help, including Rose Cohen, whose best friend (and the love of her life) has abandoned her to marry a man, and Malke Shulman, whose father died mysteriously on his way to America. But there are obstacles ahead of them as difficult as what they’ve left behind. Medical exams (and demons) at Ellis Island. Corrupt officials, cruel mob bosses, murderers, poverty. The streets are far from paved with gold.

Conviction ​by Julia Dahl


Conviction, the third book in the Rebekah Roberts series, examines the power—and cost—of community, loyalty, and denial. New York City 1992: a year after riots exploded between black and Jewish neighbors in Brooklyn, a black family is brutally murdered in their Crown Heights home. A teenager is quickly convicted, and the justice system moves on. Twenty-two years later, journalist Rebekah Roberts gets a letter: I didn't do it. Frustrated with her work at the city’s sleaziest tabloid, Rebekah starts to dig. Told in part through the eyes of a jittery eyewitness and the massacre’s sole survivor.

​Run You Down by Julia Dahl


In Run You Down, the sequel to her Edgar Award finalist Invisible City, Julia Dahl has created a taut mystery that is both a window into a secretive culture and an exploration of the demons we inherit. Aviva Kagan was just a teenager when she left her Hasidic Jewish life in Brooklyn for a fling with a smiling college boy from Florida- then disappeared. Twenty-three years later, the child she walked away from is a NYC tabloid reporter named Rebekah Roberts. And Rebekah isn't sure she wants her mother back in her life.

Invisible City ​by Julia Dahl

PictureJust months after Rebekah Roberts was born, her mother, a Hasidic Jew from Brooklyn, abandoned her Christian boyfriend and newborn baby to return to her religion. Neither Rebekah nor her father have heard from her since. Now a recent college graduate, Rebekah has moved to New York City to follow her dream of becoming a big-city reporter. But she's also drawn to the idea of being closer to her mother, who might still be living in the Hasidic community in Brooklyn.

Then Rebekah is called to cover the story of a murdered Hasidic woman. Rebekah's shocked to learn that, because of the NYPD's habit of kowtowing to the powerful ultra-Orthodox community, not only will the woman be buried without an autopsy, her killer may get away with murder. Rebekah can't let the story end there. But getting to the truth won't be easy--even as she immerses herself in the cloistered world where her mother grew up, it's clear that she's not welcome, and everyone she meets has a secret to keep from an outsider

City of Liars by Michelle Fogel


While at UCLA, Fogle published a feature article based on ethnographic research with the descendants of Spanish Inquisition fugitives living in the Old City of Jerusalem. These true stories inspire her novel City of Liars, recalling the intrigue and lethal jeopardy of a rescue mission and forbidden love in 15th Century Barcelona.

The Way Back by Gavriel Savit


For the Jews of Eastern Europe, demons are everywhere: dancing on the rooftops in the darkness of midnight, congregating in the trees, harrowing the dead, even reaching out to try and steal away the living.

Drawing inspiration from the Jewish folk tradition, The Way Back is a dark adventure sure to captivate readers of Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book and Philip Pullman's The Book of Dust.

The Ritual Bath by Faye Kellerman


Detective Peter Decker of the LAPD is stunned when he gets the report. Someone has shattered the sanctuary of a remote yeshiva community in the California hills with an unimaginable crime. A woman was brutally raped as she returned from the mikvah, the bathhouse where the cleansing ritual is performed.

Reason To Kill: An Amos Parisman Mystery by Andy Weinberger


Somewhat-retired L.A. private eye Amos Parisman is hired by lonely booking agent Pinky Bleistiff to find one of his missing singers, Risa Barsky. But what starts as a simple investigation turns into a complex puzzle when Pinky is murdered and Risa is still nowhere to be found. With suspects dropping dead at every turn, Parisman must act quickly to discover the truth about Risa's relationship with Pinky before an innocent person is sent to prison.

An Old Man's Game: ​An Amos Parisman Mystery by Andy Weinberger


When a controversial celebrity rabbi drops dead over his matzoh ball soup at the famed Canter's Deli in Los Angeles, retired private eye Amos Parisman— a sixtyish, no-nonsense Jewish detective who lives with his addled wife in Park La Brea—is hired by the temple's board to make sure everything is kosher. As he looks into what seems to be a simple, tragic accident, the ante is raised when more people start to die or disappear, and Amos uncovers a world of treachery and hurt that shakes a large L.A. Jewish community to its core.

Friday the Rabbi Slept Late by Harry Kemelman


Rabbi David Small, the new leader of Barnard's Crossing's Jewish community, can't even enjoy his Sabbath without things getting stirred up in a most unorthodox manner: It seems a young nanny has been found strangled, less than a hundred yards from the Temple's parking lot -- and all the evidence points to the Rabbi. Add to that the not-so-quiet rumblings of his disgruntled congregation, and you might say our inimitable hero needs a miracle from a Higher Source to save him....
This is a book from the 1950s and we are planning to look at it with an eye to how it inspired Rachel Sharona Lewis' The Rabbi Who Prayed with Fire (see below).

The Rabbi Who Prayed with Fire by Rachie Lewis

PictureThe Rabbi Who Prayed with Fire is a mystery novel that explores a key question at the heart of progressive, traditional Jewish life: How do we balance the needs, hopes and fears of those within the four walls of our Jewish community versus those in our broader geographic context? It’s a mix of Torah, politics, a queer love story, and the trappings of a classic whodunnit.

Congregation Beth Abraham expected their newest rabbi to "sing some songs and go to an environmental rally." But Vivian Green has other ideas. She wants her flock to engage meaningfully with their city-special mayoral elections, interfaith breakfasts, fights for affordable housing and all. Also, she would like just one night off to go dancing in the leather boots that make her look like her finest gay self.

Taking on the city's old boys' club is already proving difficult...but then Beth Abraham bursts into flames. Fingers get pointed, and everyone's biases rise to the surface. It turns out that wasn't the only fire burning in town. Vivian sticks to her instincts, raising tensions with her boss, her community, and a certain hottie in a power suit. And she learns that knowing whodunnit is only half the battle.

The Lost Shtetel by Max Gross

PictureWhat if there was a town that history missed? For decades, the tiny Jewish shtetl of Kreskol existed in happy isolation, virtually untouched and unchanged. Spared by the Holocaust and the Cold War, its residents enjoyed remarkable peace. It missed out on cars, and electricity, and the internet, and indoor plumbing. But when a marriage dispute spins out of control, the whole town comes crashing into the twenty-first century.

Pesha Lindauer, who has just suffered an ugly, acrimonious divorce, suddenly disappears. A day later, her husband goes after her, setting off a panic among the town elders. They send a woefully unprepared outcast named Yankel Lewinkopf out into the wider world to alert the Polish authorities.

Venturing beyond the remote safety of Kreskol, Yankel is confronted by the beauty and the ravages of the modern-day outside world – and his reception is met with a confusing mix of disbelief, condescension, and unexpected kindness. When the truth eventually surfaces, his story and the existence of Kreskol make headlines nationwide.

Returning Yankel to Kreskol, the Polish government plans to reintegrate the town that time forgot. Yet in doing so, the devious origins of its disappearance come to the light. And what has become of the mystery of Pesha and her former husband? Divided between those embracing change and those clinging to its old world ways, the people of Kreskol will have to find a way to come together . . .  or risk their village disappearing for good.

​Ariel Samson: Freelance Rabbi by MaNishtana

PictureAriel Samson is just your run of the mill anomaly: a 20-something Black Orthodox Jewish rabbi looking for love, figuring out life, and floating between at least two worlds. Luckily, it gets worse.

Finding himself the spiritual leader of a dying synagogue, and accidentally falling into viral internet fame, Ariel is suddenly catapulted into a series of increasingly ridiculous conflicts with belligerent college students, estranged families, corrupt politicians, hippophilic coworkers, vindictive clergymen, and even attempted murder. (And also Christian hegemony, racism, anti-Semitism, toxic Hotepism, and white Jewish privilege. Because today ends in "y.") But all that's the easy part.

Because whether Ariel knows it or not, he's due for a breakthrough. Several, in fact. And he's about to find out whether or not he's strong enough to re-evaluate everything he thought he knew about himself, and own up to the things he didn't.

Thought leader and provocateur MaNishtana turns his eye to fiction in this imaginative, semi-autobiographical novel, making Ariel Samson, Freelance Rabbi the most dazzling debut of an Orthodox Black Jew born on a Sunday at 2:24AM in a Brooklyn hospital in 1982 that you will ever have the privilege of reading.

Nobody Will Tell You This But Me by Bess Kalb

PictureBess Kalb, Emmy-nominated TV writer and New Yorker contributor, saved every voicemail her grandmother Bobby Bell ever left her. Bobby was a force--irrepressible, glamorous, unapologetically opinionated. Bobby doted on Bess; Bess adored Bobby. Then, at ninety, Bobby died. But in this debut memoir, Bobby is speaking to Bess once more, in a voice as passionate as it ever was in life.

Recounting both family lore and family secrets, Bobby brings us four generations of indomitable women and the men who loved them. There's Bobby's mother, who traveled solo from Belarus to America in the 1880s to escape the pogroms, and Bess's mother, a 1970s rebel who always fought against convention. Then there's Bess, who grew up in New York and entered the rough-and-tumble world of L.A. television. Her grandma Bobby was with her all the way--she was the light of Bess's childhood and her fiercest supporter, giving Bess unequivocal love, even if sometimes of the toughest kind.

In Nobody Will Tell You This But Me, Bobby reminds Bess of the experiences they shared, and she delivers--in phone calls, texts, and unforgettable heart-to-hearts brought vividly to the page--her signature wisdom:

If the earth is cracking behind you, you put one foot in front of the other.
Never. Buy. Fake. Anything.
I swear on your life every word of this is true.

With humor and poignancy, Bess Kalb gives us proof of the special bond that can skip a generation and endure beyond death. This book is a feat of extraordinary ventriloquism and imagination by a remarkably talented writer.

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

PictureIn 1996, Hanna Heath, an Australian rare book expert, is offered the job of a lifetime: analysis and conservation of the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, which has been rescued from Serb shelling during the Bosnian war. Priceless and beautiful, the book is one of the earliest Jewish volumes ever to be illuminated with images. When Hanna, a caustic loner with a passion for her work, discovers a series of tiny artifacts in its ancient binding—an insect wing fragment, wine stains, salt crystals, a white hair—she begins to unlock the book’s mysteries. The reader is ushered into an exquisitely detailed and atmospheric past, tracing the book’s journey from its salvation back to its creation.

In Bosnia during World War II, a Muslim risks his life to protect it from the Nazis. In the hedonistic salons of fin-de-siècle Vienna, the book becomes a pawn in the struggle against the city’s rising anti-Semitism. In inquisition-era Venice, a Catholic priest saves it from burning. In Barcelona in 1492, the scribe who wrote the text sees his family destroyed by the agonies of enforced exile. And in Seville in 1480, the reason for the Haggadah’s extraordinary illuminations is finally disclosed. Hanna’s investigation unexpectedly plunges her into the intrigues of fine art forgers and ultra-nationalist fanatics. Her experiences will test her belief in herself and the man she has come to love.

Inspired by a true story, People of the Book is at once a novel of sweeping historical grandeur and intimate emotional intensity, an ambitious, electrifying work by an acclaimed and beloved author.

The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks


PicturePeeling away the myth to bring the Old Testament's King David to life in Second Iron Age Israel, Brooks traces the arc of his journey from obscurity to fame, from shepherd to soldier, from hero to traitor, from beloved king to murderous despot and into his remorseful and diminished dotage.

The Secret Chord provides new context for some of the best-known episodes of David’s life while also focusing on others, even more remarkable and emotionally intense, that have been neglected.  We see David through the eyes of those who love him or fear him—from the prophet Natan, voice of his conscience, to his wives Mikhal, Avigail, and Batsheva, and finally to Solomon, the late-born son who redeems his Lear-like old age. Brooks has an uncanny ability to hear and transform characters from history, and this beautifully written, unvarnished saga of faith, desire, family, ambition, betrayal, and power will enthrall her many fans.

One Night, Markovitch by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen translated by Sondra Silverston

PictureCaptain Corelli’s Mandolin meets The Marrying of Chani Kaufman in this cinematic novel about the birth of Israel and the true story of the marriages of convenience that were arranged to smuggle Jewish women out of Nazi-occupied Europe.

On the eve of World War II, a ship bearing twenty young men sets sail from the Palestine Territory toward Europe. Eagerly awaiting them on the other side are twenty young women, whom the men have never met. They have been set up in arranged marriages to enable Jewish women to escape Nazi Germany and enter Palestine without being turned back by the British.

But when Yaacov Markovitch, a thoroughly unremarkable man, finds himself married to Bella Zeigerman, the most beautiful woman he has ever set eyes upon, things start to get complicated. Yaacov’s fake marriage is the beginning of a lifelong obsession, as he vows to make his beautiful bride, Bella, love him, despite her determination to break free. Their changing fortunes take them through war, upheaval, terrible secrets, tragedy, joy, and loss.

Vital, funny, and tender, One Night, Markovitch brilliantly fuses personal lives and epic history in an unforgettable story of endless, hopeless longing, and the desperate search for love.

The Weight of Ink​​ by Rachel Kadish

PictureSet in London of the 1660s and of the early twenty-first century, The Weight of Ink is the interwoven tale of two women of remarkable intellect: Ester Velasquez, an emigrant from Amsterdam who is permitted to scribe for a blind rabbi, just before the plague hits the city; and Helen Watt, an ailing historian with a love of Jewish history.

As the novel opens, Helen has been summoned by a former student to view a cache of seventeenth-century Jewish documents newly discovered in his home during a renovation. Enlisting the help of Aaron Levy, an American graduate student as impatient as he is charming, and in a race with another fast-moving team of historians, Helen embarks on one last project: to determine the identity of the documents’ scribe, the elusive “Aleph.” 

Electrifying and ambitious, sweeping in scope and intimate in tone, The Weight of Ink is a sophisticated work of historical fiction about women separated by centuries, and the choices and sacrifices they must make in order reconcile the life of the heart and mind.

The Liar​​ by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen

Nofar is an average teenage girl---so average, in fact, that she's almost invisible. Serving customers ice cream all summer long, she is desperate for some kind of escape.Picture

One afternoon, a terrible lie slips from her tongue. And suddenly everyone wants to talk to her: the press, her schoolmates, and even the boy upstairs. He is the only one who knows the truth, and he is demanding a price for his silence.

Then Nofar meets Raymonde, an elderly immigrant whose best friend has just died. Raymonde keeps her friend alive the only way she knows how, by inhabiting her stories. But soon, Raymonde's lies take on a life of their own.

Written with propulsive energy, dark humor, and deep insight, The Liar reveals the far-reaching consequences of even our smallest choices, and explores the hidden corners of human nature to reveal the liar, and the truth-teller, in all of us.

Father of the Bride of Frankenstein by Daniel M. Kimmel

PictureIn 1818, Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, creating the iconic concept, and incidentally creating modern science fiction. In 1935, Elsa Lanchester married the monster. And now, Daniel M. Kimmel updates the myth, and tells us the tale from the point of view of the most important character: the Father of the Bride of Frankenstein.

This is not Ms. Shelley's monster, but (dare we say it?) a dazzling urbanite, literate and thoughtful... and Jewish? Science has always outrun the guidelines of ethics. It's not unthinkable that interspecies relationships will be the next big question. And with those relationships will come a father's love for his daughter, and that father's fears for his bankbook when his doting daughter plans the most outrageous of weddings.

Making your daughter happy can be a wild ride when her fiancé is being called subhuman, sued because of his very existence, and trying to keep a good Jewish home.

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novak

PictureMiryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders... but her father isn't a very good one. Free to lend and reluctant to collect, he has loaned out most of his wife's dowry and left the family on the edge of poverty--until Miryem steps in. Hardening her heart against her fellow villagers' pleas, she sets out to collect what is owed--and finds herself more than up to the task. When her grandfather loans her a pouch of silver pennies, she brings it back full of gold.

But having the reputation of being able to change silver to gold can be more trouble than it's worth--especially when her fate becomes tangled with the cold creatures that haunt the wood, and whose king has learned of her reputation and wants to exploit it for reasons Miryem cannot understand.

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

PictureOver five years in the writing, The Dovekeepers is Alice Hoffman's most ambitious and mesmerizing novel, a tour de force of imagination and research, set in ancient Israel.

In 70 C.E., nine hundred Jews held out for months against armies of Romans on Masada, a mountain in the Judean desert. According to the ancient historian Josephus, two women and five children survived. Based on this tragic and iconic event, Hoffman's novel is a spellbinding tale of four extraordinarily bold, resourceful, and sensuous women, each of whom has come to Masada by a different path. 
The lives of these four complex and fiercely independent women intersect in the desperate days of the siege. All are dovekeepers, and all are also keeping secrets - about who they are, where they come from, who fathered them, and whom they love.

Paper is White by Hilary Zaid


When oral historian Ellen Margolis and her girlfriend decide to get married, Ellen realizes that she can't go through with a wedding until she tells her grandmother. There's only one problem: her grandmother is dead. As the two young women beat their own early path toward marriage equality, Ellen's longing to plumb that voluminous silence draws her into a clandestine entanglement with a wily Holocaust survivor--a woman with more to hide than tell--and a secret search for buried history. If there is to be a wedding Ellen must decide: How much do you need to share to be true to the one you love? Set in ebullient, 1990s Dot-com era San Francisco, Paper is White is a novel about the gravitational pull of the past and the words we must find to make ourselves whole.

The Two-Family House by Lyn­da Cohen Loigman


Who is your fam­i­ly? That ques­tion is the sim­mer­ing cen­ter of this nov­el, beg­ging the read­er to ques­tion so much of what he or she believes. Is it just your imme­di­ate fam­i­ly — your sib­lings and your par­ents? Is it more than that — your cousins, your sis­ters-in-law, your aunt on your mother’s side? And if your fam­i­ly lies to you, betrays you — are they still your fam­i­ly? And if not, what are they? Who do they become to you?

The Two-Fam­i­ly House by Lyn­da Cohen Loigman is an outsider’s look into a world filled with ten­sion and mis­trust — and most of all, secrets. A cur­so­ry glance at the sto­ry will yield two fam­i­lies, liv­ing side by side in the same house in Brook­lyn — one with three daugh­ters, one with four sons. The fam­i­lies live togeth­er in some­what har­mo­nious­ly until one bliz­zard-filled night, when every­thing changes. The bliz­zard that shuts down the city that piv­otal night is the only real wit­ness to the schism. But as the book pro­gress­es, the read­er learns that he was also a wit­ness. He too, was a bystander.

The Two-Fam­i­ly House will make you ques­tion and make you angry — but main­ly, it will make you rethink your own fam­i­ly his­to­ry, until you are left won­der­ing — how much do you know about your own past? And how sure are you that, with­out warn­ing, your world might not be blown apart?​

The Ladies Auxiliary by Tova Mirvis



When free-spirited Batsheva moves into the close-knit Orthodox community of Memphis, Tennessee, the already precarious relationship between the Ladies Auxiliary and their teenage daughters is shaken to the core. In this extraordinary novel, Tova Mirvis takes us into the fascinating and insular world of the Memphis Orthodox Jews, one ripe with tradition and contradiction. Warm and wise, enchanting and funny, The Ladies Auxiliary brilliantly illuminates the timeless struggle between mothers and daughters, family and self, religious freedom and personal revelation, honoring the past and facing the future. An unforgettable story of uncommon atmosphere, profound insight, and winning humor, The Ladies Auxiliary is a triumphant work of fiction.

All Other Nights by Dara Horn

PictureHow is tonight different from all other nights? For Jacob Rappaport, a Jewish soldier in the Union army during the Civil War, it is a question his commanders have already answered for him — on Passover, 1862, he is ordered to murder his own uncle in New Orleans, who is plotting to assassinate President Lincoln. After this harrowing mission, Jacob is recruited to pursue another enemy agent, the daughter of a Virginia family friend. But this time, his assignment isn’t to murder the spy, but to marry her. Their marriage, with its riveting and horrifying consequences, reveals the deep divisions that still haunt American life today.

Based on real personalities like Judah Benjamin, the Confederacy’s Jewish Secretary of State and spymaster, and on historical facts and events ranging from an African-American spy network to the dramatic self-destruction of the city of Richmond, All Other Nights is a gripping and suspenseful story of men and women driven to the extreme limits of loyalty and betrayal. It is also a brilliant parable of the rift in America that lingers a century and a half later: between those who value family and tradition first, and those dedicated, at any cost, to social and racial justice for all.

In this eagerly-awaited third novel, award-winning author Dara Horn brings us page-turning storytelling at its best. Layered with meaning, All Other Nights presents the most American of subjects with originality and insight — and the possibility of reconciliation that might yet await us.

The Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner



"Intricately crafted, gorgeously rendered...full of heart, history, and enchantment." --Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Captivating and boldly imaginative, with a tale of sisterhood at its heart, Rena Rossner's debut fantasy invites you to enter a world filled with magic, folklore, and the dangers of the woods. In a remote village surrounded by vast forests on the border of Moldova and Ukraine, sisters Liba and Laya have been raised on the honeyed scent of their Mami's babka and the low rumble of their Tati's prayers. But when a troupe of mysterious men arrives, Laya falls under their spell - despite their mother's warning to be wary of strangers. And this is not the only danger lurking in the woods. As dark forces close in on their village, Liba and Laya discover a family secret passed down through generations. Faced with a magical heritage they never knew existed, the sisters realize the old fairy tales are true...and could save them all.

The Book of Separation by Tova Mirvis


One Shabbat, toward the end of the morning service, Tova Mirvis was stricken by a debilitating headache, in which “the pain concentrated along the line where my hat met my head.” She rushed from the synagogue, entertaining worst-case scenarios: Was this, perhaps, a brain tumor or an aneurysm? But once she stepped outside and removed her hat, the pain subsided. This dramatic scene is just one instance in The Book of Separation, a graceful and deeply affecting memoir by an author of three novels, in which Mirvis’s struggles with Orthodox Judaism and an increasingly unhappy marriage began to manifest physically, as if her body were sending distress signals to her more-cautious brain. Chronicles of leaving Orthodoxy have been plentiful during the past few years, informally referred to as “Ex-Frum” or “Off the Derech” memoirs. With this latest contribution, Mirvis applies her novelist’s flair to what might otherwise be a narrative familiar to anyone who has wrestled with religious doubt, endured a troubled marriage—or simply felt trapped.

Without a Country by Ayse Kulin

Picture​​From the international bestselling author of Last Train to Istanbul comes a novel based on true events that explores the depths of pride, devotion, and persistence as four generations of a family struggle to forge their destinies. As Hitler's reign of terror begins to loom large over Germany, Gerhard and Elsa Schliemann--like other German Jews--must flee with their children in search of sanctuary. But life elsewhere in Europe offers few opportunities for medical professor Gerhard and his fellow scientists. Then they discover an unexpected haven in Turkey, where universities and hospitals welcome them as valuable assets. But despite embracing their adopted land, personal and political troubles persist. Military coups bring unrest and uncertainty to the country, intermarriage challenges the cultural identity of Gerhard and Elsa's descendants, and anti-Semitism once again threatens their future in the place they call home. From World War II to the age of social media, one family's generations find their way through love and loss, sacrifice and salvation, tragedy and triumph--with knowledge hard won and passion heartfelt.

​​The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon


Joe Kavalier, a young Jewish artist who has also been trained in the art of Houdiniesque escape, has just smuggled himself out of Nazi-invaded Prague and landed in New York City. His Brooklyn cousin Sammy Clay is looking for a partner to create heroes, stories, and art for the latest novelty to hit America - the comic book. Drawing on their own fears and dreams, Kavalier and Clay create the Escapist, the Monitor, and Luna Moth, inspired by the beautiful Rosa Saks, who will become linked by powerful ties to both men. With exhilarating style and grace, Michael Chabon tells an unforgettable story about American romance and possibility.

Bed-Stuy is Burning by Brian Platzer

PictureBedford-Stuyvesant is a Brooklyn neighborhood with a storied Black history. Now, its magnificent brownstones are in demand, police presence has increased, young white families and professionals are moving in and populating the parks and streets, new restaurants and stores are opening, and tensions ensue. This book focuses on the complex and conflicted lives of six Bed-Stuy inhabitants on one fateful and tragic Rosh Hashanah. Neighborhood tensions rise after a twelve-year-old Black boy is shot ten times by police. A demonstration erupts into a riot. Shots are fired and murders are committed. The ugliness escalates, buildings burn, stores are looted, and dangerous crowds assemble. Bed-Stuy is Burning offers a suspenseful, well written, and empathetic story filled with wit, wisdom, and hard truths. It stands as an examination of people caught up in today’s urban realities. The impact of this debut novel is unsettling. While the characters endure darkness, grief, and challenges, there are many unresolved issues and no easy answers. Bed-Stuy is Burning is an engaging, timely, and provocative read.

​​The Saturday Morning Murder by Batya Gur

PictureWith sly, affectionate humor and acute insight, this flawless mystery by an Israeli literature professor traces the parallel processes of police detection and psychoanalysis. Chief Inspector Michael Ohayon is called to the Jerusalem Psychoanalytic Institute on a quiet Sabbath morning when Dr. Eva Neidorf, a highly respected senior analyst, is found dead shortly before she was to have given a lecture on ethical and forensic problems in psychoanalysis. As the intelligent, somewhat sorrowful Ohayon interviews the institute staff, Gur deftly and subtly inserts red herrings in her plot, at the same time investing her characters with remarkable depth and individuality. Following his investigation through Jerusalem's commercial district and into the ranks of the military as well, Ohayon exhibits the patience and attention to detail of an experienced analyst. A complex, fully satisfying resolution wraps up this masterful American debut.

​​Eternal Life by Dara Horn

PictureImmortality has always fired the human imagination. Homer’s Odysseus spurned eternal life so that he could go home to his wife. The Christian parable of the Wandering Jew sees immortality as a curse: a Jew who mocks Jesus is punished by being unable to die until the Second Coming. Today, high-tech leaders in Silicon Valley are pouring billions of dollars into anti-aging research, hoping to defeat death. 

A novel both adventurous and wise, Eternal Life imagines two immortals as old as the Wandering Jew who dwell among us today. Their lives retrace the journeys of the Jewish people, from Jerusalem to Antioch to Pumbedita, in Alexandria and Aleppo, through Spain and Poland, to America and Israel. Yet this is no allegory—it’s a love story, or many love stories, with the same conflicts and joys and heartbreaks that are part of any life.

​​And After the Fire by Lauren Belfer

PictureIn May 1946, Corporal Henry Sachs is stationed in Weimar, Germany. The war is in essence over, and he will soon be returning to the United States. One night, as he and his friend Pete wander down a street of houses once owned by Weimar’s prosperous Jews, they notice one that seems to be inhabited and decide to go inside. A grand piano dominates the living room. Henry, who loves music, opens the bench and grabs some pages of old blotted music, but just as he tucks them into his knapsack, a crazed young girl bursts into the room and shoots Pete. Henry has no choice but to shoot her. In the 65 years that follow, Henry Sachs is haunted both by the music he stole and the girl he killed. 

Susanna Kessler is Henry’s niece. When he commits suicide at 86, he leaves the pages of music to her. Looking carefully, she sees Johann Sebastian Bach’s signature on them and realizes that her uncle could have sold them for a fortune if they are authentic. Susanna has recently experienced an act of violence that has left her fearful and caused her husband of six years to leave her. The history of the musical sheets and Susanna’s efforts to determine their provenance and why they were suppressed for so long comprises the rest of this marvelous novel.

The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street by Susan Jane Gilman

PictureThe Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street encompasses many stories, intertwining the rise of a woman ice cream mogul with an immigrant’s story, the twentieth century American Jewish desire to assimilate, women’s rights issues, poverty, world wars, McCarthy­ism, the youth movement of the Sixties, Reagan’s trickle-down economics, and the overreach of government. Young Malka’s family immigrates to New York City to escape the pogroms. Crippled by an ice cream cart, Malka is abandoned by her own parents but is taken in by the family who caused the accident. Through wit and cunning she learns the secrets of the trade from her rescuers, an Italian family, and after falling in love and eventually marrying Albert, a hand­some, dyslexic Jewish man, she transforms herself from a crippled dependent girl into Lillian Dunkle, ice cream tycoon.

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter

PictureIt is the spring of 1939, and three generations of the Kurc family are doing their best to live normal lives, even as the shadow of war grows ever closer. The talk around the family Seder table is of new babies and budding romance, not of the increasing hardships facing Jews in their hometown of Radom, Poland. But soon the horrors overtaking Europe will become inescapable and the Kurc family will be flung to the far corners of the earth, each desperately trying to chart his or her own path toward safety. An extraordinary, propulsive novel, We Were the Lucky Ones demonstrates how in the face of the twentieth century’s darkest moment, the human spirit can endure and even thrive.

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

PictureDrawing on characters from Jewish and Arab folklore, The Golem and the Jinni tells what the author calls an immigrant story of two supernatural creatures who meet in New York City in 1899. Shaped from soil or clay, the golem (the model for later undead characters such as Frankenstein’s monster) usually serves its creator or protects a Jewish community but plays a less traditional role in Wecker’s story. The jinni, or genie, a mischievous creature formed from fire, is summoned from a flask in Little Syria, an area of lower Manhattan.

The novel arose from short stories Wecker wrote in part about being a Jewish woman with an Arab American husband. She has said, "We come from different (and, in many eyes, opposing) cultures. But I've always been struck by similarities between our families, the way that certain themes echo between them." The Golem and the Jinni won the 2013 Nebula Award for excellence in science fiction or fantasy published in the United States.

The World to Come by Dara Horn

PictureFormer child prodigy Ben Ziskind—5'6", 123 pounds and legally blind—steals a Marc Chagall painting at the end of an alienating singles cocktail hour at a local museum, determined to prove that its provenance is tainted and that it belongs to his family. With surety and accomplishment, Horn telescopes out into Ziskind's familial history through an exploration of Chagall's life; that of Chagall's friend the Yiddish novelist Der Nister; 1920s Soviet Russia and its horrific toll on Russian Jews; the nullifying brutality of Vietnam where Ben's father, Daniel, served a short, terrifying stint; and the paradoxes of American suburbia, a place where native Ben feels less at home than the teenage Soviet refugee Leonid Shcharansky.

Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer