Books and Haveil Havalim


– I’ve just finished Loving Rabbi Thalia Kleinman, a novel by Gary Morgenstein. The main character, Joss, attends a bat-mitzvah and instantly falls in love with the female rabbi of the Park Slope Reform Synagogue. He is convinced she is the love of his life and is ready to resort to any scheme to get near her. Yet things are complicated by the fact that Joss hasn’t come to terms with his divorce. He still pays frequent visits to his ex-wife, Ellen, and is affected when they quarrel or when he learns she has a new boyfriend.
I didn’t quite relate to the characters maybe because of the novel’ s point of view. The story unfolds from Joss’s viewpoint and what he expects from life in general and women in particular was something I couldn’t identify with. In addition I found that, although a rabbi, Thalia was not particularly religious and this was a disappointment. I guess I expected a more spiritual approach of the issues involved.
However Gary Morgenstein has paid great attention to the dialogues; the novel is therefore enjoyable and humorous and it is easy to imagine how it could be made into a very entertaining movie or play.

– I was very lucky to be sent the latest issue of Conversations, the Journal of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals. The spring issue deals with Orthodoxy and Religious Education. I had a look at the table of contents last night and read a great article entitled “Steal This Book: Jewish Literature in the Yeshiva World” by Ezra Cappell.
Ezra Cappell believes that American Jewish literature is part and parcel of what it is to be a Jew in America and therefore should be taught in Yeshivot and Orthodox schools – rather than be frowned upon or dismissed – just as differing views over Halachah are taught in Gemara classes. He concludes his essay by quoting Kaaterskills Falls as a perfect example of a Jewish author who makes us consider tradition and reflect on our heritage through literay creation.

– Which leads me to ask whether any of view has read novels by Tova Mirvis (an author mentioned in the essay) or Ezra Cappell’s book American Talmud: the Cultural Work of Jewish American Fiction.

– It is Sunday so don’t miss the latest edition of Haveil Havalim compiled by Phyllis from Imabima.

3 thoughts on “Books and Haveil Havalim

  1. Interesting, Cappell’s view. I don’t think most American Jewish literature is worth reading in school. I would prefer they read Agnon or Appelfeld in Hebrew class (if they are lucky enough to be in a school that has Ivrit). I read Appelfeld in high school and became a lifelong fan.

    I’m going to look for writings by Cappell.

    Those flowers look like some pink ones I have on the side of my house. No idea what they are called.

  2. I’ve read Tova Mirvis’s first two books, The Ladies’ Auxiliary and The Outside World. I liked the second better than the first. The first had a disturbing and, in my mind, unconvincing portrayal of a convert. The second was a much more layered story of a pair of newlyweds, a convert and an FFB. I liked it a good deal, as did my mother-in-law who said it felt like she was reading about her own life. I cannot imagine teaching these books to schoolchildren, though.

  3. I agree with you on your assessment of Rabbi Kleinman…I too felt a lack of spirituality and/or intensity in religion, from her.

    I think it is more of a male-oriented book.

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