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A Kosher Christmas: 'Tis the Season to Be Jewishby Joshua Eli Plaut
Synopses & Reviews
The increasingly popular genre of “alternative histories” has captivated audiences by asking questions like “what if the South had won the Civil War?” Such speculation can be instructive, heighten our interest in a topic, and shed light on accepted history. In The Holocaust Averted, Jeffrey Gurock imagines what might have happened to the Jewish community in the United States if the Holocaust had never occurred and forces readers to contemplate how the road to acceptance and empowerment for today’s American Jews could have been harder than it actually was.
Based on reasonable alternatives grounded in what is known of the time, places, and participants, Gurock presents a concise narrative of his imagined war-time saga and the events that followed Hitler’s military failures. While German Jews did suffer under Nazism, the millions of Jews in Eastern Europe survived and were able to maintain their communities. Since few people were concerned with the safety of European Jews, Zionism never became popular in the United States and social antisemitism kept Jews on the margins of society. By the late 1960s, American Jewish communities were far from vibrant.
This alternate history—where, among many scenarios, Hitler is assassinated, Japan does not bomb Pearl Harbor, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt is succeeded after two terms by Robert A. Taft—does cause us to review and better appreciate history. As Gurock tells his tale, he concludes every chapter with a short section that describes what actually happened and, thus, further educates the reader.
"Christmas is our only national holiday founded on religious beliefs, and Plaut, a rabbi and Jewish studies scholar, describes the multitude of creative rituals, activities, and responses Jews have developed to counteract feelings of marginalization and 'transform Christmastime into a holiday season belonging to all Americans.' American Jews have succeeded in getting broad recognition of Hannukah with postage stamps, a White House menorah lighting, and the Empire State Building set alight in blue and white. As individuals, Jews embrace the season's family focus, but avoid Christmas-related activities, visiting Jewish museums, watching movies, and flock to Chinese restaurants on Christmas — a tradition that has spawned many parodies as well as San Francisco's Kung Pao Kosher Comedy, a highly popular evening of Jewish standup comedy at a Chinese restaurant. Volunteerism on Christmas has become an established tradition, with Jews distributing food, clothing, and toys to needy non-Jews, filling in for colleagues at work so they can celebrate the holiday, and even donning Santa suits at stores, hospitals, and other venues. Although traditionalists may see this book as a cautionary tale on assimilation, Plaut offers a quirky, provocative, yet solid study of contemporary Jewish behavior and emerging new forms of popular culture. Illus. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
A Kosher Christmas portrays how Jews are shaping the public and private character of Christmas by transforming December into a joyous holiday season belonging to all Americans through unique and innovative responses, including transforming Hanukkah into the Jewish Christmas; creating a national Jewish tradition of patronizing Chinese restaurants and comedy shows on Christmas Eve; volunteering at shelters and soup kitchens on Christmas Day; and blending holiday traditions into an interfaith hybrid celebration of andldquo;Chrismukkah.andrdquo;
In The Holocaust Averted: An Alternate History of American Jewry, 1938–1967, Jeffrey Gurock imagines what might have happened to the Jewish community in the United States if the Holocaust had never occurred and challenges readers to contemplate how the road to acceptance and empowerment for today’s American Jews would have been harder than it actually was. As Gurock tells his tale, he concludes every chapter with a short section that describes what actually happened and, thus, further educates the reader.
A young Lutheran girl grows up on Long Island, New York. She aspires to be a doctor, and is on the fast track to marriage and the conventional happily-ever-after. But, as the Yiddish saying goes, "Man plans, and God laughs." Meet Andrea Myers, whose coming-of-age at Brandeis, conversion to Judaism, and awakening sexual identity make for a rich and well-timed life in the rabbinate.
In The Choosing, Myers fuses heartwarming anecdotes with rabbinic insights and generous dollops of humor to describe what it means to survive and flourish on your own terms. Portioned around the cycle of the Jewish year, with stories connected to each of the holidays, Myers draws on her unique path to the rabbinate--leaving behind her Christian upbringing, coming out as a lesbian, discovering Judaism in college, moving to Israel, converting, and returning to New York to become a rabbi, partner, and parent.
Myers relates tales of new beginnings, of reinventing oneself, and finding oneself. Whether it's a Sicilian grandmother attempting to bake hamantaschen on Purim for her Jewish granddaughter, or an American in Jerusalem saving a chicken from slaughter during a Rosh Hashanah ritual, Myers keeps readers entertained as she reflects that spirituality, goodness, and morality can and do take many forms. Readers will enthusiastically embrace stories of doors closing and windows opening, of family and community, of integration and transformation. These captivating narratives will resonate and, in the author's words, "reach across coasts, continents, and generations."
The Jewish coming-of-age ceremony of bar mitzvah was first recorded in thirteenth-century France, where it took the form of a simple statement by the father that he was no longer responsible for his thirteen-year-old son. Today, bar mitzvah for boys and bat mitzvah for girls are more popular than at any time in history and are sometimes accompanied by lavish celebrations.
How did bar mitzvah develop over the centuries from an obscure legal ritual into a core component of Judaism? How did it capture the imagination of even non-Jewish youth? Bar Mitzvah, A History is a comprehensive account of the ceremonies and celebrations for both boys and girls. A cultural anthropology informed by rabbinic knowledge, it explores the origins and development of the most important coming-of-age milestone in Judaism. Rabbi Michael Hilton has sought out every reference to bar mitzvah in the Bible, the Talmud, and numerous other Jewish texts spanningand#160;several centuries, extracting a fascinating miscellany of information, stories, and commentary.
About the Author
Michael Hilton has been rabbi of Kol Chai Hatch End Jewish Community in London since 2001. He is the author of The Christian Effect on Jewish Life and coauthor of The Gospels and Rabbinic Judaism: A Study Guide.
Table of Contents
Foreword by Jonathan D. Sarna
Introduction: Coping with Christmas:and#160;A Multitude of Jewish Responses
1. Coming to the New World: Can the American Jew Keep Christmas?
2. Hanaukkah Comes of
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