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Jewish Studies Sunday Book & Discussion Group

What We Are Reading


September 9, 2012: Sunday 2-3:30pm
Wedding Song: Memoirs of an Iranian Jewish Woman by Farideh Goldin

Farideh Goldin was born to her fifteen-year-old mother in 1953 and into a Jewish community living in an increasingly hostile Islamic state--prerevolutionary Iran. This memoir is Goldin's passionate and painful account of her childhood in a poor Jewish household and her emigration to the United States in 1975.
Goldin's memoir conveys not just the personal trauma of growing up in a family fraught with discord but also the tragic human costs of religious dogmatism. In Goldin's experience, Jewish fundamentalism was intensified by an Islamic context.  Although the Muslims were antagonistic to Jews, their views on women's roles and their treatment of women influenced the attitude and practices of some Iranian Jews.
In this brave and dispassionate portrayal of a little-known corner of Jewish life, Farideh Goldin confronts profound sadness yet captures the joys of a child's wonder as she savors the scenes and textures and scents of Jewish Iran. Readers share her youthful adventures and dangers, coming to understand how such experiences shape her choice.

Facilitated by Dr. Saba Soomekh, Asst. Professor of Theological Studies

October 7, 2012: Sunday 2-3:30pm
Golems of Gotham, by Thane Rosenbaum

At the beginning of Thane Rosenbaum's imaginative comedy The Golems of Gotham, an elderly pair of Holocaust survivors, Lothar and Rose Levin, commit suicide. Their son, Oliver, a successful New York mystery writer already suffering from his wife's desertion and a crippling case of writer's block, is devastated by the news. Oliver's 14-year-old daughter, Ariel, comes to the rescue, conjuring not only her grandparents from the grave but also a remarkable group of Jewish literary golems (ghosts, in this case) who also killed themselves after a lifetime of Holocaust memories. Among the visitors here to inspire Oliver toward writing a serious second novel are Primo Levi, Jerzy Kosinski, and Paul Celan. While Oliver writes feverishly, the ghosts cleanse New York City of any reminders of oppression toward Jews: tattoos, crew cuts, overcrowded trains, striped uniforms, and smoke belching from tall stacks.
Facilitated by Dr. Holli Levitsky,
Director, Jewish Studies Program and Associate Professor of English

November 11, 2012: Sunday 2-3:30pm
Drawing in the Dust, by Rabbi Zoe Klein, * who will be here in person*

Brilliant archaeologist Page Brookstone has toiled at Israel’s storied battlegrounds of Megiddo for twelve years, yet none of the ancient remnants she has unearthed deliver the life-altering message she craves. Which is why she risks her professional reputation when a young Arab couple begs her to excavate beneath their home. Ibrahim and Naima Barakat claim the spirits of two lovers overwhelm everyone who enters with love and desire. As Page digs, she makes a miraculous discovery—the bones of the deeply troubled prophet Jeremiah locked in an eternal embrace with a mysterious woman. Buried with the entwined skeletons is a collection of scrolls that challenge centuries-old interpretations of the prophet’s story and create a worldwide fervor. 

Caught in a forbidden romance of her own, and under siege from religious zealots and relentless critics, Page endangers her life to share the lovers’ story with the world. But in doing so, she discovers she must let go of her own painful past. Called a “zesty debut” by Kirkus Reviews, Zoë Klein’s historically rich novel is a lyrical and unexpected journey as poignant and thought-provoking as the beloved bestsellers The Red Tent and People of the Book.

December 2, 2012: Sunday 2-3:30pm (in Faculty Commons, not Von Der Ahe Suite)
The One Facing Us by Ronit Matalon

Matalon, through photographs and storytelling, conveys  the story of a Jewish family in Africa, which has interesting roots in Egypt. Esther, seventeen years old, wild and rebellious, is sent from Israel to Cameroon to stay with her hardheaded uncle Sicourelle, who is charged with straightening her out. But Esther resists her uncle's plans for her future--which include marriage to a cousin--and in the privileged indolence of postcolonial Africa, she looks to the past instead. Using sepia portraits and scraps of letters, Esther pieces together the history of her family, a once-grand Egyptian-Jewish clan, and its displacement from Cairo in the 1950s to Israel, West Africa, and New York. 

As the worn photographs yield their secrets, Esther uncovers a rich tale of wives and ex-wives; revolving mistresses and crushing marriages; intrigues and disappointments; poignant contrasts between the living past and the dead present. In sensuous, inventive prose, Matalon penetrates the mysteries of cultural exile and family life to produce a first novel that is mature, authentic, and deeply moving.
Facilitated by Dr. Gil Klein, by Asst. Professor of Theological Studies

RSVP Please!

The Sunday Book and Discussion is FREE. However, to make sure we have room, please contact Rhonda Rosen at or 310-338-4584.  The bookgroup meets on Level 3 of the William H. Hannon Library.