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Jewish Studies Sunday Book & Discussion Group

What we are reading

September 13
Miriam's Kitchen by Elizabeth Ehrlich
Discussion led by Rabbi Zach Zysman, LMU

Like many Jewish Americans, Elizabeth Ehrlich was ambivalent about her background. She identified with Jewish cultural attitudes, but not with the institutions; she had fond memories of her Jewish grandmothers, but she found their religious practices irrelevant to her life. It wasn't until she entered the kitchen--and world--of her mother-in-law, Miriam, a Holocaust survivor, that Ehrlich began to understand the importance of preserving the traditions of the past. As Ehrlich looks on, Miriam methodically and lovingly prepares countless kosher meals while relating the often painful stories of her life in Poland and her immigration to America. These stories trigger a kind of religious awakening in Ehrlich, who--as she moves tentatively toward reclaiming the heritage she rejected as a young woman--gains a new appreciation of life’s possibilities, choices, and limitations.


October 11
Belonging : a German reckons with home and history, by Nora Krug
Discussion led by Elizabeth Drummond, Assoc. Professor & Chair, History Dept.

A revelatory, visually stunning graphic memoir by award-winning artist Nora Krug, telling the story of her attempt to confront the hidden truths of her family's wartime past in Nazi Germany and to comprehend the forces that have shaped her life, her generation, and history. Nora Krug was born decades after the fall of the Nazi regime, but the Second World War cast a long shadow throughout her childhood and youth in the city of Karlsruhe, Germany. For Nora, the simple fact of her German citizenship bound her to the Holocaust and its unspeakable atrocities and left her without a sense of cultural belonging. Yet Nora knew little about her own family's involvement in the war: though all four grandparents lived through the war, they never spoke of it.

In her late thirties, after twelve years in the US, Krug realizes that living abroad has only intensified her need to ask the questions she didn't dare to as a child and young adult. Returning to Germany, she visits archives, conducts research, and interviews family members, uncovering in the process the stories of her maternal grandfather, a driving teacher in Karlsruhe during the war, and her father's brother Franz-Karl, who died as a teenage SS soldier in Italy. Her extraordinary quest, spanning continents and generations, pieces together her family's troubling story and reflects on what it means to be a German of her generation.  [over 30 copies in LA Public Library system]


November 15
The Shawl and Rosa, by Cynthia Ozick
Discussion led by Na’amit Sturm Nagel, Instructor, Shalhevet High School

"Rosa" by Cynthia Ozick was first published in the New Yorker in 1983. However, its protagonist, Rosa Lublin, was introduced three years earlier in "The Shawl," a 6 page short story also published in the New Yorker. The two stories were re-released together as a book in 1989 entitled The Shawl. "Rosa" also appeared in the anthology Prize Stories 1984, a collection of O. Henry Prize winners.

While "The Shawl" tells the painful story of how Rosa's infant daughter is brutally killed by a Nazi guard in a concentration camp, "Rosa" revisits the protagonist 30 years later, who is still devastated by her daughter's death. Living a meager, isolated existence in a "hotel" for the elderly, financed by Stella her resentful niece, Rosa is unable to let go of her daughter and the past. "Rosa" dramatizes the lasting impact of the Holocaust on a unique, complex character who is not entirely sympathetic. While obviously the far-reaching effects of the Holocaust is a major theme in this story, Ozick also deals with themes of alienation and denial and explores how American culture devalues and isolates the elderly.


December 6
The Loudest Voice (a short story) by Grace Paley

Discussion led by Lisa Silverman, Library Director, Burton Sperber Jewish Community Library

[Rhonda will send a pdf copy of the short story to all members]
In Grace Paley’s 1959 short story “The Loudest Voice,” Shirley Abramowitz, a Jewish student in a public elementary school, is asked to be the narrator of her school’s Christmas pageant. Shirley is excited about the opportunity, but her parents—Jewish immigrants who left Europe for a better life in New York City—disagree with each other about whether or not she should do it. In depicting American Jews trying to navigate the Christmas season, this story points to the many dilemmas faced by Jews and other immigrants living as minorities in America. Born in 1922, Paley herself was raised in New York by Jewish immigrant parents. In her relatively small body of work, mostly short stories and poems, Paley portrays the lives, loves, and languages of that milieu as well as any author ever has, making her a must-read writer for those studying the Jewish or multicultural American experience.


Directions to the Hannon Library

When you enter the campus from Lincoln Boulevard,  let the guard at the kiosk know that you are coming to the Hannon Library and he will instruct you to keep going up the road to the 3rd stop sign. On the right is the entrance to the Drollinger parking structure.
At this point, if you look to your left, you will see the round-shaped Hannon Library.  Go into the structure and park anywhere you can. 

There is no charge for visitor parking on Sundays.

The driving instructions to campus are as follows:

From LAX:
Travel north on Sepulveda Blvd. Remain in either of the left two lanes and merge onto Lincoln Blvd. Follow Lincoln Blvd north past Manchester Blvd. Turn right onto LMU Drive.

From the South:
Travel on 405 North, exit on La Tijera, make a left onto La Tijera. Take La Tijera until Manchester Boulevard and make a right (traveling west).  Stay on Manchester until you reach Lincoln Boulevard and make a right.  On Lincoln Boulevard, proceed for approximately 3/4 of a mile until you arrive at our main entrance on the corner of Lincoln and LMU Drive. 

From the North:
Travel on 405 South, exit on Jefferson Blvd., and turn right. Head west and make a left onto Lincoln Blvd. Head south and turn left into the campus on LMU Drive.