CEH Library

Come visit our renovated CEH Library located on the second floor of the synagogue. Over the past three years, dedicated volunteers and staff have carefully curated our book collection to volumes that are relevant to our congregation. You’ll find an outstanding collection of children’s books, research volumes (including Talmud), cookbooks, and a modern fiction collection.

You can access all of our library holdings on the OPALS Database.

On Friday, November 15 we will celebrate the “re-opening” of our CEH Library with a special Shabbat service and oneg. All are welcome!

Each month of the 2019-2020 School Year, we will post a review of a book that is available in our CEH Library. If you would like to review a book or other media item, contact Laura Naide at school@etzhayim.net. All books will be available to purchase through CEH’s Amazon link (purchases will provide a small net benefit to CEH).

Our Book Review for October is: “Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love” by Dani Shapiro. The book may be purchased HERE through our Amazon Smile link. The review by Laura Naide may be read below and HERE.

Excerpted review from Goodreads.com:

What makes us who we are? What combination of memory, history, biology, experience, and that ineffable thing called the soul defines us?

In the spring of 2016, through a genealogy website to which she had whimsically submitted her DNA for analysis, Dani Shapiro received the stunning news that her father was not her biological father. She woke up one morning and her entire history—the life she had lived—crumbled beneath her.

Inheritance is a book about secrets—secrets within families, kept out of shame or self-protectiveness; secrets we keep from one another in the name of love. It is the story of a woman’s urgent quest to unlock the story of her own identity, a story that has been scrupulously hidden from her for more than fifty years, years she had spent writing brilliantly, and compulsively, on themes of identity and family history. It is a book about the extraordinary moment we live in—a moment in which science and technology have outpaced not only medical ethics but also the capacities of the human heart to contend with the consequences of what we discover.

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This book was a quick read as the author discovers her DNA results, tracks down her biological father, and tries to understand her traditional parents’ decision to turn to a reproductive technology that was new and untested in the 1960s and frowned upon by the Orthodox Jewish movement. At first, she focuses on practical matters such as her biological father’s medical history. Most of the book, however, focuses on the author’s complicated feelings about her adored father and her troubled mother.

As a blond, blue-eyed daughter in an Orthodox Jewish family, the author always identified as an “other.” With the new knowledge of her genealogy, she concludes that she somehow “knew” she was different but couldn’t pinpoint how. This line of analysis is not convincing. Most of the book, however, is thoughtfully written. The relationship she develops with her biological family is believable and demonstrates how people cope with changed circumstances. I rate this book 4 stars out of 5.

Our Book Review for September is “Founder: A Portrait of the First Rothschild and His Time” by Amos Elon. The book may be purchased HERE through our Amazon Smile link. The review by Laura Naide may be read below and HERE.

Excerpted from Amazon.com:

Meyer Amschel Rothschild was born in the Frankfurt ghetto in the mid-eighteenth century, in a city more restrictive in its treatment of Jews than any in Europe. Elon brilliantly depicts Meyer Amschel Rothschild’s position there, and life on the unimaginably cramped Judengasse (the single street of the ghetto), where he lived his whole life – even after becoming one of the richest men in Germany.

We read how Rothschild established his small trading and banking business, and forged an uneasy relationship with the financially obsessed Crown Prince Wilhelm of Kassel; how he pushed at and eventually broke through the restrictions that bound him and his family to the ghetto until he found himself essentially paying for the English war effort in the Peninsula in 1810. On a richly delineated canvas the emergence and secularization of a family and Western European Jewry is depicted.

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As a student of both history and Judaism, I found this book’s descriptions of life in Europe (particularly Germany) in the 1700’s fascinating. Although Emancipation already had affected other European cities, Frankfurt was slow to grant even basic rights to its Jewish residents. The Rothschild family was able to build a financial dynasty despite facing restrictions on where they could live and work and being required to pay disproportionate taxes based solely on their Jewish status. The book frequently mentions that Rothschild was an observant Jew, but doesn’t speak much about how that impacted his business dealings (e.g., Shabbat restrictions, kashrut, etc.). It was also new to me that there was a Judeo-German language other than Yiddish called Judendeutsch based on Hebrew and the Frankfurt dialect of German. I rate this book a 4 out of 5.

To learn more about Meyer Amschel Rothschild, join us on Sunday, March 15 from 10:15 AM – 11:45 AM for a book discussion with congregant Ken Ackerman. Copies of “Founder” are available for loan from the CEH Library.

Our book review for August is “If All the Seas Were Ink,” by Ilana Kurstan. The book may be purchased HERE through our Amazon Smile link.

The review by Laura Naide may be read below and HERE.

 

Excerpted review from Goodreads.com:

At the age of 27, alone in Jerusalem in the wake of a painful divorce, Ilana Kurshan joined the world’s largest book club, learning daf yomi, Hebrew for “daily page” of the Talmud, a book of rabbinic teachings spanning about 600 years and the basis for all codes of Jewish law. A runner, a reader and a romantic, Kurshan adapted to its pace, attuned her ear to its poetry, and discovered her passions in its pages. By the time she completed the Talmud after seven and a half years, Kurshan was remarried with three young children.

Kurshan takes us on a deeply accessible and personal guided tour of the Talmud, shedding new light on its stories and offering insights into its arguments both for those already familiar with the text and for those who have never encountered it. For people of the book both Jewish and non-Jewish If All the Seas Were Ink is a celebration of learning through literature how to fall in love once again.

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I recommend this book as an excellent description of one woman’s personal journey through Talmud and life. The author has a deep grasp of literature (both religious and secular) and weaves quotations and poems throughout the book. The brief excerpts from the Talmud will whet your appetite for more Jewish learning. At times, I found the author’s description of her personal circumstances to be repetitive but her joyful transition throughout the book is inspiring. I rate this book 3.5 stars out of 5.