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Catching up on books – Jewish books

Why the Jews? – The Reason for Antisemitism by Dennis Prager and Joseph Telushkin – I’d been asked “Why the Jews?” a number of times over the years and I would answer something like: “Because they saw the Jews as controlling the banks,” or pulling the strings or doing something else to make things miserable for the people. That never seems like a good answer to me but it was all I had; various excuses I had been taught in my years of schooling at temple.  The book looks at every major incident of antisemitism for the past couple thousand years both at the surface causes and the root causes. From this come the four main reasons for anti-semitism over the years: Being a separate people, that Jews are the chosen people, the pressure of their ethical monotheism on the society they live in, and the increased quality of life the isolated Jewish communities with better education had over their neighbors. The book has been updated in 2003 to cover modern increases in antisemitism in Europe and university campuses and the relabelling of anti-Jewish messages as anti-zionist.

Why the Jews Rejected Jesus: The Turning Ppoint in Western History by David Klinghoffer – Not necessarily continuing on the antisemitic themes from Why the Jews? this book covers at all the stages in Christian history the reasons why Jesus was rejected by the Jews and the methods employed on both sides to convert/resist. One of the most interesting parts was the look at early Christian history. The conclusion was the in the beginning the Jews couldn’t have rejected Jesus as a whole because almost none of the Jews at he time knew about him. This goes more in depth in places and fills in nicely in some places where Why the Jews? leaves off.

Finally some fiction!

Chosen by Chain Potok – This is a book about people from different backgrounds learning to appreciate one another even if they don’t fully understand one another. In this case, Orthodox Jews and Hassidim. In it there is a basic history of the Hassidic movement and after reading Why the Jews Rejected Jesus I can see why there was such a big split. Jesus basically taught that the rabbis should be ignored and people should judge how best to serve god by interpreting the Torah themselves. The founder of the Hassidic movement had a similar message except you would go to the Tzadik to interpret things for you. Anyway, to some degree I identify with the character of Danny since I sometimes felt I lived in the intellectual and “had no soul”. I feel like I’ve gone in and out of that over the years and I’ve always worked to help myself in that regard; mostly with success.

Shosha by Isaac Bashevis Singer – This book takes place in Poland just before WWII with everyone waiting for the impending invasion from Hitler. There is a lot going on in this book, liek the kind of goings on that a lit class could analyze for days, but at the same time the story is good. Arele married his past and when he had to flee Warsaw, his past died and he could not take it with him.

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