One man’s personal call to laggard Jews to study, learn, and seek justice in a broken world. Readers of other persuasions...

WHY BE JEWISH?

A TESTAMENT

The late businessman and philanthropist answers his title’s question with a last testament of sorts.

In the ancient Jewish tradition of an ethical will that dispenses not tangibles but moral principles, Bronfman (The Bronfman Haggadah, 2013, etc.) completed his manuscript just weeks before his death. Describing himself as a secular Jew—not a believer in a singular anthropomorphic authority whose avocation is to check on individual mortals—he finds much that is wonderful in the teachings and traditions of Judaism. He celebrates the warmth of his family relationships, unlike those of his childhood, and he speaks of goodness, not geopolitics, of morality, not dissention. A “cultural Jew,” eschewing rigid ritual, Bronfman teases out meaning from age-old texts. He examines the Hebrew Bible, the Talmud, rabbinic commentaries, exegesis from oral tradition, philosophical writing, and modern interpretations. The author revels in the particularly Jewish toleration of independent thinking and, if need be, argument with God. In this short book, especially relevant to a generation that knows little of its faith and finds little in it, there is a review of the holidays and holy days of the Jewish calendar. The author discusses the moral imperatives of charity, loving kindness, repair of the world, and repair of one’s own spiritual life. Bronfman’s text leans neither to the right nor the left of Jewish thought; it reflects the writer’s own studies. It is all just slightly self-congratulatory, though, as we learn of the good works of his Samuel Bronfman Foundation, his presidency of the World Jewish Congress, and other exemplary efforts. His easily accessible primer concludes on a lengthy, oddly mundane note, in which Moses is presented as providing specific lessons in the art of leadership.

One man’s personal call to laggard Jews to study, learn, and seek justice in a broken world. Readers of other persuasions may also profit from his insight into bits of Jewish thought and practice.

Pub Date: March 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4555-6289-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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