A useful guide to a significant sporting event that was “born out of exclusion and anti-Semitism.”

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THE JEWISH OLYMPICS

THE HISTORY OF THE MACCABIAH GAMES

The sports and features editor for the New Jersey Jewish News compiles a thorough history of a unique international sporting event.

Named after Judas Maccabi, “perhaps the mightiest warrior in Jewish history,” the Maccabi sports clubs sprouted in Europe during the late 19th century in imitation of student organizations from which Jews were excluded. Fueled by the Zionist movement and dedicated to resuscitating the “muscular Judaism” of ancient times, the Maccabiah Games held its first international competition, modeled on the Olympics, in British-ruled Palestine in 1932. Kaplan (501 Baseball Books Fans Must Read Before They Die, 2013) begins with that event in Tel Aviv and chronicles, in short chapters, all 19 of the Maccabiah through 2013, highlighting team results and outstanding individual achievements. Certain themes repeatedly pop up: the persistent money problems, difficulties in the early years with transportation and food, and the games’ increasing expansion and prestige. Other chapters feature unusual events unique to a particular Maccabiah, like the catastrophic footbridge collapse in 1997 or the exasperating NCAA interference on an athlete eligibility issue in 1969. Though Kaplan focuses mainly on the peaceful competition among the world’s Jewish athletes, he adverts throughout to the shifting global and regional scenes, the complex politics, wars, atrocities, boycotts, and terrorism. He also enlivens the narrative with numerous sidebars on individual athletes, some well-known (gymnast Mitch Gaylord, basketball player Ernie Grunfeld) and some stars of such lesser-known sports as judo, fencing, or tenpin bowling. Kaplan’s style is straightforward and upbeat, and he is insistent on the games’ importance and the inspiration they have offered. Sports fans will likely most enjoy the more unusual profiles, including the player who turned his back on the NBA to play for the Israeli national team or the gold medal swimmer who returned to the games 20 years later as a rabbi and spiritual consultant to the American team.

A useful guide to a significant sporting event that was “born out of exclusion and anti-Semitism.”

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-63220-494-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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