A solid guide to Judaism for reluctant believers.




One woman's rediscovery of her Jewish roots.

Hurwitz, the former head speechwriter for Michelle Obama, describes her journey into Judaism and offers advice for those looking at exploring the faith. Having basically abandoned the practice of Judaism after her bat mitzvah, the author became curious about the faith again later in her adulthood, and her initial inquiries turned into a full-blown quest to understand the religion of her heritage. Though still an infrequent worshiper, Hurwitz has immersed herself in the study of Judaism and the practice of its ethics. In this debut book, she is "essentially trying to write the book I wish I'd had five years ago,” a basic guide to what Judaism stands for, how believers live out their faith, and what sets the Jewish religion apart. She concentrates primarily on how Jews live moral lives, as opposed to what Jews believe, which she feels is secondary. Her approach is thoroughly modern and questioning, and the author, though recognizing that some Jews take their faith literally, assumes that readers will not believe in every aspect of Jewish tradition or theology. In fact, she admits that in exploring her faith, she often feared being labeled a "religious fanatic." In her recollection of a prayer exercise at a retreat, Hurwitz writes, "you can take the girl out of Washington, D.C., but Washington, D.C., is still in there, reminding the girl of how weird she's going to look and asking her what the people around her will think." These worries about the opinions of her peers seem to stymie the author's own spiritual journey, a fact apparent in her text if not evident to her personally. Still, Hurwitz provides a good introduction to basic tenets of Judaism, and her book will resonate with other secular Jews looking to regain a sense of their Jewish heritage.

A solid guide to Judaism for reluctant believers.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-51071-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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


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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