Religious history that should interest Jews and non-Jews alike.

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THE CHOSEN WARS

HOW JUDAISM BECAME AN AMERICAN RELIGION

An account of Jewish history in the United States until 1900, focusing on how a small percentage of immigrants altered a culture and how the culture of the North American continent influenced the three branches of Judaism—Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform.

A former reporter and editor for the New York Times, Weisman (The Great Tradeoff: Confronting Moral Conflicts in the Era of Globalization, 2016, etc.), who is now the vice president for publications and communications at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, clearly understands the writing techniques needed to prevent a detailed religious history from becoming too dry. Beginning with the mid-17th century, the author offers numerous illuminating anecdotes and outsized personalities to explain how and why the first Jews arrived in what became the U.S. more than a century later. (A full timeline and a glossary help nonscholarly readers keep track of the progression.) As Weisman shows, patches of hostility surrounded the new arrivals, but the author focuses more on doctrinal and behavioral schisms within Jewry than on interference from outsiders. Much of the doctrinal emphasis revolves around rabbis arriving from overseas, many of them from Germanic backgrounds. The most influential was Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, who arrived in the New World in 1846, eventually settling in Albany, New York, and later moving his base to Cincinnati. Many of the intra-Jewish battles during this time period occurred in Charleston, South Carolina. The disputes revolving around Wise included not only ancient religious doctrines, but also the insertion of sermons into the worship services, the seating of women and men separately or together, whether to conduct services in the English language, and such seemingly minor disputes about the use of organ music. As Weisman occasionally makes reference to Judaism during the 21st century, he suggests how the creation of Israel as a Jewish homeland split congregations, especially regarding war or peace with displaced Palestinians.

Religious history that should interest Jews and non-Jews alike.

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4165-7326-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 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...

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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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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