It has been said that when someone shows you who they are, believe them.
Last week, Abby Grossman, a former producer for Tucker Carlson, claimed that the working environment was toxic due to her gender and faith. Her lawsuit against Fox News stated that sexism was the norm. It also states that Jewish employees who requested time off to practice their faith were mocked.
I don’t know about anyone else, but there is absolutely no shock in this revelation. Anyone with a brain could have predicted this. What matter is how this news is treated by the public. I can hope that the network would be treated like the entertainment/propaganda channel that it is. But I know better.
When one nation forces occupation on the other, there are two choices: stay silent and hope that you live to see freedom. The other is to fight against the occupier, knowing full well what the consequences could be.
Pam Jenoff‘s new novel, Code Name Sapphire, was published last month. Hannah Martel is on the run from Nazi Germany. After losing her fiance during a pogrom, she hopes that the ship she is on will take her to America and freedom. But it is sent back to Europe ( a la SS St. Louis). With nowhere else to go, she lands in Brussels and moves in with her cousin Lily and Lily’s family.
Instead of laying low, she returns to her previous resistance work, hoping that this will be her ticket out. Joining the group known as Code Name Sapphire, she meets its leader, Micheline, and Micheline’s brother, Matteo. When a mistake causes Lily’s family to be arrested and put on the list for deportation to Auschwitz, Hannah has to choose. She can continue with her resistance work or find a way to undo the damage of her error.
Jenoff does it again. Her narratives are powerful, human, and compelling, and speak to the complications that war creates. One of the things that spoke to me was the perceived comfort that Lily believed was hers. Knowing what we know now, it was merely a smoke screen that temporarily delayed the inevitable.
Do I recommend it? Absolutely.
Code Name Sapphire is available wherever books are sold.
P.S. It is beyond disgusting that once more, the Republican Party appropriates history to fit their needs.
Marriage is hard. It requires compromise, understanding, and sensitivity to your spouse/significant other’s flaws.
The new play, The Wanderers, by Anna Ziegler follows two Jewish couples (one semi-secular and one religious) and a movie star. Abe (Eddie Kaye Thomas) and Sophie (Sarah Cooper) are married and have two children. Both are writers. But while Abe is successful, Sophie’s career is floundering.
Esther (Lucy Freyer) and Schmuli (Dave Klasko) start out as Hasidic newlyweds. Though all seems well in the beginning, they start to emotionally drift from one another. Schmuli is happy to continue with the traditions that he grew up with. But Esther is eager to expand her world.
The narrative is brought together by an email correspondence that Abe has with actress Julia Cheever (Katie Holmes). Though it starts innocently enough, their relationship becomes deeper than expected.
Set in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg, this play is fantastic. Though these characters live in a specific neighborhood and live a specific lifestyle, their stories are universal. It’s about trying to find yourself and knowing that in doing so, you may have to break with everything and everyone you love.
What the playwright does especially well is to humanize the character. With antisemitism on the rise, it is easy to create a 2D stereotype. By making them human, she (hopefully) opens the door to a conversation about what we all have in common. She also brings (much-needed) attention to Jews of color, who are often ignored or pushed aside.
Do I recommend it? Absolutely.
The Wanderers are playing at the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre Laura Pels theater in New York City until April 2. Check the website for tickets and showtimes.
History is full of lessons that are there for us to learn from. The question is, can we learn from the past or are we too stubborn/afraid to see it?
Code Name Edelweiss, by Stephanie Landsem was published this month. Liesl Weiss is a single mother living in Los Angeles in the early 1930s. Without her husband, she is the sole caretaker of the young children and aging mother. Though her younger brother lives with them, he cares more about himself that the family. When she loses her job, everything goes to pieces.
A wanted ad leads her to Leon Lewis, a Jewish lawyer who believes that Nazis have infiltrated Hollywood and are planning to use it to spread their message. But the powers that be are putting their focus elsewhere. Without any other options in sight, Liesel accepts his offer to spy on her friends and neighbors. What starts out as a mere paycheck turns into a realization that there is a dangerous undercurrent that could destroy the country.
Based on a true story, this book is amazing. Part spy thriller and part historical fiction, it is one hell of a ride. From the word go, the danger is in the reader’s face. I love Liesel as the main character. She is a woman walking a tightrope that could tear at any moment. Torn between her conscience and doing what she needs to do to keep her family afloat, Liesel has to make a choice that could put everyone she loves in danger.
Do I recommend it? Absolutely. I would even go as far as to say that it is one of my favorite books of 2023 so far.
Code Name: Edelweiss is available wherever books are sold.
This book is fantastic. It takes what would otherwise be the standard Holocaust narrative and adds new levels to it. At its heart, it speaks to the American dream, how powerful it can be, and the complications that we don’t see coming.
Mel Brooks is one of those comedians who both raises ire and makes the audience double over in laughter.
History of the World: Part I, is one of the many classics that exist within Brooks’s decades-long resume. Earlier this week, the long-awaited sequel, History of the World: Part II was released on Hulu. Narrated by Brooks, the cast includes a long list of performers. Among them are Ike Barinholtz, Nick Kroll, and Wanda Sykes (who also had a hand in writing and producing the series). As with its predecessor, certain historical events are lovingly mocked as only Brooks can.
What blows my mind is that Brooks is 96 and still sharp as a tack. He also brings with him the Jewish humor that has become part and parcel of his shtick. Adding to the allure of this program is the perspective of the other members of the creative team who added additional layers to the comedy.
Do I recommend it? Absolutely.
History of the World: Part II is available for streaming on Hulu.
The Jewish holiday of Purim starts tonight. It is the story of Queen Esther, a young lady in ancient Persia (present-day Iran), who puts her life on the line to save her people. When it becomes clear that the lives of millions are in her hands, she knows that the only way to survive is to be true to herself.
Last week, after being in the closet for many years, I came out. My mental health demanded it. If I didn’t, I would never be happy. My biggest fear was being rejected. The opposite happened. I got nothing but love, which made it all worth it.
Being yourself is the hardest thing to do, but it is totally worth it.
I liked this book. Mr. Steinhardt is open and honest about his life, his beliefs, his work, and the mistakes he made along the way. It takes an adult to admit when they are wrong and do what must be done to correct the error.
The only issue I have is that he mentions that Yiddish is the language of the Jews. That is an ashkenormative perspective that is highly problematic and ignores the fact that Jews come from all over the world.
Do I recommend it? Yes.
Jewish Pride is available wherever books are sold.
An unintended pregnancy, depending on one’s circumstance, is either a blessing or a curse. It also forces both the pregnant person (and their spouse/partner, if there is one) to make a decision that could border on difficult.
The House of Eve, by Sadeqa Johnson, was published last month. Taking place in the 1950s, it follows the stories of two young ladies who are in the family way. In Philadelphia, Ruby was born to a teenage mother who has more interest in keeping her boyfriend happy than being a parent. Despite this and the poverty she lives in, Ruby is determined to attend college. A wrench is thrown into that plan via a forbidden romance. Shimmy is the son of her aunt’s Jewish landlord. When Ruby discovers that she is to become a mother herself, their situation becomes infinitely more complicated.
In Washington D.C., Eleanor is a bright and determined university student. Coming from a working-class family, she wants to make her parents proud. Though she is not looking for love, it finds her. William is the eldest son of an elite upper-class black family. Eleanor is an unexpected choice for a daughter-in-law and not exactly welcomed with open arms. Once they are married, she hopes that bringing their child into the world will solidify their marriage and finally force the respect of her in-laws. But it seems that fate has other plans for her.
I enjoyed this book. The narrative is compelling, the characters are fully drawn, and the details of the era are pitch-perfect. Though Eleanor and Ruby seem to live very different lives, they have a lot in common. As the story intertwines and their combined destiny inches closer, universal questions about motherhood and the choices they make become real.
Do I recommend it? Absolutely.
The House of Eve is available wherever books are sold.
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