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The Bookshelf

by Rabbi Neil Gillman

Yehuda Avner, The Prime Ministers: An Intimate Narrative of Israeli Leadership. The Toby Press, 2010. The operative term in this impressive book’s title is intimate. Avner worked intimately with four Israeli prime ministers, Levi Eshkol, Golda Meir, Yitzchak Rabin, and Menachem Begin. He served as the proverbial fly on the wall during otherwise closed conversations with the Israeli leadership, often confronting serious crises. His recollection of these sessions, along with many private conversations with the prime ministers and other members of the Israeli cabinet, provide what legitimately can be called an intimate insight into the decision-making process. The book is long but endlessly fascinating, and a mustread for anyone who is interested in the makings of Israeli policy during the better part of the 20th century. Not incidentally, part of Avner’s narrative deals with the Israeli relationship with American presidents, secretaries of state, and Congress, and this adds to the book’s fascination for the concerned American student of Israeli policy.

Lewis Aron and Libby Henik, Answering A Question With a Question: Contemporary Psychoanalysis and Jewish Thought. Academic Studies Press, 2009. Contrary to the popular impression, neither all psychoanalysts nor all psychoanalytic patients are Jewish. But many of both groups are, and surely the theories and procedures developed for psychoanalytic practice were the work of (at least nominal) Jews. This anthology traces the impact of Judaism on the work of psychoanalysis, and vice versa, the impact of psychoanalytic theory on our understanding of Judaism. Topics range far and wide, from mourning rituals, to theories of God, to dreams and dreaming, to the interpretation of specific biblical passages such as the Garden of Eden narrative. This book is not to be read in one sitting but gems can be found throughout, and anyone who is interested in the relationship will be intrigued.

Rabbi Jill Jacobs, Where Justice Dwells: A Hands-on Guide to Doing Social Justice in Your Community. Jewish Lights, 2011. For years now, Rabbi Jill Jacobs has devoted her rabbinate to social action projects. That is a rare enough emphasis for Conservative rabbis in general, but not only has Rabbi Jacobs made it the cornerstone of her career, she also works to engage her rabbinic colleagues in social issues. This volume summarizes her efforts, her thinking, and the techniques she has developed in years of fieldwork. The chapter she calls Storytelling for Social Action is particularly interesting because it draws upon the power of stories, which anyone who reads to their children or grandchildren at bedtime can appreciate. Torah is replete with great stories. Apart from this, the author details specific practices that can promote or delay successful community building, making this book an indispensable resource for congregational leaders.

Isa Aron, Becoming a Congregation of Learners. Jewish Lights, 2002. This volume can be viewed as a companion publication to Rabbi Jacobs’ book on social action. The author is a prominent educator on the faculty of the Los Angeles branch of Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion. It is the product of an 8- year experiment in congregational education, a project HUC-JIR designed to study how congregants of all ages are engaged in Jewish learning, and then on developing concrete practices that will help congregational leaders insure that serious Jewish learning can flower in American synagogues. The forward by Rabbi Lawrence Hoffman, codeveloper of Synagogue 2000 (now Synagogue 3000), integrates this material, specifically directed to learning, into the rest of the Synagogue 3000 program. Both this and Rabbi Jacobs’ book address central challenges facing our congregations. Professor Aron has assembled a rich treasury of vignettes out of her years of experience, together with how precisely congregations can avoid the pitfalls that are almost inevitable in projects of this kind. We must be grateful to the publisher, Jewish Lights, for both volumes.

 
 
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