The Newsletter of Fig Tree Books LLC
February, 2020: Issue #3
Fredric D. Price, Founder & Publisher
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OLDIES BUT GOODIES: Edward Lewis Wallants' The Pawnbroker - For most of us, remembering the Holocaust requires effort; we listen to stories, watch films, read histories. The people who came to be called “survivors,” on the other hand, could not avoid their memories. Sol Nazerman, protagonist of Edward Lewis Wallant’s  The Pawnbroker , is one such sufferer.
"... one of the last examples of a genre that has largely disappeared from American shores — the meaning-making novel, the novel with something to say, the novel with an overt and unembarrassed message."
"Prior to their marriage, Chang told Shapiro she would never
convert to Judaism, though she was open to raising their children
as Jewish. The mother-of-three changed her mind about the
conversion years later."
“One day I said to my husband, ‘I think I’m going to convert. And he literally did a spit-take."
APPLES & HONEY: A Small Taste Of Lit
“Of the series of hate crimes that affected the Los Angeles Jewish community late last month, three hit especially close to home. First, a Persian synagogue, the majority of whose congregants (my father and his family included) fled from Iran’s Islamic Revolution as political refugees, was vandalized. Second, anti-Semitic graffiti reading 'do the crime, do the time' was found spraypainted across the driveway shared by the American Jewish University and my elementary school, both of which are within five minutes of my home. Third, a swastika was found on my high school, the largest Jewish day school in the nation.”
DON'T BE SHY: SEND US A QUESTION & ANSWER IT YOURSELF: And win the chance to get a free set of our books!

Each issue, we'll publish one question and answer from readers. Now here's the cool part: if we select your Q&A, we'll send you free copies of all our books that were published prior to January 1, 2020.
The winning Q&A (from Miranda Eisenstadt):

Q:  What would a supposed 2113 Pew survey of American Jewry (A Portrait of Jewish Americans) have to say?

A:  In 2013 , it reported that, “American Jews overwhelmingly say they are proud to be Jewish and have a strong sense of belonging to the Jewish people." But the survey also suggests that Jewish identity is changing in America, where one-in-five Jews (22%) now describe themselves as having no religion. (See: A Portrait of Jewish Americans | Pew Research Center ). 

A hundred years in the future, I doubt that the American Jewish community will look demographically like it does today. Orthodoxy is on the rise, classically defined liberal groups (Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist) are not growing the way they did after World War Two (with some synagogues declining in membership or closing), and younger Jews are defining their Judaism in many different ways, from joining independent minyans to less structured organizations.

Whereas sacrifice was replaced by prayer after the fall of the Second Temple, we seem to be going through another period of experimentation in the non-Orthodox world in which social justice practices have come front and center; and while admirable, they may have the unintended consequences of divorcing these efforts from Judaism. Coupled with the higher birthrate among the Orthodox and the very high intermarriage rate of the defined liberal groups, we’re apt to see an American Judaism three to four generations hence that bears little resemblance to what exists today.

Who knows where this will lead? It doesn’t necessarily mean the disappearance of classical Judaism, but my guess is that some of the practices will change significantly. Perhaps there will emerge a new variant that springs from our tradition with vibrant shoots that grow from ancient roots. It could come from the 'secular Judaism' that's found a niche in Israel. "...Israeli Jews want to practice a Judaism that authentically reflects their identity as secular Israeli Jews—without religious coercion and with the freedom to create meaningful prayer experiences. Increasingly, as secular Israeli Jews seek to celebrate their Jewishness, they are attending non-Orthodox shuls and also creating grassroots spiritual communities." (From , a recent article that captures what we may begin to see here in America .)

In any event, it should be something to celebrate, not to fear.
Book Club Guides

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My Mother's Son (by David Hirshberg), a multiple award-winning debut novel, is written as the memoir of a radio raconteur that uses the inconceivable events of his family’s life and the world in which he lived in the 1950s as a foil to deal with major issues that affect Americans today–disease, war, politics, immigration and business. It has been purposefully set in earlier times so as to provide some distance from the current ‘talking heads’ climate that instantly categorizes and analyzes events from a narrow, partisan perspective.
A River Could Be A Tree (by Angela himsel) asks the question, "How does a girl who grew up in rural Indiana as a fundamentalist Christian end up a practicing Jew in New York?" This devout Christian Midwestern girl found her own form of salvation—as a practicing Jewish woman. Angela’s seemingly impossible road from childhood cult to a committed Jewish life is traced in and around the major events of the 1970s and 80s with warmth, humor, and a multitude of religious and philosophical insights. 
Slouching Toward Shabbat with Abigail Pogrebin

"I’m failing at Shabbat, which most rabbis say is the most important
holiday of them all. On the seventh day of the week—just as
God rested on the seventh day of Creation—we’re supposed to stop
working, which includes: creating anything, shopping, driving, writing
(or erasing), doing laundry, using fire, or electronics. The fourth
of the Ten Commandments instructs, 'Remember the Sabbath day,
to keep it holy.'”