The Newsletter of Fig Tree Books LLC
June 2022: Issue #31
Fredric D. Price, Founder & Editor
We are pleased to announce that Fig Tree Books LLC is now an imprint of Mandel Vilar Press. With similarly aligned goals and the chance to combine our efforts as well as our lists, this was an opportunity not to be missed. We look forward to continuing to work with new voices that speak to the beautiful and sometimes challenging mosaic of the American Jewish experience. Read the press release here.
SHORT STORY: Dream Project by Alan Swyer

“Let me drop one more name. Irv Rosen.”
Alexander chuckled. “Want the good, or the not so good?”
“Start with the good,” insisted Berman.
“He managed some unbelievable Black acts.”
“And the not so good?”
“By reputation? One of the worst pricks ever.”
To Alexander's surprise, Berman laughed. “How'd you like to spend time with him?”
“He's still alive?”
“He was when I left my house this morning. He's my father-in-law, in from New York for a visit. Up for meeting him?”
“To listen to stories, or for some other reason?”
“Both,” said Berman. “He thinks there's a movie in his tales about being on the road with the stars we were talking about. Like it?”
“Sure. Only –”
“At a time when studios want superhero movies, and Netflix wants films about Blacks without a white guy as hero, where would the bucks come from?”
“He's says he's put together financing.”
Alan Swyer is an award-winning filmmaker whose recent documentaries have dealt with Eastern spirituality in the Western world, the criminal justice system, diabetes, boxing, and singer Billy Vera. In the realm of music, among his productions is an album of Ray Charles love songs. His novel 'The Beard' was recently published by Harvard Square Editions.
JEWS OF DIFFERENT HUES: Korean-American leader of Renewal movement says it’s a white world at the top

SooJi Min-Maranda rarely sees other Jewish people who look like her.
“I often feel very isolated as a Jew of color living in the Midwest,” she said.
Min-Maranda, who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with her husband and two children, was born in Korea but moved with her family to the United States at the age of 3.
In her role as executive director of ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal, she may be the most visible person of color leading a Jewish religious organization. Though 11 percent of American Jews do not identify as white, according to the Steinhardt Social Research Institute’s American Jewish Population Project, there are few people of color in visible leadership roles in the community.
SHORT STORY: A Dybbuk by Amy Bernstein
I think that my family’s mental illness may have begun back in Old Russia. When my sister and I were little, my grandfather told us the family story. He lay stretched out on a deck chair while we sat on his chest playing with the flowers we had just picked. His grey and red chest hairs tickled my legs and his bald head shone in the sun. His old face was lit up with the pleasure of having his two granddaughters piled on top of him. He tickled me, but he did not tickle my sister. He knew she hated to be tickled, and he was the kind of grownup who showed respect for individual feelings, even the feelings of children. He cleared his throat in a theatrical manner and fixed us seriously with his widened, grey eyes.
“This is the true story of our family, of how our family came to be possessed by a Dybbuk. Of why we are the way we are. So, listen well, my little ones.”

This excerpt is the first section of Ms. Bernstein’s novel in progress, “The Dybbuk.” In order to save her sister and her two young nieces, Audrey74905 chases her Jewish family’s secret across the past; dipping in and out of different elapsed times. She seeks the cure for the mysterious mental illness that has bled down through her family like ink spilled on an old and precious book. Audrey74905 can travel in time. She shares the consciousness of a different one of her ancestors during each time trip. She cannot influence their actions. Her host cannot even perceive her visit. But she can see everything that happens and know her host’s very thoughts and memories. In this way, she inhabits five different times always looking for the roots and the cure for the family’s disorder.

Ms. Bernstein’s short story, “Our Best Friend” was published in Penumbric Speculative Fiction Magazine in December of 2020. “Hash Pipe,” appeared in Pangyrus Magazine issue, in 2020, and also won the One City, One Story competition at the Boston Book Festival in 2014. “How to Fix a Lamp,” received honorable mention in Glimmer Train Magazine’s Very Short Fiction competition in 2018 and was published in The Forge Magazine in 2019. “Upon Leaving The Hospital,” appeared in Black Heart Magazine and Volunteer Garden,” in Cease Cows in 2014. She was the recipient of 2017, and 2018 PEN America, Press Freedom Incentive Fund Grants for her local newspaper in three languages, The South Side Free Press. Her children’s story, and math book, Time Travel Math, was published by Prufrock Press in 2010. She is a member of GRUB Street Writers Workshop in Boston, and a PEN America Writing Professionals Member.
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CHAPTER: Hiding in Plain Sight: A Journey to Everyday Spirituality, by Rabbi Michael Zedek
I once heard the much and justifiably admired minister, Dr. Fred Craddock, describe a trip to Israel, during which his guide pointed to a location as the setting of some specific miracle. Craddock demurred with a polite, "I hope you don't mind if I understand the experience differently." Without missing a beat, the guide immediately responded, "Of course not. You can be sure if there is only one way to interpret something, it didn't come from God."
In July of 2004, Rabbi Michael R. Zedek began service as the Senior Rabbi of Emanuel
Congregation of Chicago. He became Rabbi Emeritus in July of 2016, and currently
serves as Senior Advisor to the Central Conference of American Rabbis.
Previously, he served for 26 years as the spiritual leader of Congregation B’nai Jehudah
in Kansas City, Missouri, where he also holds the title of Rabbi Emeritus. Ordained in
June of 1974, Zedek was chosen to be alumnus-in-residence at the Cincinnati and Los
Angeles campuses of Hebrew Union College (HUC-JIR). Rabbi Zedek is the youngest
person to receive this honor. He is a recipient of the Danforth Graduate Fellowship for
outstanding teaching, a Fulbright-Hays Grant for advanced study in the United Kingdom
and is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Hamilton College, Clinton, New York. He has also
had numerous teaching and speaking appointments around the world on a wide range of
topics, especially focusing on spirituality and folklore. He has taught and lectured in
South Africa, Russia, China, the former Yugoslavia, Israel and in many other venues.
SHORT STORY: Unbound by Jean Ende
As soon as I noticed that Aunt Rachel wasn’t wearing her girdle, I knew she didn’t have long to live.
 Of course it took a few minutes for this to sink in since, from the neck up, she looked the same as always. With her quivering hand, Aunt Rachel had applied dark red lipstick, sparkly blue eye shadow and thick foundation, all of which seeped into her many facial crevasses.
Maddie, Aunt Rachel’s aide, took her to the beauty parlor under the train tracks every week so her little blonde football helmet hairdo was dyed, teased and shellacked into place. I had no doubt that Aunt Rachel’s hair was now completely grey or white, after all her 80th birthday was approaching. But I knew she’d go to her grave without my ever seeing her natural color. Growing up, I’d watched Aunt Rachel’s hair morph from the palest blonde to the peppiest ginger to the deepest ebony, a new shade every few months depending on the covers of fashion magazines, her planned wardrobe and the whims of her stylist.
Jean Ende is a former reporter for daily newspapers in New York and New Jersey, a publicist for the City of New York and several political candidates, Vice President in the Marketing Division of Citibank NA and Professor of Marketing at St. Francis College, Brooklyn NY.
She is a graduate of CCNY and the Columbia University Graduate School of Business, attended MFA classes at SUNY Stony Brook, and was selected for the Bread Loaf Writing Conference three times and for the Tin House Writers Conference. For the past five years, Jean has been a member of Kaylie Jones’ master class in fiction.
She has been writing short stories for the past 10 years and her work has been recognized and published in a dozen print and online magazines and by literary competitions. Much of Jean’s work is inspired by her immigrant Jewish family, however, she wants readers to know that it’s all fiction. (She doesn’t need to get involved in any more family feuds.)
A native of The Bronx, Jean and her dog now live in Brooklyn, NY which is truly a foreign country to anyone from The Bronx.
BOOK REVIEW: Hands of Gold by Roni Robins,
Reviewed by Dan Farkas
A semi-fictional family patriarch near the end of life is given a cassette player to tell his life story; the trek from Europe to Montreal and eventually to New York City, and the raising of a family, with all its wonders and heartaches. The tone is direct, practical, and full of self-deprecating wit told in short staccato bursts, leaving us thirsting for more.
MY JEWISH YEAR: Chapter 20,
Lag B'Omer, by Abigail Pogrebin
This is the holiday that could finally stump me. I’ve barely heard
of the Omer, other than the phrase “Counting the Omer,” though
I never knew what we were counting.
Now I see the Omer is the forty-nine days from the second day of
Passover to the eve of Shavuot (which is the holiday that marks the
giving of the Torah).
We’re also counting the forty-nine days from the start of the barley
harvest, when people would bring a sheaf of the newly harvested grain
to the Temple to thank God. An “omer” is a sheaf (some say a certain
measure) of grain. This holiday is the thirty-third day of the forty-nine.
Lag B’Omer, translated literally, means: thirty-third day of the Omer.
That’s all I got.
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