People of the Books


Reviews, recommendations, and other reasons to read. By Spertus Institute's Betsy Gomberg.

People of the Books

Coming to America : Stories of Jewish journeys

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For the fifth year in a row, Chicago's Jewish community will mark Jewish Book Month with One Book, One Community , in which a single book is selected as the focus of discussions and activities throughout the city and suburbs.

This year's book is A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka , a darkly comic memoir with two intertwined journeys, written by debut author Lev Golinkin.


Golinkin, a graduate of Boston College who now lives in New Jersey, was born in Kharkov, Ukraine, in 1980. At the time — during the final decade of the Soviet Union — antisemitism pervaded Soviet life. When immigration was made briefly possible due to international pressure, his family risked everything to make a new life for Lev and his sister. Thus the book's first journey is a tale of escape, told from the droll perspective of a nine-year-old caught in the last gasp of the Soviet Empire.

Years later, Lev, now an adult just out of college and poised to attend medical school, finds himself uncertain about his future. At the suggestion of his advisor, he sets out on a second journey, this time to retrace his family's odyssey as refugees. To offer his thanks, he locates the strangers who fought for his family's freedom and helped them begin a new chapter in a new land.

Although A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka is Golinkin's first book, reviewers have praised his ability to find biting humor and emotional truth in the trying episodes of his childhood. The New York Times called the book, "a hilarious and heartbreaking story of a Jewish family's escape from oppression... whose drama, hope and heartache Mr. Golinkin captures brilliantly." The Wall Street Journal said Golinkin "manages to capture at a visceral level the feelings of many of the million Soviet Jews who left their homeland at the Cold War's end."

In conjunction with One Book | One Community, Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership will again spearhead community events, with a series of programs beginning in October about Jewish life in the former Soviet Union. (Mark your calendar for Sunday, December 6. Capping the program series, author Lev Golinkin will make two area appearances, one at North Suburban Synagogue Beth El in Highland Park and the second, a celebration tied to the start of Hanukkah, at Spertus Institute.) You can sign up at to receive program information and be eligible for book giveaways.

When the Golinkin family left the former USSR, they did so as part of a wave of more than a million Jewish emigrants. Of those, it is estimated that 325,000 came to America. Like the Golinkins, many families were assisted by HIAS(the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society), both during stopovers in Europe (often in Austria and Italy, some lasting months) and as they settled into new lives. HIAS runs a fascinating website—which you can find at—with videos of Soviet Jewish immigrants recounting their own stories.

Two authors are among those featured on the HIAS site, Gary Shteyngart and David Bezmozgis. Like Lev Golinkin and an impressive contingent of other writers, their experiences as Jewish immigrants from Soviet Russia has found its way into (and in some cases, inspired) their writing.

These authors' memoirs and novels are personal and often unflinching remembrances from the time of Perestroika and Glasnost. They are also are part of a long and important tradition of Jewish immigrant writing. Here are some to explore.

little failure

If the team of young Soviet Jewish writers had a captain, it would be Gary Shteyngart, the most well-known of the bunch. He has written several novels that mine his Russian background for characters, side-splitting humor, and wicked story twists. But in his fourth book, Little Failure: A Memoir, he lays out the truth (as he sees it) of his own American immigrant experience. The book was named a best book of the year by publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, and The New Yorker.

free world

In his debut novel The Free World, David Bezmozgis uses his own family's emigration from Latvia as a foundation for a complex intergenerational tale. Named a New York Times Notable Book and one of the Globe and Mail's Best Books of the Year for 2011.


Formerly a teacher and assistant principal, Nadia Kalman now works as a writer-in-the-schools with Teachers and Writers Collaborative in New York City. In The Cosmopolitans, she mischievously conjures the Molochniks, a Jewish family who fled the Soviet Union and landed in Stamford, Connecticut (just like her own family did).

panic in a suitcase

In 2014, the National Book Foundation named Yelena Akhtiorskaya a "5 Under 35" honoree. Her debut novel, Panic in a Suitcase, tells the story of the Nasmertovs, who left Odessa for Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. NPR called it a "uniquely American work of fiction... a testament to Akhtiorskaya's wit, generosity, and immense talent as a young American author." 

Jewish LGBT reading list

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Among religious groups in the US, Jews are among the biggest backers of same-sex marriage, according to data gathered by the Public Religion Research Institute. Jews polled at 77% in support, behind only Buddhists (who polled at 84%). 

Although there is range of opinion in the Jewish community on this issue (like every other), thirteen Jewish groups — representing Reform, Reconstructionist and Conservative streams of Judaism — were among those that joined the brief filed by the ADL in Obergefell v. Hodges. It was the decision on this case, announced by the Supreme Court last week, which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.

To mark that decision, I'm dedicating this post to a few favorite Jewish LGBT books. These suggestions come from my own reading, conversations with friends, and recommendations from Tablet Magazine and the Jewish Book Council.

A great place to start is with Joel Derfner's Lawfully Wedded Husband: How My Gay Marriage Will Save the American Family. Written in 2013, it begins with Derfner's boyfriend proposing at a time when there was nowhere in the US where it was legal for them to wed. When that changes, they confront questions ranging from the wording of their ketubahto the very definition of what constitutes an American family. LGBT Weekly called it a "thoughtful look at marriage, wrapped in wry humor."

For those fascinated by the legal cases that changed US law on same-sex marriage, there's Then Comes Marriage, written by renowned litigator Roberta Kaplan and published earlier this year. In it, Kaplan takes readers behind the scenes of United States v. Windsor, the case that defeated the Defense of Marriage Act. This is a gripping account of a significant moment in US history.

Joy Ladin's 2012 powerful memoir Through the Door of Life was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award. Ladin is an openly transgender professor who holds the David and Ruth Guttesman Chair in English at Yeshiva University's Stern College for Women. About her book, The Huffington Post said. "On the face of it, [this] is the story of how Jay Ladin transitioned into living as Joy Ladin. But it's Ladin's relationship with Judaism that anchors this book and makes it stand out."

On the fiction shelf, All I Love and Know is a new novel by Judith Frank, winner of the Lambda Literary Award. Called "brilliant" by the Boston Globe, it is an emotional family drama about a gay Jewish couple who become guardians to two children whose parents were killed in the bombing of a Tel Aviv café.  The story takes place in Jerusalem and Northampton, MA, and it tackles tensions in politics, parenting, and finding one's place in a new breed of family.

Marjorie Ingall, a columnist for Tablet magazine who often writes about families, recommends Wide Awake by David Levithan. I haven't read it but her description certainly makes me want to. She calls it "a gay young-adult love story set against the election of the first gay Jewish president. It's funny, fierce, wishful, and sweet." (For a beautiful article about the how the Supreme Court ruling touched Ingall's own family, see A Love Supreme.)

Graphic novels and serious subjects

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"Comics were once for superhero action stories," said cartoonist Alison Bechdel in an interview with HuffPostLive. "That was pretty much all they did, and then people started pushing the boundaries."

Bechel is a MacArthur Fellow (recipient of what's commonly referred to as a genius grant) who sees herself as a graphic memorist. Her bestselling graphic novel, Fun House, was nominated for a National Book Critics Award and is now a Broadway musical.


Bechel credits Art Spiegelman, who penned his father's haunting story of surviving the Holocaust as the groundbreaking graphic novel Maus, as having paved the way for her to tackle serious subjects.

"Spiegelman's 'Maus' changed comics forever," she said. "Comics now can be about anything — any topic that's as serious as you can come up with."

In fact, the influence of Maus, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1992, is so great that it's hard to quantify. It is credited with altering not only how we see comics, but also the wider worlds of literature and the way history is conveyed about the Holocaust. Schools use it to teach in fields ranging from history to psychology, and it has spawned an industry of academic research and literary criticism.

bintel brief

Today, a new generation of cartoonists are using graphic novels to tackle tough subjects. One of these artists is 27-year-old Liana Finck, whose first book,A Bintel Brief: Love and Longing in Old New York, brings to life the trials and triumphs of Jewish immigrants on New York's Lower East Side.

On Thursday, May 7 at 6 pm, Liana Finck will be visiting Chicago to discuss her work in a free presentation at Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership, where her original drawings, etchings, and sketches for the book are on display in the first floor vestibule gallery through July 19.

Finck, a recipient of a Six Points Fellowship for Emerging Jewish Artists, was inspired by an advice column that ran in the Jewish Daily Forward beginning in 1906. Called A Bintel Brief(Yiddish for "A Bundle of Letters"), the column was a precursor to Dear Abby and all the advice columns that followed.

In discussing A Bintel Brief, Finck explains the importance of the letters she adapted for the book. She says, "The Forwardwas a lifeline for Jewish immigrants in New York during the first half of the 1900s. Its beloved advice column…introduced by the paper's legendary editor Abraham Cahan, [was] full of the kind of raw desperation and hopefulness we all feel, under everything."

In her adaptation, Finck imagines that Abraham Cahan climbs out of a notebook of collected letters, right into her New York apartment in the present day. As their friendship develops, Cahan shares letters from readers who seek relationship and career advice, solutions to complicated family problems, and strategies for dealing with the dark clouds of depression. Although from an earlier time, these letters — and the advice Cahan gave in return — still resonate.


Unterzakhan by Leela Corman from 2012, is another graphic novel that portrays the world of Jewish immigrants on the Lower East Side of New York in the early 1900s. Unterzakhn(Yiddish for "Underthings") tells the story of twin sisters, children when the book begins, who end up taking very different paths as they navigate the limited and sometimes seedy choices then available to young women and struggling immigrants. The book received rave reviews from an impressive array of publications, with Publishers Weekly calling it, "beautifully drawn and hard to forget," and Comic Book Reporter praising it as "fantastic, particularly when Corman infuses her female characters with a snarl or a sneer, conveying a lifetime of pent-up emotion in a single panel."

lena finkle

The search for answers that drives A Bintel Brief and Unterzakhn is also front and center in another graphic novel, one that also touches on immigration, but the in America of today. Lena Finkle's Magic Barrel is by Anya Ulinich, author of the award-winning Petropolis. In it, Ulinich, an alum of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, paints a painfully funny, shamelessly personal portrait of the post-divorce life of a young Russian immigrant (not unlike Ulinich herself) who seeks love and finds herself. (For a wonderful interview with Anya Ulinich, check out this column from — where else? — the Forward: Anya Ulinich Makes Her Graphic Debut.) For more recommendations of graphic novels about the Jewish experience, visit the website of the Jewish Book Council at and search for "Graphic Novel."

Real live authors

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Last November, Chicago Tribune reporter Christopher Borrelli wrote about seeing English novelist Martin Amis reflect on his book Zone of Interest as part of the Chicago Humanities Festival. Borrelli quipped about assumptions made by those who would never dream of attending an author talk, stating "it needs saying. This is entertainment."

He continued, "Hear me out. Writers, themselves, are not fun to watch. The loneliest sight in the world is the relatively unloved writer behind a table in a bookstore, surrounded by stacks of the latest thing he spent years writing, waiting for the thinnest bit of small talk that might snowball into interest. The second-worst sight is the TV series or film about the writing life - aside from the stray gem (the new Jason Schwartzman movie Listen Up Philip, for instance), [these are] often focused on the epic self-involvement of the writer, the landscape is littered with under-shirted neurotics pecking away at their keyboards…And yet, watching a live writer gabbing, fretting, even bloviating in front of a live audience, is a durable, underrated way to spend an hour or two."

I couldn't agree more. In recent years, I have heard authors speak about books I've loved (and some I haven't) in sold-out auditoriums, crowded book stores, outdoor festivals, and the back rooms of bars and cafés. I have laughed out loud and cried (sometimes in the same talk, Christopher Buckley talking about Losing Mum and Pup at the wonderful Politics and Prose, for example).  I have gained insight, had questions answered, seen characters and plot lines in new light, and, most fun for me, learned what books inspire the authors who inspire me.

Through a random confluence of good fortune, a number of impressive Jewish writers will be speaking around Chicago over the next couple of months. I recommend you take Christopher Borrelli's advice (and mine) and go out and hear them talk about their work.

Monday, March 23 
Pritzker Military Library at 6PM 
Eric Greitens on Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life


When I first heard about Eric Greitens from a colleague, I was awed not only by the number of truly impressive things this young man has done, but by utter audacity of having all of these things accomplished by a single individual. Here we go:  Jewish from Missouri, Master's degree from Duke, Rhodes Scholar with PhD in Politics from Oxford University, documentary photographer, Navy SEAL (I'm not making this up-he was deployed four times and served as the Commander of a Mark V Special Operations Craft Detachment, Commander of a Joint Special Operations Task Unit, and as Commander of an al Qaeda Targeting Cell, earning a Combat Action Ribbon, Purple Heart, and Bronze Star), humanitarian volunteer, nonprofit founder and CEO, and bestselling author. In 2012, he was recognized with The Charles Bronfman Prize for "young innovators whose Jewish values infuse their humanitarian accomplishments." In 2013, Time magazine named him to its list of the 100 most influential people in the world and, in 2014, Fortune recognized him as one of 50 greatest leaders in the world.  His newest book was inspired by a former SEAL colleague struggling with PTSD.

Wednesday, March 25 
Union League Club at noon 
Center on Halsted at 7PM 
Barney Frank on Frank: A Life in Politics from the Great Society to Same-Sex Marriage

Former Massachusetts Congressman Frank relates his journey from New York City to Boston and then to the Congress, where for more than 40 years he played a vital role in struggles for personal freedom and economic fairness. The Boston Globe calls the book, "Combative, unashamedly liberal, and acidly funny."

Wednesday, March 25 
Harold Washington Library at 6PM 
Robert Putman on Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis

The acclaimed Harvard professor and author of the best-selling Bowling Alone  continues his exploration of social connectedness, civic engagement, inequality, and opportunity. 

Thursday, April 2 
The Book Cellar at 7PM 
Dina Elenbogen on Drawn From Water: An American Poet, An Ethiopian Family, An Israeli Story

Award-winning local writer and educator Dina Elenbogen (who teaches at the University of Chicago Graham School and has taught writing at Spertus Institute) explores her 30-year friendship with Ethiopian Jewish immigrants in Israel.   

Thursday, April 9 
Union League Club at 11:30AM 
Scott Simon on Unforgettable: A Son, a Mother, and the Lessons of a Lifetime

In 2013, NPR host Scott Simon began tweeting from his mother's hospital room. His evocative 140-character updates about his mother's life and death spread virally, reaching 1.2 million Twitter followers and beyond. Unforgettable expands on those now-famous tweets to create a memoir of his mother and their time together.    

Thursday, April 16 
Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership at 7PM 
Martin Goldsmith on Alex's Wake: The Tragic Voyage of the St. Louis to Flee Nazi Germany, and a Grandson's Journey of Love and Remembrance


In 1939, the SS St. Louis sailed from Hamburg bound for Havana. On board were 900 Jews attempting to flee Nazi Germany. After being turned away by Cuba, the US, and Canada, the ship was forced to return to Europe. Among the passengers were Alex Goldschmidt and his 17-year-old son Helmut, who spent the next three years in one French camp after another before being shipped to Auschwitz. Sixty-nine years later, author and radio personality Martin Goldsmith, Alex's grandson and Helmut's nephew, retraced their journey, traveling more than 5,700 miles. To mark Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) Goldsmith will be at Spertus to discuss this compelling and personal story, called "powerful and evocative" by the New York Journal of Books.

The influence of Anne Frank

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From Feb. 24 to June 28, Writers' Theatre (a Chicago-area treasure in suburban Glencoe) will present The Diary of Anne Frank in a newly adapted version by Wendy Kesselman. In an interview about the production, director Kimberly Senior spoke about "peeling back the layers of meaning" of Anne Frank's iconic testament to the years she spent hiding with her family during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands.

Since almost immediately after its Dutch publication in 1947 - two years after Anne Frank died of typhus in Bergen-Belsen - Frank's diary has served as inspiration. This has been true for generations of readers, but it's also been true for an amazing array of other writers, right up to the present day.

Certainly there were screenwriters Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, whose 1955 Pulitzer Prize winning play is the basis for the Writer's Theatre production and whose 1959 movie version was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture. (It won three: Best Supporting Actress for Shelly Winter's performance as Mrs. Van Daan and Best Cinematography and Art Direction.) Much more recently, Francine Prose's 2010 Anne Frank: The Book, the Life, and the Afterlife  tackles the stories behind the diary's publication.


But far from these straightforward examples lie many surprises.

There is Nathan Englander's short story collection, What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank. In the title story (with the title alluding to Raymond Carver's What We Talk About When We Talk About Love), two couples play "the Anne Frank game," speculating about who would hide their families in the event of another Holocaust.


Writer Shalom Auslander (known for his appearances on This American Life and his memoir Foreskin's Lament) explores this same idea in a series of short videos made to promote his first novel, Hope: A Tragedy. (In one, he calls Ira Glass to ask if Glass will hide him, never mind that Glass is also Jewish. He also calls John Hodgman and Sarah Vowell. All can be viewed on YouTube.) Ann Frank (and an attic) also appear in Auslander's novel, twisted through his signature caustic lens.


Alternate-history novels speculating about an Anne Frank who survived the Holocaust started way back in 1976 with Philip Roth's The Ghost Writer. Jillian Cantor's recent novel Margot, takes a different path, conjuring a version of Anne's older sister, Margot Frank, who survives the war and resurfaces in Philadelphia.


I haven't read the book yet (if you have, let me know what you think in the comment section), but Laura Moser, in a review for The Forward, says Margot, "doesn't take on a whole chain of historical events. [It] is small in scale: just one woman's life. Though, of course, no woman symbolizes the horrors of the Holocaust better than Anne Frank, and by extension, the studious older sister who gets so few mentions in her diary.  And because we know so little of the historical Margot Frank, Cantor can really run with her fictional Margie. And run she does."

You can hear audio from Shalom Auslander's 2012 talks at Spertus Institute (in conjunction with the publication of Hope: A Tragedy) at For information on the Writer's Theatre production of The Diary of Anne Frank, visit

Booking ahead

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Welcome to 2015!

As I write this, it's zero degrees in Chicago and my inbox is filled with emails about new books to look forward to reading in the year ahead. Seems like the second of these is urging me to make the best of the first.

Here are recommendations from knowledgeable insiders and reliable readers about upcoming Jewish books we should have on our reading lists.


The Last Flight of Poxl West is the first full-length novel by former Esquire editor Daniel Torday, whose novella The Sensualist won the 2012 National Jewish Book Award for debut fiction. Selected among 2015's "Most Anticipated" by The Millions, it has been termed "a saga within a saga" that weaves together the voices of teenager Eli Goldstein with the first-person account of a young Czech Jew (his idealized uncle Poxl West) who flew missions for the RAF during World War II. Kirkus, in a starred review, says it "has two big things in common with Gone Girl - it's a story told in two voices, and it's almost impossible to discuss without revealing spoilers. A richly layered, beautifully told and somehow lovable story about war, revenge and loss." Due out March 17, 2015.

After Abel and Other Stories is a collection by Michal Lemberger, whose writing regularly appears in SlateSalon, and Tablet.  The nine stories are built around biblical women, leading to comparisons with Anita Diamant's The Red Tent. The collection is being praised for both for its creativity and its grounding, not surprising from an author who teaches Hebrew Bible as Literature at UCLA and the American Jewish University. A variety of early readers are saying it will be a great choice for book groups. Due out April 7, 2015.

The Book of Aron, by National Book Award finalist Jim Shepard, is another selection from The Millions "Most Anticipated" list. This child's-eye view of the Warsaw Ghetto is narrated by Aron, a quirky boy from the countryside. With other kids, Aron risks his life smuggling goods to Jews in more dire straits, all while hunted by blackmailers, the police, and the Gestapo.  Janusz Korczak, the real-life Jewish-Polish doctor and children's rights advocate also plays a role when he is put in charge of the ghetto orphanage. In an advance review, author John Irving says "The story of what happened to children in the Holocaust is not for the faint-hearted. And a heartbreaking historical novel that ends in Treblinka may not be what many readers are expecting from a novelist and short-story writer whose ironic touch is often comedic. But Jim Shepard has written a Holocaust novel that stands with the most powerful writing on that terrible subject." Due out May 12, 2015.


Among the books featured in the Jewish Book Council 2015 Preview is The Pinch by Steve Stern, who won a National Jewish Book Award for The Wedding Jester. Set in a  once-thriving Memphis Jewish community in the 1960s, the novel revolves around a lackluster character named Lenny Sklarew who works in a secondhand bookstore where he finds an old book that features him as a character. Advance reports suggest we can expect an imaginative and intricate ride through decades of American and European history, as well as through myth and folklore. Due out June 2, 2015. (If you aren't familiar with Stern's work, check out the serialized version of his novel The Frozen Rabbi, online at Tablet.)

Jami Attenberg, author of Chicago Jewish One Book 2013 selection The Middlesteins, has a new book on the way and it sounds great. Saint Mazie: A Novel begins in Jazz Age New York where Mazie Phillips is the party-loving, truth-telling proprietress of a famed movie theater. The book follows Mazie (and her diary) through the challenging years ahead, as she becomes ever more critical to life on the Lower East Side. If you've read any of Attenberg's earlier work, you know she creates characters who are fascinating, complicated, and very real. I suspect we're in for a wonderful journey in Mazie's company. Due out June 2, 2015.

Do you know of other books we should be watching and waiting for? Let me know in the comments section or at

Books for Hanukkah

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This year Hanukkah begins at sundown on Tuesday, December 16.

Do you, like me, dream of seeing a friend or family member unplug whatever glowing device they are usually staring into long enough to get lost in a good story or be wowed by exploring something longer than a BuzzFeed list? With Hanukkah gift-giving just ahead, here are some suggestions that might do the trick.

Many of these are available at the Spertus Shop, where purchases support programming relating to Jewish learning and leadership.

In a review full of praise, The New York Times called Lev Golinkin's A Backpack, a Bear and Eight Crates of Vodka, a "hilarious and heartbreaking story of a Jewish family's escape from oppression." With biting humor and a sly take on international politics, family relations, and human nature, Golinkin's memoir tackles two trips, his 1989 childhood emigration from Kharkov, Ukraine to West Lafayette, Indiana, and his 2011 journey back on a quest to find and thank the people who'd provided his family with love, support, and the means to escape.

Another view of Jewish life in the region from which Golinkin's family fled, albeit a couple of centuries earlier, is provided in the Pulitzer-nominated The Golden Age Shtetl: A New History of Jewish Life in East Europe  by Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern. In it, Petrovsky-Shtern, the Crown Family Professor of Jewish Studies at Northwestern University and a member of the Spertus faculty, draws on a wealth of never-before-used archival material to challenge the popular notion of the shtetl as a ramshackle Jewish village stricken by poverty and pogroms. Instead, this colorful and pathbreaking social history argues,  in its heyday (a period from the 1790s to the 1840s), the shtel provided a bustling economic, intellectual, and religious community where Jews thrived.

Where did the image of the poor, backward, tradition-bound shtetl come from? One obvious answer is Fiddler on the Roof, this year marking its 50th anniversary. Adapted from the tales of Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem and set in Tsarist Russia in 1905, Fiddler turns the fictional village of Anatevka into the setting of one of the greatest American musicals, a theater piece that resonates around the world. Give the theater-lover in your life collectors' hardcover edition of the script by Joseph Stein, complete with the lyrics by Sheldon Harnick. Or give a gift pack of Fiddler and the The Golden Age Shtetel for a yin and yang look at Jewish history.

A totally different entrée into Jewish history is offered up in On the Chocolate Trail: A Delicious Adventure Connecting Jews, Religions, History, Travel, Rituals, and Recipes to the Magic of Cacao. In it, Rabbi Deborah Prinz combines her love of chocolate with her passion for travel and talent for archival sleuthing, sharing a journey that begins when she reads that Jews brought chocolate to France. Is it true? Read to find out.

Two other great gifts this year have to do with food.

My favorite gift book last year was Jerusalem: A Cookbook (recently awarded Best International Cookbook by the James Beard Foundation and still a great gift choice). Jerusalem-born, London-based chef and restaurateur Yotam Ottolenghi is back with gorgeous vegetarian cookbook called Plenty More. Recipes range from Apple and Celery Root Salad to Fig and Goat Cheese Tart.

Eating Delancey, by Aaron Rezney and Jordan Schaps with an introduction by Joan Rivers, is a photo-filled compilation of classic Jewish food with profiles and recipes from classic Lower East Side eateries such as Sammy's Roumanian Steakhouse, Russ & Daughters Appetizers, Katz's Delicatessen, Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery, and Ratner's. Bette Midler, Jackie Mason, Itzhak Perlman, Joshua Bell, Don Rickles, Fyvush Finkel, Isaac Mizrahi, Lou Reed, Arthur Schwartz, and Milton Glaser wax nostalgic throughout the book.

Favorite Hanukkah book for kids this year? Woody Guthrie: Honeyky Hanukah, in which joyful pictures by Dave Horowitz bring to life a little-known Guthrie tune inspired by his mother-in-law, Yiddish poet Aliza Greenblatt.  It comes with its own CD of the Grammy-winning Klezmatics performing the featured song.


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