Best Contemporary Jewish Writing
Best Contemporary Jewish Writing  -     Edited By: Michael Lerner
    By: Michael Lerner(ED.)
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Jossey-Bass / 2001 / Hardcover

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Best Contemporary Jewish Writing

Edited By: Michael Lerner
Jossey-Bass / 2001 / Hardcover

In Stock
Stock No: WW959722

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Product Information

Format: Hardcover
Number of Pages: 436
Vendor: Jossey-Bass
Publication Date: 2001
Dimensions: 9.56 X 6.02 X 1.47 (inches)
ISBN: 0787959723
ISBN-13: 9780787959722

Publisher's Description

Jewish culture, identity, and spirituality through the eyes of thebrightest and best authors
Best Contemporary Jewish Writing is a treasure trove of shortstories, poetry, and essays from such renowned contributors asNaomi Wolf, U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman, William Safire, andMarge Piercy. Dive into this rich arrayof writing and you ll seethat the Jewish experience reflects universal themes.
The writers in this collection have something to say to Jews, notonly to those struggling with their Jewish identity, and also tothe wider world. Whether your main interest is in poetry orpolitics, spirituality or cultural identity, social healing orindividual transformation, you ll find Best Contemporary JewishWriting to be a collection that inspires, excites, and provokes. Italso reflects the diversity of thought, opinion, and sensibility oftoday s best known Jewish thinkers and writers.
This volume is the first in the much anticipated annual series"Best Jewish Writing."

Author Bio

Michael Lerner is the editor of TIKKUN magazine and rabbi of the neo-Hasidic Beyt Tikkun Jewish Renewal synagogue in San Francisco. His most recent book, Spirit Matters: Global Healing and the Wisdom of the Soul, was selected as "one of the most significant books of 2000" by the Los Angeles Times Book Review and won a PEN award. His previous writings include Jews and Blacks: Let the Healing Begin, a dialogue with Cornel West, and Jewish Renewal: A Path to Healing and Transformation (described by Conservative Judaism journal as "stunning, miraculous and faith-renewing"). Rabbi Lerner, designated by Utne Reader as one of America's 100 Most Important Visionaries, has been featured in the New York Times, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, U.S. News and World Report, and Newsweek. He holds Ph.D.s in philosophy and clinical psychology.

Editorial Reviews

In this collection of Jewish writing dating from 1994 to 2000,Lerner, the editor of Tikkun magazine, highlights his idea of thepolitics of meaning and the Jewish religious themes of healing andreconciliation. A wide range of authors (writing fiction, poetry,and essays) discusses questions of Jewish identity, religion,culture, the Holocaust, and Israel. Feminism, gay studies, andenvironmental concerns are important aspects of the selections.Many well-know authors are included, among them Adrienne Rich,Philip Roth, Yehuda Amichai, Aharon Appelfeld, and NormanPodhoretz. Zalman Schacter Shalomi presents an open and honestattempt to rethink Jewish religious thought, Marge Piercy andJacqueline Osherow's poems bring new elements to Jewish thinking,and Morris Dickstein describes the changing themes and ideas ofwriters in the United States. The result is an interesting anddiverse anthology. Recommended for Jewish studies collections.(Gene Shaw, NYPL, Library Journal, August 2001)

Whenever my old friend, the curmudgeonly book lover, came acrossan anthology with a title like "Best Plays" or "Best-Loved Poems,"he'd always mutter, "Best? Best? Who says so?" Who, indeed? Why,editors of anthologies claiming "bestness," of course. The editorof "Best Contemporary Jewish Writing" is Rabbi Michael Lerner,editor of Tikkun magazine and himself included in Utne Reader'slist of America's "100 Most Important Visionaries."
Continuing his quest for the best, Lerner concludes his collectionwith a list of "The One Hundred Best Contemporary Jewish Books." Somany judgment calls about what's best may well stimulate debate.Still, why quibble? As Lerner explains, this is simply his opinionof what is most significant.
Lerner is a man with a mission, and the mission concerns Jewishspiritual renewal. If large numbers of American Jews in the earlyand middle decades of the 20th century were breaking loose fromtheir traditional moorings, the last few decades have witnessed, ifnot quite a return to origins, then certainly a renewed interestamong Jews in their religious and cultural heritage. And, indeed,the sheer diversity of voices in this collection, the passion,intelligence and sense of commitment that can be heard are ampleevidence of this renewal.
Many kinds of writing have been included: memoirs, essays, literarycriticism, fiction and poetry. Sen. Joseph Lieberman describes theorigins of his commitment to public life. Moroccan-born Ruth KnafoSetton reflects on her personal experiences as a "Sephardic Jewess"(from the title of her piece). In "Gay and Orthodox," Rabbi SteveGreenberg discusses the dilemmas he has faced trying to reconcilehis sexuality with scriptural injunctions against lying with men.Questions of Jewish identity, such as finding the right pathbetween assimilation and distinctness, are addressed in a varietyof forms, including an engaging poem by Kenneth Koch and athoughtful essay by David Biale.
Several pieces by feminists, such as theologian Rachel Adler andnovelist Anita Diamant, offer provocative and illuminatinginterpretations of biblical stories (although Susan Schnur'sdiatribe against sexism in the Book of Esther is simplyobtuse).
On the current literary front, Morris Dickstein surveyscontemporary Jewish writers, while Norman Podhoretz has someincisive things to say about Philip Roth and Saul Bellow.
Perhaps the most fascinating material in this book deals with humanresponsibility toward the natural world. "My commitment to the lifeof the planet is stronger than my commitment to any philosophy orcreed," declares Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, founder of the JewishRenewal Movement. "If you have felt commanded by the DivineImperative to protect Earth from planetary destruction, then youhave undergone the first stage of a Gaean initiation." Citing EvanEisenberg's book "The Ecology of Eden" (one of the 100 best onLerner's list), Arthur Waskow offers an account of the Hebrewreligion as a response of humble, freedom-loving WesternSemites--shepherds, hunter-gatherers and hill farmers--to the farmore regimented, hierarchical world of the Babylonian empire, wherea revolution in agricultural technology had created wealth, orderand stability, but at the cost of a drastic change in man'srelationship to the Earth, to women and to his fellow man.
Two later sections, "Living in the Shadows of the Holocaust" and"Israel in Conflict," are marked by a certain tendentiousness.Although Lerner makes some concession to representing those pushingfor the peace process and those who consider it sadly unrealistic,the overall thrust is to lend plausibility to the doves. A triad ofessays discussing the Holocaust--by Jonathan Rosen, Zymunt Baumanand Tikkun's associate editor Peter Gabel--makes some interestingpoints about everything from the film "Schindler's List" to theNazi mentality. Read in sequence, they function as a kind ofthree-pronged critique of Jews who (as they see it) use theHolocaust as an "excuse" to justify Israeli hard-linepolicies.
Jews concerned for their safety and survival having thus beendiscredited as victims of mass hysteria, the stage is set forIsraeli revisionist historian Benny Morris' critique of previousIsraeli historians for their tendency to minimize Israel's role ingetting Palestinian Arabs to flee their homes during the IsraeliWar of Independence. Then, for anyone still concerned about thedangers of anti-Semitism--anyone who's been following the venomousgoings-on at the soi-disant "anti-racism" (viz. anti-Zionism) U.N.conference in Durban--Jerome Slater notes (rightly, but perhaps nolonger all that relevantly) that Palestinian Arabs were notinnately anti-Jewish and only became that way after their land wasoccupied by Israel. (To this, one might say: Nor were Germansoverwhelmingly anti-Semitic until they were humiliated atVersailles! To recognize a "root cause" does not necessarily, byitself, enable one to undo the effects.) A grimmer and (sadly, onefears) more realistic view is provided in Daniel Pipes' essay "Landfor What?"
Still, there is an optimism, excitement and animation aboutLerner's collection that is hard to resist. This volume is thefirst in a series that is planned to come out each year. It isclearly an auspicious beginning. (By Merle Rubin, LA Times,September 17, 2001)

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