Jewish American Heritage Month 2023 - Clifton Library Recommended Book List for Adult Readers


May is Jewish American Heritage Month, a national celebration established in 2006 by President George W. Bush as part of a bipartisan effort to educate all Americans about the contributions and achievements of Jewish Americans nationwide. This year’s Presidential proclamation stated, “This month, we celebrate the enduring heritage of Jewish Americans, whose values, culture, and contributions have shaped our character as a Nation. For generations, the story of the Jewish people - one of resilience, faith, and hope in the face of adversity, prejudice, and persecution - has been woven into the fabric of our Nation’s story.”  For more on Jewish American Heritage Month in Clifton, please read HERE.

The Clifton Main Memorial Library has curated a Jewish American Heritage Month reading list for The Clifton Times, which features a wide range of books recommended by Supervising Librarian Pat Ferro, including a link to each book’s publisher with a brief summary from the website.  Library patrons can stop by the Clifton Main Memorial Library or the Allwood Branch to pick up one of these titles or place holds on any of these books through PALS Plus. For a list of recommendations for young readers for Jewish American Heritage Month, please read HERE.

Superman Is Jewish?: How Comic Book Superheroes Came To Serve Truth, Justice, And The Jewish-American Way - Harry Brod. Many of us know that the superheroes at the heart of the American comic book industry were created by Jews. Readers will be surprised to learn how much these beloved characters were shaped by the cultural and religious traditions of their makers. Superman Is Jewish? follows the “people of the book” as they become the people of the comic book. Harry Brod situates familiar American superheroes within the course of Jewish-American history. Some are aliens in a foreign land, like Superman, others are figures plagued by guilt for abandoning their families, like Spider-Man, and still others are outsiders persecuted for being different, like the X-Men. Brod blends humor and sharp observation as he examines the overt and discreet Jewish characteristics of these all-American superheroes and explores how their creators integrated their Jewish identities and their creativity.

Louis Bamberger: Department Store Innovator And Philanthropist -Linda B. Forgosh. This award-winning biography recreates the Newark of Philip Roth’s time, introducing us to Louis Bamberger, owner and operator of the great, glamorous department store L. Bamberger & Co., who was not only a leading American and New Jersey philanthropist, but also a major, if underappreciated, Jewish American figure.

Sliding To The Right: The Contest For The Future Of American Jewish Orthodoxy - Samuel C. Heilman. This book offers a snapshot of the Orthodox Jewish community in the United States, written by one of the country’s leading experts on American Judaism. Heilman examines how the community has evolved in the years since World War II and where it is headed in the future. He delineates the varieties of Jewish Orthodox groups, focusing in particular on the contrast between the proudly parochial, counter-acculturative haredi Orthodox community and the more accommodationist modern Orthodox community, as both look to the future. What emerges overall is a picture of an Orthodox Jewry that has gained both in numbers and intensity and that has moved farther to the religious right as it struggles to define itself and to maintain age-old traditions in the midst of modernity, secularization, technological advances, and the pervasiveness of contemporary American culture.

A Fine Romance: Jewish Songwriters, American Songs - David Lehman. In A Fine Romance, acclaimed poet, editor, and cultural critic, David Lehman guides us through America in the golden age of song, looking at the timeless songbook of jazz standards, iconic love songs, and soundtracks to famous movies—and explores the extraordinary fact that this songbook was written almost exclusively by Jews. “Embraceable You,” “White Christmas,” “Easter Parade,” “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered,” “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man,” “My Romance,” “Cheek to Cheek,” “Stormy Weather,” and countless others became the American soundtrack. The stories behind these songs, the shows from which many of them came, and the shows from which many of them came, and the composers and lyricists who wrote them give voice to a specifically American saga of love, longing, assimilation, and transformation.

Remembering the Lower East Side: American Jewish Reflections - Hasia R. Diner ed et al. For more than a century, the Lower East Side of New York City has been recognized as the largest and most vibrant immigrant Jewish neighborhood in America. This lively book explores the dynamics of Lower East Side memory and considers the changing ways that this unique neighborhood has been embraced by American Jews over the course of a century. Topics include the creation of the Tenement Museum, walking tours of the neighborhood and visits to popular "period" restaurants, the experience of a documentary filmmaker, and the performance of memory in a refurbished synagogue. A generous selection of photographs enhances the book's wide-ranging insights into how the Lower East Side became a touchstone of Jewish identity and history.

Jewish Megatrends: Charting The Course Of The American Jewish Future - Rabbi Sidney Schwarz ed. In this book, Rabbi Sidney Schwarz looks at the social norms that are shaping the habits and lifestyles of younger American Jews and examines why the next generation is so resistant to participate in the institutions of Jewish communal life as they currently exist. He sets out four guiding principles to drive a renaissance in Jewish life, showing how, on the margins of the Jewish community, those principles are already generating enthusiasm and engagement from the very millennials that the organized Jewish community has yet to engage.

Jewish On Their Own Terms: How Intermarried Couples Are Changing American Judaism - Jennifer A. Thompson. Over half of all American Jewish children are being raised by intermarried parents. In Jewish on Their Own Terms, Thompson tells the stories of intermarried couples, the rabbis and other Jewish educators who work with them, and the conflicting public conversations about intermarriage among American Jews. Thompson notes that in the dominant Jewish cultural narrative, intermarriage symbolizes individualism and assimilation. Talking about intermarriage allows American Jews to discuss their anxieties about remaining distinctively Jewish despite their success in assimilating into American culture. Thompson uses ethnography to describe the compelling concerns of all of these parties and places their anxieties firmly within the context of American religious culture and morality. Interfaith couples are like other American couples, often struggling to balance concerns of individual autonomy, universal religious truths, and obligations to family and history.

The Doha Experiment: Arab Kingdom, Catholic College, Jewish Teacher - Gary Wasserman. “A Jew­ish guy walks into a fun­da­men­tal­ist Arab coun­try to teach Amer­i­can pol­i­tics at a Catholic col­lege,” is how Gary Wasser­man begins his book. When Wasserman moved to Qatar to teach Amer­i­can Gov­ern­ment at George­town Uni­ver­si­ty’s Doha cam­pus, it was just four years after 9/11, dur­ing the Iraq war and Israel’s con­flict with Lebanon. When he first arrives in Doha, Gary keeps his faith to him­self. As he adjusts, it becomes a vital part of why he spent eight years teach­ing in Qatar, teach­ing stu­dents who have nev­er met a Jew before. Issues arise – from Jew­ish ​“pow­er” in Amer­i­ca, to coun­ter­ing con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries about Zion­ism, to stu­dents vis­it­ing Israel in defi­ance of the Arab boycott, and learning about Doha and the challenges faced by his students. Gary quotes an essay written by a student reflecting on the disruption of the Arab Spring. The student writes: “Life is the cruelest teacher because it gives us the test before the lesson.” This book, despite its many moments of levity, offers a serious and important lesson about the possibilities, and limitations, of American education as a bridge between cultures.

Trouble In The Tribe: The American Jewish Conflict Over Israel - Dov Waxman Trouble in the Tribe explores the increasingly contentious place of Israel in the American Jewish community. Drawing on a wealth of in-depth interviews with American Jewish leaders and activists, Waxman delves into the American Jewish debate about Israel, examining the impact that the conflict over Israel is having on Jewish communities, national Jewish organizations, and on the pro-Israel lobby. Waxman sets this conflict in the context of broader cultural, political, institutional, and demographic changes happening in the American Jewish community. He offers a nuanced and balanced account of how this conflict over Israel has developed and what it means for the future of American Jewish politics.

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