Portnoy’s Complaint: Sophomoric, salacious, and insightful

Alexander Portnoy, Assistant Human Opportunity Commissioner for New York City, is a psychological mess, and it’s all his parent’s fault. At least that’s what he tells his psychiatrist, Dr. Spielvogel, in Philip Roth’s aptly named Portnoy’s Complaint. Alex suffers from stereotypes. He’s the brilliant and personable only son of a New Jersey Jewish couple. Alex’s […]

It Can’t Happen Here: Timely and Terrifying

In 1935, Europe was preparing for war against the Jews and Socialists and anybody else who didn’t care to knuckle under to the likes of Hitler and Mussolini. Watching Europe fall into the clutches of dictators, Sinclair Lewis pondered how a dictator could come to power in America. It Can’t Happen Here: A Novel by […]

Earth and High Heaven takes anti-Semitism personally

Several bestselling novels of the 1940s explore the issue of anti-Jewish prejudice among people who fought the Nazis, but none do it better than Gwethalyn Graham’s Earth and High Heaven. Marc Reiser, a Jewish lawyer, meets Erica Drake “one of the Westmont Drakes,” at a cocktail party at her Montreal home in June, 1942. Marc […]

The Source: Jewish Roots and Contemporary Conflicts

To say James A. Michener’s whopping 1965 bestseller The Source is an historical novel both understates and misleads. Into a narrative about a contemporary archaeological dig at Makor, a man-made mound in Israel, Michener weaves a chronological series of short stories about key people and events in Makor’s history. Through this complex literary device, Michener […]

Magnolia Street Throbs with Emotion

Between 1910 and 1930 in England’s North County city of Doomington, Jews live on the odd-numbered side of Magnolia Street and gentiles live on the even-numbered side. Those 24 households hold a microcosm of human nature complicated by clashing cultures. For the most part, Jews and gentiles don’t even recognize each others’ existence. Few make […]

Moses Reveals Biblical Exodus Setting

In Moses, Sholem Asch presents the great Jewish leader as a human being without trivializing his spirituality.  However, the novel finest achievement is its depiction of the Jews that Moses led out of Egypt. Asch shows the Jews as just one small segment of the huge slave population of Egypt. The Egyptians ran the slave […]

Mila 18 commemorates Warsaw ghetto uprising

Mila 18 is a fictional account of the Jewish uprising against the Nazis in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943. Leon Uris weaves together the stories of Jews inside the Ghetto with stories both of their friends and their enemies outside. The Jews are deeply divided over how to respond to the Nazi threat. Many hope […]