Resources for Jewish reading groups

April 7, 2009 11:37
2 minute read.

Many resources are available for those interested in starting a reading group focused on Jewish texts. The following should provide ample suggestions to last a lifetime (plus another 50 years). • The Modern Jewish Canon, by Ruth Wisse, a professor of literature at Harvard University, sets out to explain how the masterworks of 20th-century Jewish literature powerfully limn the modern Jewish historical experience in all of its triumph and tragedy. Wisse writes: "Modern Jewish literature contains a record of national experience unlike any other..." The Modern Jewish Canon succeeds admirably in making this case and guides the interested reader in discovering some of the finest exemplars of modern Jewish writing. Its appendix "Suggested Reading from the Modern Jewish Canon" contains a wealth of reading recommendations comprising 20th-century Jewish literary masterpieces. • "The 100 Greatest Works of Modern Jewish Literature" includes well-known classics such as Sholom Aleichem's Tevye the Dairyman stories (the source for the play Fiddler on the Roof) and Franz Kafka's phantasmagoric tales of alienation, but also many lesser known, unjustly forgotten treasures such as Hayyim Hazaz's Hayoshevet Baganim (published in English as Mori Sa'id), a meditation on the messianic yearnings of Yemenite Jews in prestate Israel. The list is a testament to Jewish literary creativity in many languages. It can be downloaded at • Back to the Sources, edited by Barry Holtz, is an invaluable resource for any reading group interested in embarking on the adventure of studying the classical Jewish texts (i.e. the Bible, Talmud, midrash, medieval rabbinical Bible commentaries, medieval Jewish philosophy and kabbalistic writings). This superb book contains an almost inexhaustible bibliography of classical texts available in English translation as well as valuable secondary sources that make the great, and often challenging, classical Jewish religious and philosophical literature far more accessible to the uninitiated. • The Jewish Reader: A Guide for Book Groups is a series of well-written essays on classic and contemporary Jewish fiction published by the National Yiddish Book Center. Each essay contains an analysis of the selected work, an excerpt from the text, and questions for discussion. New essays are issued throughout the year. The essays can be found on the organization's Web site at • The Nextbook/American Library Association discussion series Let's Talk About It: Jewish Literature is accompanied by six thematic essays penned by Jeremy Dauber, a professor of Yiddish literature at Columbia University and project director for the National Yiddish Book Center list, and available at • Nextbook also publishes an extensive recommended reading list which can be found at • The reading list for the Classic Jewish Text seminar in Dallas consists of ancient, medieval, and modern religious and philosophical classics. A version of the list used in some of the earlier seminars can found at • The catalog for the Hadassah Book Club contains guidelines on how to set up a book club, synopses of the books to be read by club members during the year, author biographies, and questions for discussion. The guide can be obtained by e-mailing Hadassah at [email protected] • The Great Books Foundation primer on how to start a reading group and conduct an effective reading group discussion can be obtained at

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