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Off the Shelf: Short stories pack powerful punch By Rabbi Rachel Esserman

I usually prefer novels to short stories. It’s extremely difficult to create interesting characters and an absorbing plot in just a few pages. I often find myself feeling dissatisfied – wanting to know more or wishing the stories had a real beginning and ending. Fortunately, some writers…

Off the Shelf: Bookstores, historians and Nazis by Rachel Esserman

The range of books about World War II and the Holocaust allows readers with very different interests to learn something new about what occurred before, during and after the war. Take two recent books: “A Bookshop in Berlin” by Francoise Frenkel (Atria Books) and “Citizen 865: The Hunt …

Off the Shelf: Three short novels by Rabbi Rachel Esserman

As much as I love sinking into a long novel, there is something satisfying about a short work. In addition to the feeling of accomplishment that comes with finishing a book, a short novel usually has a more narrow focus, which surprisingly can allow the author to write in more depth about so…

Off the Shelf: Looking at Jewish Latin America

It was a dream of visiting his childhood home in Mexico that started Ilan Stavans on his journey through Latin America – a journey that included visits to the U.S. and Israel to learn more about Latino Jews. In his book “The Seventh Heaven: Travels Through Jewish Latin America” (Univer…

Off the Shelf: How the Talmud came to be scripture by Rachel Esserman

The Oral Torah (which contains the Mishnah and Talmud) is said to have been given to Moses at Sinai with the Written Torah. The actual process was far more complicated as David C. Kraemer, a professor of Talmud and rabbinics at the Jewish Theological Seminary, notes in “A History of the Ta…