Rabbi Rachel Esserman will discuss three books at the annual Temple Concord Sisterhood book talk on Sunday, January 28, at 11 am, at Temple Concord, 9 Riverside Dr., Binghamton. This will be an in-person only event and will be held in the Kilmer Mansion. The snow date is Sunday, February 4. The community is invited to attend. Brunch will be served at no cost to Sisterhood members. The cost for non-members is $5. Reservations must be made by contacting Phyllis Kellenberger at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-727-8305 by Wednesday, January 24.
The books to be reviewed are “Kunstlers in Paradise” by Cathleen Schine, “Abomination” by Ashley Goldberg and “Loving Our Own Bones: Disability Wisdom and the Spiritual Subversiveness of Knowing Ourselves Whole” by Julia Watts Belser.
“I am once again looking forward to reading these books for what is one of my favorite events of the year,” said Esserman. “It’s always a pleasure to read and discuss interesting books, and there’s no better place to do this than with Sisterhood members.”
“Kunstlers in Paradise” is about 93-year-old Mamie Kunstler, who escaped Vienna in 1939 when she was 11. Her family made its way to Los Angeles, where they joined a colony of Jewish musicians, writers and intellectuals also escaping Hitler. In 2020, Mamie is joined by her 20-something grandson, Julian, who wants to make good in Hollywood, but the pandemic shut down the world. Mamie tells Julian of her early years and the famous people she knew, giving him a view of a very different world.
“Abomination,” winner of the Debut Fiction Prize at the 72nd National Jewish Book Awards, is a novel that tells the story of two friends whose lives are changed by a scandal at their ultra-Orthodox day school. The two men go in very different directions, but are forced to look at their lives when they meet again.
In “Loving Our Own Bones: Disability Wisdom and the Spiritual Subversiveness of Knowing Ourselves Whole,” Belser offers insights from biblical stories through the eyes of disabled, feminist, Black and queer thinkers.
Esserman, the executive editor and book reviewer for The Reporter Group, noted that, in 2022, she won three Syracuse Press Club awards and one Rockower award from the American Jewish Press Association. The year before that she won two Syracuse Press Club awards and two Rockowers.
In addition to her work at The Reporter, she serves at the Jewish chaplain for Broome Developmental Disabilities Service Office. Her writing has been published in “The Women’s Torah Commentary” and “The Women’s Haftarah Commentary” both by Jewish Lights Publishing. She also has had a book of poetry, “I Stand by The River,” published by Keshet Press of Temple Concord. A Reconstructionist rabbi who says her first love is teaching, she sees her position at The Reporter as an opportunity to educate the public about Judaism.
Esserman also serves as a freelance rabbi for lifecycle events, hospital visits and chaplaincy and has been a rabbi-on-call when needed by local Reform and Conservative synagogues. Her education includes a bachelor of arts degree in sociology from the University of Pennsylvania, and rabbinic ordination and a master of arts in Hebrew letters from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Wyncote, PA. She was also awarded an honorary doctor of divinity degree from RRA for 25 years of service.