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Off the Shelf: A lost community

By Rabbi Rachel Esserman

When, in 2015, Michael Frank arrived last minute to a lecture being held at the Casa Italiana, the home of New York University’s Department of Italian Studies, it’s doubtful that he knew how occupying the only available seat remaining would change his life. It …

Off The Shelf: Novels for teens and tweens (and some adults)

By Rabbi Rachel Esserman

Sometimes I think that someone sneaks into the room where I keep my review copies and adds more to the book piles without my knowledge. OK, I can’t blame gremlins: it’s my own fault that I find it difficult to resist any book that sounds fun, interesting or int…

Off the Shelf: More than a cookbook

By Rabbi Rachel Esserman

Some works that focus on food and offer recipes are more than cookbooks. That’s not to denigrate cookbooks, but for those of us interested in the history or culture of food – and not the recipes we will probably never make – it’s the other aspects of these …

Off the Shelf: Mysteries with a dark side

By Rabbi Rachel Esserman

What does it mean to use the adjective noir to describe literature? In the case of mysteries, it means the works take a dim view of human nature. You’re not going to find wonderful, helpful people here; instead, you’ll find antiheroes and dark deeds. That’s ce…

Off the Shelf: Exploring the Torah through history and midrash

By Rabbi Rachel Esserman

There are many ways to explore the Torah text, all of which offer insights into its meaning. Some of these approach the work from a historical point of view, rather than a religious one. Others offer a historical, close look at specific words in the text. While dif…