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Off the Shelf: Lived law and gender in medieval Egypt

By Rabbi Rachel Esserman

The documents and manuscript fragments found in the Cairo Geniza offer scholars a treasure trove of information about life in medieval Egypt. However, as Oded Zinger notes in her “Living With the Law: Gender and Community Among the Jews of Ancient Egypt” (Univer…

Off the Shelf: Art and families

By Rabbi Rachel Esserman

The Allegheny Mountains of Appalachia are not the easiest place to be Jewish. For example, Jean, one of the two narrators of “Take What You Need” by Idra Novey (Viking), recalls a classmate asking to see her horns. But Judaism generally takes a backseat in Nove…

Off the Shelf: Powerful prose poetry

By Rabbi Rachel Esserman

A great deal of poetry is autobiographical. For some poets, it’s necessary to know details of their life in order to understand their work. Other poets are able to transcend their lives and write poems that are both autobiographical and universal. One such poet i…

Off the Shelf: A superhero, a movie star, refugees and more

By Rabbi Rachel Esserman

The real life cast of characters list that opens “The American Way: A True Story of Nazi Escape, Superman, and Marilyn Monroe” by Helene Stapinski and Bonnie Siegler (Simon and Schuster) is three pages long and divided into three parts: the Schulback family and…

Off the Shelf: Three works of fiction

By Rabbi Rachel Esserman

Sometimes the books in a multi-book fiction review have a common denominator. Other times, they feature works that don’t easily fit into other reviews. This is one of those times. The only thing these books have in common is some Jewish content. They include shor…