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Off the Shelf: Yiddish in America by Rabbi Rachel Esserman

I never learned to speak Yiddish, except for a few words almost everyone knows, for a reason that will resonate with many people. Yiddish was the language that my grandparents spoke when they didn’t want my mother to understand what they were saying. My mother only knew a smattering of the…

Off the Shelf: Novels about the Orthodox world by Rabbi Rachel Esserman

When I looked at the novels and books of short stories on my to-read pile, I was surprised to see three works written by Orthodox women. Each author successfully portrays the beauty of their community, even as they acknowledge its flaws. What’s interesting is that, although the books have …

Off the Shelf: A biography of the haggadah by Rabbi Rachel Esserman

More Jews observe Passover than any other Jewish holiday, although those celebrations vary greatly – from strictly Orthodox to totally secular. What they all have in common, though, is some variation of the haggadah, which provides a blueprint for what will occur during the evening. Howeve…

Off the Shelf: New York City and cemeteries by Rabbi Rachel Esserman

When historians examine how social systems develop, they sometimes find surprising reasons drive societal change. At least, it may seem that way to readers of “Dust to Dust: A History of Jewish Death and Burial in New York” by Allan Amanik (New York University Press). Amanik, an assistan…

Off the Shelf: Passover picture books and a new children’s haggadah

By Rabbi Rachel Esserman

Picture books for Passover

Even though I am approaching my Medicare birthday (you should be able to figure out my age from that), I still love reading children’s books, including picture books. It’s always interesting to see the clever ways authors and illustra…