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Off the Shelf: Characters from real life

By Rabbi Rachel Esserman

Readers are often curious about whether characters in a novel are based on real life people. That’s why most novels’ reverse title page (the page that contains copyright information and details about the publisher) usually feature statements such as “this is a…

Off the Shelf: Fathers, sons and the legacy of history

By Rabbi Rachel Esserman


Untangling three generations of a complex family history: that’s the reason Alexander Wolff moved to Germany for a year in 2017. He wanted to understand the lives of two men: his grandfather Kurt Wolff and his father Niko Wolff. The German-Jewish Kurt, whose …

Off the Shelf: Sacred reading

By Rabbi Rachel Esserman


One of my favorite moments in literature occurs in the first chapter of “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte. Jane is sitting in a window seat, drawing the curtain closed and reading a book. Something about that moment of comfort and safety stayed with me. Even b…

Bicycles, magic and new gods: three novels

By Rabbi Rachel Esserman


On a bicycle built for one

Annie Cohen Kopchovsky’s life was like that of many 20-something Jewish women in Boston during the late 19th century: an arranged marriage, a husband who spent most of his time at the synagogue or reading, and three young children.…

Teens, in the present day and times past

By Rabbi Rachel Esserman

Contemporary America 
What does that word mean? What are those initials for? And that game, how do you play it? Those were some of my thoughts when reading two recent novels that take place in contemporary America. Fortunately, an internet search answered my quest…