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Off the Shelf: Discovering the “why” in biblical stories

By Rabbi Rachel Esserman

When we seriously study stories from the biblical books of Genesis and Exodus, we are often left with questions. Why did the characters act that way? Wasn’t there any better way for God to have handled that problem? Is there something we’re missing? The ancient …

Off the Shelf: The jazz age, mobsters and a notorious Jewish madam

By Rabbi Rachel Esserman

What makes a biography greater than the story of one individual? When it narrates the history of an age, offering readers a better understanding of the times in which the person lived. That describes Debby Applegate’s excellent “Madam: The Biography of Polly Adl…

Off the Shelf: Not your typical rom-coms

By Rabbi Rachel Esserman

I don’t read many romance novels; the only ones I prefer usually include a large dose of humor. However, these rarely result in my thinking about the characters after I turn the final page. And, of course, the endings are easy to predict. Well, while that’s true…

Off the Shelf: Yiddish in pictures and words

By Rabbi Rachel Esserman

The interest in Yiddish literature seems to be increasing. Books – from newly discovered works to writings ignored for decades – have been translated for an English speaking audience. These translations include two recent books: the historical graphic novel “W…

Off the Shelf: Looking at the Torah through the eyes of social justice

When writing a card congratulating 13-year-olds on their b’nai mitzvah, the note usually includes the words “wishing you well on your continuing Jewish journey.” That’s because learning – particularly Torah study – is part of a never-ending journey. Numerous books focus on differ…