Archive for New in the Library

Baby, it’s cold outside …

Cover of Vegetarian Shabbat CookbookSo I’m tempted to heat up the kitchen with some new recipes. Browsing the library’s catalog, I found lots of new cookbooks to inspire me and I hope, my family.

For our resident vegetarian, we have the Vegetarian Shabbat Cookbook by Roberta Kalechofsky & Roberta Schiff.  Worth the price of checking it out for the cholent variations alone! And for the other side of the table, I’ll bring home the Kosher Carnivore by June Hersh. I’m already drooling at the thought of roast duck with cherry port sauce.

In the past couple of years, we’ve seen a wealth of Jewish cookbooks from around the world.  Joan Nathan scours France in search of families’ secret recipes in Quiches, Kugels and Couscous.  In Persian Food from the Non-Persian Bride, Reyna Simnegar explains the herbs, spices and other ingredients of her recipes along with tips on substitutions and short-cuts.

Classic Central Asian Bukarian Jewish Cuisine and CustomsThe Ottoman Turk and the Pretty Jewish Girl is part history, part cookbook and part genealogy of the author’s, Beyhan Cagri Trock’s, family. Each borek recipe looked more enticing than the next.  Similarly, Amnun Kimyagarov explains the many influences that show up in Classic Central Asian (Bukharian) Jewish Cuisine and Customs. I’m not sure how my family would react to tripe, but the pumpkin turnovers should be a hit.

If I want to channel my family’s central/east European heritage, 2 books jump off the shelves at me. The Jewish Mama’s Kitchen by Denise Phillips has all the basics of chicken soup (with a recipe possibly stolen from my mother), matzah balls, roast chicken, kreplach, knishes, and a sprinkling of Israeli staples.  Jewish Mama's KitchenThere are many color pictures and hints and words of wisdom from “mama.”  Feed Me Bubbe : Recipes and Wisdom from America’s Favorite Online  Grandmother / by Avrom Honig and Bubbe has a similar set of recipes (minus the Israeli) but is sprinkled with stories from Bubbe’s life.

And for a calorie-free dessert, I’ll curl up on my couch with On the Chocolate Trail by Deborah Prinz.  Rabbi Prinz takes us on a journey from the New World to the Old and back in the footsteps of Jewish travelers, merchants, and chocolatiers.

Check our catalog for these and many other cookbooks and general “foody” books. And if you can’t find them on the library shelf, look in my kitchen.

Spaced Out

NASA picture star cluster R136

NASA picture star cluster R136

With Curiosity landing on Mars, it seems like a good time to address Jews in space … or at least religion in science fiction and fantasy. For those who are serious about their fun summer reading, here are a few suggestions.

In the past couple of years, we’ve purchased 3 books which address this issue: Sex, Politics, and Religion in Star Wars edited by Doulas Brode and Leah Deyneka (Scarecrow Press, 2012;) Morality for Muggles by Moshe Rosenberg (Ktav, 2011;) and Sacred Space by Douglas E. Cowan (Baylor University Press, 2010.)

“May the Force be with Jew,” says Andrew Bank, in the Star Wars anthology. He compares Judaism with “Jedi-ism.” Both systems have a long tradition of oral transmission; stress respect for the mentor/teacher; and emphasize the importance of actively choosing to act as a force of good. On the other hand, Julien Fielding finds many aspects of Eastern religions in the Star Wars series. He analyzes the characters’ names, costumes, and actions to find links to Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism.

In Sacred Space, Cowan examines God, prophecy, and religion in many of my favorite (and much missed) television series. Many science fiction stories leave out any explicit mention of religion, but Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (in my opinion the best of the ST series) and Babylon 5 both featured many alien cultures, each with their own perspective on God and their own place in the universe. While the protagonists of the Stargate series had adventures on a different planet each week, the underlying story in the Stargate series was trace back the origin of life and to figure out how individuals and even whole species can achieve transcendence. Similarly, the remains of the mostly polytheistic human race in Battlestar Gallactica sought their planet or origin, while fighting with the monotheistic Cylons.

Moving back into our galaxy, Moshe Rosenberg finds lessons in Jewish values in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. His first chapter focuses on something near and dear to many kids’ hearts: breaking the rules. He shows that most of Harry’s rule breaking was to protect one or more of his friends. Rosenberg show examples from the Talmud and Tanach where breaking the rule was the best options. Other chapters focus on friendship, teachers, and prejudice.

For those more interested in the science, NASA has some amazing pictures of our planet, our galaxy, and beyond in their Picture of the Day gallery


p.s. Of course I know that many Jews actually have been in space – astronauts from several countries are members of the tribe!


“Ghetto Gelt: smuggled out of Warsaw, Poland…circa 1980”. A white post-it, attached to a plain envelope containing a few frayed paper bills, one coin. A gift from a friend of the Frances-Henry Library who had taken a tour of our Rare Book Room a few days earlier. I open the envelope and carefully spread out the contents on my desk. My vision blurs, and for a split second I stop breathing. I am holding “money” printed by the Germans for the use of Polish Jews, in the Lodz Ghetto. My first thoughts: What did this money buy? For how long? The many hands that touched this money – which ones of them survived? Which ones didn’t? And now that we were given this gift, how can we ensure that they are made visible and become useful to our academic pursuits at Hebrew Union College?

Zehn Mark bills

10 Mark Bills

I let Librarian sensibilities take over, and turn to Sheryl, our consummate cataloger, for help.

“Realia”, she determines, we’ll catalog them as artifacts. In our world, as Wikipedia explains, the term realia refers to three-dimensional objects from real life such as coins, etc., that do not easily fit into the orderly categories of printed material. They can be either man-made (artifacts, tools, utensils, etc.) or naturally occurring (specimens, samples, etc.), usually borrowed, purchased, or received as donation for use in classroom instruction or in exhibits.

5 Mark Bills

5 Mark Bills

Initial research yields a source that holds the details that will help us describe and place the money in its context: Jewish Ghettos’ and Concentration Camps’ Money (1933-1945) by Zvi Stahl (1990). The second chapter contains images identical to the paper money we now own, and the story behind the German decision to produce it. We now have the tools, and soon enough the objects are placed in protective envelopes and the record entered in our online catalog. They join items such as stamps, coins, photographs and playing cards that enrich our collection, presenting opportunities to touch, smell and make good use of tokens of our past.

50 Pfennig bills

50 Pfennig bills

Post script: the Lodz Ghetto money was presented to the library while I was away in Israel. During a visit with one of my uncles, Yaʻakov Refalovich,  he presented me with a copy of his memoirs, hand-written by him, printed and bound by his grandchildren for his 80th birthday. One of the chapters in the books told the story of his survival in the Lodz Ghetto. Having been published in a limited edition, the book was placed in the Rare Book Room as well. A week before Holocaust Memorial day…and so it goes…

Yaffa Weisman

On the Cost of Scholarship, or: There is No Garage Sale @ Brill

I just initialed a purchase requisition for 14 books – not an uncommon act of an academic library’s director. The price tag: $3032.00 – less and less an uncommon price tag for scholarly publications. Why should you care? Because as I was excitedly reading the back-cover summaries and endorsements, pouring over their rich tables of content, and congratulating myself on once again putting our collection on the cutting edge of scholarship, it dawned on me that it may take a long time before anyone else gets excited over any of them, or over the total amounts that our library system invests in anticipating and meeting the needs of our faculty and students.

Why is that? I asked myself, and what can the library do to make you more aware, and to make the books more visible? But before I answer my own questions (not a Hokhmeh*, as my mother would say…), I am going to have you taste the titles, breath in the aromas of intriguing ideas, and hopefully, have you order from the menu:
Cover image of book
Studies in the History of Culture and Science: a Tribute to Gad Freudenthal. Edited by R. Fontaine, R. Glasner, R. Leicht and G. Veltri. Twenty two chapters on the history of science and the role of science in Judaism.

From Two Kingdoms to One Nation – Israel and Judah; Studies in Division and Unification. By Shamai Gelander.

Bene Israel: Studies in the Archaeology of Israel and the Levant during the Bronze and Iron Ages in Honour of Israel Finkelstein. Edited by A. Fantalkin & A. Yasur-Landau.

“From a Sacred Source”: Genizah Studies in Honour of Professor Stefan C. Reif. Edited by B.M. Outhwaite & S. Bhayro. Papers from the 2007 Cambridge conference

Spirituality in the Writings of Etty Hillesum: Proceedings of the Etty Hillesum Conference at Ghent University, November 2008. Edited by K.A.D. Smelik, R. van den Brandt & M.G.S. Coetsier.

The Same but Different? : Inter-Cultural Trade and the Sephardim, 1595-1640. By J. V. Roitman. The study challenges historiographical arguments that the Sephardim achieved their commercial success by relying on geographically dispersed family members and fellow ethnics.

Opening the Gates of Interpretation: Maimonides’ Biblical Hermeneutics in Light of His Geonic-Andalusian Heritage and Muslim Milieu. By M.Z. Cohen.

The Temple of Jerusalem: From Moses to the Messiah, in Honor of Professor Louis H. Feldman.The Temple of Jerusalem: From Moses to the Messiah, in Honor of Professor Louis H. Feldman. Edited by Steven Fine.

Legal Fictions: Studies in Law and Narrative in the Discursive Worlds of Ancient Jewish Sectarians and Sages. By S. D. Fraade

From Conquest to Coexistence: Ideology and Antiquarian Intent in the Historiography of Israel’s Settlement in Canaan. By K. van Kekkum.

Without Any Doubt: Geronides on Method and Knowledge. By S. Klein-Braslavy.

The Martyrdom of a Moroccan Jewish Saint.The Martyrdom of a Moroccan Jewish Saint. By S. Vance On the martyrdom of Sol Hatchuel, a Jewish girl from Tangier, that traumatized the Jewish community and inspired a literary response in Morocco and beyond.

The City Besieged: Siege and Its Manifestations in the Ancient Near East. By I. Eph’al.

History of Modern Jewish Religious Philosophy; v. 1: The Period of the Enlightenment. By Eliezer Schweid.


Book cover for From conquest to conexsistence.Aha! Time to Jewishly answer my original questions – that is, with more questions – and make a few suggestions that will make such treasures more visible and accessible to you.

Did you know you can find out about our recent acquisitions when you log on to our website? Try:

Do you ever look at the bookstand at the entrance to our Joseph Reading Room? This serves as the “hot off the press” carousel to books that are even newer than the ones listed on the “New Books” page!

How about looking at the dust jackets’ displayed on our bulletin board? (Librarian lingo for book covers…) Everything up there is catalogued, shelved, and ready to go!

OK. Now it’s up to you to make me a true believer, allow me to complete the purchase request with a clean conscience and consider it money well spent.



* Profound wisdom, in (sarcastic) Yiddish