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December 12, 2017 2:23 pm

Hanukkah Gift Guide Of Jewish Books The New York Times Ignored

avatar by Ira Stoll

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A bookstore. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Just in time for Hanukkah, here is our first annual gift guide to books that The New York Times has entirely ignored.

The Times does cover more books than most other newspapers. But even the Times doesn’t have the space or the resources to cover every book published. There are a half-dozen books by Jewish authors published in the past year that have crossed our own desk or radar that the Times, so far as I can tell, hasn’t deigned even to mention, at least so far. You may want to consider them as a Hanukkah gift. They are organized by the last name of the author.

Boost! How the Psychology of Sports Can Enhance Your Performance in Management and Work, by Michael Bar-Eli. The author, a professor at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, has consulted for Israeli Olympics teams and was the head organizational psychologist of the Israel Defense Force’s artillery corps and its combat fitness center. “Psychological skills are like physical skills — they can be taught, learned, and practiced,” Bar-Eli writes.

Becoming Israeli: The Hysterical, Inspiring and Challenging Sides of Making Aliya, edited by Akiva Gersh. Reviewing the book at Amazon, I wrote:

This is a collection of short essays about various aspects of immigrating to Israel as an English-speaker. It’s really very well done. Beyond the obvious audience of people planning or considering “making aliyah” — “going up” or moving to Israel — these stories at best have a lot of wisdom and thoughtful reflection in them about life in general: “the journey, not the destination.” Of Israel, one essay says, “we are a work in progress.” Isn’t everything, and every place, in some sense? Several of the essays mention the idea that if the immigrants don’t completely fit in as Israelis, or their Hebrew isn’t perfect, their children will surpass them. This idea of hoping your children achieve what you have not, or exceed your own accomplishments, is also something that is certainly not limited to immigrants to Israel.

My favorite essay of the many excellent ones was by Dov Lipman, an immigrant who became a member of Israel’s parliament. He writes, “We are all blessed to live in the best of times, in which nothing is impossible, and the land of Israel is ours and available for all Jews to settle raise their families, and contribute to its future and the future of the Jewish people.” Perhaps some things are indeed impossible. But Lipman’s phrase nicely captures the sense of boundless possibility that has inspired so many brave immigrants to begin new lives in Israel and for that matter in America, too.

The Heart of Torah: Essays on the Weekly Torah Portion, by Rabbi Shai Held. I originally read versions of many of these essays as emailed commentaries distributed by Mechon Hadar, a Manhattan-based institution that promotes Jewish learning. They struck me at the time as incredibly insightful and informed by impressively deep knowledge of both Jewish and non-Jewish sources, which are carefully cited in footnotes. The Times ran a negative review of Held’s previous book that prompted three critical letters to the editor in response; apparently, this time around, the newspaper has decided not even to bother, which is too bad, because a lot of Times readers would probably be interested in learning from Held’s wisdom and could probably benefit from it.

If All The Seas Were Ink: A Memoir, by Ilana Kurshan. The Jerusalem-based author writes about her divorce and beginning the page-a-day, or “daf yomi” study of the Talmud. Even The Wall Street Journal reviewed this one, but the Times has so far ignored it.

Whiplash! From JFK to Donald Trump A Political Odyssey, by Arnold L. Steinberg. This memoir by a longtime California-based political operative offers a firsthand, backstage account of some of the most important news stories of the past half-century. It all also has a definite Jewish, and politically conservative flavor to it. “Old Jewish Hollywood was not leftist,” Steinberg writes.

The Champion’s Mindset: An Athlete’s Guide to Mental Toughness, by Joanna Zeiger. The author, an Olympic and Ironman triathlete, writes about how she coped with injuries. “If you do not enjoy what you are doing as an athlete, nothing else matters,” she writes. “Running joyfully requires honing the mental game as much as the physical one.”

More of Ira Stoll’s media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.


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