JCC MetroWest Book Group
Our book group is free, open to both members and non-members, and you can join and begin attending at any time! Click button below for the Book Group archives. For more information contact, Sarah Diamond, 973-929-2938, [email protected]
Thursday, June 13, 12pm
Stolen Beauty, by Laurie Lico Albanese
Maria Altmann was a “love-struck newlywed” when Adolf Hitler invaded Austria, and with her opening sentence, Albanese draws readers into a world of glamour, art, intrigue, power and fear. Maria and husband Fritz soon learn their money and talent are of little use to the Third Reich, especially with Jewish blood in the family. Even more compelling is the interwoven story of Maria’s aunt, Adele Bloch-Bauer, muse to artist Gustav Klimt and a woman ahead of her time in turn-of-the-century Vienna. Klimt’s commissioned gold-leaf portrait of Adele is of high interest to the Nazis and will inspire Maria to find inner strength to survive the war and save her family’s legacy. Essentially a true story, the real Maria Altmann was dauntless in restoring to her family what had been taken from them; the historical Adele Bloch-Bauer was exceptional as the queen of Vienna salon society.
Monday, July 15, 12pm
Sadness Is a White Bird, by Moriel Rothman-Zecher
Israeli American teenager Jonathan and his family move back to Israel, where his grandfather was among the founding generation. Hearing his grandfather’s stories, Jonathan dreams of joining the army. However, through his mother, who is involved in the peace movement, Jonathan learns another side of Israel’s history, meeting and becoming close friends with Palestinian twins Laith and Nimreen. Their carefree explorations around Haifa eventually lead to a relationship with Nimreen. While Jonathan dreams of a future with her, their relationship begins to fracture when he introduces Laith and Nimreen to his Israeli friends, and when Nimreen takes him to meet her grandmother on the West Bank. A passionate, poetic coming-of-age story set in a minefield, brilliantly capturing the intensity of feeling on both sides of the conflict.
August 2019 — BREAK
Friday, Sept 6, 12pm
Gateway to the Moon, by Mary Morris
Skillfully moving back and forth between New Spain in the 16th century and northern New Mexico in the late 20th century, Morris tells the story of the Crypto-Jews, who converted to Catholicism in order to escape the Inquisition but secretly maintained many of their Jewish traditions into the present. Morris begins with Luis de Torres, a translator who traveled with Christopher Columbus to the New World. As the story moves to 1992, we meet the descendants of the Torres family living in a small town in northern New Mexico, still lighting candles on the Sabbath, avoiding pork and shellfish, not mixing meat with dairy, and having no idea why they continue these traditions. Among them is teenage Miguel, an amateur astronomer, who takes a babysitting job with a Jewish family and discovers they follow similar customs.
Thursday, Oct 10, 12pm
The Last Watchman of Old Cairo, by Michael David Lukas
A package arrives at Joseph’s apartment in Berkeley three months after his father’s death in Cairo, unleashing memories from his youthful visit to Egypt, including his father’s fantastical tale of a perfect Torah, the mystical Ezra Scroll, protected by Muslim men for over 1,000 years. Drawing on the true story of the Geniza documents uncovered in the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Old Cairo, Lukas’s entrancing novel spans generations, beginning with Ali al Raqb, a Muslim orphan trusted by rabbinical leaders to be the first watchman of the temple, a sacred duty accepted by Ali’s descendants down to Joseph’s father. Part mystery, part character study, the novel enlivens a fascinating epoch when Jews and Muslims bridged cultural divides for a common cause.
Tuesday, Nov 12, 12pm
The Women in the Castle, by Jessica Shattuck
Shattuck explores the lives of three widows at the tail end of World War II. Marianne von Lingenfels, whose husband was one of many resisters murdered in a failed attempt to assassinate Hitler, returns to the beautiful but dilapidated Bavarian castle, Burg Lingenfels, as the war comes to an end. Seeking safety in numbers after the deaths of husbands, Marianne invites Benita to live with her, as well as another widow, Ania, and her two sons. The women come to rely on each other as a makeshift family, much as the entire country, reeling after the horrors of the war, must imagine a new future and forge a new identity. The story provides a unique glimpse into what the average German was and was not aware of during World War II’s darkest months. A beautiful story of survival, love, and forgiveness.
Leave your review by scanning the QR Code in the back of your book with your cellphone or by clicking the button below.
An Afterlife – Intense – 4-Star – “Many books have been written about the Holocaust but not that many about the survivors and their life afterward. This book follows Ruby and Ilya, first in a DP camp in Germany and then trying to make a new life for themselves as refugees in New Jersey.” -Gaye Olin