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Jewish History

Multiple Themes for Rabbi’s Scribe In “The Weight Of Ink”

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The Weight Of Ink (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) by Rachel Kadish tells the story of Ester Velasquez, an emigrant from Amsterdam who becomes a scribe for a blind rabbi in London in the 1600s right before the plague.  At the same time we learn about Helen Watt, a close-to-retiring British historian working on translations of some 17th century documents signed by scribe “Aleph.” Even though these women lived in different centuries, both were strong and determined to pursue their interests, fought to be heard, and chose a life to satisfy their minds with sacrifice of the heart. Ester is a product of the Portuguese Inquisition, and although displaced with little family, she feels at home with her job as a scribe for…

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‘The Last Watchman of Old Cairo’ A Spellbinding New Novel Transports Readers to Egypt

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The latest novel from Michael David Lukas, The Last Watchman of Old Cairo (Spiegel & Grau) is a spellbinding novel that takes place in Cairo, Egypt and focuses on the Ezra Scroll— a legendary, perfect copy of the Torah written by the Prophet Ezra himself. Written across three different time periods, from three different perspectives, the result is an intricate history of Jewish people in Cairo and throughout Egypt. We got to talk with Michael David Lukas, who also wrote the bestseller The Oracle of Stamboul (Harper Perennial) about living in Cairo, discovering a little known history and the experience of writing three different time period from three different perspectives. BookTrib: Reading this, I felt like I was right there in Old Cairo, you…

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Lincoln and the Jews: Revealing Evidence from the Past

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In his role as the Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln carved a place in history as a champion of African-Americans and one of our most illustrious presidents. Few, however, knew of Lincoln’s affinity for and admiration of American Jews—a people who, during his lifetime, were often treated as second-class citizens. But now we can learn how the president who delivered millions from slavery was himself a friend to a growing population of Jews in the United States. This previously little-known aspect of our 16th president’s life is on display in Lincoln and the Jews: A History (Thomas Dunne Books, 2015), a comprehensive examination of photographs, letters and personal notes that show Lincoln in a way that he’s seldom been seen before.…

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A rabbi reveals the colorful history of the Jews of Asia

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In his latest book, Pepper, Silk and Ivory: Amazing Stories about Jews and the Far East (Gefen Publishing House, 2014), Rabbi Marvin Tokayer regales the reader with stories of Jews who traversed the Far East—from Burma, China and Japan to all points in between—and who made significant contributions in ancient lands. The book, co-authored with Ellen Rodman, Ph.D., is replete with stories of Jews who left their mark on societies normally considered outside the Jewish cultural orbit. Colorful characters, such as Morris “Two Gun” Cohen (the first and only Jewish general in the Chinese army) and Moe Berg (the major leaguer who was a U.S. spy in Japan), illustrate the Jews’ ability to adapt and contribute while maintaining allegiance to…

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