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December 09, 2017


The New Joys of Yiddish: Completely UpdatedThe New Joys of Yiddish: Completely Updated by Leo Rosten

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I never read the original cover to cover, just looked up words I was interested in. I'm glad I took the time to read all of this updated version. I both enjoyed and learned from this book. While I am familiar with most of the words here, many I needed reminding of their meaning again. I definitely like this new version better than the 1968 original. I hadn't realized how sexist [perhaps even misogynist] the old one was, but thankfully the editor calls out Rosten on this, as well as Rosten's tendency to criticize Reform Judaism. Things have certainly changed in 50 years.



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December 03, 2017


Immensely sad upon learning of the death of Prof Neil Gillman on Friday, Nov 24. We've been friends since meeting at an UAHC Kallah [learning week] in Santa Cruz in 1994. He was teaching a class on the prophet Hosea that wanted us to think about Godís relationship with Israel as that of an abusive husband with his tormented wife. I showed Neil another way to interpret that text, one he hadnít considered, that God, suffering terribly by his beloved Israelís betrayal, was lashing out at the source of that pain. We spent days discussing our views and their ramifications, and came away with a relationship where each of us was both student and teacher.

Neil was fascinated that I was writing a novel about Rashi as a father. He encouraged my writing and ultimately blurbed my first "Rashi's Daughters" novel. We kept in touch by phone and whenever I found myself in NYC, which was 2 or 3 times a year once my first book was published, we'd have lunch together at JTS and chat privately in his office. Over the year he learned things about me I never told anyone else and I came to know such things about him. Too sad to write more, here is a tribute in his memory.

01:35 PM | Comments (0)





November 27, 2017


The cover article in Moment Magazine recently had to do with intermarriage; specifically, is it good for the Jews? They interviewed 18 Jewish professionals and, not surprisingly, there were different answers, some even from the same person [two Jews, three opinions]. I found it all very interesting, but one thing stood out.

What none of the interviewees addressed is how the debate over who is a Jew affects the definition of intermarriage. According to the Rabbinate in Israel, which rejects non-Orthodox [and even some Orthodox] conversions, there are far more intermarriages in the world than according to Reform Judaism, which recognizes patrilineal descent and accepts all denominationsí converts as Jewish. And what about the couple where one partner converted after marriage? Are they intermarried or not?

Personally, considering all the problems Jewish women face in being left an agunah, I think the solution is for a Jewish woman to marry a Reform convert. Then nobody condemns her for intermarriage, but since she's not married to a Jew according to the Orthodox rabbis, she doesn't need a get should she be divorced. A win-win situation.

There is no doubt in my mind that Judaism thrives on converts and needs more of them. At a minimum they increase the number of Jews in the world, and ideally, when they marry born-Jews, they create a lot more Jewish families and children than born-Jews alone would do by marrying each other. And by the way, if what we object to in intermarriage is that their children won't be raised in Judaism, why prevent older Jews from "marrying-out"?





November 18, 2017


Iím back from not my hectic Midwest book tour, which at point included six consecutive days during which I took five airplane flights. So naturally I got sick. But I did get a lot of writing done on my new novel, although my blogging fell to the wayside. I remedy that now with news about a fascinating, and fun, website called Gendered Text Project. To quote its developer, ďIf you need a break from an aggravating news cycle and want to play with some fun feminism and retroactive gender equality, try out the Gendered Text Project.Ē

How does the Gendered Text Project work? The Project is an open source, volunteer run, website allowing users to radically alter the gender of characters in a story. Alice in Wonderland becomes Alan in Wonderland, Conan the Barbarian becomes Cuzha the Barbarian. Users can enjoy gender-swapping characters while examining unconscious biases in gender and writing. They can read selected texts already modified for this format. Or, if they follow the instructions and respect copyright, they can modify texts and share them. Modifying a text is time consuming and the Project does not accept unsolicited texts to modify on usersí behalf.

The Project library currently has dozens of stories from all different genres - Fantasy, Adventure, Romance, Western, Children's, Science Fiction and Horror. You can gender-bend classics, like Frankenstein, or read modern award winners in a new light. There are short stories and full-length novels. Original publications dates range from 1884 to 2017. Have fun and experiment with gender swapping, or even make some characters non-binary.

The Project welcomes participation, especially from published novelists, who can email them at genderedtextproject@gmail.com. If you know people who might be interested in the Project, spread the word. Which is what this blog is doing. I personally would like to see some texts with Jewish content.





October 10, 2017


After a hectic several weeks as my synagogueís Ritual Chair, Iím about to embark on another hectic few weeks for a Midwest book tour. Between Oct 15 and Oct 25, I will be speaking throughout the Chicago area, including Milwaukee. Then I embark for four programs in Michigan, starting with Kalamazoo on Oct 26 and three in the Detroit area Oct 27-30, before heading home just in time for Halloween. If you or anyone you know will be in any of these places while Iím town, I hope to see you soon.

Oct 15 - noon. B'nai Yehuda Beth Sholom. 1424 183rd St, Homewood IL 60430.
Oct 16 - 6 pm. WRJ membership dinner. Congregation B'nai Jehoshua Beth Elohim, 1201 Lake cook Rd, Deerfield IL 60015
Oct 17 - 7 pm. WRJ Congregation Emanu-El B'ne Jeshurun 2020, W Brown Deer Rd, River Hills, WI 53217
Oct 18 - 7 pm. Aurora Hadassah. Geneva Public Library, 127 James St, Geneva IL
Oct 19 - 7:30 pm. Anshe Emet Synagogue, 3751 N Broadway, Chicago IL 60613
Oct 21 - 7:30 pm. Havdalah. Emanuel Congregation, 5959 N Sheridan Rd, Chicago IL 60660
Oct 22 - 10:45 am. Temple Sholom, 3480 N Lake Shore Dr, Chicago IL 60657
Oct 23 - 7:30 pm. TBI Sisterhood, Temple Beth Israel, 3601 W Dempster Street Skokie IL 60076
Oct 24 - 6 pm. WRJ dinner. Temple Chai, 1670 W Checker Road, Long Grove, IL 60047
Oct 25 - 7 pm. Women of Oak Park Temple, 1235 Harlem Ave, Oak Park, IL 60302
Oct 26 - 7 pm. Congregation of Moses 2501 Stadium Dr, Kalamazoo MI 49008
Oct 27-28. Shabbaton. Temple Beth Emeth, 2309 Packard Rd, Ann Arbor MI 48104
Oct 29 11:30 am. Temple Emanu-El. 14450 W Ten Mile Road, Oak Park MI 48237
Oct 30 - noon. ASK: Adults Seeking Knowledge lunch. Temple Israel, 5725 Walnut Lake Rd, West Bloomfield, MI 48323





October 05, 2017


As the winner of two IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards, eleven years apart, I wrote an article about the ever-changing world of publishing, particularly as it relates to my experience as a self-published author. I discuss the changing landscape of self-publishing over the past decade and provide concrete recommendations regarding getting self-published titles in front of the right audience. Perhaps surprisingly, I moved away from aggressive online campaigns towards face-to-face interactions, because I still consider word-of-mouth advertisement to be the most effective form of advertisement.

Click here for my entire article on the IBPA website





October 01, 2017


Here is my question and answer for 10Q Day 9:
Q. What is a fear that you have and how has it limited you? How do you plan on letting it go or overcoming it in the coming year?

A. I fear that Trump, and his cronies, may end up doing some irreparable damage, either by getting the US in a war with N. Korea, appointing a Supreme Court justice who undoes Roe vs. Wade or another similarly progressive ruling, or some as yet unimaginable disaster. I am trying not to let this fear limit me, but rather empower me to protest and work to derail his agenda. I am thankful that there are many others, particularly in my home state of California, who share my fears and want to ensure they donít happen. I cannot, dare not, let it go.





September 29, 2017


Here is my question and answer for 10Q Day 6, and only questions for Days 7 and 8:

Q6. Describe one thing you'd like to achieve by this time next year. Why is this important to you?
A. It may be a total fantasy on my part, but by next October, I would like to have my new historical novel in contract with Penguin Random House for release in 2019. In other words, pretty much everything I need to have done will be done: final draft written and edited for content.

This is important to me because I suspect it will be my final historical novel, and the one I've wanted to write even before "Rashi's Daughters." I know the subject matter will make publishing a challenge, but I am determined to get it out even if I have to self-publish again.

You may have noticed that there is no title for this novel. I definitely have one but for various reasons, the least of which is that Penguin lawyers say not to publicize it until we actually have a signed contract, I will not disclose it. That is partly why I am not posting online my 10Q answers for Day 7 [How would you like to improve yourself and your life next year? Is there a piece of advice or counsel you received in the past year that could guide you?] and Day 8 [Is there something (a person, a cause, an idea) that you want to investigate more fully in the coming year?]. They will remain private.





September 27, 2017


Here is my question and answer for 10Q Day 5:
Q. Have you had any particularly spiritual experiences this past year? How has this experience affected you? "Spiritual" can be broadly defined to include secular spiritual experiences: artistic, cultural, and so forth.

A. This is always a difficult question for me since I rarely have any experiences I would consider spiritual, even allowing for 10Q's broad definition.

But this year, I did something that qualifies under all their categories: my trip to England in late December to join almost 3000 Jews for a week at Limmud UK, where I was invited to give five presentations about the research behind my books. I also had time to attend sessions by some of the finest Jewish teachers and speakers in the world. However, some of my best experiences came in the cavernous dining hall, where I participated in discussions [or just overheard them] as I shared meals with some amazing scholars and students from Israel, Europe, and even Australia.

It was a week of complete Jewish immersion, including celebrating Shabbat and Hanukah, with Jews of every observance level from Orthodox to secular. I guess it doesn't get more "spiritual" than that. Check out this link to Limmud to learn more.





September 26, 2017


Here is my question and answer for 10Q Day 4.
Q. Describe an event in the world that has impacted you this year. How? Why?

A. The recent hurricane in the Caribbean apparently destroyed much of the US Virgin Islands, where Dave and I spent a week last December when I was scholar-in-residence at the Historical Synagogue in St. Thomas. Everything was so lush, gorgeous flowers of every color growing wherever we went.

Now I worry about the Jewish community, especially from what little I see online. I fear for the St. Thomas historic synagogue and hope there wasn't too much damage. I have seen horrific photos of what's left of where we wen hiking and snorkeling on St. John and it fills me with sadness that we were among the last to see the Virgin Islands in its glory.

How quickly something that seemed so permanent is gone. I realize there's much I take for granted that is actually more temporary than I assume. I need to stop and smell the roses, as the saying goes, and appreciate all the good things that can be so fleeting.

For latest info on whatís happening in the US Virgin Islands go to their newspaper link





September 25, 2017


Here is my 10Q question and answer for Day 3.
Q. Think about a major milestone that happened with your family this past year. How has this affected you?

A. In the spring my daughter-in-law Tamara's parents moved from Seattle to Huntington Beach, only about a half hour drive away. This means our son Ari's children have both grandparents and a set of great-grandparents in So Calif. So we will see much more of them, especially in the summer. It also means they won't have to stay the entire time at our house each visit but can bounce around between the three houses. I'm so happy that I'll be seeing our AZ grandkids a lot more, especially now that they're old enough to remember us.





September 24, 2017


I didn't post over Rosh Hashana and Shabbat, so here is my 10Q entry for Day 2.
Q. Is there something that you wish you had done differently this past year? Alternatively, is there something you're especially proud of from this past year?

A. I am especially proud of how I have greatly increased how much I exercise. For the last twelve months, since my daughter bought me a gym membership, I have been working out with weights twice a week [when not on book tour]. I can see how much stronger I am, and that my clothes fit better though I haven't lost any weight.

In addition, I started playing Pokemon Go a year ago with my grandchildren, with the result that while they have dropped out, I have walked over 1000 miles [1732 kilometers actually] in 8 states and 2 countries pursuing, and eventually capturing, these imaginary creatures.









MaG_author pix 2016small.JPG
Maggie Anton



More sites to read

Erika Dreifus

The Talmud Blog

The Forward Sisterhood

Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance

Whole Megillah