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B'nai Book Club 2024

All Book Club sessions are announced in the weekly B'nai Israel newsletter along with a Zoom link or other information for attending. The Book Club usually meets on Zoom every other month on the last Tuesday at 8 pm.  Occasionally, we gather in-person.

2024 Book Club Dates and Selections

Book Club sections for 2024 are currently under discussion.  Below are (1) currently selected dates for Book Club sessions, and (2) and books currently under consideration. Where the book has been assigned to a Book Club date the date appears with the book description.

Tuesday, February 27, 2024
Tuesday, May 7, 2024 (last Tuesday in April, the 30th is last day of Passover)
Tuesday, June 25, 2024
Tuesday, August 27, 2024
Tuesday, October 29, 2024
Tuesday, December 24, 2024 (last Tuesday is 7th Day of Chanukah and New Year's Eve)

Kan­ti­ka by Eliz­a­beth Graver

Book Club Date: Tuesday, February 27, 2024, 8 pm


A kaleidoscopic portrait of one family’s displacement across four countries, Kantika―“song” in Ladino―follows the joys and losses of Rebecca Cohen, feisty daughter of the Sephardic elite of early 20th-century Istanbul. When the Cohens lose their wealth and are forced to move to Barcelona and start anew, Rebecca fashions a life and self from what comes her way―a failed marriage, the need to earn a living, but also passion, pleasure and motherhood. Moving from Spain to Cuba to New York for an arranged second marriage, she faces her greatest challenge―her disabled stepdaughter, Luna, whose feistiness equals her own and whose challenges pit new family against old.


Haven: The Dramatic Story of 1,000 World War II Refugees and How They Came to America by Ruth Gruber

Book Club Date: Tuesday, April 16, 2024, 8 pm

In 1943, nearly one thousand European Jewish refugees from eighteen different countries were chosen by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration to receive asylum in the United States. All they had to do was get there. Ruth Gruber, with the support of Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, volunteered to escort them on their secret route across the Atlantic from a port in Italy to a “safe haven” camp in Oswego, New York. The dangerous endeavor carried the threat of Nazi capture with each passing day. While on the ship, Gruber recorded the refugees’ emotional stories and recounts them here in vivid detail, along with the aftermath of their arrival in the US, which involved a fight for their right to stay after the war ended.The result is a poignant and engrossing true story of suffering under Nazi persecution and incredible courage in the face of overwhelming circumstances.


Most Fortunate Unfortunates by Marlene Trestman

Book Club Date: Tuesday, June 25, 2024 - Zoom - Author Marlene Trestman will attend

Marlene Trestman’s Most Fortunate Unfortunates is the first comprehensive history of the Jewish Orphans’ Home of New Orleans. Founded in 1855 in the aftermath of a yellow fever epidemic, the Home was the first purpose-built Jewish orphanage in the nation. It reflected the city’s affinity for religiously operated orphanages and the growing prosperity of its Jewish community. In 1904, the orphanage opened the Isidore Newman School, a coed, nonsectarian school that also admitted children, regardless of religion, whose parents paid tuition. By the time the Jewish Orphans’ Home closed in 1946, it had sheltered more than sixteen hundred parentless children and two dozen widows from New Orleans and other areas of Louisiana and the mid-South.


The Cost of Free Land: Jews, Lakota, and an American Inheritance by Rebecca Clarren

Book Club Date: Tuesday, August 27, 2024, 8 pm

Growing up, Rebecca Clarren only knew the major plot points of her tenacious immigrant family’s origins. Her great-great-grandparents, the Sinykins, and their six children fled antisemitism in Russia and arrived in the United States at the turn of the 20th century, ultimately settling on a 160-acre homestead in South Dakota. Over the next few decades, despite tough years on a merciless prairie and multiple setbacks, the Sinykins became an American immigrant success story. What none of Clarren’s ancestors ever mentioned was that their land, the foundation for much of their wealth, had been cruelly taken from the Lakota by the United States government. By the time the Sinykins moved to South Dakota, America had broken hundreds of treaties with hundreds of Indigenous nations across the continent, and the land that had once been reserved for the seven bands of the Lakota had been diminished, splintered, and handed for free, or practically free, to white settlers. In The Cost of Free Land, Clarren melds investigative reporting with personal family history to reveal the intertwined stories of her family and the Lakota, and the devastating cycle of loss of Indigenous land, culture, while exploring a crucial question for our times: What does it mean to survive oppression only to perpetuate and benefit from the oppression of others? And how does a settler people make amends?


The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store: A Novel by James McBride

Book Club Date: Tuesday, October 29, 2024, 8 pm

In 1972, when workers in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, were digging the foundations for a new development, the last thing they expected to find was a skeleton at the bottom of a well. Who the skeleton was and how it got there were two of the long-held secrets kept by the residents of Chicken Hill, the dilapidated neighborhood where immigrant Jews and African Americans lived side by side and shared ambitions and sorrows. Chicken Hill was where Moshe and Chona Ludlow lived when Moshe integrated his theater and where Chona ran the Heaven & Earth Grocery Store. When the state came looking for a deaf boy to institutionalize him, it was Chona and Nate Timblin, the Black janitor at Moshe’s theater and the unofficial leader of the Black community on Chicken Hill, who worked together to keep the boy safe. As these characters’ stories overlap and deepen, it becomes clear how much the people who live on the margins of white, Christian America struggle and what they must do to survive. When the truth is finally revealed about what happened on Chicken Hill and the part the town’s white establishment played in it, McBride shows us that even in dark times, it is love and community—heaven and earth—that sustain us.


The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks

Book Club Date: Tuesday, December 24, 2024, 8 pm - In person with Chinese Dinner

In The Secret Chord, Brooks takes on one of literature’s richest and most enigmatic figures: a man who shimmers between history and legend. Peeling away the myth to bring David to life in Second Iron Age Israel, Brooks traces the arc of his journey from obscurity to fame, from shepherd to soldier, from hero to traitor, from beloved king to murderous despot and into his remorseful and diminished dotage.

The Secret Chord provides new context for some of the best-known episodes of David’s life while also focusing on others, even more remarkable and emotionally intense, that have been neglected.  We see David through the eyes of those who love him or fear him—from the prophet Natan, voice of his conscience, to his wives Mikhal, Avigail, and Batsheva, and finally to Solomon, the late-born son who redeems his Lear-like old age.


Previous Book Club Selections


2/1/2021        Guide for the Perplexed by Dara Horn

4/5/2021        Einstein and the Rabbi by Naomi Levy

8/31/2021     The Memory Monster by Yishai Said

10/12/2021   The Jew Store by Stella Suberman

8/9/2021       The Aleppo Codex by Matti Friedman

12/15/2021   The Tunnel by A. B. Yehoshua.



2/8/2021       After Abel and Other Stories by Michal Lemberger

4/12/2022     X Troop: The Secret Jewish Commandos of World War II by Leah Garrett

6/14/2022     Stars of David: Prominent Jews Talk About Being Jewish  by Abigail Pogrebin

8/9/2022       Squirrel Hill: The Tree of Life Synagogue Shooting and the Soul of a Neighborhood by Mark Oppenheimer

10/25/2022   The Lost Shtetl: A Novel by Max Gross

12/13/2022   The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem: A Novel by Sarit Yishai-Levi



2/12/2023      Koshersoul: The Faith and Food Journey of an African American Jew by Michael W. Twitty  

4/25/2023      Maus: A Survivor's Tale by Art Spiegelman 

6/27/2023      The Prophet of the Andes: An Unlikely Journey to the Promised Land by Graciela Mochkofsky and Lisa Dillman

8/29/2023      Who By Fire: Leonard Cohen in the Sinai by Matti Friedman 

10/31/2023    A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka: A Memoir by Lev Golinkin

12/26/2023   The Seven Good Years: A Memoir by Etgar Keret 

Mon, May 20 2024 12 Iyyar 5784