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Drisha Book Salon & Beit Midrash

*Thursday, May 9, 2019 7:00pm

In Kaddish.com: A Novel, Nathan Englander, the Enfant terrible of contemporary Jewish literature, fixes his lens on an impious son trying honor the memory of his father, while retaining his freedoms.
In this Drisha Book Salon and Beit Midrash, we’ll consider the history of the mourner’s kaddish and its continued resonance in our bewildering modern world. 

Hosted in an UWS residence (details provided upon registration.)


Past book salon events.

*Thursday, April 4, 2019 7:00pm

The Secret Book of Kings, one of celebrated Israeli author, Yochi Brandes’ most successful books to date, tells an untold tale of Israel’s kings, concealed for centuries by King David and his court. The power of Brandes’ story-telling, and the way she weaves her story in relation to the actual Biblical book of Kings, is artful and thought provoking. She asks and answers the oldest Jewish question of all – what lies just beneath the texts of Tanakh.

*Thursday, February 7, 2019

A Simple Story is one of the celebrated Hebrew novelist, S. Y. Agnon’s, greatest achievements. If the story is at all simple, it is only in the seeming effortlessness of relating a physiological and countercultural tale about bittersweet romance, bourgeous expectations, and madness. Most striking are the allusions to classical Jewish literature found on nearly every page. Rather than representing innocuous, commonly held values, these texts are provocative, destabilizing, and worthy of careful study.

Thursday, December 8, 2018

First published in 1939, Milton Steinberg’s As a Driven Leaf is a modern Jewish classic that explores the story of the renegade Talmudic sage, Elisha ben Abuyah’s struggle to reconcile his faith with the allure of Hellenistic culture. Recently re-released, the story remains remarkably fresh, inviting thinking about faith and doubt, and what it means to be a Jew in the world today.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

book- The Man Who Never Stopped SleepingThe Weight of Ink
Rachel Kadish’s The Weight of Ink (winner of National Jewish Book Award 2017) tells the story of ambitious women who, living in different centuries, both struggle to find their voice. It challenges us to think critically about the lack of women’s access to the written word that has impoverished Jewish learning, and encourages us to imagine what happens when, against the odds, Jewish women begin to write.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

book- The Man Who Never Stopped SleepingTo Sleep, Perchance to Dream: Jewish Texts Provoking and Provoked by Aharon Appelfeld’s
The Man Who Never Stopped Sleeping
Sleep is one of the most superfluous things we do as humans. It is nothing, really, a cessation from human endeavor and meaning. It can even be the ultimate, foolish escape, as it was for Jonah when he went to sleep in the middle of a God-sent storm. In The Man Who Never Stopped Sleeping, Aharon Appelfeld writes evocatively about a man who survived hell and could not be roused from his slumber. What happens when sleep is much more than.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

book- Eternal Life compressedDara Horn’s fifth novel, Eternal Life, tells the story of a woman who can neither die nor escape the burdens of the past she carries with her across the centuries. A meditation on Jewish history and memory, the book raises profound questions about meaning in a seemingly late and meaningless age, and provokes new thinking about the classical Jewish belief in the resurrection of the dead and its significance for the way we live our lives.

Sunday, February 18, 2018 (at Limmud NY)

book- The Ruined House compressedRuby Namdar’s first novel, The Ruined House, won the Sapir Prize, Israel’s most prestigious prize for Hebrew literature,  despite the fact that Namdar left the country years ago. Like the book’s author, protagonist Professor Andrew Cohen lives in New York City. Unlike the book’s author, Cohen is Jewishly unlettered, though he somehow becomes haunted by overwhelming and unfamiliar images from Judaism’s cultic core  – the Jerusalem Temple and the High Priest who officiates there.

In this third session of the Drisha Book Salon, we will study classical Jewish texts that follow the High Priest’s cultic service in the High Temple, which explore the surprising possibility of an ignorant, or perhaps even heretical High Priest, and which help us think about how the pulsating drama of Temple and ritual continue to lay claim on the contemporary.

The book discussion and text study will be led by Ruby Namdar and Shai Secunda with Shira Hecht-Koller as facilitator.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

book- Forest Dark compressedNicole Krauss’ fourth novel, Forest Dark, is a powerful, existential meditation on psychic displacement and restless Jewish movement between Here and There. It directly quotes classic Jewish sources, hints at others, and invites further pairings with biblical, talmudic, kabbalistic, and hassidic texts. In this second meeting of the Drisha Book Salon, we will learn about leaving and returning to Israel and Gan Eden, look at Jewish dreams and other doubled-states of being, and consider other sources that thematize and aspire to tranquility. The text study and book discussion will be led by Shai Secunda.

Forest Dark was just named a Best Book of 2017 by Publishers Weekly.

Kick-Off Event: Tuesday, November 14
Join us for a special evening with Ilana Kurshan, author of the newly released memoir, If All the Seas Were Ink (St. Martin’s Press, 2017), with an introduction given by Shai Secunda.

If All the Seas Were Ink- compressed2Ilana will discuss core themes in her book and how she came to write it. Led by Ilana, we will also study some of the classical Jewish texts that engendered the book and that are central to her themes.

We encourage participants to read the book in advance to enhance the nature of the discussion. Books will be available for purchase and signing at the event.

Ilana KurshanAt the age of 27, alone in Jerusalem in the wake of a painful divorce, Ilana Kurshan joined the world’s largest book club, learning daf yomi, Hebrew for “daily page” of the Talmud, a book of rabbinic teachings spanning about 600 years and the basis for all codes of Jewish law. By the time she completed the Talmud after seven and a half years, Kurshan was remarried with three young children. This memoir is a tale of heartache and humor, of love and loss, of marriage and motherhood, and of learning to put one foot in front of the other by turning page after page. For people of the book—both Jewish and non-Jewish—If All the Seas Were Ink is a celebration of learning, through literature, how to fall in love once again.

The Drisha Book Salon & Beit Midrash will regularly engage with new literature that draws on themes central to Torah texts, and will be moderated by the authors of the books or scholars of the literature. We will learn be-chavruta classical texts that animate these works.