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By Stacey Dresner

Summertime is the perfect time to dive into a good book. What to read? We asked around for some suggestions and here are the responses: some in the form of a simple list, others with some commentary. Here’s to finding the perfect summer read.


Rabbi Mark Shapiro
Sinai Temple, Springfield

“I am looking forward to reading the newest book by New York Times columnist, David Brooks. The book is called The Road to Character.  In the book, Brooks writes about that most elusive of qualities – character.  What makes a mentsch?  Who is a mentsch?  Can you cultivate mentschlichkeit?  There could hardly be more Jewish questions or human questions.  I’m eager to see what Brooks has to say.”


Howard Borer
Executive Director of Jewish Federation of Central Mass., Worcester

“I recommend Relational Judaism by Ron Wolfson. In preparation for our community’s scholar-in-residence weekend, I read this book to gain a better understanding of his concept. Many of our local congregations have been using his book as part of their board training and education program.

I have just completed Canada by Richard Ford, which explores the story of a teenager whose future life has been formulated by mistakes made by his parents. The novel takes place in Great Falls Montana and some small towns in the southwest of the Province of Saskatchewan.

“One of my favorite spy/mystery writers is Daniel Silva. Several years ago I picked up one of his books and I was hooked. I have finally got around to purchasing his latest Gabriel Allon thriller, The English Girl. Silva’s Gabriel Allon is an assassin, art restorer and former Israeli spy, and a fun and easy summer read.

“During my last trip to Israel, I was browsing the Israeli author section at Steinmatzky’s bookstore in Tel Aviv, and saw The Missing File by D.A. Mihsani. This book is one of the few Israeli crime thrillers to become a bestseller in its native land. The NY Times has called it a “thoughtful character study of a good man deeply troubled by issues of innocence and guilt.”


Martin Baicker, FACHE
President and CEO of Jewish Geriatric Services, Longmeadow

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande. “This book is about the transformation underway in elder care, and it’s right on the mark with how our field is changing in very significant ways. It’s also about a son’s personal journey dealing with a parent’s terminal illness. It is wonderfully written and poignant. It’s a must read for anyone with elderly parents.”


Joanne Saltman, Holyoke

Saltman sent along these two books being read by the Sons of Zion Book Club: Sidonia’s Thread by Hanna Marcus and In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist by Ruchama King Feuerman.


Liz Baker, Worcester

“I just finished Rush Home Road by Lori Lansen – a great read. I am now reading All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.”


Richard Michelson
Poet Laureate of Northampton and owner of Michelson Galleries

“I have two novels in the summer reading queue that I am very much looking forward to, as both authors are also friends. One is Letty Cottin Pogrebin’s Single Jewish Male Seeking Soul Mate. Letty has always written cogently and passionately about Judaism, and she regularly tackles issues of race, gender and ethnicity in her non-fiction articles, but many do not know what a compelling writer of fiction, she is as well. And while Geraldine Brooks new novel The Secret Chord doesn’t officially publish until October, I hope to score an advance copy of this fictional life of David. Geraldine’s People of the Book was one of my favorite novels of the last decade.  I am also reading a number of poetry collections by local writers this spring /summer, including Leslea Newman’s I Carry My Mother, which is a wonderfully accessible and moving meditation on loss, as Leslea chronicles her mother’s illness and death. But it leaves you with an appreciation of life.”


Rabbi Chaim Kosofsky
Lubavitcher Yeshiva Academy, Longmeadow

“I am reading A Tzadik in our Time, a biography of Rabbi Aryeh Levin, of Jerusalem.  He and his wife lived a very simple life, judging everyone favorably, doing favors above and beyond, with a pure faith in G-d.

“He is best known as a rabbi to the Jewish prisoners during the British Mandate.

“On our school trip to Israel in February, we visited his synagogue and were addressed by the caretaker of the shul.”


Josh Lambert
Yiddish Book Center Academic Director, Amherst

“This summer, I’m excited to teach Joan Sfar’s The Rabbi’s Cat to the teenagers in the Great Jewish Books Summer Program. A beloved French graphic novel about a talking cat’s adventures in North Africa, it offers a window into the lives of Maghrebi Jews and poses difficult questions about identity, ethics, and belief.”


Jody Fredman
Director of Special ProjectsM Worcester Jewish Community Center

Fredman recommends the perfect beach-side read: “I am reading The Boston Girl, Anita Diamant’s new book. It is really good. An easy read.”


Laura Porter, Worcester

Porter, a contributing writer for the Massachusetts Jewish Ledger, recommends: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng; All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr; Henna House by Nomi Eve; Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf; Crossing the Borders of Time by Leslie Maitland; The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom.


Rabbi Amy Wallk Katz
Temple Beth El, Springfield

“There are two books I hope to read this summer: Being Mortal by Atul Gawande and Joseph Telushkin’s biography of the Rebbe.

“I am especially interested in Being Mortal because I spend so much time thinking about death and dying. On the one hand, medicine has triumphed in modern times,transforming the dangers of childbirth, injury, and disease from harrowing to manageable. On the other hand, sometimes medicine fails and patients are not able to die with dignity. In his bestselling books, Atul Gawande, a practicing surgeon, reveals the struggles of his profession and examines its ultimate limitations and failures – in his own practices as well as others’ – as life draws to a close. I am reading this book because I understand that I can help others make important decisions and have important conversations with their loved ones, if I am conversant with the issues around death and dying.

“In Rebbe, Joseph Telushkin explores the life and teaching of the late Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, a towering figure of modernity.  Schneerson turned Chabad-Lubavitch into one of the most dynamic and widespread organizations in the Jewish world.  I want to better understand the Rebbe’s philosophy and his genius.”

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