Sandee is the arts and culture editor at the Jewish Week.


“The Lost Book of Moses” by Chanan Tigay (Ecco) is a historical drama going back to 1883, when a Polish-born British antiquities dealer claimed to have discovered the oldest copy of the Bible, which then mysteriously vanished. The author searches around the world for clues, uncovering romance and tragedy along with truth. (March)

Edgar Bronfman completed the manuscript of “Why Be Jewish? A Testament” (Twelve) just weeks before he passed away in December 2013. This is the late Jewish leader’s call to a new generation of Jews, emphasizing how he found much meaning in a secular Judaism grounded in Jewish values and texts. (March)

An illustrated history, “New York’s Yiddish Theater: From the Bowery to Broadway” edited by Edna Nahshon (Columbia University) covers many genres and productions, artists and audiences; the impact of Yiddish theater on Jewish immigrants and on American culture. This volume accompanies an exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York. (March)

“Family History of Fear” by Agata Tuszynska, translated from the French by Charles Ruas (Knopf) is a memoir of discovered identity. The author, a distinguished Polish poet and historian, grew up in Communist Poland as a blonde, blue-eyed Catholic, and then learned at age 19 that she was Jewish. (April)

The latest title in the Jewish Lives series, “Barbra Streisand: Redefining Beauty, Femininity and Power” by Neal Gabler (Yale) probes the life and career of the performer and cultural icon, the metaphor of “Streisand” and the relationship of Jewishness and popular culture. (April)

In “Casting Lots: Creating a Family in a Beautiful, Broken World” (Da Capo), Susan Silverman begins her memoir by chronicling her early life with her parents and siblings (she is the sister of comedian Sarah Silverman), and goes on to describe her own marriage and efforts to expand her family with the adoption of two children from Ethiopia. A Jerusalem-based rabbi, Silverman is an outspoken advocate for adoption. (April)

“Ghetto: The Invention of a Place, the History of an Idea” by Mitchell Duneier (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) looks at the history of the idea of a closed quarter, from Venice in 1516, when the city’s Jews were forced to live in an enclosed area, to its revival by the Nazis and to the present.

“Pumpkinflowers: A Soldier’s Story” by Matti Friedman (Algonquin), a narrative of war, chronicles the author’s service in the IDF in the late 1990s, when he and a small band of soldiers were charged with holding onto a remote hilltop in Lebanon, called the Pumpkin. For the author, that time continues to reverberate. (May)

“The Nazi Hunters” by Andrew Nagorski (Simon & Schuster) focuses on the men and women who worked to track down Nazi war criminals and bring them to justice, as the era of being able to do so is coming to a close. (May)


In Boris Fishman’s second novel, “Don’t Let My Baby Do Rodeo” (Harper), a restless 42-year-old woman sets off on a cross-country trip, along with her husband and adopted son Max, whose birth parents are from Montana. For these Russian immigrants, this is their first experience of the wide-open spaces of America. The title refers to the words of Max’s birth mother. (March)

The title of Brenda Janowitz’s new novel, “The Dinner Party” (St. Martin’s), refers to a suburban Passover seder – peopled with two sets of potential in-laws, including a family of Rothschilds— that is indeed different from every other night. The holiday’s themes of freedom and letting go relate to the characters’ struggles. (April)

In this debut historical novel opening in 1941, “The Houseguest” by Kim Brooks (Counterpoint), a rabbi convinces a local junk dealer and his family to take in a European refugee, an intriguing actress, inspiring their involvement in American initiatives to fight Hitler. (April)

A bestseller in Israel, “The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem” by Sarit Yishai-Levi (Thomas Dunne/St. Martin’s), translated from the Hebrew by Anthony Berris, is a family saga spanning four generations of mysteries and secrets among mothers, daughters and sisters, including the great-grandmother who was a renowned healer and her daughter, who cleaned houses for the British. (April)

“And After the Fire” by Lauren Belfer (Harper) is inspired by the discovery of a choral masterpiece stolen during World War II. The novel spans several centuries, with real-life personalities in the fictional mix. (April)

“The Bed Moved” by Rebecca Schiff (Knopf), a collection of short stories, marks this Brooklyn writer’s debut. Her characters deal honestly with coming-of-age, death, sex and assimilation. (April)