Lights to the Nations: Two Jewish thinkers release their books for the secular–even non-Jewish–audience


That’s pretty much all I could say. I read an amazing blog post by Ann Koffsky this morning (thanks Ann for sending me the link!) where she interviews the unforgettable writer Gila Manolson. The interview is chock full of advice to writers, advice to parents, and other neat stuff. But the biggest revelation to me is that Manolson has created a website to promote her upcoming book–her first book for a non-Jewish audience.

Manolson is not alone. Continue reading

Jeremy Rosen’s Blog: Jewish Writers

I just read an excellent blog post about what makes a Jewish writer. Jeremy Rosen’s Blog: Jewish Writers

I’ve been wondering a bit about this myself. Right now, I’m looking at the comments I’m getting on the rewritten manuscript of my novel-in-progress from my “reviewers.” The book is a sci-fi novel with a very religious (read “traditional Jewish) premise…but I’m not sure that I want it to be published by a Jewish press exclusively for a Jewish audience. (Is it obnoxious to say that I want to write the literary equivalent of a Matisyahu song?) How much can I change the story to be palatable to a wider audience without sacrificing its Jewishness?
When I read a book by Saul Bellow or Phillip Roth (mentioned in the blog post listed above), I’m very uncomfortable. Yes, they are ethnically Jewish, but a lot of the content of their books is anti-Jewish in their religious/philosophical underpinnings. Is a book Jewish just because its author is?
Then again, does a Jewish writer have to write books that are Jewish in substance? If yes, are we talking culture or religion? There are books I’ve read that are not by religious Jews, but are completely consistent with Jewish ideals. On the other hand, I’ve read books by Orthodox authors that aren’t specifically religious in any way.
Any opinions out there?

A Light to the Nations

There have been several outstanding books in the last few years that, while by Orthodox Jews, were written for the public at large. I’ve mentioned some of them in previous posts: My Before and After Life and Seven Blessings, for example.

Matisyahu (Miller), while he’s received a lot of flak by some members of the Jewish community, has likewise brought the beauty of the Jewish worldview to a broader audience through his music.

First of all, every time someone picks up a book by Risa Miller, Yehoshua November, Rochelle Krich, or Ruchama King Feuerman, they AREN’T reading…I’ll let you fill in the blank. And every time someone listens to Matisyahu, Y-Love, DeScribe, Ta-Shma, or Moshav, they AREN’T listening to…I’m sure you can fill that blank in, too.
There’s merit just from that. So much poison fills our minds when we internalize messages from music, art, and literature filled wrong-headed thinking. Even a morally-neutral alternative is preferable
But the artists I mention above go further than this. There’s just so much beauty in these artists’ words. They fill the readers’/listeners’ hearts and touch them much better than a good mussar schmuess rarely will for the average American…and the audience will remember the message. People will remember the words to a song or poem for years and years, if not a lifetime.
This is the kind of art I’d like to be able to share with the world at some point. An ambitious goal, for sure, but I’m hoping I’ve got years ahead of me to pursue it.
Since Lag B’omer just is past, I’m listing some links for contemporary Jewish music that penetrates the soul.
And here’s a lovely rendition of Matisyahu’s “One Day” by public schoolchildren in NYC: