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Bet Shalom Book Club

Steve Yussen

Join us for great discussions led by Steve Yussen.

Do you like to read?  Are you up for the occasional challenge of reading fiction that is not on your usual beaten path?  Do you like to hear what others think about intriguing stories? Then join the Bet Shalom Book group!

For example, long time member Bob Davidson led us to a book few of us knew about, The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain. This imaginative novel is about the intertwined lives of two Norwegian boys, one Jewish and the other Christian, in the aftermath of World War II.  I had never thought of life in terms of a musical metaphor, but our discussion of that book changed my thinking about it forever. And when we tackled Sholem Aleichem’s short stories, Leslie Laub’s experience leading a production of Fiddler on the Roof gave us valuable insights. The richness of the author’s original writing and the way some of it got lost in its translation to a popular play became a provocative source of discussion. 

People join our group for various reasons. Linda Hulbert, with a background as a librarian, joined the group 2 years ago. Initially Linda was hesitant to join because she reads totally for pleasure and avoids dissecting what she reads. She changed her mind and decided that being a member of the group might help her steer some of our reading choices toward books she’d like to read.  Linda has led us to some terrific historical fiction, like The Orchard by Yochi Brandes and The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish. We now know a lot more about the human frailties of our 1st century Jewish Sages and the lives of women in the age of Baruch Spinoza as a result.  

Burt Schwartz joined about 4 years ago. A friend of his recommended the book group as a way to meet people and expand his social horizons after his wife passed away. Burt has been a champion of our reading Jewish classics like The Chosen, by Chaim Potok, and The Fixer by Bernard Malamud. Many of us were surprised by how much we’d forgotten about these books as well as how much we enjoyed reading them again.

About 15-18 men and women participate regularly in the Bet Shalom Book Group. We meet quarterly (currently on Zoom), reading 4-5 books a year that focus on contemporary and classic fiction by Jewish writers featuring Jewish themes. The group votes on book selections, but member insights and recommendations play a large role in what we choose to read and discuss.  During the 7 years we’ve been meeting, members of the group have enjoyed getting to know one another and have learned a great deal from the ideas and perceptions of others. It is a respectful group, we like one another, and it’s been an incredible ride as we’ve read and discussed an amazing 30 books together.

We’d be delighted for you to be a part of the group. Email tapestry@betshalom.org for more information. 

Bob Davidson
Leslie Laub
Linda Hulbert
Burt Schwartz