Candlestick Reading Series and Book Club

June 3, 2010

Candlestick Readings is a series of events I put together in collaboration with friends, including ELISE. There are 3 reading events and 3 book clubs. The first reading was great and happened May 11 at Pete’s Candy Store with Joshua Cohen, Fiona Maazel, Melissa Broder, Jason Diamond, with music from Reuben Chess.

June 15 is the first Candlestick Book Club. We are reading Landscape in Concrete by Jakov Lind. Joshua Cohen is leading the discussion. Please come and pass the word! It will stimulate your mind. The book is good, interesting, and quick to read.

At El Beit on Bedford and N. 8th in Brooklyn in the backyard. Coffee and pastries.



Starlings over the Jewish Ghetto Synagogue, Rome

November 25, 2009

Slouching Towards Bushwick Interview with Lilit Marcus, editor of Jewcy

November 16, 2009

I spoke with Lilit Marcus on the phone about her role as editor of Jewcy. She talked about Jewcy’s recent acquisition by JDub, a non-profit record company, and how Jewcy manages to stay Jewish and relevant, open and edited. The site’s structure is built of writers and bloggers from around the world. Like the Huffington Post, Jewcy is a hub that makes it easy to read the opinions of your favorite Rabbis, journalists, and artists. Readers are encouraged to participate by creating accounts and commenting, forming a unique forum for Jewish dialogue. Topics range the gamut from dispatches from new Israelis to reminiscences of an Orthodox childhood to book reviews to a photo essay on the Jewish community in Tijuana plus a scad of heated debates. When reading Jewcy, it’s important to read the comments.

StB: Who started Jewcy and how did the collaboration between JDub and Jewcy come about?

LM: It started in 2006. Tahl Raz wanted to create a cool Jewish online community and he found backers.

In February of 2009, the funders pulled out. We lost all our jobs and about a month ago JDub Records bought Jewcy and now we’re one big happy family. When they approached me, they said we’re thinking of expanding, I thought our audiences were really similar: young interesting Jewish people who want to change the Jewish community and want to stay connected through art. We were doing different components of the same thing. Jewcy brings in content.

StB:  As a Jewish media source for and by young people, is it hard to settle on a tone? For example, Jewcy differs in some ways from Heeb.

LM: Sure, we can be irreverent and sarcastic but everything that’s on the site comes out of a love and respect. We are not here to make fun of everything, but we acknowledge that there are funny things and we can point them out.

If you read a lot of Jewish media, everyone jumps on one trend. How is Jewcy going to cover this differently or what else can we offer to read instead?

For example, the J Street Conference. J Street is a lobbyist group to push for peace in the middle east via a two state solution. Everybody was covering the J street conference so rather than just posting about conference, we were writing more what it was like to be there.

We also set up a bank of computers in the main lobby and encouraged people to sign up for an account on Jewcy and blog on the site about the conference. We had flip cams and quickly interviewed people. So instead of writing about each event, we were asking for reactions and getting on-the-ground citizen journalism. It’s the same story but we’re getting a different part of it.

StB: What other Jewish media do you read?

LM: The big media sources: Jewlicious, Forward, Tablet, Jewish Week, Jew and the Carrot, Haaretz.

I follow Jews on Twitter, people’s immediate responses to stuff, which stories do people repost and tweet about and which things they do not. That tells you, as an editor, what people are responding to.

StB: How many people write on Jewcy?

LM: It’s almost impossible to keep track of everyone at the same time. A few hundred.  There are 25 people who focus and post a lot.

We’ve made a big effort to get people not just in New York and Israel, but to get a bunch of people from all different kinds of cities and communities.

StB: What are some of the best perks you’ve received from working on Jewcy?

Patrick Aleph is so dead on and really funny. People use “new jews” in a weird way. He just is that and doesn’t have to talk about it. Last week he wrote a post on changing your Jewish last name, because of preference given to people with Ashkenazi backgrounds. We exclude people who don’t have Jewish names. In another piece he suggested that we should count a minyan if there are enough people on facebook or twitter.

StB: What is the “New Jew”?

What worries me about “New Jew” is that it’s so hard to classify a large group of people. If I look at trends that keep coming up though, one is, people want to identify as Jewish but not be religious. For them being Jewish is about food, traditions, family. People want to be accepted (many are from multi-faith families) especially because people talk constantly about intermarriage. Rather than force Jews to marry other Jews, New Jews tend to welcome everyone to Judaism. They are also finding ways to include Judaism in things they already like: cool music, punk rock shows, and it’s a bonus when there’s a Jewish component. There are so many creative ways to incorporate Judaism.


October 27, 2009

New Year's Card

Cool Jewish postcards.

Reasons to go to Tucson.

Things we should have known about.

A free fancy mikveh in Newton, MA!

We raid shelves

October 12, 2009
A couple weeks ago, an amazing email invitation arrived:
The Jewish Book Council is opening its offices for an exclusive “Raid the Shelves” night — only for Birthright Israel NEXT, NY alumni. Sift through hundreds of great Jewish books and help yourself to a free armload of the best Jewish literature in town! (limit 5 books per person)

I waited for Elise in the lobby of a high rise in the garment district not long after eating a kasha knish at Zabar’s where I bought Plain Russian Bread #1 for Misha’s parents. Just prior I had gone to see Michael Chabon, promoting his new book at Columbia, read a great essay called “I was Edgar Allan Poe,” which quoted in full Ulalume.

At precisely 6:30 we found ourselves on the 4th floor waiting with a group of similar strangers in front of a double doorway with the words Jewish C….Center etched on the glass. The doors opened and we filed through a hallway that slowed at a registration clipboard and candy strewn table that sat before another set of doors leading to a conference room of tables stacked with fresh laid books. I had expected dusty boxes of donated Jew vs. Jew’s, Roth, and Roth! I was very excited but told Elise I wouldn’t spaz out like I did at the JEC event we went to in March about baking challah.

Inside the room, those at the front of the crowd were already perambulating the tables like at a buffet or comic con with fall coats, backpacks, and briefcases weighing down one hand, while someone asked my name, no, last name. For half an hour no one made eye contact and existential worries were subsumed by more tangible matters, filling new black JBC zipper totes.

I quickly saw there was a ton of inventory, and that rushing was unnecessary as boxes and razor blades lay in wait beneath the tables. My second instinct was to look for the promised refreshments; I found nothing but styrofoam bowls of MnMs, sugar coated fruit chews, Pepperidge Farm party packs, Hershey’s Kisses, Enteman’s Chocolate Chip cookies, snacks that must have just been bought at Duane Reade.

The first thing I said was, “Oh my God. These books are real.” Laid out, nary a cash register in sight, was the front window display of  bookstores down the street: recently and soon to be released books. The books were divided into sections: contemporary Jewish life, Jewish thought, memoir, fiction, politics, Holocaust.

I no longer work at a bookstore or publishing house where free books are thrown out like yellow pages. Now I get books free when friends are about to go to Strand, at cafes with free libraries, and the stoops of Carroll Gardens. (I have yet to corresponded with the powers that be that dispense review copies, though maybe I should do that I like free books so much. So much that I had to cancel my library accounts because I’d bring too many home to read or to store.) Why JBC received some of these titles is obscure, since those that have no Jewish content presumably have a (often unannounced) Jewish character or author.

I was very pleased with the event!  I could have used a little more of a pep rally from a Birthright organizer though I appreciate that there were no name tags (but there was some photography — we were asked to not smile, just act like we’re reading). No one said, ‘Welcome have a great time so good to see you this book’s great no problem sorry hope you like milanos. Would you like to sign up here for an email list so you can start a book club since you’re all taking copies of this book?’ Elise and I talked with Natalie, a Birthright employee at the event, and made some friends who, like us, stood at the radiator trying to whittle down armfuls of books down to five.

I made a friend and gave him my handmade business card, urging him to share it with his friends there, who he knows from their hometown of Albany. I tried to make another friend but something didn’t come across. He was holding a copy of American Nerd by Benjamin Nugent. “Are you a nerd?” I asked. “My girlfriend got it,” he replied.

I tried to infuse some spirit and at one point clapped my hands at the head of the room and said loudly, “This is great,” trying to attract the attention of someone who would break into song and start handing out shakers and musical instruments. No one turned and Elise more quietly inspected some of the product, Dumbfounded: Big Money. Big Hair. Big Problems. Or Why Having It All Isn’t for Sissies by Matt Rothschild.

Near the end of the event I heard one of the young women in charge say to someone, “Take as many as you want…” after a night of urging people to politely acknowledge the idea of 5 book per.

So, this is what I got:

  1. Why This World: A biography of Clarice Lispector by Benjamin Moser
  2. The Scenic Route: a novel by Binnie Kirshenbaum which I heard of from Bookslut and enjoyed this weekend thoroughly.
  3. Tevye the Dairyman and Motl the Cantor’s Son by Sholem Aleichem
  4. Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives by David Eagleman
  5. Essential Pleasures: poetry edited by Robert Pinsky
  6. Yiddish Lands: a memoir by David G. Roskies
  7. Dancing in the Dark: a cultural history of the great depression by Morris Dickstein
  8. B: a novel by Jonathan Baumbach
  9. Hovering at a Low Altitude: the collected poetry of Dahlia Ravikovitch
  10. American Nerd by Benjamin Nugent
  11. Sex, Drugs & Gefilte Fish: the HeeB storytelling collection
  12. Racial Fever: Freud and the Jewish Question by Eliza Slavet
  13. A Fine Romance: Jewish Songwriters, American Songs by David Lehman
  14. The Jewish Body by Melvin Konner

If you want to borrow any of these books, the answer is yes. Books I didn’t take but were popular include: The Accidental Zionist, How We Decide, You or Someone Like You, Save the Deli, In Cheap We Trust, and Yiddish Swear Words. I heard last year there were cookbooks.  Until next year, I will brainwash myself with poetry.

Thanks JBC and everyone who organized and ran this event. Btw,

The Mission of the Jewish Book Council

is to:

Promote the reading, writing
and publishing of quality
Jewish content books.

Serve as the continental center
for information about the North American
Jewish literary scene.

Serve as the coordinating body
of Jewish literary activity in
North America.

Vote Jewish!!!

October 8, 2009


hallo @ nyc jews reading

What are the stakes? IDK, but certainly at the very least Jerusalem and New York will run out of Jews and we will never get to rebuild the Second Temple and when Moshiach Schneerson tries to come back he won’t be able to get into Williamsburg or Israel and when we try to roll our bones to Yerushalayim all the rich people who’ve jumped off bridges into the East River because of the Financial Crisis (which will surely increase in severity) will encumber us.

00temple_large 😥

Shabbat this Week

October 5, 2009


wrong date.