Welcome to this transition issue of our newsletter, smoothing our way from the Jewish year 5776 to 5777. We're so grateful for what the past has brought us, and we're most eagerly looking forward to the future.
Key to our 5777 will be the publication of Abigail Pogrebin's My Jewish Year: 18 Holidays, One Wondering Jew. As Professor Jonathan Sarna has neatly summarized: "To understand the Jewish calendar, Abigail Pogrebin immersed herself in its rhythms and rituals for a full twelve months. Her riveting account of this experience serves as a lively introduction to Judaism's holidays and fast days and opens a window on how Judaism is actually lived in 21st-century America."
So to celebrate the new year and the new book, we're featuring My Jewish Year—which is now available for pre-order from your favorite independent bookstore as well as Amazon and Barnes & Noble—throughout this issue. We trust that as you preview A.J. Jacobs's enticing foreword, and a timely sample chapter, you'll join in our enthusiasm.
As always, we invite you to keep in touch with us between newsletters by clicking any of the buttons above to "like" us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and/or discover fresh content on our website. (If you have received this newsletter because someone has forwarded it to you, please be sure to subscribe for updates yourself.)
Thanks so much, and Happy New Year!
—Erika Dreifus, Media Editor
Just we prepared to send this newsletter, we learned the sad news of the passing of Israeli elder statesman Shimon Peres (1923-2016), who has been called "one of North American Jewry's closest Israeli friends." May his memory be a blessing, and may his family be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.
A.J. Jacobs on My Jewish Year
For the first time, we're presenting a book's foreword well ahead of publication. And we're thrilled to be taking that step with what A.J. Jacobs (The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible) has written for My Jewish Year.
Here's a taste of that foreword:
Abby Pogrebin subtitles her book “18 Holidays, One Wondering Jew."
Which is an excellent way to describe it.
But let me break her year down a little further for you.
We're talking a year filled with:
Six days of fasting
One day without deodorant
A couple of barrels of booze (Shabbat wine and Simchat Torah scotch among them)
Untold amounts of revelation, joy, and, of course, guilt.
In short, a lot of Judaism.
We're talking an Iron Man triathlon of holiday observance (or so it seems to those of us not brought up Orthodox).
For most of her life, Abby was only loosely connected to her heritage. To borrow a phrase from my own book, Abby was Jewish in the same way the Olive Garden was Italian. Not very. (No offense to the Olive Garden. Great breadsticks.)
But she hungered for a more authentic taste of Judaism.
And this wonderful book is the result.
But wait! There's more! Read the full foreword by A.J. Jacobs online.
From My Jewish Year: Abigail Pogrebin's Pre-Rosh Hashanah Prep
What better way to introduce you to the text of My Jewish Year than by sharing the opening of Chapter 1: "Prepping Rosh Hashanah"? We hope that you enjoy these beginning paragraphs:
The instruction manual from the Israeli company that shipped my shofar (the trumpet made from a ram's horn, blasted during the Jewish New Year) says the blowing technique can be learned by "filling your mouth with water. You then make a small opening at the right side of your mouth, and blow out the water with a strong pressure. You must practice this again and again until you can blow the water about four feet away."
Rosh Hashanah (literally "head of the year") marks the Jewish new year, the anniversary of Creation, and requires the shofar blast to alert the world to the new beginning—the moment we’re supposed to "wake up" to who we’ve been in the last year and who we aim to become in the next one. The horn is notoriously impossible to blow, especially with its prescribed cadence and strength. Try it some time: it's really hard. Synagogues troll for the brave souls who can actually pull it off without making the congregation cringe at the sad attempts that emit tense toots or dying wails.
This year, I'm committed to fulfilling the commandment of hearing the shofar blast not only on the new year itself, but on nearly every morning of the Hebrew month of Elul, the weeks of self-examination that begin before Rosh Hashanah and end on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement).
So I’m standing at the kitchen sink, spewing tap water ineptly as my children look at me askance. My seventeen-year-old son, Ben, picks up the tawny plastic horn. "Let me try."
We hope that we've already convinced you to pre-order My Jewish Year. But as we mentioned last month, there will be giveaways in the coming months, too. We'll be sure to report on those in future newsletters and on social media. You can also go to the book's page on the site, click that green button and put My Jewish Year on your "want-to-read" shelf today. That way, Goodreads will alert you to a giveaway even faster than we're able to!
Don't Forget About Our Blog!
Miss us between newsletters? In addition to our frequent posts on social media, we maintain a blog, where we share news, updates, and other information on a weekly basis. Be sure to check out our series featuring past winners of the Edward Lewis Wallant Award, a prize named in memory of the author of The Pawnbroker. The blog is also where we share new online discoveries relating to American Jewish Experience (AJE), broadly defined.
This week, we have an especially happy announcement about Jessamyn Hope's Safekeeping posted there, too. Go take a look—FigTreeBooks.net/blog. (And we love comments!)
From all of us at Fig Tree Books: May you and yours be blessed with a happy and healthy 5777.