Monday, January 04, 2010

My Name in Books

I keep forgetting to tell you all: I'm in two new books!

1- The good folks behind Taglit-Birthright partnered with Nextbook (the folks behind Tablet magazine) to create an Israel Travel Companion, an untraditional guidebook which will be distributed to Taglit-Birthright participants. The book assumes that the reader does not need information on hotels and restaurants, since they are being taken around by tour organizers, but that they DO need contextual information for the sites they see. Too many participants were coming back to their hotels at night and asking "What was the name of the king who built that site we saw today, again?" or "That site we're seeing tomorrow ...what is it, and where is it in relation to where we are now?"

So the book contains maps and a historical timeline. For each region of the country, there is an introduction to that region (written by Yours Truly) about the area's climate; population; historical, religious and/or economic significance; and other interesting facts that differentiate the area from the rest of Israel. Then there are pages devoted to the sites that are typically included in a Taglit-Birthright itinerary; a profile of an Israeli who lives in that region and represents its zeitgeist; an exerpt from a piece of literature connected to the area; and some sort of vocabulary guide (for example, names of the historical figures after whom large streets in Tel Aviv are named).

I personally think this book should be marketed to any and all new tourists to Israel. It's an excellent tool for putting Israel's sites into their respective geographical and cultural contexts. I'm very proud to have been part of this, and hope that the Taglit-Birthright participants enjoy it.

2- The Targum Shlishi Foundation in Florida recently published a book containing profiles of Jews from around the world who, in various ways, have impacted the Jewish world for the better. From rabbis to artists to activists, these are interesting and inspiring people worth knowing about. I was assigned two of the profiles, about Dr. Avivah Zornberg and about Rachel Azaria. These are two fascinating women with compelling stories, so I enjoyed this assignment thoroughly.

Unfortunately, the book has one of the most. specious. titles. evar. It is called Jewish Sages of Today.


Now, the people included in this book are indeed extraordinary. Rachel Azaria, for example, is a driven activist who put the issue of mesoravot get into the consciousness of many Members of Knesset, and helped change Mavoi Satum from a social services organization to one that is also driving political change. She's now on the Jerusalem City Council.

But is she a sage? I think she'd be the first to say that she's not. Even Dr. Zornberg, who is one of the few profilees who is actually a Torah scholar, expressed major reservations with the title. And Gary Rosenblatt? A terrific editor, yes (disclosure: also a client of mine). A man holding a sensitive but important role in the Jewish world, yes. A good guy? Yes. A sage? No. Who knows what the publishers were thinking.

But anyhow, it's an interesting book, if you can get your hands on a copy. It's already out of print, but you can get one through various sellers at Amazon, and I see that a few copies are up for auction at eBay right now.

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