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Reading Jewish Books

Thursday, November 30, 2017 • 12 Kislev 5778

12:30 PM - 2:00 PMJewish Community Center of Greater Columbus

We will be discussing the book, "As Close to Us As Breathing" by Elizabeth Poliner.

Lunch (optional) is $10. RSVP to Cheryl Dritz or Elaine Tenenbaum

This novel about a sprawling but close-knit Jewish family opens with narrator, Molly Syrkin, at 12 years old, laying out the single complicating event: "The summer of 1948 my brother Davey was killed in an accident." The details of the tragedy are withheld until the very end in what is presumably an attempt to inject suspense into the story line.

What we learn immediately is that the particular summer in question, like most summers for this family, was spent in and around the great democratizing solace of American Jews, the ocean. Coney Island is probably best known as the American Jewish summer beach, but Poliner shines a light on a lesser known attraction, the so-classed Bagel Beach along the Connecticut shore, where for a few months each summer, a kind of Catskill-by-the-Sea sprang up — replete with shops, cottages and the usual rainbow of Semite-specific anxieties.

Poliner treats the summer of 1948 as if it were the hub of a wheel which extend spokes of increasing significance through the power of family disaster. The challenges: many. Sisters estranged. Love frustrated by duty. Marriages fail. A boy dies. Still, individuals persevere to lead remarkable lives. We witness the characters responding to social changes, to their own maturing and aging, to their own sense of thwarted destiny. And we ask: what do you owe your parents, your people, your creator? what do you owe yourself? when have you paid enough?

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Sat, December 15 2018 7 Tevet 5779