BEST JEWISH WRITING 2002

Michael Lerner, Editor, Susannah Heschel, Preface by
Michael Lerner, Editor, Susannah Heschel, Preface by . Jossey-Bass $16.95 (416p) ISBN 978-0-7879-6210-4
Reviewed on: 07/22/2002
Release date: 07/01/2002
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Although the title of this book indicates the nature of its contents, it is potentially misleading. Instead of the conventional meaning of "best" as the greatest degree of excellence, editor Lerner offers his own idiosyncratic definition: "I use 'best' to mean 'most significant,' that is, writing that shapes or has the capacity to reveal the underlying issues facing Jews today." Lerner, a leader of the Jewish Renewal movement, selected 32 essays, 12 poems and eight book excerpts for inclusion in this volume. Unfortunately, his definition of "most significant" turns out to be a restricted one. The choices seem biased in favor of writers who share Lerner's own view of Judaism, social change and the world. Worse yet, 11 of the essays first appeared in Tikkun magazine, which is edited by Lerner, who also founded it. Such a narrow sampling is not representative of the fullness of the excellent recent literature on Judaism, and the particular slant toward Lerner's own flagship publication is troubling. Although many of the writers are obscure, some well-known authors are represented: Arthur Waskow, Wendy Wasserstein, Adrienne Rich, Chaim Potok and Amos Oz, for example. The excerpts from Wendy Wasserstein's autobiographical essays, Shiksa Goddess, and Chaim Potok's Old Men at Midnight are particularly outstanding. As a whole, however, this anthology is crippled by its insularity. (Sept.)

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