Book Group

The TAS Book Group meets in the Library/Chapel on the second Thursday of the month from September through June. The sole exception is the April 3, 2014 meeting, which will take place on the first Thursday of that month. Books are selected on the basis of their Jewish content and/or author, and represent a broad cross-section of fiction and non-fiction appealing to men and women alike. Refreshments and socializing begin at 7:00 pm, and the discussion starts promptly at 7:30 pm. While there is no membership requirement to the Book Group, a $5 donation per person per meeting is requested.


Phyllis and Hal Bass

The following is the 2013-14 reading list, with meeting dates and facilitators:

September 12: American Pastoral, by Philip Roth (1998 Pulitzer Prize for fiction). Allan Katcher, facilitator.

It is the late 1960s and Seymour “Swede” Levov seems to have achieved the American dream. Comfortably ensconced in his inherited glove business, he has succeeded in marrying a Miss New Jersey, and he is secure in his self-image as a former star athlete. But Levov’s world begins to come apart as Newark goes up in flames, his daughter falls prey to the extreme counterculture, and women stop wearing gloves.

October 10: When Grant Expelled the Jews, by Jonathan D. Sarna. Cathy Meyers, facilitator.

After his infamous General Order No. 11, which expelled the Jews from areas under his command, Ulysses S. Grant as our 18th president was surprisingly inclusive of Jews in his administration and highly respectful of the Jewish community.

November 14: Brothers Emanuel: A Memoir of an American Family, by Ezekiel Emanuel. Tyree Wieder, facilitator.

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, the older brother of Rahm Emanuel, has written a highly readable account of his fascinating, enormously successful family—three hyperactive sons who couldn’t spell, a mother who became a civil rights activist, and their outspoken, ebullient Israeli-born pediatrician father.

December 12: In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family’s Life in Hitler’s Berlin, by Erik Larson. Hal Bass, facilitator.

Larson skillfully recounts the career of the American ambassador to Germany, William Dodd, from 1933 to 1937, when Dodd, his wife, son, and his 20-something daughter Martha lived in Berlin. Dodd’s expressions of growing pessimism over the Nazi regime are largely ignored by an anti-Semitic State Department. Meanwhile, vivacious and seductive Martha gets caught up in the glamour of the social scene and has numerous liaisons, including one with Gestapo head Rudolf Diels.

January 9: Marc Chagall, by Jonathan Wilson. Barbara Vosen, facilitator.

A revealing biography of the personal and public life of a very complex man. While he painted nostalgic representations of the shtetl, Chagall evoked controversy among Jews for his depictions of the suffering Jesus and other Christian subjects.

February 13: Beyond Hitler’s Grasp: The Heroic Rescue of Bulgaria’s Jews, by Michael Bar-Zohar. Gloria Katcher, facilitator.

On March 9, 1943 and the following weeks, a small country in the Balkans dared say “No” to Hitler. The story demonstrates the combined efforts of King Boris of Bulgaria, the leaders of the Orthodox Church, and the cooperation of almost all of the Bulgarians in saving the 50,000 Bulgarian Jews from annihilation. Thus, Bulgaria earned the distinction of being the only Axis-aligned country which did not deport its Jews.

March 20: The Tin Horse, by Janice Steinberg. Phyllis Bass, facilitator. 

A multigenerational story about the intense, often fraught bonds between sisters, mothers and daughters, and the profound ways in which we are shaped by those we love. The novel takes us back to life in Jewish Boyle Heights prior to World War II, as an 85-year-old retired lawyer confronts the disappearance of her twin sister in 1939. This multi-generational novel rises to a surprising, well-calibrated climactic end.

April 3: Once We Were Brothers, by Ronald H. Balson. Howard Schnee, facilitator.

Elliott Rosenzweig is an elderly, prominent and philanthropic Jew living in Chicago. While attending opening night at the opera, he is confronted by a man with a gun claiming that Rosenzweig was actually an SS officer during WWII. This is a legal thriller and a poignant look back at life in a small Polish city during the Nazi occupation.

May 8: The Haunted Smile: The Story of Jewish Comedians in America, by Lawrence J. Epstein. Allan Katcher, facilitator.

A chronicle of the contribution of Jewish comedians from vaudeville and silent films to the present day, this is a humorous, thoughtful and at times painful story.

June 19: Defending Jacob, by William Landay. Sherry Lucks, facilitator.

Assistant District Attorney Andy Barber is shocked by the murder of a 14-year-old boy. But when his own son, Jacob, the victim’s classmate, is accused of that murder, Andy’s world is turned upside down. Riveting courtroom drama alternates with revealing portraits of family and community life in a suburban Massachusetts town. The novel raises serious questions as to how we parent and to what extent we can protect our children.

For further information, please contact Phyllis Bass at