Rabbi James Rosenberg

Rabbi James RosenbergWhen my father and I would drive “down the shore” on New Jersey’s Garden State Parkway, heading for a boat that would take us to where the bluefish were running, occasionally we would go far enough south to pass the exit for Double Trouble Picnic Area. Whenever he happened to see that sign, my father would make the same ironic comment: “Double trouble … a Negro Jew.”

Read more: Time to reengage?

Rabbi James RosenbergI found my way via a footnote in the Jan. 9, 2014, issue of “The New York Review of Books” to an essay by jazz pianist Brad Mehldau, “Coltrane, Jimi Hendrix, Beethoven and God.” With a title like that, how could I not read it?

The essay, which first appeared in the August 2010 issue of “The Scope Magazine,” is every bit as challenging and provocative as its title; for Mehldau has taken upon himself the difficult task of exploring the complex interrelationship between art – in particular music – and religion. He begins by suggesting that music and religious experience are, at their most authentic, infused with a sense of the sublime.

Read more: Coltrane, Jimi Hendrix, Beethoven and God

Rabbi James RosenbergIn 1995 Kay Redfield Jamison, Professor of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, published “An Unquiet Mind,” a breakthrough book on the subject of manic-depressive illness – today, most often referred to as “bipolar disorder.” What makes this book so special is that the author makes public her “private experience of madness” from a dual perspective: she tells her story from the subjective standpoint of a woman who has suffered from the disease for more than 30 years; at the same time she writes with the “objective” eye of a world-renowned expert in mood disorders in general and manic-depressive illness in particular.

Read more: A very narrow bridge

Rabbi James RosenbergAri Shavit’s “My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel” is a bittersweet love letter addressed to all those who want to see Israel succeed as a democratic Jewish state.

The subtitle suggests why bitter (“Tragedy”) and why sweet (“Triumph”).

Shavit, born in Rehovot in 1956, is a respected columnist for Haaretz and a popular commentator on Israeli public television. He has taken well over 400 pages to offer an exhaustive account of the slow transformation of the Zionist dream into a richly complex but problematic reality. His book is wise, nuanced, and honest; the author is not afraid to focus upon the heartbreaking and deeply troubling moral compromises that have accompanied the creation of the State of Israel.

Read more: Ari Shavit’s bittersweet love letter to fans of Israel

Rabbi James Rosenberg

The German/English “Berlin & City Guide” (No. 6, 2013) contains an article entitled “Remembering the terror,” which begins with the following sentence: “Berlin’s theme year ‘Diversity Destroyed’ encompasses not only the Nazis’ rise to power in 1933 but also remembers the November pogroms of 1938, when all over Germany synagogues were burned and desecrated and the persecution of the Jews reached new heights.” The writer goes on to direct tourists to various locations in Berlin, which promote the memory of “the terror” – in particular, the persecution of the Jews.

Read more: Berlin: a city that lives with the dead