The next Emanuel Congregation author event on Tuesday evening, May 21 at 7:00 p.m. features Rosellen Brown, the distinguished author whose novels include Tender Mercies, Before and After and Civil Wars. Her stories have appeared in numerous literary publications including Best American Short Stories, Best Short Stories of the Century and the O. Henry Prize Stories.
She will discuss her most recent novel, The Lake on Fire, which superbly depicts the class and cultural tensions that were pervasive in Chicago just before, during and slightly after the Columbian Exposition of 1893. Worker discontent in the city was still simmering in the aftermath of the deadly clashes of the Battle of the Viaduct in 1877 and the Haymarket Affair of 1886. Economic conditions and labor strife were worsening because of the Panic of 1893, which soon led to a depression.
Ms. Brown embodies these tensions magnificently in the characters of Chaya-Libbe Shaderowsky and her younger brother Asher, and Gregory Stillman and his brother Ned. Chaya and Asher are Jews whose poor family had left Eastern Europe for a better life in America. Gregory and Ned are born with “a silver spoon in their mouths” and are part of Chicago’s economic and cultural elite. Yet the author brilliantly weaves a narrative spiced with romance, idealism, greed and violence where these four characters’ lives are inextricably connected with each other.
The teeming Maxwell Street Market surrounded by tenements and sweat shops come alive in this book. Asher’s gutsy escapades on the Midway during the Exposition keep the reader amazed and surprised. The inclusion of historical personages in the story, especially Jane Addams, is truly a delight. The Lake on Fire is a must read for any lover of Chicago historical fiction.
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Bob Riesman, the author of I Feel So Good: The Life and Times of Big Bill Broonzy, will discuss his book and show the BBC documentary film: Big Bill Broonzy: The Man Who Brought the Blues to Britain, in which he served as the consultant, at Emanuel Congregation, 5959 N. Sheridan, on the morning of Sunday, February 24 starting at 10:30.
Both the book and film explore Big Bill’s career from his rise as a nationally prominent blues star in the 1930s, to his influential role in the post-World War Two folk revival. Big Bill’s overseas tour in the 1950s had a great influence on Pete Townshend and Eric Clapton and helped ignite the British blues-rock explosion of the 1960s.
Both Bob and his book were inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in Memphis last year.
The program is free and open to the public. RSVP at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At Emanuel Congregation this evening, our Rabbi, Craig Marantz, wove the words and wisdom of Amos Oz into the narrative of the service. Oz, the great Israeli author, passed away earlier in the day. May his memory be a blessing. Here are some passages from Oz that Rabbi Marantz shared with us this evening:
“I find the family the most mysterious and fascinating institution in the world.”
“Fundamentalists live life with an exclamation point. I prefer to live my life with a question mark.”
“A conflict begins and ends in the hearts and minds of people, not in the hilltops.”
“Two children of the same cruel parent look at one another and see in each other the image of the cruel parent or the image of their past oppressor. This is very much the case between Jew and Arab: It’s a conflict between two victims.”
A New York Times review of Devin Murphy’s recent debut novel The Boat Runner states that the book is “deadly earnest, full of discomfiting nuance.” It is a first-person narrative of a young Dutchman still in his teens, Jacob Koopman, who becomes a Nazi soldier during the Second World War, and his grappling with the guilt of his decisions and actions during and after the war.
Murphy’s actual family connections and his past work experience need to be understood behind his motivation in writing the book. His mother was born in Nazi- occupied Holland in 1942. The author married into a Jewish family, and his children are being raised Jewish. His wife’s two living grandfathers are both American veterans of the Second World War. Murphy himself worked at sea for three plus years in his early twenties.
Now an assistant professor of creative writing at Bradley University, Murphy has crafted a book that explores Jacob’s odyssey into the hellish life that he chose for himself. It’s a fast-paced story, describing Jacob’s harrowing adventures. But one ponders the question that the New York Times reviewer asks at the end of her review: “Are there actions that simply remain unforgivable?”
Devin Murphy will be speaking at Emanuel Congregation, 5959 N. Sheridan Road in Chicago on Sunday morning, January 14 at 10:15. The event is free and open to the public. Copies of the book will be available for purchase. Please contact me at email@example.com if you plan on attending.
Berit Engen will be speaking and presenting some of her remarkable tapestries at Emanuel Congregation on Sunday morning, November 19, at 10:15, the weekend before the Thanksgiving holiday. These miniature tapestries were inspired by a musical setting to “Modim,” a Hebrew prayer of thanksgiving, that was composed by the Norwegian-born cantor Cavid Brandhandler. This event is free and open to the public. Emanuel is located at 5959 N. Sheridan Road in Chicago.
Berit who was born and raised in Oslo, Norway and began weaving as a child, and now she combines this ancient craft with the centuries-old tradition of expounding on Jewish texts, (in Hebrew, drash.) Her ongoing project, begun in 2007, consists, to date, of about 500 original pieces.
While referencing Jewish subject-matter, her pieces often display a Scandinavian sensibility, as found in Nordic nature, architecture and design. She compares her small-scale tapestries to Japanese Haiku: formally constrained by a miniature size – imagistic and focused, yet elusive.
Eighty-six of her tapestries were shown in a solo exhibition at the Spertus Institute in Chicago, 2012-2013. In 2015, she was selected to participate in the Midwest Jewish Arts Lab (MJAL), a one-year project of Chicago-based Jewish artists, organized by Spertus Institute and funded by the Covenant Foundation, fostering Jewish art and identity and culminating in the group exhibition, “Voices of Wisdom,” 2016-2017. Three tapestries are part of the permanent collection of the Chicago History Museum, and her “Woof and D’rash” project has been featured in Lilith magazine. She is a founding member of Jewish Artists Collaborative Chicago, (JACC).
A member of Oak Park Temple in Oak Park, Berit teaches children and adults Biblical Hebrew, prayers, and cantillation.
Congregation Emanuel, located on the Lakefront, at 5959 N. Sheridan is launching its 2017-18 Speakers Series this fall. Programs are free and open to the public. This year’s series is dedicated to Emanuel’s late Rabbi Herman Schaalman, whose insatiable intellectual curiosity inspired so many over the years.
The first speaker is New York Times bestselling author Jonathan Eig, whose recently published book, Ali: A Life is being acclaimed as the most definite biography of the iconic Muhammad Ali. The author interviewed more than five hundred people who knew Ali, giving us a powerful and compelling personal account of the man known as “The Greatest.” Mr. Eig’s presentation is Sunday, September 24, at 11:15 am.
On Sunday, October 8 , Dean Jobb, the author of Empire of Deception, speaks at 10:15 am. The book is subtitled “The Incredible Story of a Master Swindler Who Seduced a City and Captivated the Nation.” That master swindler, back in Chicago’s Jazz Age, was Congregation Emanuel member, Leo Koretz, whose investors included at least six prominent Emanuel members as well as congregational Rabbi Felix Levy. Please rsvp by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org for either one or both of these events.
Ethan Michaeli is the next featured presenter this year in Emanuel Congregation’s Sunday morning lecture series on April 30 at 10:30. Mr. Michaeli, is the author of the highly acclaimed book The Defender: How the Legendary Black Newspaper Changed America, which was named as a Notable Book of 2016 by the New York Times. His presentation at Emanuel however will focus on the new book he is writing entitled Twelve Tribes: Promise and Peril in the New Israel. In this book he weaves together “the personal histories of Holocaust survivors, tech millionaires, Torah scholars, Ethiopian immigrants, Russian refuseniks, West Bank settlers and Palestinians into a narrative of social and political change.” The lecture is free and open to the public. Emanuel Congregation is located at 5959 N. Sheridan Road in Chicago’s Edgewater community.