Bob Mankoff, cartoon and humor editor for Esquire, former New Yorker cartoon editor, and author of the memoir How About Never—Is Never Good For You?, introduces this collection of his favorite Jewish cartoons, Have I Got a Cartoon for You! (MomentBooks, $19.95), by quipping that the People of the Book are also “the People of the Joke.” Exploring how Jewish humorists have drawn on traditions such us Talmudic disputation for material, Mankoff surveys the long tradition of Jewish humor and the cartoon’s place in it and refl ects on how his own Jewish heritage—which included early experiences of Borscht Belt comedians like Jerry Lewis and Buddy Hackett—shaped his career as a cartoonist.
Here All Along (Spiegel & Grau, $28) is a little literary gem. The author, Sarah Hurwitz, is a lawyer-turned-speechwriter who landed in the Obama White House and penned most of First Lady Michelle Obama’s speeches. Toward the end of the administration, after breaking up with a boyfriend, Hurwitz was looking for ways to fill her evenings and a friend suggested a class on Judaism at the Jewish community center. She went, and thus began a several-year plunge into a religion she had only been exposed to through Hebrew school and her Bat Mitzvah. Hurwitz spent thousands of hours studying ancient texts, querying rabbis and scholars, and debating with herself about the contradictions and paradoxes of Judaism as she explored how to apply its ethical teachings day-to-day. Hurwitz is a fluid, eloquent writer whose humility, honesty, and humor infuse each page, whether she is discussing conflicting interpretations of Jewish ritual and prayer or her own (often hilarious) adventures as she rediscovers the meaning and place of Judaism in her life. By the way, you don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy and learn from this wonderful book.
Author Sarah Hurwitz was busy writing First Lady Michelle Obama’s speeches when she was re-introduced to Judaism, a religion she had only known through Hebrew school and her Bat Mitzvah. Inspired to look more deeply into her missing religious faith in her thirties, she spent thousands of hours studying ancient Jewish texts, querying rabbis and scholars, and debating with herself about the contradictions and paradoxes of Judaism as she explored how to apply its ethical teachings in her own life. Her book is the story of her poignant and often hilarious journey, conveyed in elegant and fluid prose and infused with humility, candor, and profound sensibility.