The Golem and the Jinni: Our 9th Annual One Book Mishkan Series


One Enchanting Novel for our 9th Annual Series

The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker  

Magical,” “captivating,” “engrossing,” “inventive,” “elegantly-written,” “utterly unique,” “enchanting,” “provocative,” “atmospheric,” “spellbinding,” “meticulously researched,” “a continuous delight.”

Join us this year as we read this exceptional debut novel blending mythical beings from Jewish and Arab folklore with historical fiction to illuminate our own human nature. The magical Arab myth of the Jinni -- creature of fire -- and the Jewish myth of the Golem -- formed from earth -- is not a parable of Jewish/Arab conflict but of what it means to be human. The struggle to assert reason over emotion is played out as these mythical creatures interact with the citizens of New York’s Lower East Side and Little Syria, circa 1899.

Over the course of the year, we’ll explore themes of Jewish folklore, correspondences between Arab/Muslim and Jewish culture, interfaith experiences and the common ground of our shared humanity.

Programs in our 5774 series:

Book Discussion: The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker (February 23, 2014)

Facilitated by Sharon Rhode

What can a golem and a jinni, thrown together by chance in turn-of-the-century New York, teach us about being human? Are we any more skilled at balancing reason and emotion today? What resonates with our own experiences as differing cultures come in contact with one another?

Rich in ideas emerging from this astonishingly original and imaginative story, we explored these, and other, questions in our wide-ranging Book Discussion.

A Fire in the Forest: The Life and Legacy of the Baal Shem Tov (February 2, 2014)

An offering of music, Hasidic story and the viewing and discussion of the film A Fire in the Forest, led by Rabbi Shawn Zevit with guest Rabbi Jeff Eisenstat.

Filmmakers traveled to Europe with Rabbi Marc Soloway in search of the legacy of the Baal Shem Tov, and other Hasidic masters, to understand the history and ongoing impact of the early Hasidic movement of the 17th and 18th centuries.

Rabbi Jeff Eisenstat, who recently visited this part of Europe, including some of the sites in the film, also shared music and stories from his own adventure.

Read about the connections between Kabbalah, Hasidism and our One Book, The Golem and the Jinni, in November's Kol Shalom.

Saturday Night at the Movies: Paul Wegener's 1920 Silent Classic THE GOLEM (October 12, 2013)

Probably the silver screen's first 'monster movie,' this rarely-seen black-and-white silent movie classic tells the story of the creature, brought to life from clay, to protect the inhabitants of a Jewish ghetto in 16th century Prague...and what happens when Man's creation stops obeying the will of its creator. While many have seen stills from this film, most have not seen it in full. The new version offers striking cinematography with restorative tinting, vividly stylized details and a newly-composed soundtrack incorporating Jewish and folk dance melodies. Our screening was followed by a lively discussion, moderated by film buff and classicist Dr. Adam Blistein, and accompanied by popcorn, libations and yummy treats...another great Saturday night at the movies!

Panel Discussion:

The Golem and the Jinni: Jewish Science Fiction. Jewish? Science Fiction? (Saturday, April 19, 2014)

Reception with special Passover treats to follow!

Our well-loved One Book Mishkan format, the panel discussion, returns this month with a stellar cast of expert commentators set to explore a wide range of questions beginning with our One Book and building on its varied themes. We are so fortunate that longtime member, and Temple English Professor, Steve Newman agreed to convene the panel and moderate the discussion.

Steve writes the following about the topics and questions to be addressed and some background on our distinguished guests:

Three panelists well-versed in science fiction and its links to Jewish culture in the US will lead discussion on Helene Wecker's The Golem and the Jinni. In what ways is The Golem and the Jinni a Jewish novel? How is it a work of science fiction? How do these categories cross-pollinate or stand in tension with each other? How is its Jewishness complicated and enriched by the worlds the Jinni brings with him; among them Arabic folklore and the Little Syria of late-nineteenth-century New York City? What does Wecker's novel have to say to us now about the intimate and vexed relationship between Jews, Arabs, and others, both in the US and in the Middle East? These are some of the questions we look forward to addressing with you, and are eager to hear your own questions and reflections.

Todd Dashof, a graduate of the Wharton School of Business and an actuary, is the president of the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society and the past holder of numerous Board positions. An avid reader of science fiction since he was six years old, he has been attending and working science fiction conventions since he was 20 and chaired the 2001 World Science Fiction Convention (The Millennium Philcon).

Sally Wiener Grotta is an award-winning journalist who has authored many hundreds of articles, columns and reviews for scores of glossy magazines, newspapers and online publications, as well as numerous non-fiction books. A Jewish Book Council Network Author, her fiction includes Jo Joe, and the soon-to-be-published The Winter Boy.

Josh Lukin has published interviews with four radical science fiction writers, including the great Jewish satirist Phil Klass (a.k.a. William Tenn). He is the editor of It Walks in Beauty: Selected Prose of Chandler Davis, a book collecting stories and essays by an innovative Cold War-era science fiction writer and peace activist. A regular presenter at WisCon: The Feminist Science Fiction Convention, he teaches in Temple University's English Department.

Steve Newman is an associate professor of English at Temple University where he specializes in British literature of the Long Eighteenth Century and questions of valuation. He is interested in discussions about the state of the academy and the value of the humanities, organizing academic labor, community-based learning and the literature of Philadelphia. He is the author of Ballad Collection, Lyric, and the Canon: The Call of the Popular from the Restoration to the New Criticism and editor of Temple’s Faculty Herald. Next year, an essay of his will be published on growing up Jewish in the South Florida suburbs.

Download the program flyer to e-mail and post.

Open to the public. All Welcome. Donations Encouraged.

Longing & (A Little) Laughter: An Evening of Jewish & Arabic Folk Culture (Saturday, May 3, 2014)

One Book Mishkan & One Book, One Jewish Community Joint Program

Reception with Jewish & Arabic treats to follow.

A very special evening of music, poetry readings, theatrical performances and more as we explore themes of longing for home and homeland found in both our One Book Mishkan selection, The Golem and the Jinni and the city-wide One Book, One Jewish Community selection, The Wanting.

Members of Mishkan Shalom will perform and we’re delighted to welcome, once again, Makhelat Micha’el: The Mishkan Community Choir. Having enhanced many One Book Mishkan programs over the years, we are especially pleased to present the choir’s first concert performance at Mishkan under the direction of new conductor Miriam Davidson.

Open to the public. All Welcome. Suggested Donation $10.00.

Download the program flyer to e-mail and post.

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