Book Reviews

Words of Wisdom

Ze’ev Jabotinsky

Writer and Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky, born October 17, 1880.

A thought on the vitality, strength, and particularity of the Hebrew language.10-17 Jabotinsky


Nachum Gutman

Celebrating the life and work of artist Nachum Gutman, born October 15, 1898.

10-5 Nachum Gutman
Nachum Gutman mosaic wall at Shalom Tower, where the old Herzliya Gymnasium once stood; detail showing orchards and a saqiya fountain outside old Jaffa. By יעל י [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons
More information, including references, images, and links to more of his work can be found at



Jewish Text Art Challenge Galleries

My Bow In The Cloud – A Covenant

blog coverThe Jewish Text Art Challenge for the Hebrew month of Cheshvan comes from the book of Breishit (Genesis 9:16) which we read this week as part of the portion of Noah.

The flood has ended and Noah is looking for re-assurance – a sign from God that there is hope for the survival of the newly re-created world.

The bow in the cloud – the rainbow – becomes this symbol of connection between God and creation. It is a covenant, a promise of a future.

Over the course of this month we hope that you will find inspiration from the works and ideas connected with this verse, both those that we share, and those which are brought to us by our communities.

Book Reviews, Literature

Memento Park – Mark Sarvas

Memento ParkMark Sarvas’ acclaimed novel Memento Park centers around the mystery of ownership – a painting, a family, and a past.

Readers meet the protagonist, Matt Santos, who has just learned that he *might* be the rightful heir of a valuable painting that disappeared during the Holocaust. Hesitant but intrigued by the possibility that the painting did belong to his family, Matt follows the threads of his father’s stories back to his native Hungary, and the family and secrets left behind.

More than recounting the now familiar story of stolen European art, Sarvas focuses on the intimate questions of how Matt Santos understands his family’s history and how this understanding frames his actions, and ultimately his future. Santos’ family story is not a particularly heroic one. His relationship with his father has always been strained, with hurt and frustration long-standing pillars on both sides. Santos approaches his father and everything to do with the painting as he would taking off a band-aid – however he does it, it’s going to hurt. But Santos is an actor, and brings a constant tension to the narrative as readers untangle how much of his actions are sincere, and which elements might be performative.

Happily, Sarvas’ excellent writing saves Santos from being an angry, nebbishy, caricature of the suffering son. Sarvas gives Santos and his other characters enough flaws to to be human, but not so many as to be truly disagreeable. His clear and uncluttered writing style is an especially good match for the voices of Santos and his father, while keeping the narrative going at a solid pace.

A basic knowledge of 20th century Hungarian history and a quick glance at the country’s map are more than enough to be able to follow along with the action. Sarvas ably steers readers through the events and settings that underpin the story, as well as any necessary Hungarian language.

Memento Park is most likely to appeal to those who appreciate well-written fiction, especially with some globe-trotting and historical twists. An interest in the post-war American immigrant experience and the Hungarian community is a strong bonus. This book will be best enjoyed with a cup of hot coffee and fresh strudel.