Announcing our Book Club Selections for 2019-2020

This summer we announced the launch of the JFN Book Club, in partnership with the Jewish Book Council. Our Book Club will give members a chance to engage in real depth with some of the most important voices and ideas in the Jewish and philanthropic world. We'll convene three times online, and once in person at the conference, to discuss each book and connect with one another as we integrate what we're learning into our philanthropic practice. There's no commitment necessary; join one discussion or join them all.

We're thrilled to announce the first four book selections and meeting dates. Authors will be joining our discussions, so be sure to mark your calendars!

You can RSVP below for the first two Club meetings, and please join us at the JFN conference in Palm Beach for the third.

We had so many amazing suggestions from members — see all the recommendations here — and we're looking forward to discussing these four extraordinary books together over the year as a Jewish philanthropic community.

And now: to the books!

Book 1: Changing the World from the Inside Out: A Jewish Approach to Personal & Social Change

By David Jaffe

Discussion, featuring the author (Online via Zoom): Tuesday, December 3, 2019, 12:00pm – 1:00pm EST

Please note: while everyone is encouraged to read the entire book, the discussion will focus chiefly on two chapters: Chapter 4 ("The Power of Choice") and Chapter 7 ("Creative Discomfort").


About the book:

Winner, 2016 Jewish Book Council Award for Contemporary Jewish Life & Practice

An inspiring and accessible guide, drawn from Jewish wisdom, for building the inner qualities necessary to work effectively for social justice.

The world needs changing—and you’re just the person to do it!  It’s a matter of cultivating the inner resources you already have. If you are serious about working for social justice and change, this book will help you bring your most compassionate, wise, and courageous self to the job.

Bringing positive social change to any system takes deep self-awareness, caring, determination, and long-term commitment. But polarization, the slow pace of change, and internal conflicts among activists and organizations often leads to burnout and discouragement among the very people needed to make a difference. Changing the World from the Inside Out distills centuries of Jewish wisdom about cultivating and refining the inner life into an accessible program for building the qualities necessary to accomplish sustainable change. Through explorations of deep motivation, inner-drive, and traits like trust and anger, this book engages the reader in a journey of self-development and transformation, demonstrating that sustainable activism is indeed a spiritual practice. Jaffe offers accessible and meaningful guidance for this journey—with exercises, contemplations, and discussion points that can be used individually or in a group.

About the author:

David Jaffe is a rabbi, a social worker, and an educational consultant to many major Jewish institutions in North America. He's a nationally recognized leader in the field of Mussar and applied Jewish ethics, and he is a frequent speaker at synagogues and Jewish conferences around the country. He's spent twenty-five years teaching and working in various areas of social justice outreach, including homelessness and interfaith community organizing.

Book 2: Ben Hecht: Fighting Words, Moving Pictures

By Adina Hoffman

Discussion, featuring the author (Online via Zoom): Wednesday, January 22, 2020, 12:00pm – 1:00pm EST


About the book:

From the prizewinning Jewish Lives series, a vibrant portrait of one of the most accomplished and prolific American screenwriters, by an award-winning biographer and essayist

He was, according to Pauline Kael, “the greatest American screenwriter.” Jean-Luc Godard called him “a genius” who “invented 80 percent of what is used in Hollywood movies today.” Besides tossing off dozens of now-classic scripts—including Scarface,Twentieth Century, and Notorious—Ben Hecht was known in his day as ace reporter, celebrated playwright, taboo-busting novelist, and the most quick-witted of provocateurs. During World War II, he also emerged as an outspoken crusader for the imperiled Jews of Europe, and later he became a fierce propagandist for pre-1948 Palestine’s Jewish terrorist underground. Whatever the outrage he stirred, this self-declared “child of the century” came to embody much that defined America—especially Jewish America—in his time.
Hecht's fame has dimmed with the decades, but Adina Hoffman’s vivid portrait brings this charismatic and contradictory figure back to life on the page. Hecht was a renaissance man of dazzling sorts, and Hoffman—critically acclaimed biographer, former film critic, and eloquent commentator on Middle Eastern culture and politics—is uniquely suited to capture him in all his modes.

About the author:

Adina Hoffman is an award-winning essayist and biographer. The author of four previous books, including Till We Have Built Jerusalem: Architects of a New City and My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness: A Poet’s Life in the Palestinian Century, she lives in Jerusalem and New Haven.

Book 3: The Sacred Exchange: Creating a Jewish Money Ethic

Rabbi Mary L. Zamore (Editor)

The Sacred Exchange book cover

Discussion featuring the editor will take place in person at the JFN 2020 International Conference (March 22-24, Palm Beach, Florida)

Conference registration is not yet open as of this writing. Click here to make sure you're signed up for conference updates.

About the book:

The newest addition to the CCAR Press Challenge and Change series, this anthology creates a rich and varied discussion about the ethics of money. Our use of and relationship with money must reflect our religious values; this book aims to start a comprehensive conversation about how Judaism can guide us in this multi-faceted relationship.

Table of Contents >>

About the author:

Rabbi Mary L. Zamore is the executive director of the Women’s Rabbinic Network. As part of her work supporting and advocating for Reform women rabbis, she is co-leading the Reform Pay Equity Initiative to narrow the wage gap for all female employees of the Reform Movement. She is also the editor of The Sacred Table: Creating a Jewish Food Ethic (CCAR Press, 2011), designated a finalist by the National Jewish Book Awards. She was ordained by Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion in New York in 1997.

Book 4: Spies of No Country: Secret Lives at the Birth of Israel

By Matti Friedman

Discussion (Online via Zoom): To be scheduled in May 2020

About the book:

Award-winning writer Matti Friedman’s tale of Israel’s first spies has all the tropes of an espionage novel, including duplicity, betrayal, disguise, clandestine meetings, the bluff, and the double bluff—but it’s all true.

Journalist and award-winning author Matti Friedman’s tale of Israel’s first spies reads like an espionage novel--but it’s all true. The four agents at the center of this story were part of a ragtag unit known as the Arab Section, conceived during World War II by British spies and Jewish militia leaders in Palestine. Intended to gather intelligence and carry out sabotage operations, the unit consisted of Jews who were native to the Arab world and could thus easily assume Arab identities.

In 1948, with Israel’s existence hanging in the balance, these men went undercover in Beirut, where they spent the next two years operating out of a newsstand, collecting intelligence and sending messages back to Israel via a radio whose antenna was disguised as a clothesline. Of the dozen spies in the Arab Section at the war’s outbreak, five were caught and executed. But in the end, the Arab Section would emerge as the nucleus of the Mossad, Israel’s vaunted intelligence agency.

Spies of No Country is about the slippery identities of these young spies, but it’s also about the complicated identity of Israel, a country that presents itself as Western but in fact has more citizens with Middle Eastern roots and traditions, like the spies of this narrative. Meticulously researched and masterfully told, Spies of No Country is an eye-opening look at the paradoxes of the Middle East.

About the author:

Matti Friedman’s 2016 book Pumpkinflowers was chosen as a New York Times Notable Book and as one of Amazon’s 10 Best Books of the Year. It was selected as one of the year’s best by Booklist, Mother Jones, Foreign Affairs, the National Post, and the Globe and Mail. His first book, The Aleppo Codex, won the 2014 Sami Rohr Prize and the American Library Association’s Sophie Brody Medal. A contributor to the New York Times’ opinion page, Friedman has reported from Israel, Lebanon, Morocco, Moscow, the Caucasus, and Washington, DC, and his writing has appeared in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, and the Washington Post. Friedman grew up in Toronto and now lives with his family in Jerusalem.