J-BOM: The Lost, An Introduction

J-BOM (Jewish Book of the Month) is about reading great Jewish books, one per month, and doing it together in many locations and in community. More than a dozen bloggers participate (see bottom of post for a list). This is a Messianic Jewish communal undertaking and we hope you will join us in reading.

The May selection will be The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million by Daniel Mendehlson.

The June selection will be As a Driven Leaf by Milton Steinberg.

The July selection will be Chaim Potok’s The Promise.

The August selection will be The Last of the Just by Andre Schwarz-Bart.

For September, please send your suggestions. We’d like to do S.Y. Agnon, Days of Awe, but it is out of print and only available in limited quantity online (unless someone knows it is available elsewhere).

As a young boy, Daniel Mendehlson couldn’t help but notice that his elderly relatives often cried when he came to visit. Something about seeing his face brought a tear to their eyes and they whispered to each other something about Shmiel.

Daniel Mendehlson is a literary critic — especially writing for the New York Magazine, the New Yorker, and the New York Times — whose education is in classical literature and whose specialty is the Greek tragedies. His first book was The Elusive Embrace, a memoire reflecting on his homosexual identity, his family history, and themes from classical literature.

Mendehlson might seem a strange choice of author for a Messianic Jewish book club reading great Jewish books. But The Lost is a brilliantly written international bestseller chronicling Mendehlson’s search for the history of six of his family members killed in the Holocaust. Mendehlson writes with an honest style that captures and fascinates the reader with perceptive details and he shares with the reader a bond of common human experience.

In the opening scene, Mendehlson shares his experiences visiting his grandfather and other elderly relatives in Miami Beach. You don’t have to be Jewish, or to have Miami Jewish relatives, to relate to the uneasy feelings of a little boy, obligated to kiss his senior family members on the cheek before heading out back to the apartment swimming pool on every visit.

Shmiel, it turns out, was his grandfather’s brother, who was killed, along with his wife and four daughters in the Holocaust. Mendehlson, it seems, looks just like his long-departed uncle. Mendehlson researched the details of what happened to Shmiel (Samuel J

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