June 24, 2024
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June 24, 2024
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Englewood’s Emunah Book Club Going Strong After 20 Years

They hailed from Brooklyn; Denver, Colorado and even Waco, Texas. They had family in Englewood, whose members, mostly daughters, believed that they should live “closer to the kids.” And so they did. But simply residing close by was not enough, so the idea of forming a book club for the recent “emigres” was suggested. Thus, 20 years ago under the auspices of Emunah Women of America, the Englewood Book Club, facilitated by Barbara Blumenthal, came into being. Fast forward 20 years, and the 13 members who attend the book club range in age from 80 to 94.

The meetings are held once monthly in a member’s home. Some of the women drive themselves to their hostess’ home. They all participate in the discussion of the book of the month, which includes all genres. Classics read include works by Jane Austin, F. Scott Fitzgerald, E.M. Forster, Philip Roth, I.B. Singer and most recently Anzia Yezierska, author of the classic Jewish immigrant story “The Breadgivers.” Recently the group worked through a particularly challenging existential novel, “The Friend,” by Sigrid Nunez. The group has enjoyed discussing Israeli literature by authors including Aharon Appelfeld (“The Conversion,” “Suddenly Love”), Assaf Gavron (“The Hilltop”), Ayelet Gundar-Goshen (“Waking Lions”), Meir Shalev (“A Pigeon and a Boy,” “Four Meals”), A.B. Yehoshua (“Journey to the End of the Millenium,” “Friendly Fire,” “A Woman in Jerusalem”) and Eshkol Nevo (“Three Floors Up”). The group has read all the works of Nathan Englander, a well-known Jewish-American writer of short stories.

On the rare occasion that the participants did not read the selected book or disliked it, a vibrant discussion ensues as to why it did not appeal to them. As they sit around the dining room table, indulging in the collation, the women share insights garnered over many years of life experience. They love getting out of their houses and spending time with like-minded women with whom they can “agree to disagree.”

Barbara Blumenthal, who has been facilitating the group for Emunah Women since its inception, is originally from Cleveland, Ohio, where she majored in American literature as an undergraduate and then went on to earn an MSW. She has worked as a social worker/therapist in the Hudson County public school system. She is a avid reader who, as her husband commented, “eats books.”

Blumenthal finds these women, ranging in age from 80 to 94, absolutely remarkable. “We are doing a great service. Through our semi-annual donations to Emunah, we are helping that vital organization along. But by getting together monthly, we are providing these ‘super seniors’ with the opportunity to exchange ideas, communicate with each other about lives lived and share lessons for life. I prepare extensively for these meetings as inevitably, the ladies raise interesting points that have to be addressed properly.”

For Sylvia Freyer, a longstanding member of the book club, it is an integral part of her life. She looks forward to reading the stimulating literature selected by the group and most of all to getting together for discussion. “The book club has kept us together for these 20 years and hopefully for many more years to come. We share each others’ nachat and have become like family.”

Others members of the group are Sylvia (Dubby) Eisman, Elinor Grayzel, Hana Goldberg, Benita Gross, Geraldine Kalter, Ronnie Krimsky, Serena Neumann, Mollie Siegel, Pearl Stillman and Pearl Zuckerbrot.

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