This is the “short story” issue, fifteen short works (2-4 pages) many of which read more like memoirs or personal essays than fiction, and they may be (genres are not identified). They are direct in their intention to be “reflections of Jewish thought.” Half have titles that announce their Jewish-ness in one way or another (“Post-Abrahamic,” “Tekiah Gedola: The Strongest Call,” “Mamala,” “Zaydie the Courageous,” “A True Hillel and Shamai Story,” “Yom Kippur,” “Israel Journey, ’94 Heart”), and all have overtly Jewish themes of one type or another: one’s relationship to Israel; the portrait of a grandparent as an example of Jewish life as it used to be; differences in Jewish practice or belief between parents and children; the experience of Holocaust Survivors; memories of synagogue services; relationships with Christian neighbors; coping with aging parents; the changing nature of Jewish families.
“Struggling to Do the Right Thing,” by Alan D. Busch, is reflective of much of the prose, straightforward and unadorned: “I monitored his decline by the waning strength of his handshake. He had such powerful hands. No longer able to speak, his silence spoke to me. There was nothing more to say.”
My favorite piece in the issue is Howard R. Wolf’s “Gardens,” which begins: “This is a New York story. I need not say ‘city’ since that’s what New York means to just about everyone in the world, except people from Gasport and Lesotho. One group clings to the glory days of the Erie Canal, the other lives beyond the Maluti Mountains.” Wolf knows how to capture my attention, draw me in, tease me enough to keep reading, and rewards me for taking the bait. His voice is appealing and a little show-offy, but not pushy, and the narrative pays off, taking me somewhere (the story does actually involve a trip) I didn’t know I wanted to go, which is my idea of what makes a good story.