Jewish Tales of Love and Marriage
By Sandy Eisenberg Sasso and Peninnah Schram
Rowman and Littlefield, £24.95
Reviewed by Rabbi Sylvia Rothschild
Written by a storyteller and a rabbi, this anthology of love stories and letters is a curious hybrid that offers stories of love from biblical and midrashic texts through fantastical folk stories and then moves to the letters of some well-known and some obscure Jewish personalities of the 19th and 20th centuries.
It offers a slightly voyeuristic insight into the relationships of people including Captain and Mrs Dreyfus, Martin and Paula Buber and , most interesting to this reviewer, Rabbi Joseph Norden and Rabbi Regina Jonas.
Then come a selection of contemporary love stories, some poignant, some funny, some inspirational, some mundane — a good reminder that loving relationships come in all kinds of contexts and are for all sorts of people.
And finally comes a chapter urging the reader to reflect on and record their own significant relationships, with guidance on how to do so.
It is not clear to me exactly who this book is written for, or in what circumstances one would pick it up. In the first flush of a love affair no one else is as interesting as one’s own beloved. The sufferer from a soured love affair will not be consoled or informed by what they will find within the pages.
It is not designed for scholarly endeavour, nor for the stories to be lifted off the page easily to tell others — the language particularly in the earlier texts is a little stilted and uncomfortable.
Yet it does remind us that love is to be found in all places and all times and is recognisably the same, whatever the context and whoever the lovers.