Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

'People of the Book' returns for fifth summer


Read any good books lately? Each summer for the past four years, Congregation Ohev Shalom has sponsored "People of the Book: One Book, One Community, One Summer," a chance to read and discuss a book of significant Jewish content. "People of the Book" returns for its fifth cycle on June 10, featuring best-selling author Maggie Anton's "Rav Hisda's Daughter-Book I: Apprentice."

Rav Hisda is considered one of the greatest minds among the Sages of the Talmud. He lived in the late 3rd and early 4th century, bridging the time when the Roman emperor, Constantine, embraced Christianity and culminating in restrictive decrees against the Jews. Rabbinic sources record that his children, including his daughters, were all scholars in their own right.

Maggie Anton is best known for her series of historical novels based on the lives of the daughters of Rabbi Shimon Yitzhaki, the 11th century French commentator better known as Rashi. Since Rashi had no sons, tradition has it that he educated his daughters in Bible, Talmud, and Halakhah. It has even been speculated that they put on t'fillin and may have advised their husbands, who were famous commentators themselves.

Rav Hisda's Daughter takes a very different turn, though. Anton gives the main character the Persian name Hisdadukh ("daughter of Hisda") and imagines that, while her father and his colleagues raced to develop a Judaism that could survive the increasing upheaval, she decides to pursue another path, training to become an enchantress.

"Maggie Anton never expected to be a historical novelist," noted Rabbi David Kay, who along with Janet Friedman will co-facilitate "People of the Book" this summer. "Then she took an introduction to Talmud class, and it changed the direction of her life."

Drawing from primary sources, Anton weaves together Talmud, Midrash, and history, creating an authentic and compelling glimpse into a crucial moment in Jewish history. The subtitle of the book says it all: "A Novel of Love, the Talmud, and Sorcery."

"People of the Book" will meet every other Shabbat, immediately following services, at Congregation Ohev Shalom, 613 Concourse Parkway South, Maitland. The dates are June 10 and 24, July 8 and 22, and August 5 and 19. The program is open to the public, and people are welcome to join the discussions at any time during the summer. "Even if you haven't read the book," Rabbi Kay adds.


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