Tablet Magazine

‘Now You Are in Heaven, and the Only Thing Left Is Pain’

How Sigalit Shemer tries to cope with the loss of her son Ron, who was killed at the Nova music festival on Oct. 7

Ron Shemer was a lover of nature and animals, passionate about chasing sunsets at sea. He grew up in Lod, Israel, as the eldest son in his family, and after his military service as a deputy company commander in the Military Police Crossing Fighters Battalion, he dedicated himself to preserving the quality of the environment and planned to begin his studies in biotechnology at the university in October 2024. Not only was Ron meticulous in his work and studies, his family and friends occupied a primary place in his life. Even when Ron was in the deepest corners of the world, he used to talk to his family every day and do a joint kiddush with them on Zoom every Shabbat. When terrorists from Gaza entered the Nova music festival—where Ron had gone with a group of friends—on Oct. 7, the first thing he did when he escaped was call his mother to tell her that he was fine, safe, and on his way home. When his group of friends managed to get a car to leave, Ron noticed that two of his best friends, Dan and Omar, were not there. He got out of the car to go back in search of them. Along the way, he helped a girl who had been frozen by a panic attack. After Ron found his friends, an alarm sounded and together they entered a bus shelter at the Gama Junction. Suddenly, a group of terrorists arrived and threw grenades at them. Ron protected his friends with his body but the grenades wounded them all. Omar survived. Dan was injured, lost blood, and died hours later. Ron, still wounded, went out to confront the terrorists, but didn’t return. Missing, he was assumed to have been taken hostage by Hamas—until a week later, 23-year-old Ron was found dead by the army, 50 meters from the shelter. He was one of 364 people murdered at the Nova festival. Ron’s mother, Sigalit, used to ask her son to return quickly to her house in Ramat Gan while he was away in South America enjoying the sea, or working with Jewish youth in the U.S. She felt that the safest place he could have was in her home, in the country where he grew up. Sometimes she wonders what would have happened if he didn’t return, but on the other hand, she is grateful because it happened in Israel and not in some remote place and that also it happened when he was not alone....

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Chatter from the 2023 National Jewish Book Awards

On March 27, the writing community gathered to celebrate the winners of the Jewish Book Council’s 2023 National Jewish Book Awards. We had a chance to attend and chat with some of the hosts and presenters, to hear what it means to be honored in this moment in time.

“The reason why I wrote my novel is because I was looking for a container for my family’s stories about antisemitism in the former Soviet Union. To win an award for that feels like I’m not the only one holding my ancestors’ stories.”

Ruth Madievsky, author of All-Night Pharmacy, winner of the 2023 National Jewish Book Award for debut fiction.

“Because our book is about Israel beyond the conflict, it’s validation that Israel is so much more than that. It’s a maniacal place, a beautiful, flawed place, and it’s ours.”

Benji Lovitt, co-author of Israel 201: Your Next-Lev­el Guide to the Mag­ic, Mys­tery, and Chaos of Life in the Holy Land, winner of the 2023 National Jewish Book Award for Education and Jewish Identity.

“It feels incredibly meaningful to win at this moment. The sephardic story has been kind of overlooked and it’s an extraordinarily rich, pluralistic story with multilingualism and examples of cohabitation. It’s really important to keep looking at history and the extraordinary depth and range of experience. And I hope my story helps continue that.”

Elizabeth Graver, author of Kantika, winner of the 2023 National Jewish Book Award for Sephardic Culture.

“I recognize my role is to bring some levity to this event. I’ve always processed grief and trauma through comedy. It’s not healthy, but I’ve made a career out of it. Now more than ever, it’s important to show the world our diverse opinions, and what better way to honor those stories than with a night like this?”

Bess Kalb, co-host of the 2023 National Jewish Book Awards ceremony, and author of Nobody Will Tell You This But Me: A True (as Told to Me) Story.

“The thing I love the most about being a Jewish writer is the idea that there’s always a question at the center of everything we write and that question is never answered. It’s only answered with more questions. And writing in that vein during such an impossible time feels like the only way to cope.”

Sabrina Orah Mark, author of Hap­pi­ly: A Per­son­al His­to­ry-with Fairy Tales, winner of the 2023 National Jewish Book Award for autobiography and memoir.

“Recently I’ve found myself sort of censoring the fact that I’m Jewish. When I was asked to co-host this event, I thought that this was a moment I could proudly be Jewish. The antisemitism I’ve seen everywhere has been something I need to stand up against, and this is my way of doing that.”

Ali­son Rose Green­berg, co-host of the 2023 National Jewish Book Awards ceremony, and author of Maybe Once, Maybe Twice and Bad Luck Brides­maid.

Tablet talks about Judaism a lot, but sometimes we like to change the subject. Maggie Phillips covers religious communities across the U.S.—from Christians to Muslims, Hindus to Baha’i, Jehovah’s Witnesses to pagans—to find out what they’re talking about.

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April 11, 2024

Zionism: The Tablet Guide

The definitive guide to the past, present, and future of modern Judaism’s most fantastical and magnetic idea—and the West’s most explosive political label.

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Roundtables on the state of the American Jewish community, bringing together people from a shared demographic or background—everyday people with personal opinions, not experts who earn their salaries discussing these issues.

Photographic illustration by Barry Downard/Debut; portait of Black: Nechama Jacobson; original photo of Bob Dylan © Barry Feinstein Photography, Inc. Used with permission from The Estate of Barry Feinstein
Photographic illustration by Barry Downard/Debut; portait of Black: Nechama Jacobson; original photo of Bob Dylan © Barry Feinstein Photography, Inc. Used with permission from The Estate of Barry Feinstein
The New Jews

A montage of iconic moments from the Jewish past points the way to a Jewish future—one driven by a generation of new voices

At least Ruth didn’t have to fret about social media. The only thing this Moabite woman, arguably the world’s first convert to Judaism—and ancestor of one King David—had to do was hold on to her mother-in-law and promise to go whither the older woman went. She wasn’t expected to share photos of her challah rising on Instagram, defend Israel on Twitter, bare her soul on Substack, or cultivate small communities of followers on Facebook. Her journey was decidedly private, intimate, all but forgotten if it weren’t for the Bible’s author peeking in and recording the grandeur of her experience for posterity. Today, we have a new class of Ruths, only this time many of them are trying to negotiate some of the most profound and pressing questions facing Jews—about identity and belonging, about money and politics, about making friends and losing faith—along with public or semipublic profiles. They are new Jews, but—if we are lucky—they will be among the most important Jews in the coming years. To illustrate the role we believe Jews-by-choice are increasingly playing in the American Jewish future, we matched each of our interviewees with an iconic image from the recent American past. Because every religious evolution is a conversion—every day brings with it the possibility of changing in ways until now unexpected—the stories these men and women tell us are particularly meaningful, and their wisdom so keenly appreciated. There are, to be sure, many more who share their trajectory, but here, in their own words, are some thoughts from these visible and inspiring people making their journey back home to Judaism. ...

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An ‘Unorthodox’ Celebration of Conversion

Listen to five years of deeply moving personal stories, audio diaries, and reported segments about Jews by choice around the world

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