Congregation Agudat Achim

Meet the Authors

Jean Hoffman Lewanda: Witness to History – From Vietnam to Shanghai

This is a mem­oir of an 18-year-old Aus­tri­an Jew who escaped to Shang­hai, Chi­na by him­self in 1938. Upon arriv­ing in Chi­na, not only does Paul sup­port him­self, but also helps his par­ents, sis­ter, aunt and uncle leave Europe and sur­vive World War II in Shang­hai. Paul relates how the Sephardic Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty came to the aid of the Jews flee­ing Cen­tral Europe. He pro­vides a detailed descrip­tion of the two years that the fam­i­ly was con­fined to the Hongkew Ghet­to. While many in the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty elect­ed to leave Chi­na as soon as pos­si­ble after WWII, Paul and his young wife, Shirley, elect­ed to stay on after the Com­mu­nist takeover. This deci­sion led to a sequence of events that rivaled the per­ils of the war years.

About the Author: Jean Hoffmann Lewanda was born in April of 1954 in New York City, one year after Paul and Shulamis Hoffmann arrived in America. She received an undergraduate degree from the University at Albany, her masters degree from New York University, and a Sixth Year Certificate from the University of Connecticut. Jean was a Special Educator for forty years in both private and public schools across all grade levels in the Greater Hartford area in Connecticut. Now retired, Jean lives in Yardley, Pennsylvania near her children and grandchildren. She now shares her family story by participating in Holocaust Education programs.

Purchase Witness to History: From Vienna to Shanghai: A Memoir of Escape, Survival and Resilience from Amazon or Bookshop


Joel Burcat: Strange Fire

Frack­ing for nat­ur­al gas has turned dead­ly in Brad­ford Coun­ty, Pa. Not only is the water con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed, but peo­ple are dying. A prime sus­pect: Yukon Oil and Gas whose round-the-clock oper­a­tions may have poi­soned a res­i­den­tial well and a town’s water sup­ply. Who is con­t­a­m­i­nat­ing the water wells and why are con­trac­tors dis­ap­pear­ing? Mike Jacobs, a 29-year-old Jew­ish envi­ron­men­tal lawyer with Pennsylvania’s envi­ron­men­tal agency is back in this roman­ti­cal­ly-charged envi­ron­men­tal legal thriller about the real out­comes and dan­gers of frack­ing and drilling for nat­ur­al gas.

Mike ful­fills the man­date of pro­tect­ing the Earth, and does not shy away from his roots and the anti­se­mit­ic chal­lenges he must face. Mike is a Jew­ish every­man who nev­er con­ceals his Jew­ish­ness, embrac­ing it in all of his actions. He’s will­ing to stand up for what is right at all turns. While Mike doesn’t loud­ly pro­claim his Jew­ish­ness, he rep­re­sents it. It’s fair to say Strange Fire is com­plex and intel­li­gent, deft­ly plot­ted and char­ac­ter rich. It is also like a col­lege course in frack­ing and being a mensch.

Link to view recording — Coming Soon

About the Author: Joel Bur­cat is a nov­el­ist, envi­ron­men­tal lawyer, and a recip­i­ent of a 2020 Pen­nWrit­ers Annu­al Writ­ing Award. His pre­vi­ous nov­els, Drink to Every Beast and Amid Rage are award-win­ning envi­ron­men­tal legal thrillers. His newest nov­el, Strange Fire, was select­ed by Kirkus Reviews as a Critic’s Pick. His writ­ing has been praised by best-sell­ing authors Frank Bruni, William Lan­day, John Lescroart, Lisa Gar­ner, Steve Berry, and others.

Purchase Strange Fire from Amazon


 Ira Rosen: Ticking Clock: Behind the Scenes at 60 Minutes

When producer Ira Rosen walked into the 60 Minutes offices in June 1980, he knew he was about to enter television history. His career catapulted him to the heights of broadcast journalism, breaking some of the most important stories in TV news. But behind the scenes was a war room of clashing producers, anchors, and the most formidable 60 Minutes figure: legendary correspondent Mike Wallace.

Based on decades of access and experience, Rosen takes readers behind closed doors to offer an incisive look at the show that invented TV investigative journalism. With surprising humor, charm, and an eye for colorful detail, he delivers an authoritative account of the unforgettable personalities that battled for prestige, credit, and the desire to scoop everyone else in the game. As one of Wallace’s top producers, Rosen reveals the interview secrets that made his work legendary and the flaring temper that made him infamous. Later, as senior producer of ABC News’ Primetime Live and 20/20, Rosen exposes the competitive environment among famous colleagues, including Diane Sawyer and Barbara Walters, and the power plays among correspondents Chris Wallace, Anderson Cooper, and Chris Cuomo.

A master class in how TV news is made, Ticking Clock shows readers how 60 Minutes puts together a story when sources are explosive, unreliable, and even dangerous. From unearthing shocking revelations from inside the Trump White House, to an outrageous proposition from Ghislaine Maxwell, to interviewing gangsters Joe Bonanno and John Gotti Jr., Ira Rosen was behindthe scenes of some of the most sensational stories that 60 Minutes broadcast.

Highly entertaining, dishy, and unforgettable, Ticking Clock is a never-before-told account of the most successful news show in American history.

Join us on Zoom 27 April 2023 at 7:30pm

About the Author: For near­ly twen­ty-five years, Ira Rosen has pro­duced some of the most mem­o­rable, impor­tant, and ground­break­ing sto­ries for 60 Min­utes. A for­mer Nie­man Fel­low at Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty, Rosen was a senior pro­duc­er of Prime­time Live with Diane Sawyer. Rosen has won 24 Nation­al Emmys, four duPont Awards, two RFK Awards, and two Peabodys for his work. He is the co-author of The Warn­ing: Acci­dent at Three Mile Island.

Purchase Ticking Clock: Behind the Scenes at 60 Minutes from Amazon or Bookshop


Debby Applegate: Madam: The Biography of Polly Adler, Icon of the Jazz Age

Madam is the biog­ra­phy of Pol­ly Adler (19001962), the most infa­mous and influ­en­tial madam in Jazz Age New York. Her 1953 mem­oir, A House is Not A Home, sold 2 mil­lion books and became a 1963 movie star­ring Shel­ley Win­ters. More than a biog­ra­phy, this is a col­or­ful and unusu­al his­to­ry of Jew­ish life told through the per­spec­tive of a ​good Jew­ish girl” from a Russ­ian shtetl who immi­grat­ed to Brook­lyn, and rose to become ​the Female Al Capone” and one of the most renowned Jew­ish-Amer­i­can women in the 20th cen­tu­ry. Her broth­els were under­world salons that catered to every­one from the Van­der­bilts and the Rock­fellers to Wal­ter Winchell, Frank Sina­tra, Desi Arnaz, the Algo­nquin Round­table, Dutch Schultz and Mey­er Lan­sky, and, it was rumored, Franklin D. Roo­sevelt. The New York Times Book Review praised Madam as a ​fast-paced tale of rad­i­cal, will­ful trans­for­ma­tion,” and ​a breath­less tale told through extra­or­di­nary research.” Deb­by Applegate’s first book won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for biog­ra­phy and she spent the next 13 years work­ing on Madam.

Join us on Zoom 8 June 2023 at 7:30pm

About the Author: Deb­by Apple­gate is a his­to­ri­an whose first book, The Most Famous Man in Amer­i­ca: The Biog­ra­phy of Hen­ry Ward Beech­er, won the Pulitzer Prize for Biog­ra­phy and was a final­ist for the Los Ange­les Book Prize and the Nation­al Book Crit­ics Cir­cle Award. She holds a Ph.D. from Yale Uni­ver­si­ty and lives in Con­necti­cut with her hus­band Bruce Tulgan.

Purchase Madam: The Biography of Polly Adler, Icon of the Jazz Age from Amazon or IndieBound