Yom Kippur in Amsterdam (Hardcover)
Syracuse University Press, 9780815609186, 141pp.
Publication Date: September 8, 2009
Whether set in Maxim Shrayer's native Russia or in North America and
Western Europe, the eight stories in this collection explore emotionally
intricate relationships that cross traditional boundaries of ethnicity, religion,
and culture. Tracing the lives, obsessions, and aspirations of Jewish-Russian
immigrants, these poignant, humorous, and tender stories create an
expansive portrait of individuals struggling to come to terms with ghosts of
their European pasts while simultaneously seeking to build new lives in their
The title story follows Jake Glaz, a young Jewish man apprehensive
about intermarriage to a Catholic woman. After realizing Erin will not convert,
Jake leaves the United States to spend Yom Kippur in Amsterdam, "a
beautiful place for a Jew to atone." In "Sonetchka," a literary scholar and
his former Moscow girlfriend reunite in her suburban Connecticut apartment.
As they reminisce about their Soviet youth and quietly admire each
other's professional successes, both wrestle with the curious mix of prosperity,
loneliness, and insecurity that defines their lives in the United States.
Yom Kippur in Amsterdam takes the immigrant narrative into the twentyfirst
century. Emerging from the tradition of Isaac Babel, Vladimir Nabokov,
and Isaac Bachevis Singer, Shrayer's vibrant literary voice significantly
contributes to the evolution of Jewish writing in America.