By Raphaela Gold ‘21
Earlier this year, Sophomores Eliana Sirota and Lexi Wenger started a book club at Heschel. The club provides a new opportunity for students who want to read and discuss books with their friends outside of a classroom setting, all while drinking tea and eating cookies. Sirota and Wenger realized that they didn’t have enough time or motivation to read for pleasure in addition to their immense workload, and experienced that when they did sit down to read, they felt as though they should be doing work instead. Sirota and Wenger explained, “We and other students need more motivation to read, so we decided to [create] an opportunity to do so.” Before starting the club, co-presidents Wenger and Sirota discussed various ideas as to what the theme for the books should be. They debated choosing books that had won the Pulitzer Prize, controversial books, banned books, or a number of other genres, but they finally decided against limiting the category and chose instead to read books that they knew would spark interesting conversations.
So far, the club has gotten off to an excellent start. It meets regularly on Friday 1 during the lunch clubs block, and the group has already finished its first book of the year, Peter Straub’s Ghost Story. The club next plans on reading and discussing Circe, by Madeline Miller.
English teacher Elana Anderson was appointed faculty advisor of the club. Her duties include giving advice about which books to choose, trying to figure out the best means of obtaining copies of the book, and helping Sirota and Wenger run the club. Anderson now views the book club as one of the highlights of her month. She commented, “I’m enjoying far beyond what I could have imagined – and I’m an English teacher so I knew that I would like it a lot.”
Although he doesn’t have an official position in the club, Limudei Qodesh teacher and 10th Grade Dean David Riemenschneider also attends the meetings and is so far loving them. One thing Riemenschneider appreciates about the club is that it pushes him to read books that he would not have chosen otherwise. He explained, “Our discussions have really helped me pick up layers of meaning that I wouldn’t have picked up on my own.” Riemenschneider also noted that as a faculty member, “It’s so nice to spend non-classroom time learning freely with students where it is not so curriculum or material driven. It is just about learning for the sake of learning because of its own joys and its own properties.”
When asked what she thought about book club so far, Sophomore Tova Segal exclaimed, “I love book club! It is incredible and amazing and I look forward to it every week.”