Jews, Muslims and America

I had a great experience this week hearing two inspirational friends of mine read from their new books. They both dug into an area of personal interest and wound up illuminating a fascinating history that can teach us all something important.

Frances Dinkelspiel started looking into her family history, and found 50 boxes of papers at the California Historical Society. It turns out her great-great-grandfather — a Jewish immigrant — was a pivotal figure in building California’s economy, yet was so behind-the-scenes that he had been lost to history. She now has a great book out about him: “Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California.” 
Her web site is (She also writes a great blog on the Bay Area book scene.)
She’s speaking Saturday in San Marino and Long Beach, and Dec. 2 in NY at Congregation Shearith Israel. then at numerous Bay Area events Dec. 2 and onward (including Temple Emanu-el Friday Dec. 5) and Dec. 11 and 12 at Metropolis Books and Congregation Kol Tikvah in LA. 
And Jonathan Curiel, a Chronicle reporter and former colleague, told the fascinating tale of how the Islamic world has influenced so many things in modern culture that so few people realize, from the Alamo to blues music to, ironically, the World Trade Center.

 Jonathan’s book, “Al’ America: Travels Through America’s Arab and Islamic Roots,” is a great read about an important but little-known topic. His Web site is and he has readings coming up Dec. 7 and 8 in the Washington, DC area.

Way to go, Frances and Jonathan!

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