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The Frozen Rabbi

3.08  ·  Rating details ·  854 Ratings  ·  207 Reviews
Award-winning novelist Steve Stern’s exhilarating epic recounts the story of how a nineteenth-century rabbi from a small Polish town ends up in a basement freezer in a suburban Memphis home at the end of the twentieth century. What happens when an impressionable teenage boy inadvertently thaws out the ancient man and brings him back to life is nothing short of miraculous. ...more
Paperback, 383 pages
Published June 2011 by Algonquin Books (first published May 2010)
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Dieser Roman hat eigentlich alle Ingredienzien, die mich zu Begeisterung hinreissen könnten.

Jiddische Geschichte einer Familie quer durch die Jahrhunderte ganz so wie ich es mag, in Rückblenden a bissal polnisches Ghetto, a bissal Shoa, a bissal Auswanderung nach USA, a bissal kabbalistische Mystik versus gottloses kapitalistisches amerikanisches Judentum, a bissal Israel, Terrorismus (sorry Freiheitskampf) bei Staatengründung und Kibbutz - über mehrere Generationen verteilt. Jiddische Witze mei
I disliked this book with a passion and I recommend it to no one. In a nutshell, teenage boy finds frozen rabbi in family freezer, Rabbi from a time long ago, family knew of Rabbi, boy defrosts the rabbi. The book covers, through alternating chapters, the rabbis travels from "Out of body" experiences that resulted in his freezing near a river almost 200+ years ago to his defrost, and the boy's story of coming of age. In the present, the boy thinks the Rabbi will be, well, a Rabbi to him, but ins ...more
Jan 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Frozen Rabbi, or as I found myself calling it several times a day, "Der Frozener Rebbe", is a great American Jewish story. We might say that the author's subject is the holy and the profane. In the course of this novel there is no doubt that every mystical and divine and folklorish reality is, and is not, utterly real, and that every profanity and lustful desire is, and is not, the ultimate truth. Steve Stern plays with our minds, making the reader believe, mocking his or her belief, making ...more
Jul 01, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The oldest thing I have in my freezer right now is a 48 count pack of fish sticks I bought in 2007. In the intervening 3 years I have purchased and consumed other fish sticks. I'm not sure why the catch of whatever day it was in 2007 is still in my freezer awaiting an archaeological expedition to make it to the oven. Maybe I just like knowing they are there at the ready? They have survived numerous minor power outages and 2 outages that lasted more than 3 hours. I have to say I'm a little proud ...more
Nov 21, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: usa, jewish
This book maintained my interest sufficiently to make me want to read all of it, BUT I would not reccommend it to anyone else.

Briefly, the book follows the fate of a rabbi who becomes frozen into a block of ice somewhere in rural Poland sometime in the late 19th century. He remains frozen in this block whilst it it is transported across Europe, and then the Atlantic, to the USA. There, in the early 21st century, the refrigerator containing the ice-encased rabbi breaks down. The rabbi steps out
Dec 07, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Intrigued by the title, repulsed by the story. A rabbi is meditating in 1800's Poland, goes into a trance while at a lake, doesn't wake up, is frozen in the ice, removed by a family, and kept frozen and protected by that family for over 100 years. I like multi-generational stories, but this is ridiculous. The rabbi (in his zinc lined casket so he doesn't melt) is brought to America, kept in a Kelvinator freezer, and then one day the Rabbi melts and is once again alive. The family which
Jan 07, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Schon die erste Seite stimmt darauf ein, was einen mit diesem Buch erwartet: Bernie, 15jähriger Couchpotatoe, findet auf der Suche in der Tiefkühltruhe nach einem Stück Fleisch zur Selbstbefriedigung, einen tiefgefrorenen alten Mann in einem Eisblock. Durch einen Stromausfall unabsichtlich zum Leben erweckt, entpuppt sich der knapp 200 Jahre alte Rabbi als ein überaus geschäftstüchtiger Unternehmer, der sich darauf versteht, die Suche der Menschen nach Glück mit einigem Geschick in klingende Mün ...more
Aug 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm sort of surprised Steve Stern isn't better known - it's clear he's a quite talented writer, the prose is beautiful at times, and at others captures that modern American ennui/irony beautifully. How can you go wrong with a book that starts with the sentence:

"Sometime during his restless fifteenth year, Bernie Karp discovered in his parents' food freezer - a white-enameled Kelvinator humming in its corner of the basement rumpus room - an old man frozen in a block of ice."

Then it slides immedi
Dan Wickett
Jun 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fantastic read - difficult to put down once you get going. Stern's bouncing back and forth between the current day and Bernie Carp and his dealings with the unfrozen rabbi, and the historical journey the rabbi took from his original freezing until he arrived in Bernie's freezer, are masterfully handled.

Stern is an author that cares both about the individual sentence AND the overall story. Absolutely go out and support this author and wonderful publishing house and buy, read and enjoy The Froze
Jul 20, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-books
I *loved* this book..couldn't stop reading...up until about the last 40 pages. I enjoyed the look at the family through time (and would be glad to read more about Shmerl and Jocheved), and even liked the parts set in the present day. The ending, I must admit, rather lost me. So I'm giving it 4 stars for all the rest of the story!
Feb 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Engrossing. Dazzling. Brilliant.
I need to see Tennessee. Not as much as I need to visit Virginia, but Memphis is definitely a destination. The Tennessee Titans (my favorite NFL team) play in Nashville, so I would want to get over to the Music City as well (preferably in the fall), but there is something going on in Memphis. At least that’s the impression I get from reading The Frozen Rabbi by Steve Stern, who is from Memphis and now teaches in upstate New York. A (very) good amount of the back story takes place in New York Cit ...more
Jan 06, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult-fiction, sci-fi
Amazon has never steered me wrong before, until now. And it's not to say that I hated this book, because I didn't. I just had a hard time getting along with it. I kept thinking I should put it down for good and read something else. While the characters are interesting, the plot leaves a lot to be desired. It's like molasses running uphill in the middle of January in New England. The Frozen Rabbi could have been a lot shorter and a lot better. And there are some plot points (that I won't mention ...more
Dec 31, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Es klingt wirklich verrückt: Da liegt ein gefrorener Rabbi in einer Tiefkühltruhe einer amerikanischen Familie, weil er als Glücksbringer von Generation zu Generation weitergegeben wurde. Doch während eines Stromausfalls geschieht das Unvermeidliche: Der Rabbi taut! Seit 100 Jahren eingefroren, findet er sich plötzlich in einer modernen Welt wieder.

Die Geschichte hätte interessant sein können, wäre der Erzählstil des Autors nicht so umständlich. Er schreibt seitenweise Hintergründe zusammen, ohn
Jan 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
This book started out slowly. It wasn't until page 130 that I was completely engaged and reading became effortless. I found the ending disappointing. However, the middle of the book was very good. The story goes back and forth between the turn of the 20th century and the turn of the 21st century. A rabbi, frozen in deep meditation, is carted by a family to the new world where he remains in suspended animation until he is thawed by young Bernie Karp whose jewish family migrates to Memphis Tenness ...more
Sep 30, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Ein furchtbares Buch!
Der pubertäre Bernie Karp findet in der Gefriertruhe einen in einem Eisblock eingefrorenen Rabbi, der sich seit über 100 Jahren in Familien"besitz" befand und beim nächstbesten Stromausfall natürlich sofort auftaut und zum Leben erwacht.
Ich erwartete hier ein lustige Geschichte davon, wie sich der aufgetaute Rabbi in der modernen Welt durchschlägt, aber weit gefehlt. Überwiegend wird die Geschichte der Familie erzählt, die den gefrorenen Rabbi jahrzehntelang gehütet und von
Randi Reisfeld
You don't have to be Jewish to enjoy The Frozen Rabbi -- but it sure would help. Even more if you know a bissel Yiddish, since it's sprinkled liberally throughout. The highly original premise is what drew me: back in the way olden days in Poland, the head rabbi of the shetl goes to meditate near a body of water. He's in an "out of body" experience when the river overflows, drowns him and freezes, leaving the rabbi encased in a block of ice-perpetual preservation. Said block of ice is adopted by ...more
Neco Turkienicz
I began reading and was fascinated by the book very quickly. The story, the Jewish background, the Yiddish, all of it. The language was a bit challenging for me, english not being my mother tongue, but Stern's style kept me hooked almost until the end. I would really give five stars to this book if it wasn't for the ending. It felt to me as if Stern didn't know how to end the story, as if he was building up to something he couldn't define as he started writing. So he decided to trash it all, to ...more
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Tim Hicks
May 30, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
That was just plain enjoyment. You'll laugh, you'll cry ... This is a densely-written book that rewards you for paying attention; don't take a month to read it.
If you don't know any Yiddish, go read something else first, maybe some old MAD magazines or another author - but you won't need much, and most of the terms are spelled out or obvious in context. There are plenty of interesting characters of the "put them together and stand back to watch" kind. Your willingness to suspend disbelief will
Jun 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I felt different ways about this book at different times along the narrative. My favorite part was the story line about Jochaved and Schmerle; I looked forward to it during the Bernie interludes, and never really stopped missing it once the story moved on beyond their time. The writing is funny and understated in all the right places. As a fellow Memphian, I felt a little insulted by the repeated references to lilacs, which do not grow here, and the idea that in 2002 we would have had a racist m ...more
Jan 17, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I still can not figure out why I bothered to finish this book. It was truly awful. Every character was horrible without a single redeeming characteristic. I am fairly certain the author wanted to make some sort of lofty point, but after reading the entire book, I can't figure out what that could be. The flashback/flash-forward storytelling wasn't too bad, but it didn't flow in any way that made sense. Another thing, if you don't have a fluent Yiddish vocabulary, you will miss a lot, because appa ...more
Oct 07, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Two and a half stars. I generally love multi-generational storytelling, but this was a time where it didn't work.

Every time I grew attached to a character, that character would be swapped out for a younger relative, resulting in a watered down portrait of the Karp clan. If this had been solely a story about a boy and his defrosted rabbi, it may have succeeded as a comic satire, but by interweaving that story with tales of the young Bernie's predecessors, Stern weakened all the plotlines.
Sep 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The funniest Jewish fiction I've ever read, surpassing the Woody Allen short story Hassidic Tales. It was a plus that I wanted to increase my vocabulary of Yiddish and had a good translation website. Stern covered some much history in 370 pages, it made me wonder what Herman Wouk was doing with the 50,000 pages he published. Very eclectic, well-written, intelligent, and funny.
Jul 10, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
J'ai vraiment aimé ce roman, en particulier toute la première partie, qui retrace en parallèle les évènements "contemporains" (1999-2001) aux États-Unis et l’épopée de la famille qui a transporté et veillé sur le rabbin congelé du titre, avec des personnages attachants et un voyage à travers l'Europe et le New-York du début du siècle dernier.
J'ai été un peu déçue par la fin, non par l'intrigue, mais plutôt par les personnages auxquels on s'attache beaucoup moins, que l'on rencontre de façon brè
Scott Federman
May 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really enjoyable story. I would have given it 5 stars but there was so much Yiddish that even I had to look some meanings up. I only have a basic knowledge of Yiddish and am not fluent. It is worth reading even if you miss some of the meanings. The author is very skilled at taking you back in time and then returning the reader to the future. In short, this is a well written great story.
Gail Berna-Dompke
The trials and tribulations of a rabbi encased in ice. Although I really enjoyed Jochaved's story, the book was longer than it needed to be. I learned many new words in Yiddish however, and was introduced to Jewish mysticism of which I was completely unaware.
Sep 17, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Maybe it was a cute idea.
Unfortunately there's a comma in the first sentence of almost every paragraph. Maybe I'm nitpicking but it's Exhausting. So I never made it to the part where I cared about any of the characters.
Sarah Sammis
Jan 24, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sarah by: The Boston Bibliophile
I'm glad I finally read it.
Aaron Poorman
Jul 06, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: subliminalmaybe

The Karp family are hiding something in their freezer, and it isn't large thick slabs of glorious bacon ; although if certain accounts are to be believed it may taste something like pork. Fifteen year old couch potato Bernie Karp ( the novel's primary protagonist) happens upon his family's heirloom whilst searching for an attractive piece of meat which he intends to put to use in a rather inappropriate manner. Hunger pangs emanating just south of his stomach Bernie comes face to face with a full
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Stern was born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1947, the son of a grocer. He left Memphis in the 1960s to attend college, then to travel the US and Europe — living, as he told one interviewer, "the wayward life of my generation for about a decade," and ending on a hippie commune in the Ozarks. He went on to study writing in the graduate program at the University of Arkansas, at a time when it included se ...more
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