Christmas for Joshua — Discussion Points for Book Clubs

Christmas for Joshua – A Novel by Avraham Azrieli – Discussion Points for Book Clubs:

  1. Has the experience of reading Christmas for Joshua been memorable and engaging? What were the emotions it raised (amusement, sadness, upset, confusion, anger)? How did it leave you feeling? Who would you recommend it to?
  2. What did you feel about the leading and secondary characters—their personality, motives, strengths and weaknesses?
    1. While Rusty was understandably devastated by what happened at his daughter’s wedding, what do you think of his actions later—in New York and in Arizona? Was he motivated by pain, regret, or revenge? Was he trying to reconnect with his past, or achieve a new type of ‘fairness’ in his family and community life?
    2. What about Rebecca’s feelings and actions? Is she a good wife? Is she another victim in this situation? Does she really understand the depth of Rusty’s crisis? Can she understand it, considering how different her background is?
    3. Debra is young, in love, and newly married. However, her father is facing a traumatic emotional crisis. How do you feel about her behavior along the story? How do you feel about the way Rusty and Rebecca treat Debra—are they too accommodating, or should they demand more of her?
    4. Is Aaron Brutsky a good friend? A best friend? Or a fair-weather friend? How does he balance life, faith, and friendship?
    5. What do you think of the two marriages at the center of Christmas for Joshua? Are the couples faithful emotionally and practically? Will either of these marriages last?
  1. How did the main characters change along the story? How did the novel change your perspective about family, marriage, conversion, and faith?
  2. Stepping back and looking at the story as a whole, was it a realistic crisis for an ‘interfaith marriage’ around Christmas? Is Christmas a source of joy, comfort, or conflict in your family life? Is Christmas a Christian/religious holiday, or a cultural/social holiday? Do you have to believe that Jesus Christ was God’s son and the Messiah in order to celebrate Christmas? Were you familiar with the fact that most popular Christmas songs were written by Jews? Does it mean anything?
  3. What do you feel about the rabbi, the synagogue, and the congregation? Is the rabbi a victim, as well? Is embracing converts into the bosom of a Jewish congregation risky? Is the congregation responsible for Rusty’s pain, or has a duty to ease it by sharing in his celebration of Christmas? Who ‘owns’ a synagogue—the rabbi, the congregation, or the board—and who has the last word in a conflict?
  4. What part of Christmas for Joshua strikes you as the most meaningful, or memorable? What part is the funniest? Makes you cry? Or fling the book across the room? What’s the most ‘discussion worth’ here?
  5. If you could ask author Avraham Azrieli the author a question, what would you ask? Have you read his other books? How do they compare to Christmas for Joshua?
  6. Has Christmas for Joshua changed you? Has it left you with new perspective on Christmas, interfaith marriage, or religion in general? Has it caused you to think of visiting Arizona? Or of celebrating Christmas (in or out of a synagogue)? Has any of Rusty’s modified Christmas songs stuck in your mind?

Note to the Reader: These Book Club Discussion Points are offered as a courtesy based on the experiences of other bookclubs. The topics are merely suggestions, intended only to help ignite lively, freeform discussions of the novel.

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