“Berger's descriptions of the adaptations of these newcomers serve as inspiration for even the most cynical New Yorkers. . . a travel cornucopia to prompt stick-in-the-mud New Yorkers to explore outlying neighborhoods --
New York Times Sunday Book Review, Nov. 4, 2007

“What a wonderful world exists in The World in a City, superbly described by a great writer, Joe Berger. . . .The World in a City takes readers on a marvelous trip around the world without their ever having to leave New York.” --
Edward I Koch, former mayor of New York City

“This powerful and sweetly melancholic memoir, brilliantly written by Joseph Berger, is a remarkable tribute not only to his parents but to an entire generation of Holocaust survivors who. . .succeeded in rebuilding their lives and dreams."
-Elie Wiesel

"An absorbing, deeply moving memoir." -The NY Times

The Pious Ones

As the population of ultra-Orthodox Jews in the United States increases to astonishing proportions, veteran New York Times journalist Joseph Berger takes us inside the ever-fascinating insular world of the Hasidim to explore their origins, beliefs, and struggles—and the social and political implications of their expanding presence in America.

Though the Hasidic way of life was nearly extinguished in the Holocaust, today the Hasidim—"the pious ones"—have become one of the most prominent religious subcultures in America. In The Pious Ones, New York Times journalist Joseph Berger traces their origins in eighteenth-century Eastern Europe, illuminating their dynamics and core beliefs that remain so enigmatic to outsiders. He analyzes the Hasidim's codified lifestyle, revealing its fascinating secrets, complexities, and paradoxes, and provides a nuanced and insightful portrayal of how their all-encompassing faith dictates nearly every aspect of life—including work, education, food, sex, clothing and social relations—sustaining a sense of connection and purpose in a changing world.

From the intense sectarian politics to the conflicts that arise over housing, transportation, schooling, and gender roles, The Pious Ones also chronicles the ways in which the fabric of Hasidic existence is threatened by exposure to the wider world and also by internal fissures within its growing population. What lies ahead for the Hasidim, and what lies ahead for American culture and politics as these Ultra-Orthodox Jews occupy a greater place in our society?

Kirkus Reviews:

THE PIOUS ONES
The World of Hasidim and Their Battles with America
Author: Joseph Berger
Review Issue Date: June 15, 2014, Online Publish Date: June 5, 2014
Publisher:Perennial/HarperCollins. Pages: 384. Price ( Paperback ): $15.99
Publication Date: September 9, 2014. ISBN ( Paperback ): 978-0-06-212334-3. Category: Nonfiction

A fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the world of Hasidim.
Longtime New York Times reporter Berger (Displaced Persons: Growing Up American After the Holocaust, 2001) puts decades of experience in reporting on Hasidim to work in this balanced, intriguing account of the American Hasidic population. Surviving the Holocaust, the Hasidic brand of Judaism managed to flourish again in New York and other American cities, and it is now booming in population. Hasidic characteristics—including strict observance of Jewish laws, modest yet conspicuous dress, limited contact with non-Jews and intersectarian disagreements—provide much fodder for the author, who brings Hasidim to life for lays reader through personal stories based on extensive interviews. Ranging from a Holocaust survivor who managed to leave 2,000 descendants at the time of her death to a Hasidic nonconformist with an underground blog, Berger’s work explores a wide spectrum of Hasidic lives and lifestyles. Assuming very little previous knowledge from readers, the author masterfully explains all aspects. Thus, even a reader new to Judaism can learn about the Hasidic world without getting lost. For more expert readers, Berger provides personal depth as well as topical breadth. Filled with plenty of material for further discussion, the book does a service by dispelling many myths, and Berger provides an avenue for wider public understanding and acceptance of Hasidism. The author also points to flaws within the Hasidic community and in their relations with the outside world: deep-seated gender issues, the hushing-up of abuse cases, extortion and intimidation by self-proclaimed modesty police, and the avoidance of certain regulations and zoning laws.
Through Berger’s solid research and approachable writing, readers will gain a clear, well-rounded understanding of who the Hasidim are, where they came from and where they are going as a people.


The World in a City: Traveling the Globe through the Neighborhoods of the New New York
Fifty years ago, New York City had only a handful of ethnic groups. Today, the whole world can be found within the city’s five boroughs–-and Berger sets out to discover that world and take his readers on a delightful, eye-opening tour, bringing alive the sights, smells, tastes, and the people from myriad lands living in the most cosmopolitan city.

For urban enthusiasts and armchair explorers alike, The World in a City is a look at today’s polyglot, polychrome, and culturally rich New York and the lessons it holds for the rest of the United States as immigration changes the face of the nation. With three out of five of the city’s residents either foreign-born or second-generation Americans, New York has become more than ever a collection of villages–virtually self-reliant hamlets, each exquisitely textured by its particular ethnicities, history, and politics. For the price of a subway ride, you can visit Ghana, the Philippines, Ecuador, Uzbekistan, Bangladesh and dozens of other countries.

As Berger shows us in this absorbing and enlightening odyssey, New York is an endlessly fascinating crossroads. Naturally, tears exist in this colorful social fabric: the controversy over Korean-language shop signs in tony Douglaston, Queens; the struggles between new and older generations of Indians and Afghanis over arranged marriages; the prevalence of divorce among so many illegal immigrants; the uneasy proximity of traditional cottages and new McMansions built by recently arrived Russian residents of Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn.Yet in spite of the tensions, what Berger has found most miraculous about New York is how the city and its more than eight million denizens can adapt to–and even embrace–change like no other place on earth, from the former pushcart knish vendor on the Lower East Side who now caters to his customers via the Internet, to the recent émigrés from former Soviet republics living in Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach and Midwood whose arrival saved New York’s fur trade from certain extinction.

What is happening in New York is coming soon to a theater new you across much of the United States. But New York the great entry point for the Italians, Irish, Germans and Jews who have blended, in many cases, seamlessly into the America founded by people from Great Britain and Holland is the best place to examine how our country is being reshaped.

Like the place it chronicles, The World in a City is an engaging hybrid. Blending elements of sociology, pop culture, and travel writing, this is the rare book that enlightens readers while imbuing them with the hope that even in this increasingly fractious and polarized world, we can indeed co-exist in harmony.


Displaced Persons: Growing Up American after the Holocaust

"Although I may not have been able to articulate it, I already felt these alien streets would be a trial, filled with unfamiliar faces and unfamiliar tongues. How could I make a friend when I didn't even speak English? How could I understand a teacher or classmate? And how could I rely on my perplexed, frightened parents to help me cope?"

So begins veteran Joseph Berger's beguiling account of how one family of Polish Jews -- with one son born at the close of World War II and the other in a "displaced persons" camp outside Berlin -- managed to make a life for themselves in an utterly foreign landscape. Displaced Persons speaks directly to a little-known slice of Holocaust history, illuminating as never before the experience of 140,000 refugees who came to the United States between 1947 and 1953.

The world of Manhattan's Upper West Side, in the shadow of Hitler's atrocities, has been the subject of some of Isaac Bashevis Singer's best fiction. But through the eyes of a bright and perceptive boy we come to understand the reality on a more visceral level. Like many immigrants and children of immigrants, Berger lives in two worlds at the same time. On the one hand, there is this thrillingly rich American turf to explore as a child, and he does a brilliant job of bringing that adventure to life. On the other hand, he never lets us forget what it's like to feel intractably rooted in another, incompatible world of refugee parents who cannot speak English, a world of people dazed from unimaginable loss, and whose loneliness is unrelenting.

Berger pays eloquent homage to his parents' extraordinary courage, luck, and hard work. For as he says, "If we, the sons and daughters of those who survived, will not remember their vanished world, who will?" But Displaced Persons also testifies to the frustratingly hardy state of being a refugee -- no matter where one's initial port of call happens to be and no matter how much success has been achieved in the adopted country. By writing so sweetly and honestly about this "indelible way of seeing the world," Berger has shed a warm light on a perennial, universal condition.


The Young Scientists: America's Future and the Winning of the Westinghouse

Every few months, American newspapers publish another dreary statistic about the country's scientific ignorance. But there are schools in the U.S.-- like the Bronx High School of Science and Stuyvesant High School in New York and the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Durham--that defy this gloomy picture, that may show the way for this country to develop the scientists and researchers we need to maintain our economic and technological stature. These are the schools that year after year win the Intel science competition, formerly known as the Westinghouse Talent Search, the nation's most prestigious academic contest. They teach their students how to do research. Students do science, rather than just study it, and many of the students go on to establish solid, even triumphant careers in science. Early training works. Five teenaged Westinghouse winners have gone on as adults to capture the Nobel Prize. Eight have been awarded MacArthur Foundation Fellowships. In short, winning a Westinghouse (now Intel) is remarkably predictive of later success in science. Just as the best pianists and ballet dancers are those who have been taught their craft in childhood, scientists too are bred at an early age. The Young Scientists looks at what makes the winning schools and students, and how parents and teachers can help.