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The Writings of Daniel M. Jaffe


A new novel-in-stories

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To see Dan read from THE GENEALOGY OF UNDERSTANDING, click here.

THE GENEALOGY OF UNDERSTANDING is a novel-in-stories in which the narrator explores different ways of adapting Jewish tradition to the modern world.

Matt Klein, a contemporary Jewish Scheherazade, questions whether ancient Torah is relevant to the social issues of today.  Can Torah illuminate and guide responses to such issues as intermarriage, infidelity, and prejudice that threaten to splinter families in the suburban New Jersey community of his upbringing?

He first examines the private lives of his congregation’s unfaithful rabbi, of a friend contemplating intermarriage, of a neighbor family that lost wife and mother to AIDS, of other friends raising a brain-damaged child who murders a toddler.  Matt then confronts his own family’s tensions, particularly his parents’ dramatically conflicting approaches to religious observance, his father’s struggle with his mother’s Alzheimer’s decline, and his own coming out as a gay Jewish man despite family and community resistance.  Each of the 53 stories in this novel responds to a particular weekly Torah reading, resulting in a work of fiction that explores Jewish spirituality, ethics, and community values, as well as the nature of human heart, mind, and soul.

"Jaffe is a marvelous storyteller.... The characters are sensitively drawn and come to life in his hands. This is a lovely piece of fiction suggesting that the challenges, conflicts and conundrums of our lives are expressed in the universal themes of Torah, and our search for solutions begins there, as well."  

Amy Scheinerman for Congregational Libraries Today

"This... makes for a unique approach to Torah study. It is also an excellent choice for book clubs because the content is thought-provoking." Association of Jewish Libraries.

"What’s amazing about “The Genealogy of Understanding” is how powerful these stories are, even those that are only a few pages long. ... Jaffe’s character explores what makes us human – what connects us to each other and what separates us. ...  The stories in “The Genealogy of Understanding” will inspire readers with their wisdom." 

Rabbi Rachel Esserman, The Reporter.

"Jaffe has written the book that I always wanted to write and does so with grace and style." 

Reviews by Amos Lassen.

The Genealogy of Understanding is a Finalist and received an Honorable Mention for the 2014 Rainbow Awards, meaning that a judge found it to be among the strongest in its category. The judge's comments are incredibly touching: "Every time I pick up a Lethe Press title, I know it will be outstanding. This book was no exception. A series of intricately connected short stories, each one a shining gem of human experience. The stories are beautifully written, imaginatively arranged, and spiritually and emotionally rich. A collection to be savored." 

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"Jewish Gentle" and Other Stories of Gay-Jewish Living

Reviews are in:

"[T]he most powerful collection of short stories about gay Jews ...[in] more than 20 years."  Wayne Hoffman, Jewish Book Council's Jewish Book World.

"Not only do Jaffe’s tales pack a punch, he creates some wonderful characters....The author’s greatest success is that readers never know what to expect until a story is over."  Rabbi Rachel Esserman, The Reporter Group, Jewish Federation of Broome County, NY.


"a fascinating, diverse and highly imaginative work of fiction... This book deals with a wide array of topics in a way that is both accessible and intriguing. It’s most definitely a good read."  Simone Ellin, Baltimore Jewish Times.


"Jewish Gentle and Other Stories of Gay Jewish Living is a fine read with plenty to entice readers."

Midwest Book Review 


"Jaffe tells it like it is and while his writing is beautifully sublime, his plots are unexpected. Nothing scares Jaffe and he writes about what he feels and what he feels like– be it violent or even blasphemous…. we have his writings to cast a glow on our lives. He gives us songs of life…and as we read we hear his gorgeous symphony in our minds. I wanted to get up and dance because the music/writing moved me so." From a review by Amos Lassen.

"Jaffe has an important message - where we stand is just as important as the forces that pushed us to that point, that formed us, that gave us a beginning and a platform from which to create our own understanding of the world. For a gay Jew, perhaps the difficulty is not in defining how one of those forces accommodates the other, but rather how do they enrich each other. A tender, provocative, thoughtful, and engaging discussion, at times gritty, at others pure wit, Jaffe’s book invites us into the discussion as equal partners."    From a review by Paul Landerman in Edge.

"Jaffe’s gift with language, with voice, with temporality, with suspense, with humor, with character, with mood made each of his tales utterly engaging. Never has the familiar felt as fresh as it does in Jaffe’s stories....Jaffe has a particular gift for capturing the complicated emotional currents swirling around coming out....By telling such well-spun tales with such well-crafted characters, Jaffe has left me wanting more . . . but in the best way. I don’t feel cheated of the longer, fuller tale; I feel charmed by these people into whose world I’ve been invited, and wistful that I couldn’t stay longer."      From a review in Out in Print by Kent Brintnall.


From the Introduction by Andrew Ramer:

 "We know the territory that Jaffe writes in—lush, stark, unexpected, a Jordan flowing through it with Real on one bank and Dream on the other. Jaffe is not afraid to write about violence, or blasphemy, sometimes comically and sometimes horrifically….you are holding in your hands this new book of his. Where fractured novel and story collection are Velcroed to the music he composes, his Torah of the moment, the stories of our gay queer Jewish lives, seen and reseen, heard and reheard, with a lush orchestra of lived experience playing in the background. A collection of stories that could be a novel, the sections of a novel shuffled like a deck of cards. A lush Jewish gamelan for queer ears, queer hearts, queer minds. And otherwise.”        


In "Jewish Gentle” and Other Stories of Gay-Jewish Living, Daniel M. Jaffe explores various aspects of gay-Jewish life: coming out to self and family; (re)defining one’s relationship to tradition and faith; surviving child abuse and teenage sexual identity angst; experiencing the adult joys and heartbreaks of dating, of forming relationships, and of losing them; coping with HIV/AIDS; considering parenting; and dealing with old age.

Mirroring the diversity within contemporary American Jewish life, the main characters in these twenty-four stories are Jewish, but in various ways—some wrestle with religion, others with their place in tradition and community. Yet for other characters here, Jewish identity is not at issue in the pursuit of happiness, love, and inner peace; rather, Jewishness is a cornerstone given, a foundational lens through which these characters see and examine the world and self.

Available in paperback or e-book format at:

Available as an audio book at:


The acclaimed novel of a gay Jewish man's lusty and spiritual adventures in Amsterdam

 — now back in print!


A novel by Daniel M. Jaffe

The Limits of Pleasure, by Daniel M. Jaffe, front cover

On Chanukah Eve, December 1, 2010, Bear Bones Books, an imprint of Lethe Press, published its first novel, a reprint of author Daniel M. Jaffe’s acclaimed book, The Limits of Pleasure, a Finalist for one of ForeWord Magazine's Book of the Year Awards upon initial publication in 2001.

With great humor and sensitivity, The Limits of Pleasure follows Dave Miller,  a sexy forty-year-old bearish man living in Boston, as he survives an escalating inner skirmish to reconcile his Jewish and gay identities.

A year after the death of his Holocaust-surviving grandmother, Dave leaves Boston for Amsterdam, the home of Anne Frank, whom his Grandma revered. Dave, feeling undeserving to confront the suffering that Grandma endured in the concentration camps, cannot bring himself to visit Anne Frank’s house.

Angry with himself and the world, Dave repeatedly seeks out risky erotic trysts that mix sacred ritual with profane hedonism. When he meets Alexander, a sexually reserved Dutchman of Indonesian heritage who has identity conflicts of his own, the relationship shakes both men’s lives to their core.


You can watch Dan read from the novel at:


Praise for Daniel M. Jaffe’s  The Limits of Pleasure:

“I can only testify to the riveting effect this book has had on me . . . truly groundbreaking . . . a brilliant author. . .The canon itself quakes, shudders, and then invites the likes of The Limits of Pleasure in, as it so emphatically must. Daniel Jaffe has done a great thing: made a fresh pilgrimage to the age-old human well, where sex and death, good-hearted secularism and the promptings of an ambiguous Higher Power, revolutionism and blood fealty all roil the pond from surface to sediment.”   

           — Sydney Lea, Pulitzer Prize Finalist author of Pursuit of a Wound; Founding Editor of New England Review


"The Limits of Pleasure is a satisfying and thought-provoking read that will echo in your consciousness long after the surprisingly uplilfting ending.  Jaffe is a major talent, and Bear Bones Books is to be lauded for bringing this wonderful book back into print."

           -- Jerry Wheeler, Out in Print

     “Dave Miller, the main character in Jaffe’s novel The Limits of Pleasure, is torn between the moral obligations imposed on him by his late grandmother, a Holocaust survivor, and his desires as a gay man.  By daringly juxtaposing sacred and erotic imageries, the novel presents a courageous portrait of a middle-aged man who slowly learns to define his Jewish identity on his own terms.  Dave’s capacity to find hope in the middle of conflict is a quality that also defines Jaffe’s writing as a whole.”  

The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Multiethnic American Literature


The Limits of Pleasure is a disturbing and evocative combination of gay erotica and Holocaust memoir. . . . Readers are likely to find The Limits of Pleasure interesting and controversial.”

          — The Santa Barbara Independent


“Jaffe accurately covers all the bases of human emotion within his narrative, exploring what it means to survive.     Like the central character’s experiences, this debut novel will enhance the reader’s own path to self-discovery.”

       — Paul J. Willis, Unzipped


“His ruminations sketch out his relationship to family, religion, sexuality, and history at large.  Bawdy eroticism is juxtaposed with sentimentality, depravity interlaced with piety, and the sacred wedded to the profane in this acrid comedy. . . . masterfully written . . . an entertaining and salient piece.  Jaffe is unquestionably a gifted writer with much to say in a voice that is rarely heard.”  

       — XFactor


The Limits of Pleasure is as seamless as anything Christopher Isherwood, Toni Morrison, or Chaim Potok … might write, a work where the visionary sits at the table with the mundane, where the divine sleeps in the same bed as the profane. . . . I finished the novel feeling breathless.”   

— David May, author, Madrugada


The Limits of Pleasure is an extremely intelligent and entertaining view into one man’s multi-faceted and perverse psyche.”  

       — The Liberty Press (Kansas)


“Readers, grab hold of your joysticks (pun absolutely intended): Daniel Jaffe’s Dave will take you on an unforgettable ride. What are the limits of pleasure, the limits of suffering, the limits of language? Hallucinatory, blasphemous, shamelessly erotic, unflinching, by turns wrenching and wildly comic, Jaffe’s narrative stops at nothing in its exploration of what it means to be homosexual, Jewish, human; to survive. This is high-stakes, extreme fiction, whose rewards are as great as the risks it embraces. Just as Jaffe’s tormented, irrepressible and oddly endearing hero earns the ‘redemption of risk,’ so does his brilliantly fearless creator.”

— Ellen Lesser, author, The Blue Streak and The Shoplifter’s Apprentice


The Limits of Pleasure is a true page-turner, an invigorating exploration of the ways in which the past informs our present, and desire — both for the spirit and for the flesh—shapes our identity. Whether cruising for sex or communing with the spirits of his past, Jaffe’s hero reminds us that the sometimes perilous path to self-discovery is a journey we do not, and cannot, make alone. Tremendously wise, hilariously funny, and supremely sexy, Jaffe’s big-hearted novel affirms our faith in the power of the spirit, the glory of the flesh, to make us more fully human. A thoughtful, deeply satisfying novel.”    

— Karl Woelz, co-editor, Men on Men 2000


“We’ve heard of survivors’ guilt, but Daniel Jaffe brings us a visceral understanding of its less understood concomitant, survivors’ rage, in this extraordinarily fearless novel. His prose moves into the minds and cuts close to the bone of his characters as he explores the conflicted sites of contemporary identity. His novel walks mysterious paths to redemption and illuminates the paradox by which one must hold back to survive but risk all to live.”

— Diane Lefer, author, Very Much Like Desire, and California Transit

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Also available for Kindle, iBook, and all electronic-book formats.

isbn-10:  1-59021-196-0  •  isbn-13:  978-1-59021-196-0   •   $15.00 usd




With Signs and Wonders:
An International Anthology of
Jewish Fabulist Fiction
Complied and Edited by
Daniel M. Jaffe 
Bringing together 24 contemporary writers and translators from 19 different countries, and including numerous new and original translations, this anthology captures the exuberant storytelling tradition of the Jewish people, a literary heritage shaped by centuries of legends, folkore, and mysticism.  Teeming with passion and humor and rooted in the triumphant and tragic history of a people, these stories illustrate the Jewish fascination with the mysteries of the imagination and the endless possibilities of life.
Authors include Moacyr Scliar of Brazil; Dina Rubina of Uzbekistan, Russia, and Israel; Teresa Porzecanski of Uruguay; Joan Leegant and Steve Stern of the United States; Ruth Knafo Setton of Morocco and the United States; and many others.
Praise for
With Signs and Wonders
"Readers seeking refuge in the wilds of the imagination will find it here...These stories provide a comforting link with a Jewish literary tradition as old as the Bible." 
Carol Cook, Ha'aretz
"A rich manifestation of the Jewish culture...This anthology is a tribute to both a shared literary tradition and to a people's imagination." 
Micaela Kramer, The Forward
"A deliciously multifaceted journey into alternative realities.  Jaffe has the right editorial pitch: he sees literature globally.  His selections display the inquisitiveness of the rabbinical mind and the compassion of secularism." 
Ilan Stavans
"An anthology to be savored by scholars and lay readers alike."  Diane Matza
"A diverse and imaginative group of stories, recommended for Jewish studies collections." 
Gene Shaw, Library Journal