Review of The Shame Borne in Silence

December 1, 2016

shameBy Daniel Stuhlman

In 1997, shortly after the publication of the first edition of this book, Rabbi Twerski, speaking at an overflow Baltimore audience, said that “True Torah observance is not conducive to any kind of abuse, physical, emotional or otherwise….” This is still his message in this revised and updated second edition.

Community members have a hard time believing that a “pillar of the community” can be a saint in public and a monster at home. Abuse can be verbal, emotional, and/or physical. Too often an abused wife is naively told to stay in the marriage and preserve shalom bayis (domestic peace). Even if the accuser is lying, we have to take an accusation seriously and try to help those involved. Rabbi Twerski, who is both a Chasidic rabbi and a psychiatrist, has many years of experience treating alcohol and other types of substance abusers. He knows that those who are sick, need professional help. Denial does not make the problems disappear.

This book is well written, but it is not a happy book. The case studies presented are sad because too often the person seeking help was not helped in the early stages by the parents, rabbis, or community members. After reading this book, you should be able to better recognize the signs of abuse and help the abused parties get the kind of help to make her or him whole. This book should be read and discussed by every rabbi, parent, teacher, and anyone else who could see domestic abuse.

It is highly recommended for every kind of library – personal, synagogue, academic, and community.

This review originally appeared in AJL Reviews.


Review of Moadei HaRav

November 30, 2016

MoadeiHaRav web1By David B. Levy

Rabbi Shlomo Pick’s edition of Moadei HaRav succeeds in offering the English-speaking, observant reader a better understanding and appreciation of some of Rav Soloveitchik’s ideas, analysis, and methodology relating to halachic (legal) teachings, regarding the chagim (holidays). Many of these shiurim (lessons) were originally delivered in English or Yiddish. Rabbi Pick provides a clear overview of the topics and offers explanations using the Brisker method of interpretation.

The book comprises an introduction and 17 chapters from the Rav’s lectures organized into three distinct parts. The first section includes an excellent essay describing the Rav’s position on the peshat (simple meaning) of talmudic passages, the role of minhagim (customs) within Jewish law, the Rav’s understanding of the teacher/student dynamic, and the relationship between philosophy and law. The second part contains shiurim on the holidays; for example, setting the date of Shavuot (based on a number of Rishonim). Some of these shiurim include an appendix to elucidate particular issues raised by the Rav.

Rabbi Pick also provides helpful footnotes that contain references to additional oral remarks or discourses by the Rav and/or other primary and secondary sources by and about him. The third section includes five studies on Jewish law and customs such as the mitzvah of Charoset (the Rav on the Rambam).

Rabbi Pick and his helpers (including Rabbi Shimon Altshul) have made a most positive contribution by sharing many of the Rav’s insights, innovative approaches, and intellectual brilliance in a very clear manner.

Highly recommended.

This review originally appeared in AJL reviews.


Jewish Veganism With Dr. Richard Schwartz and Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz

November 29, 2016

WhoStoleMyReligion9789655242348With Victoria Moran of Unity.fm

Among Newsweek‘s “Top 50 Rabbis in America,” Shmuly Yanklowitz joins Richard Schwartz, Ph.D., of JewishVeg for an inspiring hour on why veganism is a Jewish value and a human value.

Listen to the full interview here.

 


Review of From Mourning to Morning

November 28, 2016

 

From Mourning to MorningIn the pages of “From Mourning to Morning: A Comprehensive Guide to Mourning, Grieving, and Bereavement”, Rabbi Simeon Schreiber (Senior Staff Chaplain at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, Florida), translates his many years of experience and considerable expertise into a greater understanding of the emotions surrounding death, grieving, mourning, and bereavement in Judaism. From “Mourning to Morning” deftly presents these principles in a comprehensive format. Focusing on the Shiva, the seven day period of mourning in Judaism, Rabbi Schreiber explains the foundation of visiting a house of mourners, and suggests proper etiquette in conducting a visit. With sensitivity and expertise, Rabbi Schreiber provides unique and practical advise on how to cope with death, mourning, and the related issues that we all will inevitably face. Impressively well written, organized and presented, “From Mourning to Morning” is unreservedly recommended.

This review originally appeared on Midwest Book Review.


Sneak Peek: Kaytek the Wizard Puppet Show

November 8, 2016

Check out the cool behind the scenes images of Brian Hull’s production of Janusz Korczak’s magical story!

Script and Direction by Brian Hull

Music by Sarah Hart

For more information, visit www.brianimation.com


Review of Who Stole My Religion? 

November 7, 2016

WhoStoleMyReligion9789655242348How Jewish Teaching Can Save The Planet

Review in the Jewish Georgian, “the largest Jewish newspaper in the South,” by Lewis Regenstein, president of The Interfaith Council for the Protection of Animals and Nature, and author of the book “Replenish the Earth: The Teachings of the World’s Religions on Protecting Animals and Nature.”

Dr. Richard Schwartz, an expert on Jewish teachings on the environment, vegetarianism, and animals, has given us a preview of his new book, due out by early July 2016, on the environmental crisis we are facing.

“Who Stole My Religion? Revitalizing Judaism and Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal Our Imperiled Planet,” Richard says, ” is meant to be a wake-up call – the most urgent that I can make- – to alert Jews and others that we must do all we can in applying Jewish values to help shift our imperiled planet onto a sustainable path.”

Its primary aim is to show that the world is heading toward a “perfect storm … of existential crises: sudden, catastrophic climate change; severe environmental degradation; devastating scarcities of food, water and energy; widening terrorism; and other critical threats to life as we know and value it,”

“Everything possible must be done,” Richard warns, “to avert such potential catastrophes, since they threaten humanity and all life on the planet.”

A main theme of this book, as Richard puts it, is that “in the face of today’s urgent problems, Jews must return to our universal Jewish values and to our missions: to be ‘a light unto the nations,’ a kingdom of priests and a holy people, descendants of prophets, champions of social justice, eternal protestants against a corrupt, unjust world, dissenters against destructive and unjust systems.”

“I hope that this book’s discussion of Jewish teachings on these critically important issues will help move our precious planet away from its present perilous path onto one that is more just, humane, peaceful, and sustainable.”


Review of Who Stole My Religion 

November 2, 2016

by Yossi Wolfson

Watching the enthusiastic response to Donald Trump’s talk at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference this past March, one might not believe that Judaism is a radical religion. After all, this was a man who had previously insulted Mexicans, Muslims, women, media members, and even Jews.  But Judaism has a long tradition of protesting against greed, injustice, and the misuse of power. From the prophets of Jerusalem in the First Temple era to East End sweatshop strikers, Jews have stood up for social justice.

In his updated, revised, and expanded second edition of Who Stole My Religion? Richard H. Schwartz reminds us of these values–so inherent to Jewish writings and history, and so absent from large parts of American and Israeli Jewish politics today. This absence is especially marked in Orthodox communities in which Schwartz, as an orthodox Jew, focuses. [Full disclosure: I have worked with Schwartz on vegetarian, animal rights, and related issues. He often speaks at the Jerusalem-based Israeli Jewish Vegetarian Society center, where I am a coordinator.]

Schwartz reminds us of the Torah laws that limit accumulation of wealth and redistribute it equitably. These include the ban on taking interest on loans, the cancellation of financial debts on the Sabbatical year, and the Jubilee law. Land was originally divided among the people of Israel based on the size of the tribe. To avoid distortion of this just allocation, a complete redistribution of land was to be done every 50 years, when all land would be returned to its original holders. Impractical as these laws may be today, the principles underlying them can still guide us. We are all acquainted with the statistics according to which the top 1% possesses more wealth than the poorest 90%. This, Schwartz reminds us, is not just outrageous; it is in contradiction with core Jewish values.

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