The Genesis of Genesis

March 28, 2010
Covenant and Conversation

Covenant and Conversation

by Shalom Carmi

Covenant and Conversation: A Weekly Reading of the Jewish Bible
Volume One: Genesis

by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
Maggid, 356 pages, $24.95

Jews recite the Torah, the five books of Moses, in an annual cycle, and they often identify a biblical passage by the week (parasha) in which it’s read rather than by chapter and verse. Nowadays, books on the parasha abound, and, broadly speaking, they take one of two general approaches. The first analyzes the text through the critical examination of a variety of commentators, with the exemplary work of the past half-century in this genre being Nechama Leibovits’ Studies.

Lord Sacks, the chief rabbi of the British Commonwealth, takes the second approach in his new book on Genesis. The first in a series, it is intended as more a collection of sermons than an analytical work. Indeed, his use of the word conversation in the title offers a key to his intention. Older rabbinical texts often describe the characteristic prayer of each of the three patriarchs in Genesis: Abraham stands before God, initiating prayer for the people of Sodom; Jacob encounters God in a dream, reflecting the element in religious life that is beyond conscious control; and Isaac engages in siha, a word meaning “meditation” or “conversation.” Sacks writes that “in true conversation, I open myself up to the reality of another person,” and he notes that Isaac’s paradigmatic siha occurs as he awaits the woman who will become his wife in Genesis 24.
Read the rest of this entry »


Chief Rabbi: Book Error Could Have Meant Resigning

March 28, 2010
The Dignity of Difference

The Dignity of Difference

by Simon Rocker

Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks has acknowledged that he would have had to resign if he had not amended his award-winning book on interfaith tolerance, The Dignity of Difference.

He made the admission at an address at the Oxford Union last week when he was asked by a student why he had revised the book for its second edition.

Strictly Orthodox rabbis demanded the withdrawal of the book in 2002.

At the time, the London Beth Din issued a statement saying that “certain passages lend themselves to an interpretation that is inconsistent with basic Jewish beliefs.”
Read the rest of this entry »


Al-Aqsa Omitted from Pesach Haggadah Cover

March 25, 2010
Haggadah distributed in Jaffa

Haggadah distributed in Jaffa

by Eli Senyor

Haggadot for Pesach distributed Thursday in kindergartens throughout religiously mixed Jaffa bore a photo of the Temple Mount on the cover, but the al-Aqsa Mosque, which is also located in the east Jerusalem compound, was conspicuously omitted.

An image of a model of the Third Temple was superimposed on the photo in place of the mosque, which is one of Islam’s holiest sites.

It is unclear who distributed the haggadot.

“We’ve seen red lines being crossed in the past, but this is a crossing of all boundaries,” said Kamel Agbaria, chairman of the Ajami neighborhood council.
Read the rest of this entry »


Short Story Writers Wanted

March 25, 2010

by Greer Fay Cashman

After proving with its two previous ventures, Jane Doe Buys a Challah & Other Stories, published in 2007, and Tel Aviv Short Stories (2009), that there is a demand for English language short stories about life in Israel, Ang-Lit Press had no qualms about putting out another short fiction anthology which is scheduled for publication at the beginning of 2011.

There is an enormous pool of literary talent among immigrants from English-speaking countries, and there is also a growing readership inside and outside Israel for short stories on any number and variety of subjects that reflect different aspects of life in this country.
Read the rest of this entry »


Interview with Ari Goldman, Author of the Commentary on the JDC Haggadah

March 24, 2010
Ari Goldman

Ari Goldman

The following is an interview with Ari Goldman, author of the commentary on the In Every Generation: The JDC Haggadah.

Q. What is something you would like readers to come away with after reading your book?

Ari Goldman: We don’t have pictures of the Exodus; we only have the words of the haggadah to tell the story. But what if we could see the Jews leaving Egypt? What would they look like? Open this haggadah and you’ll see. You’ll see people oppressed coming to freedom. You’ll see people hungry being fed. You’ll see the naked being clothed and the sick being healed. The message of this haggadah is that the Exodus didn’t only happen in ancient times. It is happening in our lifetimes, too.

“In every generation, one is obligated to consider him- or herself as if he or she had been liberated from Egypt,” the haggadah tells us. In a more literal sense, in every generation we are liberated. And even more than that, in every generation we are obligated to help liberate the oppressed. I hope that this haggadah motivates readers not only to remember but to act.
Read the rest of this entry »


Review of JDC Haggadah

March 24, 2010
In Every Generation: The JDC Haggadah

In Every Generation: The JDC Haggadah

by Dov Peretz Elkins

In Every Generation: The JDC Haggadah
by Ari L. Goldman and Rabbi Joseph Telushkin
Hardcover, $22.50.
96 pages, full color, includes many photo images from the Archives of “The Joint,” the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. Published by Devora Publishing and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
ISBN 13: 978-1-934440-56-8

A traditional Haggadah portraying the age-old Passover story through modern-day images of deliverance and social responsibility in action.

The Exodus story that we retell each year in the Passover Haggadah took place in Biblical times, but its lessons – of rescue, relief and renewal – echo throughout history. This new Haggadah has a dual role. It includes the full traditional text, from Kiddush at the beginning of the seder to Chad Gadya at the end. In that sense, it retells the Exodus story the way it has been told for generations. But this Haggadah adds another dimension: It shows how the lessons of the Exodus story have been practiced with love and compassion in the modern era.

In Every Generation: The JDC Haggadah highlights the work of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, which, since it was founded in 1914, has been the premier organization reaching out to Jews in distress around the world. For the making of this Haggadah, JDC opened its vast archives of photographs, letters and documents, many of them never before made public.
Read the rest of this entry »


Book Makes New Claims about Anne Frank

March 24, 2010

(via the Associated Press)

A Holocaust survivor claims in a new book that Anne Frank distracted younger children from the horrors of a Nazi concentration camp by telling them fairy tales – an account disputed by at least one Frank authority and a childhood friend of the diarist.

The story by Berthe Meijer, now 71, of being a 6-year-old inmate of Bergen Belsen crafts a touching portrait of Anne in the final weeks of her life in the German camp, struggling to keep up her own spirits even as she tried to lift the morale of the smaller children.

That Anne had a gift for storytelling was evident from the diary she kept during two years in hiding with her family in Amsterdam. The scattered pages were collected and published after the war in what became the most widely read book to emerge from the Holocaust.

But Meijer’s memoir, being published in Dutch later this month, is the first to mention Anne’s talent for spinning tales even in the despair of the camp.
Read the rest of this entry »


Review of Exodus and Emancipation: Biblical and African-American Slavery

March 23, 2010
Exodus and Emancipation

Exodus and Emancipation

by Dov Peretz Elkins

EXODUS AND EMANCIPATION: Biblical and African-American Slavery
by Kenneth Chelst
Hardcover, 446 pages (includes a dozen pages of b/w photos and an index)
Urim Publications (www.UrimPublications.com)
$34.95
ISBN 13: 978-965-524-020-7

In Exodus and Emancipation: Biblical and African-American Slavery, Rabbi Dr. Kenneth Chelst presents a new perspective on the saga of the Jewish people’s enslavement and departure from Egypt by comparing it with the African-American slave experience in the United States, their emancipation and subsequent fight for dignity and equality. The comparison is designed to enrich the reader’s understanding of both experiences. Both peoples suffered centuries-long oppression, with the African-American slave population at the time of emancipation in the 1860s roughly double that of the Israelites at the biblical Exodus.
Read the rest of this entry »


Why Is This Night Different? Who’s Asking?

March 23, 2010
In Every Generation: The JDC Haggadah

In Every Generation: The JDC Haggadah

by Jay Michaelson

Open-Eyed Heart-Wide Haggadah
By Debra Jill Mazer, edited by Shira Leba Batalion, designed by Margo Jennifer Akroyd
Double Gemini Press, 62 pages, $32.95

In Every Generation: The JDC Haggadah
Commentary by Ari L. Goldman, Foreword by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin
Devora Publishing, 96 pages., $24.95

The Kabbalah Haggadah: Pesach Decoded
By Yehuda Berg
The Kabbalah Centre International, 190 pages, $19.95

The Royal Table
By Rabbi Norman Lamm, edited by Joel B. Wolowelsky
OU Press, 200 pages, $24.95

For several years now, I’ve reviewed some of the stacks of Haggadot that arrive seasonally at the Forward. “Of making books there is no end,” we’re told in the Book of Ecclesiastes, and Passover seems to prove it. Why Passover? Maybe it’s because so many of us have sat through stultifying, rote Seders and yearn for something better. Maybe it’s because Passover is the most do-it-yourself of holidays; with no rabbi to tell you when to turn the page, a good, annotated Haggadah becomes an invaluable guide. Or maybe it’s because of the Passover story itself, a meta-narrative that is loaded with symbols, in which telling the tale is as important as what the tale tells.

This year’s batch is the broadest I’ve ever seen. The four under review in this column – the Forward has already run a story on another – are a traditional Haggadah from one of the foremost leaders of the Orthodox movement, an untraditional Haggadah by an organization that many Jews regard as a cult, a “New Jew” Haggadah that epitomizes the DIY ethos of the next generation of Jews and an establishment Haggadah that epitomizes the old guard. Is there really someone who still believes there’s only one way to “do Jewish” these days?
Read the rest of this entry »


You Shall Tell Your Son: Essays on Pesach and the Haggadah

March 22, 2010
And You Shall Tell Your Son: Essays on Pesach and the Haggadah

And You Shall Tell Your Son: Essays on Pesach and the Haggadah

by David Derovan

Do you remember growing up with the SOY Haggadah in your house? Or maybe your parents or even you used “The Passover Haggadah” by David Derovan and Moshe Berliner? You know, the one with the quirky color pictures. Well, David has done it again! French Creek Press has just published You Shall Tell Your Son: Essays on Pesach and the Haggadah by David Derovan.
Read the rest of this entry »