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.
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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.”
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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