Kosher Bookworm: Reb Shlomo’s Torah legacy

October 28, 2011

By Alan Jay Gerber

Rabbi Shlomo of Kartin said: “If you want to raise a man from mud and filth, do not think it is enough to keep standing on top and reaching down to him a helping hand. You must go all the way down yourself, down into mud and filth. Then take hold of him with strong hands, and pull him and yourself out into the light.”

Here’s another one, “When you tell stories about holy people, and you tell other people there are holy people in the world, it fills you with joy.”

Elie Wiesel, the Nobel literature laureate also has a word on this week’s author. “He would suffer with those who suffered. A lover of loving, he would never offend the person to whom he was speaking. Where others might use argumentation and recrimination, he preferred praise. I never once heard him speak ill of another, even of those who cared a little less for him.”

These words reflect upon one of the most charismatic personalities of previous century in Judaism. A rabbi, whose unique manner and method help save Judaism from the decay of a decadent civilization that surrounded us. Now, once more, the treasure that is Reb Shlomo’s legacy is to be found in a new work, “The Torah Commentary of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach” by Urim Publications. The first volume of the upcoming series has Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach’s commentary on the first six parshiot of Sefer Bereishis contain perhaps among the most human and humane oriented takes upon the sacred divine text, thus truly enhancing its meaning and teachings. In his foreword to this work, Rabbi Shmuel Intrator notes the influences of the following rabbinic figures behind Rabbi Carlebach’s work.

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Free lecture by Robert Rubinstein, author of An Italian Renaissance: Choosing Life in Canada

October 24, 2011

The Centre for Refugee Studies presents

The 4th Annual Howard Adelman Lecture featuring

Robert Rubinstein, author of An Italian Renaissance: Choosing Life in Canada WINNER of the 2011 Canadian Jewish Book Award, in the Category of Holocaust Literature.

“An Italian Renaissance: Jewish Refugees in Postwar Europe”
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 1, 2011 4PM-7PM
Senate Chambers, Ross Building N940, York University, Keele Campus, 4700 Keele Street

Event is free of charge! Donations will be collected for a bursary which assists refugee students to study at York University. For more information contact Michele Millard: mmillard@yorku.ca

Flyer can also be found here.


Top Ten PR Books for Israeli and Jewish Leaders

October 10, 2011
For the Love of Israel and the Jewish People

For the Love of Israel and the Jewish People

by Ronn Torossian

The next few weeks will be tough for Israel as the upcoming UN sessions loom. Therefore, I composed a list of must-read public relations books, concerned with Israel’s case in the media:

I.            The Torah: The Jewish Bible is the bedrock of the entirety of Judaism’s legal and ethical tests. The Torah encompasses the Five Books of Moses and is the Jewish mandate for the State of Israel and the Jewish people’s reason for being.  It’s a must- read for anyone doing public relations/marketing for Israel and the Jews – to know the foundation of Jewish faith and law and the essence of Judaism.

II.             The Case for Israel, by Alan Dershowitz: The famed Harvard law professor offers “a proactive defense of Israel,” and presents a passionate insight into unfair attacks on the only democracy in the Middle East. Each of the chapters begins with an accusation against Israel, followed by “The Reality” as Dershowitz sees it, and “The Proof.” Its rationale is based on excellent logical explanations, which can help reasoning in arguments, debates and media situations.

III.             The War Against the Jews, by Lucy Dawidowicz:  The definitive history of the Holocaust, which clearly chronicles the magnitude of its atrocities. It’s necessary for all to remember that not so long ago when many tried to destroy the Jewish people, the rest of the world stood by.  Read it and remember it as today, too, there are many who strive to destroy the Jews. It’s necessary to know and be very aware of when dealing with media.

IV.            The Prime Ministers: An Intimate Narrative of Israeli Leadership, by Yehuda Avner: This book by a former senior government official details at great length and with fascinating insider’s  experiences working side-by-side with five Israeli prime ministers and countless senior players in government. The book provides insight into the intricate inner workings and details of politics; it names  governments and people worldwide that pressure the Jewish State. This book enables one a view of  the pressures on Israeli government officials – and a mirror into what pressures to expect.

V.            How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie: This book has been called the “public relations bible.” After its initial publication in 1937, the book sold over 15 million copies. Carnegie states, “Success is due 15 percent to professional knowledge and 85 percent to “the ability to express ideas, to assume leadership, and to arouse enthusiasm among people.” Israel often assumes that being right is enough;-that’s not the case. Those speaking out for Israel need to know and understand that in today’s world being right isn’t enough; selling it will change the dynamic.

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Howard Jacobson and the escape from Jewish destiny

October 9, 2011

by Shana Rosenblatt Mauer

Now that his Booker Prize win has made him a best-selling author in the U.S., Howard Jacobson’s publisher is bringing out his older titles there. First to appear: The Mighty Walzer, about the coming-of-age of a typically self-denying Mancunian Jew.

The Mighty Walzer by Howard Jacobson. Bloomsbury, 388 pages, $16 ‏(Paperback‏). U.K.: Vintage, 400 pages, £9
The Finkler Question, by Howard Jacobson
Bloomsbury, 307 pages, $15 ‏(Paperback‏)

Howard Jacobson, a writer who has been well-known in his native England for nearly three decades, has enjoyed a growing international reputation since winning the Man Booker prize last fall for his latest novel, The Finkler Question. In the wake of Finkler’s success, an earlier Jacobson novel, The Mighty Walzer, from 1999, has now been published in the United States for the first time. ‏(Bloomsbury has also just released his 1998 No More Mr. Nice Guy in the U.S.‏)

Written largely in the Mancunian jargon of its setting and punctuated by emphatic Yiddish slang and sentiment, it is not hard to understand why the book had not previously been released to the American market. For the uninitiated, many passages, sentences and words have to be read more than once. Yet, that very quality is the novel’s greatest strength.

There is little plot development and action in The Mighty Walzer, but the tale of Oliver Walzer’s journey from early adolescence to late adulthood is narrated in a conversational style that is so authentic and engaging that the lack of narrative intrigue is irrelevant. Oliver’s first-person account of his life rings true with the cadence, tone and descriptive powers of a compelling, if not necessarily likable, character.

The novel begins in the late 1950s, when Oliver is a shy, pre-adolescent trying to make sense of his lower middle-class Jewish family − a family that is, paradoxically, voluble and retiring, close-knit and disconnected − and its array of psychologically uneven relatives, Jewish friends and acquaintances. In explaining the Walzer family’s disparate character, Oliver notes: “Grandiosity was in the family …. On my father’s side.” In contrast, his mother’s side “went in for reserve.” It is a constellation of opposites that confounds him throughout his life, though he remains ever attuned to the fragility and woes of his family and friends. He comprehends how hard it is to be his father, a man with a bombastic nature who is limited by his trying economic circumstances.

How can a man like Joel Walzer be the kind of husband and father that his family expects, Oliver asks, “when his head’s full of plans. And big disappointments.” He is likewise sensitive to his mother’s timorous sisters, whom his father christens the Shrinking Violets. “Let a moth come in through an open window on a summer’s night and beat its wings in a lampshade, and their lives hung in doubt before them. A thread finer than cobweb attached them to life.” Read the rest of this entry »


Short review of On Changes in Jewish Liturgy: Options and Limitations

October 6, 2011

by Jennifer Stern Breger

JOFA Journal readers are very familiar with the outstanding scholarship of Daniel Sperber, whose writings have often graced our pages.  This volume, which explores the development of our liturgy, has its roots in a presentation at the 2007 JOFA conference and devotes much attention to the berakha in the morning prayers recited by men, she-lo asani isha (“who has not made me a woman”).  Sperber addresses the question of the permissibility of introducing the names of the Matriarchs into the opening berakha of the Amidah, and the difficulty of the phrase in Tahanun that refers to the nations “who abominate us as much as the ritual impurity of the menstruant woman.”

Sperber demonstrates with great erudition and historical knowledge that it does not make sense to talk of a single crystallized version of the liturgy; changes have always taken place in the prayers Jews have said through the ages.  After discussing both Talmudic sources forbidding changes and the rulings and formulations of Maimonides, he concludes that it is quite permissible to make changes as long as one does not alter the overall content and structure of the liturgy or prayer.  The reader will learn a great deal from the richness of Sperber’s writing in this book, enhanced by its valuable footnotes and appendices, and the depth and breadth of knowledge demonstrated about the history of Jewish liturgy, including the introduction of new prayers, variants in liturgical texts, and the range of different views on the subject of liturgy held by scholars through the ages.

This review is from the JOFA Journal (Summer 2011).


Mea She’arim bookstore hit again by extremist ‘mafia’

October 5, 2011

By Melanie Lidman

Jerusalem 15/Sept/2011 – A bookstore in the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Mea She’arim, which has been struggling with violence from a mafia-style “Purity Committee” that objects to their English and Zionist books, was attacked once again early on Wednesday morning.

Marlene Samuels, the manager of Or Hachaim/Manny’s Bookstore, found the outer windows of the shop smashed for the fifth time since the store’s opening in March 2010, and the second time in less than a week.

Radicals from the fringe anti-Zionist Sikrikim group have also glued its locks shut, thrown tar and fish oil at it and dumped bags of human Read the rest of this entry »


Mea She’arim ‘mafia’ harasses, vandalizes businesses

October 2, 2011

by Melanie Lidman

Jerusalem 08/Sept/2011 – ‘Sicarii’ break windows, throw human excrement at stores they deem to promote immodesty, including bookstore popular with Anglo residents.

A bookstore in the capital’s ultra-Orthodox Mea She’arim neighborhood is struggling against a wave of attacks by a haredi group called Sikrikim (“Sicarii”) that other business-owners have called the “mafia of Mea Sha’arim.”

Since the bookstore, known as Or Hachaim/Manny’s, opened in March 2010, men have smashed its windows several times, glued its locks shut, thrown tar and fish oil, and dumped bags of human excrement inside.

Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger was harassed and had stones thrown at him while leaving the store last year.

The bookstore, located on Mea She’arim Street, is popular with Anglo residents and tourists and carries many English- language holy books and Judaica items in addition to Hebrew books. The harassment stems from the bookstore’s refusal to accept demands made by the neighborhood extremist group, which would require all businesses to observe specific “modesty standards.”

At Or Hachaim, the Sikrikim’s demands include putting up a sign asking customers to dress modestly, removing all English-language books, signs and advertisements, and closing its website, which is in English, all so as not to attract tourists, who are not dressed modestly, said Marlene Samuels, one of the three managers of the bookstore, along with her husband, Manny, and Meir Dombey. Manny Samuels previously ran Manny’s Bookstore, which was well-known in the Anglo community.

“These people are very extreme; they terrorize lots of people here, and they are a very insular group,” Marlene Samuels said. She added that despite filing four complaints with the police and providing surveillance footage that clearly identified four of the men who have been vandalizing their shop, the police has Read the rest of this entry »