Book Review: Life’s Journey: Exploring Relationships, Resolving Conflicts

November 16, 2011

by Geulah Grossman, M.Sc.

Life’s Journey: Exploring Relationships, Resolving Conflicts is a book to help you journey through life; “Inscribe us in the Book of Life.”

Reading Dr. Batya Ludman’s wonderfully wise Life’s Journey: Exploring Relationships, Resolving Conflicts (Devora Publishing, 2011) sparked some memories.

In 1970, when I had my first child, two best-sellers sat on my night-table: the umpteenth edition of Benjamin Spock’s The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care and the just-published Future Shock, by Alvin Toffler.

Spock’s message to parents was “Be confident — you know more than you think you do – and the rest is clearly explained here.” Even in 1946, when the book was first published (it’s still going strong, having sold more than 50 million copies in 42 languages), many young parents needed both the encouragement and a friendly knowledge-source, because – like today’s olim — they were living far from their extended families.

Toffler defined future shock as perception of too much change in too short a period of time”. Although Toffler wrote before anyone could even imagine specific changes like computers in every home (or room) and cell phones  in every pocket, he was spot-on in predicting that masses of unexpected or unfamiliar information would weaken one’s sense that “I know how to get along in this world”.

In 1975, when I came on aliya, the only useful book was The WonderPot Cookbook. It taught me about unfamiliar ingredients and non-oven ways to prepare them, but any other info I needed for navigating into Israeli society, and for raising my children within it – was totally unavailable. Knowing Hebrew gave me the illusion that I understood what was going around me. In reality, it’s the culture, not the language that takes time, patience, and human guidance to understand.

Although future shock now engulfs everyone in “western” society, groups enduring extra-large doses are new parents, parents of teen-agers, and new olim, each making their first entries into unfamiliar worlds. Many people belong simultaneously to two or all of these groups. Oh for a map, and a helping hand!

In her book, Dr. Ludman, a licensed clinical psychologist and a familiar name to Anglo olim, who is also a family therapist and trauma specialist and who writes a column for the weekend edition of the JPost, provides cogent descriptions of life’s challenges, mental exercises that lead to personal insights, and practical advice for dealing effectively and meaningfully with people and events throughout the life-cycle.

Among the topics: stress and its antidotes, effective communication, marriage, child-rearing, technology and its challenges to family life, the senior years, bereavement, and much more.

One chapter, “Take Your Foot Off the Gas”, should be translated into Hebrew and read together by all Mediterranean parents and their new-driver teenagers.

In addition to the high quality and scope of its advice, what makes the book unique is its chapters on life in Israel – the initial aliya adjustments, the difficulties of living far from loved ones, dealing with children’s teachers, coping with terror and the threat of terror, worries about our soldier-children, the roles of religion and culture in our lives, and all these combined.

Here’s one of my favorite paragraphs (it was hard to choose…):

“Pretend for a moment that you are from another planet. Remember, life is not what you knew back home. Appreciate all the things your new life has to offer and enjoy your adopted country’s strengths…..Where else do you see pink and red flowers growing on the same tree?….. You have to be moved when the bus driver, the woman at the checkout and the gym instructor all say Shabbat Shalom.”

Life’s Journey is an excellent gift for anyone at any stage of life’s journey – especially (but not only) if that journey includes aliya.

Online post may be found here.

Woodmere Psychologist Tackling Abuse in Jewish Community

November 15, 2011

by Susan Varghese

Long-time Five Towns resident, psychologist, and author, Michael J. Salamon is spreading awareness about abuse. Salamon has just released his fifth book, titled Abuse in the Jewish Community: Religious and Communal Factors that Undermine the Apprehension of Offenders and the Treatment of Victims.

“Early on, one of my internships was at a shelter for abused woman and children,” Salamon said. “ When I started working, I was exposed to several people with a history of abuse. And, because of the way it was handled in the Jewish community…well, it was basically not handled.”

Salamon grew up in Cedarhurst and is currently a Woodmere resident. He is the founder and director of the Adult Development Center, Inc., a psychological practice in Hewlett. “My job, family and friends [made me stay in The Five Towns]. A lot of the same people I grew up with still live here,” Salamon said. He went to Queens College and then to Hofstra University for his doctorate. “I had a passion for music, I played guitar in bands, and put myself through school through playing gigs.”

His latest book addresses the issue of abuse in the Jewish community, the factors, and signs of abuse, just to name a few.

According to Salamon, the reasons of abuse Read the rest of this entry »

Why We Pray What We Pray in JewishMediaReview

November 13, 2011

by Dov Peretz Elkins

So many of us recite the words of the Siddur without understanding the meaning of the Hebrew (or Aramaic) words – like a mechanical exercise. This book helps the reader understand the meaning and depth of several of the most important prayers.

Why We Pray What We Pray details the various factors that influenced six important Jewish prayers and shaped how and when Jews recite them. This book shows that each prayer Shema, Nishmat, Birkat HaHodesh, Anim Zemirot, Aleinu and Kaddish has a complex history of which contemporary worshippers are mostly unaware. When we learn about the factors and forces that shaped these prayers and Jewish liturgy in general, our appreciation of what Jewish worship is all about becomes that much more profound. Why We Pray What We Pray also sets forth important moments in Jewish history with depth and detail.

Leon Wieseltier, author of Kaddish, and the literary editor of The New Republic, writes this about the book:

“Barry Freundel’s studies of the Jewish liturgy are quite unique: they are a guide to understanding and to practice. A scholar and a rabbi, he has an uncommon talent for combining textual and historical erudition with an immense sensitivity to the experience of prayer. He deploys his immense learning with great skill, and again and again casts new light upon some of Judaism’s most familiar words. Above all, this book is animated by a profound and admirable commitment to the thoughtfulness of religious faith. If you have ever wondered what iyun tefilah [study of the meaning of prayer] is, it is this.”

Rabbi Dr. Barry Freundel is the author of Contemporary Orthodox Judaism’s Response to Modernity (Ktav) and the Rabbi of Congregation Kesher Israel at the Georgetown Synagogue located in downtown Washington DC. Rabbi Freundel serves as vice president of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) and chair of its Conversion Policies and Standards Committee, where he helped create and administer the RCA’s network of North American conversion courts. He is also Associate Professor of Religion at Towson University and Adjunct Professor of Law at Georgetown University.

The book is a must-read for everyone who wishes to understand both the content and history of the prayers they recite. Why We Pray What We Pray belongs in every Jewish home and library!

Beyond Names, Beyond Words (on Parashat Vayera)

November 10, 2011

Excerpt from The Torah Commentary of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach: Genesis, Part I.

NOW LISTEN TO THIS, FRIENDS. IT SAYS “VAYERA elav Hashem be’Alonei Mamre” (Bereishis 18:1), God revealed Himself to him in Alonei Mamre. What does it mean that God revealed Himself to him, why doesn’t it say that God revealed Himself to Avraham?

I want you to open your hearts in the deepest depths. Imagine if I would live all alone in the world, would I need a name? I only need a name because there are more people besides me in the world.

There are two kinds of names in the world. Sometimes I call a person because they are far away. I need their attention, so I call out to them. Obviously, if I would be all alone, would I need a name? Now imagine something else. There is somebody I love very much and I can’t stop saying their name, this is the deepest depths there is.

So, you see what it is, the deepest place someone can reach is the place beyond a name. There is a place which cannot be reached by a name, and in that place my connection is beyond choice. If my connection is only from that level of names, then one day we will stop calling each other altogether.

So you know what was revealed to Avraham when it says, “Vayera elav Hashem?” After Avraham entered the covenant with God, God revealed to him that the covenant is in that place which has no name . . . in a place which is beyond choice.

Vayera elav,” to him.

The beginning of Vayera is Avraham Avinu having the highest God revelation, but what is so deep is that God didn’t say anything.

I want you to Read the rest of this entry »

AJL reviews Women at the Crossroads

November 9, 2011

by Kathe Pinchuck

Siegelbaum, Rebbetzin Chana Bracha. Women at the Crossroads: A Woman’s Perspective on the Weekly Torah Portion. Bat Ayin, Israel: Midreshet B’erot Bat Ayin, 2010. 229 pp. (978193668098)

Rebbetzin Siegelbaum is the founder and director of Midreshet B’erot Bat Ayin, “an innovative women’s seminary in Israel offering a holistic, experiential approach to Torah living and learning, teaching women from all walks of life and of all ages.” The selections for each Torah portion were compiled from a weekly email newsletter. The descriptions of the seminary and its goals may give the impression of a “New Age” approach, but the author employs classical textual analysis. There are discussions women mentioned in the Torah, as well as specific mitzvot (challah, lighting candles), and analyses of language and syntax that emphasize the feminine. The last essay is a little preachy about women’s learning, but the others are insightful and erudite. Rather than taking a feminist tack or creating midrash, Rebbetzin Seigelbaum stresses the unique role of the feminine in all aspects of life and how it has contributed to “the molding of the Jewish people throughout the ages.” The book includes approbations from noted teachers and rabbis.

The back matter includes an index, a glossary and biographies of commentators. These elements make it accessible for those familiar with the portions and those with limited background, so the book is very highly recommended for all Jewish libraries.

AJL Reviews (Sep/Oct 2011), p. 36

Coming Back with the Kinderlach (on Parashat Vayera)

November 8, 2011

Excerpt from The Torah Commentary of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach: Genesis, Part I.

And Avraham returned to his young men.        (Bereishis 22:19)

THERE ARE SO MANY HOLY BOOKS, AND EVERY holy book talks about how you have to teach your children to be holy, to be frum, to be cute, to be sweet. Where do you find what you need the most, which is mamesh how to love your children? Where do you find in the deepest depth of all teachings how to be close to your children? I’m going through all the chassidishe seforim, where is it?

Now let me tell you something.

The truth is that this is Eliyahu HaNavi’s Torah. What is Eliyahu HaNavi all about? Eliyahu HaNavi is coming to bring peace between parents and children. Ve’heishiv lev avos al banim ve’lev banim al avosam (Malachi 3:24). So no wonder it’s not written down yet because it will be revealed when Eliyahu HaNavi is coming. Since our generation is getting so close, we are already looking for it in the books.

Nobody was looking for this Torah a hundred years ago because they thought it is enough to have children, teach them a little, and that’s it. Today, thank God, we are already so close to Eliyahu HaNavi.

I’ll tell you how my father gave over Yiddishkeit to me, I’ll never forget it. Every Friday night, my father took me and my brother by the hand, and he walked around all over the house singing Shalom Aleichem with us, but with so much sweetness.

I’ll tell you something, do you know when my father gave overYiddishkeit to me? Yom Kipper night, after we came home from daven­ing my father mamesh would take each child for maybe half an hour. I could see his tears mamesh dropping down to the foor. Mamesh, giving it over to us, giving it over to us.

So after the Akeida it says by Avraham Avinu, “Vayashav Avraham el ne’arav“(Bereishis 22:19). Avraham Avinu came back to the children.

I want you to know something awesome; Read the rest of this entry »

AJL reviews Darosh Darash Yosef

November 7, 2011

by Ilka Gordon

David, Avishai C. Darosh Darash Yosef: Discourses of Rav Yosef Dov Halevi Soloveitchik on the Weekly Parashah. Jerusalem: Urim, 2011. 472 p. (9789655240467)

Many books have been written and are being written about the teachings of Rabbi Yosef Soloveitchik, the recognized leader of Modern Orthodoxy in the twentieth century, a renowned scholar and an extraordinary teacher, affectionately called the Rav by his many students. Rabbi Avishai David, a devoted student of the Rav and a Rosh Yeshiva (head master of a school of Jewish learning) attended many lectures in the 1970s and 80s, given by the Rav at Yeshiva University, Moriah synagogue in New York and Saturday nights in Boston. Darosh Darash Yosef is a compilation of the Rav’s insights into the weekly Torah portion culled from these lectures. Rabbi David presents the reader with a three or four page essay on each parashah (weekly portion) of the Torah. The essays are based on the Rav’s teachings and philosophy. Concepts are presented in clear and readable prose which can be easily understood by the scholar and layman alike. Both the novice and expert in Torah study will increase his or her depth of knowledge by reading this well written book. Darosh Darash Yosef is an excellent reference book for patrons who will be speaking about the weekly Torah portion, especially Bar and Bat Mitzvah students. Darosh Darash Yosef is highly recommended for all libraries. Rabbi David makes the Rav’s complex thoughts accessible to all readers.

AJL Reviews (Sep/Oct 2011) p. 36