Rereading Israel is an Award Winner!

January 31, 2013

RereadingIsraelWeb1We are proud to announce that Rereading Israel: The Spirit of the Matter by Dr. Bonna Devora Haberman was a finalist winner of the 2012 National Jewish Book Award in the category of Modern Jewish Thought and Experience!

Praise for the Book

“Bonna Devora Haberman’s highly original book examines modern Israel – its achievements and its travails – through the prism of the religious texts and traditions that sustained the Jewish nation in exile. At once brisk and spiritual, Rereading Israel finds inspiration in those sources for the construction of a mature, fulfilled Jewish nation state.”
-David Horovitz

“Rereading Israel: The Spirit of the Matter is a deeply learned, fluent case for a Zionism that is passionate, faithful and innovative all at once. Neither stuffy nor superficial, this is a book to ignite those who will carry the Zionist dream into the future.”
-Rabbi David J. Wolpe

About the Author

Dr. Bonna Devora Haberman has taught at the Hebrew University, Harvard University and Brandeis University, where she founded and directed the Mistabra Institute for Textual Activism, addressing difficult social problems with creative strategies and performance arts.

Jewish Book Awards

January 31, 2013

Check out this comprehensive list of Jewish writing awards for Jewish fiction, non-fiction, journalism, poetry, children’s books and more!

A Review of In Search of Torah Wisdom: Questions You Forgot to Ask Your Rebbi

January 29, 2013

by Mordechai Torczyner In Search of Torah Wisdom

When I received an email regarding Rabbi Yisroel Miller’s new book, “In Search of Torah Wisdom: Questions You Forgot to Ask Your Rebbi”, though, I was interested. I know of Rabbi Miller’s work in Pittsburgh, and I have had the chance to visit his lovely community in Calgary, and everything I have heard has been impressive. The premise of the book – providing answers for contemporary challenges – is interesting. And I would love to hear how Rabbi Miller would address the questions he asks in the book. So I agreed to review it.

The good news is that this book is exactly what it pledges to be: The Introduction addresses the reader, asking, “Perhaps, dear reader, you are a Jewish man who attended a good Yeshiva Ketana, Mesivta High School, Yeshiva Gedola and maybe even spent a year or three in kollel. Or, you are a Jewish woman who attended a Bais Yaakov elementary school and high school, and a top seminary. After all that learning, you can surely answer the following basic questions:” And it continues to list questions related to Jewish belief and Jewish life, such as, “In what way does the idea of bitachon, trust in Hashem, obligate us to act differently even if we don’t feel a sense of trust?” and “Why do great rabbis issue bans on books when such bans only increase their sales?” The author invites the reader, “If you would like to know – or feel that as a Jew you should know – the answers to these questions, then read on.” The author does an excellent job of selecting good questions, and formulating them in challenging ways.

For each of these questions, the book lays out “the answer” for a reader who wants to be told it rather than go back to sources and figure it out himself – and today, that applies to many, many readers. In explaining concepts like “Elu v’Elu” and fundamentals of faith, Rabbi Miller articulately expresses beliefs enshrined in Jewish tradition. In defending controversial conservatism, such as book condemnations and halachic resistance to change, Rabbi Miller provides a perspective which challenges modern cynicism regarding rabbinic leadership and authority.

If you would appreciate answers which have their sources alongside them, though, this is not the book for you. Statements like page 47’s “Can Torah leaders make mistakes? Of course… However, such errors are very rare…” would benefit from sourcing.

Also, the author has made what was probably a conscious decision to omit Read the rest of this entry »

The Elephant in the Room

January 27, 2013

by Cantor Jonathan L Friedmann, Ph.D. Elephantintheroom

The term “memoir” used to be reserved for thick, comprehensive volumes written by noted individuals nearing the end of their lives. Personal accounts of lesser-known people, however intriguing or expansive, were labeled “narratives” (as in slave narratives); and collections of shorter entries were called “diaries” or “ruminations.” With the advent of self-publishing, blogging, email blasts and publishers eager to experiment with new formats, memoirs have come to include a range of writings by authors from all stages and walks of life. Thus, a memoir might be a lengthy autobiography of a famous personality, but might also be an assemblage of brief reflections by anyone with an interesting point of view.

It is in this latter category that we find The Elephant in the Room: Torah, Wisdom & Inspiration for Life, a compilation of breezy musings culled from “The Short Vort” emails of New York area rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman. In seventy-six short essays averaging two pages apiece, Eisenman gives his idiosyncratic and proudly frum insights into the world around him. The observations are alternately sad and humorous, aggravating and uplifting, and draw out hidden yet apparent insights from everyday experiences. This is what is meant by the elephant in the book’s title—a metaphor for an obvious truth that goes overlooked or unaddressed.

In popular usage, the elephant idiom also describes Read the rest of this entry »

A Review of Why Be Jewish?

January 23, 2013

by Ian Sandler Whybejewish

As the CEO of a large Jewish organisation, I often wonder, in the face of adversity what being Jewish in a modern, multicultural country entails, or whether members of our community have given up?  When asked and rather than identify themselves as being Jewish, do they say they have no religion at all?  Sometimes, at face value, being Jewish seems to have more negatives than positives.

For those of us whose Jewish identity is defined by our love and allegiance to Israel, the weekly barrage of criticism can be extremely upsetting and seem like a personal attack. Many of our youth feel they are ‘Jewed out’ following prolonged time ‘served’ in Jewish day schools and many of the young adults believe that their dating/marriage pool is severely limited!

Being Jewish seems hard and it’s easy to see why some consciously or unconsciously try to unburden themselves of the label of being Jewish in favour of an unfettered existence within general Sydney society.

So why be Jewish?  As much as we may try to fight it, deny it or insist that it really makes no difference in this day and age, being Jewish makes up an important part of who we are as individuals, and how we are perceived by those who are not.

Doron Kornbluth, author of Raising Kids to Love Being Jewish identifies that many Jews today feel no significant difference to their non Jewish counterparts and rightly so.  We live a secular life – we play the same sports, shop in the same places, enjoy the same television shows and movies and have the same political discussions over the adeptness of our government. However, despite these similarities, despite lack of conscious recognition, many Jews are aware of a connection to Judaism in some form.  Furthermore, Kornbluth highlights that feeling Jewish is something that changes according to life stages and the cycle of life events one experiences. In our community, many of us Read the rest of this entry »

A Financial Guide to Aliyah and Life in Israel

January 20, 2013

by Globes Israel Correspondent A Financial Guide to Aliyah

Taxation, banking, insurance, pensions and so on are not the most romantic aspects of aliyah. There will be those who blithely ignore such matters, carried away by idealistic motivation. Others might find the prospect of dealing with a financial system both technically and culturally unfamiliar so daunting and difficult as to be a large stumbling block on the way to making a new life in Israel. Baruch Labinsky’s concise handbook is to be recommended for all English-speaking olim, wherever they may be on the scale between these two extremes, as well as for veterans seeking to get a better handle on their finances. It is very persuasive on the need to set financial goals, to plan, and to understand the options available, while at the same time it demystifies Israeli institutions and explains Israeli attitudes, to calm the financially anxious.

To judge from his bio, the author is well qualified by both education and experience to help olim find their financial feet. The book is accessible and down-to-earth without over-simplifying. It tells new arrivals what they really need to know about Read the rest of this entry »

A Review of Jonah the Woodchopper

January 20, 2013

JonahWeb2We cannot run from society forever. Jonah the Woodchopper follows a man, who when spurned by his life wholly, decides to leave society for the peace of living alone. When he seeks to rejoin society, he comes with wisdom of his deep thoughts, and Joshua Robin uses a short story narrative format to tell of Jonah’s encounters with many and what he learns and what he teaches. Jonah the Woodchopper is a riveting and insightful read, not to be overlooked.

This review first appeared in the Midwest Book Review