Review of The Night That Unites Passover Haggadah Softcover Edition

March 29, 2015

By Dov Peretz ElkinsThe Night That Unites

The philosophies of three major Jewish personalities lie at the heart of this Haggadah. Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, and Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach believed that the Jewish people have a critical role to play in demonstrating and sharing a unique way of life with the world. As Jews, we share in the universal historical experience of mankind and therefore must contribute to the benefit of all humanity.

The artwork on the cover of this Haggadah depicts three concentric circles of human endeavor as uniquely taught by these spiritual giants, moving outward from the individual to the collective whole. At the center lies the importance of the individual. Each Jew is to forge his or her path and engage in a life dedicated to the ideals and mitzvot of the Torah. Second, beyond our individual concerns, we are also called on to develop and thrive as a nation. Finally, there is a third sphere which takes us beyond our individual and national concerns; we are called upon to take a unique place in inspiring the world, praying for, and working towards the Redemption of all humanity.

Offering a fresh and original look at the Seder night, this Passover Haggadah is a unique compilation of the teachings of Rav Kook, Rabbi Soloveitchik, and Reb Carlebach. Together with discussion questions and contemporary insights, this Haggadah powerfully engages the reader on the most compelling and memorable night of the year – The Night That Unites.

Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

A (Jewish) Dog’s Life

March 22, 2015

The Jewish Dog9780983868538By Kathe Pinchuk

Last month was all about cats, but this month it’s about a dog. I stopped by the Urim Publications booth at the Jerusalem International Book Fair and picked up a copy of The Jewish Dog by Asher Kravitz (Penlight Publications, 2015).  The book was originally published in Hebrew as HaKelev HaYehudi by Yedioth Ahronoth in 2007.

This dog narrates his own story, starting with his birth (in 1935) and through a succession of owners. He goes from “the white one with the black circle around his eye and brown patch on his chest”

to being Caleb, as his mother’s family decides to keep him and give him a proper name. Caleb loved the Gottlieb family and they loved him. The children would feed him table scraps, and Caleb always knew when it was the Sabbath because he got more delectable leftovers from the meals.

But he lives in challenging times.  The situation in Germany deteriorates quickly, and his carefree days as a well-fed and loved puppy are overshadowed by harsh reality.  First, the Nuremberg Laws are enacted, which means Jews cannot own dogs nor use the public parks.  Caleb is given to a former colleague of Kalman Gottlieb and from there is handed off to a variety of owners. Caleb can understand human language and human emotion, so he can sense which people are fearful, or keeping secrets, or are confident and secure.

You will have to read this one for yourself, but you’ll be happy you did.  While it is Caleb’s story, different aspects of life in Nazi Germany are integrated into the plot, so you get both a dog story and a sense of history and its effect on individuals.

This was one of those books that I enjoyed reading for its cleverness and twists and turns, but read with some anxiousness, wondering what would happen next.  Because of the Holocaust content and some adult themes, it is very highly recommended for young adults and adults. It is also my pick for the Mildred L. Batchelder Award – the American Library Association Youth Media Award :”given to the most outstanding children’s book originally published in a language other than English in a country other than the United States, and subsequently translated into English for publication in the United States.”

This review appears on Life Is Like a Library


Review of The Night That Unites Passover Haggadah

March 19, 2015

The Night That UnitesTeachings from three extraordinary rebbes intertwine in conversation as the author percolates wisdoms across 3,000 years of tradition. Thematic explorations include the Jewish inner fire expressing kindness, the defiance of reclining, and the joy of being creative. You may also find yourself discussing the merits of being a public Jew, a discerning leader, or contemplating the nature of a holy nation. Hallel contains insights on reliance, joyous song, gratitude, and a desire for unity. This gem will provide years of inspiration.

This review appears in Jewish Family Times Passover Edition


PW Nonfiction Book Review of Tanakh, an Owner’s Manual

March 17, 2015

Sokolow, a professor at the Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration, TanakhAnOwnersManualWeb1has crafted a masterful and thorough volume of Torah scholarship that raises multiple questions inherent in Tanakh and provides cogent and articulate explanations and responses to them. His work, which takes a Jewish Orthodox viewpoint, includes segments on who penned the various portions of Tanakh (an acronym for Torah, Neviim, and Ketuvim); historic and rabbinic sources for inclusion in the canon; anomalies in the foundational Masoretic text; attitude toward narrative material (Aggadah); the history of, and insights into, eight prominent exegetes, including Rashi and Nahmanides; rebuttals to the arguments of biblical critics about textual origin, and principles for developing Tanakh curricula in yeshiva day schools. Sokolow’s erudition is evident as he addresses the issues from all angles and offers rational proofs for his claims. Detailed footnotes provide much additional useful and fascinating information for further study. Hebrew text, which is always translated, is woven into the manual when Sokolow quotes original material so that readers can see firsthand the sources. Serious students of Torah will learn much from this important, comprehensive work.

This review originally appeared on Publishers Weekly 


As Pesach nears, discovering our tradition anew

March 15, 2015

By Alan Jay Gerber Lipman

With the onset of Pesach, I find the study of the historical and philosophical side of our religious tradition to be of great inspiration in getting myself into the “holiday mood.” Thus, this week’s essay will focus on two works by Rabbi Dov Lipman that should help assist many in getting into this holiday mood.

The spiritual quest that Rabbi Lipman focuses on in his works, “Discover” (Feldheim, 2006) and “Seder Savvy” (Targum Press, 2010) describe in eloquent and intelligent terms the basic elements that make up the beliefs of our sacred tradition.

“Discover” goes to the very heart of our tradition by dealing, in great detail, with such topics as Torah MiSinai, Torah She’baal Peh, the purpose of Creation, and the role of prayer and study. Some profound and heartfelt teachings are found in his essays on Women in Judaism, Suffering and Tragedies, Death, the Resurrection of the Dead, and the coming of Moshiach.

In his personal approbation to this work, Rabbi Aharon Feldman, Rosh Yeshiva of Ner Yisrael, wrote the following: Read the rest of this entry »


Special curriculum on Jewish preparation for burial

March 12, 2015

Rochel Berman of Boca Raton — a member of the Boca Raton Synagogue Chevra Kadisha (sacred burial society) and consultant dignity6hiResto the Torah Chevra Kadisha in Boca Raton — has embarked on a trailblazing project to develop a curriculum and study guide for Jewish high school students to learn about the Jewish preparation for burial.

Berman has partnered with Rabbi Jonathan Kroll, head of school at Weinbaum Yeshiva High School (WYHS) in Boca Raton, to introduce the eight-session course titled “The Final Journey: How Judaism Dignifies the Passage.”

The program will be launched today and will continue through March 26, highlighted by a field trip on March 16 to Levitt Weinstein Funeral Home in Coconut Creek.

Berman’s goal is to demonstrate the course at WYHS — the pilot course will be taken by 28 girls in the WYHS senior class — and then to disseminate it to Jewish high schools in all streams of Judaism throughout the English-speaking world.

Rabbi Kroll said: “I’ve been involved in Jewish education on the high school level for twenty years and this is the first time that I’ve ever dealt with this topic in a meaningful way. I believe that engaging students in the process of understanding the Jewish approach toward the end of life will lead students to live a more engaged and meaningful Jewish life.” Read the rest of this entry »


Review of After the Holocaust the Bells Still Ring

March 8, 2015

By Jack ReimerAftertheHolocustWeb1

This is not a book that one can really review, for to review means to be objective and detached. It means to pass judgment on the techniques of the author and to evaluate how well or how poorly he expresses his ideas. But when someone writes a book that bears witness to the horrors that he has gone through, and when someone pours out his soul, and when someone reaches into the very depths of your being, detachment is not an appropriate response.

Joseph Polak has written a memoir that begins where Anne Frank’s diary leaves off. She wrote about the trials and the travails of growing up in a hidden room, and of learning how to become a teenager in a hideout. Her book ends with her and her family being discovered by the Nazis and taken away to Auschwitz. We hear nothing of the starvation, the filth, and the typhus that took away her life there. Jospeh Polak’s book begins when he was taken, first to Westerbook, and then a year and a half later, from there to Bergen Belsen when he was still a small child.

His book is not so much an account of what happened to him there as it is an effort to understand and to convey how what happened to him there has remained within his consciousness ever since.

I read every page of this book at least twice: sometimes wincing, sometimes shivering, sometimes wishing it would end already. In this review, let me share just a few of the insights in it that stay with me ever since I encountered them. Read the rest of this entry »