June 30, 2015
ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN (1976) directed by Alan J. Pakula
Every day I pray that I will have a sense that God is always in front of me, that He is always in the room. It helps me control my thoughts, my actions, and my speech. When things irritate me, I think long and hard as to whether I want to respond to a provocation or to an unkind word. In general, I do not regret being silent, but I do regret a hurtful word that I may have uttered to someone, even when my intentions were noble.
I was reminded of the power of words as I watched the gripping political thriller All the President’s Men, which portrays in detail the intense investigative newspaper work of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein as they painstakingly researched the Watergate burglary, eventually leading to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.
Woodward and Bernstein seem like two Talmud study partners who continually probe each other to ascertain the truth. Each questions the other and is unafraid of challenging or criticizing his friend. Their frank criticism of each other is not personal, but rather a sign that each one trusts the other to be honest and not to advance any personal agenda. Their shared mission, to discover what the Watergate burglary was all about, makes their egos subservient to the greater purpose of their work. It is this understanding of their common goal which is at the heart of their friendship and their search for truth. Read the rest of this entry »
June 28, 2015
Bonna Devora Haberman, an initiator of the Women of the Wall movement and a well-known professor at Harvard, Brandeis and Hebrew University, died on Tuesday after a prolonged battle with cancer.
A National Jewish Book Award finalist, the Canadian-born Haberman was the author of Israeli Feminism Liberating Judaism: Blood and Ink and ReReading Israel: The Spirit of the Matter.
Her work in and out of academy fuses critical interpretation of texts and culture with passion for social betterment.
She made aliya in 1988, but returned to the US to teach until 2004. At Brandeis, Haberman founded and directed the Mistabra Institute for Jewish Textual Activism – addressing difficult texts and social problems using performance arts.
The latest Woman of the Wall prayer gathering at the Western Wall last week was dedicated to Haberman.
Haberman is survived by her husband Shmuel Browns and five children.
This appeared in The Jerusalem Post
June 23, 2015
Asher Kravitz writes from a unique perspective of a Jewish dog in 1935 Germany. From the first chapter, the reader will know this will be a delightful little book, even given the topic of Nazis and the Holocaust. Caleb, the Jewish dog, has an immediate love for his Jewish family. Caleb is smart and understands love and loyalty. When his family’s fortunes turn, due to an increasing number of rules against Jews, Caleb is given away. His next family is less than loving and Caleb realizes his own fortune has changed, too. He runs away and ends of with a Nazi family and then as a stray. Finally Caleb becomes a dog trained to smell out Jews and is relocated to Treblinka. Caleb wrestles with his Jewish past, as well as, his own need to survive while being fed by the Nazis. Read the rest of this entry »
June 21, 2015
By Rabbi Ari Kahn
In the third volume of his series of books on the Torah, Rabbi Francis Nataf delves into the book of Bamidbar. As the title indicates, the premise for the entire series is that the Torah has relevance for modern life – relevance that must be redeemed. The book is not a commentary, at least not in the classic sense: It contains seven chapters, leaving entire parshiot untreated. Rather than offer a running commentary or verse-by-verse elucidation of the text, Redeeming Relevance paints with broad strokes, articulating major themes in the book of Bamidbar – clearly, articulately, with elegance and wisdom. Read the rest of this entry »
June 17, 2015
Review by Miriam Kates Lock
The Jewish Dog tells the story of the Holocaust from a point of view that has presumably never before been explored. In this curiously original tale, Caleb, an intelligent and pensive pup, is born in the home of the Gottlieb family, a traditional Jewish family living in Germany in the 1930’s. From the very beginning Caleb is sensitively aware of his surroundings and tries to figure out the world around him. He is particularly interested in humans, their language and the role they play in his life. He loves the Gottliebs and is relieved when he is the only one of his mother’s litter who is not separated from her. Unfortunately, he ultimately does get separated from her and from the Gottliebs as well, as the events taking place in Germany begin to affect not only the lives of Jews but even the lives of dogs.
When a law is decreed that Jews can no longer own dogs, Caleb is taken in by a German family who mistreats him terribly. When this family passes him on to an SS officer whose young son is thrilled with him, at first he thinks he is lucky but later he runs away to look for the Gottliebs. Eventually he is captured by Nazis who send him to be trained as a guard dog. Read the rest of this entry »
June 7, 2015
By Shmuel Ben-Gad, AJL Reviews
This book is written from a Modern Orthodox point of view and is aimed at “discerning traditional readers.” As the subtitle indicates, it deals with six discrete topics. Some chapters are drier than others. I imagine the part that will be of most interest to readers is the author’s argument that a modern, religiously motivated, scientific study of the Tanakh—using recent archaeological discoveries and the recovery of ancient languages related to Hebrew, for example—is in accordance with the methods of the mediaeval exegetes even if it sometimes leads to different conclusions. The discussion and comparison of eight exegetes is also quite enlightening. Dr. Sokolow of Yeshiva University is evidently a lover of the Tanakh but I cannot say that this book, for all its information and argumentation, conveys the actual atmosphere of the text. I suppose it might be argued that this can only be experienced by diving into the Tanakh itself, something which this book certainly encourages.
June 4, 2015
By Ilka Gordon, AJL Reviews
Dr. Natan Ophir has written an extensive and scholarly biography of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach (1925-1994). Ophir grew up on the west side of Manhattan not far from Rabbi Carlebach’s synagogue and therefore had a personal relationship with Reb Shlomo. Rabbi Carlebach fled Europe with his parents and twin brother in 1939. In America Carlebach studied in the Lakewood Yeshiva and later the family moved to Manhattan where he became a follower of Chabad. Under the direction of the sixth Lubavitch Rebbe, Carlebach was sent to college campuses to reach out to unaffiliated Jewish youth. He began composing and performing his original, and intensely moving compositions. His charismatic singing and playing mesmerized audiences. Rabbi Carlebach was the innovator and still most influential composer of Jewish music today. His songs are still sung all over the world and Carlebach synagogue services are very popular. In Dr. Ophir’s book we discover Reb Shlomo Carlebach’s life through the eyes of people whose lives were changed by his love of all humanity and his outreach to all people. Included in the book are copious footnotes, a timeline of his all too short life, an extensive bibliography, sites and Youtube videos where his music can be accessed, a discography in Hebrew and English and an index of all Carlebach songs. Recommended for the music and biography collection of all libraries.
June 2, 2015
By Daniel D. Stuhlman, AJL Reviews
“…this book connects seven sefirot of Kabbalah to the 49 days of counting the omer. Each one of the weeks has one of these concepts as a base and each day is paired with each of the other concepts. For example Chesed (loving kindness) is the base for week one. Pairing gevurah (strength/discipline) with chesed recognizes that for health and growth there are times when love is restrained by discipline. The author gives examples and wisdom from the Bible, rabbinic literature and contemporary sources. Then the author connects these ideas to advice for family relationships. Each chapter ends with questions for further discussion and thought.
This book made me think about kindness, strength, truth, eternity, humility, bonding, and leadership and how combinations of these concepts temper and reinforce each other.”
– AJL Reviews