Richard H. Schwartz on Belgium’s Shechita Ban

January 21, 2019

Richard H. Schwartz The Jerusalem Post


The recent Belgian government ban of shechita (Jewish ritual slaughter) overlooks some important considerations.

The recent Belgian government ban of shechita (Jewish ritual slaughter) overlooks some important considerations.

First, it ignores the many problems related to stunning, their preferred method of slaughter. These are thoroughly covered in the book Slaughterhouse: The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, and Inhumane Treatment Inside the US Meat Industry, by Gail Eisnitz. Through many interviews with slaughterhouse workers and USDA inspectors, she carefully documents in gut-wrenching, chilling detail the widespread, unspeakable torture and death at US slaughterhouses where animals are stunned prior to slaughter.

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New Review – Was Yosef on the Spectrum

January 14, 2019

Alan Jay Gerber ● The Jewish Star

The Legacy of Yosef

This week’s Torah reading, Vayigash, reflects the narrative of the reconciliation of Yosef and his brothers, and the reunion with his father, Yaakov. There is much to be said of this saga. One very timely book on this biblical legacy is Was Yosef On The Spectrum? Understanding Yosef Through Torah, Midrash, and Classical Jewish Sources [Urim Publications, 2019] by Prof. Samuel Levine.

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New Review – Six Days of Cosmology and Evolution

January 13, 2019

Ben Rothke ● Jewish Link of New Jersey

In “The Lonely Man of Faith,” Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik writes that he has never been seriously troubled by the problem of the Biblical doctrine of creation vis-à-vis the scientific story of evolution at both the cosmic and the organic levels. While it was not a problem for him, it can nonetheless be quite disconcerting for some people. For many others, the supposed scientific conflicts between the Chumash and modern science has them leaving the world of faith for the world of science.

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New Review – The Jewish Spiritual Path

January 9, 2019

Rabbi Simcha Snaid ● Jewish Press

The mission of this book is to illuminate the Jewish spiritual path by utilizing ideas from Kabbalah regarding the Holy Name of Hashem, the Yod-Heh-Vav-Heh. As the author explains, the goal of the Jewish spiritual path is essentially to become closer to the infinite G-d by developing certain middos (good spiritual qualities).

The four letters of the Name represent four aspects of G-d, and also four levels of spiritual growth. Just as G-d has more “outward” or revealed aspects, and more “inward” or hidden aspects, so too the Jewish spiritual path begins with basic middos and advances to more elevated middos. Interestingly, the last letter of the Name corresponds to the more outward and lower level, while the first letter of the Name corresponds to the more inward and advanced level. It turns out that the Jewish spiritual path involves following the “way of the Name” or, in Hebrew, DerechHashem. Hence, the title of the book.

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New Review – Scholarly Man of Faith

January 6, 2019

Daniel D. Stuhlman AJL Reviews

Rabbi Soloveitchik was a great teacher and philosopher whose views on Judaism and Zionism have influenced several generations of modern Orthodox Jews, as well as the general Jewish community. Even non-Jews have demonstrated interest in his ethical philosophy, such as the book written by the Jesuit priest, Christian Rutishauser for his doctoral thesis: The Human Condition and the Thought of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (Jersey City, Ktav, 2013).

The essays edited by Kanarfogel and Schwartz examine Soloveitchik’s views of ethics, Biblical hermeneutics, love and cognition, and the history of the Tosafists. The essays are scholarly with copious footnotes, and they are aimed at experts in the field. For this reader, the most interesting contribution was the last in the book: a bibliographic review of the scholarship on Soloveitchik’s thought. Overall, the essays demonstrate that Soloveitchik’s writings on Jewish law and the human experience, while sometimes dated, will continue to apply today and in the future.

This book is recommended for all libraries; however, the scholarly nature of the book may limit its broad appeal.

New Review – Equality Lost

January 1, 2019

David B Levy, Touro College, NYC AJL Reviews

The title Equality Lost is taken from Rav Henkin’s brilliant first chapter which is a reading of how zilzul (disrespect and belittlement, underestimation) by one person of another, in spite of their having been created equal, has tragic results. The book is divided into three sections: Torah commentary, Halacha, and Jewish Thought. Additionally, it includes a biography of Rav Henkin’s grandfather, Rabbi Yosef Eliyahu Henkin — the first biographical account to appear in English. Henkin is extremely erudite, and his book is punctuated by learned footnotes for following up with sources. This is an important work, and welcome second edition for the English-reading public unfamiliar with Henkin’s Hebrew writings.

In the Halacha section, Henkin demonstrates how to interpret Halacha in regard to women in this age of feminism. Sensitivity is given to Kol Isha (the voice of a woman) and women reciting kaddish and other prayers. He also deals with the conversion to Judaism of children in non-observant homes, and the killing of captured terrorists.

In the section on Jewish thought, great insights are offered into the role rechilut (tale bearing) played in the destruction of the second temple and the lessons to be learned regarding the state of Israel, and the true meaning of teshuvah related to current events. With regard to the glatt kosher ‘craze,’ Henkin demonstrates that what comes out of one’s mouth is more important than what goes into it.

Highly recommended for all libraries.

New Review – Reclaiming Humanity

December 31, 2018

Chava Pinchuck AJL Reviews

Children react differently to traumatic events and helping them overcome trauma necessitates a different approach than with adults. After presenting clinical definitions of trauma and the signs and symptoms of trauma in children, Dr. Fried suggests four treatment approaches. He discusses the importance of letting the young patients tell their story in their own words and giving them the time and the space to do so. Play is also important, as it builds rapport and lets the child relax and disengage from memories of the trauma. Texture therapy and nature walks are also suggested. Education entails “stating the facts simply, naming emotions, and empowering parents.” The final approach, creativity, includes poetry, guided thinking, and writing, as well as other outlets. The final chapter talks about the resolution of trauma and the power of relationships. Several studies by experts are mentioned; none of them fully referenced.

Dr. Fried is a clinical psychologist with many years of experience of working with children dealing with trauma. The short volume is insightful and contains many suggestions for helping children cope with their emotions, but the target audience is hard to define. Other practitioners will be aware of these techniques through their schooling and practice. Non-practitioners may be interested because they are parents or relatives of traumatized children and are looking for ways to help them. The Jewish content consists of several unreferenced quotes from Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, referred to as “the Rav,” and a few biblical quotes. The short paragraph asserting that “storytelling brings the child closer to a relationship with the Ultimate Listener” discusses the benefits of prayer, which may be lost on a younger patient and may stir up additional feelings of abandonment (Where was God when this happened?).

While somewhat simplistic for the professional, the book may be useful to parents and would be suited to a resource center or Jewish community services library.