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July 14, 2019
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Book Review: Was Yosef On The Spectrum?

June 27, 2019

Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer ● The New Normal ● The New York Jewish Week

The story of Joseph is among the Torah’s best-known and most intriguing tales.  In a new book, Was Yosef On The Spectrum? Understanding Joseph Through Torah, Midrash and Classical Jewish SourcesSamuel J. Levine, a professor of Law and Director of the Jewish Law Institute at Touro Law Center, presents a thorough, compelling theory about why Yosef struggles with social understanding—not only in childhood but also throughout his adult life.

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Was Yosef on the Spectrum – Review

June 26, 2019

Samantha Craft

Levine provides an insightful and thought provoking look at the feasibility that the beloved biblical character Joseph was on the autism spectrum. Extremely well-researched, Was Yosef on the Spectrum?, illuminates the multiple attributes of an autistic individual through Joseph’s lived experiences. As an autistic self-advocate, I found myself nodding and smiling in recognition of myself in Joseph. Thanks goes to Levine for sharing his lens into the biblical aspects of autism through a story filled with challenges, insights, and wisdom, and for establishing a once-lived voice for the millions on the spectrum. 

Samantha Craft is an autistic advocate, a NeuroGuides coach, and the author of Everyday Aspergers: A Journey on the Autism Spectrum, and co-author of Spectrum Women: Walking to the Beat of Autism


The Day I Met Father Isaac at the Supermarket

June 2, 2019

Fred Isaac ● AJL Reviews

Rabbi Riemer may be best known for So that Your Values May Live On, his wonderful volume on ethical wills. The Day I Met My Father Isaac… is a smaller, easy-to-read, and wise book meant for a broader audience. It contains some of his sermons while serving as interim Rabbi at Anshe Shalom Congregation in Florida. The book contains drashot (homilies) on thirty-five of the weekly parashot (Torah readings). In them Riemer explores both Torah issues and their parallels in modern life using stories, gentle humor, and a touch of irony. Beginning with Lech Lecha (“A Sermon addressed to the rich people in this Congregation”), his subjects include Yitro (“The Super Bowl and the Sedra”), Bechukotai (“Some of my favorite curses”), and Korach (“Too much rightness can kill you”). Each derasha begins with a story; most of them are contemporary, while others come from the Talmud and the Hasidic literature. They are witty and easy to connect with. He then turns to the Torah and links his introduction to the moral of the parashah. Some of his connections are quite powerful, others are sweet. But all are meaningful. The volume concludes with his “Farewell Shabbat” comments: “The lessons you have taught me.” In this talk he reminds his audience that, at their best, teachers are also students.

There has been a plethora of books over the past few years to assist B’nai Mitzvah students with their drashot. This delightful collection of sermons can be used by 12-year-olds. It would be better employed by adults looking for inspiration, as well as to create their own commentaries. It is a fine (and fun) addition to any synagogue library.


Beyond Routine

May 28, 2019

Chava Pinchuck ● AJL Reviews

The Shulchan Aruch—the Code of Jewish Law (the “Code”)—was authored by Joseph Karo in 1563, and it remains the most widely accepted compilation of Jewish law ever written. Rabbi J. B. Solovetchik, z”l, articulated an “action to experience paradigm,” whereby doing the mitzvahs with intention provides a link to God. Looking at the “Code” through this lens, Rabbi Grunstein shows the reader how to elevate his observance of the commandments by knowing whether obligations are biblical, rabbinic, or custom, knowing the background and historical context, and providing practical suggestions.

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Was Yosef Autistic?

May 13, 2019

Doreen Wachmann ● Jewish Telegraph

Professor Samuel Levine’s CV runs to 22 pages, citing all his academic achievements in the field of Jewish and American law.

Yet his latest book, Was Yosef on the Spectrum? Understanding Joseph through Torah, Midrash and Classical Jewish Sources (Urim Publications) deals with a more controversial topic. He suggests that the great biblical character Joseph may have been autistic.

Many charedim nowadays see red if anyone dares to criticise heroic biblical characters. Twenty years ago, there was a riot in Manchester with the visit of Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, who had written an article suggesting that Moses was not a politician — surely a compliment rather than an insult?

So why did Prof Levine choose to stray from his usual academic paths and write on such a controversial subject?

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Engaging with the Author: Samuel J. Levine

May 7, 2019

J.B. Holderness ● Yeshiva University Staff News

In December, Samuel J. Levine, Professor of law and director of the Jewish Law Institute at Touro College, published a book entitled Was Yosef on the Spectrum?: Understanding Joseph through Torah, Midrash, and Classical Jewish Sources. The book examines the behavior and relationships of Yosef through the lens of our modern understanding of autism. Our own cataloger Yosef Cohen submitted a review of the book to the author and received an appreciative response. The following are excerpts of the review and reply:

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