After the Holocaust the Bells Still Ring Won!

March 6, 2016

NJBA winnerUrim Publications is honored to announce that After the Holocaust the Bells Still Ring is the winner of the 2015 National Jewish Book Award in the category of Biography / Autobiography.

After the Holocaust the Bells Still Ring
by Joseph Polak
Foreword by Elie Wiesel
Hardcover, 141 pages
978-965-524-162-4

AftertheHolocustWeb1“Another book on the Holocaust? Yes and no; this book is about a different Holocaust—the one that survivors of concentration camps endured after April 1945. That is when survivors began to experience the horrific and persistent memories of what they had lived through, according to Joseph Polak, who entered the camps when he was just a toddler.”
-Eleanor Ehrenkranz, Jewish Book Council

“As one of the last witnesses to the Shoah, certainly one of the youngest, Joseph Polak has written a memoir that is an essential contribution to the body of Holocaust literature….This is a must read for anyone not afraid of grappling with the unfathomable.”
–Blu Greenberg
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“Joseph Polak has written a memoir that begins where Anne Frank’s diary leaves off…. We don’t have many books like this one, books that tell what Hell was like for children who were too innocent to understand where they were, and too young to remember it clearly afterwards. So read this book and absorb what it has to say. And take some comfort from the fact that its author grew up to be a teacher of Torah and a counselor of young people on campus, hard as that is to comprehend.”
-Jack Reimer, South Florida Jewish Journal

“The story is so fantastic that, as Polak himself says, it goes against what we know of the Holocaust and the concentration camps. Every page teaches the reader something new, in language that is fresh and original.”
-Alan Rosen, PhD

“It is haunting and melancholic, unforgettable and poignant. Polak is a wonderful writer, proffering a terrifying truth while speculating about the wisdom of the Torah and the apparent absence of God.”
-Charles Weinblatt, NY Journal of Books


World Premiere of the documentary film, “Lonely But Not Alone”

February 25, 2016

You are invited to the World Premiere of the documentary film, Lonely But Not Alone, by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Willy Lindwer.

rabbi cardozo

The film documents the incredible life of Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo. Born into a mixed-marriage in the most liberal city in the world, he become an internationally-known rabbi and philosopher in the most religious city in the world. This is his story.

The screening will take place at the Begin Center in Jerusalem on Sunday, March 6th, at 7:30pm.  Featured guests include author and blogger Laura Ben-David, who will MC the evening, as well as Rabbi Cardozo’s brother Dr. Jacques Lopes Cardozo and his daughter Nechama Atlas Lopes Cardozo, who appear in the film.

Seats are limited. 

Buy your tickets today!  


Book Review of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach: Life, Mission, and Legacy

December 24, 2015

By Judah M. Cohen

carlebachbioWeb1Natan Ophir’s book, a major new study of Shlomo Carlebach, doubles as a treatise on researching modern figures who exist most vividly in the followers’ memories and recordings. Scholarship today must reckon more than ever with nonwritten sources. Commercial sound, image, and video repositories such as YouTube stand alongside nonprofit efforts such as the Internet Archive (archive.org), institutional portals at museums and research centers, digital archives at national and university libraries, and massive and growing personal media archives in home collections. Charismatic leaders still often present their ideas through written texts; but the immediacy of audio/visual sources, coupled with expanded options for their creation, dissemination, and preservation—whether on cassettes or the internet—can now match or exceed the significance of their textual output. Faced with such a range of materials, how will scholars organize and interpret them? Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson offers some hints of the emerging situation: though the author of a considerable written oeuvre that continues to anchor his intellectual legacy, he remains the subject of a huge, even growing collection of images, audio, and video. But what about a significant and influential thinker whose media presence vastly outweighs his written work?

Few twentieth-century figures offer as interesting a case in this regard as Shlomo Carlebach. Despite a slight literary output, Carlebach’s vast array of teachings—in person and in performance, preserved in memory and on recording—continue to occupy a formidable space in contemporary Jewish life and in reverberating circles beyond. Understanding his worldview, however, arguably requires a fundamentally different scholarly paradigm for research and analysis. Ophir takes on this challenge with intelligence and enthusiasm; and his consideration of Carlebach as “a modern day Baal Shem Tov” (pp. 425–427) late in the book perhaps best characterizes the result.
Actively recognizing a sometimes hagiographic level of hyperbole that accompanies his subject, Ophir views Carlebach’s spiritual and intellectual legacies as a universal “Hasidic” message, which he documents in large part through the eyes and narratives of others. Read the rest of this entry »


Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach: Life, Mission, and Legacy

October 23, 2014

by Rabbi Louis A. RiesercarlebachbioWeb1

Anyone who met Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach knew they were in the presence of someone extraordinary. Known as the guitar-laying rabbi, he reshaped Jewish music, created a unique outreach that embraced everyone regardless of background, and brought new life to Judaism around the world. Carlebach began as an emissary from Chabad Hasidism but morphed into a messenger of love and acceptance for all people. His music, with compositions numbering in the thousands, is sung in services across the breadth of the Jewish community. Often people do not even know that it was Carlebach who composed these “traditional” tunes. He reached out to hippies in the Haight-Ashbury and Jews in the former Soviet Union, brought a new spirit to Jews in Israel, and had a word of encouragement even for the beggar on the street.

This is the first extended biography available in English. It chronicles in exquisite detail the arc of Reb Shlomo’s life. We hear of his concerts, when and why he composed certain tunes, and who accompanied him. We learn of people whose lives were changed through their encounters with Carlebach. His charismatic power is evident. As with many leaders, there is a controversy surrounding him, and that gets recounted in this volume as well. For some readers, the detail may be excessive, but I found that its cumulative effect gave a feel for Carlebach’s tremendous impact.

This book tells an important chapter in the life of twentieth-century Jews.

This review appeared in the third issue of Congregational Libraries Today


A Review of The Unwilling Survivor

May 1, 2014

From the Life in Israel blogUnwillingSurvivorWeb1

I don’t even know where to begin with The Unwilling Survivor. That’s how good of a book it is.

The Unwilling Survivor, by Michael Kopiec, published by Devora Publishing, is an amazing book. It is a true story, but is written and reads like a gripping fiction novel. The story is tragic, it is courage, it is faith, it is honor, it is horrific and there are probably more words that I just cannot think of.

Misha Kopiec, the father of the author, tells his son this story, beside the deathbed of Liza, Misha’s wife and Michael’s mother, when they decide it is time for Michael to know who his father really is, how he survived the war.

Mishe was a Polish boy, in a Polish village, son of a Jewish-Polish soldier. Misha’s father was all about courage and honor and discipline. He trained his son in his ways, and Misha grew up seeing his father defend the family from anti-semitism, and was trained, by his father, to be prepared for any and every eventuality, with the knowledge that the discipline to stick to his training would be what would save his life in a world of anti-semitism.

And his father was proven right, time and time again.

Misha grew up and became a soldier himself. The story follows Misha as a Polish soldier watching the Polish army overrun dishonorably by the Germans. Eventually Misha ends up captured by the Germans, more than once, and escapes, more than once. Misha ends up on the Russian side and becomes a Russian soldier, and again ends up captured by the Germans. Misha, however, is a survivor, and an honorable one. He refuses to do anything that will harm other Jews, despite the difficulties that puts on his attempts to escape or survive.

Misha somehow survives, against all odds. the gripping story is how he survives as a Jew in the German POW camps, the Russian army, behind Russian lines, in Polish towns full of anti-semitism, in the ghetto, on a train full of Nazis – filled with both SS and Gestapo officers, on a POW death march, in work labor camps, with partisans with unknown loyalties…. He tells the most unbelievable stories. With Misha not being a religious man, he does not talk about the hand of God being what saves him rather than others, but later in the book he begins to realize that is survival was so unusual while so many around him, including his family, were killed, and near the end of the book he is made to realize that it is clear he is meant to survive.

To avoid giving away too much of the story, anything besides Misha surviving Read the rest of this entry »


If Only Modern Israeli Leaders Were Like Rabbi Carlebach’s Hippies

January 15, 2014

By Rabbi Gideon D. Sylvester carlebachbioWeb1

My great aunt was a difficult woman. She loved nothing more than to bait my father, regaling him with graphic descriptions of frying the bacon for her son’s breakfast. Then puffing on her cigarette, she would dismiss our entire heritage with one sentence: “Religion is the source of all conflicts.” She was not alone in her views; sadly, her aggressive image of religious Jews is becoming increasingly pervasive. It need not be that way; Judaism commits us eternal watchfulness, moral responsibility and, where possible, peaceful coexistence with our neighbors. It also promises that ultimately we will live side-by-side, even with the wicked of the world. So it’s depressing to hear the naysayers composing obituaries for the American led peace process, even as it soldiers on.

Dr. Natan Ophir’s new biography of the hippie scholar, musician and storyteller Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, “Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach: Life, Mission, and Legacy,” offers a wonderful antidote to my aunt’s perspective and the negativity of some of our people. Carlebach was indeed deeply attached to the biblical land of Israel, a proud Zionist and a lover of the Jewish people. He also loved humanity.

As he entertained Israeli troops during a round of heavy fighting, he told journalists that what made the Israel Defense Forces special was that as each soldier loaded their weapon; they silently prayed that before their bullet reached its target, the messiah would arrive to end all wars.

His love of peace was rooted in the Jewish sources, but perhaps it also owed something to his intriguing relationship with the rebellious Jewish American hippies. As an Orthodox rabbi, he worked tirelessly to return them to the fold, but he also admired their idealistic search for meaning and their peace-loving ways.

Ophir writes that after the Six Day War, foreseeing the urgent need to build bridges with Arabs who had fallen under Israeli rule, Carlebach made the following outlandish proposal to the Israeli government:

“Give me 5,000 free tickets to bring holy hippies from Los Angeles and San Francisco and we will go to every Arab house in the country and bring them flowers and tell them we want to be brothers with them . . . we have to live together.”

When he performed at a women’s prison in Ramleh, he Read the rest of this entry »


A Review of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach: Life, Mission, and Legacy

November 26, 2013

by Greer Fay Cashman carlebachbioWeb1

In advance of the 19th anniversary next month of the passing of the popular Singing Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, who even from the grave has influenced thousands of young Jews to approach religion with open hearts, Dr. Natan Ophir has published a new, comprehensive biography of the charismatic Carlebach. It includes a foreword by the singer’s daughter, Neshama Carlebach, who has followed in her father’s footsteps and become a popular singer in her own right.

An excerpt from the foreword shows the extent of Neshama Carlebach’s appreciation for Ophir’s dedicated work: “I know that Dr. Natan Ophir has worked to clarify the diversified aspects of my father’s rich career. He has recounted relevant events and unearthed a surprising wealth of factual evidence. Undeterred by the daunting task, Natan has worked to present a comprehensive portrayal that will now enable others to come forth and fill the many spaces in time. I appreciate his sincere connection to my father’s legacy, and I know the world will benefit greatly from his devoted efforts at constructing this first book length biography.”

Some of Shlomo Carlebach’s closest associates, who continue to disseminate his legacy, have read review copies of the book and expressed high praise for the definitive biographical study, and its meticulous research and attention to detail. Although other books have been written about Carlebach and all have been eagerly snatched up by his followers, there is consensus among the reviewers that none are as comprehensive and allencompassing, in terms of the rabbi’s life, music, concerts and contributions to Jewish liturgy, as the work produced by Ophir.

This review originally appeared in the Jerusalem Post