Elliot Resnick • Jewish Press
Translating one peirush on Chumash is hard enough. Translating 15 is nothing short of remarkable. But Eliyahu Munk has done just that. The Ohr HaChaim, the Alshich, the Akeidas Yitzchak, the Kedushas Levi, the Ksav v’Hakabalah, the Chizkuni, the Shelah, the Tzror Hamor, the Tur, Rabbeinu Bachye – all translated into English by one man.
And he’s still going strong. At age 96, Eliyahu Munk is now translating the Meshech Chachmah. Amazed at this literary output, The Jewish Press recently called Eliyahu Munk in Israel to speak to him about his life and work.
The Jewish Press: What’s your background?
Munk: I was born in Frankfurt, Germany. My father came from Cologne and taught mathematics, chemistry, and physics.
I attended Rav Joseph Breuer’s yeshiva 10 hours every week. He taught me the haftarot, and the way he made a navi come to life is something I haven’t forgotten. He had a knack of making a navi talk to you. It was a terrific thing. Read the rest of this entry »
A Collection of Light-Hearted Autobiographical Stories
By Martin Lockshin
The State of Israel appropriately takes pride in its many achievements. In technology, science, research as well as militarily, Israel’s success seems unprecedented, especially considering its small population. Advanced Jewish studies and many varied forms of Jewish culture thrive. Historians say that never before in history has such a high percentage of Jews had expert-level knowledge of Jewish texts.
On the social level, however, the picture in Israel is far from rosy. While Israel’s raison d’être is the ingathering of exiles to build a new society together, serious tensions abound between Jews who are Ashkenazi and Sephardi, religious and secular, and haredi (ultra- or fervently Orthodox) and non-haredi. Women’s rights are more fraught than in most western democracies, because of the religious-secular divide and the lack of separation of religion and state. Israeli supporters and opponents of the settlements often do not even talk about their differences – it’s just too painful. Tensions between the 80 per cent of the population who are Jewish and the 20 per cent who are Muslim or Christian are part of everyday existence. Read the rest of this entry »
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Having suffered horrific personal losses in the Second World War, Bela Rubinstein and Judit Schwarcz decided that there was no future in Hungary, the land of their birth. Together with a few surviving relatives, they were able to escape just before the Communists sealed the borders. They were trapped in northern Italy, in a refugee camp for homeless Jews, for almost three years. This involuntary sojourn served the unintended but beneficial purpose of preparing Bela and Judit for their gradual return to normal life. Finally, an opportunity arose to immigrate to Canada, which ultimately proved to be a land of great blessing. The Rubinsteins established a home, raised a family, and integrated into the community. Along the way, they were able to reclaim the ancestral faith that had been ravaged in the death camps, and this imbued their lives with meaning and purpose. Yet sadly, despite this remarkable demonstration of human resilience, long-suppressed demons were to gain the upper hand as age-related infirmity eroded their painstakingly cultivated emotional fortitude.
– Shofar Journal (Summer 2011)
by Robert Eli Rubinstein
Since biblical times, we Jews have been a famously contrary lot, and the erosion of traditional values in the modern period has only deepened the divisions. Yet there is a single article of faith proclaimed with startling unanimity and certitude by all who profess to care about the survival of the Jewish people.
From one end of the broad Jewish spectrum to the other, from secular humanists to the most rigidly devout, Jewish education is promoted as the key to securing the Jewish future. In last week’s CJN, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman added his powerful voice to the chorus. As he put it, “Nothing is more crucial to advancing this goal [of ensuring the continuation of a strong Jewish identity] than Jewish education. At all levels, from the earliest age in the home, through formal and informal education at all levels, there is no alternative to exposing the next generation to Jewish values, traditions and identity.”
I began entertaining doubts about the conventional wisdom regarding Jewish education years ago, and these have only increased as I raised my own children and became ever more involved in the lay leadership of the Jewish schools they attended. Let me make clear that I am not saying I no longer value Jewish education. Rather, what I mean is that in the distant past, the lives of our people were suffused with a critical mass of Jewish content, and this preserved in them a strong sense of self as Jews. Today, however, the great majority of Jews wish to replace the actual practice of Judaism with mere knowledge of Judaism. As a consequence of this shift, we tend to have overblown and unrealistic expectations regarding the efficacy of Jewish education in building Jewish identity.
In 1986, the Canadian Jewish Congress, Ontario region, commissioned a “Task Force on Assimilation, Intermarriage and Jewish Identity”, which I was privileged to co-chair. Following an intensive investigative process, the taskforce issued a report setting forth recommendations for counteracting the erosion of affiliation among Jews. Looking back, I am struck by the fact that almost all the recommendations involved promoting Jewish education in one form or another. In the years since, our community’s deep conviction that Jewish education is the panacea for assimilation has continued to grow, as reflected by its ever-expanding investment in Jewish educational facilities and resources. Yet parallel to this trend and notwithstanding our heroic efforts, we have witnessed a relentless increase in the rate of attrition.
Some years ago, I was visiting in Borough Park, a Brooklyn neighbourhood heavily populated by readily identifiable chassidic Jews. While strolling along the main street on a sunny Sunday afternoon, I came across a group of Read the rest of this entry »