Review of Memoirs of a Hopeful Pessimist

January 16, 2017

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 »


Rabbis Shuchat, Father and Son, Launch New Books

September 19, 2012

by Canadian Jewish News Staff

Father and son rabbis Wilfred and Raphael Shuchat were to jointly launch their new books at Congregation Shaar Hashomayim the evening of Slichot, September 8.

The elder Shuchat, 92, rabbi emeritus of the Shaar, has published Noah, The Flood and the Failure of Man, the third in his series on the interpretations of the sages of the Midrash Rabbah.

His son, Rabbi Raphael Shuchat, a lecturer in Jewish philosophy and mysticism at Bar-Ilan University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has published Jewish Faith in a Changing World: A Modern Introduction to the World and Ideas of Classical Jewish Philosophy.

In Noah, the elder Rabbi Shuchat writes that, although the biblical figure was chosen by God to save humanity, the sages have some reservations about his character. “[Noah] seems to be a saintly man with many flaws,” the author writes. Read the rest of this entry »


Eli Rubinstein, Malcolm Silver & Jonathon Dahoah-Halevi with Doris Epstein on MENSCHlife

March 21, 2012

Scroll down on page to see embedded video.


Shofar Journal review of An Italian Renaissance: Choosing Life in Canada

February 23, 2012

An Italian Renaissance: Choosing Life in Canada, by Robert Eli Rubinstein Jerusalem: Urim Publications, 2010. 177 pp. $24.95. ISBN 978-965-524-044-3.

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)


Can education alone save the Jewish People?

February 15, 2012

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 »


Jewish Book & Art Festival Dec. 4-11 Calgary JCC

December 1, 2011

Robert Rubinstein, author of An Italian Renaissance: Choosing Life in Canada, winner of the 2011 Canadian Jewish Book Award in the category of Holocaust Literature, will be at the Jewish Book & Art Festival, Dec. 4-11, 4:30 PM, Calgary JCC.


Video of the 4th Annual Howard Adelman Lecture with author Robert Rubinstein

November 29, 2011

Click The 4th Annual Howard Adelman Lecture for the video online.
Featuring Robert Rubinstein, author of An Italian Renaissance: Choosing Life in Canada,
Winner of the 2011 Canadian Jewish Book Award, in the category of Holocaust Literature
Delivered at York University, Toronto

Robert Eli Rubinstein, An Italian Renaissance: Choosing Life In Canada 
Published by Urim Publications

The author, a businessman and community leader in Toronto has written a remarkable memoir of the physical and spiritual rejuvenation of his parents, Hungarian survivors of the Holocaust, after the unspeakable horrors they had experienced. With most of their immediate families murdered and the Russians imposing a new tyranny in Hungary, they decided to leave. Early in 1946, they and a few of their surviving relatives escaped to Italy. There, in a Displaced Persons camp located on the grounds of a former psychiatric hospital near Turin, birthplace of the author, they found the healing conditions to revive their hope in the future and their commitment to their faith.

By a fortunate, almost accidental chance, that future led them to Toronto, where the Rubinsteins and their cousins became leading real estate developers and benefactors of the community. This work, however, is not just the record of a remarkable family’s survival in the Holocaust and re-establishment in Canada; it is above all a sensitive tribute by a loving son of the debt he feels to his parents for the character and values they have imbued in him by their actions and example. Beautifully expressed, this memoir is a wonderful contribution to the hitherto largely ignored area of Holocaust survivors’ re-establishment of their shattered lives.