Silvia Fishbaum, author of the upcoming Dirty Jewess, remembers her mentor Ludovit Feld

February 14, 2017

9789655242775The unusual bespectacled face of a little 40-year-old man with a black cap atop his head leaving Auschwitz together with surviving children is captured in one of the most famous photographs of the 20th century. His tiny body is seen onscreen leaving the camp every day in an endless loop at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum.

Far from being forgotten or remembered only as prisoner A-7740, Ludovit Feld (or Lajos Baci – Uncle Lajos) is, twenty-five years after his death, widely recognized and even revered.

This little giant of an artist spent his entire life painting and portraying the people and daily life in his beloved Kassau (Kosice) – the second-largest city in the eastern part of Slovakia, known for its rich Jewish history. He was also an art teacher who taught children how to draw with their heart and many of his students made names for themselves in the world of art.

Feld had three strikes against him: He was a Jew, a dwarf, and poor. The ninth child in his family, he was the only one stricken with a handicap. As an adult he barely reached a height of four feet and the bullying he suffered during a time of growing anti-Semitism was almost too much for his small shoulders to bear.

In the spring of 1944, when he turned 40, Feld’s family and the other Jews in Kosice were loaded onto truck beds and driven to Teglagyar (“brick factory” in Hungarian) on the outskirts of the city, which served as a Jewish ghetto. Nearly thirteen thousand Jews were crammed into that small area.

As it turned out, Ludovit’s name was not on the deportation list due to the intervention of an art student of his who happened to work as a typist in the local Gestapo office. She deliberately omitted his name in the hope of sparing him from almost certain death.

Family was very important to Ludovit, so after a sleepless night he filled his little backpack with art supplies and walked to the brick factory ghetto. His family was happy to be reunited with him but knew his chances of survival were much greater outside the ghetto gates. Every day he would sit on his little stool drawing countless scenes of daily life in the ghetto, portraying the despair and the grief and the ever-present armed guards.

When they were deported to Auschwitz, Feld, because of his size, was assigned to the children’s barracks housing the twin boys known to history as the “ Twins of Auschwitz,” victims of the unspeakably sadistic experiments of the infamous Dr. Josef Mengele. Although he never had any children of his own, Feld became a father figure to all the twins. He rescued fifteen boys he believed wouldn’t survive the last death march by hiding with them for ten days and nights under the lowest bunks on the frozen ground. The boys in their testimonies all referred to Ludovit as their savior.

Feld’s entire family, with the exception of a sister and a brother, perished in Auschwitz. After the war he returned to his beloved city where he lived alone until his death.It was in Auschwitz that Mengele discovered Feld’s talent and, together with Czech artist Dina Gottlieb and Polish photographer Wilhelm Brasse, became part of the team drawing and documenting the doctor’s hideous experiments. Because Feld was a dwarf he was also subject to Mengele’s depravity. Adding insult to injury, Mengele demanded that Feld draw portraits of him so often that Ludovit could practically do it with his eyes closed. Read the rest of this entry »


Review of Who Stole My Religion?

December 13, 2016

By Dov Peretz Elkins

WhoStoleMyReligion9789655242348 “Who Stole My Religion?” is a thought-provoking and timely call to apply Judaism’s powerful teachings to help shift our imperiled planet onto a sustainable path. While appreciating the radical, transformative nature of Judaism, Richard Schwartz argues that it has been “stolen” by Jews who are in denial about climate change and other environmental threats and support politicians and policies that may be inconsistent with basic Jewish values. Tackling such diverse issues as climate change, world hunger, vegetarianism, poverty, terrorism, destruction of the environment, peace prospects in Israel, and American foreign policy, he offers practical suggestions for getting Judaism back on track as a faith based on justice, peace, and compassion. He urges the reader to reconsider current issues in line with Judaism’s highest values in an effort to meet the pressing challenges of today’s world.

Right now the new Trump administration is on the cusp of deciding whether climate change is real, and human-created, or not. The President-elect should read this book, and he will be convinced beyond doubt that there is so much more that we humans and governments must do to save our planet.

Read the rest of this entry »


Review of Who Stole My Religion?

December 8, 2016

WhoStoleMyReligion9789655242348‘Who Stole My Religion?’ Spells Out Cure for an Ailing Planet
by Craig Shapiro

Catastrophic climate change. Major food and water shortages. Species extinction.

Even though our planet is beset by “existential crises,” writes Dr. Richard H. Schwartz in Who Stole My Religion?, we can realign the balance. The subtitle of his new book explains how: Revitalizing Judaism and Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal Our Imperiled Planet.

“Many Jews have forgotten the Jewish mandate to strive to perfect the world,” Schwartz writes. “God requires that we pursue justice and peace, and that we exhibit compassion and loving kindness.”

Read the rest of this entry »


Review of The Shame Borne in Silence

December 1, 2016

shameBy Daniel Stuhlman

In 1997, shortly after the publication of the first edition of this book, Rabbi Twerski, speaking at an overflow Baltimore audience, said that “True Torah observance is not conducive to any kind of abuse, physical, emotional or otherwise….” This is still his message in this revised and updated second edition.

Community members have a hard time believing that a “pillar of the community” can be a saint in public and a monster at home. Abuse can be verbal, emotional, and/or physical. Too often an abused wife is naively told to stay in the marriage and preserve shalom bayis (domestic peace). Even if the accuser is lying, we have to take an accusation seriously and try to help those involved. Rabbi Twerski, who is both a Chasidic rabbi and a psychiatrist, has many years of experience treating alcohol and other types of substance abusers. He knows that those who are sick, need professional help. Denial does not make the problems disappear.

This book is well written, but it is not a happy book. The case studies presented are sad because too often the person seeking help was not helped in the early stages by the parents, rabbis, or community members. After reading this book, you should be able to better recognize the signs of abuse and help the abused parties get the kind of help to make her or him whole. This book should be read and discussed by every rabbi, parent, teacher, and anyone else who could see domestic abuse.

It is highly recommended for every kind of library – personal, synagogue, academic, and community.

This review originally appeared in AJL Reviews.


Review of Moadei HaRav

November 30, 2016

MoadeiHaRav web1By David B. Levy

Rabbi Shlomo Pick’s edition of Moadei HaRav succeeds in offering the English-speaking, observant reader a better understanding and appreciation of some of Rav Soloveitchik’s ideas, analysis, and methodology relating to halachic (legal) teachings, regarding the chagim (holidays). Many of these shiurim (lessons) were originally delivered in English or Yiddish. Rabbi Pick provides a clear overview of the topics and offers explanations using the Brisker method of interpretation.

The book comprises an introduction and 17 chapters from the Rav’s lectures organized into three distinct parts. The first section includes an excellent essay describing the Rav’s position on the peshat (simple meaning) of talmudic passages, the role of minhagim (customs) within Jewish law, the Rav’s understanding of the teacher/student dynamic, and the relationship between philosophy and law. The second part contains shiurim on the holidays; for example, setting the date of Shavuot (based on a number of Rishonim). Some of these shiurim include an appendix to elucidate particular issues raised by the Rav.

Rabbi Pick also provides helpful footnotes that contain references to additional oral remarks or discourses by the Rav and/or other primary and secondary sources by and about him. The third section includes five studies on Jewish law and customs such as the mitzvah of Charoset (the Rav on the Rambam).

Rabbi Pick and his helpers (including Rabbi Shimon Altshul) have made a most positive contribution by sharing many of the Rav’s insights, innovative approaches, and intellectual brilliance in a very clear manner.

Highly recommended.

This review originally appeared in AJL reviews.


Jewish Veganism With Dr. Richard Schwartz and Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz

November 29, 2016

WhoStoleMyReligion9789655242348With Victoria Moran of Unity.fm

Among Newsweek‘s “Top 50 Rabbis in America,” Shmuly Yanklowitz joins Richard Schwartz, Ph.D., of JewishVeg for an inspiring hour on why veganism is a Jewish value and a human value.

Listen to the full interview here.

 


Review of From Mourning to Morning

November 28, 2016

 

From Mourning to MorningIn the pages of “From Mourning to Morning: A Comprehensive Guide to Mourning, Grieving, and Bereavement”, Rabbi Simeon Schreiber (Senior Staff Chaplain at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, Florida), translates his many years of experience and considerable expertise into a greater understanding of the emotions surrounding death, grieving, mourning, and bereavement in Judaism. From “Mourning to Morning” deftly presents these principles in a comprehensive format. Focusing on the Shiva, the seven day period of mourning in Judaism, Rabbi Schreiber explains the foundation of visiting a house of mourners, and suggests proper etiquette in conducting a visit. With sensitivity and expertise, Rabbi Schreiber provides unique and practical advise on how to cope with death, mourning, and the related issues that we all will inevitably face. Impressively well written, organized and presented, “From Mourning to Morning” is unreservedly recommended.

This review originally appeared on Midwest Book Review.