Celebrating the Life & Work of Rabbi Dr. Yitz Greenberg

October 15, 2017

Hear Rav Shmuly Yanklowitz explain why you should read A Torah Giant: The Intellectual Legacy of Rabbi Dr. Irving (Yitz) Greenberg – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=leFVDubJIlU&feature=youtu.be


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A Torah Giant: The Intellectual Legacy of Rabbi Dr. Irving (Yitz) Greenberg

Edited by Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz
Foreword by Rabbi Avi Weiss
Introduction by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin


Review of A Girl From There

December 29, 2015

by Jack RiemerAGirlFromThere web2

I suppose that within every adult there are the memories of childhood living inside, struggling to get out. If the childhood has been a healthy one, then the adult and the child within live together in peace. If the childhood has been horrible, then the struggle never ends.

This is a book of poems by an adult, who lives with the constant presence within her of an unimaginably awful past. These poems describe what life was like for a child who lived in the Warsaw ghetto where you had to hide every time there was a knock on the door, and you were not allowed to sneeze or cry or make a noise until it was quiet outside. These poems describe what it feels like to be an adult who, when she was a child of three, was given away for safekeeping by her mother to a Polish neighbor, and whose mother taught her how to pretend to be a Christian before she left. These poems recall what it was like after the war to be the only Jewish child in a Polish school, and then what it was like to be a foreigner in an Israeli school at a time when the other children in your class simply could not understand what it was like to come from a world so unimaginably different from theirs.   Read the rest of this entry »

Review of Pioneers of Religious Zionism

August 4, 2015

By Rabbi Ari Enkin

Pioneers of Religious Zionism explores the life of the six most prominent leaders of religious Zionism in the 19th and early 20thcentury. These are Rabbis Yehuda Alkali, Zvi Hirsch Kalischer, Samuel Mohliver, Jacob Reines, Abraham Isaac Kook, and Judah Leib (Fishman) Maimon.

There is roughly thirty pages devoted to each of these rabbis, where we learn about their early years and education, political opinions, and their relationship and influence within the Zionist movement.  A central feature of all these rabbis’ lives is that that by collaborating with the secular Zionist movement, they were victim to fierce opposition, condemnations, and defamations from their colleagues in Europe and the Land of Israel. Read the rest of this entry »

Review of After the Holocaust the Bells Still Ring

March 8, 2015

By Jack ReimerAftertheHolocustWeb1

This is not a book that one can really review, for to review means to be objective and detached. It means to pass judgment on the techniques of the author and to evaluate how well or how poorly he expresses his ideas. But when someone writes a book that bears witness to the horrors that he has gone through, and when someone pours out his soul, and when someone reaches into the very depths of your being, detachment is not an appropriate response.

Joseph Polak has written a memoir that begins where Anne Frank’s diary leaves off. She wrote about the trials and the travails of growing up in a hidden room, and of learning how to become a teenager in a hideout. Her book ends with her and her family being discovered by the Nazis and taken away to Auschwitz. We hear nothing of the starvation, the filth, and the typhus that took away her life there. Jospeh Polak’s book begins when he was taken, first to Westerbook, and then a year and a half later, from there to Bergen Belsen when he was still a small child.

His book is not so much an account of what happened to him there as it is an effort to understand and to convey how what happened to him there has remained within his consciousness ever since.

I read every page of this book at least twice: sometimes wincing, sometimes shivering, sometimes wishing it would end already. In this review, let me share just a few of the insights in it that stay with me ever since I encountered them. Read the rest of this entry »

After the Holocaust the Bells Still Ring

February 24, 2015

Hays Media and Urim Publications are honored to announce the North America publication of of an important new memoir of the Holocaust from one of Bergen-Belsen’s last and youngest survivors,who would become a prominent American rabbi. 

Here is a compeAftertheHolocustWeb1lling book in which Joseph Polak confronts the events he and his family faced from 1943-53: the Holocaust and its sequel of shame and hiding.

Rabbi Polak attempts to portray the madness of an incomprehensible period and the irresponsible reaction of society that followed it. Neither God nor man emerges unscathed from this searing volume. Early critics suggest that this book constitutes the missing chapters of Anne Frank’s diary, had she but survived Bergen-Belsen to conclude her narrative. Read the rest of this entry »

BU Rabbi Emeritus: ‘After The Holocaust The Bells Still Ring’

January 23, 2015

Rabbi Joseph Polak, author of After the Holocaust the Bells Still Ring, was interviewed on Radio Boston with Meghna Chakrabarti.

Among many questions, Rabbi Polak was asked about his memories of the Holocaust.

AftertheHolocustWeb1 “The early memories are impressionistic. The poplar trees stir something in my body…even now, that I know comes from there. So, do I have visual memory of it? No. But the first time I saw poplar trees, certainly in Europe, I knew that this was associated with the Holocaust. It took me years to figure out what it was…They were part of the topography of Westerbork. And Westerbork is at the youngest point of my childhood in the Holocaust.”

He was also asked what he thinks child survivors of the Holocaust should have been told.

“What I think they should have said was, ‘Yes, you feel something. Yes, your body remembers something.’ That would have been very helpful…And this did not come just from one person in my life. It was universal. Whenever you met an adult survivor and you started talking about the Holocaust, they said, ‘Oh, you don’t remember anything. Thank God you were a child. Thank God you were a child.’ And I have these conversations with Eli Wiesel, thank God I was a child? Eli Wiesel was 14 when he was taken to the camps. I said, ‘You had 14 fabulous years with your family. You had a wonderful family, you were at your grandparents’ house, you’re at your parents’ house. It was a happy, warm family.’ I had three months with my family, and then I was taken to Westerbork and to Bergen-Belsen. I had nothing. And my group of survivors really, really suffered, sometimes to the point of madness in adult life, because of this.”

The final question was geared toward his views on forgiving the perpetrators of the Holocaust.

 “I think that it is not up to the survivors to forgive the Germans. I don’t think it’s up to the Jewish people to forgive the perpetrators. I think it’s something they have to take on themselves, and something they have to deal with themselves. We cannot speak for the dead, we cannot speak for the murdered. Who can?”

You can listen to this fascinating interview, and read more about it, here.

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 »