Review of A Girl From There

January 18, 2016

By Charles WeinblattAGirlFromThere web2

Chava Nissimov was born into wartime Poland in 1939. She escaped from a Jewish ghetto with her mother and grew up “behind the wardrobe” in various places during World War II and later as a “golah-child” on a kibbutz in Israel. Today, Chava is active in communal affairs, and she assists Holocaust survivors with reparation claims.

A Girl from There is a book of poems that documents fragmented memories of a small child’s arduous struggle to survive the Holocaust. Torn away from her parents and grandparents, alone and at the mercy of the Polish family hiding her, she recalls being hidden away into the far reaches of dark attics, claustrophobic hiding places, and cold, damp basements.

Part memoir, essay, testimony, and expressive free-verse poetry, A Girl from There is a series of delicate, fragmented, and emotional descriptions about her early life hiding from Nazi Germany and those who would gladly turn her in to the Gestapo. Each page describes the turmoil and fear of a small child who must always be hidden. She struggles with the death of her grandparents and her father; and she tries to comprehend why her mother abandons her to a Christian Polish family.

Too young to grasp her appalling situation, Chava must never be seen or heard by anyone outside of the family hiding her. She may not sleep under the stars, enjoy the caress of a warm breeze on a summer night, or feel the softness of grass under her small body. She may not speak with anyone outside of the household in which she is hidden, or leave it. Nor can she count on love from these surrogate mothers. She is at the mercy of those hiding her and in constant fear of capture by Nazis. Survival is all that matters.

The author’s disjointed childhood memories spill out in clear, animated poetic verse and are linked together, carrying the reader chronologically from Chava’s earlies memories through a dark, silent childhood filled with sickness and fear until the end of WWII. She then enters Israel as it is born out of the ashes of the Holocaust.

This review originally appeared on the NY Journal of Books. 

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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 »


PW Nonfiction Book Review of Tanakh, an Owner’s Manual

March 17, 2015

Sokolow, a professor at the Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration, TanakhAnOwnersManualWeb1has crafted a masterful and thorough volume of Torah scholarship that raises multiple questions inherent in Tanakh and provides cogent and articulate explanations and responses to them. His work, which takes a Jewish Orthodox viewpoint, includes segments on who penned the various portions of Tanakh (an acronym for Torah, Neviim, and Ketuvim); historic and rabbinic sources for inclusion in the canon; anomalies in the foundational Masoretic text; attitude toward narrative material (Aggadah); the history of, and insights into, eight prominent exegetes, including Rashi and Nahmanides; rebuttals to the arguments of biblical critics about textual origin, and principles for developing Tanakh curricula in yeshiva day schools. Sokolow’s erudition is evident as he addresses the issues from all angles and offers rational proofs for his claims. Detailed footnotes provide much additional useful and fascinating information for further study. Hebrew text, which is always translated, is woven into the manual when Sokolow quotes original material so that readers can see firsthand the sources. Serious students of Torah will learn much from this important, comprehensive work.

This review originally appeared on Publishers Weekly 


Kol Dodi Dofek: Confronting today’s reality

February 26, 2015

By Alan Jay GerberMajesty and Humility

This week, I shall focus on the legacy of a speech by the Rav, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik originally delivered in Yiddish before a gathering of the Religious Zionists of American in May 1956 on the occasion of the eighth anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel. It was subsequently expanded upon, translated into Hebrew, and ultimately into English where it gained traction among many elements within the intellectual community of American Jewry.

The emotional heft inherent in its teachings, especially in the Rav’s perspective of the horrors of the Holocaust and the historic legacy of Jew hatred through the ages, has given this address (published as a book, “Kol Dodi Dofek: Listen, My Beloved Knocks,” KTAV Publishing House 2006) the richly deserved status of a Jewish theological class. This theological spin of the Rav’s work on this delicate subject was viewed by many serious scholars as a pivotal moment in the reality that Jews have come to face concerning the hostile world around them.

In his classic work, “Majesty and Humility” (Urim/OU Press, 2012), detailing the thoughts of the Rav, Rabbi Reuven Ziegler goes into great detail concerning the deeper meanings of “Kol Dodi Dofek.” In his review of this work by Rabbi Ziegler, the late Prof. Charles M. Raffel of Stern College wrote the following concerning Rabbi Ziegler’s treatment of the Rav’s teachings on this subject: Read the rest of this entry »


To Mourn a Child Discussion Evening (Full Audio)

March 25, 2014

tomournachild

The OU Press held a Discussion Evening in honor of the publication of To Mourn A Child: Jewish Responses to Neonatal and Childhood Death on March 20.

CLICK HERE FOR FULL AUDIO.

Welcome and Introduction:
Rabbi Jeffrey Saks | Director, ATID/WebYeshiva.org, Co-Editor

Panel Discussion of essayists:
Moderator: Rabbi David Fine | Dean, Barkai Center for Practical Rabbinics
Dr. Benjamin Corn | Professor of Oncology, Tel Aviv University, Founder and Executive Chairman, Life’s Door-Tishkofet
Drs. Dassi and Dan Jacobson | Psychologists in private practice
Mrs. Yonit Rothchild | Author and writer


To Mourn a Child Discussion Evening at the OU Center

March 13, 2014

tomournachildThe OU Press invites you to a discussion evening in honor of the publication of:

To Mourn a Child: Jewish Responses to Neonatal and Childhood Death

March 20, 2014/18 Adar II 5774
8:00 p.m.
OU Israel Center, 22 Keren Hayesod Street, Jerusalem

With a panel of experts and essayists on the subject, and with an introduction by editor Rabbi Jeffrey Sacks.

Click here for more information.


Talking About Intimacy and Sexuality: A Review

February 23, 2014

by Kathe PinchuckCoverIntimacy

It is challenging to discuss intimacy and sexuality with our children, even more so to frame them in the Jewish contexts of respect and holiness. Several issues are repeated through the text: balancing the need to be proactive with giving kids more information than they are ready to process; the pervasive effects of the media (television, internet, cell phones) on everyone’s perceptions of body image and sexuality; and the biblical mandate to be holy. Each chapter begins with a quote and ends with a summary and the footnotes. Topics include Child Development, Tzniut (Modesty), Relationships between the Sexes, Masturbation, Homosexuality, Media and Its Challenges, and Sexual Harassment and Abuse. Within the chapters, there are numerous “model conversations” to have with children on different topics, and a list of these is included in the back matter. Appendix I includes separate student guides for both boys and girls, and Appendix II is a recommended reading list. The book includes a glossary and an index.

Dr. Debow has done extensive research about intimacy and sexuality with children and teenagers in the Orthodox community, and has published sexuality curriculum for Jewish schools. Because the book is meant for more Modern Orthodox Jewish parents, who often have greater access to secular books and the internet than less Modern Orthodox Jews would, most of the secular and basic physiological information could be found in other places. The chapter on “Relationships between the Sexes” is particularly important for parents of teenagers who are interacting with opposite-sex peers, and unfortunately, the “Sexual Harassment and Abuse” information is critical. The book is poorly indexed, which detracts from its usefulness when parents need references on a specific topic. Given that the target audience and the libraries that serve the group are relatively small in number, it is suggested that librarians keep the title on their resource lists. It is recommended for personal and professional purchase.

This review originally appeared in AJL Reviews