State of the Heart – new review

March 11, 2020

Dov Peretz Elkins ● Jewish Media Review

In State of the Heart, David Kramer takes us on a journey of Israel’s humanitarian efforts that began more than 70 years ago and continues unabated throughout the world today.

In this extraordinary and inspiring collection of over 50 stories, personal interviews, and photographs, David describes the benevolence and altruism that characterizes the nation of Israel. He engages the reader with narratives that identify and provide a glimpse into the compassionate soul of the Israeli people. 

Featured in these accounts are descriptions of life-saving technology and innovation, helping the disabled and teens at risk, managing food collection and distribution programs for the disadvantaged, immigrant absorption and elder care, infertility programs, women’s empowerment and human rights, rescuing victims in the aftermath of natural disasters worldwide, developing and providing life-saving solutions to those in developing nations, cleaning up and protecting the environment, and so much more. 

State of the Heart captures the unique level of concern, care and uncompromising sense of mission, undertaken by Israelis, within Israel and around the globe.

David Kramer is an educator, author and social entrepreneur. He has spent the past ten years helping Israeli and global non-profit organizations tell their story through a social start-up he founded in Israel. David spends much of his time meeting with tour groups in Israel, connecting them to the reality of life in Israel. He served in the Israeli army and lives in Jerusalem with his wife Tova and their five children. 


Integration of American Jews Through Journalism

March 9, 2020

Neville Teller ● Jerusalem Post

Ron Rubin is an avid collector of American newspapers stretching right back to the early 18th century. A professor of political science at the University of New York for more than 50 years, Rubin retired in 2016 and devised the idea of telling the story of America’s Jews through what appeared in the newspapers of the time. In Strangers and Natives he brings the concept to brilliant realization, hence his book’s subtitle: A Newspaper Narrative of Early Jewish America 1734-1869.

Turning the pages of this book is a continuous delight to the eye, for throughout the volume, the selected news items and articles are illustrated by reproductions of the originals. So as a by-product of the history, we also see how American journalism developed over the centuries. This triumph of book design is the work of the highly experienced Peri Devaney, who is rightfully credited on the cover.

Strangers and Natives tackles the development of the Jewish community in America from a variety of angles, starting back in 1734, some 60 years before the Declaration of Independence. On March 25 of that year, The New York Weekly Journal carried an advertisement urging anyone who believed they were owed anything by the late Benjamin Elias to come forward. Elias had been a merchant as well as a Hebrew teacher and shochet (ritual slaughterer) at Congregation Shearith Israel, the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue that was the first Jewish congregation in North America.

Rubin ends his story, except for an additional item or two, with The Alexandria Gazette’s account of the first Rosh Hashanah after the end of the Civil War in 1865 – the Jewish New Year of 5626. Jews featured prominently on both sides of that conflict. The secretary of state of the Confederate States of America – the 11 breakaway states opposed to ending slavery – was Judah P Benjamin. In February 1865, with the South fast crumbling and already thinking of suing for peace, The Baltimore Clipper carried a front-page account of a speech by Benjamin advocating what must have seemed a radical proposal to the South generally. He proposed freeing African American slaves as a way of enhancing the manpower of the Confederate Army. Such a move, he said, would add 680,000 additional troops.

On the other hand, in April 1865, one week after President Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated, The Pittsburgh Commercial ran an article praising the Jewish contribution to the Union cause. It set out the numbers of enlisted Jews from the different states of the Union, calculating that a total of 40,000 Jewish soldiers had, in its own words, “shown a full share of patriotism since the war began.”

Across 12 chapters, Rubin traces the saga of how Jews slowly became integrated into the American way of life. He covers the development of Jewish communal affairs, including the expansion of synagogues across the growing country, and the part played by Jews in the fields of education and literature, in journalism, business, politics and various other aspects of the rapidly growing nation. He does not omit the obstacles placed in their way from time to time.

For example, antisemitism reared its ugly head quite early on, and Rubin records instances in The New York Gazette in 1746, and The Pennsylvania Gazette in 1751, of the offer of rewards following the vandalism of Jewish burial grounds. Against this, the philo-semitism of Benjamin Franklin is well documented. As The Pennsylvania Gazette records, well ahead of the British Parliament, Franklin’s so-called Jew Bill of 1753 proposed allowing foreign-born Jews to obtain English citizenship, bypassing the required oath of loyalty to the Church of England. To its credit, the Gazette was strongly in support if the bill, but it was a proposal well ahead of its time, and popular opposition proved too strong.

A century later, the American press followed the long and intense struggle within the British Parliament on the related issue of permitting a practicing Jew to sit in the House of Commons without swearing loyalty to the Church of England.

In 1847, Baron Lionel de Rothschild was elected to Parliament as an MP for the City of London. As The New York Herald reported, he refused to take his seat because he was required to take an oath to the Christian faith. When he was reelected in 1849, the paper noted that he had won “by an overwhelming majority,” and commented that “the event is regarded as an unmistakable sign of the determination of the citizens to secure what is termed full religious liberty.” In point of fact, the impasse continued, as Rothschild won his seat again in 1852 and then in 1857. It was not until 1858, after the provision of Christian affirmation was removed, that he finally entered the House of Commons.

Rothschild’s struggle, reported in the American press, was carefully followed by American Jews. It may well have played a part in ensuring the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868, 10 years later, which finally removed religious restrictions on holding any political office in the United States.

Strangers and Natives provides a unique perspective on American-Jewish history – the first account to draw its material solely from contemporary newspapers. By doing so, and because of Peri Devaney’s fascinating design, which shows the actual items in print, we are able to see history unfold as it was happening. The book goes well beyond news stories. We see also advertisements, announcements, obituaries and accounts charting the changing pattern of Jewish life and achievement. It is highly recommended.


Charedim and Dov Lipman

December 28, 2014

By Harry MarylesTo Unify a Nation

One of the biggest assets of the Charedi community in Israel is someone that hails from a Modern Orthodox background in the United States. He is a Talmud Chacham with a fine secular education. But he has bought entirely into the Charedi mindset in Israel. I consider him a friend. And I think he would say the same about me.  But one would not know that by one angry comment (among many) he made recently on my blog (in response to my own comment to him). He calls himself Dan (not his real name). I post it here in its entirety:

I’m absolutely horrified that Orthodox people don’t give a hoot about the undermining of religious issues in Israel as defined NOT by Charedim, but by ANY Orthodox Rabbi. Laws by Yesh Atid had to be blocked time and again by Bayit Yehudi because Rabbis such as *Rav Druckman* said they are anti-Torah.

Lipman has had plenty of chances to explain his views, and I don’t care what Lipman considers himself. Supporting a law that allows non-Jews to adopt Jews (and that IS part of the law, for all those falsely claiming I misrepresented; it goes BOTH ways) is supporting Shmad. Period.

He is horrified?  Well, I too am horrified. I am horrified that his children (and virtually all other Charedi children) will never receive the education he did. That they will not be prepared for the outside world in the slightest. That they will be sociologically forced to sit and learn Torah for as long as possible without the slightest bit of preparation for the work force during that time.

I am horrified that the skills their own father learned in the US which affords him the opportunity for a decent job will not be available to his children for a lack of learning them. I am horrified that his children (and all other Charedi children) are being told that their first choice in life must be to abandon working for a living since there is so much Torah to learn. They therefore need every available moment of study to be geared towards that.

I am horrified that even children that are not as much suited for Torah study as they might be for some other field are being told to ignore that and continue studying Torah for as long as possible. Read the rest of this entry »


Reinventing Adult Jewish Education

January 10, 2013

ReinventingAdultcover

Innovation and creativity have been two keys to the growth and development of the American Jewish community since its inceptions more than four hundred years ago. Each generation has left its mark on the community through its unique approaches to the issues and concerns of the times. As we look back on the last generation, one such program that captivated the North American Jewish community was the Florence Melton Adult Mini School.

Through her own personal story as an educator and the long-time director of this school, Betsy Dolgin Katz provides an historical overview of this outstanding adult learning program. Much can be learned about how an innovative idea is able to grow into a significant initiative that touches a wide cross section of the adult population and leads to the establishment of similar programs that serve other components of the community.

Katz provides the reader with insights into the origins and development of the program, the origins and development of the program, the success that it achieved in attracting different parts of the community, and the challenges faced by the school’s developers during the twenty-five years from its first classes in the mid-1980s until the present. Readers looking to learn about the evolution of the Mini School and its impact on the community will find this volume valuable.

.This review first appeared in the Jewish Book World


This ‘Conversation’ is worth listening to

February 16, 2012

David Goldstein, the central character in Bellarmine University philosophy professor Joshua Golding’s new novel, is a fairly typical American Jewish college student, in that he is expected to marry a Jewish girl, and he knows that the state of Israel is important and, beyond that, he does not know very much about his heritage.

As a college freshman, David begins to encounter the big questions: Is there a God? If so, why does He permit evil and suffering in the world? And what does it mean to be Jewish?

The Conversation is neatly divided into four sections — freshman, sophomore, junior and senior years — and follows David as he learns about Judaism and philosophy.

The reader, of course, learns along with him.

The novel is, by and large, conversational, hence the title. We see David in dialogue with rabbis, professors, fellow students and friends, as he seeks a personal understanding of deep questions that are only now beginning to make themselves real to him.

The story is likewise multi-textual, told in conversations, letters, journal entries, emails, lectures and essays for class (complete with the professor’s markings and marginalia in red ink!). Differing typefaces are used for each genre.

Published in Israel by Urim Publications, the book has been beautifully produced.

The book is an interesting hybrid — a novel that is also intended to instruct.

The philosophical content is quite accessible for the lay reader. In some quarters, this book might find itself compared to Jostein Gaarder’s 1991 novel Sophie’s World, but it should not be.

Sophie’s World folded nugget-like philosophy lectures inside a sprawling narrative. The Conversation is a sustained inquiry, an ongoing intellectual back-and-forth, with as many questions raised as answered, which, I am given to understand, closely follows long-standing Judaic tradition.

The Conversation is both a coming-of-age story and a primer on Judaic philosophy. If this dual nature limits its literary accomplishment, the reader is amply compensated by the ideas espoused, debated, argued, pondered, and by the deep humanity of the character of David.

Golding has held research positions at the University of Haifa in Israel and at the University of Notre Dame. He is also the author of Rationality and Religious Theism.

This article may be found at the Courier-Journal site.