Review of A Girl From There

A beautiful book describing the effects of brutality

by Israel DrazinAGirlFromThere web2

This is a significant work of art and a singular testimony to the holocaust and the memory of it in a woman who was just an infant at the time. She was sick with typhus when she saw her dad die, she remembers how her grandparents were transported to be killed. She was hidden by non-Jews, returned to her aunt and uncle after the war and the butchery, and was later reunited with her mom in Israel.
Her free-flow descriptive poems in this book are beautiful. They prompt readers to think. They raise questions, some of which have no answer. She describes not only the time of butchery, but also the difficulties she faced after she was free.



To Mourn a Child Discussion Evening (Full Audio)


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.


Welcome and Introduction:
Rabbi Jeffrey Saks | Director, ATID/, 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

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

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

Publishers Weekly Review of Do Animals Have Souls?

Do animals have soulsWell-researched and informative, this concise volume on animals will settle any concerns or inquiries a Jewish pet owner may have. Isaacs (Kosher Living: It’s More than Just the Food), a much published congregational rabbi, touches upon all aspects of animal life and behavior, including their status in Judaism and their relationship with humanity. There is a chapter dedicated to animal quotes and organizations, but the majority of his work answers questions posed to him over the years by his congregants. The queries cover a broad spectrum, ranging from “Does Judaism have any mythical animals in its tradition?” to “Isn’t the slaughtering of an animal for food considered cruelty to animals?” to “Can I sit shiva for my pet?” The rabbi, a pet enthusiast with his own brood, is clear in distinguishing between humans and animals, urging readers never to blur that sacred line. This honest and clear compilation will serve as a ready handbook for pet lovers with questions.

The original review can be viewed here.

The Spiritual Pet

by Liza JaipaulDo animals have souls

Do animals have souls?

“I think that’s a question that many people wonder about,” said Rabbi Ron Isaacs, who is a spiritual leader at Temple Sholom in Bridgewater — and the author of more than 100 books.

So he decided to write another one and address that very topic.

In “Do Animals Have Souls? A Pet Lovers Guide to Spirituality,” he answers many questions about animals, such as are dogs mentioned in the Bible; is it OK to hunt animals; can cats and dogs be blessed, and much more.

“This book is my newest and most unusual,” Isaacs said. “It’s the one I wanted to do most of my life. I have many years of personal experience as a pet owner and as a rabbi, and many people want some guidance regarding the pets in their lives.”

Isaacs said people have come to him asking for blessings for their dogs, and Continue reading “The Spiritual Pet”

Christian M. Rutishauser on Being Drawn to the Rav

From the Seforim blog:the human condition

Christian M. Rutishauser’s The Human Condition in the Thought of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik has just been published by Ktav (having earlier appeared in German). Quite apart from Rutishauser’s scholarship, the book is noteworthy in that Rutishauser is a prominent Jesuit priest (see here; for those who don’t know, the University of Scranton is also Jesuit). The Seforim Blog is happy to present the introduction to the book where Rutishauser explains what led him to the Rav.

A Catholic Glimpse of Rav Soloveitchik

I never met Rav Soloveitchik personally. The reason is not only that I was born in the second half of the twentieth century and live in Europe. Actually, apart from a few scholars, Soloveitchik was hardly known in the German speaking world of the 1980s and 1990s. As a student of Catholic theology with a deep interest in philosophy, I neither met him nor came across his work, even though I moved around the academic world of Germany and France with an open and interested mind. As a Jesuit and a chaplain at Bern University, I organized study tours to Israel almost every year, but even there I never heard of him. Neither my involvement in Jewish-Christian dialogue in Switzerland nor my deep interest in Judaism altered any of this, at least for some time.

 Then a lucky coincidence changed everything. In July 1997, I was attending an Ulpan at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. During a break one day, I walked over to the Hecht Synagogue on the Mount Scopus campus. I decided look around, more to kill time than out of any particular interest. I wandered about the room, enjoying its coolness on this hot summer day, browsing aimlessly among the books displayed on the shelves along the wall. By chance I picked up a copy of Halakhic Man by the Rav naturally in the English translation, as my Ivrit would not have allowed me to read the original. The name Soloveitchik did not ring a bell. Opening the book at random, I read a few chapters and became so fascinated by its outline of the Orthodox life ideal that I ‘œkidnapped’ the book from the synagogue. Naturally the books were not supposed to be removed, but as everyone knows, students find ways to get around rules of this kind. Actually, I returned the book four days later, after I finished reading it. I would have liked to know more about Soloveitchik, but I didn’t follow up on my interest at that time. Nevertheless, I was deeply impressed by the original way he presented, and above all differentiated, the homo religiosus; the modern scientist and the halakhic man stayed with me.

 One and a half years later, when Continue reading “Christian M. Rutishauser on Being Drawn to the Rav”

Temple Rabbi Delves Into Spirituality of Animals

by John Patten Do animals have souls

Ask any pet lover and they’ll tell you when they look into the eyes of their pet, they see a soulful creature looking back. But many have asked Temple Sholom Rabbi Ron Isaacs if dogs have souls, and if so, is there an afterlife for pets? Rabbi Isaacs has asked himself the same question and others, and searched for the answers—many of which he compiled into a book now published by KTAV Publishing House and available through, as well as at the Temple.

“It’s mostly answers to questions I’ve received during my career,” he said, adding as a dog owner himself, he’s pondered the same questions about animals’ place in our lives, as well as in God’s world.

The topics range from questions such as can one bless a cat and are dogs mentioned in the Bible, to deeper examinations—including the morality of hunting animals and whether or not animals have souls.
“Judaism has a belief that human souls return to a place called ‘Olam HaBa’—World to Come,” Rabbi Isaacs said. “Since nobody has ever gone to the World to Come and returned, everything written about what happens in it is purely a matter of faith and speculation.”

He added Jewish mystics say all living beings—human and natural—have souls, but not all souls are created equal. Humans enjoy a divine spiritual soul enabling us to create a relationship with the Divine, and make moral decisions using our free will—something animals cannot do.

But Rabbi Isaacs digs deeper in his book. Continue reading “Temple Rabbi Delves Into Spirituality of Animals”

Do Animals Have Souls? Find out October 30 @ the JCC in Bridgewater, NJ!

Rabbi Ron Isaacs, AuthorDo animals have souls
Do Animals Have Souls? A Pet-Lover’s Guide to Spirituality
Wednesday, October 30
Hosted by the Birnbaum JCC
Free to the community

Click here for the full flyer.

Rabbi Isaacs’ presentation will offer Jewish views of animals, pet ownership, and interesting animal and pet questions that he has received and will answer, including: Can I say the Mourner’s Kaddish for my pet who has died; What’s a Bark Mitzvah; Is there a blessing for pets; Is there an afterlife for my dog; and is there such a thing as Kosher Pet Food?

A Review of Vision and Leadership: Reflections on Joseph and Moses

Visions and Leadership

by Marion M. Stein

This volume is the latest in MeOtzar HoRav Series. As with all other texts by the Rav, this one was not written by him, but rather it is taken from transcriptions and edited by his students and associates. The text in this volume is very rich and deserves to be studied along with all other commentaries on Torah. The Rav’s thoughts on Joseph and Moses go far beyond what the title might suggest, bringing new and rare insights into the familiar stories that he discusses. These insights are both practical and philosophical and thus greatly enhance one’s reading of the Torah.

One example will illustrate what happens when even a single word is analyzed by this great teacher. Take the word “justice.” In his chapter entitled “Justice, Peace and Charity: Moses as Judge” we are given a thorough explanation of the difference between justitia civilis and the Jewish idea of mishpat shalom. In the former, there is a winner and a loser; one who is “right” and one who is “wrong.” In the latter, justice and charity and peace go hand in hand. There is no winner and no loser. There is a give and take on both sides. The Rav expands on these principles and lays the groundwork for Continue reading “A Review of Vision and Leadership: Reflections on Joseph and Moses