January 18, 2016
By Charles Weinblatt
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.
July 16, 2015
By Rabbi Ari Enkin
I’ve never read poetry in my life before, and frankly, I have no interest in it. But I grabbed the opportunity to examine “religious poetry.” I know of no other work of Torah poetry in the orthodox world.
Ira Bedzow’s new book “Things Overheard in the Synagogue” is a beautiful and quaint collection of over seventy pieces of poetry reflecting his thoughts and emotions and many different issues in the Jewish world in general, and the synagogue world in particular. It’s a work where the author “gets things off his chest.” There are also a number of pieces where the author uses poetry as a springboard for Talmudic and Midrashic commentary. There are also about twenty short essays in the section “Remarks and Reflections.” Read the rest of this entry »
February 27, 2012
by Eli K.
This generation has witnessed a proliferation of Torah literature, from Halachic treatises to Biblical exegeses. Yet despite the outpouring of Jewish religious books, there is a major vacuum in Orthodox literature – the absence of religious poetry. Well, I am happy to tell you that a good friend of mine, Rabbi Ira Bedzow, has begun to fill that void.
In Things Overheard in the Synagogue, Rabbi Bedzow identifies religious, personal and social themes in a poetic style unparalleled in its ability to convey depth with simplicity. Simple observations lead to complex introspection; natural feelings compel sophisticated reflections; and common conversations inspire philosophical insights.
Although titled Things Overheard in the Synagogue, this book encompasses things overheard in the street, in the home, and things not overheard at all, but residing in the private, active mind of the author. The concept of memory is analyzed (page 32); social interactions are dissected (e.g. page 51); and Biblical passages come alive (e.g. page 16) as a range of human experience is expressed through the prism of a thoughtful religious scholar.
This book is sure to resonate with the thinking Orthodox Jew. Some of Rabbi Bedzow’s emotions strike a common chord and express what many of us feel but are perhaps reluctant or unable to properly express. Some of Rabbi Bedzow’s thoughts are novel and will catch the reader off guard. But all of them are eloquent and enjoyable to read.
The Orthodox world is indebted to Rabbi Bedzow for retrieving a long-lost art in rabbinic literature. I thought Orthodox poetry was dead, but, apparently, there is an individual valiantly attempting to resuscitate it.
This was posted on Provocative Perspectives.