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Bookjed is a service of the Lookstein Center for Jewish Education, Bar-Ilan University

Books in this issue:

1. Book reviews:

Kosher Movies
By Rabbi Herbert J. Cohen, Urim Publications, 2015 
     Reviewed by Rabbi Dr. Nachum Amsel

| From The Wilderness and Lebanon, An Israeli Soldier’s Story of War and Recovery,
By Asael Lubotsky, translated by Murray Roston, Toby Press, 2015
     Reviewed by Jack Riemer

2. Online book reviews
- Adam Ferziger on Marc Shapiro’s Changing the Immutable
- Varda Epstein on Sherry Mandel's The Road to Resilience
- Natan Slifkin on Rabbi David Brofsky's Hilkhot Mo'adim: Understanding the Laws of Festivals

3. Call for articles: The Jewish Bible Quarterly  

4. Book announcements

| The Final Journey: How Judaism Dignifies the Passage
A project of the Yeshiva High School, Boca Raton, FL
Rochel Berman, Project Director — Rabbi Jonathan Kroll, Head of School

Secrets of the Bible
By Moshe Ben-Chaim


(Back to Top)

This was a great story about the return of stolen books that should be of interest to Jewish educators:

http://www.wsj.com/articles/yeshiva-university-returns-historical-rabbinical-documents-1454711945

An excerpt:
<<
What is known is that the volumes resurfaced in 1954 in a bookseller’s shop on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The proprietor approached Yeshiva University to purchase the collection, but the price—$1,500—was too steep. The manuscripts were later acquired by a private buyer and donated to the university, which has maintained them ever since.

In 2013, Rabbi Auerbach reached out to two lawyers with experience in Holocaust-restitution cases, Mel Urbach and Markus Stötzel. Rabbi Auerbach still had the receipt his father received from the Berlin Seminary in 1935 detailing the loan, making his ownership claim unusually clear for a manuscript case, they said.
The university didn’t balk.

Its willingness to simply give the documents back set “a unique precedent,” Mr. Stötzel said, noting that they frequently face resistance, especially in Germany. “Without any dispute, without any arbitration, without any legal issues, they simply said, ‘we are willing to do the right thing.’ ”

As part of the agreement, the university received permission to digitally publish the manuscripts on its website to facilitate access for scholars.
>>

Enjoy!
Shalom




1. Book reviews:

Kosher Movies
By Rabbi Herbert J. Cohen, Urim Publications
, 2015   
     Reviewed by Rabbi Dr. Nachum Amsel
(Back to Top)

I began reading with great anticipation the volume Kosher Movies: A Film Critic Discovers Life Lessons at the Cinema, and I was not disappointed. Rabbi Dr. Herbert Cohen has a well-earned reputation as a first-rate educator, and he combines his educational insights and personal warmth and knowledge of Jewish values, with an obvious affection for great Hollywood films. Having used this methodology professionally in the classroom for forty years myself, I was very curious how Dr. Cohen would harness this all-powerful medium to teach great Jewish lessons and understanding for today. Every page was literally a joy.

Rabbi Cohen analyzes each of 111 films, many of them classics, each in two pages. He usually begins with an anecdote from his personal life, then a brief synopsis of the film, and finally discusses which Jewish life lessons and sources he derived from each film, based on the particular movie and Rabbi Cohen’s life experiences. Because the Rabbis of long ago, even before movies were invented, understood human nature and stated that experiences seen, like film, are more powerful than experience heard or read (Midrash Mechilta Hachodesh 2), movies as a tool for learning and values have affected billions of people during the last hundred years. By sharing how movies of all kinds have affected him Jewishly, including classics as varied from “Ferris Beuller’s Day Off” to “Zelig” to “Rocky” to the more recent “the Hurt Locker,” Rabbi Cohen demonstrates that any moral issue experienced by any moviegoer can be used as a vehicle to discuss as a Jewish issue. Indeed, Judaism deals with daily moral scenarios and provides directions and a compass for any and every moral dilemma, which can be found in every one of the movies analyzed in this volume. Rabbi Cohen’s vast knowledge of sources along with his great knowledge of film, helps the reader better understand each movie, better understand each life issue faced in the films, and also better understand Judaism as a whole. No one will ever see movies in the same way again after reading this volume.

This author has also used films and television shows extensively in the classroom and in informal settings for the past forty years, having taught this methodology to thousands of teachers of all Jewish stripes. And though my methodology differs somewhat in specifically how to use the clips, concentrating more on the details of each issue, that is a mere difference of style. That fact that I do not always come to the same conclusion as Dr. Cohen in using a particular film, simply proves how powerful a tool film is as a trigger for discussion and Jewish learning, as any good educational trigger can be used in many different ways (I have used many of the films discussed in the book but often analyzed them differently or selected different dilemmas within in each film). I would have liked to see more Jewish sources brought on each issue as well as their origin. But that is a quibble of style and not of purpose.

Rabbi Dr. Cohen has done the Jewish and non-Jewish world a great service in producing this book and sharing his thoughts and insights, and Kosher Movies is an invaluable tool enabling us to view not just these 111 films in a Jewish way, but reminding us that all movies can always be seen with “Jewish” glasses. I await the sequel for Dr. Cohen’s analysis of his next 111 films.

Kosher Movies is available from Urim Publications
http://www.urimpublications.com/Merchant2/merchant.mv?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=UP&Product_Code=koshermovies

Rabbi Dr. Nachum Amsel received his doctorate (EdD) developing a curriculum for using trigger films in the classroom, and was the author of LAVE (Life and Values Education ) for the Orthodox Union for twenty two years, authoring hundreds of lesson plans using TV shows and films as a catalyst, developing a methodology teaching Jewish values in formal and informal settings. He has taught over 5,000 Jewish educators this methodology, which is being used on 5 continents today. He is currently the Educational Director of Rabbi Wein’s Destiny Foundation, using new techniques and films in teaching Jewish history, and has recently authored the recent “The Encyclopedia of Jewish Values.”




From The Wilderness and Lebanon, An Israeli Soldier’s Story of War and Recovery 
By Asael Lubotsky, translated by Murray Roston, Toby Press, 2015
     Reviewed by Jack Riemer
(Back to Top)

This is unquestionably the most inspiring book to come out of Israel that I have read in a long time. There is scarcely a word in it about whether Israel should hold on to the territories or give them back, or about what should be the rights of the Non-Orthodox groups within Israel, or about the divide between the rich and the poor or between the Ashkenazim and the Sephardim or about any of the other topics that we hear so much about nowadays. Instead, this book is simply the account of a young soldier who fought in the Second Lebanese War, who tells of his experiences in the war and during his recuperation from the wounds that he suffered there. It is written with a disarming innocence, and yet I confess that I had to put it down almost every few pages because its emotional impact was so powerful.

You learn many things from this book. One is that the Israeli army is like a family, and that every officer feels an enormous sense of responsibility for those whose lives they put in danger. And so you learn that soldiers pay visits to their buddies and their officers when they are in the hospital, and that they pay shivah calls to the families of their buddies who have died in the war. You learn that Israel is a very small country, and that therefore soldiers who die are not just ‘body count’ or statistics. Everyone knows everyone else, and therefore every family feels everyone else’s loss. And you learn that the Israeli army is a democracy. And so, near the end of this book, Lubotsky tells of a fellow soldier who writes a letter to the Chief of Command, complaining that the goals of the war had not been thought through properly---and, more surprising, he received a thoughtful and a detailed and a respectful answer in return!

Asael’s wounds were caused by friendly fire that came from the Israeli air force that operated on inaccurate information. And when he was in the hospital, the pilot who had bombed his tank came to see him to apologize and to explain. I don’t know if that happens in many other armies, but it evidently happens in the Israeli army, and that is impressive, is it not?

There are more than a dozen stories in this book that I marked so that I can go back to read again, but this is perhaps the most inspiring. The head of the Orthopedic Rehabilitation Department at Tel Hashomer Hospital was Dr. Itschak Siev-Ner. This was the man who by his skill and determination saved Asael Lubutsky’s leg from requiring amputation. When Asael’s grandfather came to visit him in the hospital and met this doctor, it turned out that their families knew each other very well. During the Second World War, Asael’s grandfather was a partisan, fighting against the Nazis. He was hit in the leg by a German bullet. Medical treatment was almost non-existent in the woods, and there were almost no bandages, but the partisans were determined to save him. The nurse bandaged his wounds with tree leaves to stop the flow of blood, but the wound became infected and Asael’s grandfather ran a high fever. The partisans went out and captured a German drug delivery so that they would be able to give him an antibiotic. As a result, the fever decreased and he was able to recover from his injuries and return to the fighting. The nurse who cared for him and saved his life was Anna Siev-Ner, and now, sixty years later, it was her son, who was treating his grandson’s wounds!

Asael Lubotsky was a student of the Yeshiva in Har Etsion, and he tells some remarkable stories of how he somehow managed to put on Tfillin every day, of how he somehow found the time to study Torah with other patients in the hospital on occasion, and of how he would call his rabbi and ask permission---which he was always given---before he would eat on a fast day or do military work on the Sabbath. He never says a word of disparagement towards those soldiers in his unit who were not as observant as he was, and he never tried to persuade them to be more observant, but I am sure that his example must have been a model of how to combine piety and patriotism to them all. He tells of how even those who were not observant would nevertheless gather around him and join in when he recited the prayer that is said before going off into battle. And he never demonizes or denies the humanity of the Hezballah soldiers against whom he fought. He even describes how he and his soldiers would carefully cover their enemies’ bodies and carry them out on stretchers or would quickly bury them if they could not do so because they were under fire. He does not brag or boast that Israel is always right but he quietly affirms that the existence of the State of Israel and the safety of the Jewish people depend on the army’s courage and determination, and that therefore, they must not fail. And he says that he and his fellow soldiers tried their best to affirm the doctrine of ‘tohar haneshek’, the concept that war must be fought ethically, difficult, and sometimes impossible, as that sometimes was to do.

We live at a time when American soldiers who come back from the wars are not always welcomed back as heroes, but are instead looked upon by many people as having engaged in a pointless war. And we live at a time when the wounded soldiers are not treated as well as they should be in the military hospitals or by the community on whose behalf they have fought. And we live at a time when wisdom of some of Israel’s leaders and some of its policies are judged harshly both here and within Israel. And so it is heartening to read this book which describes an army that is composed of simple soldiers who care about each other, and care about the land for which they fight, and who strive to preserve their humanity even under stress. This is a book that everyone who believes in Israel’s right to exist should read and should treasure, regardless of what their point of view may be on Israel’s domestic or foreign policies may be. You come away from it with an understanding of how very special Israel’s army is.

From the Wilderness and Lebanon is available onlineand at local Jewish bookstores everywhere.




2. Online book reviews:

- Adam Ferziger on Marc Shapiro’s Changing the Immutable

(Back to Top)

http://marginalia.lareviewofbooks.org/the-sagacious-scholar-and-the-censor-by-adam-ferziger/

An excerpt:
<<
“The author is now in heaven where he knows the truth about Kook,” and is “therefore happy with what I have done,” he said.

That encounter represents in microcosm an indictment of Orthodox censorship that Shapiro advances through hundreds of detailed examples that fill Changing the Immutable: How Orthodox Judaism Rewrites Its History. Since the nineteenth century and with increasing audacity in the past few decades, Orthodox Jewish publishers have bowdlerized religious texts. They reshape events by removing controversial names, passages, and even entire rulings. They blithely distort the meaning of sentences and airbrush photographs that clash with the ideals they seek to uphold. Exposure does not bother them because their aim in publishing rabbinical writings and portraying the authors is not historical accuracy. It is hagiography.
>>

- Varda Epstein on Sherry Mandel's The Road to Resilience

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/varda-epstein/the-road-to-resilience-a-primer-for-grief_b_9193522.html

An excerpt:
<<
And that, in fact, is the message in her book that speaks loudest to me: trauma and hurt can turn us into teachers. Trauma, the thing we want least, the thing we pray will never happen to us, is the thing that makes us finer. Pain and grief can be catalysts for tremendous personal growth. It's something I knew, but Sherri has managed to put this into words both exquisite and profound. She takes you back to your place of pain and shows you how to use it for good.
>>

- Natan Slifkin on Rabbi David Brofsky's Hilkhot Mo'adim: Understanding the Laws of Festivals

http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2016/02/an-alternative-to-artscroll-halachah.html

An excerpt:
<<
As its subtitle indicates, this book is very different from those in the ArtScroll/ Feldheim/ Targum genre. Most such books in that genre usually just give the bottom-line halachah, so that one can follow it correctly. Rabbi Brofsky's book, on the other hand, is about understanding the halachah. It takes the reader through the development of the halachah from the primary sources in the Chumash, Mishnah and Gemara, through the Rishonim and Acharonim, down to contemporary practice. It also includes a discussion of the reasons, symbolism and significance behind the halachah. Furthermore, Rabbi Brofsky applies a scholarly analysis to the discussion. For example, on p. 595, he writes that "Rashbetz insists that this Rambam must be based upon a scribal error, but reliable manuscripts indicate otherwise."
>>




3. Call for articles: The Jewish Bible Quarterly (Back to Top)

If you have developed an idea or approach that you find exciting, why limit it to yourself and your students? Share it with the larger community of Bible lovers and scholars throughout the world, by sending if for consideration at the Jewish Bible Quarterly. Qualified teachers of Tanakh are encouraged to submit articles for publication in our journal.

The Jewish Bible Quarterly provides timely, authoritative studies on biblical themes. As the only Jewish-sponsored English-language journal devoted exclusively to the Bible, it is an essential source of information for anyone working in Bible studies. The Journal publishes original articles, book reviews and correspondence. All viewpoints are considered.

Instructions to authors can be found at: http://jbq.jewishbible.org/instructions-to-authors/

For more information, contact Rabbi Zvi Ron at [log in to unmask]




4. Book announcements

The Final Journey: How Judaism Dignifies the Passage
A project of the Yeshiva High School, Boca Raton, FL
Rochel Berman, Project Director — Rabbi Jonathan Kroll, Head of School
(Back to Top)

The Final Journey: How Judaism Dignifies the Passage is a curriculum that explores Jewish death rituals. Developed and tested at the YHS, Boca Raton, it is designed to teach Jewish high school students in all streams of Judaism about the elegant path along which the Jewish deceased are taken in their final journey prior to burial. The content of the 8-session course centers about the role of the Chevra Kadisha, the Jewish Burial Society. As advocates for the deceased, they wash, purify and dress the body, thereby illuminating the humanity and ultimate dignity of the tahara ritual.

To aid educators, a 98-page Study Guide has been published with detailed lesson plans on the following topics:
• Placing Death in the Context of the Jewish Lifecycle
• The Chevra Kadisha and Jewish Values
• Funeral Home Field Trip — reported in The New York Times
• Sources and Significance of Halacha and Minhagim for Tahara
• The Chevra Kadisha During the Holocaust and Acts of Terrorism
• The History of the Chevra Kadisha in America
• Halachic Issues Regarding Autopsy and Organ Donation
• When Ordinary People Do Extraordinary Things

In addition, the Study Guide includes tips on how to implement the program, reflections by students, suggested course assignments and a sample Tahara Manual.

To obtain a copy of the Study Guide at no cost, email us at [log in to unmask]. Please include your name, name of the school, a mailing address and the grade(s) you teach.

The following resources are available on our website: http://tinyurl.com/TheFinalJourney
• An 8-minute Educational Overview of the course
• Videos of each presentation taught in the course


Secrets of the Bible
By Moshe Ben-Chaim

I wish to share with your list, the release of my new book: https://www.mesora.org/Secrets

Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim, Founder
Mesora.org / The JewishTimes / USAIsrael.org




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