Main Line’s Thirst for Books Quenched at Last

Cathy Fiebach outside the store

— by Hannah Lee

I and other residents of the Main Line have been in lack of books since the bankruptcy of the Borders bookstore chain in July 2011, and the renovations of the Ludington and Bala Cynwyd branch libraries, the latter closing in December 2011. For a few months, we were bereft of all three resources, until Ludington reopened last September, and Bala Cynwyd reopened last month. Another pleasure awaits us at the newly opened Main Point Books, an independent bookstore in Bryn Mawr, run by local resident Cathy Fiebach.

Main Point Books stocks a broad range of books, with a particular emphasis on literary fiction. Fiebach is eager to hear from customers about the kinds of books they like, and especially about books they do not, because it helps her develop her inventory. (When was the last time you had fun chatting books with the staff at a chain store?)

One of the charming books available in the store is My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop, a collection of essays by writers on their favorite bookstores. Some of those stores are in the writers’ communities, and others are their stops along a book tour. I have my own copy, and I told Fiebach that it is “armchair traveling” for me to read about lovely bookstores across the country. Her store could easily join their ranks.

More after the jump.
Main Point Books has comfortable armchairs, round tables and 17,000 square feet of space. The bookcases in the middle are on wheels, and are able to be moved out for an audience. Events with authors will begin in the fall. Interested customers may get alerts on Facebook or Twitter, or by email. (Visitors could satisfy any hunger pangs with the dairy selection from the *ndulge Cupcake Boutique located next door, in the former Medley Music building, with kosher supervision from Rabbi Dov Lerner of Traditional Kosher Supervision.)  

Main Point Books, located at 1041 W. Lancaster Avenue in Bryn Mawr, is open seven days a week, with hours Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday 10 am to 6 pm; Thursday and Friday 10 am to 8 pm; and Sunday noon to 4 pm. Phone: 610-525-1480; email: [email protected].

Book Chat: Kosher Nation

— by Hannah Lee

Kashrut, the kosher dietary laws, is the original practice of mindful eating, set within a holistic framework”, said Sue Fishkoff at the symposium “How Kosher is Kosher?,” held on April 15th as part of the What Is Your Food Worth? series, hosted by Temple University and coordinated by its Feinstein Center for American Jewish History.  

Fishkoff is the author of the 2010 book Kosher Nation: Why More and More of America’s Food Answers to a Higher Authority and editor of J., the Jewish news weekly of Northern California. For about ten years before she began research for her book, she said that Americans had expressed an interest in where and how we get our food. What galvanized her to write the book was that Jews were beginning the same conversation from a Jewish perspective. “Every Jewish household has a kosher story, even if the family does not follow kashrut.”

More after the jump.
In 2007, Fishkoff read a report stating that kosher food is the largest and fastest growing segment of the domestic food industry. “While there are at most a million kosher Jews,” she cited, “there are another 12-13 million Americans who buy kosher products. Who are they and why do they choose kosher items?”

In 1972, Hebrew National launched its historic campaign featuring the character of Uncle Sam biting into a hot dog with the slogan “We answer to a higher authority.” “This was at a time where Americans had a sense of fear of governmental authorities”, said Fishkoff, “coming after the civil rights protests, the publication of Rachel Carson’s environmental wake-up call, Silent Spring, and the Vietnam War. The ad portrayed kosher food as safer and healthier.”

In the book, Fishkoff cited that recent polls showed that 62% of Americans believe kosher food is better, 51% believe kosher food is healthier and 34% believe kosher food is safer. “In this country with the world’s highest numbers of believers in God and the most trust in religious authorities,” she said, “this translates into a $200 billion a year kosher certified food industry.

Who buys kosher? People who are lactose-intolerant (75% of African-Americans are deficient in lactase, as well as 90% of Asians) have learned to look for the pareve label, signifying the food’s dairy-free status. Fundamental Baptists and Seventh-Day Adventists who follow Old Testament prohibitions on “unclean animals” buy kosher meat. Many Muslims were given dispensation to buy kosher meat when their own halal meat was not readily available. Finally, non-kosher Jews buy kosher food for the holidays, so that the Jewish food companies earn 40-50% their annual revenue from their Passover inventory.

The rise of kosher certification is tied with the advancement of technology. In 1925, less than 5% of the food in a typical American Jewish kitchen was processed. As food technology expanded and the use of additives and preservatives increased, the Orthodox Union stepped in to regulate the food manufacturing process. In 1923, Heinz became the first company to put a kosher label on a food item — its vegetarian baked beans. To avoid scaring off its gentile customers, said Fishkoff, it used a symbol, the U inside a circle, that was easily recognizable by Jews. In the United States today, a kosher label is a sign of quality. That is not true in most of the world, including Great Britain, where lists of kosher products are prepared by their rabbinic authorities, and kosher-keeping visitors are advised to obtain those lists before shopping for groceries.

There are over 1,000 kosher symbols recognized in the United States today, with the “big four” — OU, OK, Star-K, and Kof-K — controlling 85% of the market. Supermarkets often stock only the big four, or even the “big one”, OU. The reach of the big four is global, with half of the food products exported from China being certified kosher.

Along with the profits comes abuse, sometimes benignly — as when Fuji placed a kosher symbol on its packages of film (without approval) because it was thought to promote sales. The biggest price differentiation is in kosher meat, so that’s where most scandals have occurred. “In 1914, Barnett Baff, who ran a wholesale poultry business in New York City, was said to be murdered by a cabal of 100 butchers who’d paid for his death,” reported Fishkoff.

In the 1920s, half of all poultry in New York City was sold as “kosher,” but it was estimated that about 60% of it was actually not kosher. In 1961, Rabbi Morris Katz published a scathing exposé of the kosher sausage houses in the Midwest, where he claimed that up to 80% of all “kosher” meat was treife (not kosher). This incurred the ire of the local rabbinical councils for making trouble and making a public scandal.

“Selective kashrus” was a term first used in the early 20th century, mostly by Reform Jews, to delineate the red line so they would eat what Gentiles ate while refraining from other forbidden foods such as pork. In Boston, this meant allowing lobster; on Long Island, it was oysters; in New Orleans, it was crayfish. In California, “kosher style” is now known as “New York,” as in New York delis.

As Jews became more assured of their status in America, they became more comfortable keeping kosher in public. Previously, it was rare for kosher food to be offered, even at large gatherings such as Jewish Federation’s General Assembly. The turning point was the Six-Day War that Israel waged in 1967, after which Jews began expressing pride of their religion. Nowadays, for many liberal Jews, eating kosher has become a symbol of “membership in the tribe” rather than an indicator of a fully observant lifestyle.  

The Balance Myth: Rethinking Work/Life Success

— book review by Kristi Hughes

Teresa Taylor snuck home one workday at lunch to surprise her nanny. The music was blaring; the nanny was cooking while on her cell phone. Teresa’s infant son was asleep in a swing, with swollen eyes from crying, lying in a soiled diaper. Teresa fired her nanny on the spot but she was due back at work. Her son needed her but so did her coworkers.

More after the jump.
Taylor, a working mom who, after years of feeling like she was always failing someone — coworkers, kids, husband or friends, finally uncovered the simple truth: she would never achieve the mythical thing called ‘balance’ for which so many women (and men) spend their adult lives searching. In fact, searching for it only creates failure, disappointment and frustration. Thus, Taylor conceived the new book The Balance Myth: Rethinking Work-Life Success.

Taylor is a nationally recognized telecom executive who teaches integrity, focus, and vision, to working women everywhere in her new book. Part memoir, part guide and part inspiration, The Balance Myth provides unique yet palpable solutions for women to simplify the complexities of a modern professional lifestyle-from parenting and married life to travel, friendship and business and more.

Each chapter includes intimate personal stories — from accepting suicide, to struggling with infertility, to the responsibility that comes with top-level government clearances – which will both inspire and provoke readers to successfully navigate their own overwhelming, personal and professional challenges.

“You can’t control everything that happens to you, but you can control how you react,” says Taylor. “By leaving behind the frustrating and useless idea of work-life balance, women can begin making positive work-life decisions.”.”

The Balance Myth explains that one really can’t have success in one area of their life without having success in the others. Women should abandon any feelings of ‘mommy guilt’ and start feeling ‘in power’ both inside the home and at the office. It suggests that life is all about creating alternatives, options, and backup plans, and it’s about asking for help. Further, The Balance Myth teaches women to respect, appreciate, and recognize their own professional AND personal accomplishments. Taylor has concluded that you can’t take the mother out of the career woman or the career out of the mother, and suggest that women use both to their advantage. The Balance Myth also includes the following themes:

  • Advice on overcoming adversity in the workplace
  • Time management because you are never off the clock
  • It’s impossible to live one life with two calendars
  • How to avoid daycare failure
  • How to implement a successful ‘layer’ system
  • How to manage a mommy meltdown
  • That you don’t have to be the smartest person in the room
  • The privileges of leadership as a mommy and an executive

Teresa Taylor serves on the board of directors for First Interstate BancSystem, Inc., a financial services holding company with $7.3 billion in assets, as well as the board of directors for NiSource, Inc., a Fortune 500 natural gas and electricity storage and transmission company. Additionally, Taylor is an executive adviser to Governor John Hickenlooper and serves on the Colorado Economic Development Commission. She also serves on the Global Leadership Council for Colorado State University’s College of Business and is a member of the Board of Directors for the Colorado Technology Association.

Previously, Ms Taylor was the COO at Qwest, a $12 billion telecommunications and media company, where she held numerous executive positions spanning a successful 23-year tenure. Taylor has been featured in a number of national business publications, including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. She is sought after as a speaker on topics including leadership, economic development, and innovation. She resides in Golden, Colorado, with her husband. She has two grown sons.

Book Review: The Rebel and The Rabbi’s Son by Yisroel Eichenstein

— Reviewed by Rabbi Goldie Milgram

Sometimes a book becomes a mitzvah because it’s just what you needed to better understand how to deal with a difficult situation. My spouse and I struggle greatly with relating to our family’s baal teshuvah branch — those who have chosen ultra Orthodoxy and become passionate adherents of its stringencies as their path to self-realization. Conversely, there are those who, like Yisroel Eichenstein, autobiographical author of The Rebel and the Rabbi’s Son, are born into ultra Orthodoxy and ultimately choose to leave that path in order to attain the freedom to be themselves. This slender, courageous volume helped us to better appreciate how to relate to our very religious children and grandchildren, and the extremely important role grandparents of all backgrounds and practices may have in such scenarios.

The full review after the jump.
Early on Eichenstein reveals to what is like to be born into a family where you don’t fit in and where you incur disgrace to your family’s good name just by being yourself. No, he isn’t gay, if you were also expecting such a turn of events. It’s just that trying as best he can, life at the thriving intersection of the Zhidachov and Novominsk Chassidic dynasties can’t work for Eichenstein’s inherent nature. We were twisting in our seats with empathy for young “Izzy”, as we read of his extreme efforts at trying to please, to accept the norms of sect stringencies while being born with the very distinct disadvantage of having a curious mind, a love of sports and a serous rebellious streak. This man, a direct descendent of the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hassidism, did his best to find a comfortable place in that world, but his soul was unwilling and unable to shut out the entire rest of the world around him.

The Challenge of Conformity

Reading The Rebel and the Rabbi’s Son, we soon began to appreciate some of the reasons why those of our family who have chosen ultra-Orthodoxy seem to go to such pains to ensure they and their children conform precisely to the behavioral norms of their segment of ultra-Orthodox society, and, to ensure that we don’t give the (grand)children any unacceptable ideas. Meaning, we such things as can’t take our grandchildren to science museums where evolution might be discussed, even as a theory, or art museums where unclothed human figures might appear in great art, and certainly no television, nor share our understanding of verse of Torah or Haggadah, etc.

Our first big ‘aha’ arose when Eichenstein spells out the methods used to ensure conformity: first the carrots of affection, praise and acceptance, and then a slap in the face or words of condemnation of a degree that creates toxic shame with the potential to endure for a lifetime. Ultimately, if as an adult one loosens one’s practice, the consequence becomes essentially shunning — being shut out of social loops and other vital aspects of communal support.

Eichenstein goes on to explain:

“The worst insult you can give someone in the Orthodox Jewish community is to call them apikoros, heretic. Many times I wonder how different my life would have been had my zaide (grandfather in Yiddish) been around during my lifetime. Tolerance, which he believed in, should not brand you an apikoros, as I have been branded: someone who won’t share in the world to come.”

The author’s conflicted spirit over being himself versus disappointing his parents shines through as he writes about his family with empathy and affection. While his father clearly tries to overlook his son’s need to push the limits of living in an ultra-Hassidic setting and not do battle on him, the whole weight of the family’s noble Hassidic lineages was pressing down on him. I’ve rarely seen kavod, intended to be expressed through the mitzvot (deeds) of bringing honor to God and one’s ancestors, more misused by a family than in Izzy’s childhood home and community, where not HaShem — God, but social norms are treated as the authority.

The Flexidox Zaide

We had yet another aha coming. Eichenstein reveals he was aware that not everyone was always so uptight and stringent in social norms and Jewish practice as in his childhood community. His father, perhaps out of love, planted the seed that would ultimately set him free when he tells Izzy about his zaide‘s (grandfather’s) relationship with a Reform rabbi.(OMG!)

The only reason I know about the bond of friendship between Zaide and the Reform rabbi is because my father’s conscience moved him to confide in me. I was already an adult when he pulled me aside and whispered, ‘Your brother or extended family would never acknowledge or believe what I’m going to tell you, but I was with your zaide when this happened.’

His urgent tone reminded me of a CIA operative delivering secret intelligence data.

‘I was twelve years old when my father took me with him to meet the Reform rabbi who had helped him in his early days in Chicago. The Reform rabbi’s daughter was getting married, and my father wished to give him a mazel tov (good luck). He was so grateful to this generous man that he wanted to make a public gesture.’

Can Love Prevail in the Face of Religious Difference?

Eichenstein also honestly relates some of his own parenting mistakes, replicas of schooling traumas his own parents visited upon him. Today he portrays himself as a happily married, successful West Coast industrial real estate magnate who belongs to a liberal Jewish congregation. His wife also left ultra-Orthodoxy with him; her parents seemed to have handled this far better than his. I appreciate how the author shows us that ultimately, sufficiently caring relationships with parents can be maintained in the face of such strong religious differences, disappointments and traumas. Ultimately, this book is a wake-up call to the importance of respecting the differing needs of children within every kind of family and religious community, the need for discernment in regard to the wishes of one’s parents, the probability of repeating parental mistakes along with the possibility of noticing and being able to catch and redirect oneself.

Most of all, The Rebel and the Rabbi’s Son would have reduced our families struggles greatly because of how explicit it makes the social stakes for those entering or leaving ultra-Orthodoxy — and we realize that those intent on realizing their needs and nature will brush past us to fulfill such drives. Meanwhile, the grandchildren in the “frum — very religious” branch of the family know that their step-grandmom, yours truly, is a woman rabbi and that their zaide, my sweet hubbatzin is an irrepressible free-thinker :) that all came out somehow… ahem. Also, it has become clear that in our home we have different approaches to Judaism than some of those required in their home, for example, their family brings their own food during visits to us. And so, for whomever among these precious young ones will need it in order to survive and thrive — the seed is planted.

17 Cents and a Dream

My Incredible Journey from the U.S.S.R. to Living the American Dream

— book review by Scott Lorenz

Daniel Milstein, founder, president, and CEO of Gold Star Mortgage Financial Group, describes his personal path to success in a new memoir, 17 Cents & a Dream: My Incredible Journey from the USSR to Living the American Dream.

More after the jump.
17 Cents & a Dream begins with a candid, gripping account of the Milstein family’s tough life in Kiev, Ukraine under the oppressive government of the former Soviet Union. He recalls how he and his family were affected by the 1986 explosion of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant: Daniel was ten years old, and the disaster took place only 78 miles from their home, killing 100,000 people and spreading poisonous radiation throughout the environment.

A few years later the family, struggling against poverty, government oppression, and anti-Semitism, made a secret plan to flee to America. After a narrow escape, the family arrived in Ann Arbor, Michigan with no understanding of English and few belongings.

Young Daniel had only seventeen cents in his pocket, given to him by a friend to cover the expense of a postage stamp so that Daniel could send him a letter. In the ensuing years, Daniel endured extreme poverty, endless hunger, relentless bullying from his new classmates all while working long hours mopping floors and cleaning restrooms at a McDonald’s.

“The never-ending sense of hunger in the pit of my stomach,” he writes, “became a part of me and manifested into the drive to do more, to be more, so my family could eat without worry.”

That hunger, plus the work ethic instilled in him by his grandfather, fueled Milstein’s determination; after graduating from college, he worked for various financial institutions and was consistently promoted because of his strong work ethic.

But perhaps most inspiring is Milstein’s courage and sheer willpower as he began to build upon his success in the world of finance, working harder and longer than anyone else until eventually opening and growing his own multimillion-dollar company, Gold Star Mortgage Financial Group.

17 Cents & a Dream: My Incredible Journey from the USSR to Living the American Dream is both a dramatic autobiography of a true American success story, and a manual for anyone who dreams of becoming successful in today’s competitive world of finance and sales.  

Book Chat: Exodus to Shanghai

— by Hannah Lee

Heartbreaking are the testimonies of Jews who sought every avenue of escape from Nazi-controlled Europe, but were foiled at every turn, with diplomatic and bureaucratic obstacles. They had limited access to accurate news. They had limited resources to buy their freedom and even the ones with means and the forethought found themselves victims of covetous maneuvers. Nazi regulations forbade bringing most valuables from the country and limited cash to 10 Marks or $10 per person.

First-hand testimonies are found in a book published in July, Exodus to Shanghai: Stories of Escape from the Third Reich by Steve Hochstadt.

More after the jump.
As part of the academic Palgrave Macmillian studies in oral history, Professor Hochstadt’s research focused on the odyssey of 16,000 Jews who escaped from Nazi-run Europe and found refuge in Shanghai, China when all other doors had slammed shut. The book distilled the transcripts of 13 narrators chosen from over 100 oral histories conducted with the survivors.  

Most of the narrators left their homes in the frantic and brief period between the Anschluss (the occupation and annexation) of Austria in March 1938 and the beginning of war in September 1939. They came from Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia and represent a cross section of all refugees. The book does not cover the odyssey of the religious Jews from Poland, including the entire Mirrer Yeshiva, who spoke Yiddish and dressed differently from the cosmopolitan Berliners and the Viennese.

Desperate and resourceful women found out that a visa to Shanghai could release their men from concentration camps. Assistance came from the philanthropic organizations, Hilfsverein der deutschen Juden in Germany and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in New York, including tickets to Shanghai for the poorest families.

In the 1930s, Shanghai was the banking center of Asia and “an open port where the Chinese Nationalists and Communists, organized gangsters, Western capitalists, and the Japanese military competed for authority,” wrote Hochstadt. “Extremes of wealth and poverty jostled in the crowded streets.” Upon arrival, the refugees experienced culture shock in the form of the tropical heat, an alien language, and wartime inflation.  

The marvel was that the refugees quickly developed a community in exile, with Jewish institutions and forms of self-governance. The Austrians even created a café life on the streets of their new home. The most ambitious and successful creation was the Shanghai Jewish Youth Association School, affectionately known as the Kadoorie School. About 600 students enrolled in a curriculum of religious and secular subjects, taught in English by the refugees and modeled after Jewish schools in Germany.

“The remarkable thing about Jewish life in Shanghai until 1943 is that there was no persecution,” wrote Hochstadt. The Japanese already controlled most of the city but, while they were allies of the Nazis, they adopted a completely different policy toward Jews. They finally took action on February 18, 1943, when they forced all “stateless refugees” who’d arrived after 1937 to live within less than a square mile in the neighborhood of Hongkou. However, the February Proclamation showed “the ambivalent nature of the Japanese attitude… the word Jew was not mentioned in the Proclamation ,” and the existing Baghdadi and Russian Jewish communities in Shanghai were spared.

With the end of the war, these refugees again had to find new places to live. Nearly all refugee families wanted to leave Shanghai as soon as possible. “Very few had been able to create a life they wanted to continue in China. Remaining in post-colonial China…meant learning and adopting Chinese culture; only a handful of European Jews accepted that challenge,” wrote Hochstadt.

Illustrative of the enormous difficulties for displaced persons after the war, one of the last groups to leave Shanghai, 106 of them without U.S. visas, were supposed to travel across the Pacific on the “General Gordon,” but the Chinese refused to allow the ship to anchor offshore.  So, on May 1950,

the refugees had to take a train to Tientsin, then board barges in heavy seas to get out to the ship. When they arrived in the United States, they were put on a sealed train and transported across the country to Ellis Island…In June, another boat took them to Bremerhaven [Germany], and they entered DP camps, where they stayed for one more year. Finally they were given visas to the United States in 1951.

By the time of the Chinese Communists’ Cultural Revolution in 1966, the Jewish communities of Shanghai “were just a memory.”

The book gives the history of the slight majority of the Shanghai refugees who came to the United States. Life in the United States meant assimilation, letting go of their German culture. They had to adjust to a new world order. One refugee, Lisbeth Loewenberg, reminisced about her adjustment to stability:

My first job that I found after one week when I walked around, that was with Collier’s magazine. This place took subscriptions, they had salesmen go running around and selling subscriptions to Collier’s and Good Housekeeping and Cosmopolitan, and so on, and I processed these orders. People took subscriptions for one year. I said, “But how do people know that after one year they will still be at that address?” I couldn’t believe in permanence anymore. I was completely shocked that some people took two-year subscriptions. It floored me. But you don’t know where you are going to be tomorrow, was my reaction. And life has actually always seemed to me not permanent.  It’s all just transitory.

Remarkably, these refugees, most of whom had been children or teens during the years in Shanghai, can even look back and say, as did Doris Grey, that they were “the best years” of her life. Another, Gerald Kohbieter, said, “It was a lifesaver. The Chinese were polite people, and they put up with a lot with us…There were some frictions, but all in all, I must say there were good hosts.”

The resilience of youth allowed many of them adapt to, and even profit from their refugee experiences. Lisbeth Loewenberg said,

All the barriers fell. It didn’t make a difference, what does your family do…because everyone was there and started from scratch, nil, nothing, in Shanghai. All things being equal, if all people start under the same adverse conditions, this is where your true ability will show or your true survival instincts or your enterprise…Don’t ever blame the condition, blame yourself.  Because under the most impossible conditions, some people will make it one way or another.

Professor Hochstadt earned his Ph.D. in History from Brown University, taught at Bates College in Maine for 27 years, and is now professor at Illinois College. He has just published another Holocaust oral history, Death and Love in the Holocaust: The Story of Sonja and Kurt Messerschmidt (Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine).

Book Review: Rav Hisda’s Daughter

— Reviewer: Rabbi Goldie Milgram

Fascinating reading and learning surprises await those who dive into the vividly depicted world of Babylonian Jewry in Rav Hisda’s Daughter, Book I: Apprentice: A Novel of Love, the Talmud, and Sorcery by Maggie Anton who earlier brought us the remarkable historical fiction series Rashi’s Daughters. Anton succeeds brilliantly in drawing us into the formative period leading up to the Talmud. This was a time when most in the third century Persian culture — men, women and children, sages and commoners, Jews and gentiles – wore amulets, incantation bowls and spells for protection from demons and disease, and in hopes of fertility, healing and good fortune. Yes, this is all well documented right in the Talmud, a typically 37 volume work that emerges after the time of this story, aspects of which are elegantly embroidered into the Rav Hisda’s Daughter‘s narrative. Anton also incorporates Jewish ownership of slaves during this time, rabbinic laws and customs re menstruation, along with betrothal and marriage law by means of the engaging tools of good fiction.

More after the jump.

What is the Talmud? Redacted memories, stories and teachings on Jewish laws and customs. Components are the Mishna, quoting sages who lived from about 100 BCE to 200 CE called the Tanaim. The Gemara surrounds the Mishna, with interpretations and debates from 200 CE to about 500 CE and these sages are known as Amoraim. Also on most Talmud edition pages are sages known as Rishonim and Tosefta/Tosafot, 1,000 C.E. until 1,500 C.E. There is both the Jerusalem Talmud (Yerushalmi) and the Babylonian Talmud (Bavli) reflecting shared, although sometimes differently remembered teachings, as well as unique topics and stories.

Anton helpfully contextualizes aspects of the Talmudic record that appear heretical and discomforting when viewed from the contemporary practice of traditional Judaism. She shows us a century when people, Jews and their non-Jewish compatriots believed in demons as they died like flies of plagues, infections and the absence of lifesaving antibiotics and other essential medications. These were times when a women’s primary apparent value to society was her ability to reproduce amply and run a household. Anton’s redemptive thesis reveals how what we would view as magical thinking and behavior would, or could, have been a form of prayer and much sought-after professional community service. For example:

“Inscribing an amulet is like praying?”
Kimchit stared at me with her small, beady eyes. “Exactly. Once you’ve met the clients and heard their sad stories, you’ll want to help them,” she said. “As you write the protective spell, you pray with all your heart that Heaven heed your words, so your compassion imbues the amulet with healing power.” [Page 84]

Anton goes on to document the validity for pious Jews of such an activity as amulet making by citing the Talmudic words of the famed male sage Abba: “…What is a reliable amulet? One that has cured three people.”

The incantations provided are the richly fascinating ones, for example:

“Health and guarding and sealing from Heaven from Ahai bar Mevrat and Kimota bat Horan, their house, possessions, sons, daughters, and fetus. By the ban of Bugdana, king of shaydim and satans, ruler of liliths, whether male or female, I adjust that you be struck in the membrane of your heart by the spear of Tikas the Mighty…..sealed with the signet ring of Solomon ben David, King of Israel. Amen. Amen. Amen. Selah.” [Page 154]

Incredibly strange, isn’t it?-given that the Torah outright prohibits the practice of witchcraft! A few examples:

“You shall not suffer a witch to live.” Ex 22:17 <blockquote>
Mekasefa is the word for witch used in this verse, a term which Anton draws on throughout the volume.

“You shall not eat any thing with the blood; neither shall you use enchantment, nor observe times.” Lev. 19:26

This phrase meaning an auspicious conjunctions of constellations, i.e., astrology is retained in the Shehecheyanu prayer.

“There shall not be found among you any one that … uses divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer, for all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord.” Deut. 18:10-12

Jewish Witches after the Biblical Period?

Here in Rav Hisda’s Daughter, what we have is the work of a master craftswoman set upon repairing a major gap in Jewish literature and understanding of our own past. Maggie Anton is forging a repair that goes even deeper than history, for her story gives insight into how to approach contemporary encounters with what Phyllis Trible dubbed religious “Texts of Terror” against women (Texts of Terror:  Literary-Feminist Readings of Biblical Narratives  (Overtures to Biblical Theology)). In pre-modern Judaism any collection of these include “You shall not allow a female witch to live,” and also famously:

‘R. Simeon ben Shetah hanged eighty witches in Ashkelon, these being women who had lived in a single cave and who had ‘harmed the world.’ [Jerusalem Talmud, Tractate Hagigah 2:2; by context we infer these were not Jewish witches, though others in the Talmud are.]

An on-line article by Meir bar Ilan makes an excellent study complement to Rav Hisda’s Daughter, it is based on his book Some Jewish Women in Antiquity and demonstrates the Biblical and Talmudic magical actions and books of Jewish men. In fact, two “how-to guides” became available:

“The books of witchcraft of the Talmudic era, Harba de Mosheh and Sefer HaRazim, are attributed to males, and many of the examples in the Talmud deal with men (including some who were titled Rav) who were involved in witchcraft.” [Ibid.]

Bar Ilan notes that the great Amora (scholar of his times), Amemar sought out the counsel of a known kesefa, according to the Talmud Bavli Pesachim 110a and, in 111a, the men of the Talmud easily described such practices, for example:  

“If two women sit at a crossroads, one on this side and the other on the other side, and they face one another – they are certainly engaged in witchcraft.” [Ibid.]

In the Babylonian Talmud [Gittin 45a] girls are cited in patrilineal format: “The daughters of R. Nachman stirred a (presumably boiling) pot with their bare hands…they stirred the pot with witchcraft.” [Ibid.] Meir bar Ilan further includes a worthwhile, extended study of Sota 22a where “a maiden who gives herself up to prayer, a gadabout widow and a minor whose months are not completed – these bring about the destruction of the world.” The sin here? The thirteenth century Rabbinic commentator Rashi is emphatic: “witchcraft”. [Ibid.]

Among the many examples of occult practices by Talmudic sages that we studied in rabbinical school, one finds the Talmudic story of Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai performing an exorcism by removing a spirit which had entered into the body of the emperor’s daughter [Talmud Bavli Me’ilah 17b], and in another text, he places an evil eye on his opponent and turns him into a heap of bones [Talmud Yerushalmi Shevi’it 9:1, 38d]. In the words of bar Ilan:

“If R. Simeon bar Yohai carried out actions beyond the realm of the laws of nature, that was a miracle, but if a woman carried out the same action, that was witchcraft. Similarly, if Moses threw a staff and it turned to a snake, that was a miracle and a sign from God, but if a non-Jew did that same action, it was witchcraft. It thus follows that, in ancient times, the boundary between the miracle and witchcraft depended not only on the person’s religion, but also on the person’s sex.” [Ibid.]

Drawing on such distinctions, the persecution of women as witches was carried from Judaism into Christianity, only to result in Salem and other witch burnings. As is well-known, tens of thousands of women were killed based on allegations of witchcraft, and very few men, within a two hundred year period.

Revisiting the times that contributed to such misogynous terror crimes is hard and holy work. What a blessing for Anton to be born in the age of computerized key word searching of the 63 Talmud tractates (approximately 6000 printed pages)! Looking for women who are mentioned or quoted in the Talmud is the needle-in-a-haystack task many women rabbis took up starting way back in the challenging days of organizing notes handwritten on index cards. Anton’s field notes list consultation with topic rabbinic and doctoral scholars in the field.

Who Was Rav Hisda? Why His Daughter?

Map from Parshablog

After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, Babylonian Jewry established major academies of learning at Nehardea, Sura and Pumpedita, in the region today known as Iraq. Sura, where Rav Hisda primarily lived and taught, would have been just south of today’s Bagdad. Benjamin of Tudela reported that when he reached Sura in the 1170s he found only ruins, but that a significant Jewish community then remained in Pumpedita (A History of the Jews).

Hisda is known for being one of the sharpest sages of his time, as well as for his appreciation of the “power of leniency” when interpreting Jewish law and applying it (Heavenly Torah: As Refracted through the Generations). In the Talmudic tractate Shabbat, [folio 140b] we also find a passage where Rav Hisda teaches his daughters the art of sexual foreplay.

So it is both fitting and wonderful that this story of Rav Hisda’s Daughter focuses substantially upon Anton envisioning her apprenticing to a woman who makes amulets and incantation bowls. While the story line’s resolution is disappointingly obvious from the get-go and Jewish holidays seem more described than experienced for their spiritual force, Anton effectively opens the times to us through a pleasurable texture similar to the details of dreams that unfold wonders. This is ever so fitting, since Rav Hisda famously observes: “A dream not interpreted is like a letter unread.” [Babylonian Talmud 55a]

The Pergamon Museum in Berlin, Germany, houses the original, massive cerulean and gold tiled gates of King Nebuchadnezzar; it was his forces that captured the Israelites’ First Temple. Those who have witnessed those astonishingly beautiful gates will be afforded heightened appreciation for Anton’s vivid, almost tactile written descriptions of the arts of the period. Nebuchadnezzar’s forces massively slaughtered Jewish families and then exiled survivors to Babylonia in 586 BCE. Turn to the Book of Lamentations, Eichah, to appreciate the excruciating pain of the first wave of exiled ancestors. Later descendants of these Babylonian Jewish exiles would come to live and prosper under the tolerance of the Zoroastrians. By contrast, those Judean Jews who remained behind would live under the Roman Empire, the Second Temple would be destroyed, Rome would become a Christian land called Palestinia, and Jewish power, though not presence, would be extinguished there until our own times.

The Early Sages–Initially, a Legend in Their Own Minds

Curiously, as Anton reminds us, contemporary scholarship teaches that academies like the one at Sura, were minor enclaves with little influence on the dominant Judaism of the third through fifth centuries CE. Yet their discussions, redacted into generations of material within the Talmud, would come to be foundational to the evolution of Judaism up to this day. Anton agreeably positions a number of traditional Jewish legal debates and principles within the family life of Hisda’s Daughter, allowing her to sit in and have us listen-in through her experience. Here is an example of how she incorporates the norm that during this time anyone who incurred debt might well have to sell themselves into slavery until having paid off that debt, even into the home of a prominent Jewish sage:

“I stared at the circle of maidservants sitting in the courtyard, grinding wheat in time to the songs they sang. It was grueling labor, twisting pestle against mortar from before sunrise through midday, until there was enough flour for all that day’s bread. Thought I had already thanked Elohim in morning prayers for not making me a slave, I thanked Him again.

The Mishna said that if a bride provides only one slave as her dowry, that slave grinds grain, bakes bread, and does laundry instead of the bride. And if she provides two slaves, the second one cooks and nurses the children. Apparently women too poor to bring even one slave as a dowry didn’t marry.

But Father told us that this Mishna was contradicted by a Baraita, which taught that a wife is only for beauty and for having children, and thus not for tasks like grinding and baking that could mar her appearance. I was surprised that he’d made no attempt to resolve the contradiction between the Mishna and Baraita, for if a wife was only for beauty, what happened to the women who brought less than four slaves as a dowry?” [page 24]

Finding and Creating Names for Jewish Women of Antiquity

Anton does us the mitzvah of zachor in creating Rav Hisda’s Daughter — researching, reclaiming and “re-membering” the little-recorded lives of Jewish women and girls retroactively into our people’s history. The volume title illustrates how even the names of those of female gender were rarely recorded in sacred text by the sages of patriarchal times; instead they were generically female–“daughter”–and labeled by paternal descent (unless only the mother’s line was known, such as due to rape in war).

Hisda and his wife or wives had two daughters and seven sons. So, one might wonder, which daughter does the Talmud mean when it offers the line upon which Anton hangs her tale of a girl who, when asked which of two young men she wants to marry, oddly answers “both.” Anton chooses to position both girls into our historical awareness by fashioning diverse destinies and personalities for each.

Maggie Anton (pictured to the left) provides evocative imagery, such as the “smell of boiling pomegranates,” the color and texture of silks, the tiling of mosaics with, yes, women’s images on synagogue floors, the fragrance of love, the scent of fear and the hormonal surge of having your feet washed by the one to whom you are betrothed, which brings us fully into each moment of the life of Rav Hisda’s daughter, whom Anton names Histadukh. In a cool bit of interpretation of the incantations and signage on bowls that were placed upside down to capture demons on the street in rabbinic times, Maggie Anton points out in her notes that the term “dukh-daughter” is appended to the name of the father to yield female names on these items and so dubs her main character, Rav Hisda’s daughter — Hisdadukh. This idea can also be bolstered, perhaps, by the practice found to this day in Iceland, where children’s last names go by the mother’s first name, e.g., Adam Goldieson, Karen Gertsdottir, etc. The Talmud itself offers an approach to naming females in an intra-textual commentary on the story of three types of women said to bring devastation to the world, where one alleged witch is named: “Yohani daughter of Retibi” (Maenads, Martyrs, Matrons, Monastics: A Sourcebook on Women’s Religions in the Greco-Roman World).

Rav Hisda’s Daughter joins the annals of great historical fiction beside Jewish examples such as Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent: A Novel, and Deena Metzger’s What Dinah Thought; the novels of Hayyim Grade also come to mind. Expect authentic period depth and delights when reading a work of historical fiction by Maggie Anton. Let’s hope the next in the Rav Hisda’s Daughter series comes through soon.

Sticks & Stones: Review of “Pressing Israel”

Lee Bender and Jerome R. Verlin

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!” Nowhere is this saying more false than in the conflict over Israel. Is Israel the “light to the nations?” Or is Israel the cause of so many global problems? Why, in world public opinion polls, is Israel consistently voted one of the most negatively rated nations of the world?

Local Philadelphia area authors, Lee Bender and Jerome Verlin, have recently published a timely book titled: Pressing Israel: Media Bias Exposed from A to Z. They extensively document their case that the Main Stream Media frames the Israeli Jewish-Muslim conflict in terms that favor the Muslims. They explain why it matters. And they give an example of our own Philadelphia Inquirer publishing a more balanced report, as a result of a letter writing campaign. Their book also provides an extensive background of the history and politics of Israel.

More after the jump.
One of the authors, Jerome Verlin, has written a weekly column. This style of standalone articles is carried over in the book. The chapters are each complete in themselves. It is possible to go directly to a section of interest, without reading the entire book. On the other hand, this results in some information being repeated in multiple locations.

The beginning of the book consists of a series of short articles, one for each letter of the alphabet: A Apartheid, B Borders, C Creation-of-Israel, etc. Each article includes extensive documentation from the Philadelphia Inquirer. The second half of the book has more in-depth coverage of the history and politics of the region, including quotes from key individuals.

Media Bias Against Israel

The Main Stream Media frames their reporting by what they include and by what they leave out. Words have implications and shades of meaning. Although the book was published before Operation Pillar of Defense, their comments about Gazan rocket attacks and the Iron Dome defense system could have been written today

According to Bender and Verlin, one of the major examples of media bias is writing that IDF defensive actions and Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians are morally equivalent. The media report that Palestinian “militants” or “factions” launch rockets at Israel and Israel “retaliates” with air strikes, as if the two groups were on the same level. The authors write that it would be more accurate to report that Gazan terrorists shoot rockets at Israeli population centers, hoping to kill civilian men, women and children. In defense, the IDF strikes those terrorists, their rocket launchers and weapons caches. As Alan Dershowitz says, it is as if the arsonist and the firefighter were moral equals. Hamas is happy to deliberately kill Israeli Jewish civilians and happy for the media publicity if Israel accidentally kills Gazan civilians when the IDF shoots back at missile launchers in self-defense.

Two-State Solution or a One-and-a-Half-State Solution?

Both Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu have stated that they accept the “Two State Solution.” Netanyahu has referred to the Arab position as “two states for a people-and-a-half.”

Netanyahu explains that his plan is a Jewish State of Israel that gives full citizenship to its current Arab residents, living in peace alongside a Palestinian Arab State. However, Abbas is quoted as saying that he will never accept a Jewish State. All Jews must be removed from the future Palestinian Arab State, including from the Old City section of Jerusalem. In addition, the descendants of Muslim Arab “refugees” currently living in Gaza, Judea and Samaria, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and elsewhere, must be resettled in Israel, which will not be a Jewish state. The Arabs get a Muslim, Palestinian State. And Israel is shared between the current one million Israeli Arab Muslim citizens, the four million descendents of Arab Muslim “refugees” under the “right of return” and the 6 million Jews. So the Arab Muslims get one and a half states and the Jews get what is left over in a shared, non-Jewish State.

(The authors supply numerous documented quotes that spokesmen for Hamas have publicly stated their plans to eliminate the Jews from Israel, as their long term goal.)


Pressing Israel is a good introduction to the Israel-Muslim conflict as well as a valuable reference for those who are already knowledgeable about the Middle East situation. It can be referred to in discussions and is useful for preparing letters to the editor. It would be helpful to college students who are facing anti-Zionist protests on campus.

If a second edition is published, the printed, paper version of the book would be even more valuable as a reference if an index was added. A fully searchable version of the book is already available as a Kindle e-book from, making an index for the electronic version unnecessary.

Book Review: God’s Prayer: The Sacred Task of Living

The focus of God’s Prayer: The Sacred Task of Living by Michael Kagan, is to inspire effective co-existence and collaborative care for the planet among members of three faiths: Judaism, Islam and Christianity. This slender volume packs a unique punch because of the author’s ability to weave, intelligently and respectfully, core metaphors, principles and teachings from the three Abrahamic faiths. At the same time, it reprimands and exhorts each equally to reframe perspectives and behavior toward the greatest good for all that lives. The material affords a novel stimulus for interfaith study and has a number of components that might be productively integrated into religious services within each faith. The raging tenor of the text renders it best utilized by selecting pieces for specific occasions.

More after the jump.
The author, Michael Kagan, is an interfaith peace activist, author of the Holistic Haggadah (Urim Publishing), entrepreneur and inventor. For example, he created strips for the food industry that highlight when a product’s expiration date is approaching. The introduction of this book explains how the text came to him in a stream of consciousness after meditative prayer. Kagan writes that he filled eight notebooks with rapidly penciled writing; we receive them in ninety-three pages of printed verse in the tone of the prophetic tradition.

Endorsed at the beginning of the volume by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, founder of Jewish Renewal, Reverend Richard Cizik of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, and the Nazarene Sufi Sheikh Ghassan Manasra, Michael Kagan’s vision coalesces most clearly by drawing on a shared mystical metaphor — the Tree:

A triad of faith was formed,
the three strands intertwined.
From the trunk, three great branches spread
Roots deep in the heavens.
Sap flowing from above,
The light of my Prophets from below.
The Holy Tree restored,

A place for all to worship in its shade.

The text succinctly states the problem:

The branches of the Holy Tree are intertwined:
they fight each other for the light,
They compete for the juices of life,
They poison each other and crush each other…

The Courage to Vent Toxins and Voice Opportunity

God’s Prayer: The Sacred Task of Living engages in extensive and inspiring, equal-opportunity exhortation, using prophetic voice.  Here is a small sample regarding contemporary Muslims:

Followers of the Messenger,
I call upon you to heed this message.
Release the bound!
Free the enslaved
Make Jihad (Holy War) against unholy extremes
Temper yourselves, and put down the sword.
The infidels are no longer,
Only brothers and sisters remain.

The verse above shows how this tract takes ideas from triumphalist scriptural readings war and inter-group prejudice and turns them on their heads. When he addresses those who find their way to experiences of Divine awareness through Christianity, Michael Kagan, a pious Jew, also finds holy ways to enter into the sacred metaphors of Christian tradition:

How could you have erred?
The cross became the sword!
Didn’t you understand?
Didn’t you hear?
The sword should have become the cross!

Jews are addressed with equal honesty and somewhat more anguished frustration, in language both personal and harsh:

Now hear this:
you have become arrogant…

Power is corrupting you.
Out of the depths of darkness you have arisen,
But you are off.

You are no longer in your hearts,
You are no longer in your heads.
By the sword art thou ruling.
All that you have learned has passed like a cloud…

You are worshiping false gods…

The language of the verse evokes at the same time the exhortative prophetic tradition and the vernacular of the modern lament. A geshrei is not always an elegant combination.

Potentially Meaningful Applications

One can imagine a version of this book with parallel translations beyond the English and German versions that are now available. This might be a best means to advance use of this work – particularly if were available in French, Arabic and Hebrew. The text lets us skip over one of the most awkward steps of interfaith dialogue by setting out on the table a number of each group’s foibles and dreadful acts; we can then get on with the hard work of confronting assumptions, projections, fears and dogmas. Hebrew and Arabic parallel translations would also further the mystical possibilities of the text.

Further, by way of applications, many years ago I was asked by Rabbi Miriam Senturia, then a member of Philadelphia’s Dorshei Derekh congregation, for an idea of how to bring women’s ways into the weekly practice of chanting the haftorah — chapters from the Prophets at Sabbath morning services. My idea was to commission capable women to create new Haftarot reflecting contemporary, inclusive Jewish values, to be rotated into the sacred sequence. Many such Haftarot were created, whether designed for chanting and or reading in Hebrew or one’s native language. God’s Prayer: The Sacred Task of Living would fit naturally into such a genre.

Speaking of the Feminine

A rather sudden shift of focus comes in the text’s expression of high hopes for the balancing potential of the Divine Feminine. It proclaims this in a full chapter that declares:

“For the time has come for the moon to shine,
for the Queen to arrive, for the sisters to unite,
for the healing to begin.”

Herein men are termed “Brothers of Blood,” while women are deemed “Daughters of Light.” Clearly, the text provokes much discussion. While the balancing value of fully empowered women and welcoming of the Divine Feminine in the text are most appreciated, the expectation of these being distinctly healing forces seems more grounded in early feminist idealism than current reality. Let’s be honest, traditions and energies derived from Shechinah, Mary and Rachel, among other maternal figures, fuel the interpretive fires of all camps. The aggressions among and between women in communities are very real. Some women are like niche fish, which dart out to block anyone approaching their turf; others like to help women climb up beside them, to create a menorah of talent and inclusive possibilities. It is a thin line between being hopeful that restoring women to equal roles in society can make a huge positive difference and a Pollyanna vision.

The meta-vision in God’s Prayer: The Sacred Task of Living, does not account for the different stages of civilizational development in sovereign states and cultural pockets worldwide. Every generation bears the capacity for fundamentalist flares that create regions, minds and hearts where modernity doesn’t enter. Terrorist passions are then concentrated, exported, and cycles of persecution travel throughout all time. The text provokes questions: Are these dynamics endemic to the human condition? How much power do we have? Can a text like this, if well disseminated, help us to buy enough time for the “evolution of the possible human,” to borrow a phrase from Jean Houston?

New Age or Real Experience: What Is a Channeled Text?

The experience of “automatic writing,” is well-documented in Jewish tradition and many others. This is where we feel the text has been dictated to us from beyond our current dimension of being. That inner voice is known as a maggid or “teller.” An extended discussion of this form of maggid, inner “storyteller,” is described by several Kabbalists and can be found in comments by Hayyim Vital and Luzzatto’s disciple Yekutiel Gordon regarding Yosef Karo. Similar experiences are reported in Hassidic and Jewish Renewal communities today. Even I have had this happen in my own writing. Things happen that we cannot explain.

In truth, God has gotten quite a bit more awesome in the 21st Century where multiverses and trillions of light years are within sight. God’s Prayer: The Sacred Task of Living reads less like a God’s-eye perspective, than a resonance of Michael Kagan’s soul. It echoes our own lament, or crie de coeur, at yet another apocalyptic downturn in the global capacity for mitzvah-centered, rather than self-interest based, living.

The mitzvah primarily fulfilled by God’s Prayer is that of yirah l’tatah, action emerging from the awe and fearsomeness of impending consequences. Kagan also directs us to the inspirational mitzvah of yirah l’malah, the possibilities that derive from appreciating God through the lens of transcendent awe:

This is a time for a new song,
A new breath.
Look around and see.
Is it not clear?
A new gate has opened.
It beckons you in.

What’s Missing?

Most humans realize that we can’t really know the Mind of the Big Picture (so to speak); that form of humility is really not evident in this work. The seemingly prophetic stance of the language may leave some readers yearning for the leavening effect of the mystic’s intoxication with God’s love which appears only on the last few pages. Further, this is not a text that comes from a transcendent respect for the destructive and constructive inherent forces of creation. It is not an expression of “tzuri v’lo avlata bo-You are my rock and in It [God] nothing is out of alignment.” It does not ride the roller-coaster of human nature that the Psalmists do so well – appreciation of God as “seter li – my hiding place,” and, as the Adon Olam conveys both intimately with “b’yado afkid rukhi-Into Its hand I entrust my soul” and cosmically: “v’acharei kikhlot hakol, l’vado yimlokh norah, v’hu haya, v’hu hoveh, v’hu yikhyeh v’tifarah-after the end of it all-on Its own It will govern awesomely, It was, It is, It will be glorious.” Missing is the Kabbalists’ Godsense of “maayan raz-the Wellspring of Mystery.” God’s Prayer is primarily a holy rant, railing against the misappropriation of religious values and an attempt to set a healthier course.

God’s Prayer is also not a prayer. We know that sustainable change requires the language of support and not exhortative accusation – in either direction. Humanity doesn’t get a chance to answer back in the text “Dear God, this amygdala that provides protective aggression is excessive – can’t we evolve more quickly towards coexistence?!”

In Conclusion

Like the Prophets in their attachment to earth, land and embodied experience, in God’s Prayer: The Sacred Task of Living, Michael Kagan gives full voice to the fears the majority of our souls are screaming, while painting the highest hopes of many into a unified, multi-faith expression. Lu y’hi, may it be so, bimheyrah v’yameynu, quickly and in our time.

Call for Mitzvah Story Submissions in Honor of Danny Siegel

Submissions are invited of previously unpublished mitzvah-centered stories in honor of the esteemed Jewish educator Danny Siegel. Stories should be written for Jewish family reading and take the form of engaging tales of good literary quality that inspire and support a mitzvah-centered life. There will be a juried process to select stories for inclusion from among the submissions. Reclaiming Judaism Press will be publishing the volume, provisionally titled, A Family Treasury of Mitzvah Stories.

More after the jump.
So many of us have been guided and inspired by Danny Siegel – from his Ziv Foundation mitzvah projects and books, teachings at conferences worldwide, his poetry volume Soulstoned that opened up the world of Jewish spirituality for yearning Jews of the 60’s, and his new volume of love poems, From the Heart. This juried mitzvah story competition allows you to honor Danny while making an important contribution to Jewish lore and family learning.

This volume will be the second major book in the Reclaiming Judaism “Mitzvah-Centered Life Initiative”, which includes a first volume in honor of Peninnah Schram, Mitzvah Stories: Seeds for Inspiration and Learning (available through ReclaimingJudaism), a Mitzvah Stories Discussion Guide by Shoshana Silberman, matching, professionally illustrated decks of Mitzvah Cards, and Mitzvah-Centered Life workshops & storytelling programs for all ages.

To indicate your interest and receive the full story submission guidelines for this juried volume, please e-mail Rabbi Goldie Milgram, Editor-in-Chief, [email protected].