Today, I’d like to share with you this interview with Tzvia Ehrlich-Klein, the author of the upcoming picture book I Live With My Mommy. This new, groundbreaking picture book for the first time focuses on growing up in a single-parent, Orthodox Jewish home. I learned about the book through its illustrator, the gifted Dena Ackerman, and upon my request, she hooked me up with Tzvia for a bit of Q & A via email.Read More
Tuesday, May 6, 2014 11:22:18 PM America/Los_Angeles
Tuesday, March 4, 2014 1:55:37 AM America/Los_Angeles
Tamar of Venice and Moshe of Japan are the first two books of the Young Lamplighter series which describe the experiences of Jewish children living abroad in exotic cities and the influences they have on the Jewish population there. Written from the perspective of the emissary children, the books expose young readers to other cultures and enlighten them with other ways of life.
A recent review in The Jewish Connection explains that the books "focus on the mesiras nefesh of the children":
"The stories are told by the children who see themselves (correctly) as integral partners with their parents in helping to spread the Yiddishkeit to Jews in regions where the light of Torah might seem most dim and hopeless."
Aside from their loyalty and contributions to the Jewish nation, these children are, afterall, still children. They go to school like any other kids...with a few minor (ok, major) differences:
"School for Moshe begins not in the morning, but in the afternoon at 4 P.M. , when he opens his computer for his online school...she [Tamar] travels to her Jewish school each morning on a gondola..."
Read the full review here.
Thursday, February 13, 2014 5:48:45 AM America/Los_Angeles
"For a psychiatrist to question a patient about her parents and her past to gain insight into her anger or alcoholism is commonplace. But when the psychiatrist is a chasidic rabbi, the scion of a rabbinic dynasty, and the patient is a nun, the scene is more striking."
And so begins a most interesting review of The Rabbi and the Nuns in the NY Jewish Week. Rabbi Abraham Twerski explains that, although he had already written over 60 books, he had never covered the chapter of his life where he served as Director of Psychiatry at St. Francis Hospital in Pittsburgh, and - “It was too good an experience to let go."
Readers learns of Rabbi Twerski's unique relationship he had to his Catholic patients - "He shared a friendship with the bishop...When the cardinal would visit, he always ended their meetings with, 'Bless me, rabbi.' In fact, many nuns and priests would ask for his blessing."
Through his pen, his audience is enlightened not only by interesting stories, but also his ability to engage and understand individuals:
"As a writer, Rabbi Twerski’s style is straightforward and engaging, expressing profound ideas simply. He has a genuine confidence in individuals’ resiliency and ability to turn their lives around, recognizing that some need more help."
Read the full review here!
Learn more about The Rabbi and the Nuns.
Monday, January 27, 2014 2:50:44 AM America/Los_Angeles
There's nothing like an engaging novel with a happy ending and a nice message. Broken Mirrors by Peri Berger is the fictional tale of shattered lives being pulled together through determination, love, and hope. Readers are exposed to the endearing characters' inner struggles and thoughts, and may simultaneously find themselves 'looking in the mirror' at their own reflections.
Jewish Joy Reading is pleased with the "enjoyable and satisfying" book:
"...a very nice read...a sweet novel with a good message for personal character development...well written."
To read the full review, click here.
More information on Broken Mirrors here!
Tuesday, January 21, 2014 3:18:38 AM America/Los_Angeles
Like Seeds of a Pomegranate is a unique collection of Rabbi Yisroel Besser's interactions with religious Jews on all ends of the spectrum. Determined to remind ourselves of the special People that we are, Rabbi Besser set out on a journey across the world meeting roshei yeshiva, fishermen, Israeli prisoners, renowned musicians, and so on. The result is a book of stories overflowing with acts of kindness, love of Torah, and sanctification of God's name.
We were intrigued by Rabbi Besser's accounts and curious to hear more about his experiences and thoughts while writing this book.
Why did you decide to write this book?
I felt that there is a certain imbalance on the websites and blogs, where much attention is given to those observant Jews that break the law or display poor judgment in their personal conduct, but there is no voice that broadcasts the opposite. There is a steady diet of amazing stories, stories that underscore what makes us good, and way too much of the other type. A person is influenced by what he reads, and even within our own communities, people were buying into a lot of what they’re reading online. I felt it important that the other side of the story be told as well- we’re a good People.
What are the top lessons you learned in researching, meeting and learning about important Jewish personalities?
The key to any article, but especially those involving leaders, is to make sure to retain their trust. Trust is paramount of these people and it’s crucial that they can be confident that you will not take them out of context or misquote them. We live in an era of sound-bites, and it’s a challenge to come away with real, substantial messages.
Who surprised you the most?
Sholom Rubashkin. It’s beyond how he continues to radiate emunah and simchas hachaim in circumstances such as he finds himself. I cynically believed that it wasn't for real, that he was in denial - but having met him several times, I can say that this man, who spends much of his time in a tiny 6x6 cell and is cut off from family, friends and company, who has little by way of food or worldly pleasures, is truly serene.
Which Jewish figure of the past 200 years would you liked to have met? Why?
Rabbi Shlomo Freifeld. Though it’s probably a strange answer, since he only passed away 23 years ago, I feel cheated that I didn't meet him. Having authored a biography on him, I feel like I 'know' him, but deep down I wonder if the book gives over the right sense of the person – I’d love to meet him and ask him so many questions.
Sometimes it seems that today we read about “gedolim” and they can appear as super power figures who are so far beyond us because they seem so perfect. What do you think of this phenomenon? Did this influence your writing of the book?
Not at all. Anyone who has been fortunate to meet real gedolim sees their human side first; real gedolim shine in that respect. They may have accomplished much, but every human being is still struggling in some areas - otherwise they wouldn't be here, their job would be done. Their attraction, in most cases, is because they 'get it,' the challenges facing ordinary people, those far from their levels.
Check out Like Seeds of a Pomegranate here!
Sunday, January 19, 2014 2:13:43 AM America/Los_Angeles
The concept of What's Beyond the Bible Text? is very clear-cut. As a recent review in Jewish Joy Reading put it - "To ask questions and probe for deeper understanding of familiar information." But the discussions and questions brought up are far from simple. The book is written by academic scholars, Stanley M. Wagner and Israel Drazin, and explores a wealth of contemporary issues while cross-referencing the entire Torah. A wide range of themes are presented, ranging from legal, moral, and ethical issues - including marriage, animal rights, the afterlife, the meaning of life...and more.
"This book is a professional text. It is well researched and put together in a clear fashion...For the right crowd, this can be an unbelievable tool to start Torah discussion at the Shabbos table or the classroom."
To read the full review, click here.
Click here to read up on What's Beyond the Bible Text?.
Sunday, January 12, 2014 2:40:03 AM America/Los_Angeles
A Fortunate Find, by popular children's author Rivkah Small, is the second book in the Double Trouble Mystery Series. When three young boys try to unravel the mystery regarding tampered messages in fortune cookies at the local kosher Chinese restaurant, readers are left with some surprising and even dangerous discoveries!
Jewish Joy Reading finds the plot of the "adorable, mystery chapter book" to be all-encompassing and engaging to young readers of various ages:
"I liked the plot a lot. The fact that the mystery was somewhat Torah-based, but not really and that there was good ethic in it as well. There are also some funny lines that seem to have gotten in there for the inevitable more mature reader."
The story's main characters are boys, so while the book may inherently be a bit more boy-oriented, it is "intelligent literature" that is appropriate for "any newer reader that is starting on chapter books."
To read the full review, click here.
Discover more about the A Fortunate Find mystery book here!
Thursday, January 9, 2014 3:44:42 AM America/Los_Angeles
The Deeper Meaning is a book filled with questions relating to the world and Judaism that so many of us have thought about at one time or another. Instead of pushing those questions out of our minds, author Uri Kestenbaum ensures that we address these topics, ranging from free choice to Shabbos to self-esteem, while discovering the hidden meaning within them.
After seeing this fascinating and thought-provoking book, we had a few questions of our own for the author!
Why did you write this book?
The truth is, I never sat down to write it. There were many times when I would think and talk-over all sorts of discussions about life with friends, and I would then write down my thoughts on the things we spoke about. Eventually I came to realize that a lot of the things I was discussing and writing were about things that many other people think about as well.
Reading through The Deeper Meaning, it might seem like it’s a transcription of someone talking; and that’s exactly it. I hope to touch upon topics that people think about and discuss out loud or internally.
Who is the ideal reader of this book?
Anyone who enjoys really getting to the bottom of what is the darher, the essence of common Jewish themes, will enjoy this book. It’s a thinking book, and, understandably, honest thinking is not always the easiest thing to do. Readers can use each chapter as a resource to start discussions around a Shabbos table, or as a helpful guide for some soul-searching. Fans of Rav Dessler, R’ Akiva Tatz and The Shmuz should definitely make room on their bookshelf for The Deeper Meaning.
Have the questions discussed in the book been asked to you by others or are they questions that come from you?
I think the questions in the book are really universal. Questions like, “What makes people get embarrassed?”, “Why do people cry?”, “What causes self-esteem problems in this generation?”, and so on, are questions that everyone thinks about at some time or another. So, yes, they are my own questions, but when I speak about them, I find that people pop their head up and say things like, “Hey! Ya, why are we so drawn after novels and movies?” I believe that there is much in the content that people will identify with and will feel as if someone is addressing their own inner thoughts.
What did you learn by writing this book?
The process of preparing something for the public requires clarifying things down so clearly that it can be readily understood. It was nice to think about how I could break things down into a palatable and entertaining mode. It got me used to simplifying.
What challenges did you encounter when you wrote the book?
The truth is that there is so much to write about and not everything deserves its own chapter. I found it challenging to condense a lot of material into small enough chunks that would still be pleasant and fun to read. Sometimes I deleted whole pages in order to make it easy on the reader and let the ideas flow without being bogged down by too many proofs or counter-arguments.
What’s next for you?
You know, there’s so many amazing things that klal Yisroel is into these days. We have Yeshivos, Bais Yaakov’s, shiurim and unbelievable chessed organizations. I believe that we are ready, as a nation, to take what we have and upgrade it to the next level. I am, b’ezras Hashem, working on a project that can serve as a step-by-step guide to upgrading the level of our Jewish experiences one by one. I look forward to finding what works best for me, and hopefully sharing it with others who can benefit by jumping along for the ride!
Be sure to check out The Deeper Meaning here!
Sunday, January 5, 2014 1:34:34 AM America/Los_Angeles
There are so many questions we ask ourselves daily. We don't always come up with satisfying answers, so we push the questions out of our minds without truly addressing them. The Deeper Meaning by Uri Kestenbaum strives to explore these seemingly simple subjects, discovering the hidden depth and meaning behind them.
Jewish Joy Reading analyzes the book inside and out - literally - from the significance of the photo on the cover to the tone and message the book lends.
"I enjoyed gaining a new perspective on common struggles. Some points, I highlighted and hope to remember next time someone challenges me. This is a great book for families, as well as anyone that hosts teens or deals with them."
To read the full review, click here.
For more information on The Deeper Meaning, click here.
Sunday, December 22, 2013 4:23:09 AM America/Los_Angeles
The first two books of the Young Lamplighters series, Tamar of Venice and Moshe of Japan, invite young readers to peek into the lives of boys and girls from all around the globe. Together with Tamar and Moshe, children learn about the lives of Jewish children growing up in the most exotic and interesting places while experiencing new cultures and fun adventures.
A recent review on lubavitch.com discusses how the idea for the "delightful, colorful" series came about and focuses on the many exciting adventures children experience when engrossed in the books:
“'I thought it would be fascinating for Jewish children who go to large Jewish day schools and live amongst similar peers in large Jewish communities to learn about other Jewish children growing up in remote or unusual places,' the mother of eight told lubavitch.com."
To read the entire review, click here.