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July 03, 1981 - Image 22

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1981-07-03

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

22

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

Friday, July 3, 1981

20% OFF

JERUSALEM — Seven
years ago, Frima Gurfinkel
had never heard of Rashi.
Nor did she know a single
word of Hebrew.
But, according to an arti-
cle by Judy Siegel in Israel
Scene, having dedicated
herself to the subject and
the language since coming
on aliya from Kiev, she is
translating Rashi's corn-

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mentary on the Five Books
of Moses from Hebrew into
Russian.
Rashi — the acronym for
Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki —
had to wait nearly 900 years
to be translated from He-
brew into Mrs. Gurfinkel's
native tongue. But, thanks
to the efforts of this 30-
year-old Russian immig-
rant, thousands of Soviet
Jews in Israel, the U.S. and
Russia are discovering the
world of Rashi.
"There is a mistaken
idea in Israel that Rus-
sian Jews aren't in-
terested in Torah," she
says. But there is great
interest, and understand-
ing the Bible with Rashi's
commentary can help
make them feel part of
the Jewish People."
The 11th Century
French-Jewish scholar was
an expert in Hebrew
grammar and used this skill
to dissect the deeper mean-
ing of the text. When he had
difficulty finding the appro-
priate Hebrew word to ex-
press abstruse words or
phrases, he often used the
vernacular French.
Though Mrs. Gurfinkel
hasn't studied French, she

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has studied English and after waiting only a few are Russian immigrants in
German at university in months for an exit permit the army and in absorption
Russia, and she learned from the Soviet Union. centers, and others who
Yiddish at home. Transla- After five months at a He- hear of it by word of mouth.
tions of Rashi's biblical brew language school in a Mrs. Gurfinkel dreams of
commentary into those lan- Natanya absorption center, sending her translation to
guages, as well as her im- they moved to Jerusalem, Russian Jews who "dropped
pressive facility with He- where she began to teach out" on the way to Israel and
brew (she doesn't even con- herself Judaism — and have settled in the U.S. and
Canada. Such people, she
fuse numbers and gender practice what she studied.
She took a job translating believes, are in imminent
like most Israelis) are
helping her in her current books from German and danger of being assimilated
English into Russian. And into American society and
project.
The granddaughter of a her first attempt at trans- losing whatever remains of
ritual slaughterer in Kiev
Hebrew — a major their Jewish identity.
, lating
challenge — was the result
Although there is still
Gurfinkel "always believed of collaboration with the much to be done on the Pen-
in God but never had a Jerusalem poet Zelda.
tateuch translation, she is
,
chance to observe all the
Mrs. Gurfinkel trans- already thinking abo'
commandments."
lated a small collection of translating Rashi's con.
Today, she is an Or- Zelda 's poems into Russian
Bible.
e
thodox Jew, married to a i n 1976, leaning on a dictio- mentary
on the project
whol
Another
she
Russian immigrant of n ary for help: "One can t do envisions for herself is
convictions
similar
it t mechanically word by the production of her
whom she met in Israel.
wo rd," she points out. "Lan-
own commentary on
Mrs. Gurfinkel settled in guage is a very personal Rashi's commentary —
Israel with her parents thing, with hidden mean- something that could be
more than six years ago, ings and nuances, and they useful because of the
must be captured in the rabbi's terse style and
Demjanjuk Case tra
sn h slation. "
tendency to use incom-
e then got a job at plete sentences. The cul-
United Cleveland
Publishing, mination of her work
Jews , , Ukrainians Menora
which produces a guar- would be a "new transla-
CLEVELAND (JTA) — terly journal for Russian tion of the Pentateuch
This city's Ukrainian and immigrants in their na- with Rashi included," in-
Jewish communities af- tive tongue. She ab- stead of a standard
firmed this week their sorbed new ideas while word-by-word transla-
shared interest in bringing working on articles by Is
tion.
President Yitshak Navon
to justice any and all per- rael's late Chief Rabbi
was persuaded of the impor-
sons who participated in Avraham Yitzhak Haco-
genocide or other crimes hen Kook and by the tance of Mrs. Gurfinkel's
against humanity and, in doyen of modern Ameri- work, as well as the young
recognition of their common can Orthodoxy, Rabbi woman's unsual mind, in a
nearly-two-hour conversa-
sufferings under both the Joseph B. Soloveitchik.
Nazi and Soviet regimes, But she decided that Rus- tion he had with her re-
pledged to work together on sian immigrants needed
cently at his office in
issues of mutual concern, basic works that could, in
Jerusalem.
among which is the viola- concise language, teach
The president, a great
tion of human rights in the them about Jewish funda-
lover of both the Hebrew
USSR. mentals. "I decided it must language and of the Bible,
Those sentiments were be Rashi," she recalls.
invited her to tell him about
embodied in a statement is-
Menora printed her her work. At the end of the
sued here jointly by the translation of Rashi for the meeting, he offered to pro-
United Ukrainian Organ- portion of "Berishit" in the vide assistance from his
own special fund for the
ization of Greater Cleve- Book of Genesis, in a series
publication of two more
land and the Jewish Corn- of three issues of its guar-
munity Federation (JCF) of terly. The response was booklets.
A nice touch in the exist-
Cleveland. The document very encouraging.
was released before Federal
But she and her father, ing booklets is the dedica-
tion of each one to a Jewish
Judge Frank Battisti
handed down his ruling on Aharon Gurfinkel, soon community which was de-
realized that her planned
June 25 that the citizenship project — translating cimated in the Holocaust.
of Ukrainian-born John Rashi's commentary for all Her first one — "Be-
Demjanjuk be "revoked, va- 54 portions of the Pen- reshit" — is dedicated to
cated and cancelled" be- tateuch — was too massive French Jews who died dur-
cause the 60-year-old auto- for the journal. They de- ing the Nazi era, while
mobile worker had lied tided to establish a non- "Va'eyra" is dedicated to the
about his Nazi activities in profit organization called Jews of Kiev.
World War II when he Gesher Hateshuva, mean-
applied for naturalization ing the "Bridge to Peni- Release of Jews
in the U.S. in 1958.
tence," to publish the book- in Syria Target
The trial of Demjanjuk,
who now faces deporta- lets.
Soon, a dozen of the of Congress Unit
tion proceedings,
WASHINGTON (JTA) —
booklets
will be printed,
aroused fierce emotions
among local Jews, many each at the cost of $1,500 A bi-partisan group of 142
of them Holocaust sur- for 1,000 copies. The members of Congress has
vivors, and the large Uk- work has been sent a letter to President
rainian community, enthusiastically received Reagan urging him to work
when it opened last Feb- by some of Israel's most for the release of some 5,000
ruary. The Ukrainians respected scholars, in- Jews in Syria.
The letter, initiated by
supported Demjanjuk's cluding Prof. Yeshayahu
Rep.
Stephen Solarz (D-
Leibowitz.
contention that he was
Some of the funding for NY), noted that the Jew -
the innocent victim of
Soviet-inspired persecu- the project came out of the still in Syria are "the re.
Gurfinkels' own pockets, nant of a once flourishing
tion.
In face of overwhelming while the rest was provided community" and now "face
evidence that he had par- by various funds. If she had a number of deprivations
ticipated in atrocities enough money, Mrs. Gur-- and handicaps, the most
against Jews and others finkel estimates that she serious of which is denial of
while serving as a guard in could complete the entire 54 the right to emigrate."
Treblinka and Sobibor booklets in another three to
Museum Cabaret
death camps, the Jewish four years.
"I don't want to make it a
community demanded that
NEW YORK — The
Demjanjuk be brought to business," she insists. "We Jewish Museum's recent
justice, however belatedly. give the booklets out free, Celebrity Cabaret Benefit
A violent confrontation be- and only to people we are raised $26,000 to support
tween Ukrainian and sure will study them."
Among those who request the museum's exhibitions
Jewish demonstrators was
the
translated commentary and programs.
narrowly avoided.

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