THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS
Friday, November 1, 1985
Of Making Many Books
Continued from Page 2
Behrman Books, Art Scroll Youth Series
of Mesorah Publications, Houghton
Mifflin, Holt Reinhart and Winston,
Feldman and several other publishers.
If this commentator were asked for
an emphasis to be given to a book fair
with the specific aim of encouraging
knowledgeability and an encouragement
to Jewish educational tasks, he would
urge that a major portion of a book fair
be assigned to children's books. Most of
the currently-published are so instruct-
ive, they are as informative as they are
dramatic, and they serve a valuable
Many of the newly-published works
are so fascinating that they merit em-
phasis. The Israelis, the Abrams pictorial
volume, produced by Amos Elon in a
single day's action together with 55
photographers, has already been given
due acclaim on this page. Bar Mitzvah
(Doubleday) by Sarah Silberstein Swartz
is a truly great work presently to be
With Chanukah approaching, it is a
normal task to list books that are com-
mendable as gifts and to give attention
to the theme of the Festival of Lights.
Therefore the subject is being dealt with
There will be due attention to the
interest shown to children's books and
related subjects. For the present the im-
mediate get a few priorities.
In Book Craftsmanship
Chanukah is stimulated by tradi-
tions. Its celebration has been enhanced
by games and home jollities. All ages de-
rive joy from the holiday's observance.
Artists have given it added appeal with
craftsmanship. In this respect The Han-
nukkah Book by Mae Shafter Rockland
(Schocken Books) emerges as a major
achievement in holiday portraying.
The craftsmanship depicted in this
work is a genuinely skillful attainment.
It provides guidelines for celebration and
enthusiasm in the treatment of the festi-
The celebrant of the holiday is
guided here in the preparation of
Menorahs, dreidels, wallhangings, every-
thing related to home observances.
Here is one suggestion made by
author Rockland in the making of a
beard for a Jewish chesspiece king in a
proposed Maccabees versus Greek chess
set. She suggests pressing a small
amount of clay through a garlic press
and affixing the clay threads to four-inch
sculptured figures with a mixture of vin-
egar and clay.
This is resourcefulness proposed in
the Chanukah book. It also emphasizes
the Maccabees-Greeks warfare related to
the Chanukah theme.
Then there is an empitomizing of
the identity of American Jews with the
Chanukah theme, linking the design for
a Statute of Liberty Hanukkah Lamp.
This is related because of the approach-
ing Statute of Liberty celebration as well
as the timeliness of the festival itself.
A strictly American Chanukah
theme develops as a Miss Liberty can-
delabrum. It is created from a 23-inch
piece of stock, one-and-a-half by two in-
ches of wood attached with contact ce-
ment to a two-foot piece of two-by-four.
Coated with white glue, the pedestal is
covered with tiny American flags, and
inscribed with Emma Lazarus' lines: "I
lift my lamp beside the Golden Door."
This is an indication of the historic
as well as the sentimental combined in
the many Chanukah themes in the Rock-
land book. It is one of the most impres-
sive of its kind, perhaps incomparable in
craftsmanship, and will surely inspire
the young readers, while creating inter-
est for the elderly in the approaching
Festival of Lights.
From Kar-ben Copies comes the
smallest book now under review — the
children's It's Hanuka with a total of 12
pages. It's an attractive board book,
printed on hard beard, inviting continu-
ing opening of the hard pages. They tell
much about Chanukah, its symbolism,
the menorah, latkes, etc. Therefore, it is
among the very commendable works for
the youngest readers.
Such are some of the children's
books commended as Chanukah gifts and
worth recommending as children's read-
Many books have been written on
bar mitzvah and. for bar mitzvah celeb-
rants. The importance of this major
event for youths approaching manhood
retains major significance in home ob-
servances. The most notable achieve-
ment in portraying the bar mitzvah
theme, lending it greatest emphasis in
Jewish observance and the influence of
home life, is provided in what may well
emerge as a Jewish literary classic.
Bar Mitzvah by Sarah Silberstein
Swartz (Doubleday) is one of the most
impressive works in the current creative
tasks devoted to the enrichment of the
Jewish library. As Paul Cowen states in
a "Dear Bar Mitzvah Boy" introduction:
"In time, your bar mitzvah and this book
will represent a precious legacy you
want for yourself — and, one day, for
There are many aspects that make
this a most impressive literary achieve-
ment. It is, of course, especially a volume
for the bar mitzvah and the manner in
which this immense work was prepared
assures it the status of an heirloom for
the celebrant and his family. After every
chapter in the book there is provision for
a write-in. The celebrant is advised to
keep a record of himself, his family, his
emotions, in such retention of memories
of the great event in his life. Therefore,
in its complete form, it is certain to be-
come the suggested heirloom.
Then there is the photographic and
art content that is especially significant.
This large-sized volume contains- more
than 300 photographs and illustrations.
Included are 100 in full color and a large
number in double-page spreads. The col-
lected effort therefore also assumes the
role of an art gallery depicting Jewish
life, lending importance to the works of
Most remarkable about this fascinat-
ing book is that it is also a commendable
anthology of literary treasures assem-
bled to give emphasis to the bar mitzvah
theme. Every portion of this volume
commences with a quotation from a
prominent author or Jewish leader.
Among the most notable per-
sonalities thus represented here are Saul
Bellow, Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud,
Franz Kafka, Sam Levenson, I. B.
Singer, Herman Wouk, Edmund Fleg,
Mendele Moher Seforim, Moses
Maimonides, and many more.
The Talmud, the Midrash, the Scrip-
tures are quoted.
Notably, the late Rabbi Hayim
Halevy Donin is quoted extensively.
Then there are the poems of Abraham
M. Klein and the verses of other noted
Sarah Silberstein Swartz has made a
very great contribution to the vitally-
needed educational material for the
Jewish home, for the schools, for lib
raries, and most especially for the youth
that is in need of inspiration in becom-
ing identified with the peoplehood and
history of their people. The announce-
ment that Miss Swartz is working on a
supplementary bar mitzvah book is an-
other heartening factor in welcoming her
present treasured work. She will be
blessed by parents for providing this
literary treasure and the b'nai mitzvah
possessing her volume will surely be
grateful for it.
A Negative Note .. .
The available books currently invit-
ing review and serious attention are
mainly positive. One with a negative ap-
proach is cause for deep regret.
There is much to criticize in and
about Israel. Extremisms merit rejection,
even bitter condemnation. Generalizing
is cause for much harm. Why resort to
The Tragedy of Zionism: Revolution
and Democracy in the Land of Israel
(Farrar Straus & Giroux) by Bernard
Avishai provides such regret.
Much in this interesting story is ac-
ceptable criticism. The title of the book
isn't. Because the author is prominent in
human rights activities makes the book's
theme all the more challenging. Avishai,
a native of Montreal, holds degrees from
major Canadian universities. He went to
Israel for three years in the 1970s. He
has taught at a number of universities,
including the Hebrew universities, and
is currently professor of writing at MIT.
The Tragedy of Zionism rightfully
condemns the extreme right, the reli-
gious oppressiveness, the lack of respect
for secularism. What's new about that in
any society where extremists now seek
to sway public opinion? What about the
creativeness of a great cause that gave
dignity to the Jewish people?
The dominance of leadership in
Zionism has always been secularist, but
whatever was attained for unity to at-
tain statehood was tolerant. Is there
tolerance in the title of a book labeling
the movement as a tragedy at a time
when there is need to lend strength to
the ideal that has been and continues to
be besmirched in the UN and antagonis-
Whatever is good about the Avishai
book causes concern in its very title. It is
a regrettable moniker.
New Sholom Aleichem,
Hebrew Schools' Plus
At a time when the doubling of lan-
guage studies is becoming a problem in
the U.S. public schools, linguism re-
mains a normality in American Jewry,
many of whose constituents once again
are striving to be trilingual, possessing a
knowledge of both Hebrew and Yiddish
in addition to the nativity of English.
(In Canada it is quatrilingual,
French having become a must in
There is a dramatized progress reg-
istered for Yiddish, for many as a nos-
talgic connection to legacies, for others
as a cultural dedication.
Currently there is an especially im-
pressive list of interests in the progress
made in Yiddish identifications.
Sholom Aleichem remains a major
inspiration for the revived affections for
Yiddish and his Fiddler on the Roof is a
powerful instrument for it. In the past
decade, hitherto unpublished Sholom
Aleichem works have appeared and now
there is a new such addition to the
Sholom Aleichem treasury. It is The
Nightingale or the Saga of Yosele Solovey
the Cantor (G.P. Putnam's Sons). Again,
Ann Arborite Aliza Shevrin is the able
A new generation of Yiddish lan-
guage enthusiasts, akin to Mrs. Shevrin,
is now on the scene. A leader among
them is the former University of Michi-
gan Professor Herbert Paper. He has
enthused his classes and audiences dur-
ing the years of his specialty in linguis-
tics. Now he has a special role as guest
speaker here, this Sunday afternoon, at
the inauguration of the Sarah and Mor-
ris Friedman Yiddish lecture series at
the United Hebrew Schools.
Several important aspects spark this
event. While Yiddish is not a new factor
in the UHS studies, added emphasis is
given it by the generous - gift of the
Friedmans to encourage it. Then there is
the appearance of Dr. Paper, his master-
ing of Yiddish and the fact that in his
lecture will be included a reading in the
original of a hitherto unpublished
Sholom Aleichem story.
The Friedmans make this possible
and they merit appreciation for a devo-
tion that has elevated them among the
American Jewish leaders who keep
encouraging an interest in the Yiddish
classics and language.
Sarah and Morris Friedman