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October 24, 2003 - Image 37

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-10-24

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The Truth About Chai
Suffering And Angels


that Does

Everything you always wanted to know about being
Jewish — in fewer than 120 pages.

AppleTree Editor


hen you're a little kid, a
lot of things about
Judaism can be confus-
ing. Like, why does
God let animals get hit by cars, and
what are angels, and will the
Messiah have superpowers like the
So you ask Mom and Dad (as if
parents — already struggling with
the more mundane childhood ques-
tions like, "How do I add fractions?"
and "All my friends have a TV in
their room so why can't I?" — didn't
have enough to deal with.) Mom
and Dad don't know.
Where do you go, then, to get
your answers?
Enter Rabbi E.B. "Bunny"
Freedman, Jan Greenberg and Karen
A. Katz.
The three, all from metro Detroit,
are authors of What Does Being

Jewish Mean? Read-aloud responses to
questions Jewish children ask about
history, culture and religion.
Originally published in 1991,
What Does Being Jewish Mean? has
just been reprinted in a new, updat-
ed format by Fireside Press.
When first published, What Does
Being Jewish Mean?" sold out quick-
ly. The authors sought to buy back
publishing rights, but the publisher
said, "No, thanks." The book had
sold too well to simply let it go.
Finally, the authors and the pub-
lisher reached an agreement and this
second edition came out. A great
deal has changed in the 12 years
since What Does Being Jewish Mean?

was first published.
"We updated a lot in the section
on Israel," said Rabbi Freedman,
director of the Jewish Hospice and
Chaplaincy Network. "When we
first wrote the book, it was at the
end of the first intifada (the
Palestinian uprising) and things
looked way more hopeful than they
do now.
"Also, back then the idea of
women wearing talleisim was
uncommon," he said. "The idea of
women rabbis also was much fresher,
much newer, and we didn't have
much reference for that."

What Does Being Jewish Mean?

tackles such sensitive and sticky
issues by just giving the facts, with-
out endorsing any one position
within Judaism. Answers are careful-
ly worded, "Tradition teaches that
..." for example, or, "Some people
do not drive on Shabbat because ..."
Rabbi Freedman said the book
serves as an informational guide
only. He explains, "I'm trying to
give kids an idea of what's out there.
I want to bring out spirituality, not
impose theology on anyone."
And in fact this would have been
next to impossible, considering the
varied backgrounds of the authors:
Rabbi Freedman is Orthodox, Jan
Greenberg is a member of Temple
Israel (Reform), and Karen Katz
belongs to Congregation Shaarey
Zedek (Conservative).
So how did the three come togeth-
er in the first place? Leave it to a
Karen Katz, a writer and artist,
was hearing questions about Judaism
from her two sons — questions for

which she had
no handy
answers. She
turned to her
friend Jan
Greenberg, and
they turned to
their friend Rae
Sharfman, who
they contact
Freedman. The
three got togeth-
er and a book
was born.
"We got a lot
of our questions


I Ve a cl I o ud

responses to


ewish children


[ What Does
Being Jewish
Mean? is written
in a question-and-answer format] by
asking our own children," Rabbi
Freedman said. "We also asked rela-
tives and friends, and came up with
a few ourselves, but most of these
are real questions that the kids
The authors ended up with literal-
ly hundreds of questions, with Rabbi
Freedman writing the answers. The
responses then went back to
Greenberg and Katz, who served as
editors — along with the children.
(Rabbi Freedman explained that the
children would actually hear his
answers; and if they found them
incomplete or over their heads, the
rabbi would do new versions, until
he got it right.)
What Does Being Jewish Mean?
takes on even the most difficult
questions, like "Why does God let
people get sick and/or suffer?" But

as about

history, cultu 4e,

any re


don't look for any pat answers.
"There are some questions about
God that we can't answer — but we
can answer," Rabbi Freedman said.
(The book's response, in part, to.the
question of human suffering: "There
is not one single answer as to why
people get sick or suffer. We must
trust God and have faith that He has
a reason for everything that happens
in life. We must remember that,
whatever happens, there is some-
thing to learn that will make us bet-
ter people.")
Rabbi Freedman explained, "There
is some mystery to our lives and we
acknowledge that in our book."
Initially, the trio wrote What Does
Being Jewish Mean? with children in
mind. Increasingly, however, they
found that adults were picking it up
for themselves.

THE TRUTH on page 38




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