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February 24, 2005 - Image 44

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2005-02-24

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Arts /I Life

Unorthodox Orthodox Fiction

To deal with his son's death, father writes Orthodox western aimed at teen readers.


Jewish Telegraphic Agency


an you image an Orthodox bar
mitzvah celebrated in the
Arizona desert soon after the
Civil War, with a guest list that includes
Apache warriors, gun-slinging outlaws
and a minyan imported from
Robert Avrech did.
Avrech, 57, a Hollywood screenwriter,
wrote a novel, The Hebrew
and the
Apache Maiden (Seraphic Press; $14.95),
in memory of his son Ariel, a 22-year-
old rabbinical student who died of can-
cer a few years ago.
The book is the first of a planned
series to be published by Seraphic Press,
a new venture Avrech has started with
his wife, Karen.
The Avrechs' goal is to publish high-
quality literature that will appeal both to
Orthodox families and to the general
reading public, Robert Avrech said in a
phone conversation from his California


Ariel Avrech loved to read, his father
said. Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice
was among his favorite works of litera-
ture, and he devoured American classics
as well.
When Ariel became too sick to con-
tinue his rabbinical studies and was con-
fined to the hospital, his father pulled
out some old notes and began to write

The Hebrew Kid
Robert Avrech solicited his son's help,
especially with the halachic questions
that the plot posed. After all, it's not easy
to figure out what a rabbi should do
when ordered at gunpoint to perform a
wedding for a gentile couple or recite
prayers for a troop of soldiers policing
Indian territory.
"I wrote it to keep him amused and
keep him happy," Avrech said.
Avrech wrote the script for the film A
Stranger Among Us and the television
film The Devil's Arithmetic, based on the
widely read Holocaust novel for young
adults written by Jane Yolen.

Get The 'Vibe'

"The ones who are
more traditional want to
know how to get their
parents to let them be
teenagers and do things
like date or hang out on
Shabbat. They want to
know how to make fam-
moralistic," says Edut, who
The debut issue o
ily traditions work in the
studied her religion at
JVibe magazine
mainstream American
Congregation Beth Shalom
teenage life."
in Oak Park. "The magazine
very personal emo-
is very real, and it shows how
issues. She
Judaism is relevant to everyday life."
number of
In the first issue, Edut tackles ques-
Jewish teens at Ferndale High School.
tions about making religious jokes,
Although an art major at the
going out on a school night, handling
University of Michigan in Ann Arbor,
personality clashes and attending
she started and then sold a magazine,
Shabbat activities. Her column is
Hues, dealing with multi-cultural
joined with articles that cover best
topics. She went on to work
friends, winter breaks, Avril Lavigne
media, taking on different
guitarist Evan Taubenfeld and Israel's
assignments related to teens.
first Olympic gold medalist. There also
She is the astrologer for Teen People
are quizzes to help readers understand
magazine and has a humorous Web
themselves better.
site, The Jewess Is Loose!
"I think there are some problems
which chron-
that are universal for all teens, but
Jewish teens may have a different twist
on them," Edut says. "If they don't live
www.astrostyle.com , related to her
in a really Jewish area, they may be
book AstroStyle: Star-Studded Advice for
wondering how to retain cultural pride
Love, Life and Looking Good
and identity when they don't have the
"I'm a naturally opinionated person
same lifestyles, holidays and traditions
giving advice just came naturally to
as all their friends.

Jewish magazine for teens makes debut.


Special to the Jewish News


phira Edut, as a teenager living
in Oak Park, shared a room
with her twin sister, Tali. Every
night, before going to sleep, the two
could unload their problems and
together figure out ways to deal with
their lives.
Edut, 32, looks back on that time
with gratitude for having a peer to give
validation and support, and she has
made a career of passing those feelings
along to other teens. She does that
through advice columns in print and
on the Web.
'Ask Ophira," the title of her col-
umn in JVibe magazine, leads into her
latest link to young people. The publi-
cation for Jewish teens debuted in
"I like JVibe because it presents
Judaism through the voices and experi-
ences of Jewish teens without talking
down to them or becoming preachy or



Avrech says he wants to shake up
the world of Jewish literature by
combining high-quality writing
with themes and content that
appeal to observant Jewish readers
of all ages. He plans to write a
sequel to The Hebrew Kid start a
series of Jewish graphic novels, pub-
lish Orthodox chick lit and begin
ThrillingJewish Tales, a literary
magazine, he said.
"We want to revive the old gen-
res, like horror stories, and put in
Jewish content," he said.
Avrech is not interested in writing in
the style of the older generation of
American Jewish writers, and doesn't like
literary giants such as Saul Bellow and
Philip Roth.
"I find them unbearable," Avrech said.
"There's nothing interesting for me. It's
all the same, how to kvetch and lose our
He is equally unimpressed with the
lackluster material written for religious
audiences. "I think that a lot of books

ebi tei Kill

"The Hebrew Kid
and the Apache
Maiden" is the first
novel from Seraphic
Press, which seeks to
reach both Orthodox
Jews and a main-
stream readership.

written now are not as good as they can
be," he said.

Broadening Reach

"A new Jewish press is welcome," said
Linda Silver, president of the Ratner
Media and Technology Center at the
Jewish Education Center of Cleveland.
"There aren't that many, and there's
room for more."
Silver, who reviews children's books
for Jewish Book World and is a longtime
leader in the Association of Jewish
Libraries, said that The Hebrew Kid is on

me," says Edut, who is single and lives
in New York. "I get a lot of questions
about how to deal with love or friends
or the ability to fit in. Teens want to
know how to find the words to express
themselves in ways that work.
"Ultimately, I tell teens to rely on
themselves. In effect, I'm saying,
`Here's some advice, but you're the
ones in the driver's seats creating your
lives. Don't believe in anything more
than you believe in yourselves. Don't
ever think that anything is more pow-
erful than you.'"
That sentiment fits in with the
intent of /Vibe.
"We created this magazine to give
Jewish teens a space that encourages
[them] to think about who [they] are,
where [they] want to be and how
[they] think about the world," explains
editor Michelle Cove in her letter to
readers. "It's high time there was a way
for teens to see how Jewish values actu-
ally connect to [their lives] — whether
it's helping [them] recover from getting
dumped or inspiring [them] to take
action against life's injustices."
Edut believes that her Jewish back-
ground definitely gives her insight into
problem solving. "Jews love to ana-
lyze," she says. "The spirit is to look
deeper and not take things at face

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