Archive for June 2008
You may have noticed that the blog slowed down a bit the last few days. Here is why:
Anya and Gabor Por (the librarian who maintains this blog) are happy to announce that Stella Jozefin, their daughter was born on June 29, 2008 at 10:38 AM (PST). She weighed 8 pounds and 10 ounces and measured 20.5 inches long.
We started and will keep posting pictures of our new arrival’s own website. Meanwhile here is an image of Stella’s very first story time on her second day.
Earlier this week the dust covers I ordered arrived. This meant that I finally could put the protective, transparent plastic cover on those new hardcover books that came with dustcovers. Now, that I finished wrapping all these books I could shelf them. As our shelves are very tightly packed already and there was about 50 new books to squeeze in it meant some creative rearrangements on my end. The end result is that we have a stable allocation of books on all shelves, for now. By stable, I mean that it is unlikely that I would need to move large number of the books in the near future.
This is another moment in the history of the library I have been waiting for, because finally I could label the shelves. Thus I spent the rest of the afternoon with writing down the range of classification numbers of the books and figured out what label would be the best for each shelf. Then I printed these on color papers and taped to shelves themselves. I share the list of labels I printed below, because I think it helps to remind me what a wide variety of books we have. And these labels do not even cover all the kinds of books we have, because I did not want to put more than one or two labels on each shelf.
Bible and Biblical Studies (001-099)
Commentaries on the Torah (016)
Ancient Near East (090)
Classical Judaica (100-199)
Post-Talmudic Halakha (120)
Jewish Thought (135)
Jewish Theology (136)
Medieval Jewish Thought (170)
Modern Jewish Thought (175)
Jewish Folklore (185)
Jewish Observance and Practice (200-299)
Jewish Religious Movements (210)
Rites of Jewish Personal Living (222)
Jewish Liturgy (230)
Jewish Calendar (235-265)
Comparative Religion (290)
Hebrew and Jewish Languages and Sciences (400-499)
Jewish Literature (500-599)
Jewish Literature – Criticism and Analysis (530)
Jewish Literature – Anthologies (550)
Jewish Literature – Individual Works (560)
The Jewish Community – Society & the Arts (600-699)
Social Conditions and Problems (650)
The Jew in the World (660)
Jewish Graphic and Plastic Arts (670)
Mass Media (690)
Cooking and Culinary Arts (699)
Jewish History, Geography, Biography (700-799)
History – 9th-19th Centuries (730)
Concentration Camps (736.1)
Jewish Resistance (736.2)
Rescue Operations (736.5)
Sephardic and Mediterranean Jewry (750)
Ashkenazic and Eastern European Jewry (760)
Western European Jewry (765)
United States Jewry (770)
California Jewry (777.1)
African Jewry (790)
Collective Biography (798)
Individual Biography (799)
Israel and Zionism (800-899)
Eretz Yisrael (820)
Israel Statehood (1948-) (828)
Israel – Geography (830)
Israel – Government and Politics (840)
Israel – Economics and Development (855)
Israel and the Middle East (890)
General Works (900-999)
This Thursday (at 7.30 PM) we will be showing a 95 minutes long Hungarian movie, titled “A Miracle in Cracow” . A mixture of languages are spoken in the movie (including, Hungarian, Polish, Yiddish, and English.), but it is thoroughly subtitled. The film is not related in the US but in Hungary it was rated the equivalent of PG. The film has a beautiful website in English, where you can read more about the film’s creators, view a gallery, listen to the soundtrack, and learn more about it. Here is the beginning of the official synopsis:
Piotr and his grandmother Mancika comb the streets of Budapest trying to restore the library taken from the family during World War II. Mancika is especially keen on finding The Silver Crown, the book with which Rabbi Levi brings the dead back to life. Fifteen years later, Mancika has passed away and Piotr makes a living as a bookseller in Cracow, Poland. A young Hungarian student, Esther, arrives in Cracow to restore an old tombstone in the Jewish cemetery.
With the help of the preview below you can get a sense, that the story is told as a fable with quite a few dreamlike sequences.
The library received an email inviting Jews to discover the Jewish community in South Africa. I will share the letter (almost) in its entirety below. But first I would like to recommend two books from our collection that you could read in preparation for the trip or just to learn more about the community through books.
Let me point your attention to Helen Suzman‘s autobiography, “In no uncertain terms.” The author was a member of South African Parliament for more than 35 years. She was a member of the Progressive Party and for 13 of the above mentioned years was the only representative of the party in the parliament. Throughout her career she has been fighting not just anti-Semitism, but apartheid too; often alone. She visited Nelson Mandela in prison, who wrote a passionate foreword for the book. The book contains not just extensive notes and index, but also 24 pages of photographs.
Ms. Suzman is one of dozens of persons interviewed for the second book I wanted o mention. “Cutting through the mountain: Interviews with South African Jewish Activists” is edited by Immanuel Suttner. The 600+ volume is divided by areas of activism, such as unions, education, culture, civil disobedience, legal area. Each interview, conducted between 1004 and 1996, takes up 20-30 pages. The interviewer asked short questions only and the interviewees had freedom to answer as in-depth as they wished.
And now the email we receieved:
Dear Jewish Community Leader,
I am Ivor Heyman, Director of Faith & Resilience South Africa
(Faith). Faith is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to
discover Jewish communities around the world that have been
successful in adapting to local conditions while staying true to
Of all Jewish communities around the world, none exemplifies the
tenets of faith and resilience as much as the South African
Jewish community. We would like to invite you and interested
members of your community to gain an inside view of four
communities in South Africa that have been able to preserve their
traditions and their faith amidst the swirling tides of change
and uncertainty that now affects Jewish communities globally.
In addition to meeting community leaders and seeing first hand
how these communities have been successful, our visitors will be
able to experience much of the natural beauty that makes South
Africa such an attractive tourist destination. After the Jewish
portion of the trip ends, interested visitors can also sign up
for an optional three-day safari that we have organized at one of
South Africa’s premiere game reserves.
This tour will introduce you not only to places, but to the
people that have been key to the success of the communities in
which they live. Owing to the personal nature of the trip, space
is limited, and we encourage you to register online as soon as
Please forward this invitation to others who might be interested
in this once in a lifetime experience, and feel free to contact
me if you have any questions.
Sincerely, Ivor Heyman
Faith & Resilience South Africa
Details of Next Faith and Resilience Tour to South Africa
Main tour 11-18 August, 2008
Optional safari 19-22 August, 2008
For more information about the tour, go to:
For more information about our organization, go to:
In 1978 Isaac Bashevis Singer received the Nobel Prize in Literature “for his impassioned narrative art which, with roots in a Polish-Jewish cultural tradition, brings universal human conditions to life.” Farrar, Straus, and Giroux published a beautifully designed bilingual, English and Yiddish, edition of the address Singer gave upon accepting the prize. Pick it up if you want to spend a few minutes appreciating the humor and intellect of a man, deeply troubled by the problems of his era. I was not exaggerating when I said “few minutes”: the whole address is 6 pages long. The little book also contains an analysis of his work and a statement titled “Why I write for children.” This is so delightful that I want to share with all of you even if you do not manage to get the book:
There are five hundred reasons why I began to write for children, but to save time I will mention only ten of them.
Number 1: Children read books, not reviews. They don’t give a hoot about the critics.
Number 2: Children don’t read to find their identity.
Number 3: They don’t read to free themselves of guilt, to quench their thirst for rebellion, or to get rid of alienation.
Number 4: They have no use for psychology.
Number 5: They detest sociology.
Number 6: They don’t try to understand Kafka or Finnegans Wake.
Number 7: They still believe in God, the family, angels, devils, witches, goblins, logic, clarity, punctuation, and other such obsolete stuff.
Number 8: They love interesting stories, not commentary, guides, or footnotes.
Number 9: When a book is boring, they yawn openly, without any shame or fear of authority.
Number 10: They don’t expect their beloved writer to redeem humanity. Young as they are, they know that it is not in his power. Only the adults have such childish illusions.
By default you can borrow books from the library for four weeks. Even if you renew the book and get another four weeks it may not be enough time to appreciate this book as it is intended. The bulk of Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski‘s Living Each Day is made up of daily inspirations and prayers. The calendar is of course, following the Jewish year, starting with Tishri 1. For each day there are two short (2-5 line long) quotes from one of three sources: sages, prayers, or scriptures. They are followed by a slightly longer, 3-5 paragraph, explanation serving as food for further thought and contemplation. It is possible to read through the whole book as any other book, but I suspect you get more out of it, if indeed you take one a day. It may seem that I talked against the interests of the library, discouraging you to borrow the back. Far from it, I am sure that just by looking at a few entries and meditating on their meaning and that they can mean for you personally you will benefit.
Here is a segment assigned for today, Sivan 16.
Prior to the death of the Maggid of Mezeritch his disciples asked whom to choose as their spiritual leader. The Maggid responded, “If you look for a spiritual leader, test him by asking for advice on how to rid yourself of vanity. Anyone who recommends any technique to achieve this is not qualified to be your leader. The one who says that he cannot give you any method and that you must pray to G-d to spare you from vanity, he is your true leader.
Yesterday I wrote about Elie Wiesel’s Sages and Dreamers, in which we could get to know dozens of historical Jewish figures. Today I would like to write about a book penned by Wiesel’s colleague from Boston University, Robert Pinsky. In this case the whole book is devoted to one quintessential figure: King David. In twelve chapters and 200 pages of The Life of David we learn stories about him both from Jewish and Christian sources and perspectives. Pinsky is a primary a poet, who published several books of poetry of his own, translated a few and wrote prose about poetry. Nextbook, the co-publisher company, has an excellent webpage about the book, including excerpts, a reader’s guide, links to major reviews, and an interview with the author. Here is a relevant segment from the latter, which can shed some light on how the author approached the subject matter.
David’s is the most inclusive life I know: a poet and a warrior, he did terrible things and noble things. We see him at every stage of life: as a boy, in middle age, in old age. He is an artist, a killer, a lover, a politician, a Robin Hood, a dissembler, a builder, an Odysseus, a musician, a King Lear, a founding father, and an upstart.
As Adam is the seed, containing the whole range of human potential, David is the flowering.
In preparation for Thursday’s annual meeting I put together a three-page, downloadable, printable PDF version of the books we added to our collection so far this year.
Here it is. Feel free to ask about the items on the list and share it.
Elie Wiesel is mostly known for his novels and stories recalling the Shoah and for his Nobel Peace Prize. In Sages and Dreamers he goes to a different direction and uses his descriptive skills to paint “portraits and legends from the Jewish tradition” (the subtitle of the book.) The 25 essays (divided into three section, following heroes from the Bible, the Talmud and from the Hasidic tradition) collected here are based on the lectures he gave from 1966 in New York at a Jewish cultural center, the 92nd Street Y. As I have not read the book yet, I would like to utilize three external resources to help you to decide why you would want to read this book.
First, let me quote the closing lines of the preface itself, written by Mr. Wiesel:
Each of these figures stands for an epoch and its problems, conflicts, and aspirations which are often surprisingly close to our own, in this distant century. For those who care about exploring the memory of language, an introduction to these sages and dreamers of other days and another universe is a rich and enriching journey into the depths of religious history.
Second, I recommend reading the New York Times’ review of the book. The reviewer, who attended many of the lectures, reminds us how magical a storyteller Wiesel is.
Third, a few names will surely pop out from you from the full table of contents:
- PART ONE: The Bible
- Jephthah and his daughter
- Ezra and Nehemiah
- PART TWO: The Talmud
- The House of Shammai and the House of Hillel
- Rabbi Hanina ben Dossa
- Rabbi Eleazar ben Azaryah
- Rabbi Ishmael
- Rabbi Akiba
- Ben Azzai and ben Zoma
- Elisha ben Abouya
- Rabbi Hananiah ben Teradyon
- Rabbi Meir and Brurya
- Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai and his son
- Rabbi Zeira
- Rav and Shmuel
- PART TREE: The Hasidic Tradition
- The Sopher Zeide
- Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel of Apt
- Rabbi Avraham the angel
- Kotzk and Izbitze
- The Ostrowtzer Rabbi
The first night of our filmclub was a semi-success. Let me share some lessons I learned from this night:
- Check the TV listing. Apparently The Hebrew Hammer was shown a few weeks ago. This might be one of the reasons that only five of us watched the movie. But it was juts the beginning.
- I should open the windows way in advance in the multi-purpose room if that’s where we have the show. The air was a bit stuffy at the beginning.
- When making pop-corn in the microwave one has to stand by it and monitor the process. I managed to burn the first bag, because I was dashing back and forth between the chapel (where the microwave was) and the multipurpose room. The second batch worked out better, because my wife was watching it.
- When previewing and recommending a movie for our showing I need pay more attention to what kind of rating it might have and why. Case in point: I described The Hebrew Hammer as hilarious. I still think that is true, but as Bob Raful put it, it was corny, too. As the host of the evening I was a bit embarrassed by its vulgar language and the anti-gentile jokes. In my defense I saw the movie about 4 years ago and did not recall it being as harsh as I found it now. In future recommendations I will make sure it is clear what to expect.
All in all, I believe, the audience had a good time. Hope to see you at future viewings.