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Jewish Thought

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  • Strangers & Natives

    Ron Rubin and Jonathan D. Sarna

    Foreword by Jonathan D. Sarna
    Developed by Peri Devaney

    Strangers and Natives: A Newspaper Narrative of Early Jewish America, 1734 - 1869 focuses on the daily life and customs of the Jewish community and the Jewish people; the formation of Jewish congregations and organizations; and the involvement of Jews in education, literature, journalism, politics, the marketplace, the military, and history itself. While there are numerous historical accounts of early American Jewry quoting documents, diaries and memoirs, this is the first that uses periodicals from that time period. Using scans of the original newsprint, most from the author s own extensive collection, Strangers and Natives displays the actual written words - the first blush of history - in visual form.

    About the Author

    Ron Rubin, PhD, a political science professor emeritus at the Borough of Manhattan Community College of the City University of New York, is a well-published author. Rubin retired from BMCC after fifty years as the political science department's most senior professor. A graduate of Yeshiva University High School, New York University (BA and Ph.D.) and Brown University (MA), he was first published in 1959 as Editor-In-Chief of the NYU Huntington Hill Historical Society's Historian.
    A prolific writer, Rubin has had more than 100 works published globally since then. His books include Controversies Over the Objectives of the U.S. Information Agency (Praeger, 1968), The Unredeemed: Anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union (Quadrangle Books, 1968), Rudy, Rudy, Rudy: The Real and the Rational(Holmes & Meier, 2000) and Anything for a T-Shirt: Fred Lebow and the New York City Marathon (Syracuse University Press, 2004). In 2013 more than 75 of Dr. Rubin's commentaries - focusing solely on topics relating to Israel, the global Jewish community and the American Jewish community - were anthologized in A Jewish Professor's Political Punditry: Fifty Plus Years of Published Commentary by Ron Rubin, edited by Peri Devaney (Syracuse University Press).
    Rubin resides with his wife, Miriam, in Riverdale, New York, where he is an active member of the Jewish community.

    Peri (Perel Chana) Devaney is an editorial, marketing and administrative consultant with a bachelor's degree in mathematics and computer science from the State University of NY at Buffalo. Her editorial career includes more than 30 years of writing and editing newsletters and brochures as a volunteer for non-profit organizations and schools. In the late 1980s, as Executive Director of a major international association, AFCOM, she served as Founding Editor of its highly acclaimed magazine and was responsible for editorial content, design, advertising and staff development.
    Devaney left association work to form PERIodicals and devote more time to her editorial work and to the Jewish community. Under the PERIodicals banner, in addition to continuing her work for non-profit organizations, she served as editorial consultant and rewrite editor on two books by Harvey Rosenthal: Diary of a Dirty Little War: The Spanish American War of 1898 [Praeger, 2000] and Richmond Pearson Hobson: Naval Hero from Magnolia Grove [Yucca Tree Press, 2001]. From 2000-2013, in addition to her work with PERIodicals, she served as Administrator for Jews for Judaism, an international non-profit organization dedicated to strengthening and preserving Jewish identity and counteracting deceptive proselytizing.
    A native of Long Island, NY, Devaney lived in Buffalo, NY, Albany, NY and Vermont before moving to California. She currently resides in Los Angeles with her husband Michoe-l, who is also known as ''the Cowboy Chassid'' at home and as ''Cantor Bob'' in Nevada.

    Praise for Strangers & Natives:

    "From the earliest colonial printings to the rise of newspapers as a serious political force in the 19th and 20th centuries, newspapers are among the most significant sources of information with respect to the American past. Ron Rubin's new book, Strangers and Natives, based exclusively on newspaper accounts, plumbs these great resources in a fascinating and thought-provoking account of American Jewry. The book traces some of the direst moments in this history - for example, Grant's infamous expulsion of Jews from Tennessee - as well as some of the happiest, including Jewish political and social triumphs and holiday celebrations. A must-read for anyone interested in learning how the media portrayed, understood, and promoted the Jewish experience in early America."

    -Louise Mirrer, Ph.D., President and CEO, New York Historical Society

    "Professor Ron Rubin has produced a truly extraordinary and colorful compendium of newspaper stories that transport the reader back in time to experience Jewish life in early America. This fascinating and diverse array of newspaper accounts - written both by Jews and about Jews - sheds new light on what E pluribus unum really meant to our American forebears. General readers and scholars alike will find a treasure-trove of interesting facts in this page-turning documentary volume."

    -Dr. Gary P. Zola, Executive Director, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, and the Edward M. Ackerman Family Distinguished Professor of the American Jewish Experience, Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion

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  • Under My Hat

    Sally Berkovic

    Sally Berkovic chronicles the challenges of raising daughters while straddling the tensions between an Orthodox religious life and the competing forces of secularism. First published in 1997, Under My Hat presciently raised issues that have since dominated the Orthodox world. This new edition is augmented by an extensive introduction delving into the impact of more than 20 years of evolutionary change. Sally Berkovic's insights and analysis demonstrate how women's scholarship and mastery of Talmudic texts, the burgeoning movement of Orthodox women clergy, enhanced ritual participation, women's political and communal leadership and the pushback against the 'modesty wars' are shaping an Orthodox community that is struggling to be 'fit for purpose' in contemporary society. She does not hesitate to ask the difficult questions, acknowledging that answers may be elusive. Her bold predictions for the future may infuriate, but they cannot be easily ignored.

    About the Author:

    Sally Berkovic was born in Australia and is the daughter of Slovakian Holocaust survivors. She studied at Melbourne University and worked as a social worker and academic for ten years. Sally lived in Jerusalem and New York before an epistolary romance brought her to London in 1993 where she established a freelance writing career while her children were young. Since 2009, she has been the CEO of the Rothschild Foundation Hanadiv Europe, supporting Jewish heritage and culture across Europe.

    Praise for Under My Hat:

    Peppered with wit, warmth and humor, painful anomalies were portrayed with honesty, alongside a conviction that rather than seek neat solutions, living with the tensions would lead to new and unexpected breakthroughs. An updated chapter introducing this republication of Berkovic's original work offers a well-informed and optimistic prognosis to those seeking a realistic alternative to the bitter rancor that often accompanies discussion the of women's status in traditional Judaism.
    --Professor Tamar Ross, author, Expanding the Palace of the Torah

    The positive changes Sally applauded 20 years ago--and has helped fuel in the intervening decades--are here to stay, and reading this wide-ranging and perceptive accounting is both a pleasure and a challenge to further action.
    --Susan Weidman Schneider, Editor in Chief, Lilith magazine

    …What is unique in Sally's writing is her affectionate, bemused and sometimes very funny depiction of the resistance of her community to any hint of feminism. Her conclusion is optimistic as she summarizes the astonishing transformation in the prospects of women over the last two decades. The acute, concerned and unconventional voice of a social anthropologist who writes from the inside.
    --Dr Aviva Zornberg, author, Moses, A Human Life

    Reviews: By Ilana Kurshan, Jewish Review of Book

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  • Ask the Rabbi

    Volume Augmented Edition

    Rabbi Ron Isaacs

    Does God really have a chosen people? Do Jews believe in an afterlife? Why do all Jewish holidays begin at night? When is it okay to tell a lie? What does Judaism say about being gay? From the mundane to the perplexing, Rabbi Ron Isaacs answers all your Questions about the Jewish faith in a manner that is warm, wise, and witty. Isaacs brings his many years of experience as a rabbi and scholar to create a family-friendly resource that you and your children can use again and again to answer questions as they arise in your day-to-day lives -- such as questions about worship services, blessings, famous people in the Bible, miracles, fast days, Rosh Hashanah, Hanukkah, the Seder, circumcision, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, marriage, keeping kosher, sex, death and dying, medical ethics, Jewish beliefs, Hasidim, Jewish denominations, rabbis and cantors, black Jews, Jewish professions, what others think of the Jews, Israel, ritual garments, the Torah, the mezuzah, anti-Semitic documents and statements, Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jews, language, Jews and cults, kabbalah, classic Jewish books, and an all new chapter on animals.

    About the Author

    Rabbi Ron Isaacs is currently the rabbi of Beth Judah Temple in Wildwood New Jersey. He is also the Rabbi Emeritus of Temple Sholom in Bridgewater New Jersey, a congregation which he served for forty years. In recent years he has used his guitar skills to offer therapeutic music to people in hospice. Ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, Rabbi Ron received his doctorate in education from Columbia University Teacher's College. 

    He is the author of more than one hundred books, including the well known Every Person s Guide to Judaism to series. 

    Known as the teaching rabbi, Rabbi Ron has taught in the Graduate Rabbinical School of the Jewish Theological Seminary, Drew University, and has lectured throughout the United States in various synagogues and Jewish Community Centers. He also has chaired the Rabbinical Assembly's Publications Committee.

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  • The Light That Unites

    Aaron Goldscheider

    Anyone seeking the deeper meaning, the true spirituality of Chanukah, will want to have this book as a holiday companion and guide. This first-of-its-kind book offers a teaching for each candle of Chanukah gathered from the most beloved and esteemed sages and masters: Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, and other great luminaries. Be prepared for a new appreciation of Chanukah, the holiday of light and unity. Learn More
  • Thirteen Steps

    Rabbi Joseph Karasick

    Rabbi Joseph Karasick was one of the leaders who helped preserve Orthodoxy in twentieth century America. His life story is a compelling testament to the Orthodox community's deep inner strength and its ability to confront challenges, persevere, and triumph. Learn More
  • Four Rabbis at Lunch

    Dov Peretz Elkins

    Many people want to know what rabbis talk about when they know that no layperson is listening. Four Rabbis At Lunch provides a fictional attempt at replicating some of these intimate, no layperson present conversations by listening in on four rabbis as they meet for their weekly lunch. 

     About the Author

    Rabbi Dov Peretz Elkins is a nationally known lecturer, educator, workshop leader, author, and book critic, and is a popular speaker on the Jewish circuit. Rabbi Elkins is a recipient of the National Jewish Book Award and is the author of over fifty books. His Chicken Soup For The Jewish Soul was on the NY Times best-seller list. His most recent books are Jewish Stories from Heaven and Earth: Inspiring Tales to Nourish the Heart and SoulTales of the RighteousSimple Actions for Jews to Help Green the PlanetHeart and Scroll: Inspiring Stories from the MastersIn the Spirit: Insights for Spiritual Renewal in the 21st Century; and For Those Left Behind: A Jewish Anthology of Comfort and Healing.

    Praise for Four Rabbis At Lunch:

    “What do rabbis discuss when they get together in private? Dov Peretz Elkins, a rabbi of many years and a writer, makes that question the intriguing basis for his new novel, Four Rabbis at Lunch.”

    Professor Susannah Heschel, Dartmouth College


    Four Rabbis at Lunch is a marvelous discussion sprinkled with seriousness, humor and a great amount of important information about what rabbis have to deal with whatever their denomination and struggles. Much to learn from, to have a good laugh, and think what Judaism is all about and why it is of crucial importance.”

    Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo, author of Jewish Law as Rebellion


    “Based on his lifetime of experience in the Conservative rabbinate, Dov Peretz Elkins invites readers to eavesdrop as four fictional rabbis – Conservative, Orthodox and Reform – gather weekly to converse and schmooze. Major issues that rabbis face in their work – everything from intermarriage and Israel to circumcision and sex – fill out these conversations, which are punctuated by learning, humor and practical wisdom. More eye-opening than any sermon, this is a guide to what rabbis really talk about among themselves.”

    Professor Jonathan D. Sarna, Brandeis University


    “Through the lunch-table conversation of four imaginary rabbis, Four Rabbis at Lunch offers the reader an original perspective on the Jewish community and Jewish religious leadership in our time by a master rabbi drawing on his decades of experience in the Jewish community.”

    Professor Raymond Scheindlin, Jewish Theological Seminary


    “Rabbi Elkins has written a book that richly reflects his many years on the pulpit. His liberal Conservative perspective is balanced by other rabbinic voices he has created. The result is a book that teaches his valuable Torah in an engaging and charming way.”

    Rabbi David A. Teutsch, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College


    “The rabbis may be fictional, but the brilliant Rabbi Dov Peretz Elkins is sharing truths stranger and more meaningful than fiction. If you’ve ever wondered how rabbis make decisions, grab this book. You’ll find it hard to put down!”

    Professor Ron Wolfson, American Jewish University

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  • Questions Obnoxious* Jewish Teenagers Ask

    Rabbi Mordechai Soskil

    Over the last twenty years I’ve had a chance to work with all sorts of teens from all parts of the Jewish community and I’ve noticed that they all have very similar questions. In some places those questions are encouraged and discussed openly. In some places those questions are whispered and hidden. I hope you have at least one adult you can speak to with your questions. Questions are good! The whole process of learning Torah is based on questions! If you’re not asking questions then how do we know if you’re really engaged in what we’re doing? And not asking the questions out loud doesn’t make the questions go away. It makes them roll around in your head until they make quite the racket. Sometimes teens don’t ask because they think their questions are so powerful that if they got out the whole system of Torah will crumble under the weight of the question. Well, wonderful and important teenager, that is wholly unlikely.

    So this book is about questions teens like to ask. We’ll try to explore some thinking on the big topics: davening, faith, working with parents that are complicated, Hashem, Torah, the purpose of life, that sort of thing. Maybe you’ll like my answers. Maybe you’ll have more questions. That’s great. Ask them. You deserve really great answers. You are, after all, the most important thing in all of creation.

    Okay, let’s jump right in. Who’s got a question?

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  • Journey to Open Orthodoxy

    Avraham ''Avi'' Weiss

    In Journey to Open Orthodoxy, Rabbi Avi Weiss outlines his vision of Judaism - a vision that in recent years has become known as ''Open Orthodoxy.'' The scope of this work reveals that Open Orthodoxy goes well beyond such controversial issues as women's ordination and LGBT+ inclusion. For Rav Avi, Open Orthodoxy is holistic, embracing the whole of Jewish spiritual, religious, halakhic and national life. The title of the book, Journey to Open Orthodoxy, invites readers to evaluate the book's content while assessing their own journeys, leading, it may be hoped, to a consideration of an Orthodoxy that is inclusive, non-judgmental, loving, modern and open.

    Topics Include:
    Mesorah: Bridging Past and Future
    Is Halakha (Jewish Law) Ethical?
    Da'at Torah: Do Decisions of the Rabbis Close Off Discussion?
    Nation Is Family
    Creating Spaces for those with Disabilities
    Embracing the Elderly
    Alternatives to Kiruv (Outreach)
    Interdenominational and Interfaith Relations
    Infusing Halakha with Spirituality
    Women Rabbis
    Belief and Doubt
    Coping with Adversity
    Jewish Leadership
    Reining in Israel s Chief Rabbinate
    Conversion: Building Walls or Welcoming People In?
    Mission-Driven Judaism
    Ritualizing the Shoah
    The Holiness of Israeli Soldiers

    "[Rabbi Weiss'] writings… his reflections on how his worldview has grown, matured and diversified are a welcome addition to our literature... A wide-ranging audience will, through this work, have the chance to examine and be moved by Rabbi Weiss up close and personally." --Professor Jeffrey S. Gurock

    About the Author

    Rabbi Avi Weiss is the Founding Rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale-the Bayit, and founder of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School and Yeshivat Maharat. He is also the co-founder of the International Rabbinic Fellowship (IRF), an international organization of Modern Orthodox rabbis. Rabbi Weiss served as National Chairman of the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry (SSSJ) from 1982-1991 and subsequently as National President for AMCHA - the Coalition for Jewish Concerns, raising a voice of moral conscience on behalf of the Jewish people and humankind throughout the world. In 2013, Newsweek ranked him the 10th most prominent rabbi in the United States. Rabbi Weiss is the author of Holistic Prayer, Women at Prayer, and Spiritual Activism.

    Click here for LA Jewish Journal feature review of Journey to Open Orthodoxy 

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  • Living in the Presence

    Benjamin Epstein Ph.D.

     About the book: Have you ever questioned the purpose of our earthly existence? Why am I here? What is my role in the overall scheme? And what should I do to make that purpose meaningful and fulfilling? The answer, explains Psychologist and Mindfulness Meditation teacher and consultant Benjamin Epstein, is by “Living in the Presence.” Living in the present has become a therapeutic cornerstone; living in the presence transforms the technique into a life-changing experience. With exquisite simplicity, straightforwardness, and heartfulness, “Dr. Benjy” presents an approach culled from the teachings of the great Jewish spiritual masters that span thousands of years.

    This approach demonstrates how Jewish tradition is extraordinary in conjoining the Divine and the mundane, essentially postulating that the present moment--each present moment-- holds the key to connecting to the Divine. Imbuing workaday life with transcendent meaning, this book demonstrates that our awareness of the divinity manifest within the present moment consecrates the present with presence, and makes it both meaningful and holy. This book is designed to introduce you to who you are, as God made you, and to the gift God has placed within you. Living in the Presence – a Jewish Mindfulness Guide for Everyday Life provides a practical and hands-on roadmap to discover purpose in your life, to capture and experience some of the benefits of the world-to-come...right now, in this world.



    About the author: Rabbi Benjamin Epstein, Ph.D. is an experienced psychologist, author, and speaker who blends traditional Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) with cognitive behavioral, spiritual, and acceptance techniques. Dr. Benjy works effectively across a broad spectrum of age groups to enhance well-being by teaching how to live more mindfully and in the present. In addition to his private practice and mindfulness seminars, he spends his summers as the Director of Staff Development and Clinical Research in Camp HASC.



    “Living in the Presence is a work of art that could only have been written by someone who is truly living in the present. My dear friend Dr. Benjy has his finger on the pulse of our turbulent generation, one that is seeking more than ever a practical path of mindfulness and emunah to live by. This is a treasure.”     – HaRav Moshe Weinberger, Marah d’Atra of Congregation Aish Kodesh, Woodmere, NY and Mashpia at Yeshiva University

    “Living in the Presence is an invaluable resource for those looking to deepen the connection between mindfulness and spirituality, specifically as it relates to the Jewish faith. While contemporary research makes an effort to remove the transcendent from mindfulness practices, Dr. Epstein deftly articulates that indeed it is the spiritual element that gives mindfulness the ability to transform the totality of how a person relates to his daily existence. This is a book of enormous breadth and depth and will enhance the lives of those who internalize its message.”      – Harold G. Koenig, M.D., Director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health Duke University Medical Center

    “Ben Epstein masterfully connects ancient religious wisdom with modern scientific research, providing a roadmap to a more spiritual, happier, existence.”        – Tal Ben-Shahar, Ph.D., Founder of Happiness Studies Academy Co. and Founder of Maytiv Center

    “Living in the Presence reveals a way of being that attunes us to the beauty, opportunity and blessing inherent in each moment and every breath. Dr. Epstein is a master craftsman and guide cultivating positivity, confidence, joy, gratitude awareness and self-acceptance. In setting us on the path of spiritual mindfulness, Dr. Benjy’s handiwork is an invaluable gift for all of us who yearn for wholeness and deeper connection with others and within. This book serves as a reminder to Dr. Benjy’s mantra that “the goal is soul.”          – Rabbi Judah Mischel, Founder of Tzama Nafshi, Executive Director of Camp Hasc, and Mashpia at NCSY

    “My religious, spiritual, and professional identities simultaneously intersected while reading Living in the Presence: A Jewish Mindfulness Guide for Everyday Life. Dr. Benjamin Epstein has written a unique text that offers sound guidelines for daily mindfulness practice in a busy world. If you are Jewish, if you are a mindfulness practitioner, if you are an acceptance and mindfulness clinician or researcher, or any combination thereof, you should definitely buy and read this book. You will be glad you did!”          – Amy R. Murrell, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of North Texas and Author of the Becca Epps Series on Bending your Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviors

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  • The Year 6000

    Dr. Robert Wolf

    This book explores the historical basis for the significance of the year 6000 and what the world can expect. Moreover, it explains how we should prepare for this moment both spiritually and practically. The book demonstrates how close we are to the Year 6000 and the coming of the Mashiach.

    We need to move forward as a unified people as we approach this great moment. Learn More

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