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September 25, 2016 / 22 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘author’

Rabbi Maurice Lamm – Prominent Spiritual Leader, Author, And Teacher – Passes Away

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016

Rabbi Maurice Lamm, a major presence in the American Orthodox rabbinate in the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s, as well as a teacher to hundreds of thousands through his immensely popular Jewish books, died last week. He was 86.

Rabbi Lamm authored The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning, on the laws and practices of burial, shiva and mourning, which has sold over 750,000 copies since its first printing in 1969.

Additionally, he wrote The Jewish Way in Love and Marriage, The Power of Hope, Becoming a Jew, and Consolation. Each of these was also a best-seller in the Jewish world.

From 1972 to 1985 Rabbi Lamm served as head rabbi at Beth Jacob Congregation in Beverly Hills, Calif., one of the largest Orthodox synagogues in America. He also connected with and influenced the Orthodox community at large through his affiliation with the Rabbinical Council of America, the journal Tradition and several other boards and organizations. He was also recognized as a first-class orator, lecturing abroad and overseas, from Israel to Australia to several countries in Europe.

Maurice Lamm was born in 1930, the second of four children to Sam and Peppy Lamm in Brooklyn. Lamm studied for many years at Yeshiva Torah Vodaath, and then at Yeshiva University under Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, from whom he received semicha in 1954. Later in life he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Yeshiva University, from which he held bachelors and masters degrees.

Rabbi Lamm was very close with Rabbi Soloveitchik, of whom he frequently asked many halachic questions. Rabbi Lamm used to recall that when he would ask Rabbi Soloveitchik a particularly strange question, the latter would reply, “They do things in an interesting way in California.”

Rabbi Lamm married Shirley Friedman, the daughter of Rabbi and Mrs. M. Friedman of New Haven, Connecticut, in 1955.

After receiving semicha, Rabbi Lamm served as a chaplain first lieutenant in the U.S. Army. After his discharge he served as rabbi in Puerto Rico and then Floral Park, New York. It was there that Rabbi Lamm started his writing career by publishing And I Shall Glorify Him, an 89-page companion work to Herman Wouk’s This Is My God.

In 1966 Rabbi Lamm assumed the pulpit at the Hebrew Institute of the Bronx. It was around this time that scores of Orthodox Jews were moving out of the South Bronx, to Riverdale and elsewhere. The Lamms moved out as well, to Yonkers, but Rabbi Lamm continued to walk to the Hebrew Institute every Shabbos.

Meanwhile, the Jewish Welfare Board asked Rabbi Lamm to became its field director of military chaplains with the civilian equivalent of major general. He started traveling to meet, bring aid, and comfort and teach U.S. chaplains in countries such as Vietnam and the Philippines.

In 1972, Beth Jacob of Beverly Hills came calling, and the family – Shirley and Maurice and their three children, David, Judith, and Dodi – moved to Los Angeles. The Lamms bought a home in Beverly Hills and fixed it up. Shirley felt they should purchase their own home rather than have the shul buy it for them. She decorated it herself. One of their first guests was Elie Wiesel, who came to lecture at a shul event.

After 13 years at Beth Jacob, during which time the synagogue’s membership rose from 400 to more than 1,000, Rabbi Lamm established The Desert Synagogue in Palm Springs, Calif., where he served as the rabbi for several years. He then retired from the rabbinate to the East Coast. But his career continued to thrive; for many years he held the chair in professional rabbinics at YU’s rabbinical school, RIETS, as well as serving on the faculty at Stern College for Women. He also continued to write and publish books. His last one, Consolation – in some ways a sequel to The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning – has been one of his most critically acclaimed and popular volumes.

Shlomo Greenwald

Holocaust Author and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Elie Wiesel Dead at 87

Saturday, July 2nd, 2016

Holocaust survivor and author Elie Wiesel who in 1986 was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, is dead, according to a Saturday announcement by Yad Vashem. He was 87 years old. Wiesel died in his New York home. He was survived by his wife, his son and two grandchildren.

Wiesel was born in in Sighet, Transylvania (Romania), in the Carpathian Mountains, on September 30, 1928. Wiesel’s mother, Sarah, was the daughter of a Vizhnitz Hasid who spent time in jail for helping Polish Jews enter the country illegally. Wiesel’s father, Shlomo, encouraged him to learn Hebrew and to read literature, while his mother encouraged him to study the Torah. Wiesel had three siblings – older sisters Beatrice and Hilda, and younger sister Tzipora. Beatrice and Hilda survived the war and were reunited with Wiesel at a French orphanage. They eventually emigrated to North America, with Beatrice moving to Canada. Tzipora, Shlomo, and Sarah did not survive the Holocaust.

In 1944, the German army deported the Jewish community in Sighet to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Wiesel and his father were sent to the work camp Buna, a subcamp of Auschwitz III-Monowitz. He managed to remain with his father for more than eight months as they were shuffled among three concentration camps in the final days of the war.

On January 28, 1945, just a few weeks after the two were marched to Buchenwald, Wiesel’s father was beaten by an SS guard as he was suffering from dysentery, starvation, and exhaustion. He was also beaten by other inmates for his food. He was later sent to the crematorium, only weeks before the camp was liberated by the US Third Army on April 11.

For ten years after the war, Wiesel refused to write about or discuss his experiences during the Holocaust. However, a meeting with the French author François Mauriac, the 1952 Nobel Laureate in Literature, and a discussion he had with the Lubavitcher Rebbe were turning points for him. His first memoir, in Yiddish, titled, And the World Remained Silent, was published in Buenos Aires. He rewrote a new version of the manuscript in French, which was published as La Nuit, and translated into English as Night. Wiesel had trouble finding a publisher and the book initially sold only a few copies.

In 1960 Hill & Wang agreed to pay a $100 pro-forma advance and published it in the United States in September that year as Night. The book sold only 1,046 copies, but attracted interest from reviewers, leading to television interviews with Wiesel and meetings with literary figures such as Saul Bellow. “The English translation came out in 1960, and the first printing was 3,000 copies,” Wiesel said in an interview. “And it took three years to sell them. Now, I get 100 letters a month from children about the book. And there are many, many millions of copies in print.”

Night has been translated into 30 languages. By 1997 the book was selling 300,000 copies annually in the United States alone. By March 2006, about six million copies were sold in the United States. On January 16, 2006, Oprah Winfrey chose the work for her book club. One million extra paperback and 150,000 hardcover copies were printed carrying the “Oprah’s Book Club” logo, with a new translation by Wiesel’s wife, Marion, and a new preface by Wiesel. On February 12, 2006, the new translation of Night was No. 1 on The New York Times bestseller list for paperback non-fiction and the original translation placed third.

Wiesel and his wife started the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity. He served as chairman for the Presidential Commission on the Holocaust (later renamed US Holocaust Memorial Council) from 1978 to 1986, spearheading the building of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, during which he pleaded for US intervention in Yugoslavia after a visit there in 1992.

Wiesel and his wife invested their life savings, and the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity invested nearly all of its assets (approximately $15.2 million) through Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, an experience that caused Wiesel deep pain.

JNi.Media

Hunting Nazis To Their Dying Day: An Interview with Author Andrew Nagorski

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

Major Wilhelm Trapp, who led of one of the most notorious Nazi killing squads in Poland, once said to his driver, “If this Jewish business is ever avenged on earth, then have mercy on us Germans.”

Most Nazis never did meet justice on this earth. That even a few did is largely thanks to a small group of individuals – both Jews and non-Jews – who refused to forget and forgive. They are the subject of a new book by award-winning journalist and author Andrew Nagorski, “The Nazi Hunters” (Simon & Schuster), available in bookstores on May 10.

The Jewish Press: What was the immediate reaction of Jews to their Nazi tormentors after the Holocaust?

Nagorski: Many people had a natural urge to seek vengeance. One of the characters I interviewed for the book told me he saw a group of concentration camp prisoners who, after their liberation, put an SS officer on a metal tray and fried him alive in the crematorium.

So that was the first impulse. But pretty quickly it transformed into an impulse not for vengeance but for justice. They felt there had to be individual accountability and there had to be a record of what had happened because the greatest fear of many survivors was that the world would quickly forget or even deny its existence.

The Allies tried a number of Nazi leaders after World War II but soon soured on holding trials and even commuted the sentences of some of those who had already been convicted. Why?

At first there was the question: What do you do with these people? Stalin suggested we just take out a whole bunch of them and have them shot. Then there was talk of trials, but Churchill was reluctant because he was afraid they would be show trials. The Americans, though, said we have to show that these people are responsible.

So that was implemented in the Nuremberg and Dachau trials. But with the advent of the Cold War, both the Soviets and the Americans were much more concerned about recruiting German scientists and getting West Germany or East Germany lined up on their side, so there was a lot of pressure to commute some of these sentences and stop some of the trials.

In the book you write about the Adolf Eichmann trial at some length and note that some prominent individuals – Isaiah Berlin and Erich Fromm, for example – were morally opposed to Israel trying him. Why?

Many people said it was going to look like vengeance. But Ben-Gurion’s government felt they needed this for internal consumption as much as anything else. Gabriel Bach, who is the last surviving member of the team that prosecuted Eichmann, told me there was almost a feeling of shame about the Holocaust in Israel, especially among the younger generation. They didn’t understand how Jews could go “like sheep to the slaughter.”

The Eichmann trial gave Israel a chance to educate a whole generation about how the Holocaust transpired – how Jews were deceived at every turn, how it was impossible in most cases to resist, and how when there were possibilities to resist, people did.

Several years after the Eichmann trial, Israel pursued and killed Nazi-collaborator Herbert Cukurs, who was known as the “Butcher of Riga.” Why didn’t they try him like they did Eichmann?

Cukurs had escaped to Latin America, and in 1965 someone posing as an Austrian businessman lured him to a house in Uruguay where a group of Mossad agents standing only in their underwear – so that no blood would get on their clothes – killed him. They then left a note saying this was vengeance for what he did.

This operation has always been cloaked in mystery since this was not the way the Mossad normally operated. When I talked to Rafi Eitan, who was the Mossad agent on the Eichmann case, his only explanation was that it must have been something personal. Maybe the parents of someone high up in the Mossad died at the hands of Cukurs.

After Eichmann, number 1 on the list of many Nazi hunters was Dr. Josef Mengele. He, however, managed to elude their grasp. Can you talk a bit about him and the efforts to find him?

He was known as the “Angel of Death” and was a particularly vicious person who sent countess Jews to their deaths and conducted really horrible experiments on people, especially twins.

After catching Eichmann, the Israelis made some efforts to find Mengele. A couple of agents were on his trail – one of them thinks he may have even seen Mengele walking on a country path – but then they were called away to work on a child custody case [the Yossele Schumacher affair].

Mengele drowned off the coast of Brazil in 1979, and his remains were definitively identified in 1985.

In addition to describing Israel’s forays into Nazi hunting, you profile a number of individual Nazi hunters in your book, including Simon Wiesenthal. Wiesenthal is somewhat of a polarizing figure among Nazi hunters with some regarding him as a hero and others as a publicity-seeking hound. What’s your take?

Even those who quarreled with Wiesenthal – including, most famously, Isser Harel, the head of the Mossad – give him credit for pressuring governments to put Nazi war criminals on trial, especially in the 1950s and ‘60s when most governments were turning away from this whole issue.

He kept up the momentum when it could’ve died and, with it, the whole era of Nazi-hunting. The fact that we have trials of elderly Auschwitz guards in Germany today is to a large extent the product of the early efforts of Nazi hunters – Wiesenthal foremost among them – not to allow the public to forget.

Perhaps the most interesting Nazi hunters featured in your book are Serge and Beate Klarsfeld. Can you talk a bit about them?

They are a fascinating couple. Beate, who isn’t Jewish, was born in Germany. Her father served in the Wehrmacht, and when she was growing up her parents didn’t speak much about the war or the Holocaust. When she about 20, though, she went to Paris to strike out on her own and met her husband Serge whose father had died in Auschwitz. At that point, Beate started discovering what had happened during the war and became this really radical Nazi hunter.

One of her more brazen actions took place in 1968 when she was so outraged that the German chancellor – Kurt Georg Kiesinger – had been a member of the Nazi party that she got a press pass to the Christian Democrats’ convention, walked up to the chancellor, and slapped him in the face.

Later, as a couple, the Klarsfelds went after top Nazis – most prominently Klaus Barbie – who had served in occupied France and were responsible for the murder of [tens of thousands of] Jews. They personally tracked Klaus Barbie down in Latin America and kept up the pressure on the French government to have him extradited and put on trial. He was, in fact, ultimately put on trial and died in prison.

A 94-year-old Auschwitz guard, Reinhold Hanning, is currently being tried in Germany for his role in the Holocaust. Some people wonder if putting such an elderly man on trial for crimes he committed 75 years ago makes sense. How do contemporary Nazi hunters today see it?

Each of these cases is seen as a way to bear witness to what happened. And since there are only a few of these people still left – just as there are fewer and fewer Holocaust survivors left – these cases become even more important. Individual testimonies are the most powerful tool to educate the world about what happened.

It’s interesting, by the way, that the Germans courts have finally accepted something they did not accept before. Today you no longer have to prove that an individual Nazi killed or tortured a specific person. It is enough just to show that his role was essential for the mass killing. So if you served as a guard in Auschwitz, for example, you were part of the killing machinery and can be held accountable.

Once this legal principle [was accepted in 2011], Germany started looking through the records of Auschwitz guards and other guards to see who was still alive, who was mentally capable, and who was in Germany. That’s where the Reinhold Hanning trial originated.

Elliot Resnick

Book Review: Simon Sebag Montefiore’s ‘Jerusalem: The Biography’

Friday, October 18th, 2013

By Henry Goldblum

At first glance, Simon Sebag Montefiore’s best seller Jerusalem: The Biography is surely impressive. Media critics as well as Henry Kissinger have showered it with praise, and the BBC devoted a timely three-part TV series to the author, providing invaluable publicity. Indeed, the book is not dull by any standards. Drama abounds – be it in chapter headings (take chapter 5, “The Whore of Babylon”) or in the description of events, such as the Moloch ceremonies in the days of King Menasseh, “the sacrifice of children at the roaster…in the Valley of Hinom…as priests beat drums to hide the shrieks of the victims from their parents” (p. 39). The Muslim invasion is depicted in graphic detail, particularly the battle of 636 CE, which took place “amidst the impenetrable gorges of the Yarmuk River” (p. 172) – although the area through which the Yarmuk flows is in fact more of an open plain.

Renouncing Uniqueness

Sebag Montefiore has clearly invested much effort in conveying his vision of Jerusalem – past, present, and future. The result reflects thoughtful study of many sources relating to different features of the city, and the author certainly recognizes its special status. However, in his apparent desire to deal evenhandedly with the various local religions, he fails to make it clear that it is only for Jews and Judaism that Jerusalem is, was, and has always been the sole spiritual center on earth. This omission is unacceptable. The author rightly refers, if only en passant, to Midrash Tanhuma and the writings of Philo of Alexandria as two examples of this basic, constant belief, unlimited by time or circumstance. The intensity of Jerusalem’s sacred status for Judaism is such that later monotheistic faiths have attempted at various times to gain a foothold in the city, despite their having other, holier places (Mecca and Medina, Rome and Bethlehem). Perhaps recognizing the significance of capturing the “chosen status” of Judaism, they have utilized diverse strategies to prop up their variant “histories,” including reinterpreting Muhammad’s miraculous night visit to the “Farthest Mosque” on the outskirts of Mecca to include a stopover in Jerusalem.

It has always been fundamental for the Jew to appreciate this imbalance, and it cannot be overlooked in any attempt to describe Jerusalem. Sebag Montefiore has downgraded this uniquely Jewish aspect of the city; as far as he is concerned, Judaism’s monopoly on Jerusalem is limited to part 1 of his book, extending until the year 70 CE. Parts 2-8 belong primarily to other faiths and peoples, and the final section of the book, dating from 1898, is titled “Zionism,” as if the re-establishment of Jewish sovereignty is a separate chapter in the history of the city rather than the restorationof a violently interrupted continuum. Significantly, he neglects to emphasize thata Jewish majority has dominated the citywhenever circumstances have permitted,including from the early 19th century onwardwithout interruption; nor does he remind thereader that only when Jews have ruled thecity have all other faiths enjoyed full rights ofworship there.

Historically Dubious These omissions are partially explained by the almost complete absence of references to classic Jewish works compiled in the Land of Israel – despite their obvious relevance in terms of place, time, and subject. Thus, the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds are together accorded a mere four quotations; the output of Jewish historians from Graetz to current Israeli scholars not of the revisionist mode is similarly glaringly absent. In contrast, detailed descriptions of events and individuals taken from non-Jewish sources abound – even when their relevance is historically uncertain or unsound – notably the passages on Jesus in chapter 11. The sole reference to Jesus in Josephus (Antiquities, book 17, 63-64), whom Sebag Montefiore cites among other non- Jewish sources as confirmation of his existence as a historic character, is widely regarded as being of dubious authorship (see Emil Schürer’s History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus, vol. 1, p. 428ff.).

The reliability of the author’s statement at the opening of the Islam section is similarly questionable: Muhammad is said to have come “to venerate Jerusalem as one of the noblest of sanctuaries” (p. 169). With all due respect, the Koran never mentions Jerusalem, and by beginning his discussion of Islam with the reinterpretation of the passage regarding “the furthest place of worship,” Sebag Montefiore creates a false impression, especially since in Sura 2, the Prophet commands that prayer be directed exclusively to Mecca. The other quotes on page 168 are all from later Muslim sources. The term “Iliya,” a corruption of the pagan name Aelia Capitolina coined by Hadrian, continued to be used by the Muslim conquerors of Jerusalem for a generation or more following Muhammad’s death, with examples from as late as the end of the 10th century. This is the name of the city appearing on the milestones of Caliph al-Malik, who built the Dome of the Rock in the 690s. The name Al-Quds, “The Sanctuary,“ came into common use only in the 11th century, in the context of the struggle between Crusaders and Saracens for dominion over the Holy Land (see Moshe Gil, The Political History of Jerusalem in the Early Muslim Period, p. 10). The anecdote concerning Caliph Omar’s tour of the Temple Mount (p. 175 in Sebag Montefiore’s book) only reiterates the secondary status of Jerusalem in Islam – the caliph rebukes Kaab, a converted Jew, who suggests praying in the direction of the Temple on the mount rather than toward Mecca. As Bernard Lewis has stated in The Middle East, “Much of the traditional narrative of the early history of Islam must remain problematic, whilst the critical history is at best tentative” (p. 51). Why, then, has Sebag Montefiore adopted Islamic accounts regarding this period so readily? Is he perhaps playing to Muslim sensibilities? All this leads us to an epilogue that looks forward, as might be expected from the previous sections, to a permanent division of the city into two capitals for two states, in accordance with current liberal and revisionist dogma. The hope of witnessing such a chapter in the history of Jerusalem rankles coming from a scion of the illustrious Montefiore family, whose philanthropy was once invested in the furtherance of a quite different destiny for the city.

Admittedly, Jerusalem: The Biography provides an enjoyable ride. A more appropriate destination and a less controversial and dangerous route might be preferable, but that, presumably, would require a change of driver.

Dr. Heny Goldblum is a lawyer and a scholar of history

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David Bedein

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