Title: Meet Me In the Middle
By Michael Feldstein
If you enjoy a conversation with an acquaintance who brings insight, appreciation and humor into the discussion, Michael Feldstein has written the book for you: Meet Me In the Middle. The ‘middle’ is where he offers Collected Essays on Contemporary Jewish Life: he’s in the midst of the Jewish community; he comments on many issues but doesn’t advocate extreme positions; his ideal is the Rambam’s sh’vil hazahav, the golden mean.
The 98 essays are between two and three pages long. He knows that “For the Orthodox Jewish Sports Fan, October Is the Cruelest Month,” with major games being played on yomim tovim. He gives “Kudos for the Congregation Kiddush,” where members have a chance to develop friendships. He offers ideas for bringing people back to shuls after two years of backyard minyanim. At one point he mentions “JFK,” Just For Kiddush, a new phenomenon of not davening at a shul or becoming a member, but showing up for food and drink. (Should the ‘F’ stand for ‘Freeloading?)
In “My Love Affair with ArtScroll” he appreciates the entry to Torah learning that this publisher has provided. Jokes and criticism aside, he sees the benefit in readable English translation next to the Hebrew text.
“Debating the Value of Ivrit b’Ivrit,” on the correct pedagogical approach to teaching students Hebrew, is a topic that occupies many of us. He presents both sides: what is gained by students’ quicker understanding of English? What is lost by not having access to texts that have not been translated? (I would add, on the con side, that we are hampered in Israel if we cannot converse in Hebrew.)
“7 Things I’d Like to Change at Jewish Weddings” is brilliant. So many aspects of Jewish weddings, like the timing, customs in dancing, and the loudness of the music, could all use the improvements he suggests. (I don’t agree with him on women having a larger role at the ceremony; I think it’s a beautiful, solemn moment that doesn’t require embellishment). Michael Feldstein is such a genial observer of the current scene, that I’d like to discuss this with him. We’ll meet in the middle.
Among the delights of this book is the joy he takes in his family – his wife Sharon, their son Yosef and his wife Hillary, their grandchildren – and in observant Jewish life. He dedicates the book to Tova, their daughter who passed away in January 2023. Despite challenges, she created a meaningful, memorable life in her 35 years.
It is evident from my parenthetic comments that he gets the reader to think. The single mistake in this vital book is that the Ivrit essay is listed on the wrong page; it is actually on page 198.
This is good. Rav Eliyahu Akiva Rabinovich, who founded Hamodia more than a century ago, said that if a reviewer finds one good quality in a book, it’s not a good sign. If a reviewer says there is one mistake, but the rest of the book is outstanding, that’s a positive review.
This is a positive review.
For more information, see meet-me-in-the-middle-book.com.