Photo Credit: Feldheim Publications

Title: Finding Ourselves in the Crowd
Author: Gila Manolson
Distributed by: Feldheim

 

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Full disclosure: There is a chapter about me in Finding Ourselves in the Crowd. Despite my discomfort with the idea, author Gila Manolson was so idealistic, sensitive and discerning that I agreed to let her delve into the personal details of my life. You may be surprised to hear that the beginning of my life’s path is probably very similar to that of many of readers of The Jewish Press. Which I think is the author’s point.

Manolson took eighteen individuals she knew and admired – people she found interesting and inspiring – and wrote how they came to be special in the eyes of the Orthodox community. Special, yet they could all be your neighbors. Actually, Manolson’s point is that they can be you. All eighteen of them Orthodox Jews who, as Manolson put it, “are deeply committed, observant Jews who are doing something unique or unusual, demonstrating that we can be fully religious while still being ourselves.”

After reading about the other seventeen individuals’ stories in the book, I couldn’t have put it better myself. Each person described in Finding Ourselves in the Crowd demonstrates how from within the ordinary, every single individual can realize the potential within to become extraordinary in his or her own way.

The reader can actually witness the process through which a regular person can summon the courage to choose a path not take by others, yet which speaks to her or him. Take for example Rabbi Natan Slifkin. A childhood obsession with animals led him to become a knowledgeable and creative educator, bringing to life parts of the Torah which were previously hard to imagine, through his biblical Museum of Natural History and its programs.

Or feel for Devorah, who overcame her upbringing in a dysfunctional family to become a leading psychotherapist in the yeshivish and chassidic communities, while raising her children and supporting her husband in kollel.

Unconventional you say? Actually all the stories demonstrate the actualization of talents that Hashem granted each individual, with each one understanding that one must use those very talents to help the community. All of them are helping others.

Did you ever wonder how someone grew up to become a name that others recognize? How one person is able to impact the Orthodox community or the world in general? Gila Manolson shines a spotlight on individuals who, from within an Orthodox life, stepped out of everyone else’s seeming comfort zone and went beyond to attain a goal – a goal that helps others. Regular people, yet inspiring. Read about each in the diverse range of individuals. You may suddenly recognize yourself in one of them.

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Rachel Levmore (Ph.D. in Jewish Law from Bar Ilan University) is a rabbinical court advocate; director of the Agunah and Get-Refusal Prevention Project of the International Young Israel Movement in Israel and the Jewish Agency (iyim.org.il/prenup); member of the Israel State Commission for the Appointment of Dayanim; and author of "Min'ee Einayich Medim'a" on prenuptial agreements for the prevention of Get-refusal.
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