In 2021, Hanukkah starts the evening of Sunday, November 28, and Rabbi Lenore Bohm writes this week’s ReadTheSpirit cover story about trying to rediscover the holiday’s meaning beneath the vast weight of the holiday industry.
What you will discover in her column is a list of powerful Hanukkah themes to ponder:
- Minorities are always at risk of being attacked, from the outside, for their differences.
- Minorities are always at risk for being seduced, from the outside, to join the dominant group and abandon their uniqueness.
- Within minorities, people differ on how much the group should insist on retaining their authenticity, their particularism.
- A culture/religion that never changes will atrophy.
- A culture/religion that always changes will lose its identity.
Clearly, all of these are challenges millions of families face every day, all year ’round.
That’s why, since our inception in 2007, Front Edge Publishing and ReadTheSpirit Books have proudly published books by a diverse group of authors. Many of our books have been written by Jewish authors. Editor David Crumm wrote about some of those books in March: Passover wisdom: Our Jewish Authors Inspire Us to Celebrate Freedom, Diversity and Compassion.
In light of Rabbi Bohm’s Hanukkah column, I want to focus on just a few related titles that David included in his earlier list.
Finding God In Unexpected Places: Wisdom For Everyone From the Jewish Tradition
“Rabbi Riemer offers us the kind of wisdom that we need in order to survive and thrive,” writes Dr. Bernie Siegel, best-selling author of a dozen books about spirituality and healing. The late Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel adds, “Jack Riemer’s words are songs of hope and faith. Listen to them as I do.”
Widely sought after as a master storyteller and teacher, Riemer is one of the most frequently quoted rabbis in the U.S. That’s because of the winding paths he takes in describing the relevance of timeless Jewish wisdom in our modern world.
What do a professional baseball player, Elizabeth Taylor’s jewelry box, a hurricane, a garbage dump and a blue blazer hanging in your closet have to do with each other? They’re all turning points in Riemer’s stories that lead us toward universal questions we all confront at some point in life, including:
Is there a dream that gives meaning to your life? What are our duties to the people we love? How do you make a decision when you’re caught between two conflicting values? And, what would you do if you found out that your time on this earth was almost up?
Reflecting on Riemer’s wisdom about life, retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor writes that the rabbi “is obviously a person with much understanding of the human situation.”
Word of warning: The stories in this book may surprise you and perhaps make you chuckle, but they could change your life, as well.
Interfaith Heroes I and Interfaith Heroes 2
Then, in light of Rabbi Bohm’s reminder to reflect on the challenges faced by religious minorities, we also recommend reading books by Daniel Buttry, an internationally known peacemaker who writes about men and women from many different faith traditions who share this deep concern.
Dan’s Interfaith Heroes1 & 2 each contain 31 days of inspiring short biographies of men and women throughout history who have crossed traditional boundaries of religious groups to build stronger communities. Most readers will discover new uplifting stories, including the documented efforts by Albanian Muslims during World War II to hide Jews in their attics. Sketches of other famous leaders include Baptist pioneer Roger Williams, the Sufi poet best known simply as Rumi, Hindu writer Rabindranath Tagore, Jewish theologian Martin Buber, the American evangelist Howard Thurman and the French Catholic Cardinal Aaron Jean-Marie Lustiger. These stories were written and edited by Daniel Buttry, who worked for many years as an international peacemaker and educator for American Baptist Churches. His books explore and celebrate diversity and include questions for daily reflection that are designed to spark creative thinking by people of all faiths. The sketches and daily questions could be used by discussion groups or students in classrooms studying history, global culture or the sociology of religion.
Friendship and Faith, 2nd Edition
This is a book about making friends, which may be the most important thing you can do to make the world a better place-and transform your own life in the process. Making a new friend often is tricky, as you’ll discover in these dozens of real-life stories by women from a wide variety of religious and ethnic backgrounds. But, crossing lines of religion, race and culture is worth the effort, often forming some of life’s deepest friendships, these women have found. In Friendship and Faith, you’ll discover how we really can change the world one friend at a time.
Never Long Enough: Finding Comfort and Hope Amidst Grief and Loss
And for those who are mourning as winter approaches, we recommend Never Long Enough by Rabbi Joseph Krakoff and artist Michelle Sider.
In creating Never Long Enough, a unique book about the end of life, Rabbi Joseph H. Krakoff and artist Dr. Michelle Y. Sider brought together their many years of professional expertise with families. Krakoff drew on lessons learned in many years of counseling adults and children wrestling with death, grief and remembrance. Sider’s years working as an artist, arts educator and psychologist influenced her approach in creating evocative images that demonstrate how art can help to unlock emotions and heal the heart. Together, they crafted an interactive keepsake book for families and friends, complete with pages to add personal reflections thereby transforming the book into an individualized tribute to a loved one.
Never Long Enough is designed to be read along with someone nearing the end of life — or, it can be read by mourners after a death. Whenever this book is opened, it becomes an active invitation for conversation, lifting up memories and preserving the legacy of someone’s life.
“For many years, I’ve been working with families to guide them through honest conversations about the legacy and the values that remain even as someone we love dies,” Krakoff says. “This text has already comforted so many families through this difficult, emotionally charged time.”
“I’ve seen how art can help people express themselves, bring out their feelings and tell stories. By weaving the words and art together, I hope the reader will move slowly through the pages and reflect deeply on the words. Reading and responding to this book as an individual or with loved ones becomes a very compelling and helpful experience.” says Sider.
Krakoff originally developed the thought-provoking text while in Rabbinical School at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City. As he shared that text with families, he realized that powerful imagery would heighten the healing process of reflection. Sider, inspired by the text, envisioned pairing phrases in the poem to original art. Using various techniques, she created stirring images that powerfully illuminate the text, are inclusive of different ethnicities, religions and relationships and culminate in a final, powerful blend.
Care to learn more?
Please, take a look at David Crumm’s March column: Passover wisdom: Our Jewish Authors Inspire Us to Celebrate Freedom, Diversity and Compassion.
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