From the Publisher
"Bravo to Rabbi Salkin for gathering these impressive personal testimonies. They serve an urgent and vital purposereminding us of the nearly four-thousand-year bond between the Jewish People and Israel, and educating us on Israel's enduring meaning for American Jewry."
David A. Harris, executive director, American Jewish Committee
"A touching, emotional, funny book.… Every essay touches a nerve in every American Jew who loves Israel. I highly recommend this book as a personal joy to read and to give as a gift to those who ask, 'Why should I care about Israel?'"
June Walker, chairperson, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
"The shared ahavat Yisrael (love for the Land and the People of Israel) uniting the incredible diversity of voices in this important anthology redefines 'Pro-Israel.'"
Rabbi Arik W. Ascherman, executive director, Rabbis for Human Rights
“Rabbi Salkin and Jewish Lights did it again! Thank you for this inspiring gift for Israel’s 60th! A must for lovers and dreamers of Zion around the world … and a great resource for anyone who explores a contemporary engagement with Israel.”
Rabbi Uri Regev, president, World Union for Progressive Judaism
“A powerful collection of personal testimonies … Christians who care about Christian-Jewish relations need to read this collection in order to understand the inescapable importance of Israel in that relationship. It also helps us understand why church statements and actions against Israel are so painful to Jewish friends.”
David Blewett, national director, National Christian Leadership Conference for Israel (NCLCI)
“Here are voices from all over the community, from all ages, from all kinds of Jews. Together they show us the how and the why of our profound connection to Israel. This book answers the questions, why do we care so much and why should the fate of this tiny country affect us in America so deeply? The answers are personal and communal and revealing. This is an important book for all those interested in the Jewish people and their incredible story.”
Anne Roiphe, novelist, journalist and author of thirteen books
“In this sixtieth year of Israel’s independence, it is incumbent on American Jewry to take a step back to reflect on the meaning of Israel’s existence in our own lives. Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin has done us an immense favor in bringing together such a wide spectrum of writers and thinkers to ponder this question.”
Rabbi Robert R. Golub, executive director, MERCAZ USA, the Zionist arm of the Conservative Movement
“As Rabbi Nachman of Breslov wrote'wherever I travel I go to Israel.’ For me and millions of other Jewsas well as ChristiansIsrael, both spiritually and existentially, is at the very core of our identities. Wherever we go in life, Israel is on our minds, in our hearts and shaping our ethos. A Dream of Zion does a wonderful job in bringing together a rich variety of paths through which we encounter and relate to Israel, her struggle for peace and security, and the meaning it has for our lives. If you love Israelboth the nation and stateand it vibrates the strings of your neshama, this book is a must read.”
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, president, International Fellowship of Christians and Jews
“A Dream of Zion is exactly thatfilled with miracles and triumph, the joy of coming home, and at the same time, aspiration and hope, that Israel can become the land flowing with justice and righteousness. Sixty years of love can be found on page after page, a worthy testament to the vitality of the dream and of the reality.”
David M. Elcott, PhD, executive director, Israel Policy Forum
“Explores the connection to Israel from many varied perspectives that reflect on the historical, religious and contemporary underpinnings of this special and unique relationship. You will identify with some, disagree with others, but you are certain to be stimulated to thoughtful reflection on this central aspect of Jewish life.”
Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
“In this compelling volume one hears the multiplicity of views and emotions American Jews have for Israel. It demonstrates that there is no single American Jewish perspective of Israel. At this time when there are so many misconceptions about American Jewish attitudes towards Israel this book will serve an important purpose.”
Deborah E. Lipstadt, PhD, Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies, Emory University
Booklist - George Cohen
This book contains short essays by nearly one hundred American Jews, including politicians, writers, artists, academics, students and entertainers. Among the contributors are 31 rabbis and such notable people as Nat Hentoff, Louise D. Brandeis, Solomon Schechter, Albert Einstein, Lillian Hellman, Abraham Joshua Heschel and Harpo Marx. It is divided into five parts and discusses such themes as the role Israel has played in their lives, what keeps them connected to Israel and how it relates to their sense of what it means to be Jewish and American. Editor Salkin believes that many American Jews have lost their sense of connection to the State of Israel: financial support has lessened, and the ability of many American Jews to intellectually defend Israel "has become ever shakier." Offering a multitude of views, the book's air is to encourage Jews to think about what Israel means to them, giving readersboth Jews and Christiansa remarkable insight into this important subject.
Catholic News Service - Eugene J. Fisher
The year 2008 will mark the 60th anniversary of the founding of the modern state of Israel. To many of us Catholics, this will be a time to rejoice, just as it will be for our Jewish neighbors.
These two books, taken together, tell us why this is so for the Jewish people and why we, as Christians, should extend to our Jewish friends a hearty "mazel tov" on the birthday year of the Jewish state, even as we continue to pray and work for a just peace for the sake of Israelis and Palestinians alike.
Rabbi Eugene Korn's book, The Jewish Connection to Israel, the Promised Land, while designed for Christians, may well educate Jews as well to the rich and often tragic history leading in the latter half of the 20th century to the very real and very understandable need for a Jewish state in the ancient Holy Land of the people Israel.
A Dream of Zion, Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin's book, brings together scores of statements from American Jews, ranging from Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel to Harpo Marx, on what the existence of the state of Israel means for them; they are often very personal indeed.
Rabbi Korn’s book is the more systematic. Its first part establishes a foundation in an understanding of land and covenant in the Bible. Part 2 speaks first of post-biblical wanderings and then the beginnings, the "stirrings of return" with early Zionism, stirrings that became an absolute with the Holocaust. It goes on in Part 3 to narrate the history of Israel up to today, including its relationship with its Arab/Muslim neighbors.
In Part 4 Rabbi Korn delineates his hopes for the future. Here, while acknowledging the needs of Palestinians, he also takes a wider view and notes that “Jews and Christians as threatened minorities in the Middle East share a common challenge in the region. Can they live with equality and dignity together with (the region’s) overwhelming majority of Muslims?”
This is indeed, as Rabbi Korn notes, the key question that does not, by any means, have a definitive answer as yet. But by enabling Christians to better understand the Jewish side(s) of the issue, Rabbi Korn has made a contribution to such a solution.
As a small aside, it should be noted that Rabbi Korn’s book is not the first in this area. In 1987 Rabbi A. James Rudin, then of the American Jewish Committee, published his Israel for Christians: Understanding Modern Israel (Fortress Press), which, for those lucky enough to be able to get it, contains much material that Christians interested in Israel can constructively consider.
Rabbi Salkin divides his collection into five parts, the first four corresponding roughly to the major motivations of American Jewish support for Israel (self-identity, a place of refuge from continuing anti-Semitism, a place to live out in full the Jewish response to God’s covenant with them and tikkun olam, a place where Jews can work on repairing our common world and become once again a “light to the nations”).
The fifth section is given to the words of earlier generations of Americans and Jews such as Albert Einstein and Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter. Admirably, Rabbi Salkin includes a number of people who, while supporting Israel’s existence, are very critical of the policies of its government.
The book is a cross section of American Jewish thought, which in turn will encourage any reader to engage in constructive, critical thinking of the issues it raises.
Jewish Media Review - Dov Peretz Elkins
Discover what Jewish people in America have to say about Israeltheir voices have never mattered more than they do now. As anti-Israel sentiment spreads around the worldfrom Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to former President Jimmy Carterit has never been more important for American Jews to share their feelings and thoughts about Israel, and foster a connection to Israel in the next generation of Jewish and Christian adults.
This inspirational book features the insights of top scholars, business leaders, professionals, politicians, authors, artists and community and religious leaders covering the entire denominational spectrum of Jewish life in America todayand offers an exciting glimpse into the history of Zionism in America with statements from Jews who saw the movement come to life. Presenting a diversity of views, it will encourage people of all ages and backgrounds to think about what Israel means to them and, in particular, help young adults jump start their own lasting, personal relationship with Israel.
Marc D. Angel • Bradley Shavit Artson • Samuel Bak • Sharon Brous • Nina Beth Cardin • Shoshana S. Cardin • Steven M. Cohen • Elliot N. Dorff • David Ellenson • Russ Feingold • Sylvia Barack Fishman • Abraham H. Foxman • Debbie Friedman • Jane Friedman • Niles Elliot Goldstein • Harold Grinspoon • Nat Hentoff • Dov Hikind • Peter Himmelman • Esther Jungreis • Karyn D. Kedar • Danny Maseng • Shulamit Reinharz • Thane Rosenbaum • Jonathan D. Sarna • Debbie Wasserman Schultz • Lynn Schusterman • Rami M. Shapiro • Danny Siegel • Aryeh Lev Stollman • David A. Teutsch • Stephen Joel Trachtenberg • Gordon Tucker • Henry A. Waxman • David Wolpe • And many more …
David A. Harris, executive director, American Jewish Committee, says that "Rabbi Salkin deserves credit for gathering these impressive personal testimonies. They serve an urgent and vital purposereminding us of the nearly four-thousandyear bond between the Jewish People and Israel, and educating us on Israel's enduring meaning for American Jewry."
Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin is recognized as one of the most thoughtful Jewish writers and teachers of his generation. He has helped people find spiritual meaning in both the great and small moments in life. A noted writer whose work has appeared in Moment, Reform Judaism, Sh'ma, the Wall Street Journal, Reader’s Digest and the Congressional Record, Rabbi Salkin is also the author of Putting God on the Guest List.
The Kansas City Jewish Council - Sybil Kaplan
Where do you go when you've been a congregational rabbi for twenty-seven years, written five best-selling books and are looking for something else? If you are Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin, you found, direct and serve as rabbi for a new organization, Kol Echad: Making Judaism Matter, a trans-denominational, adult learning community in Atlanta.
This adult-education institute, located in an office complex, is "an amalgamation, like a kollel for non- Orthodox Jews," Rabbi Salkin said in a phone interview. He will be in Overland Park this weekend, serving as scholar in residence at The Temple, Congregation B'nai Jehudah Nov. 16-18.
His organization is experimenting with different kinds of outreach, aiming to be "a liberal alternative to Chabad." The programs seek to “teach Judaism in an intellectual, lively and playful way,” said the rabbi. For example, one of the courses is “What Madonna Doesn't Know About Kabbalah.”
Rabbi Salkin grew up in Long Island, N.Y., and is a 1981 graduate of the Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion. He is best known for his books on spirituality, all published by Jewish Lights Publishers. Among his works are: Bar/Bat Mitzvah Memory Book: An Album for Treasuring the Spiritual Celebration; Being God's Partner: How to Find the Hidden Link Between Spirituality and Your Work; For Kids: Putting God on Your Guest List and Putting God on the Guest List: How to Reclaim the Spiritual Meaning of Your Child's Bar or Bat Mitzvah.
The latter work, first published in 1992, is one of the top-selling books on American Judaism today. Thus, it is no coincidence that his scholar-in-residency falls during Jewish Book Month, which began Nov. 4.
Rabbi Salkin's most recent book was undertaken as a prelude to Israel's 60th birthday celebration in May 2008. A Dream of Zion: American Jews Reflect on Why Israel Matters To Them presents a multitude of Jewish voices, whose comments are categorized into five headings: identity and heritage, refuge, faith and covenant, tikkun olam and American historical perspective. Because there is no approved way of thinking about Israel, Rabbi Salkin said he looked for a multitude of mainstream opinions. Yet the variety of contributors is amazingLillian Hellman, Harpo Marx, Debbie Friedman, Albert Einstein, Solomon Schechter, Danny Maseng, Emma Lazarus, Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise and 105 more.
“I edited this book because I was profoundly aware of the emotional distancing taking place between American Jews and Israel,” Rabbi Salkin said. “The inconvenient truth is that Jews travel less, give less and care less (about Israel).”
Rabbi Salkin would like to see this book read by anyone who is curious about Israel, especially non- Jews, many of whom have a “blind spot” when it comes to Israel.
A recent study undertaken by Steven M. Cohen and Avi Kelman reported that less than 50 percent of the Jews surveyed believe if the state of Israel were destroyed it would be a profound loss for them. “I wanted to create a book so everyone would understand why (so many) Jews care about Israel.”
Rabbi Salkin says he would like to “hit control/alt/delete, reboot the Jewish spiritual computer, reformat the hard drive and reinspire American Jews.”
Scholar's schedule Rabbi Salkin will speak at 6 p.m. services, Friday, Nov. 16, at Temple B'nai Jehudah on “Israel: Yours, Mine and Whose?”
Saturday morning, he will teach at the 10:30 a.m. service and then attend a Shabbaton for Bar/Bat Mitzvah youth and their families. Saturday evening, at 7:30, he will speak at a program sponsored by the Brotherhood on “Why are Jewish Men Like That? A Search for Jewish Masculinity.”
Kolel-The Adult Centre for Liberal Jewish Learning - Allan Gould
Jewish Lights Publishing is one of the more interesting "ethnic" firms in the world today: in the past few years, they have published dozens of high quality books on everything from the scholarly (Bible Study and Midrash) to children's books; ecology to grief and healing; meditation to Kabbalah. A few years ago, JL put out a remarkable, deeply moving collection of short essays called I am Jewish: Personal Reflections Inspired by the Last Words of Daniel Pearl , the journalist who was savagely murdered in Pakistan for exactly that reason. A powerful concept, and it worked very well (and now a major motion picture: A Mighty Heart).
I wish I could say the same for Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin's A Dream of Zion, sub-titled "American Jews Reflect on Why Israel Matters to Them." True, the Jewish State is undergoing hard times todaywhen has it not?and the ugly boycotting of Israel’s scholars, and the way so many major politicians and actual countries treat the Jewish homeland condescendingly, compared with the vicious abuse which women, gays, and their own citizens are treated by so many other lands, may seem like a good reason to produce a book like this one.
But it doesn’t work, and not only because of the half-dozen rather mediocre essays by American Jewish university students, talking about how exciting their first visit to the State of Israel was (!) When one interviews many intelligent rabbis and teachers on such subjects as “Identity and Heritage,” “Refuge,” “Faith and Covenant” and “Tikkun Olam,” you are surely going to get the occasional glimmer of insight, even the memorable statement of fact and opinion, and there are, undeniably, a few. For instance, Rabbi David Wolpe, a superb author, writes beautifully that “We who live outside the land have to be sufficiently imaginative to understand all we do not know. In Europe, a bloody battlefield for centuries, there is a monument for every 10,000 fallen soldiers. In Israel, there is a monument for every sixteen. . . . it is a society that lives under a pressure so far unimaginable in this spacious and generous land [of the U.S.]” And who could not be moved by the poetic declaration of the admired American author Thane Rosenbaum, who writes, “Israel is not just a nation. It is, even more so, a state of mind. That’s the bedrock of its geography, the map that it monopolizes, the mental space and energy it consumes like a burning bush. You don’t have to ever board El Al to be obsessed with Israel’s existence, to love it or hate it, to feel its gravitational weight as a magnet for both revulsion and romance, to know that without it, the world would be a very different place, a planet even more tilted and adrift than it is right now.” Exquisiteand his words move me to want to read his prize-winning novels, several of Jewish content and focus.
I had hoped to find Giants with Great Words to say about the State of Israel and its importance today, and I was taken aback to discover just how few real gems can be found in this anthology’s 250 pages. In fact, I find it sadly telling, that it is in Part VAn American Historical Perspective: The Words of the Fathers and Mothers where the best comments are found: long-dead American-Jewish leaders and rabbis such as Louis D. Brandeis, Felix Frankfurter, Abba Hillel Silver, Stephen S. Wise, and, naturally, the glorious Abraham Joshua Heschel, whose words and insights put nearly all else in this flimsy gathering of writing to shame: “What would be the face of Western history today if the end of twentieth-century Jewish life would have been Bergen-Belsen, Dachau, Auschwitz? The State of Israel is not an atonement. It would be blasphemy to regard it as a compensation. However, the existence of Israel reborn makes life less unendurable. It is a slight hinderer of hindrances to believing in God.”
Would that even one in ten essays in this under-whelming anthology had such power and majesty. Check out I am Jewish (a national Jewish book award winner) and other fine books from this important Judaica house (located in Woodstock, Vermont of all places!); Jewish Lights is almost always worthy of your support. Just not this particular book, alas.
This book features the insights of scholars, business leaders, professionals, politicians, authors, artists and community and religious leaders covering the entire denominational spectrum of Jewish life in America today and offers a glimpse into the history of Zionism in America with statements from Jews who saw the movement come to life.
The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle - Leon Cohen
In time for Israel's 60th birthday, three new books celebrate the Jewish state and its connection to Diaspora Jewry…
The most instantly appealing of them may be A Dream of Zion: American Jews Reflect on Why Israel Matters to Them, edited by Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin (Jewish Lights, 266 pages, $24.99).
This is an anthology of short essays by a variety of people, from "professional Jews" (rabbis and community activists) to college students, plus samples of meditations by historic figures (poet Emma Lazarus; Supreme Court Justices Louis Brandeis and Felix Frankfurter; Rabbis Arthur Hertzberg, Abraham Joshua Heschel, Abba Hillel Silver, Steven S. Wise; even the great pantomime comedian Harpo Marx).
This collection has some local Wisconsin interest. It includes essays by former Sheboyganite and now Brandeis University professor Sylvia Barack Fishman; Rabbi Elliot N. Dorff, former Milwaukeean and now professor and author; and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.).
But what most impressed even on a skim-through is the extent to which having a relationship to Israel is or has been a physical, intellectual, emotional and sometimes spiritual adventure for these writersand, by extension, for any and perhaps all of us. There are surprisingly few windy generalizations in these works, and a wealth of interesting and often moving personal or family experiences. Fishman, for example, tells of her time working on a kibbutz as a college student in 1963; and even though she was “too American to surrender my destiny to the group,” still “In some mysterious way, this place was home.”
The book does feel weighted toward liberal Jews and their points of view. Nevertheless, it does include some Orthodox voices (author and broadcaster Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, Chabad Rabbi Hirshy Minkowicz), and so does provide a representative range of Jewish community views. Still, saying one supports Israel or feels connection to it is one thing; doing something meaningful about it is another. Many of the writers in A Dream of Zion in fact do meaningful things, if only visiting Israel frequently.
Similar to last year's What Israel Means to Me, this collection of short essays edited by Salkin (Being God's Partner) unabashedly puts American Zionism on display, as contributors describe their personal connection to Israel. The section heads reflect the roles Israel has always played for diaspora Jews: a part of their Jewish identity, a refuge from oppression and a religious center. The authors range from the usual suspects like the Anti-Defamation League's Abraham Foxman and politician Henry Waxman to historian Jonathan Sarna and Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, along with rabbis and prominent deceased Jewish-Americans like Supreme Court justices Louis Brandeis and Felix Frankfurter. The essays express a variety of feelings about Israel. Some, like theologian Arthur Green, feel discomfort with the occupation of the West Bank: "Without a two-state solution, I believe, Israel is impossible, and will not survive." Not surprisingly, most express sentiments closer to those of Jewish scholar Lisa Grant: "My experiences of and in Israel touch me in profound ways-emotionally, intellectually, socially, and spiritually." This collection will mainly appeal to readers who feel similarly attached. (Nov.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information