Menschby M.D Marvin Zolot
Born in primitive circumstances in a small village in Prussia in the early 20th Century, Manfred Swarsensky rose to become the youngest rabbi ever appointed to the Jewish Commmunity in Berlin in 1932. A gifted orator and riveting speaker, his fame spread throughout Europe as he spoke out frequently and fervently against the National Socialist Government of Adolf Hitler. He was warned to cease and desist his defamation of the Fascist Government of the Nazis, but he persisted. Predictably, he was thrown into a concentration camp where he was subjected to unspeakable horrors.
He found his way to a small Midwestern college town, Madison, Wisconsin, where he became the founding rabbi of a Reform Congregation. He stated, "I was saved from the ovens to be a messenger from the dead to the living." Swarzensky became one of the most important moral and ethical forces in mid-America in the second half of the 20th Century.
Rabbi Swarsensky was a bridge Builder and at the forefront of Judeo-Christian dialogue. He was called "An Apostle to the Gentiles," and, although thoroughly Jewish, "The finest Christian in Madison." He was involved in the civil rights struggle in the 1960's, a mitigating force in the threatened anarchy surrounding anti-Vietnam protests on college campuses that threatened to engulf the entire nation.
According to Rabbi Swarsensky, "A Mensch is a complete person, both human and humane." Rabbi was a Mensch.
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Having had the pleasure of knowing Rabbi Manfred Swarsensky, I share the author's admiration for this wonderful man. Unfortunately, the book falls short of what it could be and is badly in need of further editing and proofing. It should first be noted that the biography is really only 109 pages in length. The rest of the book is composed of 8 pages of family photos and 132 pages of reprints of Rabbi Swarsensky's writings, many of which were previously published elsewhere. Second, there are places where the book appears to forget that which had been previously covered. An example is the discussion of Sister Marie Stephen "Stevie" Reges, OP, on page 42. She is discussed again on page 46 as if we had not read about her but 4 pages before. She is introduced again on page 65 as though we had not read of her twice before. While some of the Rabbi's writings are reproduced with notations that they include their original abbreviations and spelling errors, there are numerous other typographical and spelling errors, e.g., "an impossible ream", "some f our contemporaries can only understand that there is not short-cut to the millennium", "the sage who counseled ever human being to put on slip in each of the two pockets", "a mythical Jew who exists only as a faction in immature, sometimes evil minds", and "man of that century so fearful of giving u the Ptolemaean for the Copernican view". Despite my criticisms, I recommend the book because of the significance of its subject.