Rosh Hashana Greetings From The Greatest Hebrew & Yiddish Writers, 20th Century By Saul Jay Singer and Henry Ford As Avatar Of American Anti-Semitism By Israel Mizrahi and The Story Behind Maine’s Kosher Paradise By Hannah Rubin and After A Year And Half Of Covid, Modi Is Feeling Unleashed By Alan Zeitlin and Yom Kipper for the Perplexed
Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher, and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money, and spiritual engagement.
Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) Guide for the Perplexed, 2021
Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger, "Second Thought: a US-Israel Initiative"
1. Yom Kippur is considered to be a Super Sabbath (Shabbat Shabbaton in Hebrew) – a soul-searching opportunity for pious and evil people alike.
2. Yom Kippur is observed on the 10th day of the Jewish month of Tishrei (September 16, 2021). Tishrei's astrological sign is Libra (♎), which symbolizes the key themes of Yom Kippur: optimism, truth, justice, scales, humility and tolerance. Libra is ruled by the planet Venus (Noga - נגה in Hebrew – is the name of my oldest granddaughter), which represents divine light and compassion.
3. Yom Kippur dates back to the Biblical Exodus (Leviticus 23:26-32): "The Lord said to Moses, that the tenth day of this seventh month [Tishrei] is the day of Atonement…. Do not do any work on that day…. This is a lasting ordinance for generations to come…."
4. Yom Kippur (the 10th day of the Jewish year) concludes 10 days of soul-searching, atonement and repentance– the holiest Jewish time - which begins on Rosh Hashanah, the first day of the Jewish year, commemorating the creation of the first human-being, Adam.
Ten, which represents wholesomeness, has a special significance in Jewish history: God's abbreviation is the 10th Hebrew letter (Yod - י); the 10 Commandments; the 10 Plagues of Egypt; the 10 spheres of the spiritual universe, which were highlighted during the Biblical Creation; 10 reasons for blowing the Shofar (ram's horn) on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur; the 10% Biblical gift to God (tithe); the 10 Martyrs (Jewish leaders), who were tortured/murdered by the Roman Empire; the 10 generations between Adam and Noah and between Noah and Abraham; the 10 divine tests passed by Abraham; the 10-person-quorum (Minyan in Hebrew), which is required for a collective Jewish prayer service; the 10 sons of Haman and the 10 Nazi leaders, who were hung; etc.
5. The Hebrew word Kippur, כיפור (atonement/repentance), is a derivative of the Biblical word Kaporetכפורת ,, which was the cover of the Holy Ark in the Sanctuary, and Kopher, כופר, the cover of Noah's Ark and the Holy Altar in the Temple. The day of Yom Kippur resembles a spiritual cover (dome), which separates the holy (Yom Kippur) from the mundane (the rest of the year), between spiritualism and materialism. The Kippah, כיפה (skullcap, yarmulke'), which covers one's head during prayers, reflects a spiritual dome.
6. Asking forgiveness of fellow human-beings – and not only of God - is a major feature of Yom Kippur. From acrimony and vindictiveness to forgiveness and peace-of-mind. Hence, sinners and criminals are invited to Yom Kippur services. Asking forgiveness is consistent with Leviticus 19:18 ("Love thy neighbor as yourself"), and with the philosophy of Hillel the Elder, a leading 1st century BCE Jewish Sage: "Do not do unto your fellow person that which is hateful to you. That is the essence of the Torah; the rest is commentary…." Asking forgiveness of fellow human-beings aims at displaying magnanimity, humility, compassion, consideration, responsibility, optimism, faith and genuine-repentance. It recognizes one's fallibilities, learning from one's mistakes, minimizing future missteps, elevating morality and enhancing family and community cohesion.
7. Fasting is a key feature of Yom Kippur, reducing material pleasure (for spiritual cleansing), in order to focus on one's soul-searching, examining and enhancing one's behavioral track record toward fellow human beings, and enhancing empathy with the needy. The Hebrew spelling of fasting is צומ, which is the root of the Hebrew word ((צמצומ for reducing/focusing.
8. There are six annual Jewish fasting days:
(a) The 10th day of the month of Tishrei is Yom Kippur.
(b) The 10th day of the Jewish month of Tevet commemorates the beginning of the 586-589 BCE siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar;
(c) The 17th day of the month of Tammuz commemorates the 586 BCE and 69 CE breaching of Jerusalem's walls by the Babylonian and Roman Empires, as well as the breaking of the Tablets by Moses upon confronting the Golden Calf lapse of faith;
(d) The 9th day of the month of Av is the most calamitous day in Jewish history, commemorating the destruction of the first (586 BCE) and second (70 CE) Jewish Jerusalem Temples, by the Babylonian and Roman Empires respectively; the beginning of the Jewish exile from the Land of Israel; the Ten Spies' bankruptcy of faith; the crushing of the 132-135 CE Bar Kokhbah Revolt by the Roman Emperor Adrianus (600,000 Jewish fatalities); the pogroms of the First Crusade (1096-1099) in Germany, France, Italy and Britain; the expulsion of the Jews from Britain (1290) and Spain (1492); the eruption of the First World War (1914); and the beginning of the 1942 deportation of Warsaw Ghetto Jews to the Treblinka extermination camp.
(e) The 3rd day of the month of Tishrei commemorates the murder of the Jewish Governor of Jerusalem, Gedalyah Ben Achikam, by another Jew, Yishmael Ben Netanyah (586 BCE);
(f) The 13th day of the month of Adar is the Fast of Queen Esther - one day before the Purim holiday - which commemorates Queen Esther's three-day-fast prior to her appeal to the Persian King Ahasuerus to refrain from exterminating the Jews (around 480 BCE);
9. Yom Kippur is concluded by blowing the Shofar (a ritual ram's horn), ten days following the blowing of the Shofar on Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year). It represents a moral-wakeup-call, optimism, determination, humility and peace-through-strength. It commemorates the saving of Isaac by a ram, the receipt of the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai, the conquest of Jericho by Joshua, and Gideon's victory over the 135,000 strong Midianite army.
The Hebrew word Shofar – שופר – means "to enhance" and "top quality" (שפר), glory and spiritual pleasure (שופרא).
A Hebrew synonym for Shofar is Yovel (Jubilee), which is the Biblical role-model for liberty, as well as a source of water.
10. A Memorial Candle in memory of one's parents is lit on Yom Kippur, reaffirming "Honor Thy Father and Mother," providing an opportunity to ask forgiveness of one's parent(s) and asking forgiveness on their behalf.
The Three Musketeers at the Kotel
After A Year And Half Of Covid, Modi Is Feeling Unleashed By Alan Zeitlin
Modi isn't a doctor, but his prescription to heal people can be found at one of his hilarious shows. The comedian (whose last name is Rosenfeld but who has rightfully earned the right to simply go by his first name) knows he is especially needed now.
"They would always say 'laughter is the best medicine,'" he said in a phone interview with The Jewish Press. "But now is the first time I really see that in the eyes and smiles of people. After the tough times they've had since Covid, I've gotten people who messaged me that they lost their mother or father and hadn't laughed in a year and this was the first time that they had a few seconds to relax and enjoy life – and for a moment forget about disease, and death and floods and fires."
Modi (short for Mordechai) is excited to perform in an upcoming appearance in Skokie, Illinois, and says his feelings won't be hurt if the Ku Klux Klan stays home.
"A lot of people ask me about that because the Klan marched there, but the truth is I love performing there because Skokie has a tremendous Jewish community," he said.
As part of his "Know Your Audience" Tour, he will perform in Skokie, Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Houston, Texas; and Port Washington, New York.
He said he is not sorry he gave up his job on Wall Street for a job making people laugh.
"Hashem had his plan and that was to make me someone who unites people," he said. "At my shows, all different types of Jews of different denominations and different ages laugh. The decisions I've made in my life have caused me to be exactly where I want to be and where I'm meant to be."
After a year of doing mainly Zoom shows due to Covid, the comedian has sold out shows at Stand Up NY, Carolines on Broadway and City Winery, and is sough after for corporate and private events.
"What I love about doing shows in other parts of the country is it unifies the Jewish community," he said. "When Jews find out there's an event happening, in a town where there are not many Jewish events, they will all come and they'll all laugh. New York is one thing and is great, but I get a lot of out-of-towners who are in New York asking when I'm coming to their town. Now I am. When they hear a heimish comedy event is coming a lot of students come and all the Jews come. Not only Jews come – allies of the Jews come also."
Modi is the rare comic who can make an entirely Jewish audience laugh and then go to The Comedy Cellar and make a crowd that is only half or even a quarter Jewish also laugh so hard the people are in tears.
He is known for riffing on the difference between how Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews make the hamotzi blessing over bread, and does a great impression of an overzealous female German flight-attendant and one of a nagging mother. He does a great chassidic accent, speaks Yiddish – and if his singing is impressive, don't be surprised, as he trained to be a cantor.
While I have interviewed him before, I noticed that this time he speaks with a special passion and zeal, like a man on a mission. Sure, people have always loved his comedy. But after Covid, the rise in anti-Semitism, rockets against Israel and the Taliban taking over Afghanistan, it is especially hard to find something to laugh about.
He recited the Shehechiyanu blessing in the first moments of the first episode of his new podcast "And Here's Modi," which is available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and other platforms. The podcast is produced by and co-hosted by fellow Jewish comic Periel Aschenbrand, who often reminds him to translate Hebrew or Yiddish terms into English. His first guest was his own rabbi, Rabbi Gavriel Bellino of Sixth Street Community Synagogue in Manhattan. Modi told Bellino that when he did a roast for Commentary magazine, Texas Senator Ted Cruz said he wished there had been more jokes about him, Cruz.
Modi roasted former Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman on one occasion, and podcast and media star Ben Shapiro another time. I asked him which man was harder to roast.
"I would never use the word harder," Modi said. "Each one was fun to do and they loved it and recorded it on their phones. I might not agree with all the philosophy of Ben Shapiro, but off-stage he was such a nice guy. He came over. We hung out. The audience was there for a laugh and it wasn't done out of a mean place. You only roast the ones you love. Senator Lieberman has come to my shows in Riverdale since then. When you do something out of love and make people laugh, they appreciate it."
On comic Jackie Mason, who recently passed away, the comedian said: "The New York Times said I'm the next Jackie Mason. Jackie then said, 'I'm still here.' Now, sadly, he isn't, and I view myself as having a responsibility to not be exactly like him but to take the responsibility of making people laugh, no matter what.
"At Stand Up NY, I even did a show where I had to do comedy behind Plexiglas, which is something I would have never figured, but we had to do it due to Covid rules. If you have to wear a mask or show a vaccine card or the crowd is a little more limited than usual, it's worth it. A small inconvenience is nothing compared to a night of laughs. It's healing. It makes you happier and will make you function better."
He said Mason once came to see an hour-long show off his. "I remember watching him enjoy himself and he came over to me and we schmoozed," he said. "Performing for the king of Jewish comedy was an honor."
Modi, who created a chassidic character called Yoely, partly because he feels chassidim get a bad rap in the media, said the character will soon be making a statement about the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.
"Yoely is thinking about it and wondering what's the best thing to say and we can expect to hear from him in video in a few days," he said.
He also created an Israeli character named Nir.
Known as a high-energy comedian, Modi said, "On this tour, I'm going to bring even more energy than usual" – knowing that for some towns it may be the first time in years they are hearing a live Jewish comedian.
He also said while some comedians are terrified of cancel culture, that fear doesn't really apply to him.
"My act is clean and I don't offend anybody," he said. "Cancel culture also gets people press. I'm not looking for negative press. These are crazy times. I'm looking to give people a treat they are looking for."
He said singles often enjoy his show because the jokes help alleviate some stress or nervousness they might have.
"At the show maybe they'll meet somebody or bring a date, and when you laugh it changes your mood," he said. "It gives you something good to talk about. It's much better to talk about that than disasters in the world. Sometimes, I work table by table, row, by row, you deliver the punch-line to the people that really need it."
Modi said he knows we live in passionate political times and some comedians will use their act to try to appeal to a certain stream of voters. He said that's not his thing and that his goal is to get laughs, not votes.
"I do observational comedy," he said. "I see the funny and I point it out. I don't care if it's left or right. I'm not looking to be a political guide or telling people who to vote for. I'm looking to show humor on both sides."
He said it's proven that immune systems are better when a person laughs and has a positive attitude.
To see Modi's tour dates, go to modilive.com or follow him on Instagram @modi_live.
There is a certain genre of traveler for whom wanderlust is sated most by the raw beauty of nature. These souls crave wilderness untamed, terrains unmolded by human hands. For them, G-d created Maine.
Protruding into the Canadian interior like an outstretched fist, the Pine Tree State provides visitors with the rugged beauty for which New England is famed. Miles of craggy coastline, chiseled as though by an indecisive hand, define its contours. It is covered by forests thick with firs and maples, punctuated by lakes ringed with necklaces of pine. And its lush vegetation amply supports the diverse wildlife populations – deer, moose, bears, songbirds – that call it home.
Maine is also home, as it happens, to what may have been, before the pandemic, the only strictly kosher bed and breakfast in the USA.
At least the proprietress of said establishment, Roberta Chester, is aware of no other. So she tells me over the phone two years after my husband and I spent time at her B&B, the Shore Path Cottage, in the halcyon pre-Covid summer of 2019.
(For over a year, Shore Path Cottage is no longer a B&B, but a rental facility.)
A tri-state area native, Roberta made the extraordinary decision to relocate her family to the literal and spiritual wilderness of Maine as a single mother in the late 1970s. She had summered previously in the state and, disillusioned by the materialism of her New Jersey community, was ready to lay down roots in what she calls a "blessed place."
Though not observant at the time, Roberta was concerned about completely cutting off her children from communal Jewish life. The area to which she planned to move – Bar Harbor, a town on Mount Desert Island off the Maine coast – was an hour and a half's drive from the nearest Jewish community in Bangor, itself a far cry from her New Jersey enclave with its abundance of synagogues.
At a friend's advice, Roberta wrote to the Lubavitcher Rebbe to seek his counsel regarding her proposed move. "I'd never heard of him before, but he wrote back a beautiful letter encouraging me to go," she says. "In his prescience, I think he saw the move would be good for me religiously."
And so it was that she and her children decamped to the fertile frontier of Maine, with its blueberry patches and deciduous woodlands and crashing Atlantic waves. But when winter came, nature took on a more sinister form: With icy drafts rolling off the ocean and invading her 19th-century home, Roberta was forced to stuff paper in the crevices of her walls and trudge through snow in the pre-dawn stillness to gather fuel from her woodpile.
Despite the challenges of those early years – well before running a bed and breakfast was even the germ of an idea – Roberta did not turn tail and flee south. It was the landscape that held her fast: "I was nothing less than smitten," she says.
Remarkably, Roberta's religious observance blossomed in that northeastern outpost. The catalyst was, of all things, a writers' workshop in the early 'eighties at the historic New Hampshire home of Robert Frost.
While participating in the three-day conference, Roberta, a writer by trade, happened upon Bethlehem, New Hampshire, then a summertime mecca for Orthodox Jews. "Watching those shtetl-type Jews, hearing them speak Yiddish…I was stricken," she says. "I thought, these are my roots. This was my mother's mother tongue."
It was the remark of a pastor, whom she'd met at a rest stop and told her startling experience, that drove the impression home. Said the anonymous cleric: "It only takes one generation to get lost."
The reverse, Roberta realized, was also true, and she became keenly aware of her ability to help her family return. She began a concerted effort to keep Shabbat and to spread Jewish knowledge among the few members of the tribe in Maine.
"Most people in Bar Harbor at the time had never met a Jew," says Roberta. "Still, I would bring latkes to my daughter's kindergarten class and talk about Chanukah, and I arranged Purim parties for whatever Jews I could find."
These projects, begun as efforts to bolster her children's pride in their heritage, led to broader outreach that saw Roberta hosting Jewish students from a nearby university for Shabbat dinners. "I believe that in encouraging me to move to Maine, the Rebbe foresaw the impact of my being there," she says. "It was in line with his broader mission of spreading Judaism."
When her children went off to college, Roberta was at a crossroads: What was she to do alone in a house that could sleep close to 20? Shore Path Cottage – built in 1880 – boasts architectural flourishes distinct to the area: paneled ceilings, maple floors. It's situated on a sprawling lawn hemmed in by forest on two sides and the ocean on a third, perfumed by wildflowers and salty ocean spray. What could she do with such an Eden?
The answer was both wild and wildly obvious. Transforming Shore Path Cottage into a bed and breakfast made sense financially, not least because the growing popularity of Bar Harbor and neighboring Acadia National Park as vacation destinations meant a steady influx of guests throughout the warmer months.
"We brought in a rabbi to give us kosher certification," says Roberta. "Our home is vegetarian in any case, so the lack of kosher meat in the area never posed a problem." Local stores carry many OU items and fresh produce aplenty. Roberta, who had begun spending winters in Jerusalem, would bring back giant wheels of cheese from Israel.
Attracted by Shore Path's kosher offerings, religious Jews began showing up at the establishment. Non-Jews, too: Roberta's guest book has been signed by people from all over the world, from Minnesotans (the most easygoing visitors, she says) to Southerners (the most polite) to Italians (the most upbeat).
"We've had writers come stay to work on novels on our property, and artists come to paint the landscape," says Roberta. "Some became our great friends – and some even fell in love with the area and bought property here."
Based on my own magical memories of the place, that's not surprising. On our trip, my husband and I stayed at another hotel down the road but arranged to eat breakfast at Shore Path each morning. (As kosher travelers who had once subsisted off granola bars in Florence for two long days, we thought the idea epic.)
The homemade fare was of such high caliber that we still reminisce about it occasionally: crusty breads, omelets, warm blueberry muffins, fresh fruit salad, honeyed granola. Seated around the mahogany dining table with an assortment of others who'd come to enjoy the splendors of a Maine summer, we basked in the spontaneous camaraderie one encounters amid a group of vacationers. And just visible through the window, past the sloping lawn, the ocean glimmered its morning greeting.
Roberta is the sort of hostess eager to engage her guests: When she and I discovered our shared interest in writing, she gifted me a poetry collection compiled by a group of female writers in Maine that included herself.
And Roberta's professional life is nearly as fascinating as her personal journey: She taught English at the University of Maine. She hosted a radio program on NPR, interviewing people who had made drastic career changes. She served as program director of the Maine Holocaust Human Rights Center, developing K-12 curriculums. And she received a grant from the Maine Arts Commission to study the art, music, and literature of pre-Holocaust Eastern Europe to understand the cultural riches lost during the Shoah—an endeavor that had her collaborating with humanities experts such as the granddaughter of famed Yiddishist Shalom Aleichem.
For Roberta and her family, the pandemic was a natural time to segue from running a B&B to a less labor-intensive form of hospitality: Shore Path Cottage, which sleeps up to 18, is now available for weekly rentals, as is a smaller house on the property that can fit seven. While the lavish kosher repast I remember is no longer offered, kosher utensils are provided for religious renters.
Unsurprisingly, the indefatigable Roberta is still thinking up new projects: Pre-Covid, she had been planning to open a destination cooking school for women at Shore Path with celebrated kosher chef Levana Kirschenbaum. The pandemic forced her to cancel the event, but Roberta has other big ideas.
"My dream is to offer kosher destination weddings, out on our lawn by the ocean," she says. "That would be incredible."
A notorious four-volume publication I acquired this week serves as a stark reminder of how, in the not-so-distant past, anti-Semitism was a socially acceptable, mainstream attitude in the United States. It reached a point, where one of the wealthiest men in the New World unabashedly promoted and published outlandish and imaginary anti-Semitic conspiracies passed off as journalism. There was little, if any, pushback from the general gentile population, either from the Right or the Left.
The International Jew is a set of anti-Semitic books published by the Dearborn Publishing Company, owned and promoted by Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company. At the time of its publication in 1920, The Ku Klux Klan membership had reached four million, and the U.S. had recently created laws severely limiting Eastern European Jewish Immigration.
Advertisement Similar to our day, when the uber-wealthy purchase newspapers to promote and make their views mainstream, Henry Ford in 1918 purchased his hometown newspaper, The Dearborn Independent. Shortly afterward, the Dearborn Independentstarted publishing a series of 91 issues claiming to describe a vast Jewish conspiracy to control the world, create world wars and the like, oftentimes eerily similar to those published in the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Ford actually published an English translation of the book, a forgery in which a small group of Jews is said to have determined the fate of the world.
Ford was in a unique position to propagate his views. Aside from his hundreds of thousands of subscribers, he had a network of dealerships for his Ford vehicles, which he used as well to distribute his anti-Semitic publications. Every Ford dealership was said to have carried stacks of his newspapers, and some dealerships would ensure that a copy of Ford's publication would be placed in every car that was sold.
Due to his prominence and popularity, Ford's influence tragically carried much further than the United States, influencing Nazi Germany and its leaders. By 1922, it was translated into German. One Nazi Leader, Baldur von Schirach, head of the Hitler Youth, testifying at Nuremberg said, "I read it and became anti-Semitic. In those days this book made such a deep impression on my friends and myself because we saw in Henry Ford the representative of success, also the exponent of a progressive social policy. In the poverty-stricken and wretched Germany of the time, youth looked toward America, and apart from the great benefactor, Herbert Hoover, it was Henry Ford who to us represented America."
Hitler, y"s, quoted Ford in his Mein Kampf, and a portrait of Ford hung in Hitler's Munich office. There were also business connections between Ford and the Nazi state. It is impossible to quantify the harm caused by Ford to Jewish life; it is safe to say that he was a large contributing factor to the closure of the United States to immigrants escaping the Nazi killing machine. In the environment in which Ford thrived, Jews were weary of attempting to influence policy to allow more immigrants entry into the U.S., contributing to the bulk of European Jews being led to their deaths under the Third Reich.
Rosh Hashana Greetings From The Greatest Hebrew & Yiddish Writers, 20th Century
The first Hebrew writer to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, Shmuel Yosef ("Shai") Agnon (1888-1970) was one of the central figures of modern Hebrew fiction. A prolific writer in both Hebrew and Yiddish, his works dealt with the conflict between traditional Jewish life and the modern world, the disintegration of traditional life and the loss of faith and identity, and the attempt to recapture the fading tradition of the European shtetl.
In his usual, nearly unreadable scrawl, Agnon sends his regards for "a good and blessed year" to Shmuel Hoofrat in Jerusalem.
One of Agnon's best-known works is Days of Awe, a treasury of traditions, legends and commentaries on the Yomim Noraim, which has been characterized as "a stunning anthology compiled by a master storyteller." As Agnon himself describes it in the preface to the book, "For the benefit of those who wish to be informed of the matters of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and the Days Between, I have assembled some sayings from the Torah and from the Prophets and from the Writings, from the Babylonian and Palestinian Talmud, from the halachic Midrash and the aggadic Midrash, and from the Zohar and from other books written by our Early Rabbis and Latter Rabbis, of blessed memory . . . "
Unquestionably one of the greatest and most important Jewish leaders of the 20th century, Zev Jabotinsky (1880-1940) is best known for founding the Jewish Legion and for founding and heading three nationalist and militant organizations: the New Zionist Organization, the political arm that maintained contacts with governments and other political institutions; Betar, which educated the youth of the Diaspora for the liberation and building of Eretz Israel; and the Irgun Zvi Leumi, the military arm which fought against the enemies of the Zionist enterprise. Although known primarily for his passionate Revisionist Zionism, he was also an outstanding Hebraist and a prolific and influential author, journalist, playwright and novelist, using the written medium as a forum to disseminate his Zionist philosophy.
In the note dated September 19, 1925, shown here, Jabotinsky, on behalf of his entire family, pens wishes for "a good and successful year" to Mr. Rebelsky in Paris. Mathematician Isaak (Yitzchak) Rebelsky, the son of a Rav in Eretz Yisrael, was a mathematician who was a close friend of the Jabotinsky family and of Albert Einstein.
His literary career a watershed in modern Hebrew literature and considered the greatest Hebrew poet of modern times, Chaim Nachman Bialik (1873-1934) was also an essayist, storywriter, songwriter, translator and editor who profoundly influenced Jewish culture. Forging a new idiom, he is credited with freeing Hebrew poetry of the overwhelming biblical influence which had dominated it for centuries. At the end of his life, he traveled the world in support of Zionism and the Hebrew language, and he dedicated himself to preserving and advancing Jewish culture.
Chaim Nachman Bialik (verso)
In the card exhibited here, his wife, Mania (nee Averbuck), writes:
. . . With Hashem's will, I will give you a [lekach?] a double portion.
And I bless you and your household a good and successful new year
On the verso, he adds and signs: "I join my wife in wishing you a Gemar Chatimah Tovah."
Journalist, essayist and novelist, Mendele Mocher Sforim (1836-1917), a pseudonym for Sholem Yankev Abramovich, was called "the Grandfather of Modern Yiddish literature" by Sholem Aleichem and was universally respected as such by all. He began writing in Hebrew and became the founder of the Hebrew literary criticism movement but, at a time when Yiddish was deemed unsuitable to literary work, he later perfected a Yiddish prose style that greatly influenced later writers. Much of his work dealt with Jewish life in Russia and, strongly influenced by the secularizing trends of the Haskalah (the "Hebrew Enlightenment"), he tried to use his work to influence Jews to free themselves from the physical and intellectual restraints of the ghetto.
Signing as "Shai Abramovitz," Mendele writes:
It is already a month, as I sit here idly doing no work and wandering between the grape vines waiting for the grapes to ripen so that I can eat them and heal my body, which has thinned due to much sludge . . . I wrote a book "Shlomo Rav Chaim" . . . Our friend Bialik is getting too lazy to write to me . . . I inquire as to the well-being of your honorable spouse and I bless her and you with peace and all good things for the coming new year.
The son of a distinguished Chassidic family, Uri Zvi Greenberg (1896-1981) is known for his poetry, which was fired by an all-consuming ideological commitment to Judaism and a belief that the divine covenant with Abraham, renewed with the Jews at Sinai, is the essence of Jewish existence. For Greenberg, the role of Hebrew poetry was to express that Jewish messianic vision and, having foreseen the destruction of European Jewry – he escaped to Eretz Yisrael, but his entire family perished in the Holocaust – his poetry often sings of his agony as the suffering prophet-priest of the mythos of Jewish catastrophe and redemption. His work has been widely recognized, and he was awarded the Israel Prize in 1957 for his contributions to Hebrew literature.
In this fully handwritten 28 Elul 1966 correspondence, Greenberg writes:
From Ramat Gan, on the road to Jerusalem
With respect to the Rav of our city, Rabbi Zvi Markowitz
I read – and continue to read – Your Honor's book, but I am still in "Paths of Faith." This book is more important in my eyes than all the books of thought that have come to readers in the land written by authors who sit in Universities or editorial boards in various journals. I wish that the book would have reached many people, especially among the young people who characterize themselves as "religious."
I do not know the price of the book, but I want to donate a sum of money; not according to its thoughtful worth, but according to the cost of publicity.
May the Rav receive my blessing and the blessing of my entire household that the upcoming New Year be upon us for good, and total redemption, and health. May our enemies see and be ashamed.
Rav Zvi Markowitz (1917-2006) was a the rav of Ramat Gan, head of the Karlin-Stolin Yeshiva in Jerusalem, and a member of the Moetzet Gedolei HaTorah (The Council of Torah Sages). He was an outspoken opponent of Reform Judaism and a strong proponent of a substantive Torah education for every Jewish child. "Paths of Faith," about which Greenberg waxes enthusiastic, is Netivot Ha-Emunah, by R. Yichye Charozi, is a Kabbalistic work in the form of a dialog between two brothers.
Henrietta Szold (1860-1945) is best known as founder and first president of Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America, and as "the Mother of the Yishuv." This brilliant and remarkable woman also organized and directed the American Zionist Medical Unit, the precursor to the Hadassah Medical Organization and held the social welfare portfolio as an executive of Va'ad Le'ummi of Jewry in Eretz Yisrael, in which capacity she instituted hygiene programs. She also established vocational schools and served as director of Youth Aliyah, which trained and cared for thousands of Jewish German children escaping the Holocaust.
Though principally known for Hadassah, Szold also made epic contributions to Jewish literature in America as both a writer and as one of the founders and editors of the Jewish Publication Society of America, and she single-handedly edited the American Jewish Yearbook and helped compile the Jewish Encyclopedia.
In the October 1, 1935, correspondence in English from the Eden Hotel in Jerusalem, Szold writes to a Miss Gellner in Tel Aviv:
My warm thanks to you for the New Year and for the exquisite, extraordinarily fragrant roses that accompanied them.
I hope your brief rest in Jerusalem was efficacious and that good effects, if there were such, were not too quickly dissipated by the work and worries of your office. If my office serves as an example, a futile hope!
With kindest regards and [this in Hebrew] Chatimah Tovah.
Also shown here is a small Rosh Hashanah card to an unidentified recipient written and signed by Szold in her clear and tight handwriting: "Reciprocating your kind wishes for a Happy New Year."
Yitzchak Dov Berkowitz
Yitzchak Dov Berkowitz (1885-1967) is perhaps best known for Ha-Rishonim ki-Venai Adam (1933-1948), a translation of the collected works of his father-in-law, Sholem Aleichem. He wrote many novels, plays and short stories arising out of the context of the social crisis which shook Eastern European Jewry in his day. His central themes included the cultural isolation and problems resulting from Jewish immigration and the social pressures of adapting to a new and strange world. After he settled in Eretz Yisrael (1928), where he became one of the first editors of the weekly, Moznayim, one of his pet themes became the impact of Eretz Yisrael on new immigrants.
In this undated card from Brooklyn, New York, written during a 1929 trip to the United States shortly after he made aliyah to Eretz Yisrael, Berkowitz writes (and he signs for himself and his wife, Ernestine):
May you be inscribed for a good year, dear friends, Baruch and the good woman! Many days have passed since you have heard from me, because they surrounded us with high [ ] walls and did not let us know when we will be able to leave. We have now decided to return to Tel Aviv in two months, and if "the days become full" then in three months. Whether this way or that way – we will come! Meanwhile, please receive our blessings for the new year, may it come upon is for good, and we will hope to find you, amongst the rest of the Jewish people, healthy and whole.
With a shanah tova upon us and upon all the rest of Israel, healthy and whole.
With great friendship.
Also shown is a small 1948 card inscribed "With blessings for a shanah tovah" and signed by Berkowitz.
Alter Druyanov (1870-1938) left Vilna for Eretz Yisrael but, unable to earn a living there, he returned to Russia (1909), where he served as editor of the Hebrew language newspaper, HaOlam (1909-1914). Upon his return to Eretz Yisrael in 1921, he joined Bialik and Ravnitski in editing the first four volumes of Reshumot (1919-1926), a Hebrew journal devoted to Jewish folklore.
Druyanov's own writing covered many genres, including feuilletons, critical essays, and journalistic articles on subjects of public interest, but he is chiefly remembered today for his three-volume anthology of Jewish humor, Sefer HaBedikha ve-HaKhidud [Book of Jokes and Wit] (1922), which reflects Eastern European Jewish life at the turn of the twentieth century.
In the handwritten letter from Vilna dated 2 Tishrei 1911, Druyanov writes to Jacob Cohen acknowledging receipt of his songs and extending Rosh Hashanah wishes to him.
I received the songs that you sent to me. Thank you.
Please send me immediately (and I mean literally immediately!) the lyric poem that you mentioned, because I want to print it in the Sukkot edition, and it is therefore necessary to deliver it immediately and without delay. Please be so kind and to send it on the very day that you receive this correspondence.
As to "Haolam," the issue has not been decided. At the beginning of 1912, it will come out in Vilna and from there going forward, either it will come out in Berlin or it will not come out at all. So it seems to me.
With great respect and with blessings for a shanah tovah.
Haolam, the central organ of the World Zionist Organization which was published as a weekly from 1907 to 1950, was originally printed in Berlin but, when it soon became clear that Western Europe was not the best place to publish a Hebrew newspaper, it was moved to Vilna in 1908 under Druyanov's editorship and then to Russia in 1912.
Yaakov Fichman (1881-1958) was an acclaimed Hebrew poet, essayist and literary critic whose poetry followed a traditional lyric Romantic style. His poetic background is reflected in his works of prose, which were sometimes seen as being nearly works of poetry in themselves, and his other work included textbooks, articles in periodicals, and introductions in literary anthologies. After emigrating from his native Bessarabia to Eretz Yisrael, he became increasingly absorbed with the landscape of the Holy Land but, as a member of a transitional generation whose attitude toward the new landscape was essentially secular, he did not view it through the biblical-Zionist romanticism of some of his other contemporaries.
Fichman twice received the Bialik Prize – first in 1945 for his book of poetry Peat Sadeh ("A Corner of a Field") (1943), and again in 1953 for several of his works. He was also awarded the prestigious Israel Prize, for literature, in 1957.
In the note dated Erev Sukkot, 1953, shown here, Fischman extends "Heartfelt blessings for the New Year, may it come upon us for good."