Tuesday, September 2, 2008

ArtScroll Blog Moved to New URL

We've moved the ArtScroll Blog to a new URL with new features and functionality. To visit, please bookmark: http://blog.artscroll.com. No further postings will be placed on Blogger.com. See you at the new site!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Inside ArtScroll - For the Week of July 14, 2008

A Peek Inside The Production Room:

Avner Gold Comes To ArtScroll: Many of us grew up with the exciting historical fiction of Avner Gold, whose descriptions of European Jewish life in the middle 17th century were as riveting as they were realistic. His Ruach Ami series comprised eight volumes, beginning with The Promised Child and ending with The Marrano Prince. After a long silence, the story line of the Dominguez family, secret Jews in Catholic Spain, continues with The Long Road to Freedom: The story of the Strasbourg Sage. The first volume, due out soon, may be Avner Gold’s finest work to date.

The Mishkan: An interactive DVD of the Tabernacle: Imagine it! Only 10 years ago, it was impossible - but now, thanks to state of the art visual DVD technology, you'll soon be able to explore the Mishkan - the Tabernacle - which the Jewish Nation constructed in the Wilderness. Following the Torah's account in Terumah, Tetzaveh and Ki Sisa, this DVD shows the construction and design of Mishkan, its Keilim (vessels) and the Bigdei Kehunah (the Priestly Garments), all illustrated in advanced 3-D models and animations. You can actually manipulate them using your computer's mouse. You'll be able to virtually "walk" through the Mishkan and "see" the Mishkan complex and all of its furnishings and implements. You'll "construct" them, step-by-step and piece by piece. This one-of-a-kind DVD will animate pesukim and parshiyos that may seem obscure or abstract in their written form. Adults and children alike will be fascinated and edified by this breakthrough new DVD. Scheduled for release this fall, no home or school should be without it!

Daily Dose of Torah -- Series Two -- Cycle Begins: Join the tens of thousands who turn fleeting moments into lasting meaning through the unique learning program of the Kleinman Edition of A Daily Dose of Torah. Offering daily, concentrated insights from the weekly parashah, the Mishnah, Mussar, Gems from the Gemara, Halacha, and the Siddur, this revolutionary 18-minute-a-day program is literally changing lives. The 14-volume Series One edition has been completed and Series Two will begin in time for Parashas Bereishis. Don’t wait though – the Rabbinic Festivals and Fast Days edition of Series Two is available now.

Praying With Fire Volume Two: Everywhere you go, someone is talking about Rabbi Heshy Kleinman’s tefilah-energizing book, Praying With Fire. The long-awaited Volume Two of Praying With Fire is in final preparation for release this fall. Like the first book, Volume Two will be available in standard and pocket size editions. Volume One will be released in French in the next month.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Inside ArtScroll – Week of July 7 08

Tour Jewish Europe with Rabbi Paysach Krohn - right from the comfort of your own home!

This summer, how about a trip to some of the great Jewish centers of Europe – with no tickets to buy, no jet lag, and no need to pack? Rabbi Paysach Krohn, the celebrated American Maggid, has created virtual touring resources that are so stirring, so complete, and so informative; you’ll feel like you were really there!

Through his unique book,
Traveling with the Maggid, and three sets of CD-Rom videos, you’ll experience Rabbi Krohn’s trips to the historic sites of pre-war Torah life in Europe. The videos feature hours of awe-inspiring touring to such sites as Vilna, Volozhin, Telshe, Baranovitch, Minsk, Mir, Nikolsburg, Pressburg and more. You’ll absorb insightful background on such legendary giants as the Chofetz Chaim, the Tosafos Yom Tov, Reb Noam Elimelech of Lizhensk, Chozeh of Lublin, the Gerrer Dynasty, Rav Meir Shapiro, the Rama, the Bach, the Netziv, Sarah Schenirer, the Alter of Slabodka, Reb Chaim Ozer, Reb Elchonon Wasserman and other great leaders whose legacy still inspires us.

Rabbi Krohn’s book, Traveling with the Maggid, chronicles his journey through Lithuania and Belarus in 2003 with 125 group members, among them Rabbi Shlomo Brevda, Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Chodosh, Rabbi Shmuel Avigdor Feivelson, and Rabbi Avrohom Zelig Krohn. There are over 100 color images highlighting Rabbi Krohn's stirring narrative. Readers will love this pictorial guide through eleven Torah centers.

The three-disc CD-Rom
Catching Sacred Letters preserves the powerful impact of this tour, including many surprising encounters along the way. Eternal Luminaries is a three-disc expedition with Rabbi Krohn to renowned German, Austrian, and European towns & villages of past Torah giants. From Majestic Peaks to a Valley of Tears, also three discs, takes you on an unforgettable exploration of Jewish Poland.

Rising fuel costs are curtailing trips for many, but you can still enjoy exciting Jewish travels this summer. With the book, the CD-Rom’s and your computer, you can spend many evenings discovering the greatness and grandeur of the Torah world of yesteryear.

It’s been said “we can’t know where we’re going until we know where we’ve been”. Through his one-of-a-kind book and CD-Rom’s, Rabbi Krohn has opened up a remarkable portal in time and space to enrich your personal journey into the Jewish future.

Note: This Chanukah, ArtScroll plans to publish Rabbi Krohn’s next book in his famous Maggid series: In The Spirit Of The Maggid.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Editor of Yated Ne'eman Publishes "The Editor's View"

A clever newspaper editor gives readers pause to think, often resorting to pithy titles, satirical wit, and clever wordsmithing to seize their attention. In Rabbi Pinchos Lipshutz’s new book, The Editor’s View (ArtScroll, June 2008), the editor-in-chief of the Jewish weekly Yated Neeman, wields the tool of truth, tempered by a seasoned Torah world view, to create a portal for introspection and – ultimately – action. This absorbing new book is a compendium of many of Rabbi Lipshutz’s finest editorials authored over several years, offering timely reflections on inyonei d’yoma – issues of the day.

Rabbi Lipshutz knows that behind every story resides a bigger story, laden with implications for living life better. Whether dealing with the aftermath of the Gaza “disengagement”, commenting candidly on the unraveling of Western society’s moral fabric, or looking for meaning in our current economic crises, Rabbi Lipshutz guides readers to the safer high ground of the Torah’s outlook. He unearths the intrinsic purpose in what may appear to be random events, helping readers perceive the Guiding Hand that shapes the outcome of human events.

While each stands independent of the others, the book’s fifty-six essays are organized into six general categories encompassing Prayer and Priorities, Leadership, Commitment, Perspectives, Focus on Festivals, and Choices. Though many of the topics are weighty and serious, Rabbi Lipshutz skillfully identifies a vital life lesson in each issue. With a clarity sharpened by a seasoned Torah perspective, this straight-talking editor urges readers to align their thoughts, words, actions, and interactions with the enduring truths that have sustained Jews through the centuries.

The Editor’s View looks at life from angles the common culture may consider oblique or even provincial, but which lovers of truth and integrity will recognize as compassionate and faithful to the upwardly mobile standards that have always inspired Jews to greatness.

It's Official! Announcing Susie Fishbein's Next Cookbook Project!

With sales of over 300,000 copies, the five cookbooks in the Kosher by Design series have inspired a revolution in kosher cooking, bringing simple elegance to home dining and entertaining. Now author and chef Susie Fishbein announces the pending release of her sixth project, Kosher by Design Lightens Up.

Kosher by Design Lightens Up is a gorgeous culinary guide, bursting with easy-to-do ideas for eating and feeling better. This cookbook teaches healthy cooking and food combining techniques, with special commentary by certified nutritional expert
Bonnie Taub-Dix, spokesperson for the American Dietetic Assn.

Susie says, "These nutritious recipes are easy to integrate into your everyday menus. Anyone looking to migrate into a better way of eating and living will find delicious options here."

Kosher By Design Lightens Up will feature:

  • Over 145 brand new recipes
  • Over 160 full color photos
  • Over 320 pages
  • Creative entertaining ideas, including oil olive tasting, a party spritzer station and more!
  • Simple, healthy approaches to: cooking oils, sweeteners, whole grains, superfoods, smarter shopping, and more efficient kitchen gadgets.
  • Comprehensive cross-reference index

Kosher By Design Lightens Up is scheduled for release on November 3. To pre-order your copy, just click HERE!

Miracle Ride Rockets Past 6,000 Mark!

Officially launched on June 4th, Tzipi Caton's Miracle Ride has sold over 6,000 copies. A frank and honest account of a teenage Jewish girl's battle with cancer, this book is being heralded as a breakthrough in young Jewish authorship. Everyone loves Miracle Ride - from pre-teens to elderly readers alike. Though the subject matter is serious, this book is delightfully energetic, candid, emotive, and often just downright funny. (Read Ariella Marcus' review of Miracle Ride HERE.)

Monday, June 30, 2008

Rabbi Abraham Twerski on Nachum Segal Radio Tue July 1

Celebrated author, teacher, lecturer, and clinical psychiatrist Rabbi Abraham Twerski, M.D., was a guest on NY radio JM in the AM, hosted by Nachum Segal on Tuesday, July 1. You can hear his 15 minute interview HERE. Rabbi Twerski has written over 50 books, over 30 with ArtScroll Mesorah Publications. His most recent work is the two-volume Shabbos Companion.

Coming This Fall - Do-It-Yourself Traditions!

Here's a totally unique new resource for creating handmade and homemade traditions that you and yours will treasure for years. Crafting Jewish features fun holiday crafts and party ideas for the whole family. It has been designed both for experienced crafters looking for creative and unusual ideas and for beginners just starting to discover the joys of crafts.

This book has it all!
  • Over 120 holiday and everyday projects, each with step-by-step instructions
  • Stunning full-color photos of every craft
  • Distinctive ideas for holiday get-togethers - many with delicious recipes
  • Pictorial reference guide of crafting tools and product buying guide
  • Full-size templates and comprehensive index

Look for Crafting Jewish this fall. And - you can actually pre-order your copy now!

News Flash - Another Milestone in Jewish Literary History Achieved

The long-awaited Ramban Commentary on Sefer Devarim / Deuteronomy has just been published. It’s 900 precious pages of wisdom and commentary from one of the greatest Torah scholars of all time. Authored nearly a thousand years ago, his work endures as an essential foundation for understanding the depth and breadth of the Torah. No less a sage than Rav Shlomo Volbe zt"l urged his students to master Ramban along with Rashi. The Ramban's commentary on Sefer Bereishis (Genesis) and Sefer Shemos (Exodus) have been completed in two volumes each. Sefer Vayikra (Leviticus) and Sefer Bamidbar (Numbers) are still in production.

Inside ArtScroll -- Week of June 30 08

While many good things come in small packages, at ArtScroll some of our very best things come in small packages, as well. With our travel-size editions, you can take along many of your favorite seforim for learning during your summer travels.

There’s the Sapirstein edition of the Torah with Rashi’s commentary, published in
17 pocket-size small volumes. Each one is small enough to fit into a pocket or purse, yet easy to read, with all the features of the full-size edition.

The Stone Chumash is the world's most popular edition of the Torah with English translation and commentary. ArtScroll offers a
small, five-volume edition of the Stone Chumash that is comfortable on the eyes – yet each volume takes so little space to carry.

During the summer months we review the tractate of Pirke Avos, the Ethics of the Fathers. ArtScroll recommends our
small three-volume edition of this ethical gem with the commentary of Rabbi Moshe Lieber. Each volume is just 4”x6” and so easy to take with you.

Saying Tehillim, the book of Psalms – today it’s so important. And all the more so to say Tehillim with understanding. We’ve published
a five-volume mini-edition of Rabbi Avraham Chaim Feuer’s outstanding commentary on Tehillim. Brimming with over 2,000 years of rabbinic insight and perspectives on the Psalms, this travel-size edition is ideal for car or office – perfect for filling a few free minutes with meaning, reflection, and prayer.

ArtScroll’s Yad Avrohom edition of the Mishnah has been years in the making. Five of the six sedarim are complete and the final one – Seder Tohoros – will soon be concluded. Beside the popular full-size edition of the Mishnah, you can purchase
a travel version of each Seder, stored in its own boxed set, which includes the commentary of the Rav. Just slip a volume into your pocket or briefcase. Now you can make a siyum on a tractate anywhere – or just stay current with your seder limud. And for Gemara on the go, check out the Travel Edition of the Schottenstein Talmud Bavli.

Here’s a triple header for your portable library –
a travel-size edition of the Schottenstein Interlinear Weekday Siddur (Ashkenaz or Sefard), the Interlinear Shabbos Siddur (Ashkenaz or Sefard), and the Interlinear Sefer Tehillim. Small in size yet big in value, interlinear is the ideal format for those who appreciate having an English translation immediately under the Hebrew text.

Tzipi Caton of Miracle Ride Featured on Aish.com

Tzipi Caton, author of the bestseller Miracle Ride, was showcased in a lead article featured on Aish.com this week. Entitled Define Perfect, the first-person essay describes significant shifts in her life perspective following her recovery process from cancer.

Aish.com is the online educational weekly magazine of Aish HaTorah and claims a subscriber base of over 260,000 readers and receives over 2,000,000 visitors monthly.

Originally written as a journal, Miracle Ride is the true story of a teenage girl's grim diagnosis with cancer, her remarkable recovery, and her extraordinary new life afterward. (See book review in this blog.)

Five Towns Jewish Times Reviews "A Mother's Musings"

Bassi Gruen's brand new book A Mother's Musings was just reviewed by another musing mother, Five Town's resident Phyllis Lubin, who authors a weekly column ironically by the same name as Bassi's book! Following her review, it appears her column's title is shifting.

Here's a link to A(nother) Mother's Musings as featured in the Five Towns Jewish Times. Click HERE.

Also, we've included a previous review of A Mother's Musings here on the Inside ArtScroll Blog, viewable HERE.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Inside ArtScroll - Week of June 23 08

Fuel For Your Mobile Beis Midrash!

Just in time for your summer travels, ArtScroll is releasing four 4-CD audio sets featuring Rabbi Yissocher Frand 's very clear insights on the Halachos of Shabbos. Rabbi Frand is one of the Torah world's best known speakers and writers. Thousands hear and read his divrei Torah on the Parashah weekly. He is also a prominent rosh yeshiva and an outstanding presenter of halachic analysis.

Set One: Mitzvos - Always Wondering About That?

1. Standing Up While Doing Mitzvos

2. Getting Paid for Mitzvos

3. The Bracha on a Mitzvah: When?

4. Distractions When Performing A Mitzvah

Set Two: Shabbos - Is It Mutar? Vol 2

1. Dishwasher on Shabbos

2. A Manicure on Shabbos?

3. Birthday Cakes on Shabbos

4. Hairbrushes on Shabbos - Permitted or Not?

Set Three: Davening Etiquette

1. Singing During Davening: Pro or Con

2. Standing During Davening

3. Proper Attire for Davening

4. Davening Out Loud?

Set Four: Fathers & Sons

1. My Father's Chumros

2. Can A Father Be Mochel?

3. Can You Sue Your Father?

4. Father or Grandfather: Who Do You Honor?

Rabbi Frand has produced scores of practical, topical audio lectures in his Commuter Chavrusa series, available at your local Hebrew bookseller or through ArtScroll.com.

ArtScroll also offers 17 different sets of shiurim on CD by Rabbi Yisroel Reisman, including his very popular Pathways through the Prophets series, which include fascinating discussions of historical and contemporary issues. Over 1000 people attend his weekly lectures in person, and hundreds more watch them via closed circuit tv in other cities.

Another brilliant audio series is The Maggid Speaks, featuring Rabbi Paysach Krohn's inspiring and popular public lectures.

Torah learners who are MP3-enabled can stay current with Rabbi Saul Rosenberg's lessons on Rashi's Commentary on Chumash. Bereishis/Genesis, Shemos/Exodus, and Vayikra/Leviticus are currently available.

Many ArtScroll Audio shiurim are available on cassettes, as well. Check with your local Hebrew bookseller or consult the latest ArtScroll catalogue for a complete description of tape inventory.

A Summer Reading Recommendation! Libby Lazewnik's latest novel Fortune Seekers is climbing the charts. Set in the remote town of Lakewood NM, this popular novelist has woven a forceful plot line as intricate as it is intriguing. Best of all is her great ability to develop the character of her protagonists.

Friday, June 20, 2008

A Review of Rabbi Abraham Twerski's The Shabbos Companion, Vols. I & II

Reviewed by Ariella Marcus

Several years ago, I engaged in a lively exchange with a group of graduating high school girls about using a Shabbos meal as a tool of Jewish outreach.  Speaking candidly in front of her teacher and peers, one girl admitted, “I’d be afraid to have guests at my table that might ask a question I can’t answer. I know what I believe and I know how to practice what I believe, but I’m not always sure why.” 

If Rabbi Abraham Twerski’s The Shabbos Companion had been published at the time, I would have recommended she read it. While this two-volume set has nothing to do with kiruv/outreach, it nevertheless provides surprising answers to the why behind the what and how of Jewish practices vis-√†-vis Shabbos.  The intrinsically sublime nature of Shabbos is well-known; each Friday night when we sing Lecha Dodi, we reaffirm that Shabbos is makor habracha, the source of blessing.  Understanding this uniquely sacred day gives us a framework to understand and cherish so many derivative facets of Jewish life.

It’s no surprise, though, that The Shabbos Companion is well-written. Rabbi Twerski’s writing career is legendary.  Author of over fifty books, over thirty with ArtScroll, he is one of the most beloved writers in the Orthodox world today.  A clinical psychiatrist and addictions specialist for over five decades, he long ago identified spiritual deficit disorder as the root cause of many of our modern societal ills.  I once asked him in a radio interview how he’d written some seventeen books on the subject of self-esteem alone.  With a smile in his voice, he said, “I didn’t write seventeen books on self-esteem; I wrote one book seventeen different ways!” 

One of Rabbi Twerski’s distinguishing skills is his ability to fluidly shift gears from the academic dialect of psychology to the spiritual idiom of the soul. A descendant of a long and regal Chassidic dynasty, Rabbi Twerski is well-versed in the esoteric aspects of Judaism, as reflected in his book Lights Along the Way, a rich commentary on the Ramchal’s Mesillas Yesharim/Path of the Just.

In The Shabbos Companion Vol. I & II, Rabbi Twerski dives deep into the psyche of the weekly Shabbos celebration, revealing hidden treasures in the customs, prayers, and zemiros/songs so many take for granted.  The Shabbos Companion is both a primer and a refresher course in the oneg/delight of Shabbos observance. Volume One is a treatment of the Sabbath Eve while Volume Two examines the components of the Sabbath Day. 

Both volumes are a pleasure to read.  They follow the linear sequence of events that characterizes Shabbos observance, from the Mincha prayer on Friday afternoon, through Kabbalas Shabbos with kiddush, the evening meal (with its songs and Bircas HaMazon), and on through Shabbos Day with Shacharis and Mussaf, Kiddush Rabbah, the day meal, Mincha, Seudas Shilshis, Maariv, Havdalah, and Motzei Shabbos.  

As Rabbi Twerski describes the traditions, laws, prayers, and songs of Shabbos, he intersperses fascinating Shabbos stories from yesteryear.  At times I got lost in some of these moving tales about far-away Jews who labored so hard to preserve the Day of Rest. While anyone can find substance just by randomly opening to a page in either volume, this set is an excellent resource to systematically share with family and guests at one’s Shabbos table.  For example, rather than perfunctorily launching into one of the familiar Shabbos zemiros/songs between meal courses, the baal haseudah/host can bestow an expanded appreciation for the song by reading Rabbi Twerski’s rich explanation of it.  Employed this way, The Shabbos Companion offers nearly two years worth of insight to enhance the conversation during the Shabbos meals.

Now the caveat: A reviewer is compelled to express something negative about a book so as to proffer a slight chill of objectivity.  Having already read (correction: browsed) many popular books on Shabbos, I was delighted that Rabbi Twerski’s approach to this highly published subject was unique – so distinct, in fact, that the only thing negative I can say here is that I wanted more.  

In introducing Vol. One Shabbos Eve, Rabbi Twerski relates a story of a chassidic rebbe who was enchanted by the holiday of Succos. “He said that whereas other mitzvos are fulfilled with only the body, Succos encompasses the entire body. ‘You enter into this mitzvah [the succah] with your boots.’ The led another rebbe to comment, ‘Yes, but you must take the action to go into the succah.  Shabbos is even greater, because you don’t have to do anything. The kedushah [holiness] of Shabbos comes down upon you wherever you may be.’”

The Shabbos Companion reflects that encompassing embrace of Shabbos.  Wherever a person may be in his/her Torah literacy and observance, these two well-crafted books will meet a person where s/he is, offering illumination of the mind and elevation of the spirit.  

ArtScroll Shaar Press, $21.99/each, Hardcover

See Table of Contents and sample pages of Volume One here

See Table of Contents and samples pages of Volume Two here

See a complete listing of Rabbi Twerski's published works from ArtScroll here

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Coming This Summer - the Kleinman Edition of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch

The essential laws for observant Jewish living are presented succinctly in the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, a classic digest of the more massive four-volume Code of Jewish Law. Since Rav Shlomo Ganzfried published the first Kitzur in the 1860’s, this classic has gone through numerous editions. ArtScroll is preparing an unprecedentedly clear and thorough treatment of the "Kitzur." It has the familiar phrase-by-phrase elucidation and commentary that have made the Schottenstein Talmud and the Sapirstein Rashi so popular. In addition, it includes rulings from the Mishnah Berurah and Harav Moshe Feinstein when they differ from the Kitzur. The first book in this multi-volume series (simanim 1-34) will be released this summer. The ArtScroll Kitzur Shulchan Aruch is being produced by a team of dedicated Torah scholars, under the direction of Rabbi Yosaif Asher Weiss, who is also the editor of the Daily Dose of Torah series. The project is dedicated by Brochie and Elly Kleinman, who are the patron dedicators of the Daily Dose of Torah series. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

What's a Page of Rashi's Commentary Look Like in the Sapirstein Edition?

In over 30 years of developing English language access to classic Jewish sources, ArtScroll has developed a signature formatting which makes it easy for Torah learners of all levels to study the text.  Here's a sample page which shows (in descending order) the biblical text, Onkelos translation in Aramaic, Rashi's commentary in Rashi script, a phrase-by-phrase elucidated translation, and insightful footnotes and further sources (mekoros).  A knowledge of Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki 1040-1105 CE) is considered a prerequisite for mastery of the simple meaning of the Torah text.  The Sapirstein Edition of Rashi is one of the most widely used commentaries on the Torah in English today.  

Click to enlarge image.

New ArtScroll Catalog Available

In celebration of Shavua HaSefer (Book Week) which occurs in June, ArtScroll has published a new catalog, featuring same day shipping on over 1,000 items in stock.  All books and audio featured in this new catalog are available at 20% off till June 25 '08.  

To request a free catalog, please click here or call 1-800-637-6724. 

Monday, June 16, 2008

Inside ArtScroll - Week of June 16 08

The conclusion of the Yad Avraham Mishnah Series draws near with the publication of Mishnah Niddah. Only a few volumes remain to complete Seder Tahoros, the final Seder in the project. The translation, elucidation, and commentary contained in the series is unparalleled.  The completed Sedarim of ZeraimMoedNezikinNashim, and Kodashim are all available now in both the full-size and the new pocket-size, boxed sets of Mishnayos. And right now – during the June 20% off sale – is the perfect time to update your Mishnah library with this and other volumes.

Artscroll’s phrase-by-phrase translation and elucidated commentary on Ramban’s Deuteronomy/Devarim will soon be at your local Judaica store. This year, as you study this 900-page volume, you’ll have English language access to one of the greatest of all Torah commentators. Many Torah scholars have urged, after Rashi, that Torah students acquire mastery of the Ramban’s work on the Chumash. In addition to his commentary on the text, Ramban is filled with seminal presentations of fundamentals of our faith. After Rashi, Ramban is the primary commentary on Chumash. This elucidation presents it with unprecedented clarity. 

The Ramban on Genesis/Bereishis and Exodus/Shemos  have been completed while Leviticus/Vayikra and Numbers/Bamidbar are due for publication in the coming year. 

The Editor’s View is an eye-opening look at our life, our beliefs, and ourselves as reflected through the eyes of Rabbi Pinchos Lipshutz, editor of the very popular Yated Neeman weekly.Comprising a collection of more than fifty incisive and illuminating essays, this book probes current events, history, and our everyday lives to help us understand the story behind the story – and the important lessons within the story. A student of many leading Torah giants and an original thinker,Rabbi Lipshutz’s perspective on contemporary issues combines the Torah wisdom of his mentors with cogent analysis.  It’s all here in The Editor’s View.

Miracle Ride Soars – The first printing of author Tzipi Caton’s brand new book, describing her remarkable recovery from Hodgkin’s disease, has sold out. A second printing is on the way.  A gifted young writer, Tzipi Caton’s story is at times heartbreaking, at times heartwarming, and often unexpectedly humorous.  It’s a real-life story that reads with the force of a drama and culminates in a surprising, almost fairy-tale ending.  Incidentally, Tzipi’s friends and family have begun a fund to provide copies of this encouraging book to individuals, particularly youth, who are grappling with serious illnesses. 

Featuring stories that make a lifetime impression, Why Weren’t You Zisha & Other Stories isTanya Michal’s beautifully illustrated new book of Chassidic stories for children.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

A Teenage Girl, a Grim Diagnosis, and a Storybook Ending

Reviewed by Ariella Marcus

Miracle Ride is Tzipi Caton’s very personal story of recovery from Hodgkin’s disease.  While it features the customary story elements associated with detection, diagnosis, and treatment of a serious illness, the book packs a lot of surprises.  Picture an elfin Orthodox Jewish sixteen-year old engaging her medical team in feisty repartee, who discovers irony in the ordinary, and who is often downright funny in her unfiltered interactions with friends, family, teachers, and fellow patients. Born as a journal to chronicle Tzipi’s journey from sickness to health, Miracle Ride is a fast-moving book.  Aware or not, this young writer makes clever use of stream-of-consciousness technique.

 Most people tend to skip over a book’s preface and foreword.  In this case, don’t.  The preface was written by Tzipi’s attending physician, Dr. Michael B. Harris, who directs Tomorrow’s Children’s Institute at Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital at the Hackensack University Medical Center. He’s also Professor of Pediatrics at UMDNJ — New Jersey Medical School and at Touro University College of Medicine. Himself a man of great emunah/faith, he’s one of those incredibly busy medical experts for whom time expands when he renders personal care to his patients.  His warm comments set the pace and tone for Miracle Ride

Equally so with the book’s Foreword, written by the woman we know only as “Tzipi’s mother”, whose loving perspective takes us viscerally inside a gut-wrenching series of experiences for her, her husband, and Tzipi’s many siblings. 

Tzipi Caton is a fighting realist with a deep trust in G-d. Her palpable faith flows throughout Miracle Ride. She lives, talks, prays, argues, cries, and laughs as one who knows G-d is real, and is there for her. Her faith is not a placebo. 

Miracle Ride begins in 2003. Tzipi remembers, “The first thing that went through my mind was that I must’ve had a brick in my neck. It was Thursday, at the end of first period, and I was bending down to get my siddur, when suddenly it hurt to move my head. Instinctively, my hands went to my neck and I felt two big bumps I’d never felt before.”

Tzipi’s spirited attitude, which suffuses the book, emerges in the first chapter when she quips, “Eleventh grade was so not a picnic.”  She describes her joy at being a Jewish girl – until she hit a hard wall of realization. “I was a JAP. I was the girl who loved everything about being a girl. The clothing, the shoes, the makeup, the shoes, the accessories, the shoes, the jewelry, the shoes, doing my long dark hair, the shoes, and did I mention the shoes? My days as a JAP seemed to be changing into my days as a JACP. A Jewish American Princess turning into a Jewish American Cancer Patient.”

The story races rollercoaster-like through the shock of diagnosis, the search for the best medical care, the awkward agonies of chemotherapy, the struggle for normalcy, the curious fraternity shared by fellow cancer patients, and a family and community that prays, cares, and wonders why. After many poignant twists and turns, the book hurtles toward an amazing-but-true story book ending which left this reviewer breathless with gratitude.

Miracle Ride is one of those once-in-a-decade books that pole-vaulted to the top of my recommended reading stack. Its particular Jewish cultural and religious setting is a stimulating backdrop for its universal themes of hope, courage, faith, and determination. I got very attached to the personalities showcased in Tzipi’s journal. They enlightened my mind and deeply touched my heart. More than an entertaining human drama, Miracle Ride solicits action. When I reluctantly finished it, I knew I had to carry its impact into my world to make something better, to brighten someone’s day, to improve myself as a caring person.

There’s a compassionate spin-off developing with the publication of Miracle Ride. Friends, family, friends of friends and even strangers are committing resources to make this book available as an encouragement to cancer patients across the country.  There is also hope that the book will generate more interest and support for Dr. Michael Harris’ vital work at Tomorrow’s Children’s Institute.

It’s been five years since Tzipi Caton’s miracle ride began. Today at 21, she’s a remarkable soul with a unique gift to reframe personal hardships into a storyline that can literally shift a reader’s view of what’s really important in life. She’s anything but shy in sharing the lessons of her recovery from cancer. Therefore, I predict we’ll see more published musings from this talented young author.

Hear Tzipi Caton's radio interview.  See the audio section in the left column of this page. 

View Table of Contents and Sample Pages here

Visit Tzipi Caton's blog here

Reviewer: Ariella.Marcus@gmail.com

Columnist’s New Book Serves Up Motherhood on Wry

Noted columnist Bassi Gruen’s just-published A Mother’s Musings is a delightful read. In a world of intimidating supermoms, here’s a book about a real woman dealing with the real challenges we all face. She has her doubts and her difficult days; she battles whiney toddlers and broken washing machines. And she doesn’t always win. She admits to it all with refreshing candor. Readers will likely find themselves here.

This is no kvetch journal. Far from it. Bassi takes us up a step or three. Each piece offers food for thought, an idea, a new interpretation of an old reality. Bassi mines motherhood for all the inspiration it has to offer. And she finds it right there amidst the dirty dishes and mismatched socks. Her pieces are anecdotal; she shares not just the events but also the inner conversations they sparked, lending a depth to the mundane, hinting to the sublime hidden within our lives.

A Mother’s Musings is divided according to the months of the year. Each month features a theme, with several vignettes loosely related to the theme. In this way, Bassi takes us through the year to embrace the ecstasy of Succos, the tragedy of Tisha B’av, the renewal of Pesach. But most of the book, like most of our lives, comprises the regular days - PTA meetings, work deadlines, picnics in the park - the thousand and one threads of activity that constitute life’s ordinariness. 

There are some fictional pieces interspersed as well, allowing us to explore the inner worlds of other mothers. In her stylized, multi-generational pieces, Bassi gives us a snapshot of Yom Tov in the lives of three women living in different countries, different centuries, yet united by the essence of the day. 

This book doesn’t easily yield to being labeled. It’s a collection of stories, yes, and while most are true, some morph into engaging fiction. It is light reading for certain, liberally spiced with wry humor, but many of the ideas leave you in a reflective posture. There are numerous chinuch concepts which are subtly implied through the stories. And while A Mother’s Musings is the story of a youngish mother, single girls, brand new mothers, great-grandmothers, and even men will also find it inspiring.

Here’s one new book not to miss. A Mother’s Musings will reward you with a whole new appreciation for motherhood.

See the Table of Contents and Sample Pages here

Order A Mother's Musings here

About the author: Bassi Gruen is a licensed social worker, an editor, and a freelance writer. She's published hundreds of articles in numerous Jewish publications. Bassi lives with her husband, her children, and her dreams in Beitar Illit.

Author Interview: Project Y.E.S. Director Publishes Straight Talk Book on Parenting

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz is the dean of Yeshiva Darchei Noam in Monsey and the director of the Agudath Israel's Project Y.E.S. (Youth Educational Services). He recently published Living & Parenting: A Down-to-Earth Guide, his first book with ArtScroll Mesorah Publications, which features some of his best, most pragmatic solutions for helping all of today's Jewish youth – mainstream and at-risk – maximize their potential. For over 25 years, he has specialized in reaching out to marginalized Jewish youth and assisting their parents in raising them effectively. His results have been significant and some former students have admitted "this rabbi saved my life". He spoke to broadcaster Gavriel Aryeh Sanders in this exclusive first-person interview.

GS: Rabbi Horowitz, every book has a process of germination. What was yours for Living & Parenting?

RYH: It wasn’t so sophisticated, actually. I've published numerous articles over the years on the subjects of parenting, education and dealing with pre-risk/at-risk youth. I felt that presenting the most practical ones in a single volume would help parents raise their children more effectively.

GS: What’s the meaning behind the title of "Living & Parenting"?

RYH: Parenting is really a reflection of our own lives, as all-too-often, the challenges that we face with our children are really related to issues that we face as adults. I wanted to address the bigger picture and help parents, along with educators, improve their quality of life while equally helping them help their kids do the same.

This book is all about helping parents think outside the box and develop a multitude of approaches and solutions to child rearing. Using a tool analogy, if all you have is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail. My goal is to give students, parents, and teachers more tools to manage their lives better.

GS: You started out at 22 years old teaching a weaker class of eighth grade boys. Did you know what you were getting into?

RYH: Colleagues said I'd be pigeon-holing myself, that I'd never get a strong class. But the naiveté of my youth worked to my benefit. I believed I could do it. More importantly, I believed the kids themselves could rise to my level of expectation. It often took some individualized and unique approaches, but they were often effective with children who had never previously succeeded in school.

GS: How so?

RYH: Rabbi Abraham Twerski told me years ago that spiritual health is invariably linked to healthy self-esteem and conversely that spiritual deficiency was linked to weak self-esteem. Poorly performing students tend to have pretty low self-esteem; they don't easily trust authority figures, either. I took the approach of empowering my students with incremental successes which affected their educational, social, and familial worlds. I remember one case where I inherited a new class. Nice kids but very passive; lots of quiet desperation in their lives. My first action was to take them outside for a spontaneous half-hour of baseball. That earned me the right to hold their attention on matters of learning.

GS: What is your approach to learning, especially Talmudic skills?

RYH: You said the right word. It's skill-based. Many kids today are in "sink or swim" mode. They don't have a solid foundation in the essentials of understanding language, which is the key to understanding thought and meaning! This applies to Gemara, Chumash, even the Siddur. The bright ones figure it out; the average ones lope along; and the rest sink into a malaise of despair, always running but never catching up until at some point, they start dropping out of the race. Adults may view it as defiance; I view it as exhaustion. I've worked hard to create systematic, consecutive, and success-based steps which have kids smiling to themselves. Early on in our learning, they sense that I believe they can do it. The tipping point occurs when they believe they can do it.

GS: How did you structure Living & Parenting?

RYH: As I said, it's a compilation of articles I've authored over the years. There are 50 chapters, many quite brief. Each was selected for relevance to our contemporary challenges in raising kids to become bnei Torah. Two chapters comprise a checklist to determine if sending your teen to learn in Israel is in their best interest. Three chapters are devoted to understanding and nurturing your child's unique learning patterns. Eight chapters detail a methodology for constructive criticism. I discuss life skills, independent learning skills, dealing with kids who've lost a parent. I share my experiences of talking to kids who are angry, disenfranchised, confused, and sometimes just plain bored. I even have a chapter on kiruv (outreach) for our children.

GS: You mention mastery of the rudiments of Lashon Kodesh. Why?

RYH: Take the study of Chumash, for example. More than ninety percent of all words that appear in Chumash are variations of only 270 root words! There are 26 verbs and 38 nouns that appear in Chumash more than 500 times each! If we were to give children a proper rudimentary understanding of these, teaching them the shorashim (roots) and the shimushim (prefixes, suffixes, etc.) at the time they start to learn Chumash, we'd be giving them the educational training wheels they need to succeed. One cannot master Rashi's commentary without this basic knowledge.

The same thinking applies to Gemara. Think about it. Once boys start learning Gemara, we remove the nekudos, introduce Aramaic, and dive into lengthy exchanges of logical interplay. A little time invested up front in the early learning stages can make all the difference when the student reaches the teen years. I believe it's a significant component of academic self-esteem.

GS: How independent are your methods and views?

RYH: I'm certainly no maverick. My life, work, perspective, and values are based on the best of wise counsel - what we call Daas Torah. The first chapter in Living & Parenting explains what that is and why it's so important. Perhaps what makes me a little different is that I've never become jaded by the job. I still do what I did back when I was 22 in that first eighth grade class - I see students not as they are, but rather as they can become.

GS: Hatzlacha rabbah with the book, the yeshiva, with Project Y.E.S. and with every student and family you help.

RYH: Thank you. Early feedback on the book has been very encouraging. What makes all the time put into the book worthwhile is when I get a note or email from a grateful parent informing me that they are finding child rearing easier now that they have more tools in the box.

View Table of Contents and Sample Pages from Living & Parenting here.

Order the book online here.

Visit Rabbi Horowitz's website here.

Hear Rabbi Horowitz's recent radio interview here.

Two Bestsellers in Translation!

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis' incredible best seller - Life Is A Test - is in the final stages of translation to Spanish.  

AND - Sara Yoheved Rigler's soul-stirring Holy Woman has been published in French! Now French-speaking Jews in France, North Africa, Canada, and Israel will be enriched from this story of the life and greatness of Rebbetzin Chaya Sara Kramer. 

To order Holy Woman in French, click here

Yet Another Cookbook in the Kosher by Design Series?

Absolute fact! Susie Fishbein is rapidly finishing up her sixth culinary creation in the most popular kosher cookbook series ever published.  Anyone concerned with healthy eating and cooking (that should be most all of us, no?) will love the delicious new recipes in Kosher by Design Lightens Up.  Watch this blog for more news on the release of Susie's latest.  

By the way, just because Passover is over doesn't mean Passover by Design is a closed cookbook till next year.  130 of the recipes are gluten-free, which makes Passover by Design a source of year round delight for anyone affected by Celiac disease.  

To see the complete series of Kosher by Design cookbooks published to date, click here

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