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March 15, 2013 2:29 am

Jewish Reading Reviews

avatar by Ronn Torossian

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Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Photo: Elias Goldensky.

Reading has always been one of my favorite hobbies and I find it thoroughly enjoyable.  Books always allow us to seek further knowledge, and more.  Here is my most recent Jewish reading list, and some of my thoughts on the books:

  • The Jewish Way In Death And Mourning, by Maurice Lamm:  Coping with the loss of my mother, this book was universally recommended by Rabbis.  Post-Shiva I’d concur and recommend it to anyone who needs it.  The book wasn’t “heavy” and dealt with very difficult issues at a sensitive time, in a compassionate manner.  There is nothing at all easy about coping with death, but this book allowed my family and I to understand some of the rules and regulations of Jewish burial and mourning. Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations said this about the book: “Regrettably, it is a necessity for every Jewish home.” As a caveat, I’d recommend that no matter where one stands on the religious spectrum having a Rabbi you trust is better than any book – but this book is the best secondary option.
  • Menachem Begin:  A Life, by Avi Shilon: A new, fascinating book which is the first full complete biography of this great Jewish leader.  As a former National President of Betar North America, I found it fascinating to read of Begin’s life-long quest to do what he viewed as best for the Jews. He remained loyal to what he believed to be the vision of Ze’ev Jabotinsky throughout his life, and painstakingly fought for Jewish interests.   The book details Begin’s political struggles throughout his long career in politics and Jewish life, and how the man evolved from an underground activist to a statesman. The author is more negative regarding “Begin the man” than I was expecting and I found this to be a major downside. There are repeated allusions to depression, and other alleged mental illnesses that Begin had. At times it seems like a point the author wanted to prove. The book however was insightful and a worthwhile read about this Jewish hero.  Begin was a great man and a heroic Jew who should be remembered as such.
  • FDR and the Jews, by Richard Breitman & Allan J. Lichtman:  A book which was infuriating to read from cover to cover.  It seemingly ignores the fact that Roosevelt was the most powerful man in the world and could have done so much more to save Jews during the Holocaust.  The author brushes over other established research and seems to be apologizing for Roosevelt’s behavior. Yes, he did some good things, rather than none, but is that the test of leadership? It is not the first book I’d recommend if one wants to read about Roosevelt’s activities  during the Holocaust. I’d suggest “A Deafening Silence” or “The Abandonment of the Jews.”
  • The Garden of Wisdom A Practical Guide to Happiness in Life by Rabbi Shalom Arush: Having previously read (and loved) The Garden of Emuna by Arush, this book was one I very much looked forward to reading.  It was enjoyable and informs about the unique Breslov Hasidic style of faith and belief in a higher-power.  The book addresses how to deal with modern-day challenges of faith and Arush’s books are necessary additions to any Jewish library.

Ronn Torossian is a philanthropist, PR firm owner and author.

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