As a Jewish author and blogger, I am proud to host the June Jewish Book Carnival! Posted the 15th of each month, the Carnival brings together those who blog about Jewish books and authors in a monthly round up of literary links. Please read, comment and share each of this month's submissions and thanks to all who contributed!
Heidi Rabinowitz interviews author Fawzia Gilani-Williams about her cross cultural picture book, Yaffa and Fatima, Shalom Salaam.
The newest episode of The Book of Life Podcast, hosted by librarian Heidi Rabinowitz, features an interview with the author and publisher of Almost a Minyan, a picture book that is traditional and groundbreaking at the same time, depicting an egalitarian, multiracial, observant Jewish community.
The Whole Megillah interviews Marisa Scheinfeld about her photography and book, The Borscht Belt: Revisiting the Remains of America's Jewish Vacationland.
A beautiful Jerusalem evening of stories shared by Etgar Keret and Maira Kalman was this month's highlight at Life Is Like a Library.
On My Machberet, Erika Dreifus writes about Love Nailed to the Doorpost, the latest collection from poet Richard Chess.
Author Samuel Griswold reviews the book Jewish Spiritual Parenting: Wisdom, Activities, Rituals and Prayers for
Raising Children with Spiritual Balance and Emotional Wholeness by Rabbi Paul Kipnes and Michelle November.
Erika Dreifus will host the July 2017 Jewish Book Carnival at My Machberet. Be sure to check in on July 15th and thanks for supporting Jewish authors and literacy!
Judaism is all about making ordinary moments holy and giving them meaning. Ever since I can remember, my parents taught me that our only mission in life is to leave this world a little better than we found it. I later learned this is Tikkun Olam, or Repair of the World, a cornerstone of Jewish belief. Since becoming a father myself, it has become a primary focus of mine to pass on my Jewish heritage to my son, so he may reach is own spiritual understanding of our faith and pass this legacy on to future generations. And so, I was very excited to discover the book Jewish Spiritual Parenting by Rabbi Paul Kipnes and his wife, Michelle November.
Jewish Spiritual Parenting: Wisdom, Activities, Rituals and Prayers for Raising Children with Spiritual Balance and Emotional Wholeness is all about teaching our children how to find the sacred in everyday life through ageless Jewish wisdom that is as relevant today, as it was for our ancestors (maybe more!). Jewish concepts such as Tzimtzum (Divine expansion and contraction), L'dor Vador (from generation to generation), Shutafut (partnership) and B'tzelem Elohim (in the image of God) are creatively interpreted as guides for parents to instill a deep and meaningful Jewish identity in their children that will hopefully lead to their being better citizens of this world.
An aspect of this book that I find valuable is the fact that the authors draw upon their experiences as a rabbi and Jewish educators, but also as parents themselves. Each lesson incorporates not only Jewish philosophy, but related stories of how they incorporated this wisdom into the raising of their own children. Thus, readers are able to see first-hand examples for better understanding.
The book begins with a discussion of the many ways we, as Jews, define God. One quickly learns that there are as many unique ways of understanding God as there are Jews in the world, and all are compatible with Judaism itself. Through open discussion between parents and children, they encourage a spiritual sharing of ideas about God that lead to greater clarity and understanding.
Drawing upon the teachings of Maimonides about friendship, readers learn how to use Shutafut (partnership) as a parenting strategy and how we can learn from the failures of our ancestors (as told in Torah and Midrash).
Tzimtzum is the Kabbalistic concept of how the Ein Sof, or limitless Divinity, contracted itself to make a space for creation. Rabbi and Michelle Kipnes use this philosophy to show parents when they should reach out and when they should hold back to allow their children space to grow.
It was Elie Wiesel who said that "Without memory, there is no culture. Without memory, there would be no civilization, no society, no future." This is the Jewish concept of L'dor Vador, from generation to generation. In this lesson, the authors encourage parents to build relationships between their children and older generations through sacred storytelling and dedicated times for grandparents and elders to share their life experiences.
B'tzelem Elohim is the teaching that we are all created in the image of God. In this lesson, we learn how to celebrate the uniqueness of each of our children, so that we can build a rapport and guide each of them in ways that are better suited to their understanding and personal growth.
These are just a few of the many lessons included in Jewish Spiritual Parenting. I would definitely recommend this book not only for prospective and new parents, but also for those parents with older children who want to transmit and teach the values of their Jewish faith and heritage in a way that is meaningful and can be useful for everyday life and growth. Ultimately, we can only be guides for our children on their journey through life. As Anne Frank said, "Parents can only give good advice, or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person's character lies in their own hands."
Author of Spiritual Thriller, True Identity
I first discovered The Book of Names by Jill Gregory and Karen Tintori when searching for novels similar to my own "True Identity" ... spiritual, suspense thrillers with a Kabbalistic, Jewish theme that I could compare and learn from to become a better author myself.
The Book of Names centers on the Talmudic concept of the Lamed Vovniks, or the thirty-six righteous individuals who see the Divine Presence with a clear vision and whose presence prevents the world's destruction. The identity of these pure souls is a secret, as they themselves are unaware of their special status. But then archaeologists discover the remnants of the Book of Adam, a manuscript said to be written by the first man himself and to contain the names of all creatures in every generation. Among those names are those of the Lamed Vovniks... past, present and future.
The Gnoseos are a secret cult with members from many nations who see the world as evil and its destruction as the way for them to escape its clutches and ascend to the realm of spirit. For them, God is a prison guard and all forms of evil acts are justified to destroy his/her creation and attain their goal. Through the use of assassins known as Dark Angels, they systematically kill each of the Lamed Vovniks in order to remove their protective shield over creation. Standing in their way are a group of rabbis, the Mossad and their young female agent, and a political science professor from Georgetown.
David Shephard was raised Jewish, but hasn't seen the inside of a synagogue since his Bar Mitzvah. A freak childhood accident almost kills him. Since then, he's been hearing random names in his mind and writing them down in a journal. Little does he know that knowledge of these names will one day save the world.
As a Jewish author and student of Kabbalah, I was captivated by the promise of this story. It was a fast-paced read with lots of action. But, the detailed descriptions of Kabbalistic principles interspersed throughout the text tended to keep me from being totally immersed in the novel, a hazard I understand, as it's a problem that I've had to conquer in my own writings. I also found some discrepancies in the plot premise itself. For example, the Gnoseos sought the destruction of our world in order to ascend to a spiritual existence, yet they kidnapped young women in order to repopulate their new world. And, at times, the descriptions of violence seemed shallow and repetitive.
Overall, I found The Book of Names to be a fun read and informative for those less knowledgeable of Jewish mystical belief and practice. I'd give it 3 out of 5 stars and would definitely recommend you give it a chance.
As a Jewish author and blogger, I am proud to host the February Jewish Book Carnival! Posted the 15th of each month, the Carnival brings together those who blog about Jewish books and authors in a monthly round up of literary links. Please read, comment and share each of this month's submissions and thanks to all who contributed!
In January, Jill at Rhapsody in Books reviewed the book Unkosher Slaughter by Jane Berman, who has lived in Israel since 1969. This engrossing crime story takes place in a fictional Orthodox Israeli kibbutz, Kerem El, and begins with the murder of Rebbe Elijah Lachmann, the spiritual leader of the kibbutz.
The Book of Life Podcast features an interview by Canadian Correspondent Anne Dublin with Eva Wiseman, author of the historical/paranormal teen romance Another Me.
Winter is a good season for both Jewish books and knitting, and at "Life Is Like a Library," Chava Pinchuck looks at both here....
At The Whole Megillah, Barbara Krasner interviews Susan Lynn Meyer, author of Skating with the Statue of Liberty, the sequel to the 2011 Sydney Taylor Honor Book for Older Readers winner, Black Radishes.
Author’s Notebook | Susan Lynn Meyer, Skating with the Statue of Liberty
Deborah Kalb interviews a variety of authors on her blog, deborahkalbbooks.blogspot.com. Here's a link to a recent interview she did with Adrienne Ross Scanlan on her new book, Turning Homeward.
The Fig Tree Books blog suggests "Five Free and Easy Ways to Support Jewish Literature"—and asks for your additional recommendations.
It's not technically on Erika Dreifus's My Machberet blog, but on a page of her website, Erika has updated a list of awards and prizes for Jewish literature (a compilation that now includes an exciting new fiction prize from the Association of Jewish Libraries).
The 2017 Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour brought us interviews with gold and silver medal winning authors and illustrators. The Association of Jewish Libraries blog, People of the Books, has links to all the interviews here....
Rabbi Deborah Miller of BooksandBlintzes.com reviewed the children's book, Almost A Minyan by Lori S. Kline and Susan Simon.
And Samuel Griswold tells us about the Largest Synagogue Library in the Southeast....
Barbara Krasner will host the March 2017 Jewish Book Carnival at The Whole Megillah. Be sure to check in on March 15th and thanks for supporting Jewish authors and literacy!
As an author and avid reader, I am a complete supporter of local libraries and book stores. Fortunately for me, I have a hidden gem nearby in Jacksonville, Florida. With about 16,000 books, the Wurn Family Library located at Congregation Ahavath Chesed is home to the largest synagogue library in the Southeast!
“We are open to all synagogues and the entire Jewish community,” said former Head Librarian Hilda Gelfman. She explained that they have been a resource for churches, students, Bible study groups and others, as well as synagogues and the Jewish community of Jacksonville itself. Many have come to utilize the library’s extensive Holocaust collection which is one of the largest in the Southeast.
A unique feature of the Wurn Family Library is its sizable selection of fiction books. “Most synagogue libraries don’t include much fiction,” explained current Head Librarian, Virginia Singer. “Our books are chosen based on Jewish content and/or authors.” Authors available at the Wurn Family Library include Daniel Silva, Jonathon Kellerman, Naomi Reagan, Orson Scott Card, as well as Israeli and classical authors such as Isaac Beshevis Singer and Amos Oz.
Hilda’s Garden features 4000 children’s books that include classics to the latest releases. It is a good place to get stories for Shabbat and the holidays, bedtime reading and for educational purposes.
Should a book be of interest to you, let them know and they’ll likely purchase it. “If one person reads a book, it is worth getting,” Singer said.
While run like any other professional library according to the guidelines of the American Library Association, the Wurn Family Library is staffed and operated completely by volunteers. They are always grateful to those who want to help out and to those who donate. “We are self-supporting through donations and fundraisers,” Gelfman said. Donations can be sent to the Wurn Family Library, C/O Congregation Ahavath Chesed at 8727 San Jose Boulevard, Jacksonville, Florida 32217.
Additional funds are raised by the on-going “Hallway Book Sale” from books donated by the community. Hardcovers sell for $1.00 and paperbacks for just 50 cents.
A point of pride with the Wurn Family Library is that no book is ever discarded. Rather, they are donated to various area groups including the Bartram Trail Library, River Garden, Lake City Veterans, Brooks Rehabilitation and local county “Friends of the Library” organizations. There is also an active rabbi book exchange for those who are newly ordained, or who request books.
The library is open any time Congregation Ahavath Chesed is open and books are available even when staff is not present. There is a sign-out form at the front desk. “We work on the honor system and lose very few books,” Gelfman said.
You will find a visit to the Wurn Family Library to be worthwhile. It is a treasure not only to the Jewish community, but to the city of Jacksonville and all of northeast Florida too.
Author of the Spiritual Thriller, True Identity
My love of historical fiction began as a young pre-teen, after having read Louis Lamour’s “The Walking Drum,” about a young Druid named Kerbouchard who travels throughout 12th century Europe in search of knowledge, fortune, and his long lost father. The novel was a recommendation and gift from my own father, who had recently read it himself. I was instantly mesmerized by how Lamour’s writing brought a multitude of historical figures and events to life from the primarily Muslim culture of Moorish Spain with its love of knowledge and learning, to the Greek Orthodox Christian based society of Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire, with its long history of authoritarian rule. It awakened me to a world I barely knew existed and inspired me to read more.
I’ve always loved reading, writing and history, so it wasn’t a big leap for me to set my sights on becoming an author of historical fiction myself. Like Lamour, I drew upon my Jewish heritage (just as he looked to his Irish, French, and Native American ancestry) for inspiration and story ideas. I publicly stated that my goal was to be the “Louis Lamour of the Jewish world.” This was not stated out of ego, but out of admiration for and a desire to replicate the abundant research that went into the writing of each of his novels. My goal was (and still is) to not only entertain my readers, but to educate them also, with as accurate a portrayal of the history contained in each of my books as I can possibly write. This is the approach I took in writing my novel True Identity, about an undercover Mossad agent, who is knocked unconscious and experiences past-life visions of being a follower of the Biblical Patriarch Abraham.
I more recently gained a greater understanding of the long-time Jewish tradition of writing Midrash, stories meant to further explain and add detail to the characters and stories of Torah. So, what exactly is Midrash? And is Jewish-themed historical fiction a form of modern Midrash?
The term Midrash comes from the root word “derash” which in Hebrew means “to search, to examine, or to investigate.” The addition of the Mem (m) prefix to the beginning of the word turns the word into a noun, making its meaning to be “the search, the examination, or the investigation.” Originally oral tales meant to expand upon, or add details to Biblical stories, Midrashim (plural of Midrash) were most likely compiled and written down between the 4th and 9th centuries A.D. They generally fall into two categories, Halachic Midrashim and Aggadah. Halachic Midrashim are legal works meant to answer legal questions of the day through rabbinical interpretations of laws of the Torah. They are the Jewish equivalent to court rulings and precedents. Aggadah, or legends, are the stories told to flesh out Biblical characters and happenings. A popular example is the story of Abraham’s breaking of the idols in his father’s workshop (a Midrash that is included in True Identity). This story is not found in Torah. So, did it really happen? We cannot say for sure whether the oral tradition is rooted in truth or myth. But the question itself misses the point of Midrash. As stated by Maimonides, the 12th century Jewish scholar and author of the Guide for the Perplexed, Midrashim are not meant to be understood literally, but allegorically. They bring the characters and stories of Torah to life, just like historical fiction!
True Identity as modern Midrash:
As mentioned earlier, my novel, True Identity, tells the story of an Israeli Mossad agent working undercover in Iraqi Kurdistan, who’s knocked unconscious during a raid by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp and experiences past-life visions of being a follower of the Hebrew Patriarch Abraham. I make use of the Jewish mystical belief in reincarnation, or Gilgulim HaNefesh, to explore who the ancient Hebrews really were and how much of a revolutionary figure their leader, Abraham, actually was for his time. The challenge faced by my main character is to recall his “true identity” in time to prevent the assassination of the newly-elected American president. All the while, he’s being hunted by the Iranians and their allies. So, is it a modern midrash? I’ll leave that to the reader to decide. Obviously, the majority of my characters are fictional, but like the midrashim of old, my goal is to elaborate upon and provide new meaning to the tales of Torah.
Samuel Griswold, Author
True Identity… A David Jezreel Story
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is reported to once have said “that democracy, for him, is like a bus ride… ‘Once I get to my stop, I’m getting off.” Once seen as a kind of democratic reformer, Erdogan has increasingly become an authoritarian autocrat with fascist leanings. Under his rule, press freedoms have been restricted and journalists, democratic activists and political opponents have all been imprisoned. Having consolidated power, Erdogan has recently sought changes to the Turkish constitution to create a more powerful executive presidency that will dominate the Turkish political scene. So, is President Erdogan about to get off the bus?
On July 15, 2016, the world witnessed an alleged military coup against the government of Turkey. But, was it really a coup, or a “wag the dog” style hoax by President Erdogan and his AKP Party allies? Some experts have questions about the coup that make them skeptical. Here are just a few of them:
- “Coup 101” protocol is that you arrest and detain government officials as soon as possible, yet these coup leaders made no effort to detain President Erdogan, even though they knew where he was vacationing. Instead they let him board a plane and return to Istanbul.
- Rebel jets reportedly harassed and locked target on the plane carrying President Erdogan back to Istanbul, but never made any attempt to shoot it down or prevent its return.
- Coups traditionally take control of communications, cutting off the internet and confiscating television/radio stations. But these coup leaders made no attempt to stop internet communications and only took over a minor television station, allowing President Erdogan to rally and call his supporters to the streets, while coup leaders told their supporters to stay home.
- Following the coup attempt, Erdogan’s government arrested and relieved of duty 50,000 military personnel, teachers, police officers, and public officials. The broad scope of these arrests and detentions indicate they already had a target list and perhaps advance knowledge of the coup.
As stated by Middle East expert, Professor Ephraim Herrara, during a July 24th interview with Arutz Sheva, “This means we really cannot know whether this was a coup by officers, or one staged by Erdogan, so that he can eliminate the opposition.”
We may never know if the coup of July 15, 2016 was real, or a staged event. But, what we do know is that President Erdogan has used this event as reason to extend his authority and reduce political and individual freedoms in the country. So, who are those being arrested and detained by the government?
President Erdogan is publicly accusing followers of moderate Sunni cleric Fethullah Gulen as being behind the failed coup. In an address to the nation, he said the coup attempt came from “a faction in the military, the parallels,” which is understand as a reference to the followers of Gulen, who number millions in Turkey and the world. Once an ally of Erdogan’s AKP Party and government, Gulen’s followers became the political target of Erdogan after 2013, when pro-Gulen police and prosecutors brought corruption charges against many in Erdogan’s inner circle. They are now listed as terrorists by the Turkish government. So, what do Gulenists believe and why does Erdogan consider them such a threat?
Fethullah Gulen is a Turkish imam who preaches an inclusive brand of Sufi Islam that emphasizes cooperation and tolerance, promotes democracy and the rule of law, views Islam and the modern world as compatible, and stresses the importance of education beyond the narrow confines of the Islamic religious schools system. The Gulen Movement operates numerous schools across Turkey and beyond, including more than 100 charter schools in the U.S. These schools emphasize math and science, while avoiding proselytization. Boys and girls are educated on an equal footing.
Similarly, the Kurdish led HDP, or People’s Democratic Party is a target of Erdogan’s authoritarian rule. According to their website, they seek freedom, equality, peace and justice for all citizens of Turkey, regardless of ethnic background, religious belief, or individual thought. They promote the establishment of democratically elected and autonomous local governments that guarantee the inclusion of all people in political decision making. They fight for the equality of women and see discrimination against the LGBTQ community as racism.
In essence, President Erdogan’s AKP-led government is targeting groups that advocate for secular democracy, human rights, equality and freedom of religion.
What, if anything, can America and the West do to discourage the backslide of freedoms in Turkey and support those advocates of democracy in the country?
First, world leaders should speak out against the restrictive, fascist policies of President Erdogan. Following the break-up of the Soviet Union, we heard from many former dissidents who were inspired and encouraged by the public criticisms of former Soviet policies by world leaders such as President Reagan and Prime Minister Thatcher.
As a further step, freedom-loving governments should support opposition parties, individuals and other organizations who advocate for democratic reform in Turkey. Groups like the HDP, CHP, Kurds, Alevis, and Gulenists should all receive our support, both publicly and privately. We should offer financial assistance, technical assistance and equipment, and campaign strategy to help them regain political power.
Turkey’s role as a NATO member should be reconsidered and revoked if democratic freedoms aren’t restored by the Erdogan government.
The European Union should publicly state that Turkey’s application for EU membership is in jeopardy without democratic reform.
And finally, democratic nations should collectively apply sanctions against Turkey, in necessary, to promote needed political reform. If not collectively, individual democracies such as the United States, Israel, and one or more European states should be willing to stand firm and apply their own sanctions to advance freedom in Turkey.
I’m sure that greater minds than mine will have more and better suggestions to restoring democracy in Turkey. What is certain, is that as the only Muslim nation in the Middle East with a tradition of democracy and the rule of law, we cannot stand by and allow Turkey to regress into a fascist, authoritarian dictatorship.
Samuel Griswold is the author of the historical thriller novel, True Identity, about a Mossad agent who loses his memory while working undercover in Iraqi Kurdistan. Read more at www.samuelgriswold.com.
Looking for a great last minute gift? Give the gift of reading!
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In my new novel, True Identity, I portray the fictional President Sandoval as a leader that passionately defends human rights and the protection of minority groups around the world. He is motivated by personal experience, as the son of Cuban immigrants who escaped the tyranny of the Castro regime and taught him that America was the defender of freedom and the refuge of the world’s persecuted. Sound familiar? It should, for the character of President Ramon Sandoval is inspired by U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, one of several Republican candidates for President of the United States.
I started researching and writing my novel about three years ago, long before anyone had declared their intentions to run for president. In fact, many felt that Rubio was not likely to run if his political mentor, Jeb Bush, announced himself. So, my choice of Rubio as a model was not based upon any insight, or foreknowledge that he would declare his candidacy. Rather, President Sandoval’s foreign policy goals reflect many of my personal positions, and the principles that I believe should guide America’s interactions worldwide. But, I needed to flesh out the character, to fill in his back story. So, I looked for a leader whom I felt shared these values and had spoken out on these issues publicly. I quickly determined that Rubio was that person.
As a resident of Florida, I first became aware of Marco Rubio when he declared his intentions to run for U.S. Senate against then sitting governor, Charlie Crist. Polls showed him way down and few gave him any chance of winning. But he persisted, strong in his belief that American policies should defend individual liberty both at home and abroad. He began by taking his message door to door in his neighborhood and it resonated, quickly spreading across Florida and then our nation. Do his views reflect those of my fictional President Ramon Sandoval? In writing, all characters evolve with the story. So, let’s look at some of the statements of both Rubio and Sandoval and compare.
Rubio recently revealed his “Rubio Doctrine,” introducing it with words from the final speech of President John F. Kennedy…
“I am confident, as I look to the future, that our chances for security, our chances for peace, are better than they have been in the past. And the reason is because we are stronger. And with that strength is a determination to not only maintain the peace, but also the vital interests of the United States. To that great cause, Texas and the United States are committed.”
Rubio then explained that President Kennedy understood that “American strength is a means of preventing war, not promoting it.”
He further stated that “Since the end of the Cold War, the threats facing America have changed, but the need for American strength has not. It has only grown more pressing as the world has grown more interconnected… Today, as never before, foreign policy is domestic policy.”
Here are some excerpts from his speech:
“The free nations of the world still look to America to champion our shared values. Vulnerable nations still depend on us to deter aggression from larger neighbors. Oppressed peoples still turn their eyes toward our shores, wondering if we hear their cries, wondering if we notice their afflictions.”
“In recent years, the ideals that have long formed the backbone of American foreign policy- a passionate defense of human rights, the strong support of democratic principles, and the protection of the sovereignty of our allies- have been replaced by, at best, caution, and at worst, outright willingness to betray those values for the expediency of negotiations with repressive regimes.
This is not only morally wrong; it is contrary to our interests. Because wherever freedom and human rights spread, partners for our nation are born. But whenever our foreign policy come unhinged from its moral purpose, it weakens global stability and forms cracks in our national resolve.”
“As president, I will support the spread of economic and political freedom, reinforce our alliances, resist efforts by large powers to subjugate their smaller neighbors, maintain a robust commitment to transparent and effective foreign assistance programs, and advance the rights of the vulnerable- including women and religious minorities that are so often persecuted, so that the afflicted peoples of the world know the truth: the American people hear their cries, see their suffering, and most of all, desire their freedom.”
Similarly, in a major policy announcement in Erbil, Iraq, my fictional president, Ramon Sandoval said the following:
“Ours was a revolution that was meant to be exported throughout the world until all humanity was free. Unfortunately, we have not always lived according to these ideals. For over sixty years, America’s policy in the Middle East has been based not on the spread of liberty, but rather in the context of larger threats, such as the Cold War and now the War on Terror.”
“Under my administration, this will change, as the United States again pursues a foreign policy that is based upon our founding principles.”
“So far, world leaders have stood silent, but this president will call out the Iranian regime for these atrocities and will materially and morally support all who seek freedom in this land where the first human rights charter was drafted.”
Many people consider Marco Rubio a rising star in the Republican Party. As a young Hispanic, he represents the next generation and a new face for the GOP. He’s eloquent, thoughtful and solution-oriented. He reached across the political aisle in an effort to find concensus on immigration reform, even though many in his party opposed it, because he believed it was the moral and responsible thing to do for America. He has since stated that his collaboration with Democrats was a mistake as, being a freshman Senator, he didn’t understand that partisan politics would interfere with solving the problem.
For me, what sets Rubio apart from other politicians and presidential candidates is his sincere and staunch advocacy of democracy, human rights and individual liberties. This same willingness to speak out against persecution and political repression is what attracted me to President Ronald Reagan in the 1980’s. And it is what makes Marco Rubio appealing to me today. Will Rubio be America’s next president? I don’t know, but I truly hope so. The United States and the world would benefit from his strong principles and leadership.
Samuel Griswold is the author of the new historical thriller, True Identity, about a Mossad agent who develops amnesia and starts receiving past life visions while working undercover in Iraqi Kurdistan. Check it out on Amazon! He’s also the publisher of JewishPrism.com.
The National Park Service turns 99 years old on August 25, 2015. To celebrate, everyone is getting free admission to any of the 408 National Park Service sites across America!
It was President Woodrow Wilson who signed legislation on August 25, 1916 to protect and preserve sites of national interest for future generations, whether they be a national park, historic site, or national seashore. Some parks recognize historic people and achievements, while others conserve magnificent landscapes and natural wonders.
"The National Park Service's 99th birthday is an opportunity to reflect on and celebrate the role of national parks in American history," said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. "And it's also a time to look ahead to our centennial year, and the next 100 years. These national treasures belong to all of us, and we want everyone- especially the next generation of park visitors, supporters and advocates- to discover and connect with national parks."
So, how can this be a Jewish experience? Judaism has historically been a green faith, placing great emphasis on respect for and the protection of the environment.
It is in the very first chapter of Genesis (1:31) that we read that God ceased from creating and saw that the world was good. Tradition teaches that humankind was created in the image of God (tzelem Elohim), meaning that our role is to act as God's agents and to actualize God's presence in Creation. We remember and feel this connection every seven days on Shabbat, when we too stop creating and witness the beauty of the world around us, in emulation of the Divine (a uniquely Jewish observance).
Deuteronomy 22:6-7 states "If along the road you chance upon a bird's nest, in any tree or on the ground, with fledglings or eggs and the mother sitting over the fledglings or on the eggs, do not take the mother with her young. Let the mother go and take only the young, in order that you may fare well and have a long life." Our sages have taught that this prohibits the extinction of species and the causing of undo pain to animals.
An ancient Rabbinic commentary (Midrash Kohelet Rabbah, 1 on Ecclesiastes 7:13) says "When God created the first human beings, God led them around the garden of Eden and said: 'Look at my works! See how beautiful they are- how excellent! For your sake I created them all. See to it that you do not spoil and destroy My world; for if you do, there will be no one else to repair it."
From these teachings and others, we see that Judaism has long been concerned about environmental protection and justice. It is a set of values that each of us, young and old alike, can comprehend and connect with. It brings our faith alive, and allows us to truly experience the gift of being God's partner and advocate here on Earth. And what better time to share and experience these wonders of creation than on the birthday of the National Park Service when admission is FREE!
I encourage you to visit www.nps.gov to learn more and find a park near you.
Author of Historical Thriller, True Identity