Sunday, December 10, 2023 -
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Chris Leppek review three new publications

Bridging WorldsBridging Worlds is not really a book at all but an instructional manual, prepared and published by the Montreal-based Ahavas Chesed, a self-described “cultural interpreter for the Orthodox Jewish community” in Quebec.

Its subtitle reveals what is interesting about it: “A Handbook on Cultural Competence: Caring for the Jewish Orthodox Senior and Holocaust Survivor.”

The manual is intended to assist social workers and various caregivers to understand the special religious and personal sensitivities both of those who live an Orthodox life and those who suffered the horrors of the Holocaust.

Bridging Worlds has “good idea” written between every single line.

The special needs of Orthodox seniors — the dietary, ritual, Shabbos and modesty requirements that are so much a part of their lives — might be obvious to any Jew, but utterly unknown to non-Jewish caregivers. Bridging Worlds provides easy and direct instructions on how these needs can be accommodated in an institutional setting.

The needs of Holocaust survivors are even more complex and understood by even fewer.

These would be difficult for most non-survivors to anticipate or deal with.

This manual explains how survivors may react negatively to such seemingly commonplace stimuli as crowds, elevators, darkness or lack of privacy.

It seeks to illuminate why survivors might be extremely secretive about financial information or why they might tend to eat their food too quickly.

The advice provided is mostly about gentleness and compassion.

Caregivers should respond to such unusual responses with kindness and patience; they should try to discuss special concerns with survivors; they should speak softly and calmly and avoid sarcasm; they should try to explain that they are there to help take care of them, not hurt them.

While not intended for a lay audience, those who live or work with elderly Orthodox Jews or survivors — including their loved ones — can find a wealth of helpful information in this slender volume. Indeed, it would be marvelous idea to send copies to as many care facilities, nursing homes and private homes as possible.

Copies of “Bridging Worlds” are available from Ahavas Chesed, 6000 Cote des Neiges #250, Montreal, Quebec H3S 1Z8, Canada.


Icon of EvilOne is tempted, at first glance, to recoil from this book’s bluntly defamatory title. Calling anyone an “icon of evil” requires considerable back-up and documentation, even if the subject is already notorious, as this one is.

Middle East scholars David Dalin and John Rothmann, the authors of this disturbing account, prove themselves up to the task.

That subject of their book is Haj Amin al-Husseini, the British-appointed Mufti of Jerusalem during the crucial 1920s, 1930s and early 1940s.

As the political and spiritual head of the Palestinian Arab community, al-Husseini was not the only figure who inspired Palestinian nationalism, but he was, far more than any other individual, the one who infused it with the violent and anti-Semitic bent it largely retains to this day.

The mufti achieved this by aligning himself with history’s preeminent anti-Semite, Adolf Hitler himself.

A longtime admirer and advocate of Nazi policies, he made propaganda broadcasts to Arabs on Hitler’s behalf, encouraged Muslim recruitment in the Nazi Waffen SS and repeatedly called for the physical extermination of Palestine’s Jewish population.

Al-Husseini’s push for active violence played a major role in inspiring the massive Arab Revolt of 1936-39.

An icon of evil, indeed.

The mufti’s ultimate vision was never realized, but his hateful philosophies live on in modern form, using words like “jihad” and “intifada” as current applications. One is utterly unsurprised to discover that al-Husseini was a guiding light and inspiration to his young nephew, a man named Yasir Arafat.

Well-researched, clearly and forcefully written, Icon Of Evil is a troubling but important history for anyone seeking to understand today’s Middle East. It is hardly comfort food, but certainly food for thought.


Trust Me, I'm Not a VeterinarianThis unusual compendium by former Colorado financial planner James D. Schwartz is many things packed into a relatively small package — a series of love stories (those of a man for his dogs), a loud statement of angry protest (mostly against the veterinary profession and its spokespersons) and a warning (to pet owners, especially about the dangers of over-vaccination).

That Schwartz loved his dogs is beyond doubt after reading Trust Me. His accounts of the time they spent with him are warm and touching to anyone who has ever served as a guardian for a dog or cat.

These reminiscences are lovingly related, often humorously so, sometimes with the strong Jewish flavor and the catchy plays-on-words that the author prefers.

The author’s anger, however, is just as genuine, and considerably more disturbing.

His charges about what he alleges to be routine excessive vaccination of pets, and the potentially lethal consequences thereof, are serious and direct. They will likely win him no friends in the veterinary industry, and one gathers from his text that this will bother Schwartz very little.

Pet owners who read this book will have to analyze and evaluate Schwartz’s conclusions — and the various documents he provides to back them up — on their own. Whatever conclusions they may come to on these issues, they are sure to enjoy the personal dimensions of the author’s relationships with his furry friends.

Any pet owner would.

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