Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Articles written by Rabbi Rachel Esserman

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The heyday of the shtetl

When most people think of the shtetl, images reminiscent of “Fiddler in the Roof” pop into their heads: small villages filled with poor Jews, struggling to make a living in an almost exclusively Jewish world. Yet, nothing could be further from th...

 

Anti-Semitic or not?

The recent survey by the Anti-Defamation League has been making headlines in the Jewish and non-Jewish media. Some articles see the research as flawed, and one rabbi, Jay Michaelson, claims that according to the survey, he, too, could be considered...

 

Searching for the messiah

When someone asks me Judaism’s position on a particular subject, I usually answer, “Which Jewish tradition do you want to hear?” I’m not just talking about the differences between contemporary religious movements, but the fact that...

 

Tragedy and love in Canada

When immigrants move to a new country, they often find it necessary to reinvent themselves. Some transform their lives in order to survive in a different environment. Others seek a fresh start so they can forget the past. Still others disguise their...

 

Some summertime reading

The summer heat can become so enervating that it’s too hot to move; fortunately, though, it’s never too hot to read. In fact, reading is a great way to escape the heat. “Jo Joe” When 13-year-old Judith Ormond moves to a small town in...

 

Regulating kosher food

Recent outbreaks of salmonella and other instances of food contamination and poisoning have left people questioning the safety of our food supply. Critics of the food industry are also concerned about misleading labels, particularly the use of such...

 

Love it or leave it

The IRS’s targeting of organizations connected to the Tea Party reminded me of the 1960s and ’70s, only in reverse. This time, the IRS was investigating right-wing groups. During the Nixon presidency, left-wing groups—particularly those who...

 

From Jerusalem to Berlin to Sante Fe

In the past, the major literary distinction was between prose (defined as ordinary speech or language) and poetry. The recent boom in graphic works offers yet another literary possibility. Although...

 

Technology vs. privacy

Remember the opening of the “Mission Impossible” TV show? The assignment was recorded on a tape that self-destructed so no record of the conversation would exist. That gave everyone deniability if the mission went awry. It’s far more...

 

Making a movie about Moses

Herman Wouk dreamed of writing a novel about the biblical Moses since the 1950s. In 2000, he noted that “‘The Lawgiver’ remains unwritten. I never found the way to do it.” When trying to work on the manuscript, he was never able to answer...

 

Becoming a big city lady

It’s difficult for me to imagine anyone taking lifestyle advice from episodes of “Sex and the City,” but the TV show and its heroine, Carrie Bradshaw, served as a major influence for Rebecca...

 

Legends before the Bible

Was Judaism the first religion of the early Israelites? Based on archeological evidence, scholars believe our ancestors worshiped more than one deity. According to Avigdor Shinan and Yair Zakovitch, the biblical text was written to promote a...

 

Optimism vs. pessimism

Self-help books encourage us to be optimists. If we don’t actually try new challenges, we’ll never know if it’s possible to accomplish something new or different. The writers of these works assume that the results of our actions will be...

 

Israeli novelists-young and old

When reading a novel, I focus more on plot and character analysis than the author’s writing style. Yet, when considering two recent works by Israeli writers, the differences in their prose was impossible to ignore. In her first novel, “The...

 

Families in trouble

Becoming a reviewer has made me a better reader. Instead of dismissing works I don’t enjoy, I now analyze why they didn’t appeal to me: Is it something personal, for example, did a character or pl...

 

Creating a meaningful life

Newspaper and magazine articles note how, although most Americans own far more material goods than their ancestors, they’re less content than former generations. The idea that our possessions do not bring happiness is commonly found in religious...

 

Marriage and equality

Although her book “Tradition and Equality in Jewish Marriage: Beyond the Sanctification of Subordination” (Continuum International Publishing Group) focuses on Jewish marriage laws and tradition,...

 

Broadway musicals and the Holocaust

Can Broadway musicals teach us about changing American attitudes to the Holocaust? In “Echoes of the Holocaust on the American Musical Stage” (McFarland and Co., Inc, Publishers), Jessica Hillman, an assistant professor of theater and dance at th...

 

Finding a balance

Sometimes the right book appears at just the right time. That was the case with Anne Lamott’s “Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers.” The past few months have been difficult for a variety of reasons and I’ve been seeking ways to...

 

Secrets in Berlin

Why would someone risk their life to save a stranger? There’s no easy answer to that question. However, it’s one authors love exploring, especially when writing about Germany during the Nazi era. In his wonderful “City of Women” (Amy Eihorn...

 

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