One man’s personal call to laggard Jews to study, learn, and seek justice in a broken world. Readers of other persuasions...

The late businessman and philanthropist answers his title’s question with a last testament of sorts.

In the ancient Jewish tradition of an ethical will that dispenses not tangibles but moral principles, Bronfman (The Bronfman Haggadah, 2013, etc.) completed his manuscript just weeks before his death. Describing himself as a secular Jew—not a believer in a singular anthropomorphic authority whose avocation is to check on individual mortals—he finds much that is wonderful in the teachings and traditions of Judaism. He celebrates the warmth of his family relationships, unlike those of his childhood, and he speaks of goodness, not geopolitics, of morality, not dissention. A “cultural Jew,” eschewing rigid ritual, Bronfman teases out meaning from age-old texts. He examines the Hebrew Bible, the Talmud, rabbinic commentaries, exegesis from oral tradition, philosophical writing, and modern interpretations. The author revels in the particularly Jewish toleration of independent thinking and, if need be, argument with God. In this short book, especially relevant to a generation that knows little of its faith and finds little in it, there is a review of the holidays and holy days of the Jewish calendar. The author discusses the moral imperatives of charity, loving kindness, repair of the world, and repair of one’s own spiritual life. Bronfman’s text leans neither to the right nor the left of Jewish thought; it reflects the writer’s own studies. It is all just slightly self-congratulatory, though, as we learn of the good works of his Samuel Bronfman Foundation, his presidency of the World Jewish Congress, and other exemplary efforts. His easily accessible primer concludes on a lengthy, oddly mundane note, in which Moses is presented as providing specific lessons in the art of leadership.

One man’s personal call to laggard Jews to study, learn, and seek justice in a broken world. Readers of other persuasions may also profit from his insight into bits of Jewish thought and practice.

Pub Date: March 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4555-6289-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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