Many of you know Alana Newhouse, the Arts and Culture editor of the Forward, has a new book out, A Living Lens: Photographs of Jewish Life from the Pages of the Forward.
Alana spoke last night at the local Jewish Book Fair. The book is beautiful (as, by the way, is Alana). But more than that, the book is important. The Yiddish Forverts was by far the largest non-English language newspaper in America ever, selling hundreds of thousands of copies daily. Its photographers and journalists captured an era, from the teaming tenements of the Lower East Side to Washington political intrigue, all with a uniquely Jewish and labor-centric outlook.
No book of history alone can communicate what this book does with its beautifully rendered photographs, archival matter and essays.
Jews speak often about continuity. We want our children to be Jewish in whatever way we understand Judaism and community affiliation. But we do that in the here and now, as if we had always looked this way, lived this way, spoken this way and been Jewish in this way. This, I think, is a tremendous error.
Hanukka is just around the corner. A Living Lens is a gift that can be enjoyed for years, across generations. Will having a copy in your home keep your kids Jewish?
Of course not. But it will give them a greater appreciation for what Judaism was not so long ago, before suburban temples and a newly-populist Reform Movement, and let them connect with a world that is no more. And who knows where that might lead …