Jewish Book Carnival: December

  • On her blog, My Machberet, Erika Dreifus routinely curates pre-Shabbat Jewish literary links. Here’s one recent batch, including a link to Erika’s own latest column for the U.K.’s Jewish Chronicle, all about Jewish books she’s looking forward to reading in 2018.



  • From The Book of Life, we’ve got a group interview with the creators of two books related to The Ethics of the Fathers, aka the Pirkei Avot. Jessica Deutsch created The Illustrated Pirkei Avot: A Graphic Novel of Jewish Ethics, and Lois Shenker and Rabbi Even Posen co-wrote Pirkei Imahot: The Wisdom of Mothers, The Voices of Women.
  • The Association of Jewish Libraries, in conjunction with The Jewish Book Council, held the third annual #Readukkah Jewish reading challenge during Hanukkah. You can read all the posts about Jewish books at the Facebook event.


  • Deborah Kalb interviews a variety of authors on her website. Here’s an interview she did recently with Israeli author Eshkol Nevo about his book Three Floors Up. 




When the Trolls Came for ME

Recently, the trolls came for me.


Because of a children’s book I wrote, called Judah Macabee Goes to the Doctor. It’s a cute story about a little boy who is scared to get a shot, and is inspired by the story of Judah to be brave. He has his shot and gets a sticker. The end.


But then, the anti-vaxxers came.


A bunch of them showed up on the book’s Amazon page accusing me of being an appendage of big pharma and mentally unstable. They knocked the book all the way down to one star on Amazon. Not good. But I was lucky. The pro-vaxx community, including a nice pile of pediatricians, rose up to defend the book. Final score: the book has 122  reviews. 87%  pro-vaxx and 12% anti-vaxx. The book is back up to 4.5 stars. A win for truth and sanity.


For those of you are only familiar with the innocent Internet (all four of you) let me explain: Trolls are the anonymous folks who lurk on chat groups and in the comments sections, waiting to pounce and verbally assault. The protection of anonymity makes them breed and grow, and they show up everywhere.


This whole experience got me thinking about trolls – and how even in my own immediate Orthodox community, we are never immune from them.


After all, sometimes it’s easy for Orthodox folks like me to forget, as we run from Yeshiva to shul, from Kosher-mart to carpool line, that our little bubble exists within the larger world. So if the larger world has a problem called trolls, then yeah, we in the frum community have it, too.


Our trolls are a slightly more toxic breed, because they throw religion into the mix. You know what I’m talking about: The posters shaming wig-makers and wig-wearers (for their ‘immodest’ wigs); the defacing of women’s faces in public advertisements in Jerusalem; the anonymous letters to the editor in some publications lambasting pretty much anyone for going off the “true path”. They appear on social media, on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter, on comment sections in Jewish news sites and blogs, on forums and private Facebook groups, wielding axes and ready to outshout a differing opinion.


Why do so-called religious trolls troll? Are we doing something to deserve it? Are we actually materialistic? Are we are being immodest? Are we too loud? Too much make-up? Too much anything?


Nope. I don’t think that’s it.


Lindy West, a columnist who writes for the New York Times got to interview one of her own zillions of trolls. He was actually a former troll, who wanted to repent. He reached out to her to apologize, and she took the opportunity to better understand why trolls do what they do. She quotes him:


“I think my anger towards you stems from your happiness with your own being. It offended me because it served to highlight my unhappiness with my own self.” She explains further: “He hated me because, to put it simply, I don’t hate myself…. He said that, at the time, he felt fat, unloved, ’passionless’ and purposeless.”
It had nothing to do with her writing, her opinions, what she said or what she did. It was because of his unhappiness, his insecurities, his own disappointments that led to his trolling.


Our Orthodox trolls are no different. For some reason, they are disappointed with their own opportunities, their own lives. And then they see a put-together person who is dressed nicely, is accomplished, and appears to be happy. So they wrap themselves in righteousness and go on full-attack, writing nasty anonymous notes, posting ad hominem comments on social media that publicly point fingers at individuals.


Let me be clear: I am not talking about sincere, religious people who choose to accept chumrahs on themselves; genuinely righteous people who really care about bettering themselves and the world don’t write nasty anonymous notes.


Rather, I am talking about those who vilify others while hiding behind the shield of anonymity, and try to impose their own ‘righteousness’ onto others. The ones who claim to be pious, those who say they are worried about modesty, tradition, more modesty, et cetera et cetera. But they are not pious.


And it’s important to say what they are: They are trolls, who just happen to identify as Orthodox.


This was stated far more elegantly than I could by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks:


There is a difference between righteousness and self-righteousness. The righteous are humble, the self-righteous are proud. The righteous understand doubt, the self-righteous only certainty. The righteous see the good in people, the self-righteous only the bad. The righteous leave you feeling enlarged, the self-righteous make you feel small.”
So now it’s up to us. Do we retreat and hide, and let the self-righteous trolls take over the comments sections, our book reviews, our magazines, our organizations, our world?


Or do we put on our armor, strap on a shield, get our shots, speak up, and take the hits?


Will there be more victories for truth, justice, and ethics? Will there be Hanukkah miracles?


The answer is entirely up to us.



Note: This article was originally published in The Forward.

For educators: Vaccine lesson plan

Nice! Apples and Honey/ Behrman House is offering their Hot Topic lesson plan about vaccines free for a limited time. Just click on the line of brown text over here.  

Hanukkah GIVEAWAY of Judah Maccabee!

ENTER TO WIN a free copy of Judah Macabbee Goes to the Doctor! 

To enter, leave a comment below that either 1)says the favorite Hanukkah present you ever gave or received or 2) gives a shout-out to your favorite medical professional! 




Skeptical Raptor review

Children’s book review – “Judah Maccabee Goes to the Doctor” for vaccine

Judah Vs. the Antivaxxers!

Judah Maccabee Versus the Anti-Vaxxers

Two coloring pages for Judah

Thanks to fab illustrator Talitha Shipman for these two coloring pages for Hanukkah/ Judah Maccabee Goes to the Doctor! Just click on the images, and print.


Vaccine Mom’s review

Go and look–fantastic review from the Vaccine Mom!


Judah Maccabee Goes to the Doctor

How to help your kid get through shots

The LI Pediatric Treasure Chest!

Today, I took one of my kids for a yearly check-up. He’s taller than I am these days, so I  had a chance to chat with the receptionists at Long Island Pediatrics, Pam and Christine. Here is some of that conversation:


ANN: Hi, ladies. So, you get to see lots of kids come through waiting for shots?

P&C: (both nod heads vigorously.)

ANN: How are the kids? What’s their mood?

P&C: Terrified!

ANN: So, all these kids in this situation day after day, what’s your advice to parents? What works? What really doesn’t work?

C: When the parents sit and talk the kids through it. That’s what really works. 

P: And when they promise prizes! 

ANN: Aha ! So I see lollipops and stickers, those are your prizes?

P&C: And the treasure chest (points)

ANN: So what do some parents do that really doesn’t work?

P&C: Yelling at them, screaming at them. Telling them to toughen up. Instead, they need to let the kids know how important the shots are, how it will keep them from being sick. 

ANN: And promising them a prize.

P&C: (both nod heads vigorously.)


Well, their you have it. Sound advice from the trenches! 


(And of course…reading Judah Maccabee Goes to the Doctor might help, too. There is one in the LI Pediatrics waiting room…)




Dr. Robert Koppel


“Perfect for the kid about to get his yearly check-up, this book [Judah Maccabee] explains how vaccinations work in the context of a kid-friendly, fun story. I’m proud to have been the medical consultant for it.”

-Robert Koppel, MD

Dr. Robert Koppel is a neonatologist at Cohen Children’s medical of center of NY, and the medical director of the regional perinatal center at the Long Island Jewish medical center. 




He was also SO helpful for this book–Thank you!