This children’s book, based on Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld’s personal story growing up in 1970s New York, focuses on the plight of the Jewish Zionist prisoners in the former Soviet Union, brought to the world’s attention by the highly publicized arrest of Anatoly Sharansky.
Herzfeld’s mentor, Rabbi Avi Weiss, plays a central role, encouraging his congregation to see the refuseniks (whose simple aim was to immigrate to Israel) as brothers and sisters whose rights should be fought for with unremitting public protest.
The two-child protagonists, Sarah and Joseph, experience the reward of these efforts as they witness Sharansky’s remarkable release, nine years into his 14-year sentence.
The book provides a message of hope especially to children who are encouraged to see the value of their ideas, values, and actions.
This book has as its central premise human and Torah-based Jewish values, such as:
- While it may not be our job to complete a task, we are obligated to try.
- We have the greatest responsibility to help our own family. All of the Jewish people are one family. Thus we are all responsible to help each other.
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An Extra Seat
Since 2004 Shmuel Herzfeld has been the Rabbi of Ohev Sholom – The National Synagogue, and the oldest Orthodox synagogue in Washington, DC.
His communal responsibilities include teaching classes, attending to the elderly, the youth, and the sick, and ministering to the congregation’s pastoral needs, with more than 300 families.
He received rabbinic ordination from the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, an affiliate of Yeshiva University, and a Masters in Jewish History from Bernard Revel Graduate School of Yeshiva University.
From 1999 to 2004, Rabbi Herzfeld was Associate Rabbi at The Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, where Rabbi Avi Weiss mentored him.
He is a frequent guest columnist in newspapers and writes regularly for Huffington Post and The Washington Post.
Rabbi Herzfeld teaches a daily Talmud class in his synagogue, at least two other weekly Torah classes, a weekly Torah class in downtown Washington D.C. at the Hudson Institute (all are welcome to attend). He also teaches a regular class on Judaism at the U.S Senate.
He lives in Washington, DC, with his wife Dr. Rhanni Herzfeld (a Neurologist), and children Lea, Roey, Elai, Max, Shia, and Kolbi.