Books that model good middos: Measure of a Man by Martin Greenfield

One day early in my marriage, I found my husband reading the autobiography of John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach.

Martin Greenfield’s new book about the Shoah and after inspires readers to rise to greatness.

“Why are you reading that?” I asked. My husband did not follow sports, and he rarely read a book that wasn’t overtly “Jewish.”

“My rabbi once told me that if you want to learn good middos (character traits), you should read about the lives of people who have achieved genuine greatness.”

In that vein, I’m going to recommend that my husband read Measure of a Man, Martin Greenfield’s new memoir of survival and character. If you want to learn why, check out my review of Measure of a Man in last week’s Jewish Home L.A.

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How to teach people while you entertain them: Modern-day Moshels

To those unfamiliar with the term, a “moshel” is the Hebrew term for a parable, a story told with the intent to illustrate a lesson (usually a moral or theological one). I equate moshels with the soda your mom would offer you as a chaser after taking whatever foul-tasting medicine the doctor had prescribed you. It makes it easier to get the lesson down, and you might even look forward to the next dose.

Moshels–particularly those of the Baal Shem Tov, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, and the Ben Ish Chai–are familiar to most readers with a Jewish education. They often appear in Rabbis’ drashos, and they sometimes make their way into children’s books. Several authors have recently attempted to update classic moshels and make them more appealing to tweens and teens–most successfully, perhaps, Steve Sheinkin in his entertaining Rabbi Harvey series, which take place in the Old West. One of the most challenging aspects of this genre is that you want to convey the lesson accurately without sounding pedantic, boring, or preachy. Also, some of the settings and situations detailed in traditional moshels don’t appeal to contemporary readers, or (more often) are so unfamiliar as to complicate comprehension of them.

I have my own spin on the Modern-day Moshel that I’ve been trying to market, which I’m not sharing here (because, like many authors, I’m terrified of people copying my idea before I can sell it myself–see this post). However, I thought I’d provide a heads-up to my readers what I’m thinking about right now.

Using books to build the emotional intelligence of children: Innovative programming at Aleinu/JFS this week

Aleinu Family Services here in Los Angeles will be integrating literature into parenting classes over the next few weeks. Parents attend with children in tow. The Aleinu therapists have selected picture books that effectively communicate social and personal skills to children, then developed discussions and art activities for parent(s) to share with their child(ren) to reinforce those ideas. Many teachers do this in classrooms, and some parents do this will their own children, but this is the first time I’ve seen this in a therapeutic setting like this. Very creative! See the flyer below for details. * UPDATE: THE TIME FOR THE SECOND AND THIRD PARTS OF THE PROGRAM HAVE BEEN CHANGED TO 6-7:15 p.m.