Rabbi Yitschak Rudomin
Director of J.P.I.

The names Feldheim, ArtScroll, Bloch, Metsudah, Mesorah, and Kehot are familiar to English speaking Orthodox Jews because they are the publishing houses that bring Torah to the English speaking public, in English.

All these well known publishers also carry a special genre of literature: stories of Baalei Teshuva (returnees to Torah Judaism.)

Just skim through the latest Feldheim catalog and you'll see what I mean: Page one features "Black" Becomes Rainbow, by Agi Bauer, describing her struggles as a non-observant Jew coming to terms with her daughter becoming a baalat teshuvah. Another is The Bamboo Cradle, translated now into four languages, about how a Jewish secular American professor came to be an Orthodox Jew through his experience in adopting a Chinese baby.

A look at the latest ArtScroll catalog reveals a similar thread. Books for and by baalei teshuva. Anatomy Of A Search by Dr. Kevin Tatz describes how he found his way to Torah life. The Informed Soul describes how Rabbi Dovid Gottlieb, who as a professor of philosophy at a major American university, deals with the full range of intellectual challenges posed by those interested in becoming baal teshuvah.

Yes, kiruv rechokim is on the map, and has its own literature and authors. But it tells us something far deeper, that the phenomenon of Jewish return is to be found in all strata of Jewish society. Doctors, professors, successful business people are to be found amongst the elite of the world of Baalei Teshuva (returnees to Judaism).

The great Jewish publishing houses of today take things even further. By translating the works of classical Jewish Scholarship into modern readable English they allow the intellectual and educated assimilated Jews of America to access the world of Torah through the printed word.

In many a foreword to such works one finds the greatest Roshei Yeshiva of recent times, such as Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, Rabbi Yitzchok Hutner, Rabbi Mordechai Gifter and others praising the work of these translators. In one such translation, The Metsudah Pirkei Avos, Rabbi Hutner writes to the translator, praising his work, and stating: "We know that nowadays there are many of our fellow Jews that want to learn from the original sources, but this is deprived them by their alienation from the original language, which for many is a wall of iron that they cannot leap over." (My translation).

Anyone who has succeeded in helping a fellow Jew become more involved in Torah Judaism knows how true it is that by handing that "seeker" a Torah book in English, that a great "wall of iron" has been removed, and the heart of another Jew has been drawn closer to the "original source".

It therefore becomes a continuous cycle: Good English translations of major works of Torah draw the attention of secular American Jews. They are in many instances "turned on" and seek to learn more. A significant minority actually become authors and rabbis in their own right, producing their own personal narratives. These in turn inspire others to seek out their Jewish Heritage.

The field of kiruv rechokim proves that no matter how far any Jew is from Torah, they are only, many times, only a "good book" away. For as always all Jews are the "People of the Book."

Kiruv: News and Views
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