Visu­al Arts

Jew­ish Fathers: A Lega­cy of Love

Lloyd Wolf ℗; Paula Wolf­son (Inter­views)
  • Review
By – July 10, 2014

Fathers come in dif­fer­ent pack­ages. Some are famous, some lit­tle known. Some prac­tice their reli­gion dai­ly, some observe reli­gious laws selec­tive­ly and some not atoll. They are straight and gay, artis­ti­cal­ly tal­ent­ed and non-aes­thet­i­cal­ly inclined, old and young. And all of these vari­eties are dis­played in this beau­ti­ful­ly pre­sent­ed, inspir­ing book, Jew­ish Fathers: A Lega­cy of Love, edit­ed by Paula Wolf­son, with pho­tographs by Lloyd Wolf.

Call­ing this a cof­fee table book” is not intend­ed to dimin­ish its depth. One need not savor it at a sin­gle sit­ting for it can be read and absorbed one page at a time, at odd moments when but a few min­utes of reflec­tion are avail­able. This slim vol­ume is filled with brief open-end­ed obser­va­tions in which these men tell how they see them­selves in their role as fathers to their chil­dren. The recur­ring theme is per­haps best expressed bone of the inter­vie­wees, Richard Joel, Pres­i­dent of Yeshi­va Uni­ver­si­ty: The eter­ni­ty that I build is how I raise my chil­dren.” Or as AL Wong, a Jew-by-choice, put it, When you die, your lega­cy is what you leave behind. “

What is inspir­ing is the good­ness of these men. They are intro­spec­tive about how they fit into the con­ti­nu­ity of the Jew­ish peo­ple, they accept their duties to their chil­dren and com­mu­ni­ties, and they show strength by being sen­si­tive and by dis­play­ing their love. And they hon­or their own fathers by acknowl­edg­ing the lessons they have learned and by apply­ing these lessons to serve as a vis­i­ble pres­ence in their own children’s lives.

The black and white pho­tographs are both beau­ti­ful and pro­found in the way they cap­ture the indi­vid­u­al­i­ty and depth of these men, who are pic­tured fac­ing the cam­era and unself­con­scious­ly embrac­ing their chil­dren. From for­mer Ambas­sador Stu­art Eizen­stat to bas­ket­ball Hall of Famer Dolph Schayes, from author Simms Taback to kosher organ­ic farmer Rab­bi Shmuel Simenowitz, from award-win­ning actor Theodore Bikel to Nazi resister and Holo­caust sur­vivor Sam Bloch, these men show through the camera’s crit­i­cal lens what love of chil­dren looks like.

With my eldest grand­child fast approach­ing his bar mitz­vah, this reviewer’s emo­tions are raw as he humbly occu­pies that slim space between the future and the past. One’s respon­si­bil­i­ty as a descen­dant of Avra­ham Avinu becomes quite gen­uine, and those pic­tured in this book appear to share this appre­ci­a­tion. By con­nect­ing the read­er to those whom they have depict­ed, Wolf­son and Wolf have cre­at­ed a book that will con­tin­ue to be absorbed and revis­it­ed. Read it and share it with good men whom you love.

Relat­ed Content

Noel Kriftch­er was a pro­fes­sor and admin­is­tra­tor at Poly­tech­nic Uni­ver­si­ty, hav­ing pre­vi­ous­ly served as Super­in­ten­dent of New York City’s Brook­lyn & Stat­en Island High Schools district.

Discussion Questions