Sweet Is the Light: Ten Crossroads

Charles H. Freundlich
  • Review
By – February 13, 2017

Sweet Is the Light: Ten Cross­roads is short book of fic­tion­al sto­ries is based on the life of the author as a rab­bi, edu­ca­tor, and son of immi­grants from East­ern Europe. In clear, descrip­tive prose, Charles H. Fre­undlich demon­strates great insight and sen­si­tiv­i­ty about human nature and delves into seri­ous top­ics, address­ing the chal­lenges of lead­ing an opin­ion­at­ed con­gre­ga­tion, dis­pens­ing advice, and receiv­ing criticism.

Freundlich’s sto­ries each deal with very human issues with­in the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ties of Amer­i­ca, describ­ing Jew­ish life in the Bronx (a con­tin­u­a­tion of the sto­ries from the the author’s pre­vi­ous book, Vyse Avenue), in a small New Eng­land town out­side Boston, with­in the old­er gen­er­a­tion in Del­ray Beach, and in Newark. The col­lec­tion depicts the dis­dain some Amer­i­can Jews hold for their immi­grant brethren who escaped the Holo­caust and the admi­ra­tion reserved for those who leave the com­forts of Amer­i­ca to make a new life in Israel: one sto­ry explores the per­spec­tive of a Brook­lynite who leaves his lov­ing fam­i­ly behind to ful­fill his dream of mak­ing aliyah—mov­ing to Israel; anoth­er fol­lows the debate among strong-mind­ed con­gre­gants about how best to com­mem­o­rate the Holo­caust with a memo­r­i­al. Freundlich’s char­ac­ters grap­ple with the after­math of the death of a close child­hood friend, the com­pli­cat­ed dat­ing life of elder­ly wid­ows in Flori­da, doubts and ques­tions about their reli­gious obser­vance, and the ten­sions between Reform, Con­ser­v­a­tive and Ortho­dox com­mu­ni­ties and beliefs.

Sweet Is the Light is a tes­ta­ment to the pas­sion of the rab­bis for their com­mu­ni­ties and their con­gre­gants’ invest­ment in Judaism across affil­i­a­tions, enhanced by the real­is­tic char­ac­ters and set­tings drawn from the author’s exten­sive expe­ri­ence as a ded­i­cat­ed Jew­ish leader and educator.

Relat­ed Reads:

Miri­am Brad­man Abra­hams is a Cuban-born, Brook­lyn-raised, Long Island-resid­ing mom. She is Hadas­sah Nas­sau’s One Region One Book chair­la­dy, a free­lance essay­ist, and a cer­ti­fied yoga instruc­tor who has loved review­ing books for the JBC for the past ten years.

Discussion Questions