Freundlich. Charles H. “Sweet is the Light”, Create Space, 2016.
A Short Story Collection
I love literature that teaches me something and that is exactly what this collection of short stories does. Each story has a Jewish theme and it seems to me that the overall theme of the collection is human nature and its reaction to events. These stories are based upon life experiences of Rabbi Charles H. Freundlich who with great insight and sensitivity writes about human nature and serious topics that address the challenges of leading an opinionated congregation, dispensing advice, and receiving criticism. We get a look at Jewish life in the Bronx, in a small New England town outside Boston and in Delray Beach, and in Newark. We read of some American Jews hold disdain for their immigrant brothers who escaped the Holocaust as well of the admiration felt for those who leave the comforts of America to make a new life in Israel. Freundlich’s characters struggle with the aftermath of the death of a close childhood friend, the complicated dating life of elderly widows in Florida, questions about religious observance, and the tensions between Reform, Conservative and Orthodox communities and beliefs.
We definitely feel the passion and sensitivity that our rabbi/writer has for his job and for his congregants. Through Freudlich, we also get an idea how other rabbis feel. We become aware of the different crosscurrents that exist in American Jewish life today and how the events of the Holocaust affect us. We see the importance of studying Talmud, Jewish sensibilities, the importance of the State of Israel and other opposing ideologies that run through Jewish even when we have freedom of choice. The stories give us provocative questions nestled into the fiction and in many cases these question remain unanswered from generation to generation. I had the feeling that the purpose of the stories is to leave behind passivity and face the issues that face us everyday.