Vacationing in Israel two years ago, my family went on a two-day tour of Jordan, our first venture to an Arab nation. Our guide hustled us from site to site, but I had a moment of solitary reflection while on the Citadel in Amman, overlooking the white expanse of the stone city clinging to the hills below, so reminiscent of Jerusalem. The noises of the city were muffled by the arid air and summer heat. For the first time, the seal in my mind between Israel and the rest of the Middle East was punctured, and a question seeped through: What is this world beyond? But the moment was fleeting.
Several years ago, when Philip Roth's novel "Portnoy's Complaint" turned 25, I spent a few days in the New York Public Library researching the Jewish community's reaction to the book. I discovered that the response to it (as well as to the stories in "Goodbye, Columbus," which appeared a few years earlier) was a combination of rage and puzzlement. The level of shock and hurt expressed by community leaders was less surprising to me, though, than the unanimity of response.
Charles Rosen’s story begins like that of a typical son of Jewish immigrants. His mother and father came to the States as children, “my father from Moscow, my mother from near Odessa, a place that’s now part of Romania,” he says. He remembers that his maternal grandmother didn’t speak any English, “only Yiddish when I was around. She kept kosher and she wouldn’t eat with us except a hard-boiled egg.”
Rabbi Moshe Carmilly of the Upper West Side is celebrating his birthday early and often, and internationally, this year.
The first birthday party was thrown last month in Romania by a Jewish studies institute at the University of Babes-Bolyai in Cluj that bears his name.
A second event, a festive Kiddush, will be hosted on Saturday at Congregation Shearith Israel, Rabbi Carmilly’s synagogue.
Imagine the celebration on his actual birthday, next April 7, when he turns 100.