Levi is 19, she travels to the new State of Israel—and her life changes
forever. What was supposed to be a summer trip between university
semesters turns into an enduring love affair with the man she meets
onboard the ship to Israel, and with the land of Israel itself. Told
through the eyes of a young woman and mother, her memoir recounts the
painful and poignant journey of a young family trying to integrate into
Israeli society in the 1950s and her realization that her path to Israeli
identity is both complex and multilayered.
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riveting read from beginning to end. The story of a remarkable woman whose
life intersected with a critical time in Jewish history. Levi captures the
struggles of a young woman striving for personal identity and family
balance, with the backdrop of a similarly young country striving to find
its identity. She writes with insight, humour, honesty and passion, in a
book you won’t be able to put down.” — Mark
L. Winston is a Professor and Senior Fellow at Simon Fraser University’s
Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue, and author of the 2015 Governor
General’s Nonfiction Literary Award for Bee Time: Lessons From the Hive.
contrast to the better known narratives of the refugee Aliya and the
Middle East in the first decade of the State of Israel, this is the seldom
told story of a young Anglo family, impelled to immigrate to the newly
born state by Zionist idealism, hope and a sense of adventure. The
exhilaration of realizing their dream is soon mixed with the pettiness,
doubt and drudgery of daily life in the new state, followed by their
heartbreaking resignation. A captivating personal story in all its detail
and complexity.” — Rahel
Halabe is an eminent Arabic/Hebrew translator in Israel, a gifted Hebrew
teacher and author of the two volume innovative textbook, Hinei,
an Introduction to Biblical Hebrew.
“A heartfelt journey where young idealism encounters the
real struggles of young immigrants to the newly formed State of Israel.
Levi’s experience as a pioneer in Israel during those early years
foreshadowed the complex challenges that would grow for the young country
as it became more established. She leaves the reader smelling and feeling
the land of Israel from the 1950s, with all its brilliance and troubles.” — Rabbi
Yonatan Gordis is a partner at ChangeCraft, a consulting firm specializing
in change processes in the philanthropic and non-profit fields, and a
director of Sh'ma Now.
THERE A SOLID FOUNDATION FOR THE ETHICAL CONCEPT OF THE GOOD?
Danish-Jewish thinker Andreas Simonsen explores this “ancient
all-important question initially debated by the Sophists, Socrates and
Plato” using an ancient technique – the dialogue form. Three separate
conversations, three different interlocutors, three different worldviews:
skeptical, rationalist and existentialist.
This eclectic, thought-provoking work takes the reader on a fascinating
journey through Western philosophy and scientific theory – to the author’s
unique adaptation of Niels Bohr’s theory of “complementarity” to ethics.
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important 20th century work on ethics. Now available in English for
the first time!
Danish-Jewish thinker Andreas Simonsen explores what he
considers the three most fundamental problems in ethics: free will versus
determinism, happiness versus duty, and humanism versus humility.
“These problems have been pondered throughout
history, often with great perspicacity and wit. However, every generation
must take its own position on them so that new experiences are included in
our understanding of life, not only directly but also indirectly through
changing interpretations and practices of past wisdom. Just as wisdom
cannot simply be adopted, it cannot simply be dismissed. … Fruitful
independence does not consist in starting from scratch.”
Simonsen attempts to untangle the inevitable contradictions “attached to
everything human and conditioned by a basic paradoxical duality in our
essence and existence. …
“Humans are spirit and nature, creating and created, cause and effect.
This paradoxical condition must be reflected in our view of life. We must
have a paradoxical understanding of humans as both free and conditioned; a
paradoxical view of ethics as both duty and happiness; a paradoxical
understanding of God as both immanent and transcendent. We are facing a
special form of contradiction and interdependence: complementarity.”
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important 20th-century religious-philosophical work. Now available in
English for the first time!
"I wish had known about this
book when I converted to Judaism."
Per K. Brask, Editor & Translator
Judaism say about free will, suffering, good and evil, sin,
thinker Andreas Simonsen explains where Judaism stands on these and
other complex moral issues, puts them into historical context and
discusses their relevance to our lives today, while tackling the
contradictions, confusions and paradoxes inherent in Judaism’s fundamental
tenets. He also compares Judaism’s teachings to those of Christianity,
humanism and selected Western philosophers, both classical and modern.
Christians and Jews,
believers and non-believers, alike, will find Simonsen’s insights
fascinating and enlightening.
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Foundational Thoughts in Judaism
excellent introduction to Jewish thought for those interested in the study
or for those who wish to deepen their own Jewish faith in light of modern
criticism of religion in general and Judaism in particular...This book
flows gracefully as the various texts help to illuminate the theme and the
reader is adequately prepared to engage the text through Simonsen's (and
Brask’s) clear prose. It is a testament to the range of Simonsen’s
knowledge that the Talmud and the Bible can be interwoven so seamlessly."
Dr.Jane Barter Moulaison, Chair, Department of Religion and Culture,The
University of Winnipeg
Read the full review
Q & A
WITH PER K. BRASK, EDITOR & TRANSLATOR
OF FOUNDATIONAL THOUGHTS IN JUDAISM
Q.: How did you discover Andreas Simonsen’s book?
In February 2012, I was visiting my father in Denmark and a few days
before I left to go back home to Canada I happened to listen to a program
on the radio. Marianne Olsen was being interviewed about a thinker,
Andreas Simonsen (1923-1991). Marianne Olsen is the head of a foundation
that promotes Simonsen’s work and she has edited two books of his letters
and journals. I had never heard of him, but I found the interview
fascinating. Back in Winnipeg, I contacted Marianne Olsen and asked her
how I could get hold of some of Simonsen’s books and she sent me a good
selection, among them Foundational Thoughts in Judaism. None of his
books had ever been translated into English. I read them all and fell in
love with his book on Judaism and asked permission to translate the book.
Marianne agreed and in the process we have established a close friendship.
She in turn has translated some of my poems into Danish and we have
corresponded at great deal about Simonsen.
Q.: What particularly intrigued you about his work?
For years I’ve been attracted to Niels Bohr’s notion of complementarity
and it turned out that Simonsen was deeply involved in this kind of
thinking. In fact, while he lived as a refugee in Sweden (from October
1943, when the Germans began rounding up Danish Jews until May 1945, when
Denmark was liberated), he lodged with one of Bohr’s close collaborators,
the physicist Oskar Klein, who was a first cousin of Simonsen’s mother.
Since Bohr’s notion of complementarity was applied mainly in physics to
such phenomena as the particle and wave descriptions of light in which
both are necessary for a fuller understanding, Simonsen coined the term
disconjunction for analogous situations in ethics; i.e., for
situations that require descriptions that are seemingly mutually exclusive
but are equally necessary. For instance, bravery without level-headed
assessment can easily become recklessness, and levelheadedness without
bravery can turn into inaction. In other words, there are relationships
among values that may seem contradictory but are in fact mutually
Q.: Who was Andreas Simonsen?
Andreas Simonsen was born in 1923. His father, Rudolph Simonsen, was a
composer and the director of the Royal Danish Music Conservatory and his
was a painter. Andreas Simonsen matriculated at the University of
Copenhagen in 1941 and began studying Classics and German, but he had to
suspend his studies in 1943 when the occupying Germans began rounding up
Jews. He continued his studies when he returned to Denmark (as part of the
Danish Brigade) in 1945 and completed them in 1953. He then began teaching
at Zahles, a famous Danish gymnasium (high school, lycée),
and at the University of Copenhagen. He married Else Marie Krogh
(1914-1989) in 1956. He suffered from severe and, at times, debilitating
depressions. Despite this, he published some twenty books before the
illness overpowered him in 1991.
Q.: Why do you think Foundational Thoughts in Judaism is an
I enjoy the way Simonsen unpacks some seeming contradictions in Judaism;
e.g., the notion of God as Lord and God as Father, and the manner in which
he explains how Judaism’s approach to monotheism leads to love of one’s
fellows. And very importantly, he makes clear how necessary the insights
of Judaism are for us today; that its form of gratitude and awe can
inspire right behavior, better living.
Q.: Who should read Foundational Thoughts in Judaism?
Anyone with an interest in ethics, in the relationship between ethics and
religion (whether believers or non-believers); anyone curious about
Judaism, of course; theologians and students of religion.
During my studies in preparation for conversion to Judaism, I had the
great pleasure of being helped by a number of very fine rabbis, but I wish
I would have known of this book at some point along the way. My mind
happens to be of a slight philosophical bent and Simonsen addresses many
of my questions in a way I find satisfying. Simonsen teases out
connections and addresses issues in a contemporary context as well as in
dialogue with modern Christianity and existentialism.