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People of the Book

Rabbi Micah Streiffer


Jews are often referred to as People of the Book.

The term was actually given to us in the Islamic world. The Quran refers to both Jews and Christians – monotheistic religions based around Scripture – as “people of the book,” and for this reason they were considered protected minorities in Muslim society. Amongst Jews the term stuck, perhaps because we identify so deeply as a people with books and all that they represent.

What does it mean to be people of the book? It means that we make meaning by writing and by reading. The Mishnah (Peah 1:1) says, “Talmud Torah k’negged kulam – Study of Torah is equal to all of the mitzvot.” Indeed, we know that study and literacy have long been central to Jewish life. In fact, when a child becomes an adult – when he or she stands on the bima for the first time as Bar/Bat Mitzvah - one of the first things we do is hand them a Torah scroll (the most important book we have) and invite them to carry it into the congregation. It is through books that we receive traditions that have been passed down to us through many generations; and it is through books that we pass those generations on to the next generation.

We are fortunate this month to have two very special new books being launched at Kol Ami. First, on November 3 during Friday night services, we will host the launch of Six Lost Years, the story of Amek Adler’s experiences during the Shoah. Amek, who passed away last year, was a long-time member of Kol Ami and a respected Holocaust educator. We are so grateful that his daughter, our member Rose A. Weinberg, will speak that evening about her father’s experiences and about his legacy.

The following weekend – Saturday, November 11 in the evening – we are privileged to host Ellin Bessner, a veteran journalist whose book Double Threat: Canadian Jews, the Military, and World War II tells the “untold stories of how and why Canada’s Jewish community sent 17,000 men and women in uniform to defeat Hitler and the Axis in the Second World War.” This extraordinary lecture will be held in memory of our own Jack Cahan, himself a veteran of Canada’s Armed Forces and a passionate public speaker.

Two books, many stories. Please come and join us for these special events as we celebrate books, memory, and legacy.


Rabbi Micah Streiffer

Thu, May 19 2022 18 Iyar 5782