Why I write

Maybe the fact that my mother was a language teacher motivated my choice of school subjects.

By
November 6, 2019 22:05
2 minute read.
A  view of the Melbourne Docklands and the city skyline from Waterfront City, looking acros

A view of the Melbourne Docklands and the city skyline from Waterfront City, looking across Victoria Harbour. Australia leads the world in biofiltration with thousands of such systems in the city of Melbourne and many more in the city of Adelaide. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

I enjoy writing, and I hope I’m good at it. My writing career began in my youth, when I sent letters to the editors of the Melbourne newspapers on topics as diverse as local libraries and immigration policy, and someone wrote back asking me to be more Christian!

At Melbourne High School, I inaugurated a magazine for language students. Maybe the fact that my mother was a language teacher motivated my choice of school subjects. She unfortunately died when I was 16, but until then she corrected my essays in a range of languages and said I used too many adjectives.

As a student I worked for the Jewish weeklies, even the Yiddishe Post. I knew very little Yiddish, even though it was my father’s mother tongue, but I went to communal meetings, and when someone spoke in Yiddish I more or less got the gist, summing it up in a sentence or two in English. The Yiddish editor turned this into a lengthy, full-fledged report. He knew his clientele and spelled out their known views better than they did.

When I went to England to study, I kept up my links with the Australian Jewish papers as well as with the Jewish Chronicle, which even paid me for my articles! As a staff member of the Association for Jewish Youth, I wrote on Jewish subjects for their magazine Jewish Youth. I kept on writing (in greater depth) once I entered the rabbinate.

As a rabbi in Sydney, I wrote prolifically for Jewish, general and church publications. Hardly anyone paid me but I wrote because I enjoyed it. Thanks to my son Benseon, I began OzTorah as a parasha sheet (a pioneer of that genre, elucidating the weekly Torah portion). It became an on-line contributor to Jewish thinking, syndicated all over the world with large numbers of readers. It is a constantly evolving book with an archive that is constantly consulted. I even use it myself. On some subjects, I find that the accepted authority seems to be me.

In retirement in Jerusalem, I have time for the serious research that once was a luxury. I have now written several books and an array of academic and popular articles. I fear, though, that the print media might not survive. Newspapers are under especial threat since their “news” is often stale when we see it, though they provide, in the words of Morris Laub, “a written record, a fuller account, an analytical approach, a commentator’s view.” But they need money, and there is a shrinking pool of advertisers.

Back to me. Kohelet says, “Of the making of many books there is no end.” Broadening his words, I hope the continuance of my writing career will have no end, and I look forward to being busy with pen and word processor for quite a while yet.

The writer is emeritus rabbi of the Great Synagogue, Sydney, Australia.


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