ESHKOLOT: ESSAYS IN MEMORY OF RABBI RONALD LUBOFSKY
Edited by Andrew Strum
Hybrid Publishers, Melbourne 2002
Reviewed by Rabbi Raymond Apple
Rabbi Lubofsky was a powerful figure in Australian Jewry for so long that it is almost impossible to believe that he was over 70 at the time of his sudden death. His personality was so vibrant, his mind so energetic, his interest so all-absorbing and his voice so strong that he seemed to have remained as young as the day he arrived on these shores. His passing during Pesach two years ago has left our community a duller place, and it is good that a large and variegated group of scholarly admirers have joined together to produce this literary tribute to him.
The title “Eshkolot” echoes an ancient Rabbinic phrase describing a multi-faceted sage as Ish HaEshkolot, i.e. ish she-hakol bo, a man who contained everything. The many talents and interests contained in Rabbi Lubofsky are well reflected in this book. Of the varied offerings many are solid, though some are rather slight. Most are engagingly written, though unfortunately many are marred by poor proof-reading, even the ability to spell Lubofsky (or Leibler) correctly.
The essays touch on art, music, history, literature, liturgy and theology and range as far afield as bioethics, interfaith dialogue and Zionism. All are strands in the broad-ranging tapestry of Rabbi Lubofsky’s interests and concerns.
A review in a journal dedicated to Australian Jewish history must inevitably focus on the contributions to Australian Jewish historical studies. In this respect we read, often as the result of solid original research, essays on the Jewish Museum of Australia, Rabbi Lubofsky’s early years in Sydney, and the remarkable Rabbi Gurewicz (this particular essay is an edited transcript of an address by Rabbi Lubofsky himself, and apart from presenting Gurewicz as a detractor of Rabbi Danglow, it is an important chapter in the history of orthodoxy in Australia).
We read about Rev Moses Rintel, we trace references to Australia in HaMagid in the 19th century; we enjoy reminiscences of the St Kilda Hebrew Congregation. My own contribution is a study of mixed choirs in Australia and elsewhere.
A significant proportion of the authors are Australian by birth or adoption. There are liberal Jews and orthodox Jews, historians and halachists (a halachic paper by the Rabbi of Mizrachi in Melbourne deals with feminism in the synagogue).
All in all, it is a book to be enjoyed and to learn from. As a tribute to Rabbi Lubofsky it makes the reader wonder how one man could play so many roles so successfully.
This book review appeared in the Journal of the Australian Jewish Historical Society, Vol XVI Part 2, 2002.