The Jerusalem Post Reviews Rabbi Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff’s Memoir
There are many reasons one could find From Washington Avenue to Washington Street, by Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff, professor of rabbinic literature at Yeshiva University’s Caroline and Joseph S. Gruss Institute in Jerusalem, a captivating work. Not only is it an engaging autobiography, but the historical information surrounding the author’s life experiences alone merit the 447-page read.
Rabbi Rakeffet, who was born in the Bronx in 1937 and lived on Washington Avenue, had been known as Arnold Rothkoff. Upon making aliya three decades later and moving to the center of Jerusalem – not far from George Washington Street – he adopted the Hebrew surname Rakeffet.
A scholarly work with stimulating philosophical content, From Washington Avenue to Washington Street can be enjoyed by both the academic and the layperson. A popular teacher for more than 50 years, Rakeffet manages to include folksy anecdotes as well as profound teachings in his book.
Modern Jewish history comes alive in this memoir. Rakeffet goes beyond his own surroundings and provides details of world events that profoundly influenced the evolution of Jewish life in the New World. His reminiscences of the World War II and postwar era would surely cause those from a similar background to wax nostalgic.
The later chapters describe his riveting experiences in the 1980s in the effort to help Jews in the former Soviet Union.
Included are little-known tales of profound self-sacrifice involving saintly leaders within the campaign to free their brethren and intensely moving accounts of the refuseniks’ tenacity.
During his youth, Rakeffet’s love of learning led him to experience diverse streams within the umbrella of Orthodoxy.
The book abounds with fascinating recollections of major Torah personalities, in particular those in the Yeshiva University world, where the author studied and was ordained. Read the full review at The Jerusalem Post…