"Of making many books, there is no end and much study is a weariness of the flesh," we read in Ecclesiastes (1′:1′).
The way Teaneck resident Larry Yudelson, who with his wife, Eve, launched Ben Yehuda Press about a year ago, sees it, expanding the world of Jewish books "is a command from King Solomon, and I’m not going to argue with that." As for the prophet’s apparent reference to the somatic-inducing qualities of study, Yudelson takes exception: "I don’t think Judaism understands the second half [of the quote] to mean what it seems to say, since ‘much study’ is certainly a great Jewish value."
Local publishers Larry and Eve Yudelson with some of their publications.
In fact, Yudelson adds his own corollary, the impetus for his venture: "Of new teachings and new teachers, there is no end, and each generation discovers new facets of Torah and Judaism and the Jewish tradition."
With three titles published and another 10 in various stages of development, the Yudelsons are proud, he says, to have found "some of the outstanding teachers of our generation who have, over the past 10, ‘0, 30 years, created new ways of studying and teaching Torah." They also aim to present a range of scholarship across the denominational spectrum that demonstrates that "traditional texts, talmudic texts, are not just for rabbis, but for everyone to learn from, discuss and interpret."
Among their growing stable of authors is Jewish Renewal/Reconstructionist Rabbi Shefa Gold, a Paramus native, now living and teaching meditation in New Mexico. Her "Torah Journeys: An Inner Path to the Promised Land" is destined to become a modern classic, Yudelson believes, as the first work to take a look at each weekly Torah portion from the perspective of Jewish Renewal. Yudelson hopes Gold who led the Yom Kippur davening at Elat Chayyim, now part of Isabella Friedman Retreat Center in Connecticut will speak locally on Thanksgiving weekend, when she’ll be back in town.
Also writing for Ben Yehuda is modern Orthodox author Rabbi Nathaniel Helfgot, who edited "Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Tanakh Companion to Samuel," a collection of 13 essays that includes his own and writings by Rabbis Avi Weiss, David Silber, and others.
In addition, says Yudelson, furthering the belief that texts are not just for rabbis but are meant to be discussed and interpreted by others as well, Reform scholar Rabbi Judith Z. Abrams has produced her 18th book, "Torah & Company: The Weekly Portion of Torah, Accompanied by Generous Helpings of Mishnah and Gemara, Served Up With Discussion Questions to Spice Up Your Sabbath Table" which, says Yudelson, is "flying off the shelves" at local bookstores and online.
The Yudelson partnership husband and wife take turns doing editing and publicity will expand this year to marketing efforts, and, he says, "the books are taking on a life of their own." While an increasing number of books have been sold through Amazon.com, Ben Yehuda books are finding their way onto retail bookshelves and can be found locally in stores such as Judaica House and Zoldan’s Judaica on Cedar Lane in Teaneck. They are also available in Manhattan, at West Side Judaica and J. Levine’s, and as far afield as Seattle and California, where they are carried by "non-Jewish spirituality bookstores."
Yudelson’s bottom line: "You can never have too many books." For more information, go to www.benyehudapress.com.