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August 14, 2009

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, AUGUST 14, 2009 By Rabbi Rachel Esserman The (Binghmton, N.Y.) Reporter While reading the first case study in "Jewish Choices, Jewish Voice: Power," edited by Elliot N. Dorff and Louis E. Newman (Jewish Publication Society), I felt a shock of recognition. The problem the proper way for a supervisor to solicit donations for a nonprofit organization without making underlings feel coerced--was an issue with which I had just grappled. My solution had been to send my staff an e-mail mentioning the raffle tickets I was sell- ing, while also noting that I wouldn't feel insulted if they didn't buy a ticket because one of my relatives had already turned me down. Was my decision one the writers of this book would appr6ve of? That's difficult to say. Although "Jewish Choices, Jewish Voice: Power" contains fascinating essays that gave me great insight into the uses and misuses of power, few of them discuss the three case studies laid out at the beginning of the book. "Power" is the third work in the "Jewish Choices, Jew- By Ruth Ellen Gruber BUDAPEST (JTA)--Sum- mer is just about over and my recreational reading has included three books by people I actually know. Each book is quite differ- ,e~L..~orr~ the others--"The Shanghai Moon" by S.J. Rozan is a detective story; "The Bu- dapest Protocol" by Adam Le Bor is a political thriller: and "The Pages In Between" by Erin Einhorn is a nonfiction personal memoir. But they all have something in common: They use the Holo- caust and the lingering impact of its memory as springboards for narratives that take place in the present. And fiction or nonfiction, all three books are gripping yarns that make read- ers think, as well as become lost in the story. "The Shanghai Moon" is the latest in Rozan's award- winning series of mysteries featuring New York-based detectives Lydia Chin and Bill Smith. It hinges on the experiences of the more than 20.000 European Jews who found refuge in Shanghai, China. during the Shoah and on the fate of their looted be- longings. The book is the first in her series, in which Rozan TEL AVIV--Hearing aids and cochlear implants act as tiny amplifiers so the deaf and hard-of-hearing can make sense of voices and music. Unfortunately. these devices also amplify back- ground sound, so they're less effective in a noisy environment like a busy workplace or caf~. But help is on the wa~. Professor Miriam Furst-Yust of Tel Aviv University's School of Electrical Engineering has developed a new software ap- plication named"Clearcall" for cochlear implants and hearing aids which improves speech recognition f6r the hard-of- hearing by up to 50 percent. ish Voice" series, which "is intended to provide a forum for discussion of some of the most critical moral issues of our time." While aimed at adults in their 20s and 30s. the books can help Jews of any age wrestle with the complex problems that affect our society. Each work opens with an introduction about the nature of the topic, followed by three case studies and a variety of ancient and modern Jewish sources that offer suggestions relevant to each case. The central core. though, is the "Symposium" section, which features essaysby contempo- The dynamics of power rary Jews on the issue under discussion, in this case on the uses and misuses of power. Dorff and Newman then con- clude the work with their own thoughts on the subject. In addition to the case study on "soliciting charitable de- ductions." "Power" looks at "developing personal relation- ships," in this instance between a rabbi and a congregant, and "monitoring ethics in business," which discusses options for when a subordinate recognizes her supervisor's inappropriate and/or illegal behavior. Each case study features questions about how reactions should differ depending on a variety of different scenarios. For ex- ample, in the third case study, should the secretary react the same way if her boss is stealing money from the company as opposedtojust showing that he's incapable of doing his job. The short quotations from different Jewishsources offer a variety of ways to lookatthe issue. Ancient sources include the Torah, Talmud and medieval codes; modem sources vary greatly, from suggestions by rabbis to quotes from poetry and plays. My favorite section was the symposium, Sandra King's "My Experience in Raisingand Dealing With Ethical Issues at Jewish Family Service (JFS)" is a wonderful and thought- provoking look at the proper use of power that made me re-evaluate my method of - dealing with employees. King also acknowledges the limits of power, teaching the best way of"maximizingyour strengths [and] circumventing your limitations." Her suggestions on how to deal with difficult situations should be read by anyone who serves in a position of authority. Her essay is also only one of two that directly discussed the case studies; I found her suggestions helpful, if in one case difficult to accept. I've always been a fan of former Congresswoman Eliza- beth Holtzman, but until read- ing her essay I never realized just how much importantwork she's accomplished. "Judaism and Power" shows the way Holtzman's Jewish heritage in- spired her to use power to help others and to struggle against those who abused the power they held. She feels that Jewish "history should inject us with a healthy dose of skepticism about power. It should teach us also to be especially sensitive to the security of other Jews. As important, we must remember the pain inflicted on us in our history--and vow never to inflict it on others:' Zachary Lazarus' heartfelt appeal, "The Privilege to Choose, the Power to Change," is aimed at those in their teens and 20s, encouraging them not to be apathetic about politics. The most powerful sections are when he admits his own faults when dealing with the political system. Lazarus also discusses why many people refuse to act, noting that it's easier to stand back "because we won't fail if we don't try." Instead of opting out, he encourages people to live their politics, to recognize that "our everyday acts, from what car we drive to how we treat those around us no matter their social status, are political and moral decisions." Other essays in the sympo- sium include Marc Graboffs "'You're No Sammy Glick': Eth- ics and Power in a Cutthroat Business" on how to behave morally in the entertainment business and still succeed; a discussion of labor unions in "Union Power and the Valuable Role oftheWorker"by RacheUe Smith; Daniel Held'sthoughts Summer reading and the Holocaust explores Jewish themes. Like the other two authors, Rozan is Jewish. "The Shanghai ghetto is a compelling aspect of Jewish and Holocaust history that gets almost no attention." Rozan told me when I asked her what prompted her to write about it. "Once I started the research. I was completely enthralledwith these people's stories and thought that whole rich world needed to be brought to light. "The past never stops reaching into the present." she said. "In a sense, crime and mystery novels are all about making that clear. about bringing above the surface, as it were, how and when that happens." Rozan said she occasionally hears from people who were in the Shanghai ghetto or had family members there. "They almost never en- counter that time and place in fiction, and they're thrilled to see it." she said. "And I'm thrilled when they tell me my picture of it feels right to them." "The Budapest Protocol" tells quite a different story. Le Bor. a veteran British journalist and author, sets his story in the Hungarian capital, where he lives. But he creates an alternative Budapest, using today's city, including its former Jewish quarter, as a backdrop for an imaginary political scene in which Nazi-inspired political forces gain power in a bid to take over Europe. Le Bor told me he extrapo- lated from a 1944 U.S. intel- ligence document an account of a meeting of leading Nazi in- dustrialists in the Maison Rouge Hotel in Strasbourg, France. They admit the war is lost but lay out their plans for the next Reich, the fourth, which will be an economic empire. "I simply moved that meet- ing to the fictional Hotel Savoy in Budapest and took the story from there," the author said. Le Bor described the book--his first novel after several nonfiction books as weaving "past and present together, just like everyday life everywhere in Eastern Europe. "We walk on pavements once trodden by the Gestapo and the [Hungarian fascist] Arrow Cross. we marvel at the beauty of the Danube. which within living memorywas also a watery grave for thousands of Jews." he said. "But Hungary, certainly more than its neighbors, is making real efforts to remember what was lost at numerous memorials and Holocaust commemoration ceremonies. It also celebrates what remains at events like the Jewish summer festival," an annual event at the begin- ning of September. "Jewish culture." Le Bor said. "is an ever-richer part of Budapest life." Erin Einhorn's nonfiction memoir. "The Pages In Be- tween." gripped me as much as or more than any fictional thriller. The Detroit News called it "a detective story framed as a memoir." The story's subplots, it said. "reveal how memory often distorts the truth, and how family legend is often colored in its retelling." The book recounts Ein- horn's attempts to find out the truth about how her mother. who was born in the Polish city of Bedzin in 1942, survived the Holocaust. Einhorn. then in her 20s. moved to Poland for a year in 2001. She found the house in Bedzin that once belonged to her family, met the descen- dants of the Christian woman who took in her motheras a baby and became immersed in an ever-widening web of truths, half-truths, myth and deception. A reporter with the New York Daily News. Einhorn uses her journalistic skills to record not only her search for her mother's past but also her search to understand the present--and, in a way, her search for her own identity. Along the way she presents an honest and intensely vivid appraisal of contemporary Poland. especially the nu- ances and contradictions that compose the complexi- ties of Poland's centuries-old relationship with the Jewish world. Hearing the words beneath the noise "Hearing-impaired peo- ple have a real problem understanding speech," says Furst-Yust. "Their devices may be useful in a quiet room, but once the background noise levels ramp up, the devices become less useful. Our algorithm helps filter out irrelevant noise so they can better understand the voices of their friends and family." Based on a cochlear model that she devised, the new patented technology is now being developed to improve the- capabilities of existing cochlear im- plants and digital hear- ing aids. Adding Clearcall to current technology is quite straightforward, says Furst-Yust, and requires only add-on software for existing devices. "We've developed a math: ematical model of the ear that shows how speech rec- ognition works. The math is complicated, but basically we're cleaning auditory in- formation before it goes to the brain. We get rid of some of the information--the background noise so that the hearing-impaired have an easier time 'filling in' missing information that their ears can't give them." says Furst-Yust. The software was orlgi- nally developed for use in cell phones, but Clearcall introduced distortions that people with healthy hearing found distracting. That's when Furst-Yust started applying the methodology to hearing aids. "It takes some getting used to." she notes, "but peo- ple who have been wearing hearing aids all their lives have no problem getting the most from Clearcall. And we can train the newly hearing impaired in a quick introductory session." Clearcall works with the brain's, own sound recogni- tion faculties to help the hearing aid wearer filter out background noise. To a person with normal hearing, a Clearcall-filtered voice will sound distorted. the same way it's hard for some people to recognize voices and words over the telephone. And even to the newly hearing impaired, Clearcall will sound dif- ferent. But with continued use, the software improves the clarity of voices from 30 percent to 50 percent. Furst-Yust is currently preparing the results of her study for publication. It is based on people with only 20 percent of their hearing intact. Available for licensing PAGE 19A on the power a teacher holds in "Learning to Teach: Reflec- tions on the Transition from Student to Teacher"; and a look at "The Complex Power of a Rabbi" by Laura Geller. In their conclusion. Dorff and Newman give an overview of the topic, includingadiscus- sion on "the three dimensions of power: its source, its goals, and its means." For example, they look at how a person ob- tains a position of power. Was he elected or did he grab power in a military coup? Did she'use her power to help members of her society or only to benefit herself? Did he treat his fellow citizens as equals or nonenti- ties? All of these criteria can be used to determine if power was used or abused. Although Dorff and New- man do discuss the second case study in their conclusion, I wish more discussion about each case had been offered. However, this is a minor quibble about a powerful work. I found myself evaluating and re-evaluating decisions I've made based on the insights of- fered by each essay. Anyone in a position of authority should read "Jewish Choices. Jewish Voice: Power." BETWEEN E I~]N Et~t~ORN Sadly, Einhorn's mother died at age 59, just as Einhorn was embarking on her project. That loss becomes a milestone that turns Einhorn's book into not just a search for family history, but a coming-of-age chronicle that links the past with an open-ended future. l stayed up well past mid- night to finish it. Ruth Ellen Gruber's books include "National Geographic Jewish -Heritage Travel: A Guide to Eastern Europe," "Letters from Europe (and Elsewhere), '" and "Virtually Jewish: Re- inventing Jewish Culture in Europe." She blogs on Jewish heritage issues at jewish- through Tel Aviv Univer- sity's commercialization company, Ramot, the soft- ware could become part of an existing implant or device in a matter of months once the right strategic partner is found. Furst-Yust continues to refine her algorithm for future applications and foresees the invention of an ultimate device l~or filtering out the things normal hear- ers don't want to hear, like the boombox next to us on the subway. She believes it will be easier to target music than voices, since our brains are trained to already listen to music differently. F ...........