Kosher Bookworm: The 9/11 Legacy Ten Years Later


Ten years is a long time in the life of any human being. For a book reviewer this daunting subject is a challenge in that this is a topic that deserves more than just cursory treatment.

Thus, I shall, to the best of my ability, present to you some of the recent works based upon our religious tradition that will serve as my tribute to those who gave of themselves their dedicated efforts, and of the martyred others who gave of their last full measure.

The Beth Din of America, led by Rabbi Gedalia Dov Schwartz, recently published an anthology of articles, titled, “Contending With Catastrophe: Jewish Perspectives on September 11th”, edited by Rabbi Michael J. Broyde.

Among those who wrote on this event, Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein of Yeshivat Har Etzion made what in my opinion is a most profound observation. “This event has one weighty aspect that distinguishes it to a certain degree from other recent tragedies and struggles,” Rabbi Lichtenstein writes. “This element is not unprecedented, but many thought that it had disappeared from the modern horizon. I refer to the religious aspect of this attack.”

Many people thought that religious wars had passed from the world. Some viewed this development favorably, other unfavorably. Some thought that it stemmed from a deficiency in religious ferver, from a spiritual decline. They lamented that people go out to war for oil, but not for the glory of G-d.”

Rabbi Lichtenstein continues his essay, composed and written nine years ago, to note the uniqueness of this new found role as religion now finds itself a war maker on the world stage. A careful reading of this teaching by you will reveal how telling was this essay as it is re-published and re-read nine years later.

Following along these thoughts, Prof. David Shatz, in a postscript to his 36 page essay in this book makes the following observation:

“This essay presumes that religion can cause violence and does so in today’s world. Recent [and not so recent] studies give much weight to other causes of fanaticism – social, political, psychological, economic – and sometimes view religion as a veneer that in itself plays little role in the explanation of the violence.” Shatz continues to evaluate this and affirms further his conviction that unfortunately, religion does indeed play a crucial role in violence today.

This concern for the role that religious belief now plays in the violence that we witness throughout the world is something that we all must take to heart. It is a disturbing element, but not something that is foreign to out experience down through the ages.

To the Jewish people, our souls and our hearts were as scared as were our bodies. War and violence was no stranger to our ancestors nor to their progeny to this day.

A personal testament to the hell of 9/11 written by a prominent member of the South Shore community, Ari Schonbrun, was just made available, on line, this past week. Titled, “Miracles and Fate on 78”,, this memoir goes into great detail in describing his personal experiences on that fateful day at that fateful site.

Written from a deeply religious and moral perspective, our neighbor Ari, through this work, brings us close to both his heart and mind as he describes the sounds of terror and abject fear that he saw, heard, and lived through that day.

The depth of Ari’s religious beliefs can only be best demonstrated in his own words with the following:

“G-d whispers to our souls and speaks to our hearts. The problem is that we are often so busy running through life that we don’t have time to listen. We are too busy with the material world, so we ignore the whispers. It is then that He has to throw a brick at us to wake us up, to tell us that we aren’t doing the right things and that we need to make a change.

“Do you see a theme here? Now, I’ve had a brick thrown at me, so I know. But you.

You have a choice. You can listen to the whisper…..or you can wait for a brick.”

These are most telling words. Read his work. It will make a difference in your life this coming high holiday season.