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Michael looks at:
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The Adventures of Rabbi Harvey 
by: Steve Sheinkin  

A Graphic Novel of Jewish Wisdom and Wit in the Wild West

Rabbi Harvey is the beetle-browed, tallit-toting, miztvah-making, law-giving rabbi of Elk Spring, Colo.

An Adirondack Mountains-raised Jew, he studied to be a rabbi in New York City. An American-bred boy, he dreamed of seeing the Wild West. He buys a ticket to Denver, but discovers that rabbis aren’t exactly moving like hamentaschen at a Purim carnival out west.

He goes from town to town looking for a job without luck until he comes to Elk Spring. This is a shtetl strangled by the grip of a ruthless band of outlaws – Big Milt Wasserman, Daniel “The Lion” Levy, and Moses “Matzah Man” Goldwater.

When Rabbi Harvey enters the saloon to introduce himself, he quickly gets into a showdown of wits and Torah-keit. Finally, Big Milt lays down a challenge, “Tell me something about yourself. If it’s true, we’ll shoot you. If it’s a lie, we’ll hang you.”

So how does it turn out?

Buy the book. Give the Gantseh Megillah some support and Steve Sheinkin a big yasher choach. Make this book your afikomen prize at seder.

I will tell you this much:
No guns were involved
No rope was involved
Talmudic reasoning totally ROCKS, and
Jesse James probably wouldn’t have bought the argument, but at heart, Big Bad Milt Wasserman had a good Jewish upbringing

In his adventures, Rabbi Harvey brings Jewish learning and tradition to solve one practical life problem after another. (The chapter “Stump the Rabbi” is hilarious.)

You’ll hear the voices of Zusya of Anipol, Rabbi Nacham, the Baal Shem Tov, the Perkei Avot, Torah and Talmud. But the Old West context and Rabbi Harvey’s sincere and pragmatic commitment to the wisdom of the Jewish tradition give them fresh life.

This is a graphic novel that Sheinkin illustrated as well as wrote. In his introduction, Sheinkin writes that the Rabbi Harvey stories were inspired by two books he loved so much as a child that they fell apart: “101 Jewish Stories” and a collection of Wild West adventures.

Sheinkin won Moment magazine’s 2006 Emerging Writer Award in children’s literature for this book. He has written a sequel, “Rabbi Harvey vs. the Wisdom Kid,” published by Jewish Lights. In addition to his Jewish books, Sheinkin has written textbooks, including “The Notorious Benedict Arnold,” “Which Way to the Wild West?” “Two Miserable Presidents,” and “King George: What Was His Problem? The Whole Hilarious Story of the Revolution.” A former teacher, his textbooks are meticulously researched and documented. He lives with his wife and children in Brooklyn, NY.

“Rabbi Harvey protects his town and delivers justice wielding only the weapons of wisdom, kindness and humor,” according to Sheinkin.

May we all take up such weapons in our own lives.

©Jeannette M. Hartman 2011

Submitted by: Jeannette M. Hartman
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