“Best Boy” Review by Jack Riemer

THE BEST BOY IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA by Ron Wolfson, Jewish Lights, Woodstock, Vt. 2015, 178 pages, $19.99

Reviewed by Jack Riemer

I love this book.

I love it for several reasons. The first is: when did you last read a Jewish book that was absolutely hilarious from the first page on? Ron Wolfson’s description of his growing up in Omaha, Nebraska is so funny that I found myself buttonholing anyone  that went by and making them listen to some of the lines that tickled me the most.

The second reason is: When was the last time that you read a book about Jewish life that was upbeat and optimistic? Most books about Jewish life in America are books that ‘shrei gevalt’. They are full of gloom and doom. They tell you how many young Jews we are losing, and how boring our services are and that we are the last of the Mohicans and that there will be very few caring and committed Jews after us. This book does not waste space telling us how bad things are. Instead it is jam packed with success stories and with practical suggestions of what we can do to transmit the heritage to those that will come after us. And for that alone, it is a joy to read.

The third reason I love this book is that it makes you cry as often as it makes you laugh. The key to this book, the key to Ron Wolfson’s educational philosophy, is that Judaism is the story begun by the prophets and the sages, continued by the saints and scholars of all the generations, treasured by our parents and grandparents, and now turned over to us to safeguard, to treasure and to transmit. And that it will only be transmitted if we teach our children the joy of being Jewish, and not just the woes that sometime go with it, and that the key to Jewish education is in the home and the family more than in the school or the library. The key to the Jewish future lies in creating precious memories that our children will be able to live off of, even after we are gone.

This book is a very unusual kind of an autobiography. There is some mention, but not much, of his day job as an administrator and a fund raiser and an educator. The focus of this autobiography is on more important dimensions of his life: on what it meant to have an adoring grandfather, what it meant to have devoted parents and a very good wife, what it meant to see the recipes and the stories that he inherited take hold in the lives of his children, and what an incredible privilege it is to be a grandfather, and to try to spoil and love and teach and model for his grandchildren the way his grandfather did for him.

This is a book that will tickle your funny bone many times. This is a book that will pull at your heart strings even more often. And this is a book that will prod you to think about what your own priorities are and what your own goals in life are.

For all these reasons, I love this book, and I think that you will too.

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