August 1, 2002
Coincidence? I Think Not
When two friends who are torn apart by the Holocaust discover nearly 40 years later that they live in the same New York neighborhood, some would call it "coincidence."
Yitta Halberstam and Judith Leventhal call it a "small miracle."
The two friends have taken the "small miracle" concept and put it into a series of books, the most recent, "Small Miracles for the Jewish Heart," which comes out this week.
Halberstam said she was compelled to release a Jewish installment after her editor said that most of the stories she kept using for the previous books were from Jewish people. But Halberstam and Leventhal wanted to make this book different. "In Jewish books, there tends to be a lot of melancholy," Halberstam said. She said she wants this book, "to inspire, give hope and make people feel better."
While Jews don't have a patent on miracles -- Halberstam noted that Christian bookstores are carrying the series -- she said that the Jewish concept of midah keneged midah (what goes around comes around) is an underlying theme in the book, which includes a story from Chabad of the Conejo's Rabbi Yitzchak Sapochkinsky.
"People who did a good deed were rewarded years later," she said. "These magical stories happen. When you do a good deed, it doesn't disappear into a vacuum."
Both authors have had their shares of miracles as well. When Halberstam got lost in Brookline, Mass., she received help from a stranger who turned out to be a distant cousin. When the authors wanted to contact Rabbi Harold Kushner, whom they hoped would contribute to the book, Leventhal ended up sitting next to him on an airplane.
So what of those people who tend to be skeptical when it comes to miracles because they've never experienced one? "Maimonidies said, 'The more you believe in miracles, the more they happen,'" Halberstam points out.
On Aug. 9 and 10, Yitta Halberstam will be speaking at the Happy Minyan at Congregation Beth Jacob 9030 W. Olympic Blvd., Beverly Hills. For more information, call (310) 285-7777.