What happens when you match the ridiculous stories of the fools of Chelm with the preposterous tall tales of the Adirondacks and then raise serious questions about the nature of God and the meaning of prayer?
The legendary fools of Chelm have migrated to a new home where, they were told, “every acre is two acres, you can till the soil with a teaspoon, and there are not only four seasons, there are five.”
Bloomie is the ambitious proprietor of The Broiled Beet – serving the finest in Adirondack-Ashkenazick fusion cuisine – and the loveliest, kindest, and sincerest sheyneh maidel in all of Chelm’s Pond.
Adirondack Mendel is the renowned adventurer, woodsman, mountain man, and Adirondack guide who always tells the truth even if he has to lie to do it. When they are brought together by Aufruf, the talking dog (who used to do spy work for Colin Powell, from whom he learned a bissel Yiddish), they fall in love.
Guided by the learned, honored, and beloved Rabbi Chayim Shmayim, the oldest and wisest khokhem in Chelm’s Pond, the results raise serious questions about the nature of God and the meaning of prayer, but in an extraordinary way that could happen only in Chelm’s Pond.
Chelm stories - Jewish humor - Jewish tall tales - Jewish folklore
Adirondack Mendel’s Aufruf:
What People Say
Wittiness … heartwarming … all the best ingredients. Having spent the last few summers vacationing in New York State’s Adirondack Mountains, I was intrigued by the title. These are not the famed Catskills. There are few Jews or Jewish institutions in the largely wilderness area, so the name “Adirondack Mendel” itself appealed to my sense of humor. I was pleasantly surprised and more than a little tickled to read this book of tall tales about a community of Chelmites who resettled in the aptly named Chelm’s Pond (a play on an actual place, Helm’s Pond, near Blue Mountain Lake in upstate New York). Delightful two-tone watercolor illustrations add to the appeal of this slender volume.
The wittiness of the stories can be appreciated by old and young alike. There is a level of sophistication inherent in the issues touched on in the later chapters (the nature of God and religion and the meaning of prayer), but the book can also be enjoyed on a simpler level. While the stories might be most appropriate for older adult audiences who understand a bissel Yiddish, younger readers will especially love the story of Bloomie’s Monticello gambling trip (she wins handily by betting on horses named for hats, but loses all when she bets on Château, failing to recognize the Japanese horse named Yamika.)
These heartwarming stories have all the best ingredients of tall tale humor — absurdity, a smidgeon of subtlety, and good-hearted, corny fun. It’s obvious that the book grew out of the author’s successful career as an inspirational speaker. Recommended especially for synagogue groups such as Men’s Clubs and Sisterhoods, where the program might be based on a read-aloud followed by a discussion of the underlying themes. Includes a glossary and ten-page guide for teachers and discussion leaders.
~ Joyce Levine, Association of Jewish Libraries Reviews
A new piece of Jewish folklore, a sheer delight. Love, difference, gender issues, conversion to Judaism, belief in God, honesty and over 130 Hebrew and Yiddish terms are brilliantly introduced within the 103 pages of a book that can fit in a coat pocket. There are many interpretive levels to this book, making it appropriate for reading and discussion with children as well as adults. Adirondack Mendel's Aufruf, while keeping faith with the Chelm traditions, is also moving us forward with honest inquiry on difficult topics. It is a great way to develop a useful Jewish cultural vocabulary, and as a new piece of Jewish folklore, a sheer delight. Read more …
~ Rabbi Goldie Milgram, The Philadelphia Jewish Voice
A hilarious new Jewish book!
~ The Jewish Magazine
Extremely enjoyable. I have just finished reading your book Adirondack Mendel’s Aufruf and I must say I found it extremely enjoyable. All the book's characters fitted in well with the story. I particularly liked your use of Yiddish words and expressions together with the excellent Glossary. The lovely illustrations completed the book. And your ending, with your special one-page of Sim Shalom, was excellent.
~ David Minkoff, Hertfordshire, UK, author of Oy!: The Ultimate Book of Jewish Jokes, Oy Vey: More!: The Ultimate Book of Jewish Jokes Part 2, and The Best Jewish Jokes Website in the World.
The moment I read the first paragraph I knew I’d like the book … Mr. Schuman does a wonderful job bringing [the tales of Chelm] across the Atlantic. On one of the stories … I was laughing so hard I had to call my wife. … The book is full of wonderful illustrations which capture not only characters, but also the spirit of the stories … Read more …
~ Man of la Book 5 Stars; May 28, 2013
Lighthearted while presenting deep, thought-provoking ideas … Each chapter is a short story that goes into making one larger story. … Knowledge of Jewish customs (or any religion, for that matter) is not required to read this book – the author does a great job of explaining things and there’s a glossary for unknown words in the back! Read more …
~ Jenny Boyce, Mcfarland, Wisconsin
Expressive and folkloric. I loved how you took inspiration from the traditional Chelm stories and situated your story in the Adirondacks. Even with the tall tale humor you made characters who are likeable and human. I liked all of the footnotes and explanations, the Yiddish words - and the glossary. The illustrations are so expressive and folkloric. Mazel tov on a job well done!
~ Cindy Rivka Marshall, Storyteller, Newton, MA
A great story with entertaining surprises. This book is a wonderful read. Schuman has a real gift for storytelling--for letting the story unfold at just the right pace, building the characters, and providing interesting and fun twists and surprises. The combination of the fictional and the real made me think twice about what might or might not be true. And I loved the "g-d-wrestling" and philosophical turns at the end, and especially the prayer/prayer.
~ Bonnie Edelstein, Albany, New York
An entertaining and Uplifting Read! A great tale written in the idiom of the original “Stories of Chelm” the ultimate message of this book is one of caring and compassion for the entire world.
~ Selma Aaronson, Fresh Meadows, New York
Visiting Chelm’s Pond. While I’d heard stories of the residents of Chelm from schoolmates’ grandparents I’d no idea some had relocated to my beloved Adirondacks. This is a wonderful book, sweet without being soppy, funny without being mean and inspirational without being preachy. It is beautifully written by someone who clearly knows a great deal about the Jewish storytelling traditions as well as has personal experience of the Adirondack Mountains (no one who has not experienced “noseeums” could describe them with such horrifying accuracy). It should be said that while these stories come from a Jewish tradition, their readership should not be limited to the Chosen People. The glossary in the back can help if you don’t have a bissel Yiddish.
~ Eileen McGurn, Portland, Oregon
I was forklempt. This short work is the perfect shidduch (combination) of Chelm chochma (wisdom) and passion for the Adirondacks. Written with a strong sense of spirit and heimishekeit, the stories of Rabbi Chayim Shmayim, Mendel, Bloomie and the other characters will make you laugh, cry, empathize, reminisce, question, relate and reflect. It is a must read for lovers of Chelm Stories and hikers in the Adirondacks.
~ Rabbi Rami Strosberg, Albany, New York
Unforgettable characters. The characters and the humor in this book are truly wonderful. As a bonus, we get to learn some Yiddish and some Jewish/Eastern Europe/Adirondack culture through touching stories and a helpful and amusing glossary. I am looking forward to more stories of Mendel and Bloomie in Chelm's Pond.
~ Tom Stewart, Altamont, New York
I can’t wait for Dr. Schuman's next book! I am one of the many people who have been priviledged to hear Dr. Schuman’s storytelling first hand. When I heard that he had written a book I had to have it. When I started reading it, I couldn't put it down until I finished it. The narrative is so well written that I could picture all of the characters of Chelm’s Pond as though they really exist. In fact, I am tempted to go to the beautiful Adirondack Mountains when the weather is warm enough for a journey and find this place and its inhabitants. They sound like my kind of people. Who knows, maybe I’ll move there as long as they have the proverbial two synagogues (the one I'd go to and the one I wouldn’t set foot in).
~ Joe Ford, Rensselaer, New York
Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy! In Adirondack Mendel’s Aufruf , Dr. Sandy Schuman, a seasoned New York State and national storyteller, brings the great Jewish tradition of integrating legendary Jewish themes and serious questions into the American immigrant-marriage story. He successfully transposes the mythical Eastern Europe shtetl of Chelm into the fictional village of Chelm’s Pond in New York State’s Adirondack Mountains. He then overlays the generational Jewish story by telling it as an American-Jewish story. As an eternal student of Yiddish historical literature, I appreciate his wonderfully flavored characters: Bloomie, Adirondack Mendel, Rabbi Chayim Shymayim, all in the environs of Chelm’s Pond. There, a few Jewish minor keys of daily life’s song-stories are transferred into promising universally optimistic outcomes. His collection of linked stories concludes with an indexed Yiddish glossary, story guide and map, adding to the informative footnoted text. The final section, one song-prayer, remains a wonderful, vital end to a new American-Jewish story. Kevin Kuhne collaborates with great illustrations throughout the book.
~ Les Fisher, Delmar, New York
Oy, this funniness is giving me an ice cream headache. Mendel’s romp through the Adirondacks gave me a laugh a page. The Chelmites reminded me of my relatives. Bloomie is a doll. Aufruf – well, what do you say about a faithful Hebrew speaking dog? I look forward to the next installment – hope there will be one. A good hot pastrami sandwich while reading this enhances the experience, but I read in bed and the smell of mustard wakes me up in the night. Enjoy!
~ Ira Rubtchinsky, Albany, New York