Kressel Housman's Reviews > All for the Boss: The Life and Impact of R' Yaakov Yosef Herman, a Torah Pioneer in America: An Affectionate Family Chronicle

All for the Boss by Ruchoma Shain
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Jul 23, 08

bookshelves: history, israel, jewish, torah, non-fiction, biography
Recommended for: everyone; see review
Read in July, 2008

This is a classic in the English-speaking Ultra-Orthodox world; it's been around for decades, and hundreds of people have read and loved it. Now that I've finally read it too, I can say decidedly: it's with good reason.

This is the biography of Rav Yaakov Yosef Herman who lived on the Lower East Side in the early 20th century. Jews were assimilating en masse back then, but he with his staunch Torah lifestyle and home open to all Jews was able to stave off some of that trend. Reading it made me wish that my father could have been one of the children he influenced.

The book is written by Rav Herman's youngest daughter, and in the first chapter, called "The Pinch," she discusses how he'd give her an affectionate pinch on the cheek, but never a hug. That actually turned me off on my first attempt on this book (about 5 years ago), but this time, I pressed on, and it was well worth it. The second chapter, "Recollections," is about the Rav Herman's own early life, which was certainly not easy and showed how he got to be so strong-willed. At the end of the fourth chapter, "Papa Corners the Market," which is about the open house he kept for Jews of all types, I absolutely loved him. So of course, I welled up when he died at the very end.

For frum Jews, this is an absolute must-read. For irreligious Jews who think Orthodox Judaism is too strict - read this and discover the love within the strictness. And for non-Jews who want to learn about Orthodox Jewish life, forget Chaim Potok or any fictional depiction of Jews. This is the real thing, a Jew who lived his life for "the Boss."
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Comments (showing 1-9 of 9) (9 new)

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Isn't it an amazing book? There were some things that I found a little hard to take in this book too, but then I had to remind myself that on my own level, I would do a certain thing, but Rav Herman was on a different level, and I am in no position to judge.

As I understand, the most recent printing (revised edition) took out some things because they were seen as harsh by some readers. I have never read the original, but would like to do so to compare. (Luckily, such an edition is available in the library here.)

I havn't read this book a second time cover to cover, but I think that I should and soon.




rivka I had heard about the revised edition, and it just makes me sad that it is now considered a good thing to edit books like that.

Definitely read the original if you can.


Kressel Housman I wonder which I read. My copy said there were additions, not subtractions.


Shana I read the original edition and I heard that the part about the doll was taken out in the revised edition. I reasoned that although I wasn't comfortable with the severity of some of R' Herman's positions, it was his exacting personality, such as seen with his fasting (and the "pinch"), that made him so influential.


rivka I reasoned that although I wasn't comfortable with the severity of some of R' Herman's positions, it was his exacting personality, such as seen with his fasting (and the "pinch"), that made him so influential.

Agreed. I also think it is very important to see that gedolim can have positions and opinions we disagree with, and still be gedolim! Judaism has never believed that great people were perfect.


Kressel Housman You've gotta tell me the doll story! My version didn't have it.


Shana As far as I remember the doll story, one of Ruchama's sisters, as a young girl,received a doll, but she knew her father wouldn't approve based on the prohibition of owning graven images and idols. Ruchama's sister took the doll out of hiding on Shabbat to play with it, knowing her father wouldn't destroy it on Shabbat... but right after havdalah, he snatched the doll away and broke it.


Kressel Housman I think I did read that one. It didn't seem like such a big deal to me, but then, I'm familiar with the halacha.


rivka The halacha is not so simple. But maybe this isn't the place for that discussion. ;)


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