The Soloveitchik Heritage: A Daughter’s Memoir
by Shulamith Soloveifchik Meiselman
[Ktav, Hoboken, NJ, $25]
This graceful family memoir gives an inside look at two distinguished rabbinic dynasties joined through the marriage of the author’s parents in 1900. The bride: Pesha Pruzhaner, daughter of Guta and Reb Ele of Pruzhana, Polish Lithuania, a tree-climbing, novel-reading, determinedly modern (yet pious) intellectual. The groom: Reb Moshe Soloveitchik, son of Lipsha and Reb Chayyim Brisker (descendant of the founder of the renowned Volozhin Yeshiva), an austere, uncompromising, brilliant Talmud scholar.
Meiselman tells her family’s history up to 1929, when they reluctantly emigrated to the United States, where her father and then her brothers became revered sages of today’s centrist Orthodox Jewish world. (Her brother Joseph Soloveitchik, who died in 1994, was so esteemed that he is commonly referred to simply as “the Rav.”) Evocative passages describe conflicts between mother and father on bringing secular library books into their home, courageous rabbinic actions to alleviate the suffering of widows and agunot, and the arrival in the shtetl of Communism, with its campaign to obliterate the Jewish way of life. This memoir, told with characteristic family humility and in a female voice, reveals how, over many generations, families nurture their young to be spiritual leaders of their people.