Book Review: Paths of The Righteous

Thursday, April 28, 2022
Posted by: Rabbi Barry Gelman

Paths Of The Righteous
Stories of Heroism, Humanity and Hope

Ari Mittleman  / Gefen Publishing House 2022

Reviewed by Rabbi Barry Gelman

This book could not have arrived at a better time for me. In a world wracked by war and polarization, a book about good people doing good things provides great comfort. Narratives of individual people extending themselves on behalf of others remind us that there is still righteousness in the world. It also reminds us that societies are made of individuals, and by highlighting these good people, we paint a picture of a kinder and more noble world than we may have first admitted.

Paths Of The Righteous, Stories of Heroism, Humanity and Hope, tells the story of eight individuals who extend themselves for the sake of others—in this case gentiles who took on causes to help Jews. As such, this book points out that even as we watch,the rise of anti-Semitic incidents with a careful eye, we can also recognize that we have allies who come from all walks of life. 

The book is Mittleman’s response to the devastating attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. That dark day might have led a less optimistic person to despair. Not so in the case of Ari Mittleman, who responded with hope and belief in the fundamental goodness of people. When he was fearful of losing faith in the future, he resolved to find reasons to be optimistic. In his own words, he “ had a gut feeling that leaders committed to deepening the relationship with the Jewish community and the Jewish state were still out there.” 

Mittleman’s goal in publishing the book was both for self-inspiration as well as to inspire others during dark times. 

I was particularly moved by the story of Father Patrick Desbois, founder of the Yahad-In Unum, an organization dedicated to locating the sites of mass graves of Jewish victims of the Nazi mobile-killing units in the former Soviet Union. It all started when his grandfather, who had been a French prisoner of War in Rava Ruska, Ukraine, said to him that, despite the hardships in the POW camp, “It was much worse for the people on the outside.” It took a while, but Father Desbois was finally able to locate a mass grave where 1500 Jews were buried. This discovery inspired him to travel across the former Soviet Union in order to find other similar graves. Father Desbois later put the skills he honed while searching for Holocaust graves to document the attempted genocide of the Yazidis by ISIS.

While this is a book about hope, we also recognize that bad actors are not going anywhere,so stories like those collected in this volume will long serve as sources of inspiration, optimism and belief in a better future. In short, this is a book that celebrates the contributions of good people even as it also can serve as a balm for whatever we may face in the future. 

Rabbi Gelman's book reviews are a joint project of the Evelyn Rubenstein JCC and the Jewish Herald-Voice.

Rabbi Barry Gelman is the Director of the Bobbi & Vic Samuels Center for Jewish Living and Learning (CJLL). Rabbi Gelman teaches a number of classes at the ERJCC and is working on injecting Jewish content to existing programs as well as developing new programs to highlight the beauty and relevance of Judaism.  

Category: CJLL