June 22, 2024
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Kodesh Press: Combining Inspiration With Rigorous Judaic Scholarship

Alec and Caroline Goldstein of Kodesh Press.

Goldstein with Rabbi Hayyim Angel at launch of “Peshat Isn’t So Simple,” in 2014.

Alec Goldstein with the Rosenfeld family.

Goldstein with Dr. Moshe Sokolow at the launch of “Reading the Rav.”

Since Rabbi Alec Goldstein launched Kodesh Press in 2013, the publishing house has brought to market more than 50 titles of Jewish interest from a growing group of approximately 30 authors. His first-ever author was Teaneck’s Rabbi Hayyim Angel, and Kodesh has since become the publisher of choice for two regular Jewish Link columnists: Mitchell First and Rabbi Gil Student. Kodesh has also published books by such luminaries as Englewood’s Rabbi Zev Reichman, Manhattan’s Rabbi Allen Schwartz and Riverdale’s Rabbi Gidon Rothstein, among many others.

Originally from New Rochelle and living now in Teaneck—where Kodesh Press is currently based—Goldstein received rabbinic ordination from Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary in 2012. That followed his bachelor’s degree in French language and literature from Yeshiva University; Goldstein also holds a graduate degree in accounting from Baruch College.

“I have the background and love of literature, Jewish scholarship—and importantly, accounting—all very necessary skills to operate a Jewish publishing house,” he told The Jewish Link.

While he initially struggled to find the perfect name for the venture, at that moment of launch Goldstein was ruminating on the concept of holiness, specifically “how the idea of kedusha is used in Chumash, Gemara and beyond,” he recalled. “And then it all came together—I decided on the name Kodesh Press. It was perfect—distinctly Jewish, crisp and alliterative, and represented something that I was deeply passionate about.”

The name, therefore, is consistent with the publishing house’s mission. “Kodesh Press’ mission is to produce high-quality and unique Jewish content that is engaging, intellectually satisfying and spiritually uplifting,” he said. Goldstein himself works on higher-level author acquisition, building and maintaining relationships with Kodesh authors. He also has a special interest in cover design.

But the publishing house is now decidedly a family affair. In fact, when he and his wife, Caroline, were dating, she offered to edit one of the books he was working on. “When she found a few mistakes I had missed, I knew she was the one,” he joked. Today Caroline manages the day-to-day operations of the publishing house, managing a stable of freelancers, primarily typesetters, social media specialists, editors and designers.

Goldstein said his overarching goal is to build enduring relationships with authors to bring their books to the Jewish world. “Working to publish a book is a great honor, because I feel that the author has entrusted me to transform their work from a Microsoft Word file to a professionally developed, elegant and published volume.”

Kodesh Press’s first book was “Through an Opaque Lens,” by Rabbi Hayyim Angel. “I had known him for a while and was trying to recruit him to publish with us—unsuccessfully,” Goldstein noted. “One day, I spotted him on the platform of the 1 train at 181st Street in Washington Heights. I decided that this would be my final chance to pitch to him. And by the time we got off at 86th Street, he had agreed. That subway ride changed both of our lives!

“Our most recent title is another book from Rabbi Angel called ‘Cornerstones: The Bible and Jewish Ideology,’ which came out this month. Our other recent publication is ‘Starting Point,’ a parsha book by Rabbi Amnon Bazak of Yeshivat Har Etzion.”

Teaneck’s own Mitchell First, who writes the weekly “Text Insights” column in The Jewish Link, initially collaborated with Jason Aronson Publishers to write his first book, “Jewish History in Conflict,” in 1997. After Aronson was acquired by Rowman & Littlefield and moved away, to some extent, from publishing Judaica, First collaborated with Kodesh to publish “Esther Unmasked” in 2015, and “Roots and Rituals” in 2018. Kodesh will also publish First’s as-yet-untitled next book.

First feels that Kodesh’s specialty lies within the three main types of serious Jewish books in the Orthodox world: There are very academic books by professors, published by universities and peer-reviewed; there are very yeshivish types of books by publishers such as ArtScroll, Feldheim and other similar yeshiva-world publishers; and “then there is the middle—Modern Orthodox types of books, by Modern Orthodox rabbis and by Modern Orthodox scholars like myself. These books are not going to be published by universities nor by ArtScroll and the other yeshiva-world publishers,” First said.

“Kodesh gets some really interesting stuff that is quite academic, but we also get the inspirational, meaningful, academic-and-accessible genre,” added Goldstein. ”I want to have books that are more on the scholarly side and more on the inspirational side. We’ve worked very hard to have that mix of titles. It’s really something that I pride myself on, helping to build a catalog that has that balance.”

As an illustration, Goldstein noted that a forthcoming Kodesh title “Talmud on the Mind,” by Rabbi Dr. Ethan Eisen, explores halacha from the lens of practical psychology. “He is going through the rishonim and acharonim as well as modern psychological literature. He finds lines in the Gemara that we might skip over, and he finds a lot of depth there. For example, the first Mishna of Brachot in the Gemara deals with the exact time we have to daven Maariv, which is all night but it ends at chatzos. The reason it ends is ‘in order to distance man from sin.’ That’s about procrastination and how we should not delay doing the mitzvot we are required to do. And that’s just the first Mishna. Rabbi Eisen continues along these lines throughout,” Goldstein said.

He added that Rabbi Eisen draws the reader in, makes the material accessible and ends every chapter with easy ways to apply that particular lesson to the readers’ daily lives.

Rabbi Gil Student, editor-in-chief of Torahmusings.com and book editor for Jewish Action magazine, published two of his own books with Kodesh Press (“Search Engine,” volumes 1 and 2), and he is currently working on a third book, tentatively titled “Articles of Faith.” He recently wrote a foreword to Rabbi Jack Abramowitz’s “Ask Rabbi Jack,” also a Kodesh title. Student feels that “Kodesh Press publishes books that challenge people to think in a sophisticated way about traditional Judaism. Covering a variety of genres, utilizing a wide spectrum of sources, the books make scholarship accessible and enjoyable.

“In particular, Kodesh Press focuses on making serious Torah scholarship interesting,” Student added. “Different authors do that in their own way. Some by addressing unusual and compelling topics. Others through creative approaches. And others through the charm of their writing. The audience includes beginners and experienced students, laypeople and scholars, anyone interested in new ideas and approaches within the arena of traditional beliefs and practices.”

Goldstein said there are many titles of which he is proud, but books that build on both personal and professional connections are the strongest and most meaningful. “Kodesh Press had the privilege of publishing the story of Rabbi Israel Rosenfeld, who survived Auschwitz to become a great educator and [school] principal in Denver. When I started working on the book, he was already very ill, and sadly—despite furious effort—we were not able to finish it before he passed, but it was published in time for his shloshim.

“Several years later, I was in Denver for a family bar mitzvah, and was able to meet his widow and son. It was an incredible connection of the professional and personal. As our families met in their living room, we must have talked for several hours about his life, their marriage, and his contributions to the Jewish community. The cover of his book is white, but one of the first things I noticed was a copy of his book resting on the coffee table, yellowed by repeated handling.

“People put their hearts, souls and lives into writing books. The tangible object of the printed book is something that provides comfort, purpose and satisfaction. That Sunday night in Denver taught me how much meaning books provide to us all,” Goldstein said.

He shared other books that he considers personally memorable, among many: “‘The Great Principle of the Torah’ by Rabbi Jack Bieler analyzes different opinions in the Talmud of what is Judaism’s highest value (hint: there are a lot of different opinions). ‘Conflict & Resolution in the Early Prophets’ by Rabbi Allen Schwartz is a systematic analysis of seeming contradictions between Chumash and Navi, and he shows how those questions can be resolved. ‘Pathways to the Heart: Opening the Teachings to the House of Izhbitz,’ by Rabbi Reuven Boshnack brings down the teachings of the Mei Ha-Shiloach and that school, and presents them in a way that is accessible and spiritually uplifting.”

Kodesh also recently concluded a contract to publish its very first children’s book, “a rhyming summary of, and companion to, Sefer Yehoshua, with full-color illustrations,” said Goldstein. “We are really looking forward to exploring and expanding into this genre.”

Goldstein said he and Kodesh Press continue to seek publications that combine both emotional meaning and literary value. “Anybody is welcome to email us at [email protected]. Kodesh Press has been privileged to publish works of great meaning—rigorous Torah material, inspirational works of scholarship, by both men and women. Those are the people we are interested in working with.” For more info about Kodesh, visit kodeshpress.com.�

By Elizabeth Kratz�

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