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Conversations with Zaidy –  A Story of Faith by Robert Kremnizer

Reviewed by Ch. Maj Elie Estrin, USAFR

I picked up the book because it was short and small, not because I expected anything out of it. The title made me a bit wary it was going to be a schlocky piece of work. The premise: a fictional religiously observant grandfather (Zaidy) sits down with an equally fictional disinterested grandson (Joseph/Yossel), and over 135 six-inch pages, they work out some of the stickier elements of jiving modern society with the basics of Jewish faith.

But after wading through the first few pages, my cynicism gave way to appreciation. The author, Robert Kremnizer, is not a rabbi. In fact, he’s a lawyer by trade. But his gentle pen flows easily. Instead of a heavy-handed cringefest turning beautiful ideas into tropes and oversimplifications, I found myself appreciating his gentle and creative way of making deep and delicate points, as he weaves his way through the conversation between grandfather and grandson making subtle point after subtle point. And perhaps it only makes sense that a lawyer could write a book like this—he builds up the argument successfully, allowing the reader to be the silent jury.

This isn’t the Australian Kremnizer’s first foray into the spiritual. One of his books, The Ladder Up, forms the basis of one of Aleph’s correspondence courses. But this is his first work of fiction. I found myself mentally comparing it to Tuesdays with Morrie—equally thought provoking, impactful, sweet and short.

If you’re looking to understand Jewish theology but don’t have the patience to drag yourself through philosophy or theology tomes, this is an excellent book to explore subjects such as G-d’s existence, His relationship with mankind, the Chosen People, and the horrors of the Holocaust without straining the mind. A close friend of mine began using it as a teaching tool in his 8th grade classroom. My nephew is lucky enough to be in his class, and he reported great appreciation for the class. “It helps us get the answers to many of the things we’ve wondered,” he told me.

It should be pointed out that this book is a starter. It doesn’t pretend to give all the answers, but it does do an admirable job of presenting the ideas that make up the fundamental fabric of Judaism so that the reader is well enough intrigued to study the original texts with greater appreciation.

And perhaps eventually the reader too will learn to be a master of loving mentorship, and bring this wonderful Zaidy to life within their own person.

Originally published in the Tishrei 2023 issue of The Jewish American Warrior.