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As a math and Jewish studies teacher in a Jewish day school, Chernofsky wanted a different and meaningful way for his students to relate to the Holocaust. From there evolved this book that has just one word, six million times JEW. What would a book of six million Jews look like? This is a volume meant for library and institution presentations on the Holocaust, a daring attempt to give some small sense of the overwhelming number - six million.
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Phil Chernofsky is the educational director of the Orthodox Union's OU Israel Center in Jerusalem and editor of the Torah Tidbits parsha pamphlet. Since 1998, he has hosted Torah Tidbits Audio, a shiur on the weekly parsha with witty insights. It airs every Thursday from 8:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Israel time and is downloadable as a podcast on Israel National Radio. Phil made Aliya 31 years ago and is the father of three girls and grandfather of eight.Review:
The book And Every Single One Was Someone is the most graphic way to communicate the enormity of the loss: It is understated, it is not gruesome, but it helps to convey the magnitude of the tragedy--Abe Foxman"ADL (Anti-Defamation League)" (05/01/2014)
There is no plot to speak of, and the characters are woefully
undeveloped. On the upside, it can be a quick read -- especially considering its
The book, more art than literature, consists of the single word "Jew," in tiny
type, printed six million times to signify the number of Jews killed during the
Holocaust. It is meant as a kind of coffee-table monument of memory, a
conversation starter and thought provoker.
"When you look at this at a distance, you can't tell whether it's upside down or
right-side up, you can't tell what's here; it looks like a pattern," said Phil
Chernofsky, the author, though that term may be something of a stretch. "That's
how the Nazis viewed their victims: These are not individuals, these are not people,
these are just a mass we have to exterminate.
"Now get closer, put on your reading glasses, and pick a 'Jew, ' " Mr. Chernofsky
continued. "That Jew could be you. Next to him is your brother. Oh, look, your
uncles and aunts and cousins and your whole extended family. A row, a line, those
are your classmates. Now you get lost in a kind of meditative state where you look at
one word, 'Jew, ' you look at one Jew, you focus on it and then your mind starts to go
because who is he, where did he live, what did he want to do when he grew up?"
The concept is not entirely original. More than a decade ago, eighth graders in
a small Tennessee town set out to collect six million paper clips, as chronicled in a
2004 documentary. The anonymity of victims and the scale of the destruction is
also expressed in the seemingly endless piles of shoes and eyeglasses on exhibit at
former death camps in Eastern Europe.
Now Gefen Publishing, a Jerusalem company, imagines this book, titled "And
Every Single One Was Someone," making a similar statement in every church and
synagogue, school and library.While many Jewish leaders in the United States have embraced the book, some
Holocaust educators consider it a gimmick. It takes the opposite tack of a
multimillion-dollar effort over many years by Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial
and museum here, that has so far documented the identities of 4.3 million Jewish
victims. These fill the monumental "Book of Names," 6 1/2 feet tall and 46 feet in
circumference, which was unveiled last summer at Auschwitz-Birkenau.
"We have no doubt that this is the right way to deal with the issue," said Avner
Shalev, Yad Vashem's director. "We understand that human life, human beings,
individuals are at the center of our research and education. This is the reason we
are investing so much in trying to retrieve every single human being, his name, and
details about his life."
Mr. Shalev declined to address the new book directly, but said dismissively,
"Every year we have 6,000 books published about the Shoah," using the Hebrew
term for the Holocaust.
The book's backers do not deny its gimmickry -- Mr. Chernofsky used the
Yiddish word "shtick" -- but see it as a powerful one.
Ilan Greenfield, Gefen's chief executive, noted that there is a blank line on the
title page where people can dedicate each book, perhaps to a survivor like his
mother-in-law. "Almost everyone who looks at the book cannot stop flipping the
pages," he said. "Even after they've looked at 10 pages and they know they're only
going to see the same word, they keep flipping."
The Gefen catalog lists the book for $60, but Mr. Greenfield said individual
copies would probably sell for closer to $90 (buy 1,000 copies and it is $36 each).
Since the book went on the market a few months ago, he said, 5,000 have been
printed. One person bought 100 to distribute to the offices of United States
senators, and Jewish leaders in Australia and South Africa, Los Angeles and Denver
have bought batches for their communities.
Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League,
enlisted three donors to buy 1,000 each and is giving them away: He wants one in
the Oval Office and, eventually, on every Passover Seder table. "When he brought
me this book I said, 'Wow, wow, it makes it so real, ' " said Mr. Foxman, himself a
Holocaust survivor. "It's haunting."
The idea began in the late 1970s at the Yeshiva of Central Queens in Kew
Gardens Hills, where Mr. Chernofsky taught math, science and Jewish studies and,
one year, was put in charge of the bulletin board for Holocaust Remembrance Day.
"I gave them blank paper, and I said, 'No talking for the next 30 minutes' --
that was a pleasure," recalled Mr. Chernofsky, 65, who grew up in Crown Heights,
Brooklyn, and moved to Israel 32 years ago. "I said, 'I want you to write the word
Jew as many times as you can, no margins, just pack them in, just take another
paper and another paper until I say stop.'"We added up the whole class," he added. "It was 40,000 -- nothing."
Years later, Mr. Chernofsky printed out pages filled with "Jew" six million
times and put them in a loose-leaf notebook, which he showed visitors to his messy
office here at the Orthodox Union, where he is the educational director. His uncle
took the notebook to a Jerusalem book fair, where a bookbinder saw it, and made a
limited edition. Mr. Greenfield eventually came across a copy and approached Mr.
Chernofsky about 18 months ago with the idea of mass production.
Each page has 40 columns of 120 lines -- 4,800 "Jews." The font is Minion; the
size, 5.5 point. The book weighs 7.3 pounds.
Its titleless cover depicts a Jewish prayer shawl, sometimes used to wrap bodies
for burial. Mr. Chernofsky said it was Gefen's choice; he would have preferred solid
black, or a yellow star like those the Nazis made Jews wear.
An Orthodox Jew with nine grandchildren, Mr. Chernofsky is a numbers man,
the kind of person who cannot climb stairs without counting them (41 up to his
apartment). "Torah Tidbits," the publication he has edited for two decades, always
lists the number of sentences in the week's Torah portion (118 in last week's
He likes to play with calendars, and is tickled that for two of the next three
months, the Hebrew and English dates match: Feb. 1 is the first of Adar, April 30
the 30th of Nissan.
Mr. Greenfield, the publisher, said his goal was eventually to print six million
copies of "And Every Single One Was Someone." With each copy 2.76 inches wide,
that would fill 261 miles of bookshelves -- just shy of Israel's 263-mile north-south
span. (And net Mr. Chernofsky, at his contracted rate of $1.80 per book, $10.8
"Harry Potter, in seven volumes, used 1.1 million words," noted Mr. Chernofsky,
a devotee who has a Quidditch broom hanging in his office. "This has six million in
it, so I outdid J. K. Rowling."
Whatever your opinion of And Every Single One Was Someone, one thing is certain: With all the books out about the Holocaust, there's never been a book like this. Out of the thousands of books written about the Shoah, yours is the first to mention my oma and opa, because they are two of the Jews mentioned in your book. I think of them often. Thank you for also remembering them. (Chernofsky quoted from a letter written to him in reaction to the NYTimes article about the book) Many people don't have someone specific to focus on. So here you pick a page and just highlight one Jew and let that be the one.-- (03/19/2014)
What is sorely lacking in the telling of this article is the impression this book makes when you see it, when you hold it in your hand. It is in no way meant to trivialize the individuals. It is an attempt to bring a hint, a suggestion of what 6 million is into your home, your school, your synagogue, church or memorial center.-- (05/01/2014)
This work is not a document of historical record. As such it would be a failure and a travesty. It is a work of art. Art can be beautiful, ugly, provocative or banal. It is not the conceptual artist's aim to catalog or record. I can judge this purely as a work of art, and see the value of it. It is thought provoking and, in its own way, devastating.-- (01/26/2014)
Out of all the thousands of books written about the Shoah, yours is the first to mention my oma and opa, because they are two of the Jews mentioned in your book. I think of them often. Thank you for also remembering them.-- (02/01/2014)
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Book Description Gefen Books, 2013. Condition: Very Good. Great condition for a used book! Minimal wear. Seller Inventory # GRP96999380