Monday, October 4, 2021

Q&A with Rabbi Kerry Olitzky




Rabbi Kerry Olitzky is the author of the new children's picture book The Candy Man Mystery. He has written more than 75 books including The Littlest Candle.


Q: What inspired you to write The Candy Man Mystery?


A: I have always been intrigued by those in the synagogue who transform an assemblage of people into a community.


In particular, I am interested in those who are often overlooked -- beyond the usual suspects of rabbi, cantor, educator, etc. -- in particular folks like the one (called a gabbai in some synagogues or simply a volunteer in others) who opens up the synagogue for minyan every morning and evening: the maintenance man, the secretary, etc.


And it is in fact these people whom folks encounter more often than the professional staff and clergy. 


Q: What do you think Christina Mattison Ebert's illustrations add to the story?


A: As an author of children's picture books, I paint word pictures. But it is up to the artist/illustrator to interpret those words and actually turn them into pictures.

It is as if Christina read my mind with her wonderful and heartfelt pictures. She clearly understands how a synagogue functions but even more so, she feels its pulse. What did she add? She deepened its heart and soul. 


Q: How does this story reflect your career as a rabbi?


A: There were always people whom I encountered as a rabbi, in the congregation, in academia and in organizational work who were under the radar screen of many people. And yet these were the folks that made the institution or organization hum.


Moreover, in many of the congregations that I have either led or participated in, there was a candy woman or man who delighted the children -- and some adults -- with sweets every week on Shabbat. 


Q: What do you hope kids take away from the book?


A: I would hope that kids -- and their parents/grandparents/caregivers --look kindly on all those who are in the synagogue neighborhood to riff off of Mr. Rogers’ well-known phrase. There are people whose absence is felt very profoundly when they are not around. 


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I am working on several projects, including a book for Kalaniot Books about Passover with my writing partner Deborah Bodin Cohen about how to make the Passover seder welcoming, in a story form, of course. It is tentatively titled An Invitation to Passover.

Q: Anything else we should know?


A: One is never too young or too old to gain insights and profound wisdom from a picture book.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Rabbi Kerry Olitzky.

No comments:

Post a Comment