Rubin Friedman’s column, “Humour Me, Please” was a staple of the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin for almost a decade, and the writer and community activist’s latest book, Nazis and Jews, Cats, Sex, Golf – and Other Bits from My Brain, is a compilation of 147 of his Bulletin columns.
The book’s title – true to the humour behind the collection – is based on the five most searched terms in Amazon.com’s book section.
Friedman said the title worked out perfectly because, except for golf, he had already written about each of the topics in his Bulletin columns.
Friedman said readers can enjoy the book in numerous ways because there’s no set order to it.
“The order that you read this is the order that you impose, so it’s like eating grapes. You can taste and savour each one or you can eat a handful at once,” Friedman said. “Read a page, go take a break and sit on a bench, read some more … or read a section … do whatever you like; the order doesn’t matter. I just want you to be entertained.”
The book is divided into sections that span different topics, ranging from Jewish identity to working in the bureaucracy and from Yiddish linguistics to voting in elections.
Friedman also recently published Fitting into Toronto: Part II of Our Family Holocaust Chronicle, which completes the story he began in his first book, Running for their Lives, which told the story of his family’s journey fleeing Nazi persecution.
In Fitting into Toronto, Friedman – who was born in a displaced persons camp in Austria after the war – tells the story of his family’s life in Toronto and discusses the effect the Holocaust had on his family and his upbringing.
Friedman said he wrote the book to tell a story of survival that’s seldom discussed.
“It’s not what you see in the movies all the time. Not everyone goes from being a survivor to being a Supreme Court judge. There are a lot of people who are affected in serious ways who are just ordinary human beings trying to make their way in the world, and I felt more people had to understand that part of the experience,” he said. “I’m so aware of survivors who became depressed and who killed themselves. Some of them abused their children because they were so full anger and none of this stuff is ever talked about.”
Friedman said that using humour to overcome tragedy is how Jews have survived for so long, and humour can serve as a unifying force that brings people together and momentarily takes away pain.
“I want people to get something from what I’ve written. Laughter, amusement, tears, empathy, a sense of peace. All are good. So it is important for me to ensure there is a material record of it all,” he said.
A review of Fitting into Toronto is scheduled to run in the Bulletin in September.
Nazis and Jews, Cats, Sex, Golf – and Other Bits from My Brain will be launched on Monday, September 12, 1:30 pm, at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre. For information, contact Roslyn Wollock at firstname.lastname@example.org or 613-798-9818, ext. 254.