In preparation for the release of a new book titled Gallery of the Greats from Nissan Mindel Publications (NMP), CrownHeights.info interviewed the publisher’s director, Rabbi Shalom Ber Schapiro.
CHI: We are excited about the new book being published by the NMP, Gallery of the Great, and would appreciate hearing more about it.
SBS: Gallery of the Great, by Nissan Mindel, is a fascinating collection of brief biographies of Jewish greats – scholars, teachers and leaders – whose lives spanned some 1500 years, from the time of the G’onim until and including the 20th century.
CHI: Can you give us some background information about Gallery of the Great?
SBS: When Chabad was transported from Europe to America with the arrival of the Frierdiker Rebbe to our shores in 1940, the Rebbe started a revolution of groundbreaking educational activities. Primary among these activities was the publication of Jewish literature for young and old in the English language, in order to open chasidus to the world, which the Frierdiker Rebbe prioritized above many of his other innovative programs.
It was the multi-talented writer and scholar Rabbi Nissan Mindel who was tasked by the Rebbe with the writing of the bulk of these publications and with the directing of Chabad publications. Perhaps the best known of his writings was the very popular monthly children’s magazines: Talks and Tales, in English and Shmuessen Mit Kinder, in Yiddish – which Rabbi Mindel authored for approximately 47 years starting in 1942. Each issue of the Talks and Tales – with its rich content of Torah thoughts, halachah, stories, science, Jewish greats and Jewish geography, among others – was carefully reviewed during all the years, by the Ramash/Rebbe before going to print.
This unassuming magazine continues to have a huge impact on readers of all ages through the books that subsequently grew out of its pages. Rabbi Mindel eventually collected some of the best stories which appeared in the Talks and Tales over the years and produced the popular 5 Volumes of The Storyteller. He did likewise with the “My Prayer” column that he wrote for the Talks and Tales and compiled the highly regarded 2 volumes of My Prayer (weekday and Shabbos prayers).
Which brings us to yet another first – Gallery of the Great – which Rabbi Mindel gleaned from the column “Gallery of the Great” – that he wrote over the years for the Talks and Tales and which he left for us to complete. We have b’h succeeded in our mission and the book will now be available to the general public.
CHI: What do you see as particularly noteworthy about this collection of biographies?
SBS: What I find quite unique about this collection, in addition to the fact that the Rebbe himself reviewed each of the biographies, is the interesting variety of our Jewish great who are featured here.
Not your typical mix of biographies. You have giants of nigleh and giants of kabbala and chasidus. You have women of worth and valor and noteworthy lay leaders. And you have great Sefardic and Ashkenazic scholars and authors. All spanning many parts of the globe.
CHI: Talks and Tales was written for children. How do you think this book will be received by the general public?
SBS: Good question. As we have seen over the decades, Mindel’s writings, even those written for the young, have received great acclaim and have been enjoyed by many. We get amazing feedback from young and old, chasidish, modern and unaffiliated, learned and simple.
It was the Frierdiker Rebbe himself who once told Rabbi Mindel “When I read “Wonders of Nature/Vunder foon der Natoor”, the science column in your Shmuessen Mit Kinder, I get inspired to greater fear of Hashem.”
We are confident b’h that Gallery of the Great will appeal to children, parents, teachers and anyone interested in a great story.