Sweet Is the Light: Ten Crossroads is short book of fictional stories is based on the life of the author as a rabbi, educator, and son of immigrants from Eastern Europe. In clear, descriptive prose, Charles H. Freundlich demonstrates great insight and sensitivity about human nature and delves into serious topics, addressing the challenges of leading an opinionated congregation, dispensing advice, and receiving criticism.
Freundlich’s stories each deal with very human issues within the Jewish communities of America, describing Jewish life in the Bronx (a continuation of the stories from the the author’s previous book, Vyse Avenue), in a small New England town outside Boston, within the older generation in Delray Beach, and in Newark. The collection depicts the disdain some American Jews hold for their immigrant brethren who escaped the Holocaust and the admiration reserved for those who leave the comforts of America to make a new life in Israel: one story explores the perspective of a Brooklynite who leaves his loving family behind to fulfill his dream of making aliyah—moving to Israel; another follows the debate among strong-minded congregants about how best to commemorate the Holocaust with a memorial. Freundlich’s characters grapple with the aftermath of the death of a close childhood friend, the complicated dating life of elderly widows in Florida, doubts and questions about their religious observance, and the tensions between Reform, Conservative and Orthodox communities and beliefs.
Sweet Is the Light is a testament to the passion of the rabbis for their communities and their congregants’ investment in Judaism across affiliations, enhanced by the realistic characters and settings drawn from the author’s extensive experience as a dedicated Jewish leader and educator.