One of the joys I receive from publishing The Jewish Link of New Jersey is that I get to meet and befriend some of our community’s most unique and accomplished individuals. Some may already be well known to many and often appear in the pages of The Jewish Link, while others may fly a little under the radar. I also get to meet people whose lives have been impacted by The Jewish Link in one way or another.
One such individual that I would like to tell you about is our writer—and now a published author—Joseph (Joe) Rotenberg. Joe, who has been living in Teaneck for decades and is a longtime member of Congregation Keter Torah, is a veteran financial adviser and incredibly dedicated sports fan—with hockey and baseball his two favorite sports. He raised five children here and has ten grandchildren, many living locally in northern New Jersey. He has been very involved locally over the years, especially on the yeshiva hockey scene. In fact, he recently told me he was among the first Orthodox parents locally to start having their sons play ice hockey competitively, which is something that is still growing today among our local schools.
I first met Joe back in 2014 when my son and Joe’s grandson played on the same competitive TBO fall travel baseball team and Joe started sending in excellent recaps and write-ups of the games for publication in our sports section.
Joe made an impression on me back then as he came to virtually every game—even the ones relatively far away in Rockland County—which is rather unusual for most grandparents, even one living locally. Joe is also a dedicated schmoozer—like myself—and he began talking to me both about his love of sports and his story-writing efforts. He told me he was writing about contemporary American Jewish life and writing stories that he felt everyone could relate to.
At first, I wasn’t sure if we would be able to print Joe’s stories in The Jewish Link, as my editors and I have learned that publishing fiction, even serialized fiction, is not simple for a weekly hyperlocal paper such as ours. But I liked Joe and his healthy, positive approach to life, sports and writing, so I took a chance and said yes.
Joe’s first non-sports story “Suburban Sukkah” appeared in our papers in October 2014. Like many of his stories, the characters and families written about were events and experiences that Joe himself had gone through and always had a light, comedic flair to them.
Joe continued writing and submitting to The Jewish Link, and while we haven’t printed all of his submissions, we are proud to have printed at least 20 over the past three years, and our relationship has only grown. He feels strongly that The Jewish Link has played an important role in spurring him forward and motivating him as an author and has given him a new “second career,” as he likes to tell me.
Just under two years ago, Joe mentioned he was looking to publish his fiction into a book, and I recommended a number of local editors for him to hire. He hired one and got to work, and I received regular updates throughout the long editing and publication process—especially as his talented grandson and my son reunited this past year in the TABC Jr. Hockey league and we saw each other often at games.
Finally, after a year of serious effort and learning experiences on Joe’s part as a novice author, Joe’s book, “Timeless Travels: Tales of Mystery, Intrigue, Humor and Enchantment,” published by Gefen Publishing House, is now finally out and available in local Jewish bookstores and on Amazon. I take immense and genuine pride in seeing that Joe is now a published book author and in the role that I and our publication played in getting him to this point.
Several of the stories in the book did appear in The Jewish Link. They run the gamut of the contemporary American Jewish experience over the past half-century. The settings for his stories range from the Sinai Desert to contemporary Teaneck. All are infused with a love for tale-telling and his characters. Joe sees himself as a modern-day maggid (storyteller) of sorts, and in reading through his stories, this sense definitely comes across quite strongly. Many of the stories contain the sense of humor I have come to identify as uniquely Joe’s. Nearly all of his stories have strong and proudly Jewish protagonists.
I wish a fond and heartfelt mazel tov to Joe and his wife—who is also his part-time editor and strongest supporter—Barbara, upon this incredible achievement! I know that more stories are coming and being written, and look forward to continuing to publish Joe in our paper. Keep it up!
Please see the ad on this page for more information about the book and its local availability. I hope you will consider buying it and support this fantastic, and homegrown, author.
By Moshe Kinderlehrer,
Jewish Link of New Jersey