Thursday, July 30, 2015

Jerusalem Launch Monday February 8, 2016 in dialogue with Start Up Nation author Saul Singer Moreshet Avraham Rechov Adam 22 East Talpiot 18:30

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This page last updated Feb 2, 2016

Jerusalem Book Launch & Sale
Monday February 8, 2016 
Elliot Jager in dialogue 
with Start Up Nation author 
Saul Singer 
Moreshet Avraham Rechov 
Adam 22 
East Talpiot 18:30

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Be Fruitful and Multiply 

Elliot Jager
in dialogue with Simon Hattenstone of The Guardian
Sunday, 21 February 2016 - 11:00am 

Location: St Pancras

Price: £6.50 

In his provocative book The Pater, Elliot Jager tackles a near-taboo topic:  the Orthodox Jewish attitude towards infertility and what it feels like to be a childless Jewish man. 

In conversation with Guardian journalist Simon Hattenstone he also grapples with the concept of paternity and his complex relationship with his own father. 

 Simon Hattenstone is a feature writer and interviewer for The Guardian and has published two e-book compilations of interviews with actors and sporting giants.

Elliot Jager is a Jerusalem-based freelance journalist. He is a former editorial page editor at The Jerusalem Post, founding managing editor of Jewish Ideas Daily (now Mosaic), frequent contributor to The Jerusalem Report, and was, until recently, a daily contributor to Newsmax. He holds a PhD in Political Science from New York University.

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Pnina Moed Kass writing in Esra Magazine:

In German, the word “jaeger” means hunter and indeed Elliot Jager's story is a hunt for inner understanding and acceptance.
His hunt is an unrelenting journey through the land of psychotherapy, medical intervention, and an almost endless search within the dictates and philosophy of Judaism.
Though a dedicated hunter, he does not pursue his prey with anger or bitterness and in the end it is this balance of intellectual and personal inquiry that makes The Pater an intriguing read.

Jerusalem Post Book Review

November 27

Jerusalem Post editor-in-chief Steve Linde personally reviewed The Pater in today's Friday edition.

"The Pater must have been very painful to write. But it's an unexpected pleasure to read. I highly recommend it."

November 20

Listen to the Podcast
I just did my first interview with an Orthodox radio

personality Nachum Segal who was speaking from 

the station's Lower East Side studio. 

I liked it when he pointed out that dialogue using 

weekly Torah reading is not an option open to

everyone. Here is the link. Let me know what you 


November 6

So enjoyed taking part in Gilad Halpern's 

cultural program on TLV1 radio.

Hope you get a chance to listen.

Below is the Podcast link.

November 1 

The Pater is officially published by The Toby Press.

Who'd I write this book for?

My target audience is, foremost, Jewishly-affiliated people interested in memoir, theology, family, childlessness, father-son relations, self-help, and the small matter of "the meaning of life." 

Obviously, I hope the book has resonance well beyond the Jewish world since these are really universal issues.

Hard Copy Edition

Hard copies are already available in select brick & mortar book shops in the US, UK, and Canada. In practice, a buyer will probably have to specifically request their book dealer order the book.

Israel Availability

The hard copy is due to arrive by December 1st and should be available (by request) from the Steimatzky and Tzomet Seforim chains. 

In Jerusalem, Pomeranz (on Shmuel HaNagid just off King George/Hillel Streets) is expected to keep the book in stock.


The book may presently be ordered for Kindle from Amazon.

Order The Pater Online

All the major book sites show they are stocking The Pater including Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, and Amazon.

The book is also available directly from the publisher, The Toby Press.

October 13, 2015

The Pater is reviewed in a The Huffington Post book section.

I'm so grateful for this heartfelt review

by Varda Epstein. I could not ask for a more sensitive and thorough


Sept. 4 2015

Haaretz covers the publication of The Pater.

The Stigma of Being a Childless Jewish Man

In an age when the Jewish community is showing more openness to gay and single people, author Elliot Jager wonders why there’s such insensitivity to couples without children.

Sept 2 , 2015

The New York Jewish Week's book critics Sandee Brawarsky 

Covers publication of The Pater.


A literary memoir that covers territory rarely explored, Elliot Jager’s “The Pater: My Father, My Judaism, My Childlessness” (Toby Press) probes the meaning of life for a Jewish man without children. The author looks back at his own father — a Holocaust survivor who deserted Jager and his mother — and then reconnects with him many years later, and also at his relationship with God. He weaves interviews with other childless Jewish men, whether single or married, gay or straight, into the narrative.  (November)

The Jewish Book Council reviews The Pater

Elliot Jager skillfully interweaves three narratives: his personal struggles with childlessness, interviews with individuals and couples who open up about their experiences with childlessness, and the story of his personal relationship with his somewhat estranged father, who is continually recommending faith-based approaches to infertility.

Presenting at Limmud / Jerusalem

Thank you  

לימוד ירושלים Limmud Jerusalem

Delighted to have had opportunity to talk 

about the issues my book raises before 

Limmud on Friday, August 28 


"Jager writes unguardedly about his difficult relationship with his own father and the grief of not being able to become a father himself. But the most interesting parts of the book are his interviews with other Jewish couples struggling with infertility—every technique from IVF to praying at the grave of a tzaddik is employed—and the ways they try to reconcile this grief with their belief in a benevolent God."

                                   <>  Adam Kirsch, Tablet magazine, August 6, 2015

Letter to my Readers

A very personal book I've written is about to be published — and I’m having second thoughts. Not about my decision to write about what it's like to be a childless man in Jewish civilization, which places "Be fruitful and multiply" near the top of its preferences. And not about my critique of Judaism for what it says about childless men. Rather, I am concerned that readers will come away from the book disliking my father for having abandoned me when I was a boy.

I anchor the narrative about my childlessness in the context of my relationship with my Holocaust-survivor father. He ran away to Israel twice —once when I was an infant, then permanently when I was eight. We didn’t see nor speak to one another for 30 years. My mother and I remained on New York’s Lower East Side.

When he and I began our awkward reconciliation in 1994, my father, who is hassidic, trained a laser-like focus on my childlessness, wanting to investigate every possible supernatural cause of it. Did my wife cover her hair, as mandated by Orthodox Jewish law? Did she visit the mikve ritual bath at the conclusion of her menstrual cycle? Had I checked my mezuzot­­­—those small cases containing Scripture that observant Jews affix to their door frames?

He cajoled me to visit living hassidic masters, and the gravesites of dead ones, to ask them to intercede in heaven on my behalf. For years, whenever we spoke, my father would be fixated on one thing: my childlessness.

When I tell people about the book and my father’s behavior, they often cut me off with comments such as, “What business does he have telling you anything about how to live your life?”

When I offer a quick rundown of the book, my father comes out a villain—just as he was to me during my formative years. I couldn’t understand how a man could walk out on his wife and son; how he could not provide child support, forcing us onto welfare. As a kid, my anger smoldered because I was ashamed of living in a single-
parent household in a strictly Orthodox milieu where divorce was uncommon and fathers wrapped their boys in their prayer shawls in synagogue on the High Holy Days.

But during the cathartic process of writing my book, telling the stories of other childless men, talking to rabbis, philosophers and intellectuals, I gained a fresh perspective on Jewish civilization’s harsh attitude toward men who have no offspring.  

More than that, I began to see my father—now elderly and frail—not as a scoundrel, but through the eyes of his new family and his ultra-Orthodox community. Without exception, locals would tell me how fortunate I was to have so pious a man for a father. They regarded him as a self-effacing saint and came to him for a blessing.

When he started a new family they lived in a tiny, squalid apartment. What little money he earned as a butcher’s assistant he gave away to charity. His daughter—my lately discovered half-sister—told me that had her late mother not earned a living as a cleaning lady they might not have had food on the table. She said this from a place of approbation, attributing her happiness as a wife and mother to our father’s self-sacrifice, piety and otherworldliness.

I remembered a father who was cantankerous, tightly-wound, uncompromising. She describes growing up with a man who was soft-spoken, joyful and brimming with kindness.

In the two decades since our journey of reconciliation began, I have grown closer to this inscrutable man. We never talk about that 30-year chasm. I am now 60, and he is in his 90s. He can barely hear, his sight is failing, and he is homebound. My sister cares for him, refusing to place him in a nursing home.

My father and I never engage in chit-chat. It's not his way. We study the weekly Torah portion. He believes that the biblical psalms have mystical power and is teaching me which ones to invoke for life’s contingencies. He cannot comprehend my refusal to grow a hassidic beard. He worries it will count against me in the World to Come.

I am moved when he confers on me the traditional father’s blessing to a son that begins: “May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.” Following the blessing, I kiss his hand, old-world style. He kisses mine.

I have let go of my anger. I've come to realize that my father was emotionally broken by the Holocaust. Try as he may, he could not function as a European Jewish immigrant in the United States. He tried to convince my mother to run off with him to Israel. Together they could insulate themselves, and me, from the outside world. They'd become immersed in the inward-looking haredi world – a waiting room for the real World to Come.

I am eternally grateful she didn't allow herself to be enticed.
But I now know that my father didn’t abandon me in the very deepest sense. He invested every spiritual resource—charity, prayer, mysticism, his entire ethereal existence— in watching over me from afar.

And I worry that someone who gives my book a perfunctory read will think badly of my Pater. He doesn’t deserve that. I’ve come to understand that he’s suffered my absence far more than I suffered his.


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Britain's New Statesman is running a cover story on childless Leaders -- but they are all women

The current issue of the New Statesman is about childless women who are world leaders. And I'm looking forward to reading it. (Incidentally, did they forget Park Geun Hye of South Korea?)

At the same time, I'm trying to think of serving male presidents, prime ministers, and kings who are childless.

There is Pope Francis. Alright, that one is low hanging fruit.

Am I right to guess Belgium's Charles Michel does not have children?

Narendra Modi, the premier of India is childless, as far as I can see. 

So, too, is Oman's Qaboos bin Said Al Said.

Mark Rutte of Netherlands is unmarried and childless.

As is Philippines President Benigno Aquino III

Add in President of Botswana Ian Khama

Any others? 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Conversation Starter: Do you think you've lost friends because you do not have children?

Not really. Perhaps surprisingly but most of the people we socialize with have children. 

The people we feel closest to have kids and we are "invested" in the lives of their children – especially milestone events. In the old days bar and bat mitzvahs, now going into the army (most Israelis go from high-school to military or national service before even thinking about college) and weddings.

Obviously, we have drawn closer to some people and drawn away from others along the journey of life. In thinking about married friends with children the key variable has had more to do with their choice of life-partner than whether the couple has children.

Or in the case of a single parent whether this person is capable of thinking about anything beyond their parental role -- whether they can relate to others. 

The self-obsessed, socially tone-deaf, and oblivious bore me -- having nothing to do with how many kids they have or don't have.

Intuitively, our friends has mastered the ability to make their children part of our circle rather than a factor that separates us from them.

Clearly, sometimes friendships among children lead to their parents becoming friends. And there are scores and scores of child-specific experiences that my friends have that I can't share. That's alright. 

Yet true friends and sensitive people generally have the inter-personal skills needed to include childless singles or couples in their lives.

What's important is that the chemistry of friendship remains strong. People evolve and when the chemistry of friendship keeps up with the times -- the friendships survive. 

When I look back at the past 20 years or so, there have been people who orbited out of my friendship circle. Some because of geographic distance. Some because the friendship was tenuous to begin with. Some just because life is hectic and you can retain only so many friends! Especially if, like me, you are not a shmoozer on the telephone.

But I can't think of an instance where a friendship I wanted to preserve was the casualty of a couple having children.

Maybe this answer would be different if I were in my 20s, but that's my experience. What's yours?