Editor`s Preface: So, you are wondering, are these stories true, or

Editor’s Preface:
So, you are wondering, are these stories true, or are they made up and fiction. Well, as
no one reads the author’s preface, and definitely no one reads the editor’s preface, it doesn’t
really make a difference what I write here. But as you obviously are reading this, either because
you have immensely enjoyed the stories and are very curious and frantically trying to find out, or
because you flipped open the book and landed on this page (or because you are totally bored out
of your mind, and therefore feel compelled to read this), I will relate to you the following story:
Many years ago while I was studying in Rabbi Katz’s Machon Torah Umesorah class, I
went over to him after the class and asked him whether The Maggid, which was just published in
the Where, What, When, was true. “I never say”, was the reply, which he repeated the following
week when I asked again. Fine. I waited two more weeks, and then once again came over to
him after class and asked him, <warning: spoiler alert> “So what ever happened to Yerucham?
Did he end up becoming a gadol?” “He followed the Maggid and remained a full Torah Yhid,
but he didn’t end up becoming a well known gadol, or anyone like that.” Aha, so the story was
A few years later, Rabbi Katz asked me if I can help him edit his stories and prepare them
for publishing them into a book. While I started working on them I kept on asking him whether
the stories were historical, which he always empathetically answered, “No, they are not, they are
historical fiction”. And yet there was this story that needed to be redone because some of the
facts were off, and there was that story which he needed a quick look into Wikipedia just to
double check its accuracy. Over time during the many years that we spent together editing and
re-editing the stories, I started to understand why Rabbi Katz insisted that they were not
historical. To historians, historical books are based on pure history, with every sentence
footnoted and sourced, governed by the rules that sanctimonious historians encumber themselves
with. If a story is not one hundred percent factual, if an ant sneezed two feet away from where
the story said it did, then no genuine historian can lay claim that the story is historical. If it is not
exact, then it must be historical fiction.
Yet in these stories, Rabbi Katz surpassed the nitty bitty minds of historians. Instead of
confining himself to only that which could be factual, he built each story, bringing each one alive
through the historical nature of its perspective time. Like an artist, he painted the background,
transporting the reader back into history. Whether to the port city of seventeenth century
Hamburg or to Jerusalem under the Turkish Sultan, the author uses his expansive knowledge of
history to open the eyes and mind of the reader to an era of Judaism, a slice and snapshot of our
family in their exotic travels through the chain of events which have created their lives as well as
our own. We too can now smell the smells, see the sights and feel the awe that Rodrigo felt in
Hamburg, and at the same time feel the despair that is running through Leibl’s mind in Lithuania.
We can walk with Moses Montefiore on his travels to better the lives of the entire Klal Yisroel,
or live in the cruel Russian barracks with Ephraim Fischel. Through his pen we can peek into
the lives of those living in the streets of Pressberg during the struggles between the frum and the
secular, and we can feel the pride and strength of standing strong in our beliefs through the harsh
winters and governments of Russia.
And the stories themselves. Some have been created by the quill while some have been
re-transcribed from others. Yet many were built from the research of reading through old
obscure history books, and diaries and journals of others that history has long forgotten. Volume
by volume, page by page, the author has poured over the annals of history and time. And then
piece by piece, from that that labor he has constructed stories that were once whispered in the
legends, bringing the past to bear into the future, culminating into the masterpieces that lay
before you. <warning: spoiler alert> The heart of The Millionaires came from the reading of a
will of an Austrian Jewish millionaire, and yet from there the author filled in and built the drama
that seeped out of the wordings of the will, which must have taken place behind the closed
curtains. The Eiruv was constructed by reading the diaries of Joseph Hirsch and the memoirs of
Rabbiner Hildesheimer. While each one was only aware of that half of the story that occurred to
them, the author himself wove the plot together, bringing to light the beauty of how the selfless
actions of one Jewish leader can affect the outcome of another, years to come. And even after
building the story he continued, as with all of his stories, with each stroke of his paintbrush to fill
in all the details and openings, until, like a rainbow, every subplot sparkled and every color in its
entirety was in its proper place. Painted, framed, packaged and prepared, with the only purpose
and direction for us to take pleasure in and enjoy.