The following are reviews in the Jewish press/media of my two volumes of Jewish poetry and photographs, Judean Dreams (Bayeux Arts, 2009) and Inspirations of Israel: Poetry for a Land and People (Xlibris, 2008), and of my two historical reference works, Essentials of Jewish History: Jewish Leadership Across 4,000 Years (Vallentine Mitchell Publishers, 2019) and Essentials of the Land of Israel: A Geographical History (Vallentine Mitchell Publishers, 2021).
"Book chronicles 4,000 years of Jewish leaders"
by Fred Reiss, Ed.D.
WINCHESTER, California – Jewish presence across the last four thousand years of recorded history suggests writing a history of the Jews is a monumental task: What to include? What to explain? From whose point of view? Almost two thousand years ago, the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus wrote Antiquities of the Jews, a twenty-volume history of the Jewish people, how much larger might an equivalent book be today?
Canadian-Israeli author Brandon Marlon makes a significant attempt in his book Essentials of Jewish History, opening with a selected timeline of Jewish History from 2000 BCE to 2018 CE, showing years, important events and personages, and the time period in which those events occurred: United Monarchy, Second Temple, Roman, and so forth.
Marlon classifies more than eight hundred Jewish luminaries into one or more of fifteen categories, each its own chapter, including the High Priests of the Jews, Exilarchs of the Jews, and Generals of the Jews. He separates Jewish kings into five separate chapters: Kings of the United Monarchy, Kings of Israel, Kings of Judea, Hasmonean and Herodian Kings, and Jewish Kings of Himyar, Khazaria, and Ethiopia. A distinct chapter holds Queens of the Jews, starting with Mikhal (c. 900 BCE), youngest daughter of King Saul and ending with Gudit (c. 960 CE), who fought against Aksum, the capital of Christian Ethiopia.
A courtier is an advisor to someone in ruling power. Jewish courtiers are known from at least the time of the Egyptian pharaohs. Jews counseled Babylonian kings, Roman Caesars, European kings and queens, and even U.S. presidents. Marlon chronicles thirty-three Jewish courtiers beginning with Joseph in Egypt and ending with Jared Kushner.
There are seventy-one people in the chapter on Zionists of the Jews, and the chapter Sages of the Jews contains more than four hundred listings, divided chronologically from the Soferim of the Persian and Hellenic Periods (c. 485 – 200 BCE) to the Aharonim (c. 1500 CE – Present). Each chapter begins with background information and ends with a summary.
No book of Jewish history will ever be complete, and certainly portraits of the life and times of eight hundred prominent Jewish leaders is not a comprehensive survey of the field. Yet, Essentials of Jewish History can proudly lay claim to the veracity of its title.
Essentials of Jewish History is not a year by year narrative of the vagaries and vicissitudes faced by Jews throughout history, but a thoroughly researched profile of Jewish generational standouts, containing essential facts describing the times in which they lived, characterizing their important works, and detailing their struggles and achievements. Essentials of Jewish History is a useful and outstanding reference book, a unique resource for every Jewish library.
"Poetry Reflects a Love of Israel"
by Joseph Serge, Arts Editor
Canadian playwright and poet Brandon Marlon loves Israel.
That should be obvious to anyone reading Judean Dreams, his
collection of almost 150 poems, all of which deal with Israel
"I am drawn to the history of Israel, the landscape and the
tradition," Marlon, 30, says from his home in Ottawa. "It is the
homeland. Israel has captured the imagination of all people,
not just Jews."
Judean Dreams is the culmination of a creative period he
had while attending the World Union of Jewish Students Institute
in Arad, in the Negev. It is divided into 10 sections, including
Memory, Tradition, Redemption and Jerusalem.
In one section, Admonition, he takes Israel to task for not
being flawless. In the poem Shy Guy in the Land of Chutzpah,
he writes: "Passive, civil and polite/ Gets you nowhere in a
flash/ Among high-volume car horns/ Among vibrating hand
Marlon says that since its inception, the State of Israel has
always been in a struggle to survive. "Because of that, it hasn't
been able to dedicate itself to politeness, refinements and all
the ‘trappings' of civilization. Still, it's done pretty well for a
Marlon is not afraid to admit that maybe he pines for a more
romantic view of Israel. In Gates Decayed he writes: "And I
sense increasingly/ That my century has been missed/ But by a
mere millennium or two."
"I would have been more suited to ancient times," he says.
"I yearn for times that were simple and sincere and not about
owning real estate or getting a paycheque."
His romanticism also reveals itself in I Have A Dream in
which he envisions an Israel where synagogues are packed on
Shabbat and the air is "congested with prayer."
"Minds are at peace/ Hearts are overflowing/ Spirits soar
skyward/ All because Man walks humbly with his maker/ As
attending angels look on with envy," he writes.
But if Marlon admonishes Israel, it's only the way a loving
parent admonishes a child who has strayed. More than anything,
Judean Dreams is a collection of love poems dedicated
In Holy City Home, he writes: "O Jerusalem, how unlike any
other!/ If I were you I would blush red/ At all the words written
about you/ At all the lyrics singing your praise."
In the section called Romance, this relationship enters somewhat
erotic waters. In Embedded he writes: "I am in you like a
crumpled note/ Tucked into a Kotel crevice/ Like each folded
piece of paper/ I will only be extracted from you for burial."
Judean Dreams touches on all sorts of themes. In Torah he
touches upon the spiritual. In others he describes the landscape
or relates Israel's history. Some, like May It Be Your Will, are
"Amazing Poet Offers Spellbinding Work"
by L. Cohen
OTTAWA – In his second book of poetry, Judean Dreams, published this year by the Calgary-based Bayeux Arts Inc. (148 pages), Ottawa-born Brandon Marlon pours out his heart again. The 29-year-old full-time, award-winning playwright and poet has an unstoppable, panoramic, sentimental vision of Israel, Jewish history, Jewish mysticism, redemption, G-d and prayer.
I have a Judaic dream, he writes. It takes place early on a warm Shabbat morning. In the Holy Land of Israel. Throughout the land the streets are empty Every synagogue a packed house Every mouth forming part of a collective voice.
Marlon was raised Orthodox but as an adult, he abandoned religious practice. Why?
“[That] level of observance was not of my own choice and was from early on not the right fit for my sensibilities. I consider myself a traditional Jew and believe very strongly in unity without uniformity, both within Judaism and amongst all mankind. Each to his own.”