Jewish wisdom gone to pot(ty)

Jewish wisdom gone to pot(ty)

Staff Writer, New Jersey Jewish News

young raccoon on Noah’s ark has to go — “Now.” Lo and behold, there is an area of the ark set aside just for this purpose, with big potties for big animals and smaller commodes for small animals. When the little raccoon returns to the main area where the other animals are gathered, an owl shares a prayer for the animals on the ark — and for Jewish children:

“Thank you, God, for my body. When it works, I feel good. Thank you, God, for making my wonderful body work.”

The characteristically wise owl is a character in “Where’s the Potty on This Ark?” (Kar-Ben Publishing, Inc.) by Rabbi Kerry Olitzky of North Brunswick, with illustrations by Abigail Tompkins. Olitzky said his children’s book, which will be released Aug. 1, is about more than toilet training; he’s after something beyond mere bathroom instructions.

“I wanted it to be much deeper than that,” he told NJJN. “I wanted to show the deep regard Judaism has for the body, and I wanted to help children express gratitude for their body functions.”

Aside from the classic “Once Upon a Potty” books (originally written in Hebrew) by Alona Frankel, Olitzky said, “There was nothing Jewish in the marketplace” on this subject. Even the Frankel books didn’t include Jewish

Rabbi Kerry Olitzky said he wrote his new children’s book “to show the deep regard Judaism has for the body.”

Olitzky, former executive director of Big Tent Judaism, is no newcomer to Jewish education or book publishing: The rabbi and educator has published numerous books on Jewish topics from spirituality to ritual. But “Where’s the Potty” marks his first foray into children’s books, which he said was inspired by his seven grandchildren, ranging in age from
1 to 8.

Three of his grandchildren live in South Orange and the book is dedicated to one of them, Noah Olitzky of South Orange, son of Andrea and Rabbi Jesse Olitzky of Congregation Beth El in South Orange. Kerry’s other son, Rabbi Avi Olitzky, the father of the four other grandchildren, lives in Minnesota. 

“Writing for children, young children, is far more difficult than writing for adults, because every sentence has to paint a word picture, and I have to keep in mind how the illustrations will enhance the words, or how the words will enhance the illustrations,” he said. He set the book on Noah’s ark because he said most kids are familiar with the story of the flood, and because “kids are intrigued by how animals engage in the basic necessities of daily life.”

As for bringing Jewish wisdom into potty training, he said, “There are insights in all aspects of life. It’s just a matter of channeling the wisdom from one area to another.”

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