A new book about “Rolling Rabbi” Simes is inspiring Ottawa’s Jewish community – and has taken author Shaindel Simes by surprise.
Rabbi Yehuda Simes Z”L, the “Rolling Rabbi” of Ottawa, died in 2017, nearly seven years after being paralyzed and left a quadriplegic after a car accident. This year, his widow Shaindel published a memoir-style book, sharing their story of perseverance and a message of hope.
“From the start of the crash, there was this cheering to our new reality…accepting it and understanding what it meant,” Shaindel said. “As things slowly took shape into a kind of routine, the rabbi really wanted to get back to his students and teaching.”
With a few tweaks, like a special prayer book the rabbi could turn the pages of, the Simes family embraced their new normal — while sharing their story.
“People really feel he had a strong message and the way he faced adversity and challenge showed there was a lot to be gained from his story,” Shaindel said.
“From his attitude, his candor and his upbeat upbeat tone, even though he agreed that of course he had a challenge, people kept saying ‘you should write a book “. the rabbi looked at me and he said ‘yes’ and I said ‘no’!
As carer for her husband and their nine children (the youngest was born just three months after the accident), Shaindel said writing a book was something they just didn’t have time for.
“We just laughed about it. But we kept hearing it,” she said. “It started to be this thing in the back of my head. After his death, we thought of turning his blog into a book. So, as a gift to our children and my family, in commemoration of the first year of his passing, I had the blog transcribed into a Word document and had it printed just for the family. It was kind of a prelude to the idea of there being a book.
The idea took off from there, Shaindel said. She looked at writing options, publishing options, and all the different elements that go into publishing a story.
“At first I thought I wasn’t a writer,” she says. “My husband was the one with the strong words. »
But a chance encounter with another author outside a bookstore encouraged Shaindel to make a few calls to editors.
“I called a publisher and told them our story and this woman said she had chills down her spine and told me to go. I said, ‘I’m not a writer. ‘ She said take a piece of paper and sit down and write down what happened, don’t think of it as writing a book, just write.
Shaindel said she was shocked with the finished work.
“I think what made it so meaningful was that it was something important to me.” she explained. “I don’t think I’m a creative literary person. I’m not going to write a novel, but because it was something so personal and meaningful, I think that part stands out. People say they can hear me talking in it.
And while healing wasn’t the main focus of writing the book, Shaindel said she didn’t realize how cathartic the experience would be.
“Afterwards, I felt like, ‘Wow.’ It’s been almost 12 years. It’s been a lot to process and a lot of talk, but it really refined this journey for me,” she said. “It’s made it something I can easily look back on now and have it all in one nice place.”
The book was officially released in early April and so far Shaindel said she was “incredibly incredulous” about the response.
“I’m not sure that’s a real word, but really people are just amazing,” she said. “Direct feedback to us, and from other people, about how meaningful and inspiring it is, about how it really touched them.”
“People said ‘you have to write another book! But I think as of now it’s one and done. Although… I’ve done a lot of things in the past 12 years that I never thought I’d do. “
You can buy Rolling Rabbi The Power of Perseverance: The Story of Rabbi Yehuda Simes on the Israel Book Shop website and on Amazon, as well as in bookstores in Montreal and Toronto. Shaindel is also the featured speaker for JET’s Jewish Unity Live at the end of May and will be signing copies of her book at that time. Books must be purchased in advance.