If you are having a tough day and need a lift, or just want to chuckle and put a smile on your face — maybe reminisce about growing up in Brooklyn in the 1960s — author and poet Elliott M. Rubin’s latest effort is the paperback for you.
Rubin’s latest, known as “Yiddle Fairy Tales,” is a 52-page publication taking the reader on a journey through 11 works of short fiction all American children have known for generations, but with a heimishe twist from Rubin.
Brothers Grimm step aside. Rubin has turned “Hansel and Gretel” into “Mazel and Mayer”; Cinderella has been transformed into “Malka and the Farbissen Sisters”; and “Jack and the Beanstalk” now reads as “Mendel and the Vanilla Bean Stalk.”
“The fairy tales all have happy endings,” the upbeat Rubin, 74, a Brooklyn native and resident of Monroe Township, told NJJN in a telephone interview. “This is what I wanted for this, to make people smile. All my fiction is based on fact…. I have dozens of other books, not on Jewish themes, that don’t bring smiles. That is the flash fiction stuff in my crime books.”
Rubin, a self-published author whose paperback books are sold through several on-line vendors, is referring to his fictional trilogy, featuring detective Khara Bennet, who fights drug cartels and gets tangled in international mysteries. “People can read those too if they want, and many other of my fictional works with what I call polished sarcasm, but ‘Yiddle’ is light and certain to make people feel good,” he said.
Before writing became his full-time gig in 1965, Rubin was part of a family furniture business in Brooklyn and northern New Jersey. “I retired from business and became a full-time writer,” he said.
Rubin credits family members for his writing inspiration. “My dad [Herman S. Goodman] wrote essays, prayers, and poetry his whole life,” he said.
He added, “My grandmother told me lunchtime stories of Moishe Kapoyer when I was a child. She’d talk about the kid who was supposed to get dressed to eat and put on his pajamas instead, and it stirred my creative mind to picture the story. My wife, Laura, also always encouraged me to write.”
Rubin said he gleaned material for his stories from 35 years of leading Talmud discussions at the Marlboro Jewish Center. “I learned a lot over all those years,” he said. “The thing about the Talmud is it keeps your brain sharp. The niceties sometimes work out and sometimes don’t. It makes you think creatively.”
That combination of studying Talmud, rich family memories, and a good sense of humor led Rubin to write “Yiddle Fairy Tales,” which has settings in places from Brooklyn to Chelm, a real town in Poland that in fiction became synonymous with foolish residents.
“A lot of our generation grew up with the nuances of how Judaism was in those places, especially in Brooklyn, and the certain vibe it had,” he said. “This comes out in my fairy tales.”
Rubin wrote his stories with a variety of settings in mind. “I tried to spread it out, over different locales and times, like ‘The Three Little Eynglekh,’ which, of course, is ‘The Three Pigs,’ set in a present suburb of Atlanta,” he said. “‘Netanya in Vunderland,’ my version of ‘Alice in Wunderland,’ gives a taste of what Chelm was like at the turn of the century.”
What the reader gets in all of these tales is a mixture of Jewish humor, real challenge, and the triumph of good over evil.
“This is how things went, and just might still go with a dash of fiction, in many Jewish communities,” said Rubin. “Humor and hope are what kept a lot of these communities together.”
While he has retired from his Talmud instruction at the Marlboro Jewish Center, Rubin still participates in book discussions at the Hamilton Township Library and The Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceville and enjoys talking to groups as a featured author.
He and Laura, his wife of 52 years, have four adult children, Brian, Bradley, Beth, and Amy.
Rubin, who has written seven novels, maintains two websites, one for his fictional novels, creativefiction.net, and another featuring his poetry, creativefiction.net/jewish-books.html. He recommends “The Phartik Chronicles” for readers looking for Jewish themes.