TEN years ago, businessman Ron Goldschlager would spend his spare moments writing down thoughts about ethical issues affecting Judaism.
Little did he dream that this year he would be launching a major book that combines his views with commentaries by leading Israeli scholar Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, and that¬† features specially commissioned paintings by Melbourne artist Victor Majzner.
The book, The Mystery of You: A Journey Through the Paradoxes of Life, will be launched at the Glen Eira Town Hall, Caulfield, on Sunday, May 9 by community leader Mark Leibler and Rabbi Ralph Genende.
“I’m not a writer,” confessed Goldschlager. “I’m a businessman who became passionately involved in the book that turned into a work of love.”
Goldschlager, 60, of Caulfield, is a qualified chemical engineer and managing director of a diverse group of companies, the Hermal Mortim Group.
He spent several years penning his thoughts on the paradoxes of life, but a book was furthest from his mind.
“I saw all kinds of conflicts between my scientific background and religious issues, and wanted to explore the differences and similarities between science and belief in God,” he said.
Then he met Jerusalem-based Rabbi Steinsaltz, who has written more than 60 books, including the huge project of translating and interpreting the Babylonian Talmud.
“I had the chutzpah to ask him what he thought about my writing and whether we could work on something together. And he agreed to it,” said Goldschlager, who smiled as he recalled the moment.
“This rabbi has no ego. We developed an intellectual friendship and now we share a special bond and trust between us.”
About six years ago, Rabbi Steinsaltz was visiting Rome to attend an interfaith conference and took some time to go over drafts of the book with Goldschlager.
“I will never forgot one particular session,” the author recalled. “We had been discussing and thinking and talking intensely for over three-and-a-half hours, yet it seemed like no time at all.”
In the preface to The Mystery of You, Rabbi Steinsaltz writes: “Ron Goldschlager is neither a writer or a philosopher.”
Goldschlager said: “I laughed when I read it. There are no barriers between us.”
The original title of the book was “Me, Myself, So What”, but the ¬≠publishers came up with the new title.
“I realised that the book was not about the writer, but about the reader,” Goldschlager explained.
Artist Victor Majzner had not met Goldschlager until he was approached about the book two years ago, and said that before committing he wanted to read the draft.
“I read it twice. The first time I read it I could not put it down, it was that gripping. It really amazed me. The mystical part of the book really intrigued me,” said Majzner, who has held more than 50 solo exhibitions in Australia and produced The Australian Haggadah.
“Ron said it was important to have a visual element to the book. He gave me carte blanche. It was fantastic — the best sort of commission that an artist could hope for.”
Majzner created 10 paintings that interpreted the concepts in the book.
“Normally my studio is my sanctity — no-one is allowed in. But Ron was in my studio two to three times a week. Normally that would drive me insane, but he was a kind of kindred spirit and I loved the interaction with him.
“It took me about eight months to do all the images. It was the most pleasurable commission that I have ever had,” the artist said.
Several of the paintings¬† feature Goldschlager in the artwork, including the image used for the book cover where he is floating in the sea.
“I loved the idea of Ron writing about his world view and wanted to include him in some works. I always painted him from the back so that the viewer can identify with him as ‘the everyman’. For me it was important that he was in some of the paintings.”
Proceeds from publication of The Mystery of You will go to several charities, including Magen David Adom, Hazon Yeshaya soup kitchens in Israel and Rotary International’s youth mentoring projects.
“If we can make money for charity from the book it will be a beautiful outcome,” said Goldschlager.
The Mystery of You: A Journey Through the Paradoxes of Life is published by Hybrid Publishers, $39.95 (rrp).
PHOTO: Businessman and author Ron Goldschlager. Photo: Peter Haskin