The Adventures of Rabbi Harvey
A Graphic Novel of Jewish Wisdom and Wit in the Wild West
By Steve Sheinkin
Jewish Lights Publishing, 2006, 123 pages
Reviewed by Israel Drazin - March 14, 2011
This is the first in a so-far three volume series of humorous tales told with cartoon-type graphics. The hero of the tales is Rabbi Harvey the old-style bearded rabbi and sometimes sheriff in the 1880s, in Elk Spring, Colorado, in the Old West, in a city that seems to be inhabited by Jews, since no non-Jews appear in the tales. There are ten stories in this first volume that are based on old Jewish humorous and morality tales that appear in such places as the Talmud and Chassidic lore. Some of the ten tales are composed of several stories stitched together, as when Rabbi Harvey tells a reporter of many instances where he cleverly resolved disputes and the story about when the rabbi took a trip and had no place to eat or spend the Shabbat.
The stories have the same punch lines as appears in their source, but the graphics, settings, and the frequent added witticisms that Sheinkin inserts add humor. Frankly, I am familiar with the originals of all the ten stories but I still found them enjoyable because of the Sheinkin additions and the quaint way that Rabbi Harvey acts. It is also funny to see how Sheinkin pictures the saintly rabbi. His eyebrows are thick and connected and seem like a ribbon across his forehead.
In one of the tales, Sheinkin shows how Rabbi Harvey first came to Elk Spring and defeated the criminal gang leader "Big Milt" Wasserman, who threatened young Rabbi Harvey: "Tell me something about yourself. If it's true, we'll shoot you. If it's a lie, we'll hang you." There are also stories about how the rabbi cured a boy who was convinced that he was a chicken and acted as this bird, how he proved to a woman that a person is wiser if he is not handsome, and others.