For the past quarter century, The NCSY Bencher, A Book of Prayer and Song, has been as familiar at Jewish festivities or on the Shabbat and holiday tables as the challah. With the blessings and songs translated and transliterated from the Hebrew by David Olivestone, who is now OU National Director of Communications and Planning, the Bencher is in the 38th printing of its revised edition, 50 printings in all, with more than one-and-a-half million copies having rolled off the presses, an extraordinary number in Jewish publishing.
Now, thanks to the pioneering work of Budapest native Zsolt Balla, 3,000 copies of the Bencher are available in Hungarian translation (Bencser) and soon there will be 3,000 copies in a German version (Bentscher) as well. Balla translated and transliterated the Hungarian edition and arranged for the publication of its German counterpart.
Balla, 29, is a rabbinical student at Yeshivas Beis Zion in Berlin, a project of the Lauder Yeshurun Foundation to bring organized Jewish life to Central and Eastern Europe. He was familiar with the NCSY Bencher because, “It’s floating around. Everyone knows about it.” So when Balla participated in an international summer camp in Hungary and saw the need for a similar Bencher for the camp, he asked permission to translate and transliterate it. With the help of private funds and the cooperation of the OU, he arranged for its publication, in time to be used at his wedding in Berlin last year to his wife, Marina. The German version followed.
Balla is in New York now, participating in ASKOU9, an intensive three-week seminar presented by OU Kosher to prepare rabbis and rabbinical students to serve as kosher professionals in their communities. It was no surprise, then, that Balla and Olivestone met and that Balla presented Olivestone with copies of the Hungarian and German editions.
Szolt Balla presents David Olivestone with copies of the Hungarian and German editions of The NCSY Bencher.