The Question is “Why?”

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Click here to learn more about The Question is “Why?”: Stanford M. Adelstein, A Jewish Life in South Dakota

By Eric Steven Zimmer

As a Jewish South Dakotan, Stanford M. “Stan” Adelstein has long encountered certain questions: “How did you end up there?” “There are Jews in South Dakota?!” He’s even had to explain where to find South Dakota on the map.

But when Adelstein met David Ben-Gurion in Israel in 1965, the former prime minister asked something else: “The question isn’t ‘where?’,” Ben-Gurion said. “The question is ‘why?’”

Caught off guard, Adelstein responded with what was in his heart: He told Ben-Gurion that carving out a life of purpose on the South Dakota plains was his mission as a Jew. He has spent the years since then living out this response, serving a stunning array of local, national, and international causes.

This book tells Adelstein’s story of family, faith, business, politics, and philanthropy. It provides new perspectives on recent American and world history and on the lives of Jewish people in rural places. And, arriving when many Americans are questioning our democracy’s durability, it inspires all who hope to improve their communities, their country, and the world.


Advance praise for The Question is “Why?” 

“The greatness of America is embodied by the creation of people like Stan Adelstein. Out here on the prairies, few have achieved as much in life, business, politics, and charity—not to mention the promotion of their ethnic background—as he has. From his grandmother’s “Jew store” in Kadoka, South Dakota to New York City, Tel Aviv, and beyond, Stan’s is a warm, remarkable story that must be read.”

Rudy Boschwitz, U.S. Senator (R-MN, 1978-1991), U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Commission (2005), President George H.W. Bush’s Emissary to Ethiopia (1991)


The Question is ‘Why?’ provides an intimate look at the life of a true statesman. Well into his ninth decade, Stanford Adelstein continues to live his values and impact society as an eminent South Dakotan, a proud American, and a Jew firmly rooted in his tradition and history. This is not only Adelstein’s personal history, but the story of one man’s impact on the world he lives in.”

 – Robin Doroshow, Executive Director, Jewish Historical Society of the Upper Midwest.


“Where freedom rules, you can create yourself. Everyone you meet and the events of your life have some influence. But your personal decisions define who you become. This book explores Stan’s journey and what it meant to be ‘the Jew from South Dakota.’ What his life shares is insightful, entertaining, and thought-provoking. The book offers dozens of behind-the-scenes stories for readers to enjoy.”

– Mike Rounds, U.S. Senator (R-SD)