For Book Groups and Clubs


15% discount on orders of 5 books or more

Stan Adelstein would be delighted to connect with your group by phone, video call (Skype, Google Hangouts, etc.), or, if possible, in person.

Volume discount pricing is available for group purchases:

  • Orders of 5 books or more receive a 15% percent discount.

  • Special arrangements have been made with Mitzi’s Books in Rapid City, South Dakota to fulfill these bulk orders.

  • Please contact Mary at or (605) 721-2665 to place your order.

Regardless of how your group members obtain their copies, here’s the way to connect with Stan to talk about The Question Is “Why?”:

Please contact with the words “Book Group” in the subject line. In the body of the email, please list the following:

  1. the number of people in your group;

  2. the phone number or video call address at the location where your group will meet;

  3. the city/state where the discussion will take place; and

  4. three potential dates and times in order of preference when Stan might join your discussion (please specify the time zone). We will do our best to honor your first choice. If your group is in the Rapid City, SD, area or Stan is traveling to your city, he may be able to join your group in person.

Stan can speak to your group either before they start reading, as an introductory kick-off, or after they’ve read some of it.

Thank you for reading!

Discussion Questions

Here are some questions that might kick off your group’s discussion of The Question Is “Why?”

Overview/General Questions:

  1. Overall, what was the most provocative idea that you encountered in this book? Did you learn something that surprised you or was unexpected? Was there something that altered your previous perceptions?

  2. How much of our identity is linked to the locations where we are born, raised, and/or live our lives? What seems to be unique about South Dakota as a home for Jewish Americans? What is unique about your location/place of residence in this context?

  3. Many biographies offer a short synopsis of the subject’s family background before diving into the main character’s story. The Question Is “Why?” starts two generations before Stan’s birth. How did understanding Stan’s family’s migration stories deepen your understanding of his life?

  4. Stan believes that the things he’s achieved and been a part of have resulted from a series of coincidences. Do you agree with this assessment? To what extent was Stan simply in the right place at the right time? To what extent did his personality, privilege, and personal journey connect him to broader causes and historical processes?

Jewish Identity, Traditions, and Activism

  1. How do the stories shared in this book suggest developments in public roles for American Jews who came of age after the end of World War II? What does Stan’s family’s experience suggest about the ways in which World War II changed Jewish self-perceptions? How did it reshape non-Jewish perceptions of Jews?

  2. If you/your group lives in a place with a large Jewish population, what was your biggest takeaway about the challenges that rural Jewish families have faced?

  3. Did the Adelstein family’s story reveal anything distinctive about the culture of Midwestern Jewish people and communities? How are their experiences similar to those of Jewish communities in major urban areas on the coasts? How were they different?

  4. Stan’s lifelong fascination with the shofar symbolizes the ways in which a prominent Jewish layperson assumed many of the cultural—and sometimes, spiritual and legal—responsibilities that would be taken up by rabbis in other settings. How have the flexibility and adjustments of South Dakota’s Jewish communities reflected an ongoing strategy to survive as ethnic outsiders?

  5. What does Stan’s history within Jewish institutions and organizations suggest about their roles in American Jewish life?

  6. Stan’s story offers a lens through which one might evaluate the ever-evolving relationship between many American Jews and Israel. How does Stan’s story illuminate this complex history?

  7. How has Stan’s Jewish identity contributed to his interfaith, interethnic, and international activities?

Business and Politics

  1. How did Stan’s service in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers shape his approach to politics and business? How has military service shaped the Adelstein family’s legacy across several generations?

  2. Chapter 14 is titled “True Republican.” After reading this book, what do you infer might be Stan’s definition of a “true” Republican?

  3. In some ways, Stan’s stories about “back room” deals in business and politics highlight some of the biggest concerns about corruption and inequality in American life. Yet Stan’s story also demonstrates that good can result from the exercise of power. Which components of the American democratic system enabled one man from a demographically tiny state to broker power in state, national, and international contexts? What role did financial wealth play in this process?

  4. Although he was deeply enmeshed in a variety of political causes and profoundly connected to the corridors of power throughout his adult life, Stan spent decades searching for “the real power”—or elected office. Was Stan’s ambition an asset or a hindrance to his broader goals?

  5. What are some lessons that entrepreneurs or businesspeople might draw from Stan’s experiences growing into a leadership position at Northwest Engineering Company (NWE)?

  6. To what extend does Stan’s record of achievement and error in business reshape ways in which we might consider “success?”

Black Hills and South Dakota History

  1. How did the Adelstein family’s experiences in mid-20th century Rapid City and South Dakota push you to reconsider the history of this region?

  2. Did the Northwestern Engineering Company’s story cause you to reinterpret the way you understood the creation of the built environment in the Black Hills? What are some other local businesses with a long legacy of importance to this area?

  3. How did the establishment of Ellsworth Air Force Base strengthen the Jewish community in Western South Dakota?

  4. How did Stan’s encounter with the 1972 flood change your perceptions of that tragic event?

  5. Stan is part of an active and visionary generation of Rapid Citians who reshaped their community over the course of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. What were the biggest successes of this era? What ongoing challenges did they face?

  6. What lessons from Stan’s life and experiences (and that of his peer group) might today’s Rapid Citians learn from as they continue to improve life across the city?

  7. Stan has long supported racial reconciliation in South Dakota, acting as an influential intermediary and ally to Native Americans at several key moments. How has his personal experience—particularly as one of very few Jewish people in very Christian state—shaped his approach to issues of inequality and racial justice?