Shabbat shalom, everyone.
“Well, it has taken a long time for Henry Johnson and William Shemin to receive the recognition they deserve. And there are surely others whose heroism is still unacknowledged and uncelebrated. So we have work to do, as a nation, to make sure that all of our heroes’ stories are told. And we’ll keep at it, no matter how long it takes. America is the country we are today because of people like Henry and William — Americans who signed up to serve, and rose to meet their responsibilities — and then went beyond. The least we can do is to say: We know who you are. We know what you did for us. We are forever grateful.”
Source: President Barack Obama, Remarks at the Presentation of the Medal of Honor
Over the Shavuot/Memorial Day weekend, I watched an extraordinary film. In its simplest terms, the film might be described (as a New York Times reviewer has written) as follows: “Produced by Nancy Spielberg (sister of Steven Spielberg), the documentary ‘Above and Beyond’ recounts the story of Jewish American pilots who, beginning in 1948, secretly fought for Israel in its war of independence, when the Israeli military was nascent.”
It’s an amazing story. To be sure, it’s not without its discomforts. For starters, the American Jews who participated in this effort were risking their U.S. citizenship. But by the end of the film, one can’t help thinking of the devastating consequences had they not made the choices that they did.
The same NYT reviewer mentioned above also notes that “the movie’s one-sided view of history is bound to start arguments.” Maybe. But if this is a “one-sided view of history,” it’s also an accurate view of history. For instance, the Arab countries’ 1947 rejection of the U.N. Partition Plan that would have created the first-ever Palestinian state is included as part of the prelude to Israel’s War of Independence. Not everyone is cognizant of this pre-history to Israel’s declaration of statehood. Is its inclusion what the reviewer means by “one-sided”?
Regardless, I strongly recommend this film, especially for anyone who wants to learn more about the establishment of the State of Israel and the contributions of American Jews to that achievement. Above and Beyond can be viewed via (some) on-demand cable companies, iTunes, and at screenings. You’ll find more information on the film’s website.
Usually, I use these “words of the week” posts to point you to something I’ve found especially resonant or urgent in the press regarding Israel or another aspect of Jewish life. Almost always, I point you to something that you can read for yourself online.
But this week, I’m doing something different. And here’s why. Continue reading ›
For the past three years, I’ve found it useful (and kind of fun) to look back on “my year in Jewish books.” So, borrowing some of the same introductory wording, I’m going to attempt to do something similar for 2014.
Reviewing my reading for 2014 (thank you, Goodreads!), I can see that I do not and would not ever limit my reading to “Jewish books” exclusively; it seems that this list comprises about half of the titles I read this year in toto. (By the way, in case you haven’t heard me say this before, I define “Jewish books” in the simplest terms as books with substantive Jewish content. In my view, non-Jewish authors can write “Jewish books.” And Jewish authors can write books that don’t strike me as overtly Jewish.)
But this year, as usual, I did read quite a few books that fall within the “Jewish book” category. And, as an advocate for Jewish literature, I’m proud of that.
Below, you will find these books presented in the order in which I read them (most recent first, this year). Please note that, where appropriate, I have included links to reviews, essays, and newsy items I have written; interviews I have conducted; “Sunday Sentence” citations; and the odd blog post. I have also disclosed how I obtained each book: P (purchase), R (complimentary review copy), L (library). This year, I’m adding a category: FTB, for books I’ve read in manuscript prior to their release from Fig Tree Books in my job as FTB media editor. Continue reading ›
“Chag sameach,” he said. “What a blessing to be a citizen of the United States of America. Thank you President Obama for everything you have done today.”
–Alan Gross, quoted by JTA