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May 20, 1983 - Image 28

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1983-05-20

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

28 Friday, May 20, 1983


'Bessie' the Idealist Struggles for Equality in Russia U. S.


"Bessie" by Lawrence
Bush (Putnam) is in essence
the successful creation of a
fictional character, depicted
in heroic mold, a woman
emerging alive and real on
every page.
She is first seen as a little
girl of six hiding under the
table in order to eavesdrop
on the talk between her
rabbinical-wise father and
the men who come to him for
advice and comfort. Born in
a Ukrainian town at the
turn of the century, she
loves to listen to adult talk;
child that she is, she in-
stinctively favors human
justice, hates oppression
and persecution, daily evi-
dences of which she agoniz-
ingly witnesses from the
behavior of the town police
and from neighbor anti-
The pogroms several
years later confirm her
hatred of hooligans and


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hoodlums. During the pog-
rom in her town she
watches her older brothers,_
defending their fellow Jews,
kill some of the brutes. This
leads to vicious persecution
on the part of the police; and
while her brothers manage
to escape, she is imprisoned
and sent to Siberia at the
age of 12.
This part of the narra-
tive — shtetl life in the
Ukraine and the terrible
Siberian suffering — is
delineated with authen-
tic simplicity and pathe-
tic reality.
After an ordeal of several
years, chance and good for- poor, the oppressed, based
tune combine to help Bessie on your own understanding
to escape from her Siberian as a Jew."
prison and she manages, in
Like tens of thousands of
time, to reach New York other newcomers to the East
where she is united with her Side of New York she goes to
married sister and two work in a sweatshop, work-
ing long hours at pitiful
Having passed through wages, which she resents
the crucible of persecution with all her being. Chance
and suffering, she has be- again favors her when she
come a full-fledged radical, rebels -against mistreat-
yearning to-make the world ment while working at the
a better place to live in. Al- Triangle Shirtwaist factory
ways the keenly conscious and is dismissed the day be-
Jew, she later reminisces: fore the horrible fire.
"What else does it mean to
Determined to escape
be Jewish in this day and the sweatshop, she de-
age than to feel with the cides to learn nursing,

which to her thinking not
only helps people in need
of care but also avoids
sweatshop exploitation.
About this time she falls
in love with Yasha, a
young radical worthy of
her affection, and their
union is an idyllic song of
human happiness.
The outbreak of the Revo-
lution in Russia is like the_
fulfillment of their dearest
dream, and the pair leave
for Russia to participate in
the country's liberation.
The ensuing bloody civil
war with the Revolution's
enemies involves Bessie
and Yasha and results in
the brutal murder of Yasha
and the death of Bessie's
newborn daughter. Devas-
tated and heartsick, she
gives up the struggle and
returns to the United
Yet her idealism never
falters. Once settled in her
nursing career, she again
devotes her energies to im-
proving life around here. As
she muses wistfully, "So
America should be working
together to make life mean-
ingful, to make it that
human beings can fulfill
themselves and others."

She remarries and in time
has a son and a daughter.
Before too long, however,
she is again widowed. Never
ceasing to dedicate herself
to her ideals, she continues
to work against intolerance
and injustice. She joins the
recently formed Communist
Party. From her idealistic
and humane point of view
Communism is to her "basic
to Jewish tradition: one is
that the Messiah didn't
come yet, so don't stop work-
ing. The other is that the
Messiah is going to come, so
don't stop hoping."
Over the years, as a
dedicated radical, she
fights racism and fas-
cism. She actively par-
ticipates in the political
and economic develop-
ments during the Great
Depression in the 1930s;
she fiercely opposes the
reactionary functions of
the Congressional Com-
mittee on Un-American
Activities and McCar-
thyism during the post-
war period — always
from her sense of
idealism and solid reality
which keep her in emo-
tional balance.
So innate is her yearning
for social justice that she re-
tains it even after she learns
of Stalin's murderous ac-

tivities as well as the com-
promises and hypocrisy of
the party in this country.
Like so many Russian-
born radicals she cannot
live without the hope of a
better world; nor is she af-
fected by those radicals who
denounce their early beliefs
and react negatively
against the persistent radi-
As one reads the book, one
tends to forget that it is a
novel, that Bessie is a com-
posite of those heroic
idealists who remain stead-
fast in their hope of a world
of justice and freedom. One
perceives her as a great
human being, with unceas-
ing love for all mankind,
with a warmth and affection
that attracts those who get
to know her.
Even those who, for some
reason, tend to recoil from
the radicalism she espouses,
cannot help but admire her
pulsating humanity and her
goals which are essentially
the goals of most human be-
ings. And one finishes the
novel with the feeling that
the author has written a
book that contains both the
essence of a vital part of
Jewish life in our time and a
stroy of simple but authen-
tic fictional art.

3 Arabs Hurt in Nablus Riot

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Outdoor pools open June 12.

Three Arabs were injured,
two by bullets, in clashes
with Israeli security forces
in Nablus on Sunday. The
clashes followed a new out-
break of rock-throwing, oc-
casioned by the 35th an-
niversary of Israel's inde-
pendence which falls on
May 14 according to the
Gregorian calendar. There
were also rock-throwing in-
cidents in Ramallah where
windshields were smashed
on several Israeli vehicles.
Security sources said one
person trying to escape ar-
rest was shot in the leg by '
Israeli soldiers and was
hospitalized. Another was
injured by glass splinters
when he crashed through a
window trying to escape. A
third person was found with

a bullet wound near a mos-
que. The circumstances of
that shooting are unknown
and under investigation.
Meanwhile, public
criticism is mounting in
Israel against the failure
of police and security
forces to impose law and
order on Jewish settlers
on the West Bank sus-
pected of damaging Arab
property. The windows
of Arab-owned cars were
smashed in four inci-
dents of vandalism dur-
ing the last two months in
various parts of the West
Bank but no arrests have
been made.
Israeli authorities have
also been criticized for fail-
ing to stop development
work by Jewish settlers on
land Arabs claim to own.

Rosenne Takes. U.S. Post

PARIS (JTA) — Israel's
newly-appointed Ambas-
sador to the United States
Meir Rosenne arrived in
Washington on Sunday
from Paris where he has
spent close to three years as
Israel's representative.
Rosenne last week took
his leave from French
President Francois Mitter-
rand after having met
members of the Cabinet at a
luncheon given in his honor
at the Quai D'Orsay.
Foreign Minister Claude

H.U. Fellow

NEW YORK — James
Marshall of New York, one
of the earliest American
supporters of Hebrew Uni-
versity in Jerusalem, will
be inducted as an honorary
fellow of the university in
ceremonies June 8.


Cheysson paid tribute to
Rosenne's "devotion and
outspoken defense of his
country's interests and Rol-
icy." Rosenne was also feted
by the Gaullist opposition
leader and Paris Mayor,
Jacques Chirac.

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