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January 01, 1988 - Image 90

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-01-01

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

(BOOKS I

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By Jackie

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A Jew In Vietnam:
`A Forgotten Man'

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arl Bancoff, a physi-
cian turned novelist,
has added a Jewish
perspective to the rapidly
growing genre of novels about
the controversial Vietnam
war. A Forgotten Man, his first
novel, describes the ex-
periences of Herb Klein from
his days as a medical student
in Philadelphia to his service
in Vietnam as an Air Force
flight surgeon.
Klein is a decent man. As a
medical student he tutors the
teenage son of his fraternity's
black housekeeper, helping
him turn away from drugs
and crime and eventually
become a successful lawyer.
But Klein's decency is a
handicap in Vietnam, where
he arouses the ire of some
Americans for providing
medical service and other
help to the Vietnamese.
Klein is also a young Jew in
search of his religion. Born in-
to an Orthodox family, Klein
loses his faith when his
mother dies. When he mar-
ries a nurse, a Catholic from
a small Pennsylvania mining
town, she tries unsuccessful-
ly to bring him back to
Judaism. But his experiences
in Vietnam restore his belief.
As to be expected in a first
novel, Bancoff's life is similar
to that of his protagonist.
Like Klein, he was born in
the working-class section of
west Philadelphia; was
graduated from Cornell
University, although he also
received his medical training
at Cornell, rather than in
Philadelphia, as Klein does;
and like Klein, interned at a
Philadelphia hospital.
Bancoff also was a flight
surgeon in Vietnam, who,
like Klein, went on combat
missions, provided medical
care for Vietnamese civilians
and was among the first
physicians to provide medical
care for the Montagnard
tribes. Perhaps this is why so
much of what happens to
Klein as a medical student
and then a flight surgeon
rings true.
But the novel is also the
story of a young man sear-
ching for meaning in the
American involvement in
Vietnam at a time when
many of his friends and col-
leagues at home oppose the
war.
Bancoff provides no pat
answers, as indeed there are
none, despite the feelings of
those who want to see the
still-divisive debate over Viet-

nam in simple black-and-
white terms. Instead, Klein
finds meaning only in helping
the Montagnards. Hated by
the Vietnamese on both sides,
they try to survive, as did the
Jews throughout history.
'Ib be truthful, the first
chapter of the book, a sort of
preface, is disappointing. In
addition, there are many
cliches in both characters and
incidents, and what eventual-
ly happens to Klein is predic-
table. The ending is
somewhat contrived and less
than satisfactory. But the
novel is nevertheless enthrall-
ing, both serious and funny,
entertaining and ultimately
very moving.
Klein provides rare insight,
not only on the issue of Viet-
nam, but also in how
American Jews come to terms
with their Judaism in this
country.

Jewish Telegraphic Agency

NEWS

Arik Sharon
In War Of Words

Tel Aviv (JTA) — Ariel
Sharon, the outspoken Herut
hardliner, was embroiled last
week in another angry war of
words with Foreign Minister
Shimon Peres. He has also
been criticized by Mayor Ted-
dy Kollek of Jerusalem for
demonstratively moving into
an apartment in the Old Ci-
ty's Moslem Quarter shortly
before the start of Chanukah.
Sharon, who was defense
minister during the war in
Lebanon and is presently
minister of commerce and in-
dustry, accused Peres of
creating a "worldwide panic"
by his constant warnings of
the demographic dangers to
Israel by its continued rule
over 1.5 million Arabs in the
West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Addressing a Likud party
meeting, Sharon also blasted
Peres for proposing that the
Gaza Strip be demilitarized.
Mayor Kollek, also a Labor-
ite, in a speech to the City
Council, questions Sharon's
motive in moving to the
Moslem Quarter. Sharon had
said that the move was in-
tended to encourage other
Jews to live in the Moslem
Quarter but, Kollek said, "We
do not aspire to integration,
but rather to neighborly rela-
tions."
Sharon's housewarming
and Chanukah party in his
Moslem Quarter flat is con-
sidered partly responsible for
the outbreak of Arab rioting.

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