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September 15, 1989 - Image 39

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-09-15

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FRIDAY & SATURDAY, September 15th & 16th



Designed & presented by Leslie Colburn
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•B & B

the creative process. He was,
in fact, planning to write the
first draft at his home in
Herzliya, north of Tel Aviv,
where he can watch the waves
while Karen and the children
enjoy the beach.
The Segals go to Israel
regularly. Karen, the English-
born daughter of a
Palestinian-Jewish mother,
has family in Haifa and
Jerusalem. Her uncle was the
hero, Peretz Goldstein, who
parachuted into occupied
Europe with Hannah Senesh.
Writing about religion will
bring Erich Segal full circle.

Erich Segal:
Pulitzer dream.

His father, the late Samuel
M. Segal, was the chief rabbi
at the Mt. Nebo congregation
in New York, and Segal vivid-
ly • remembers his own early
years at yeshiva in Crown
Heights. He can, he claims,
still recite parts of "Bava
Metzia" by heart and pro-
ceeds to prove his point by
chanting a Mishna.
"My father was a strictly
Orthodox rabbi, although his
congregation was not Or-
thodox," says Segal, who at-
tended the Jewish
Theological Seminary at
night while he was at high
"I don't wear a kippah and
I drive to shul on Friday night
with Francesca. But we light
candles, make Kiddish [bless-
ing over wine], recite Birkat
Hamazon [grace after meals].
These things are important to
me. If you don't have a Jewish
home, you don't have Jewish
kids. Period."
He sees his first career —
the study of ancient
languages — as a natural an-
cillary to his early immersion
in Judaism and biblical
Hebrew. He recalls teaching

Latin and Greek as a visiting
professor at Aviv Univer-
sity in 1976. "I could .give
sophisticated lectures in
Hebrew," he says. "But when
I'd go into the grocer on the
way home, I'd be embarrass-
ed to open my mouth because
I didn't know the work for
Erich Segal the classical
scholar is usually overlooked
for Erich Segal the writer and
media star. But not always.
I tell Segal of a recent visit
to a black-coated, Orthodox
rabbi living not far away in
the heavily Jewish suburb of
Golders Green. The rabbi
happens also to be a classics
scholar and when I mention-
ed that I was going to inter-
view Erich Segal, the author
of Love Story, he had gotten
up from the Shabbat table,
taken a book from his vast
library and handed it to me.
"I don't know that Erich
Segal," the Rabbi said. "But
I do know this Erich Segal:'
The book was an anthology of
current classical scholarship
edited by Segal.
Segal is clearly delighted by
the story. "I am tremendous-
ly flattered," he says. The
story also explains, in part,
why Segal now regards
England as his permanent
He can be private in Lon-
don as he cannot in America.
"I can," he says, "hop on the
number 24 bus and go to the
Institute of Classical Studies,
and no one recognizes me."
But the people who matter
know he is there. -
Recently, Segal was elected
a Fellow of Wolfson College at
Oxford University. It is a rare
honor, one that Segal relishes.
University tradition decrees
that he should live within
seven miles of Oxford and he
is seriously thinking of com-
plying, even though he could
probably get away with living
in London and commuting
the 50 miles for lectures and
But the lure of Oxford is
strong. Classicists like
himself are a dying breed
and, in Segal's view, Oxford is
the "elephants' graveyard,
the last stand, the citadel of
classical studies."
He is also seduced by. "the
camaraderie, the exchange of
ideas, the life of the mind,"
and by the simple pleasure of
being among academic peers.

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