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February 27, 2004 - Image 37

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2004-02-27

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PEARLS Of Wisdom

In a new collection, 7 Am Jewish," luminaries reflect on their personal
interpretations of Daniel Pearlsfinal three words.

Special to the Jewish News


hree words, among the last
uttered by journalist Daniel
Pearl before his murder two
years ago last month, have
become a nucleus for thoughtfulness and
I Am Jewish (Jewish Lights; $24.99),
edited by his parents, Judea and Ruth
Pearl, is a collection of brief essays by
almost 150 noted contributors who tease
out meaning from these words and corn-
pose personal statements of Jewish identity.
As Judea Pearl explains in a telephone
interview from his office at UCLA where
he teaches computer science, the book,
with its diverse insights into Judaism, is
intended to empciwer young Jewish peo-
ple and foster pride in their heritage.
It is also meant to send a strong mes-
sage to the murderers that while they
tried to sow humiliation, the words of
Danny — as he refers to his late son —
would "eventually lead to a stronger, more
united Jewish people."
And, the book is for Adam Pearl,
Daniel's son, to show him how his father
inspired many Jews to come together and
reflect on their Jewishness.
The publication of the book marks a
turn in the Pearl family's outlook about
the Jewish nature of the tragedy. The
work of the foundation they established
in Daniel's memory is universal in its pro-
When asked why the family urged the
press to downplay Daniel's Judaism in the
aftermath of his capture and murder,
Judea Pearl explains, "There was not an
attempt to emphasize that element. The
family didn't want to give ammunition to
the defense team, who wished to gain
public sympathy in Pakistan."
Now, the family is no longer concerned
about anti-Semitic outbursts in the court-
room, so they feel like there's no reason to
shield the information.
In fact, Judea Pearl sees that in empha-
sizing the Jewish element of the tragedy,
there are "tremendous opportunities for
the Jewish community.

"For the first time in modern times, we
have an association between Jewishness
and the concept of bridge-building and
peace seeking," he says. "Jews are being
portrayed as warmongers and baby killers.
It's about time that our real face will be
portrayed with pride."
Contributors to the book include peo-
ple of various political, religious and cul-
tural stripes: Many would rarely be in a
room together, let alone a book.
They span generations, countries, pro-
fessions and perspectives, among them
Edgar Bronfman, Avraham Burg, Debbie
Friedman, Thomas Friedman, Ruth Bader
Ginsburg, David Grossman, Larry King,
Francine Klagsbrun, Rabbi Israel Meir
Lau, Jackie Mason, Thane Rosenbaum,
Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Kerri
Strug, Mike Wallace, Elie Wiesel and
Rabbi Sherwin Wine, the only Michigan
The Pearls, along with the publisher,
*approached a wish list of j ournalists,
entertainers, authors, government figures,
business leaders, scientists, rabbis, schol-
ars, Jewish communal figures and others.
Most said, "Yes."
"Danny's legacy has the magnetic
capacity to energize," Judea Pearl explains.
There were a few no's, some of which
Judea Pearl managed to turn around.
Some people felt that they could write
thick books but nothing concise; others
expressed reservations about being associ-
ated with a project they saw as divisive in
its ethnicity.
To one reluctant celebrity, Judah Pearl
said, "In the same way that you are proud
of being part of a community that gave
the world Einstein and Chagall, there are
Jewish youngsters who would like to be
proud of you and what you have
achieved. You have a responsibility to
The contributors were asked to reflect
on what they mean when they say the
words "I am Jewish."
"The question is not trivial," Judea
Pearl writes in the preface. Contributors
were also asked to minimize references to
the tragedy.

PEARLS on page 40

Contributors to "I Am Jewish" were asked to minimize references to the
tragedy of Daniel Pearl's death. Instead, they were about their pride in their
Jewish heritage, and the many ways Jewish identity can be expressed.




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