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February 27, 2004 - Image 40

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

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Some contributors sent tributes to
Daniel Pearl, which the editors sent
back. Peres, who sent in a long tribute,
was very gracious about rewriting and
sent back a poetic narration of his life,
emphasizing faith. Others declined to
rewrite.
The book makes for compelling read-
ing. Wide ranging in perspective, the
entries are mixed in their literary quality,
but a rich, bold, meaningful, intense
and joyful vision emerges. The effect of
reading essay after essay is to begin corn-
posing one's own.
Some essays reveal personal stories;
some read like original liturgy; many are
full of questions, others use jokes and
humor. Their themes may be rooted in
family, memory, Jewish texts, conversion
experiences, the Holocaust.
Certain writers mention God,
covenant and Israel; for others, these
concepts don't seem part of their vocab-
ulary. Sometimes it's the children who
are the most impressive, speaking pow-
erfully in few words.
The only voices that seem to be miss-
ing in the mix are more young
American Jewish poets and novelists.
For actor Joshua Malina, "the state-
ment `I am Jewish' is no different from
the statement 'I am.' Judaism is the
foundation of my identity"
Leon Wieseltier, author and literary
editor of the New Republic, begins his
essay by slightly amending the statement
to "I am a Jew."
"There's nothing adjectival about this
dimension of my being. It is not a quali-
fier of anything else, not a modifier of
another essence; it is itself," he writes.
He goes on to speak of the significance
of words and ideas and offers a tradi-
tional Chasidic text "in sorrowful and
respectful recollection of Daniel Pearl."
Like Wieseltier, many point out that
being Jewish is one part of their identity.
Several contributors, like Israeli novel-
ist A.B. Yehoshua, speak of secular iden-
tity. Many, including Natan Sharans
mention anti-Semitism.
Journalist Daniel Schorr and others tie
their professional life with their Judaism;
for Schorr, being Jewish relates to
searching for truth.
Novelist Anne Roiphe and others
write about how their humanity is col-
ored by their Judaism. Many speak of
being Jewish as a matter of choice.
In several essays, the writers present
colorful imagery. Editor David Suissa
writes of "80 generations of grandmoth-
ers and grandfathers, all holding hands,"
encouraging him to continue their "eter-
nal mission of lighting up the world."

Actor Shia LeBeouf describes
FROM 'I AM JEWISH':
Judaism as "the name of the tele-
Sarah Silverman, comic,
phone in my heart that allows me to
actress and writer:
speak to God."
Judea Pearl admittedly breaks his
"Remember the guy who
smashed all the idols in the
own rule by discussing his percep-
idol store? His mother had a
tions of what Judaism meant to his
son, drawn from remarks that he
heart attack when she saw
the mess, but .1;72 sure she
delivered last year at a service at
bragged about it later. That's
B'nai Jeshurun in New York City,
commemorating the first yahrtzeit of
us. That's me. I am Jewish; "4
Daniel's death.
His son was not a reli-
Thomas Friedman, Pulitzer Prize-
gious Jew, he writes.
winning columnist: "For me, the
"Judaism for him was the
phrase 'I am Jewish' means what I
language of his extended
suspect it meant to Daniel -- a very
family — a source of
important part of my identity, but not
strength, commitment
the only part. I see myself as an
and historical identity. "
American, a journalist, a New Ybrk
"To Danny, am
Times columnist, a husband, a father,
Jewish' meant 'I must
a man of the world, a Jew. The last is
understand.' Or in other
by no means the least"
words, 'I am possessed
with a historically baked
obsession to understand and repair
Yefim Bronfynan, classi-
things, because my wandering ancestors,
cal pianist: "Being a
hardened by centuries of persecution
musician and being
and discrimination, have taught me to
Jewish have something
mistrust all dogmas and ideologies and
in common: constant
to question authority and the status quo
wandering and never-
and conventional wisdom. So, as a Jew,
ending struggle."
I have inherited no other
mental tranquilizer
except that chronic urge
Robyn J. Friedman, 10, Boca Raton,
Fla.: "When I say Lin Jewish, I think
to question and to
of three things. Lighting a menorah on
understand."
Chanukah or just having a tradition
In conversation, Judea
with your family. But the thing I think
Pearl says that as a fami-
about more is being someone special
ly, they made Kiddush
and different from other people; it s just
and lit candles regularly
like having a birthday but better."
on Friday nights, cele-
brated holidays and
would study a few chap-
that Anne Frank's diary was discovered
ters of Mishnah together, particularly
after the Holocaust and Danny's tragedy
Pirke Avot.
is a warning of another Holocaust."
"I used to have a game with Danny,"
Asked about parallels between
he recalls. "I would say, 'Who is strong,
Daniel's story and that of Alfred
who is wise?'" quoting Pirke Avot.
Dreyfus, the 19th-century French army
"When he was young, he would answer
captain falsely accused of espionage, he
from the text, but then became a smart
says, 'Among its themes, this is a Jewish
aleck, answering, 'He who outsmarts his
tragedy.
father,' to the question, 'Who is wise?'"
"It's like Dre s in terms of historical
Daniel's bar mitzvah was held at the
significance, in terms of the amount of
Kotel, as the family was living in
publicity he got, the clear anti-Semitic
Jerusalem for a sabbatical year.
element. Jews at the time of Dreyfus felt
"It was very memorable to him,"
that each one of them was on trial.
Judea Pearl reminisces. While Daniel
Many Jews feel like that today, relative
couldn't give a lecture in Hebrew, he
to Danny's tragedy."
would speak to his Israeli grandmother
Daniel Pearl's widow Mariane is a
in Hebrew.
Buddhist. When asked if his grandson
Judea Pearl sees a connection between
would be raised Jewish, Judea Pearl says,
his son's story and that of Anne Frank.
"We hope so. Mariane's philosophy is let
"Both symbolized the horror of their
him decide. But if he has the curiosity
era, both were writers who inspire peo-
of Danny, then I'm sure he will discover
ple, Jews and non-Jews, to study anti-
early where his roots are." E
Semitism and the consequences of
fanaticism," he says. "The difference is

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