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June 11, 2004 - Image 43

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2004-06-11

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

On The Tube

jewish.com

)Volunteers Needed

Ordinary People

Ethel and Julius Rosenberg's granddaughter probes family,
history in HBO documentary.

.

tic college students viewed commu-
nism, as a kind of utopian system, and
that plenty of young, middle-class
Jews paid more than lip service to
opposing the injustice they
saw in postwar America.
Meeropol tracks down
Morton Sobell, who was tried
with the Rosenbergs, and their con-
temporary Miriam Moskowitz; both
were essentially
convicted for refusing to name names.

Rosenbergs amid the national hysteria,
MICHAEL FOX
and
who made no attempt to adopt
Special to the Jewish News
Michael or his brother Robert after
the executions. They're not pleased to
n the decades since Julius and
hear from her half a century
Ethel Rosenberg were convicted
later, although she finally
of conspiracy to commit espi-
finds a second cousin her
onage and executed in New York in
own age who agrees to meet on
1953, the Jewish couple have become
camera. (He's a mentsh who offers an
larger-than-life icons.
apology, but the scene has a "What's
To those on the left, the Rosenbergs
the point?" quality.)
are the archetypal victims of the anti-
One gets a similar feeling when Ivy
Communist fervor of the 1950s, rail-
takes her dad and uncle to the New
roaded by the FBI and the judicial
York apartment where they lived in
system, with the full backing of a
the early '50s, and where Julius was
ruthless government.
arrested before their eyes. They stand
Conservatives, on the other hand,
in the kitchen, echoing a famous
see them as traitors who funneled
photo of Ethel at the sink, but the
sophisticated technical secrets to
moment doesn't resonate with us the
the USSR in the crucial postwar
way
it clearly does with the
period and got what they deserved.
Meeropols.
Meanwhile, literary works —
The filmmaker gets points for brav-
such as novelist E.L. Doctorow's
ery and persistence, not least when she
The Book of Daniel and playwright
confronts her father about the classi-
Tony Kushner's Angels in America
fied government documents released
— have drawn inspiration from the
in 1995 that seemed to confirm that
Rosenberg saga and burnished its
Julius was indeed passing information
legacy.
to the Soviets but that Ethel was inno-
Inevitably, the couple's elevation.
cent.
to symbols precludes the
The implication is that the govern-
Rosenbergs from being seen as
ment tried and convict-
ordinary people. And that's the side
ed Ethel of a capital
of Ethel and Julius their thir-
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg
crime in order to pres-
tysomething granddaughter, Ivy
sure her — and Julius
Meeropol, wants to explore.
— into confessing and
In her worthwhile though uneven
naming others.
The best interviewee is
documentary, Heir to an Execution,
We're left with the
Meeropol's father,
Meeropol sets out on a personal jour-
Michael, long an elo-
image of a loving, com-
ney to know and understand her
quent and thoughtful
mitted couple who
antecedents as human beings rather
speaker about his par-
shared political princi-
than as mythic representations.
ples and would not
ents. He's clearly at'
Meeropol, of course, recognizes the
turn on each other or
peace with Julius and
average viewer is more interested in
Filmmaker Ivy Meeropol
their acquaintances —
Ethel and what they did
the weightier aspects of the Rosenberg
even if it meant their
or didn't do, and he
case than in family scrapbooks. So she
observes Ivy's pursuit with pride and
children suffered.
uses a slew of archival footage in a
bemusement.
Heir to an Execution is both a contri-
mostly deft, occasionally awkward
bution
to the historical record and an
Alas,
Ivy's
forays
into
family
history
attempt to weave together the private
provide a series of uncomfortable
admirable effort to breathe fresh life
and historical.
home-movie moments. As she drives
into a 50-year-old story. As a family
Heir to an Execution: A Grand-
past the house where David Greenglass story, though, it doesn't have the emo-
daughter's Story, which debuted in
lives — he's the tragic, conflicted fig-
tional impact it so clearly intends. ❑
competition at the Sundance Film
ure who put the Feds on to his sister
Festival in January, premieres June 14
Ethel and brother-in-law Julius (and
on HBO.
Heir to an Execution:
served
a 10-year sentence himself) —
The film doesn't provide a detailed
A Granddaughter's Story
Ivy tears up, horrified by the innocu-
analysis of either the early '50s or the
premieres 8 p.m. Monday,
ous homogeneity of his bungalow.
Rosenbergs' trial, presuming a certain
June
14, on HBO.
Meeropol contacts relatives who dis-
amount of knowledge on the viewer's
tanced themselves from the
part. We glean that numerous idealis-

I

Thousands of Iranians are signing
up. For what? To be suicide
bombers. To carry out attacks
against the United States, against
Israel, against Salman Rushdie.
Should we worry? Maybe, says
Micah Halpern; but probably
not. Micah Halpern explains in
his column on www.jewish.com .

) Long Time Coining

Birth and adoption, bar and bat
mitzvah, marriage and divorce,
death and mourning — each sig-
nificant event in the life of a Jew
has at least one handbook devot-
ed to the subject. It was only a
matter of time that pregnancy
would join the Jewish lifecycle hit
parade. Read the review of "The
Jewish Pregnancy Book"
on www.jewish.com

dotCOM SURVEY

Do you think the U.S.
mail should have been
delivered Friday, June 11,
the day of the funeral for
former President Reagan?

To answer, click on

www.jewish.com

Last week's jewish.com
survey question asked:

Has the U.S. presidental
election campaign to
date swayed your
choice in Noverheber?

25 percent said yes
75 percent said no

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6 /1 1

2004

43

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