My Tisha Bav reading this year. The first half is the author's personal account of his experiences in the war and how he managed to survive. The seconMy Tisha Bav reading this year. The first half is the author's personal account of his experiences in the war and how he managed to survive. The second half is an alphabetical listing of profiles of Jewish communities in Lithuania and what they were like- and how they were wiped out during the holocaust. The way he writes it really gives you a scope to feel a sense of how immense was the loss and yet reminds you of the existence of each individual and their uniqueness....more
A description of the events of the murders in the har nof shul. It's really a collection of essays, recollections of people who knew the victims, andA description of the events of the murders in the har nof shul. It's really a collection of essays, recollections of people who knew the victims, and eulogies reprinted. Helps you get a better sense of the events and what the victims were like, and what lessons we can learn from these humble yet extraordinary individuals who were taken from us too soon....more
This was actually incredibly inspiring. I was hesitant at first but the author's voice won me over- Aharon Margalit is someone I wanted to root for anThis was actually incredibly inspiring. I was hesitant at first but the author's voice won me over- Aharon Margalit is someone I wanted to root for and learn from and think in a new way about life.
As a young child spending five years almost entirely immobilized and alone, rather than letting it defeat him, Aharon learned to live in his imagination and became stronger in ways you wouldn't think possible. After miserable years of this constrained existence, thanks to the tears and prayers and struggles of his devoted mother, he defies the odds and regains mobility and returns home (one of 3 survivors, out of the 2000 in Israel struck with polio of that degree of severity! I had no idea how badly the polio epidemic struck Israel, indeed I had no idea it had at all.)
He still faces harsh bullying, verbal and physical, a severe stuttering problem that keeps him cut off from the world, but he beats all the odds time after time and goes through incredible struggles with grit and persistence. The speech therapist is harsh and kind of a jerk- doesn't stop him from going back again because he is determined to heal. His brother dies in army service in the war of Attrition- he and his family are deeply devastated, but he still joins the army in a dangerous position in the Yom Kippur war even though his polio left him with an exemption but he wants to prove to himself that he can defend his country. (Disliked the cop-out disclaimer pandering to chareidim who think army service is automatically evil- don't apologize for a decision you are not ashamed of, and clearly think was the right thing to do. I wonder if it was the same in the hebrew and english editions of this book.)
In the end, Margalit gets married, recovers to the point were he can live a basically normal life and raises a beautiful family- only to be struck again by disaster- cancer. not once but three times.
And still he fights! Like a crazy man. (I mean actually crazy, I kept shaking my head as I read, like, who DOES this stuff. It was intense!)
I learned something new about the meaning of faith, hope, and strength. Margalit balances trust in God with fighting for his life with all his efforts and strength. This is the dichotomy that we debate in philosophy classes yet this man literally lives it and shows you how it works in practice. The Jewish concept of "bitachon" makes a lot more sense to me now.
This book didn't resolve for me another question I've been grappling with, but rather threw it into sharper relief: Judaism's view on obedience to rabbinic authorities and how deeply that extends into our lives. People who profess to live entirely in accordance with the dictates of our sages sometimes are deluding themselves by their lack of consideration to logical inconsistencies in their own choices of when to listen to who, a truth I've started to pick up on (thanks a whole lot, Rabbi Slifkin's blog) and Margalit's father is a prime example. He will stick to his traditions NO MATTER WHAT in many cases (sending his son to a random chassidish school because the rebbe said so! without thinking about if it fits his son's needs!?) and yet he is active in the frum-moshavnik political party for the Knesset elections- against the strictures of the Satmar rebbe who he otherwise follows (and similar examples). He picks and chooses, clearly, but talks as if his traditions are unchanging. He's not alone in that, in the Jewish world, and I remain confused about the topic. I have Daniel Eidenson's Daas Torah: Source Book I guess I should actually try reading it.
Also I learned about the history of what life was like in Israel in the early scarcity years in small town settlements (stupid government throwing a bunch of new Morrocan immigrants who resent Ashkenazi dominance into a farming setttlement of Hungarian Holocaust survivors with no support or mediation systems between the parties...how did you think that was going to go).
Read this book. Appreciate faith. Appreciate persistence and people who overcome their life obstacles. Appreciate life....more
my rating is a little unfair to the book, it's really quite well done, but in general I read really fast, so it went by too quickly for me to feel likmy rating is a little unfair to the book, it's really quite well done, but in general I read really fast, so it went by too quickly for me to feel like it had enough content, it should have included more letters and more subplots. another thing, my bar for liking graphic novels is really high, my default is to dislike them and this one didn't overcome that tendency of mine. if you like graphic novels and early American Jewish history and advice columnists and imaginary ghosts of the past, you will love this book and it is very well done for what it is trying to do. I'm not sure how many people fit into that rather specific box. unfortunately those are really not my thing although I did like the history aspect of it.
Glad I read it but probably won't re-read... I am also not sure if I would like to read more of the original bintel letters in any of the anthologies that have been collected of them. it's too hard to read all these painful expressions of grief and loss and longing and have no way to find out what happened to the people in the end....more
After long silence is a good title for this book, which deals with the silences of a family and the toll it takes on their relationships when the secrAfter long silence is a good title for this book, which deals with the silences of a family and the toll it takes on their relationships when the secrets finally come out into the light. It's funny to think how much sooner they would have all learned the truth if only they talked to each other! Helen's aunt had told her cousin Renzo a completely different family origin story than her mother had told her. both were short of course since they didn't want to talk about it much but the few things they did reveal were complete opposites. But Helen didn't catch it because no one talked about the past with each other, it was all about the silence. Her writing style annoyed me a little, she jumped around between characters and time periods at a sometimes dizzying speed. And she would launch on these weird interruptions about the scenery way too often, and I was like, hello, let's move on, what happened next, I don't care about the puddles of sunlight spilling onto the red tulips and pink daisies with petals like a lady's dresses or whatever terrible similes she used constantly, for half a page. I don't remember the last time I read so many terrible similes and metaphors. but sometimes she would write very good, powerful sentences that made me pause and read them again very impressed or moved by the ideas she was expressing. So, mixed rating. I read this right after reading The Nazi Officer's Wife. Good combination to read together, I recommend it. it was interesting to compare and contrast the characters, their choices, even their narration styles and respective trustworthiness. Also today is Yom HaShoa so it was a very timely read....more
difficult book. certainly well written and moving. but it raised some really difficult ethical questions and complex value judgements. I'm still not sdifficult book. certainly well written and moving. but it raised some really difficult ethical questions and complex value judgements. I'm still not sure if I trust Edith as a narrator, this book brought me back to high school English class when I had to write a paper about an unreliable narrator. I was left with a lot of questions. why did she really marry Werner? was it the right thing to do? should she have had a baby? was it truly necessary to leave the little orphan girl behind (Gretel I think her name was) why take her in the first place if that's how you'll treat her? And more philosophical questions too, like, what is suffering, really? what is justified in the name of survival? did she sell her soul to save her life? how can any of us today truly judge her, anyway? also Pepi is a bad person but only sort of... was he a dutiful son doing his best despite being manipulated by a control freak histrionic mother...or a weak wimp who betrayed his love by not saving her and also preventing her from leaving the country and saving herself? (so romantic though, how he still had that picture on his desk in 1977, as the caption on the picture in the center of the book informed the reader. I couldn't help but be impressed despite my dislike for him at that point in the book.) And Werner- unbalanced and insane anti-semite or brave hero saving a Jewish life under the Nazi regime at risk to himself (his admiration and affection for his Jewish step uncle possibly the reason for his tolerance?) I am left with many questions and doubts and moral quandaries....more