Begin’s story was one of high drama. A survivor of the Holocaust (his parents and brother were murdered), he was a terrorist turned statesman, a Zionist who ended up on the losing side of a civil war that he ultimately won by entering the opposition and eventually topping Israel’s seemingly immovable Labor party, thus changing the face of Israeli politics through our own day. A phenomenal orator who could also seem hesitant in public, he moved from being a fugitive hunted by the British to a peace-making prime minister with the confidence to stand up to the President of the United States.
What Israel's critics in the West really object to about the Jewish State, Daniel Gordis asserts, is the fact that Israel is a country consciously devoted to the future of the Jewish people. In a world where differences between cultures, religions and national traditions are either denied or papered over, Israel’s critics insist that no country devoted to a single religion or culture can stay democratic and prosperous. They're wrong. Rather than relentlessly assailing Israel, Gordis argues, the international community should see Israel’s model as key to the future of culture and freedom. Israel provides its citizens with infinitely greater liberty and prosperity than anyone expected, faring better than any other young nation. Given Israel's success, it would make sense for many other countries, from Rwanda to Afghanistan and even Iran, to look at how they've done it. Most importantly, perhaps, rather than seeking to destroy Israel, the Palestinians would serve their own best interests by trying to copy it.
Issues of how Jewish status should be resolved and what it means to be a Jew have hovered over Jewish legal discourse throughout Jewish history. This book focuses on these challenges to the modern Jewish community and its self-understanding by examining a wide array of legal opinions written by nineteenth and twentieth century orthodox rabbis in Europe, the United States and Israel on what constitutes legitimate conversion to Judaism.
The Jewish State must end, say its enemies, from intellectuals like Tony Judt to hate-filled demagogues like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Even average Israelis are wondering if they wouldn't be better off somewhere else. A country which once restored hope to Jews world-over now feels itself slipping. Increasingly, Israelis wonder how much has really been accomplished and whether they ought to persevere. Can Israel win the next military war for survival, whomever the foe?
In 2005, two disengagements loomed large for Gordis. The first was Israel's pullout from Gaza and eviction of the Jewish settlers it could no longer protect. The second separation was a more personal one: his daughter was drafted. With his children marching willingly into a future potentially devoid of peace, Gordis peers deeply into the soul of a country where the more people appear bound together, the more completely they're torn apart.
In the summer of 1998, Daniel Gordis and his family moved to Israel from Los Angeles. Immediately after arriving in Israel, Daniel had started sending out e-mails about his and his family's life to friends and family abroad. These missives passionate, thoughtful, beautifully written, and informative were excerpted in The New York Times Magazine to much acclaim. An edited and finely crafted collection of his original e-mails, Home to Stay tells the story of a family that must cope with the sudden realization that they took their children from a serene and secure neighborhood in Los Angeles to an Israel not at peace but mired in war. This is the chronicle of a loss of innocence. Ultimately, through Gordis' eyes, Israel, with all its beauty, madness, violence, and history, comes to life in a way we've never quite seen before.
In the summer of 1998, Daniel Gordis and his family moved to Israel from Los Angeles. Immediately after arriving in Israel, Daniel had started sending out e-mails about his and his family's life to friends and family abroad. These missives passionate, thoughtful, beautifully written, and informative were excerpted in The New York Times Magazine to much acclaim. An edited and finely crafted collection of his original e-mails, If a Place Can Make You Cry tells the story of a family that must cope with the sudden realization that they took their children from a serene and secure neighborhood in Los Angeles to an Israel not at peace but mired in war. This is the chronicle of a loss of innocence. Ultimately, through Gordis' eyes, Israel, with all its beauty, madness, violence, and history, comes to life in a way we've never quite seen before.
Raising Jewish children in today's secular culture poses unique and serious challenges. How do you instill a positive, vital sense of identity, religion, and heritage without turning off your kids or overwhelming them? How do you explain what it means to be Jewish if you are ambivalent about it yourself? And how do parents who have little or no formal religious training themselves pass on rich, multilayered traditions that may have been missing from their own childhood experiences?
What would happen if the world woke up one day and there were simply no Jews left? Would the world be worse off? In Does the World Need the Jews? Gordis suggests that on the eve of the twenty-first century, one of the chief sources of malaise among contemporary Jews is that many cannot answer this critical question. Though many Jewish community leaders now speak of an American Jewish continuity crisis, Gordis sees a very different problem. The issue, he argues, is not continuity, but identity. American Jews simply have no conception of why they matter or what their tradition stands for. In this sure-to-be-controversial book, Gordis argues that by assimilating so thoroughly into American culture, Jews have lost their distinctive voice. What emerges is a dramatic and compelling agenda for American Jews who want to believe that Judaism still has a reason to survive.
We all wrestle. All human beings in all ages and of all generations struggle with similar questions: What deserves our love, and what should we hate? What should we pursue in the relatively few years we are alive, and what should we shun? What is ultimately valuable, and how do we seek it? What is ultimately devoid of value, and how can we avoid it? How do we need to live, to feel or to dream if we are to make our lives worth something? Jews add another question to the list: Does Judaism have anything relevant to say about these issues anymore?