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I am Jewish – Personal Reflections Inspired by the Last Words of Daniel Pearl

Jewish Lights Publications 2007
ISBN13: 978-1-58023-259-3

In early 2002, Jewish American journalist Daniel Pearl was abducted and subsequently murdered by militant extremists in Pakistan seeking to promote their cause. Nearing the end of his life, and being ‘interrogated’ by his captors, Pearl made the statement "My father’s Jewish, my mother’s Jewish, I’m Jewish!"

The concept of the book, which examines the meaning of the statement ‘I’m Jewish.’, came from an idea by a then 12-year-old girl whose Bat Mitzvah project was to compile a booklet to present to Pearl’s then-unborn son so that ‘he would have an understanding of his heritage and his father’s words would always comfort him.’

Not all Christians are familiar with the Jewish world apart from Biblical content or current news events about Israel, and this book, through comments from a extremely wide and diverse range of Jews, delves deeply into the modern Jewish psyche, not just its religious beliefs or practices, but also identity, ethnicity and culture.

The words of the book’s contributors, some older, some younger, some famous, some learned, some gifted artists, some otherwise unknown, especially outside the United States of America, bring a mosaic picture of all facets of Jewish identity reflecting past, present and future, as well as the picture of a community that exists within wider within communities, national and global.

Many Australians today are interested in their heritage, particularly through the process of genealogy and actively investigate their antecedents. I am Jewish is, in some ways, an extension of that process where names and dates are replaced by an acknowledged common history and reflections on its meanings, yesterday, today and tomorrow.

The scope of these reflections may well surprise a reader, and definitely beg the question as to what a similar project, ‘I am Christian.’ might reveal to us about ourselves.

Reviewed by Rob Sandilands