Monthly Archives: June 2010

Last Night in the Ghetto

I spent last evening in Boro Park at a giant rally for Sholom Rubashkin. It always feels like stepping into another century in that part of Brooklyn but last night with the thousands of black hats thronging around me in a hot wedding hall and the sound of mournful singing every few minutes, it was stifling. The speeches were all in Yiddish and every single one ended with a bout of ecstatic crying.

Outside in the street, a few thousands more milled around and everyone seemed to want the chance to pour their emotions out to a journalist – or get their name in the paper.

By far the funniest comment was from a tall, red-bearded Chasid named Mordy who nearly knocked me over with his passion. “This is just like Dreyfus!” he yelled in his Yiddish accent. “J’accuse!”

The photographer with me was a woman and she wasn’t allowed to enter the hall or, really, stand anywhere near the building. All the women were relegated across the street and then, when the crowd of men grew, pushed even further to the next block. When she tried to venture over toward the men to get a better shot, someone pointed a finger at her.

“Watch your modesty,” he told her. “You know it’s not Crown Heights here!”

Times Op-Ed!

It’s been a very exciting day for me with my op-ed on the Leningrad hijacking appearing in the New York Times this morning. If you’re interested and get a chance, take a look at it in the paper itself. They’ve run it very big with evocative art. It’s one of those moments when you realize what gets lost when papers dissapear. Online it’s just one in a list of articles. In the paper, it’s been curated. Anyway, amazing news for me no matter where you read it.

Soviet Jewelry

My book tells a story that is, of course, a fairly serious one — persecution, redemption and such. But that’s not to say there’s no comedy! When have Jews even done anything without also laughing at themselves? When I mention the book to people of a certain generation, this is often the first association that comes to mind…the late, great Gilda Radner:

Forty Years Ago Today

It’s a fitting day to start this blog. On June 15, 1970, a group of Soviet Jews tried to hijack a plane in Leningrad – and failed. But their attempt and the Soviet overreaction to it ignited the movement that is the subject of my book. Seems like as good an excuse as any to write a first post.

I’m not sure yet exactly what this blog will end up looking like. I guess like most blogs it will have to evolve over time. But I know now that at the very least I want it to be a place for me to highlight and discuss some of my writing – both of the topical, weekly variety, and from the big history book of mine that will be out in September. I also think it will be nice to have a place to describe what it feels like to finally enter the publication phase of what has been a long, long process. I got the contract to write the book back in 2004. The prospect of finally seeing it out in the world is – to say the least – both exhilarating and terrifying.

Please feel free to comment or send me emails. I’ll try to update fairly often.