Category Archives: History

It Could Happen Here: Why America Is Tipping from Hate to the Unthinkable – And How We Can Stop It Book Review

For more than 200 years, Americans have taken comfort in that our democratic nation was solid. Our beliefs and freedoms would be with us forever. Until recently, I think most of us had this perspective. The last few years have proven that in reality, we are on extremely shaky ground.

It Could Happen Here: Why America Is Tipping from Hate to the Unthinkable – And How We Can Stop It, by ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, was published earlier this month. The grandson of a Holocaust survivor, he knows all too well what happens when hate consumes a nation. In the book, he calls out antisemitism, racism, and hatred of all kinds. His warning is loud and clear for anyone who is willing to listen: we are at a tipping point. Unless we do something when there is still time, this country that we know and love will be nothing but a shell of its former self.

Greenblatt could have offered platitudes or pie in the sky ideas. Instead, he offers real-world ideas that are applicable to anyone who has felt ostracized because of who they are. This is a book that we should all be reading and applying to our everyday lives. It is possible to undo the damage. We just need the courage, the backbone, and the balls to do what needs to be done.

Do I recommend it?

Absolutely.

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The 49th Anniversary of Roe V. Wade Could be It’s Last

The anniversary of any legislation that enfranchises a formerly disenfranchised people should be one of remembrance and respect.

Yesterday was the 49th anniversary of Roe V. Wade. If things go a certain way, there is a good chance that it would be a thing of the past. The choice of whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term and care for the child that comes out of that pregnancy is not the decision of the government. It is a decision that is deeply personal. The only people concerned are the ones that have a hand in making that decision.

If Roe is either completely overturned or is rendered toothless, the potential of a patchwork of state laws is very real. Depending on where the pregnant person lives and the income they bring in, they could at best have access to a safe abortion or at worst use the coathanger method of ending the pregnancy. If the pregnant person survives, the physical repercussions on their body does not fade quickly or easily.

We all know that having children is a blessing. But it is also a responsibility that I think some pro-life people conveniently forget. Not every child is blessed to have parents who are able to emotionally and financially support them.

At the end of the day, Roe is about a pregnant person (a woman to be specific) deciding their own destiny. Unfortunately, we live in a world in which some believe that a woman either does not have the right to or is unable to draw her own conclusions. For that reason alone, the fight for Roe must continue on.

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The Betrayal of Anne Frank: A Cold Case Investigation Book Review

The Diary of Anne Frank has been read by millions of readers since it was published in 1947. The ending is both hopeful and devastating. The one question that still leaves us hanging after 70+ years, is who was responsible for the betrayal of the residents of the Annex?

The Betrayal of Anne Frank: A Cold Case Investigation, by Rosemary Sullivan, was published this month. The book follows the multi-year search led by FBI investigator Vincent Pankoke to answer the question once and for all. Using modern cold case investigative methodologies and working with a team of historians and other experts, no detail is left to the wind. Every clue is followed to the bitter end, leading to a suspect that if proven to be the one, has gone undetected for nearly a century.

I know it is only January, but I can already see this book topping the list of best books of 2022. It is a heart-pounding thriller that kept me hooked until the final page. As we got closer to the end, I wanted to know who was responsible. If nothing else, it is a reminder that getting justice is still possible, even when those directly affected are no longer with us. When it closed for the last time, I knew that there was a light in the darkness. Perhaps history will not repeat itself and we will finally learn the lessons of diversity and respect.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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The Power of the Dog Movie Review

Toxic masculinity represents a time in human history in which men were expected to be men. There was little room for feelings or expressing themselves in an open or healthy manner.

The 2021 Netflix film, The Power of the Dog, is based on the book of the same name by Thomas Savage. In Montana in 1925, brothers Phil and George Burbank (Benedict Cumberbatch and Jesse Plemons) have taken over the running of the family ranch. Phil is a man’s man in every sense of the word, George is considerate and emotionally open.

On the road to the market, they eat at a restaurant owned by Rose Gordon (Kirsten Dunst) and her teenage son Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee). Rose is a widow who has been forced to change her life to support herself and Peter after the abrupt passing of her late husband. Phil’s callous and cruel jokes drive both mother and son to tears. George tries to make up for his brother’s actions, which turns into a marriage proposal. When Rose and Peter enter Phil’s orbit as his sister-in-law and nephew, this new reality turns his world upside down. Taking the boy under his wing, Phil swings between mocking Peter and teaching him how to run a ranch.

The question is, has Phil started to change, or is this a ploy to continue his brutish ways?

This is supposed to be one of the best movies of 2021. Whatever it is that made this film special, I don’t see it.

It has nothing to do with the performers or the story itself. Director and co-screenwriter Jane Campion does what she does best. Cumberbatch once again proves that he is one of the most versatile actors in the business. Plemmons and Dunst are well cast for their roles and the perfect ying to Cumerbatch’s yang. Smit-McPhee is a young actor who solely based on his one role, has a bright future. The problem is that I was on the verge of being bored and wondering why I should care about these characters.

Do I recommend it? Not really.

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My Survival: A Girl on Schindler’s List: A Girl on Schindler’s List Book Review

We all know that The Holocaust happened. Six million Jews and millions of others were persecuted, tortured, and murdered simply because of who they were. Yet, there are still some who claim that it is a myth or that the numbers of victims are not what they claim to be. The only way to counter these lies is via the fact and the first-hand accounts of survivors, whose numbers are dwindling as time goes on.

My Survival: A Girl on Schindler’s List: A Girl on Schindler’s List, by Rena Finder and Joshua M. Greene, was published in 2019. Mrs. Finder had a normal childhood until the age of 11, when she, along with her family and all other Jewish families in the area, were confined to the Krakow ghetto. After they were forced out of the ghetto, they were put on trains to Auschwitz. It looked like all was lost, until an unlikely savior came along. Oskar Schindler was a businessman who was known for crossing moral lines that others would never even consider getting close to. But he was also responsible for saving the lives of Rena, her mother, and many others. In total, over 1000 people were alive at the end of World War II due to his efforts.

I really enjoyed this book. It is age-appropriate for young readers while telling Mrs. Finder’s story in heartbreaking detail. In speaking directly to the audience from one child to another, the narrative hits home how important it is that we respect another’s differences, even we disagree with them. Only then, will the souls of the millions who were murdered be at peace and we will have finally learned from the past.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Happy Heavenly Birthday, Betty White

To say that the death of Betty White a few weeks ago was devastating is an understatement. A legend by every sense of the word, she entertained generations of audiences. I could go on, but I will let Ms. White’s work and legacy speak for themselves.

Happy Heavenly Birthday, Betty White.

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The Only Way to Honor MLK is to Continue on the Path He Started

These days, it’s easy to reference Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. His “I Have a Dream” speech is iconic and universal.

The problem, as I see it, is that there are too many today who give lip service to his legacy. Specifically to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. On paper, some (ahem, Republicans) will state emphatically that they are for voting rights and protecting the right to vote. In reality, they are constricting the access to the polls for certain populations, knowing that these groups have by a wide margin, have supported their opponents.

When the Supreme Court agreed via Shelby County v. Holder that two sections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were unconstitutional, it opened the door to the dangerous situation that our nation is presently in. The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021 would not only strengthen its predecessor but would also hopefully prevent another Shelby County vs. Holder. The issue is that this nation and this Congress is too fractured to protect the ideals that we claim to hold near and dear.

The only way to honor Dr. King’s legacy and memory is to continue where he left off. Though the ground that has been gained is tremendous, the reality is that there are many battles ahead of us.

P.S. Dr. King was also outspoken about antisemitism, a fact that I wish that was not lost to history.

“When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking anti-Semitism.”

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Best New TV Shows of 2021

*I apologize for the delay in posting. I should have written this before New Year’s Eve.

  1. Loki: Tom Hiddleston shines once more as Loki, the complicated immortal who has become much more than the standard antagonist. Forced into new circumstances, he goes on a journey that forever changes him.
  2. The Wonder Years: This reboot of the beloved 1980’s/1990’s series is just as poignant as its predecessor. The choice of making the main character and his family African-American only adds to its relevancy.
  3. Law & Order: Organized Crime: This spinoff of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit starring Chris Meloni as returning Detective Elliot Stabler is a thrilling and spine tingling hour of television.
  4. Ordinary Joe: This new NBC series is the story of one man and three distinct life paths before him. Told concurrently and using different colors for each decision, is is a reminder of how one choice can affect the rest of our lives.
  5. Impeachment: American Crime Story: The latest chapter of this long running F/X series focuses on the affair between Monica Lewinsky (Beanie Feldstein) and former President Clinton (Clive Owen) and the impeachment trial that followed. Instead of focusing on Clinton, the story is about the women who were directly affected by his less than honorable actions.
  6. WandaVision: This first foray by the MCU via DisneyPlus is everything it promised to be. Wanda Maxmioff and Vision (Elisabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany) are living in family sitcom wedded bliss. But it not what it seems to be. With a star making turn by Kathryn Hahn as Agatha Harkness, this series is a must see.
  7. All Creatures Great and Small: Ths unexpectedly Masterpeice/PBS series is adorable and charming. A rookie vetenarian starts his career in rural Yorkshire in the 1930’s and grows in unexpected ways. The new season starts tonight at 9PM ET/ 8PM CT.
  8. Atlantic Crossing: This second Masterpeice/PBS series tells the story of the friendship/supposed affair between Franklin Delanor Roosevelt and Crown Princess Martha of Sweden during World War II. Forgotten for nearly a century, this tale of one woman’s drive to save her nation is truly worth watching.
  9. The Book of Boba Fett: This latest entry into the Star Wars universe from DisneyPlus just premiered on December 29th. Though only two episodes have been released, it is already asking questions that are begging for answers.
  10. Behind Her Eyes: Based on the book by Sarah Pinborough, this six part Netflix series about a married man’s affair with his secretary has a delicious ending that is jaw dropping and completely out of left field. Few endings have wowed me as this did.
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The Nazi’s Granddaughter: How I Discovered My Grandfather was a War Criminal Book Review

We all grow up with tales of the family members who have come before us. The question is, what is fact and what is fiction?

Journalist Silvia Foti grew up with the story that her maternal grandfather, Jonas Noreika, gave his life for his native Lithuania, fighting against the Communists. As her mother breathed her last, Silvia promised that she would write the long-awaited book about Jonas. Her initial research matched her expectations: a martyred war hero whose name and reputation earned him a place of honor. What Silvia did not expect was that he was a member of the Nazi party and ordered the deaths of thousands of his Jewish neighbors.

Her journey is chronicled in The Nazi’s Granddaughter: How I Discovered My Grandfather was a War Criminal, which was published last March.

This is a memoir to savor. Foti brings in both her journalist experience and the want of a granddaughter to find out the truth about the man who partially contributed to her DNA. With the ever-present shadow of antisemitism and the sadly still too present Holocaust denial, this book is the light in the darkness. I wish there were more people like Silvia Foti. By both bringing Jonas’s actions into the spotlight, she is opening the door to making sure that the victims are remembered and there will never be any chance of claiming that the Holocaust never happened.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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RIP Betty White

To be the first in anything is a difficult task. This often applies when one is part of an oppressed group or a minority who is lacking in opportunity.

Betty White passed away yesterday. She was less than a month from her 100th birthday.

She was more than a legendary actress and comedienne who entertained generations of audiences. She was a trailblazer who opened the door to future generations of female performers.

My first introduction to Ms. White was watching The Golden Girls. After my paternal grandfather passed away, my sister and I would spend Saturday nights with our grandmother. The Golden Girls was regular viewing for us. It goes without saying back then that many of the jokes were over my head. To this day, I treasure these memories and laugh out loud during reruns (which are available for viewing on Hulu).

It takes a smart performer to play a dumb character. Ms. White was clearly one smart cookie. Rose Nylund is a woman with a big heart who was not the brightest bulb in the box.

When she hosted Saturday Night Live a few years, it was a landmark episode as far as I am concerned. It was not hard to see the throughline between Ms. White’s career and the women who have followed in her footsteps.

May her memory be a blessing and may she continue to make us laugh. Z”L.

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