Tag Archives: Exodus

Once We Were Slaves: The Extraordinary Journey of a Multi-Racial Jewish Family Book Review

The Passover story and the Exodus of the Hebrews from slavery to freedom is a potent one. In one way or another, we can all relate to the idea of breaking free from whatever is holding us back.

Laura Arnold Leibman‘s new book, Once We Were Slaves: The Extraordinary Journey of a Multi-Racial Jewish Family was published back in August. The book traces the ancestry of Blanche Moses. Moses, whose Jewish-American ancestry goes back to the Revolutionary War, tells the story of her biracial ancestors. Both Jewish (mostly Sephardic with a handful of Ashkenazi) and black, her ancestors had to navigate a world in which they could be doubly ostracized while passing as Caucasian. Living in such different places as New York City, London, and the West Indies, it was akin to a game of chess, in which every move must be calculated before proceeding.

I wanted to like this book. The subject is one that is certainly of interest to me. The problem is that it is slow to read and void of the excitement that I should have had while answering the question that the book asks. While I appreciated this deep dive into a part of Jewish history that is not always in the spotlight, the promises laid out by the author are not met.

Do I recommend it? Not really.

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History And Movies

We all remember the history books from our school days. The text was often bland, flat and devoid of the real story behind the facts.

Sometimes we learn more about our history not from a school history book, but from a fictionalized telling of that history.

Two movies are coming out soon that will bring history to life.

The upcoming movie Race (2016) is about Jesse Owens. In 1936, Jesse Owens, an African-American won four Olympic medals for track and field. The games were held in Nazi controlled Germany. He is still remembered today as one of the greatest athletes in Track and Field.

The other movie is Trumbo (2015). Dalton Trumbo was one most respected writers in the 1940’s. Then he was accused of being a communist. Blacklisted because of the accusation, he wrote under a pen name. Two of his films that he wrote while he was blacklisted, Exodus and Spartacus, are still remembered today as timeless classics.

Whether or not these films will be successful, only time will tell. But if the audience learns something, regardless of the box office receipts, then these films have succeeded.

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Exodus Book Review

A major historical event, some may argue,  is best told by those who lived through it.

Exodus, by Leon Uris, is one of the best selling novels of all time.

Exodus is the story of the birth of the modern state of Israel, told through the eyes of several different characters. The main characters are Ari Ben Canaan and Kitty Fremont. Ari is son of Barak Ben Canaan and his wife, Sarah. Barak survived a pogrom as a boy where his father was killed.  Avenging his father’s death, Barak killed the man who was responsible for starting the pogrom.  Fearing for his life and his brother’s life, Barak and his brother escaped Eastern Europe and made their way to what was then Palestine.  Kitty Fremont is the widow of an American serviceman who was killed in World War II. Wanting to help out the refugees and survivors from Nazi Europe, Kitty arrives in Palestine as a nurse. She and Ari slowly fall in love, but events surrounding them may pull them apart for good.

I’ve heard about this book, but this is the first time I have ever read it.   What struck me about this book, was the historical detail of struggle to obtain peace and security in pre-1948 Israel. Even when I know much of the history, to experience it from a personal perspective hit home in a way that floored me as a reader.

I recommend it.

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The Times Are A Changing-Hollywood Is Not

Bob Dylan once wrote that the times are changing.

While the times are constantly changing, Hollywood seems stuck in the film stone age.

A new film adaptation of the Exodus will be premiering in December. Exodus: G0ds and Kings stars Christian Bale as Moses and Joel Edgerton as Rhamses.

Am I the only one who thinks Hollywood is still colorblind? Joel Edgerton and Christian Bale are good actors, but they are Caucasian. Personally, I don’t think it would have hurt to have a more diversified cast. Prince of Egypt, even though it was an animated film, the characters were not all Caucasian.

I think we can give some allowances for Cleopatra and The Ten Commandments.

But that was then and this is now. It’s time to expand Hollywood’s horizons and let us see more diverse actors on screen.

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Exodus: Lost and Found

In 2009, Deborah Feldman was a wife and mother living in the insular ultra-religious Jewish Satmar  community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  Feeling trapped, she took her young son and left the community, her family and her husband for a new life.

Her memoir, Exodus , a sequel to her previous memoir, follows Ms. Feldman’s journey as she travels to previously unknown parts of the United States and Europe. In Europe, she travels to birth places of her Holocaust survivor grandparents while in the company of several men, one of whom is a grandson of a Nazi.

I haven’t yet read Unorthodox, so I can only go by Exodus. I suspect that Ms. Feldman’s journey is no different than anyone whose who raised in an insular ultra religious community and makes the choice to leave their family and community. I did enjoy the book, but I would have liked to see a balance of her rebellion from her roots and her acceptance of her roots.

Do I recommend this book? Maybe, but only if you have read her previous memoir.

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