THE MAKING OF A JEW

A wealthy and powerful philanthropist chronicles his exploits on behalf of world Jewry. This memoir from the chairman of the Seagram Company Ltd. (which owns Putnam) and friend of presidents and prime ministers is better than might have been expected, but it's still of extremely limited appeal; the World Jewish Congress, of which Bronfman has been president since 1981, is far removed from the lives of most American Jews. Despite the title, Bronfman writes more about the making of deals rather than the making of a Jew, and he primarily describes his experiences as president of the WJC. Some of the stories are indeed good, such as the way he twisted a reluctant Lech Walesa's arm to condemn Polish anti-Semitism and used his friendship with former Soviet foreign minister Eduard Shevardnadze to win the freedom of a Jewish prisoner. Also, Bronfman writes with refreshing honesty. Few other Jewish leaders of his stature would write that former Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Shamir ``really pissed off President George Bush'' by building Jewish settlements in the occupied territories ``like there was no tomorrow.'' As far as Bronfman is concerned, there was indeed a tomorrow, represented by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, whom he supported philosophically and monetarily. His descriptions of his horror at Rabin's assassination and his anger at those on Israel's right whom he accuses of creating the atmosphere for it—including current prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu—are by far the most powerful parts of the book: ``When I found out that the killer was a Jew . . . my disgust was overwhelming. . . . I called him a loathsome, arrogant cockroach. He demeaned every Jew in the world with his murderous act.'' An interesting and provocative memoir—but likely to be found so by an extremely small audience, limited primarily not just to Jews, but to those who recognize Bronfman as an important figure in Jewish affairs.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 1996

ISBN: 0-399-14220-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1996

NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

Close Quickview