MEMOIRS OF A JEWISH EXTREMIST: An American Story by Yossi Klein Halevi


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Jerusalem Report contributor Halevy's engrossing account of his tenure among the late Rabbi Meir Kahane's radical right-wing demimonde and his eventual reemergence into respectability. On the surface, this is similar to many experiences of growing up in the 1960s: A young idealist seeks out ever more extreme ways to attract attention to his causes. But Halevy was no Weatherman or Black Panther. He was a member of the Jewish Defense League, subversive defenders of the Jewish people against anti-Semitism. Halevy's story highlights an unusual convergence of historical moments: post-Holocaust America meets the counterculture. He describes with fascinating insight his childhood in Brooklyn's Borough Park, an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood, as the son of a Holocaust survivor who had lived in a hole in the woods as the rest of his town was sent to the death camps. Halevy's father trained his son to be a survivor as well--by not conforming, not becoming comfortable among the goyim (non-Jews), by supporting Israel. The young Halevy internalized these lessons. He joined a militant Zionist youth group while still in grade school and began working to free Soviet Jewry when he was 12. He was soon drawn to Kahane's JDL, which was making headlines with its violent guerrilla tactics. A somewhat reluctant follower of the charismatic but insane Kahane, Halevy never participated in terrorist acts; his moment of glory was masterminding a plan to get himself and other Americans arrested in Russia, to bring media attention to the plight of Soviet Jews. When the cause was adopted by the Jewish establishment, Halevy finally liberated himself from both the JDL and his Manichean worldview, getting beyond the Holocaust and on with his life. A profound look at the child of a Holocaust survivor burdened with the knowledge that his very existence is a miracle and the need to prove that the miracle wasn't squandered on him.

Pub Date: Nov. 6th, 1995
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: "Little, Brown"