Book Review:

Who is Larry Tye and Why is He Saying Such Nice Things?

by Joseph Rosenberg
Home Lands--Portraits of the New Jewish Diaspora

By Larry Tye
303 pages; Henry Holt and Company 2001

Larry Tye, a Boston Globe journalist, has written a book about his fellow Jews in the dawn of the 21st century. Highlighting developments in Jewish communities as diverse as Dusseldorf, Germany; Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine; Boston; Buenos Aires; Dublin; Paris and Atlanta, Tye celebrates the positive trends in modern Jewish life. Set against a climate of growing opposition to terrorism and anti-semitism, and increasing assimilation, Tye shows a rebirth of interest in Judaism in uncomplicated prose.

Only in his Epilogue set in Israel are there hints of the dividing forces in Jewish life, the desire to live in comfort in one's own country and the desire to live in Israel. Tye shows that Jews continue their tradition of making themselves a home and community in any corner of this planet. He also shows the wariness of two thousand years of Jewish angst--waiting for the other shoe to drop in an Inquisition, Pogram or Holocaust. This book shows Jewish communities still divided over modes of worship and origin, i.e. in Eastern Europe, Germany, Iberia; but it also shows a blurring of the lines, especially in Boston and Atlanta. Tye concludes that intermarriage may have led to fewer Jew--but also to Jews who are more grounded in and interested in studying their fate.

On a recent visit to Baltimoreís Temple Beth Israel, I observed the author preaching, in a low- key way, this message of unity and hope. Later we talked of a post-9/11 world and the small "j" jewish reaction to the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Tye pointed out that the Jewish community, just like other communities, were divided about what course the US and Israel should take. Now, in a time of overheated patriotism, Jews, Israelis and indeed Americans in general have been restrained--almost quiet--in their opposition to current policies towards terrorists and Palestinians.

In an increasingly fragmented society, Tye shows that Jews are emerging from the emotional scars of the Holocaust to move on with their lives, whether by reconfiguring their relationship with Israel, exploring the limits of zionism, or examining their roles as citizens of their country. The key element, as always, is survival.

The prayer is for a peaceful "next year in Jerusalem". We have had enough of "Kaddish," or mourning.


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This story was published on April 4, 2002.