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Half-Jew: A Daughter's Search For Her Family's Buried Past Hardcover – May 5, 2000


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; First Edition edition (May 5, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 068483250X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684832500
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,814,007 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this poignant mix of family history and memoir, journalist Jacoby (Wild Justice) unravels the thick fabric of lies that her father, Robert, wove around his past. Raised in a happy Catholic home, Jacoby was in her early 20s when she learned that Robert had been born a Jew. Her surprise intensified when she found out that Robert's brother and sister had also married Catholics and converted. What, she wondered, had caused such a dramatic rupture in the family's history? What emerges from Jacoby's research is not only an account of family estrangement and denial but a social history of anti-Semitism and Jewish acculturation in the U.S. over the last century and a half, beginning with the arrival of the author's German-Jewish great-grandfather in the mid 19th century. Jacoby presents some finely crafted portraits: her grandfather Oswald, a brilliant young lawyer whose career dissolved under the pressure of a gambling addiction; Edith, Oswald's chilly, critical wife; Oswald's brother, Harold, a noted astronomer at Columbia University; Uncle Ozzie, Robert's brother, an admittedly self-centered world-class bridge champion; and Robert himself, a loving father who nevertheless almost ruined his family with his own gambling problem. Jacoby tells how Robert was taunted as a "baby Jew-boy" during his years in a Brooklyn public school and of the two years he spent at Dartmouth at a time when the admissions director believed the college had too many of "the chosen and the heathen." Jacoby's intelligent and compassionate probing extends to her own prolonged process of learning to accept herself as a "half-Jew." This is a moving tribute to her father and a vivid portrait of one family's attempt to find its place in America. Agents, Georges and Anne Borchardt. (May)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

A noted journalist uncovers her Jewish roots.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 6, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This was an amazing book. I am always interested in books about Jews who convert or who move away from Judaism because my parents, Holocaust survivors, subliminally encouraged assimilation and intermarriage among their children, although not conversion. Ms. Jacoby's analysis of all topics, no matter how brutally honest she had to be, was incredible to read. This book comes out of her journalism background and yet it doesn't read like journalism, it reads like an amazing journey...All in all, I learned much from this book. I learned a history of the German Jewish immigrants that I had never heard before, the history of our own country's anti-semitism, and about pre-Vatican II Catholicism, among other topics. The book put a personal stamp on these topics; it's impossible for me now to judge the "Aunt Edith's" for converting, not when the conversion came out of genuine faith. The book also inspires me to read more about the Holocaust, which I have avoided due to my parents' experiences. Although Ms. Jacoby says you can't stop being a Jew, which I believe, I also believe that if enough generations intermarry, their Jewishness will eventually disappear and they will hide successfully. Maybe not from Nuremberg Laws, but certainly within the pluralism of American society.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on September 7, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Half-Jew is Susan Jacoby's impressive, highly recommended family history in which she shares a meticulous historical research into the suppressed Judaic roots of her personal genealogy. In these pages, Susan writes with compassion, emotional insight, and candor about her father (who was a Roman Catholic convert) and her own search for ancestral roots that led her to the discovery of her German Jewish grand-grandfather who arrived in American in 1849, her tormented grandfather who built a brilliant legal career in the early 1900s only to gamble it away and die a cocaine addiction in 1941, of her great-uncle Harold, a distinguished astronomy whose map of the constellations still shines up on the ceiling of New York's Grand Central Terminal, and her beloved uncle Oswald Jacoby, a famous bridge champion. Susan also explores the damage inflicted by intimate parental lies, and the rich opportunities for redress when a parent and an adult child face long-buried truths about themselves and who they are.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 26, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Wow! Susan Jacoby has written a fantastic account of her childhood and her family's history. She thoroughly documents her emotions, thoughts, and historical facts. The reader only wants to support her and discover intrinsic truths regarding their own heritage. A good book for people of all religious backgrounds.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 20, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Susan Jacoby investigates and explores her family's past, particularly her father's German-Jewish ancestry. The first Jacoby came to the United States in 1849. Over time, members of the family came to deny their Jewish identity. Jacoby's father and his two siblings married Catholics. Her father converted to Catholocism and Jacoby was raised as a Catholic, with no knowledge of her father's Jewish background. Jacoby clearly had a precocious, inquiring mind even as a young child, and the book she has written is honest, perceptive, and compassionate. Her quest of discovery extends to related issues, such as, restricted Jewish enrollment in elite universities in the 1920s, elementary education in parochial schools, and is, at all times, fascinating, and often refreshingly out-spoken. This is one of the best of the many books I've read about hidden pasts.
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