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Memoirs of a Jewish Extremist: An American Story Hardcover – November, 1995

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Little Brown & Co (T); lst ed edition (November 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316498602
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316498609
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #418,455 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

In this absorbing memoir, Halevi, a writer for the Jerusalem Report, traces his life and involvement in right-wing Jewish political movements. The son of Holocaust survivors, Halevi grew up in a modern Orthodox family in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn. He first embraced the right-wing Zionist revisionism of BETAR, with its emphasis on Jewish military training and self-defense. The most compelling portion of his book describes his involvement with the Jewish Defense League (JDL) and its controversial leader, the late Meir Kahane. Here the author outlines themes such as the plight of Soviet Jews and the influence of the Six Day War on many Jewish young men and their involvement with Jewish identity politics. The memoir concludes with Halevi's struggle to find a political definition for his life after the collapse of the JDL. Recommended for popular collections.?Mark Weber, Kent State Univ., Lib., Ohio
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Stories of personal growth redeeming someone from hatred are not rare--Malcolm X's autobiography is a notable example--but Klein Halevi's is unique. The son of a Holocaust survivor, he grew up in Brooklyn and spent his young adulthood obsessed with the Holocaust. The fear that the Gentile world was completely hostile drove him into the company of such underground groups as the Jewish Defense League. Much of his recollection chronicles inadvertently comic escapades while harassing Soviet diplomats in the 1960s and 1970s. Eventually, he married a lapsed Episcopalian who converted to Judaism, they moved to Israel, and he became an advocate of Jewish-Christian reconciliation. Besides providing a rare glimpse into the insular world of small-time firebrands like Meir Kahane and his disciples, Klein Halevi's narrative is quite moving. The account of his relationship with his father, his development as a journalist, and his recent visit to Holocaust-scarred Eastern Europe is compounded of a fine mixture of humor and pathos. One wonders who will portray Klein Halevi in the inevitable film treatment. Aaron Cohen

More About the Author

Yossi Klein Halevi is an author, thinker and commentator on Jewish and Israeli affairs. His most recent book, Like Dreamers, took the top prize in the 2013 National Jewish Book Awards.

A frequent contributor to the op-ed pages of leading newspapers and magazines, he is a contributing editor to The New Republic and a research fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem.

Yossi is active in reconciliation efforts between Muslims and Jews and serves as Chairman of Open House, an Arab-Jewish coexistence center in the town of Ramle, near Tel Aviv.

His newest book is Like Dreamers: The Israeli Paratroopers Who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation (Harper/Collins, 2013).

His first book, Memoirs of a Jewish Extremist, was published in 1995. In 2001, he published, At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden: A Jew's Search for God with Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Helene Hoffman on December 24, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This is a most unique subject matter - I know no other book on it - about a former member of the inner circle of the JDL (Jewish Defense League). On that note, HaLevi offers invaluable information about why he (and others) joined, and their activities. Most poignant is their work on behalf of the Jews in (what was then) the Soviet Union; Halevi and his "friends" not only pulled guerilla theatre-type stunts on traditional Jewish organizations here in the U.S., "commanding" them to help these forgotten Jews, but the JDL also travelled to the Soviet Union to try to "free" the Soviet Jews (it didn't work, however). The other most compelling piece in his book is his writing about being a child of Holocaust Survivors - his father, a Hungarian Jew, hid in the woods for years during WWII and was saved by a kind non-Jew. As my parents are also Holocaust Survivors, I can attest that HaLevi writes incredibly well on his background. He explains his own personal story, how he came to hate Gentiles, and felt that another Holocaust was inevitable. However, when he fell in love with a non-Jewish woman, this part of his life was drastically altered. A remarkable book; you won't find another one like it.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By D. Hodges on August 1, 2009
Format: Hardcover
In this memoir, Yossi Klein Halevi, an American Jew whose father was a Holocaust survivor, grows up in New York in an Orthodox neighborhood and tries to make sense of the world that his father left behind. After the Nazis came to his town, his father hid in a hole for the duration of the war and when it finished, immigrated to America. But whereas other survivors were shattered or in denial, Halevi's father was angry -- angry at the Nazis, angry at American Jewry for their quiescence, and angry at the secular and religious Jews who trusted their neighbors and dismissed Zionism as a fool's errand, even as they went to their deaths. Ever his father's son, Halevi makes those experiences his own and makes it his goal to prevent what happened to his father's neighbors from happening again.

Though Halevi grows up in an Orthodox neighborhood and knows their explanations for the Holocaust (the descendants of Jacob and Esau fighting once more; the new generation rising again to destroy the Jews from the time of Haman), he has little use for his neighbors, who he sees as desperately clinging to the shattered world of Eastern European Jewry and as insular and weak as before the Holocaust. Accordingly, rather than be part of their world, he rebels against it, first by separation from the non-Jewish world, then by student activism for the plight of Soviet Jewry, and finally by joining Meir Kahane's Jewish Defense League. Always in his mind are the Holocaust and his sense that he understands its lessons and is uniquely suited to apply them.

The book honestly grapples with the seductive demagoguery of Kahane and Halevi's journey from a fire-breathing activist to cynic and eventual thug.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By David Kachuck on March 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I was fortunate to hear and meet Yossi at a talk in St Louis. I was very impressed with his insight and realism combined with passion for Jewish Life. Since I grew up in Brooklyn and spent a year in Israel, his adventures parallel my own although I was much lower key than Yossi. I am not an extremist. So his book takes me the extra step. This is a very valuable book for anyone who is interested in the Jewish experience.
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6 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 4, 2001
Format: Hardcover
one of the best books i hav ever read.touching and easy to relait to.very good.
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