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Who Will Say Kaddish?: A Search for Jewish Identity in Contemporary Poland (Religion, Theology, and the Holocaust) Hardcover – July, 2002


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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Larry Mayer is a writer and teacher. His articles have appeared in Hadassah and the Boston Phoenix. He is the son of Polish Holocaust survivors and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Gary Gelb's photographs have appeared in Hadassah, Moment, Money, and Smart Money. He lives on Staten Island, New York.

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Product Details

  • Series: Religion, Theology, and the Holocaust
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Syracuse Univ Pr (Sd); 1 edition (July 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0815607199
  • ISBN-13: 978-0815607199
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 8.2 x 10.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,021,038 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Charles M. Wyzanski on January 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This highly original and personal collection of what amounts to 22 separate essays, combined with illustrative photographs, is much more than its subtitle would suggest, "A Search For Jewish identity in contemporary Poland." Mayer gives us humorous, skillfully drawn vignettes, beginning with growing up in New York City with a father and mother and sister who, on the surface, were little different from other immigrant families, except for the telling fact that the parents came not so much for economic betterment but rather to escape a long history of Polish anti-Semitism, culminating in the Nazi occupation and Holocaust.

Mayer knows that, despite his parents' wish to forget the past, nature abhors a vacuum. Armed with passable Polish and the outlines of the history of Poland, he travels to that country in 1995 and tracks down the vestiges of an older Jewish community and the emergence of a newer one. Among his subjects we find less anger or self-pity than a gritty determination to defy the odds and hold onto tradition, even though that tradition must be reinvented and redefined.

I recommend this book without qualification. Mayer may not be a novelist, but his characters draw you in and leave you with the same kind of inchoate satisfaction and understanding that Jumpa Lahiri was able to achieve in exploring her Indian background in The Namesake.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 5, 2004
Format: Hardcover
A breathtaking and poignant look at identity--from the pespective of a new and important vantage point: the 2nd generation Jew who must accept the past and forge a future. Larry Mayer's text unflinchingly takes on all the hard questions and Gary Gelb's photo's bring the reader the means of seeing for oneself.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 27, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is an amazing book that integrates photos and text very successfully. This is not just a photo book, nor just a wonderful story about the miraculous revival of the Jewish community in Poland. The author's personal journey, as the son of two Polish-Jewish Holocaust survivors is just as intriguing and extremely well-written. I appreciate his open-minded approach and ironic self doubt. I was especially moved by the chapters about the old Jewish man living near Tarnow, and the 'Jewish' priest in Lublin. The sections where the author takes us back to his American childhood were also especially charming and enlightening. The black and white photographs are well-placed throughout and add an extra level of understanding to this contemporary narrative. A must for all those interested in Judaism, the Holocaust, and what it means to create an identity in the wake of tragedy.
Also recommended: Helen Epstein--'Where She Came From' Thane Rosenbaum--'Second Hand Smoke' Nathan Englander--'For the Relief of Unbearable Urges'
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sir Lawrence Talbot on February 24, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Larry N. Mayer's portrayal of modern day Jews negotiating the complexities of their history in Poland interweaves his personal quest for understanding the meaning of "Jewishness" in this late age, and yet resists that victim/victor dichotomy that so often accompanies the the sanctified tale of Jewishness in the 20th century. Mayer, the child of two Holocaust survivors, initially sets about his work to tell their tale, to speak the silence, the "absent-presence" of the Holocaust. And yet, throughout his journeys among the Jews in Poland, his text begins to tell a new tale altogether. Indeed, this is a text about individuals; those who are possessed by "a feeling," be that religious, cultural, familial, or otherwise, that living their Jewishness is a life affirming activity. While this "feeling" takes many forms, Mayer's work is not intended to resolve the inconsistencies between them. Rather, this is a book that ultimately celebrates the diversity of Jewishness in the present, and unhinges stereotypical (and even archetypal) representations of what "Jew" means. Among the incredible individual portrayals included in the book are those who continue to testify, in their own ways, to both the Nazi horror, but also to the horrors of living under the Communist regime in Poland. Shmuel Roth, the "last observant Jew east of Krakow" is called "a living relic," by the text, and after the purging of the Jews in 1968 he was one of the few who remained. While the synagogue is closed down, Shmuel Roth set up a synagogue in his small apartment. In one of the most moving affirmations of the book, Roth speaks about how he must stay alive because if he dies, "what will be left?Read more ›
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Who Will Say Kaddish?: A Search for Jewish Identity in Contemporary Poland (Religion, Theology, and the Holocaust)
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