I get nervous when a person who is not a Jew purports to answer the question, “What is a Jew?”
This week, the President of the United States, Donald Trump, has purported to do just that with his Executive Order declaring that anti-Semitic actions on college campuses will be opposed with the Title VI of US law that makes it a crime to discriminate against anyone because of color, race, or national origin. To be fair, this Executive Order was apparently encouraged by the President’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who is a Jew. The avowed intent is to prevent legitimate criticism of the policies and actions of the Israeli government from flowing over into discrimination against Jewish individuals for being Jewish. In this light the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has welcomed the Executive Order.
But there is a darker side to this issue. Can it be that the President’s motive – suggested by his personal history of strongly anti-Semitic statements – is not motivated by his desire for justice for Jews, but by his desire to shore up his political base (mostly conservative Evangelical) with a public support for the government of Israel?
And a darker side yet: students of European history from its beginning are painfully aware that the defining of Jews by political tyrants has never ended well for Jews. Specifically, the defining of a Jew as person of a distinctly other racial or national origin has been the foundation stone for discrimination, oppression, pogroms, and extermination. Most recently, it was Adolph Hitler’s definition of Jews as a race and nationality apart from German. The first step in the oppression of German Jews by the National Socialists (Nazis) was the labeling of them as “other.” The Final Solution was the death camps.
So while on the surface of it the Executive Order to prevent discrimination of Jews on campuses looks like a good thing, just below the surface it quickly begins to look like something else: a government with a questionable human rights record defining a people as “other.” The Trump order should be evaluated in the light of the Trump record, and a healthy amount of concern is in order.
A Good Read:
In Pursuit of Abraham by Francine Fuqua:
Francine Fuqua has taken an old manuscript of her grandfather’s novel about women of the Hebrew Scriptures and woven it into her own novel of World War II adventure and intrigue. The main character’s pursuit of Abraham turns out to be a pursuit of his own identity across the Middle East of 1944-1945. The characters are genuinely believable and engaging. Descriptions of Biblical and contemporary locations are lush and sensual. Keep in mind this is not a history book, but a tale of historical fiction. So don’t expect a dry, literal account. The truth to be gleaned from In Pursuit of Abraham is a truth of the soul. If you are an honestly engaged reader, you may well encounter new truths about yourself. Overall, an excellent read!
A Reader Review from one of my weaving students at last year’s Liturgical Arts Conference in Mississippi. After a conversation about Pavel’s Violin, she decided to order a copy.
“I also wanted to let Will know that I bought his book but didn’t have a chance to read it until my recent trip to Africa. Had plenty of time on that 18 hour flight! I almost didn’t take it with me since our luggage was limited but in the end I really wanted to get it read so felt it was worth it. And HOW! Please let Will know that I found the story of Pavel’s Violin to be most moving and engaging. I literally could not put it down once I got immersed in it.” — N.N.
Thanks, Nancy, for your kind words, and for giving “Pavel’s Violin” a trip to Africa!
A new Reader Review. Thanks very much to “Sideliner” from Spain!
on August 22, 2018
“An air of joy to a people of faith and family intertwined with an elegy to the persecution of the Jewish peoples in germanic europe. Crafted and caring it carries the reader through history on the strings of a violin that still exists today. Bravo.”
Last Friday (June 1) I was honored to be asked to read from “Pavel’s Violin,” and to play the violin itself, at a Shabbat observance of the Secular Jewish Community of Asheville, in Asheville, North Carolina. The proceeds from book sales at the event were donated to the Center for Judaic, Holocaust, and Peace Studies at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina.
Appalachian State University’s Center for Judaic, Holocaust, and Peace Studies was founded in 2002 to develop new educational opportunities for students, teachers, and the community. Located administratively within the College of Arts and Sciences, the Center seeks to strengthen tolerance, understanding, and remembrance by increasing the knowledge of Jewish culture and history, teaching the history and meaning of the Holocaust, and utilizing these experiences to explore peaceful avenues for human improvement and the prevention of further genocides.
The Center for Judaic, Holocaust, and Peace Studies is an associate institutional member of the Association of Jewish Studies, a member of the Association of Holocaust Organizations and of the North Carolina Consortium of Jewish Studies.
- Organization of public lectures, research colloquia, campus exhibits, scholarly workshops and conferences for academic and community audiences at ASU and–in cooperation with national and international partners–in North Carolina, the United States, Germany and Israel.
- Development of a visiting scholars program that regularly brings both international and American scholars in Jewish or Holocaust Studies to campus.
- Sponsorship the Martin and Doris Rosen Summer Holocaust Symposium for public school teachers from the United States and Eastern Europe, ASU students and faculty, and the wider community.
- Introduction of a post-doctoral fellowship program in Judaic, Holocaust, and Peace Studies.
- Support of an expanded undergraduate minor in Judaic, Holocaust, and Peace Studies (under the College of Arts and Sciences) and its curricular offerings.
- Support of research-oriented study abroad opportunities related to Judaic, Holocaust and/or Peace Studies in Europe and Israel.
- Encouragement of cross-campus, interdisciplinary cooperation and faculty development related to Judaic, Holocaust and/or Peace Studies.
- Facilitation and support of student and faculty research and publication in Judaic, Holocaust, and Peace Studies.
- Expansion of a Library and Resource Center that collects and makes accessible resources, scholarly publications, and archival collections in Judaic, Holocaust, and Peace Studies to ASU students, faculty and staff, teachers, and the wider community.
- Establishment of a fundraising, grant writing, and endowment program that ensures the Center’s continued operation.
Praded (Prahd-yed) or Grandfather Mountain, the site of the mystical final chapter of Pavel’s Violin.
Copies of “Pavel’s Violin” are soon to be featured in the Symphony Store at the Nashville Symphony, as a part of their Violins of Hope Nashville exhibition!
See their website for more information: http://violinsofhopenashville.com/
Walter William Melnyk, Pavel’s Violin
From the author: “Pavel’s Violin is an historical novel based upon the true stories of Pavel Lustig, a survivor of Terezin and Auschwitz, and a Jakob Stainer model violin that he received after his escape from an Auschwitz death march. It is a tale of joy, sorrow, despair and hope, inspired through the music of this instrument.” Melnyk is a Tennessee-based author, and all sales of his book go to Holocaust awareness efforts. Learn more at PavelsViolin.com.
Visit Violins of Hope Nashville, sponsored by the Nashville Symphony:
About Violins of Hope
The Violins of Hope are a collection of restored instruments played by Jewish musicians during The Holocaust. These instruments have survived concentration camps, pogroms and many long journeys to tell remarkable stories of injustice, suffering, resilience and survival. The Nashville Symphony is bringing the Violins of Hope to Nashville to facilitate a citywide dialogue about music, art, social justice and free expression.
The Nashville Symphony has partnered with more than two dozen local groups and organizations on a community-wide series of events around these instruments, highlighted by an exhibition at the Nashville Public Library. The sound, presence and stories of these instruments will drive the creation of music, visual art, theater, public conversation, interfaith dialogue, readings and educational activities throughout Middle Tennessee.
“Each of these instruments has a remarkable story to tell about resilience of the human spirit in the face of unimaginable difficulty,” says Alan D. Valentine, Nashville Symphony president and CEO. “This singular collection will serve as a springboard for many of Nashville’s cultural organizations to explore the vital role that music, the arts and creativity play in all of our lives. We are thrilled to be working with so many enthusiastic partners on this historic initiative.”
“The Jewish Federation of Nashville is honored to partner with the Nashville Symphony in bringing the Violins of Hope to Nashville,” says Mark S. Freedman, Executive Director of the Jewish Federation and Jewish Foundation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee. “For our Jewish community, this represents a profoundly important opportunity to let these sacred instruments provide a measure of redemption to the millions of Holocaust victims who perished simply because they were Jews. These violins should serve as a clarion call throughout our city that the words ‘Never Again’ must resonate through every one of us in our collective struggle to overcome bigotry and hatred.” (from ViolinsofHopeNashville.org)
Pavel’s Violin is averaging a review of 4.7 stars. One reader says this:
December 24, 2017
Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Well written..very much in the style of the Czech language and culture. The feeling you have from the words are ancient yet contemporary; just like the land itself. The words, whether narrative or descriptive, allow the visual images to flow so vividly.
Just like the Land itself: