Read Chutzpah by Alan M. Dershowitz Free Online
Book Title: Chutzpah|
The author of the book: Alan M. Dershowitz
ISBN 13: 9780316181372
Edition: Little Brown and Company
Date of issue: 1991
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 484 KB
City - Country: No data
Loaded: 1267 times
Reader ratings: 5.2
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Marking this as DNF because I don't know when I'll have a chance to finish it. That said, I enjoyed what I read and would like to continue. I was at roughly the 1/3rd mark before I put it back. My thoughts so far:
Alan Dershowitz writes from the perspective of a much older generation. Some of what he has to say is accordingly outdated (I have a feeling the infrequent anecdotes from Woody Allen films, an important part of the last generation's Jewish culture, are not received as well by my generation), but a lot of it I found to be relatable even now. For example, his stance on the safety and comfort of Jewish Americans (American Jews, some might say) who are not inclined to drop everything and take up permanent residence in the Holy Land at the slightest hint of unrest, strikes a positive chord with me. Dershowitz's thesis, as reflected by the title, is that the next generation of American Jews shouldn't internalize the belief that we are merely nomadic guests of a host country that could kick us out at any time. Rather, the Jewish American immigrants have equal claim to this country as the rest of the modern American people, a nation primarily comprised of immigrants. So when our rights are infringed upon and we are oppressed by undercurrents of anti-Semitism, we shouldn't take it silently for fear of shanda (Yiddish: embarrassment, scandal) - we need to adopt a stance of chutzpah. (Also Yiddish, but look this one up - it's in the English dictionary!)
The first third of the book is a narrative of Dershowitz's experiences growing up in an observant Jewish Brooklyn home, his transition into college life, law school, and career building, and the institutional discrimination he witnessed - anti-Semitism by gentiles and anti-religiosity by Jewish people he believed were actively complicit in this institutional discrimination. He also extols the reforms that have since been made, thanks to early adoptees of a chutzpadik stance, due to subsequent institutionally unavoidable exposures of these injustices.
Alan Dershowitz's own relationship with the religious, theological, fundamental aspects of Judaism and "Jewishness" plays a part in this work and influences his perspectives on the state of America's Jewish community. He writes, if I may paraphrase at the risk of misunderstanding his words, that he no longer observes Judaism in accordance with traditional Orthodox practices because he feels they are not relevant to him as a modern Jewish American, and/or because he does not understand how they could be.
Dershowitz is one of many modern Jewish thinkers who believe that a Jew should adapt his traditions to suit the age, so as to interface better with modern society. His disdain for the more fundamentalist and/or insular branches of his still-Orthodox relatives is apparent in the way he describes them: he invokes the memory of his grandfather, who was Orthodox, but didn't dress in a way that sets him apart from the rest of society (as some sects do today, in black suits or long coats), and wonders if Grandfather Louis would approve of his "ultra-Orthodox" progeny's lifestyle choices. I feel that Dershowitz's own admitted lack of understanding of Orthodoxy and how it can still be relevant to the life of a devout modern practitioner taints his perspective of those who have found relevance and understanding. This, too, I can relate to in the sense that my lifestyle choices have also been criticized from those among my coreligionist peers also do not understand.
Dershowitz also writes, slightly tongue-in-cheek, that he feels he adhered to a kosher diet for an additional year because a Catholic law school mentor intimated to him that just as some Catholics have become more lenient regarding meat consumption on Fridays, practitioners of Judaism ought to get with the times and let up on some of our dietary stringencies already. I admit there were periods of my adolescence where I questioned the rituals I was raised with, and part of my motivation to keep observing them to the degree that I do was to prove wrong the well-meaning meddlers who encouraged me to throw it all away.
Though this account was written to and about generations before mine, I realize there are some things about the American Jewish experience that never change ... or simply haven't yet. And conversely, it also shows the contrast in how accepted Jewish people were accepted in American society. One might say that relative to the working-class Jews of Dershowitz's generation, I am so privileged; I wonder if Dershowitz would argue that what I have now is not privilege, but sufficient access to the rights we were always entitled to as Americans.
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Read information about the authorAlan Morton Dershowitz is an American lawyer, jurist, and political commentator. He is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. He is known for his career as an attorney in several high-profile law cases and commentary on the Arab-Israeli conflict.
He has spent most of his career at Harvard, where, at the age of 28, he became the youngest full professor in its history, until Noam Elkies took the record. Dershowitz still holds the record as the youngest person to become a professor of law there.
As a criminal appellate lawyer, Dershowitz has won thirteen out of the fifteen murder and attempted murder cases he has handled. He successfully argued to overturn the conviction of Claus von Bülow for the attempted murder of Bülow's wife, Sunny. Dershowitz was the appellate advisor for the defense in the criminal trial of O.J. Simpson for the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman.
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