Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Book Review: Ideally Speaking

Title of Book:  Ideally Speaking
Editors:  Steve Hellmann and Lindsay Talmud
Publisher:  Lexicon Books (April 13, 2011)
Available: Amazon

“Ideally Speaking” presents an excellent study of South African Jews who were exposed to strong ideological influences in their youth and thought that they would “make the world a better place”. The book, through a series of interviews with a wide cross-section of those who stayed in South Africa and those who left, presents us with a fascinating look into their memories, thoughts and present day activities as we trace the changes in their ideology and in the world around them.This is not only an exploration into the past, but also a look towards the future, against the backdrop of Israel's struggle to sustain a credible democracy and the many challenges facing post-apartheid South Africa.  

The nature of the interviews, conducted by the two editors: Steve Hellmann and Lindsay Talmud, not only provide a deep understanding of the South African experience, but also touch on universal themes relevant to us all.

What struck me most about this book is the way in which people have opened up and attempted to honestly reflect upon the different stages in their life. Most of the people interviewed have led a long and rich life, taking on demanding roles through which they have definitely left their mark. And although their paths have varied: some deciding to fulfill the Zionist dream of settling in Israel; others deciding to stay in South Africa and fight against the policy of Apartheid; and others ending up somewhere else in the world - most of them appear to have struggled with the same deliberations, albeit with different results and conclusions.

And although their immediate experience was quite different from mine, there still are many significant similarities, and their reflections have helped me better understand my own.

I am sure that many of you who read this book will feel the same.


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