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When Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was brutally murdered in Pakistan, many Jews were particularly touched by his last words affirming his Jewish identity. Many were moved to reflect on or analyze their feelings toward their lives as Jews. The saying “two Jews, three opinions” well reflects the Jewish community's broad range of views on any topic. I Am Jewish captures this richness of interpretation and inspires Jewish people of all backgrounds to reflect upon and take pride in their identity. Contributions, ranging from major essays to a paragraph or a sentence, come from adults as well as young people in the form of personal feelings, statements of theology, life stories and historical reflections. Despite the diversity, common denominators shine through clearly and distinctly.
In February 2002, Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was brutally murdered by terrorists in Karachi, Pakistan. Just before he died, he said, "My father is Jewish, my mother is Jewish, I am Jewish." His parents decided to honor his memory by asking several hundred Jews to record their reactions to his words statements that form the core of this book. Most of the 146 contributors are well-known authors, educators, rabbis, reporters, entertainers and political figures, including Joseph Lieberman, Michael Medved, Dennis Prager, Elie Wiesel, Dianne Feinstein, Kerri Strug, Richard Dreyfuss and Wendy Wasserstein. The length of their statements varies from a sentence or two to essays that cover several pages. Their thoughts are organized around the five basic themes of identity; heritage; covenant, chosenness and faith; humanity; and tikkun ha'olam (repairing the world). The respondents provide anecdotes, theological formulations, personal reactions, biblical references and historical reflections, ranging widely from the superficial to the profound. Among the few Israeli contributors is Avrum Burg, an outspoken critic of the Sharon government and its policies. He argues eloquently that being a Jew places on him a special obligation to work for peace. Others place different constructions on what it means to be Jewish. Lack of consensus highlights the extreme variations in Jewish views, indicating that one value of this collection is its demonstration that a healthy diversity of opinion continues to characterize the Jewish community.