Writ­ing a Jew­ish Life: Memoirs

Lev Raphael
  • Review
By – May 11, 2012
Lev Raphael’s mem­oir con­sists of ten chap­ters, and is dis­tinct­ly reflec­tive of the Ten Days of Pen­i­tence, for each chap­ter results in a rich dis­cus­sion of his search for self, sex­u­al­i­ty, place, and spir­i­tu­al­i­ty. The chap­ter titles in these mem­oirs reveal Raphael’s care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion of his thoughts and feel­ings, espe­cial­ly when faced with unin­tend­ed con­se­quences of his inno­cence and pas­sion. The first chap­ter, Writ­ing a Jew­ish life, describes Raphael’s upbring­ing as a child of Holo­caust sur­vivors and his attempt to deal with Jew­ish iden­ti­ty. In Letters from Israel I, Raphael comes to terms with his homo­sex­u­al­i­ty and with the idea that Israel was [his] coun­try if [he] want­ed it to be. In Writ­ing some­thing Real, Raphael jus­ti­fies writ­ing with his refusal to accept silence and mar­gin­al­iza­tion. Per­haps the two most enlight­en­ing chap­ters, how­ev­er, are Los­ing my Moth­er, and Scars, in which Raphael again search­es his soul to under­stand his par­ents and their impact on his life. For all the sim­plic­i­ty of Raphael’s writ­ing, it is in that way deceiv­ing. Words, names, places, the title, and even his motives are sub­tly didac­tic. In writ­ing some­thing real, Raphael extends his reach to a wider audi­ence and pro­vides that audi­ence with a purpose.
Malv­ina D. Engel­berg, an inde­pen­dent schol­ar, has taught com­po­si­tion and lit­er­a­ture at the uni­ver­si­ty lev­el for the past fif­teen years. She is a Ph.D. can­di­date at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Miami.

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