Monday, January 25, 2010

Yossi Katz, Philadelphia native, a former Israeli boxing champion and 30-year veteran teacher at Alexander Muss High School in Hod HaSharon, has written a fascinating book, “A Voice Called: Stories of Jewish Heroism”.

Published by the venerable Gefen Publishing House, it’s a fascinating little book, mostly because for each of the 32 Jewish heroes Katz chose, he includes a little personal story about how, why or where this person or his story came to touch his heart.

The chapters include the frequently-listed “great” Jewish heroes – Herzl, Hannah Senesh, Natan Sharansky – but even more interestingly, some lesser-known heroes are also presented, people like Roi Klein, Tal Brody, Naomi Shemer. Even a couple of notable Jewish boxers who were heroic for something in addition to boxing have their stories told.

I had a chance to interview Katz yesterday, and without scooping a formal book review that will be published next month in UpFront Magazine, something Katz said about heroes in general came to mind this morning as I was reading the Internet news.

First off, I was following links, moving from one thing to another, and came across a video of some numbnuts rapper named “T I” who was sharing his expertise on the sad state of the US economy. Try as I might, I can’t get the video itself to upload, but you can see it here:

The rapper “T I” – who almost but not quite manages to pronounce the word “prevalent” -- tells us that President Obama’s plan to raise taxes on people who earn over $250,000 a year is the best way to create jobs. With what’s apparently intended to be a deep-thinking, nay wise, scowl on his face, he pontificates as to how that will work: raising taxes will mean that the government has more money, he says, so then it can hire more people. Therefore raising taxes will create jobs.

Uh huh.

Shaking my head, I moved along to another website, where I see that Mel Gibson is coming out with yet another anti-Semitic movie, this one to open in March. Gibson, of course, is famous for supporting his father’s belief that the Holocaust never happened. All major studios passed on this newest film, called “The Edge of Darkness” which was co-written, directed and co-produced by Gibson, but one smaller studio has agreed to distribute the $25 million film for a fee.

According to one review, “The movie has probably created more controversy than any other movie in recent years. Some commentators have charged that the movie is anti-Semitic because it blames the Jews for the death of Christ. The film portrays Jews who adhere to their Jewish faith as enemies of G-d and the locus of evil... “

Well, that sounds enlightening. I can hardly wait.

All of this sends my mind reeling into the past, when the likes of Barbra Streisand, Jane Fonda, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins -- the list is endless – also ‘shared’ their political wisdom with us, speaking from their vast wisdom and knowledge about economics and public policy. Worst of all, they reveled in all the positive attention their adoring publics lavished on them, all courtesy of the equally slavish media.

During the interview, I asked Yossi Katz why he’d decided to write a book about Jewish heroes. “Heroes and heroines are the people who inspire us, who shape us into what we are. They’re our role models, people we look up to,” he said. “I’m worried because kids today – both American and Israeli – look up to people like Kim Kardashian or Bar Rafaeli (Israeli model and IDF-service dodger, best known for her relationship with Leonardo DiCaprio) as their heroes. It’s fine to watch a TV show, but when these performers become a national obsession and focus of hero worship, then there’s something wrong with society. When I was a kid we looked up to astronauts and national leaders, but there’s less and less of that today. So I wanted to put together a book that would give both adults and young people worthy role models, people who would inspire them.”

Boy, he’s right about that. For a little insight into some real heroes, people worthy of learning from, go buy “A Voice Called” by Yossi Katz.

Read just one story a day – they’re short, 3-4 pages each. Keep the Kleenex handy.

On Amazon:


  1. Sounds like a good book. We all need to be inspired by people we can look up to.

  2. Locally, the book can be purchased at