Helen Freedman is executive director of AFSI (Americans for a Safe Israel) and one of the staunchest defenders of Eretz Yisrael HaShleima in America.
What books are currently on your nightstand?
My night stand is filled with Judicial Watch magazines; AFSI’s latest OUTPOST; CAMERA’s expose on the New York Times, Indicting Israel; Shurat HaDin’s booklet, Bankrupting Terrorism – One Lawsuit at a Time; Alden Films’ catalogue on anti-Semitism; and, of course, The Jewish Press and a host of other Jewish newspapers.
What’s the best book on Judaism you’ve ever read?
The Bible. Its relevancy to my life never ceases to amaze me.
What kind of reader were you as a child? Your favorite books and authors?
I was a voracious reader. Since we were Sabbath observers, when all my public school friends would go to the movies, I would go to the Grand Army Plaza Children’s library, sit on a leather couch, and devour all the fairy tale books. That is probably why, at this much later stage in life, I am still a believer in happy endings and still unprepared for evil people to prosper.
As an adolescent, the Nancy Drew and Judy Bolton mystery books were my favorites.
If you had to name one book that made you who you are today, what would it be?
It’s hard to name one book. I believe the whole range of 19th century Russian literature affected me deeply. The lack of a Russian middle class, the desperate poverty of the serfs, and the cruelty and indifference of the nobility – all this was very painful. Perhaps it was because of my Russian/Polish roots that I reacted so strongly to Chekhov, Pushkin, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Gogol, Pasternak, and so many others from this period and region.
What are the best books on Israel ever written?
I believe Shmuel Katz, one of the founders of AFSI and an early member of the Knesset, is one of the best authors on Israel. His Battleground is an amazing book of carefully-sourced Jewish history; his The Aaronsohn Saga relates incredible the bravery of Aaron and Sara Aaronsohn during the years of Ottoman control of Palestine; and his superb two-volume biography of Vladimir Jabotinsky, Lone Wolf, describes the efforts of this amazing man to strengthen Jewish pride, create a fighting force, and plead with the Jews of Poland to escape with their lives and emigrate to Palestine.
If you could recommend one book to Jewish leaders, what would it be?
Battleground by Shmuel Katz. It’s a short easy read, and gives factual information that can be used to refute many lies. Perfidy by Ben Hecht is another very short, very powerful J’Accuse.
Hidden gems: Which Jewish book or author should be widely known but isn’t?
Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld’s Funding Evil is a must-read about how terrorism is financed. Prof. Jerold S. Auerbach’s Hebron Jews is a great book as well. Phyllis Chesler’s most recent book, An American Bride in Kabul, is fascinating reading. Joan Peters’ From Time Immemorial grabbed everyone’s attention when it was published – deservedly so. And of course, all of Rabbi Meir Kahane’s books, especially Uncomfortable Questions for Comfortable Jews, should be required reading for Jews who don’t know who they are.
Some other important books are The Secret War Against the Jews and America’s Nazi Secret by John Loftus and Mark Aarons, revealing unpleasant truths about famous American families who funded Hitler, Stalin; and Arab terrorists; Karski, by Thomas Wood and Stanislaw M. Jankowski, about a non-Jew who tried to stop the Holocaust but found himself speaking to deaf ears; and The Farhud by Edwin Black on the Arab influence in Hitler’s extermination plan.
Finally, two books that have to be read a few times are Bat Ye’or’s Eurabia, where she predicts today’s invasion of Islam into Europe, and The Jewish Revolution: Jewish Statehood by Israel Eldad, one of the heads of the Lehi underground and the father of my friend and former MK Dr. Arieh Eldad.
What books might people be surprised to find on your bookshelves?
People who know me through AFSI would probably be surprised to learn that I was a teacher of English for 20 years at Lawrence High School in Cedarhurst. Shakespeare’s Hamlet was required reading for my classes, and it became one of my favorite plays – not because I admired Hamlet, but because he epitomized so much of what I don’t like. His duty lay clearly before him, but he procrastinated endlessly and found every excuse to delay his task. The end result was a bloody field of bodies, including his own.
I also used to teach The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery, a little book that I love and treasure to this day. Although it looks like a children’s book because of its lovely illustrations, it actually is one of profound wisdom and clarity.
What book hasn’t been written that you’d like to read?
A book celebrating Israel’s victory over all the forces – within and without – that wish to destroy her. I’d like that victory to consist of a sovereign Jewish nation living in a land of Israel with Judea, Samaria, the Golan Heights, a unified Jerusalem, a Jewish Hebron, and the return of the expelled Gush Katif Jews to their homes.
What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet?
I have leafed through, but not completely read the books of Melanie Phillips, Caroline Glick, Michael Oren, Aaron Klein, Bret Stephens, Michael Widlanski, David Horowitz, Natan Sharansky, and Yoram Hazony.
What do you plan to read next?
Hillel Halkin’s Jabotinsky: A Life.