“Judenrein” is a work of Jewish fiction that tells the story of Zack Gurevitz, a man with a decidedly checkered past: A Yeshiva boy, turned Green Beret, turned junkie, excommunicated by his one-time faith and now the potential savior of people he doesn’t even like. With white supremacists in power, it is again the Jews who are made out as scapegoats. Stripped of wealth and citizenship, they are made to live in 21st-century ghettos that hark back to a sinister and murky past that many had thought would never return.
About the author
Harold Benjamin is the pen name of a 50-something Jewish writer who lives in the American Midwest. He grew up in New York. He was raised in a secular home but became a religious Jew later in life. His ancestry is Russian/Lithuanian Ashkenazi Jewry. Three out of his four grandparents were born in the 19th century.
Premise of the book
If the rise of right-wing across the globe is indicative of something, it is a threat to the minorities. The minorities could be based on color, ethnicity, religion, or caste. The right-wing spares none and wages a war to establish the majorities’ supremacy. The world we are living in right now has been shaken to the core with phobic waves across the globe, George Floyd’s death being the latest in such circumstances. “Judenrein” is a dystopian thriller which, even though being dystopian, would seem familiar in many settings.
The first dystopian literature I read was “Animal Farm” that got me interested towards such themes and then there was the movie 2012 which even fuelled my interest in similar themes. The current book “Judenrein” is a Jewish dystopian thriller which derives its name from Nazi times when it was used to refer “cleansed of Jews”. Jews have been a witness to one of the worst targeted violence and injustice in Germany in the rein of Hitler. The new disorder is shaping up in USA. An officer in the PR department in the government receives the message:
“NSA SIGINT and CIA have confirmed, with the highest level of confidence, the existence of a funded plan by Detroit AQC4 to attack KK Midwest within 10 days. Liaise with relevant agency contacts to coordinate countermeasures.”As quoted from Judenrein
Also read: Hamilton’s choice by Jack Casey
Political turn of events leads to a bombing attacks all over Washington DC for which Jews have been blamed. There have been umpteen number of well-targeted messages giving an anti-Semitic tone that Jews are terrorists. Every identifiable Jew in the US was forced to move into designated protection areas, a collection of modern-day ghettos dubbed “Kike Kennels”. The attack refers to the same place.
“Now branded as accomplices to terrorism, Jews were purged from their positions in American life. Overnight, a database of Jewish people and Jewish-owned businesses was systematically cross-indexed with bank records, real estate titles, and professional licenses. Jewish academics got gleefully ejected from universities as “pro-Zionist terrorist sympathizers.”As quoted from Judenrein
Zack on the rescue mission
Zack, short for his Hebrew name, Zacharia is recovering from his opioid addiction when he is dragged by his old friend, Rosenblatt. He is confused as to why people from his old world have wanted his help. He was wronged, he was hurt and has no intention of helping anybody.
“We have gotten intelligence on a potential attack, evidently from the Jihadists, and we need someone to go undercover to investigate whether it’s for real and if so, what it’s about and when it’s coming,” Rosenblatt said.As quoted from Judenrein
Zack was in the US army and has served in Afghanistan during war. His details are classified and his identity as a Jew can remain hidden, which also means that none of the things about attacks affect him but something tells him that he has to do this for his people and he starts his mission.
He encounters something unexpected. Zack was followed by an FBI agent which indicated that somebody among the Jews in the Midwest is with the attackers. He cannot quite figure out what is happening but he continues his mission.
Weld and Kirkland
The people operating all this are Weld and Kirkland which had been in the army and now serve in the FBI and White house respectively. They have a deep sense of hatred towards Jews and it puzzles Zack. He wishes to unearth the mystery and while looking into things online, he comes across this piece of news:
“Kirkland had gotten into an argument with a Rabbinic army Chaplain, a General, no less, over delayed delivery of Kosher food for the Passover holiday at a remote base in Afghanistan. Whatever the issue was, it led Kirkland to punch out the Rabbi/General. Kirkland wasn’t convicted but the damage to his military career was permanent. He retired and went to work at the white house.”As quoted from Judenrein
Weld and Kirkland have elaborately planned the forced exodus of Jews from USA in three phases:
Phase 1 involved catalysing the crisis that built a national consensus that the Jews are a threat to the America. Phase 2 had been the round-up and asset seizures which were now complete.
Weld continued, “It will be an episode that will make every red-blooded American lust for Phase 3, the deportation of this Jewish plague and the extermination of any hook-nosed parasite that dares to stay behind.”As quoted from Judenrein
These are pieces of the puzzle that Zack is trying to solve. Can he do it without any help? Does anyone help him? Is he able to save his people?
Critical review of the book
I liked the overall tone and pace of the book. When I started the book seemed a bit fast but after I was familiarized with the characters, it didn’t take much time to read the book. It is fast-paced with a lot of twists and turns and the lead character is imperfect in every sense. Many times you’d dislike him for what he is but he is being what he is. I liked the book overall and it was a good thriller to read.
I thank the author for being generous enough to give us a review copy!