Of all the books written by conservative activist and Frontpage Magazine founder David Horowitz, there is no doubt that his most heartfelt and poignant is A Cracking of the Heart, a tribute to his daughter, Sarah Rose Horowitz, who passed from this life in March 2008 at the age of 44.
In his tribute, Horowitz recounted how his daughter's absolute generosity of spirit affected his life and those around her — despite her many physical afflictions brought on by Turner syndrome, which tragically shortened her life. This excerpt from Horowitz's eulogy profoundly touched on that shining character trait that Sarah possessed:
Many people would have been depressed and then overwhelmed by the difficulties Sarah faced in the ordinary business of her life; the medical procedures she was put through, which often did not work … she packed more interests and more travels, more experiences and more learning, more friends, and more projects, more people that she touched in her brief lifetime than most people do in earthly journeys that are twice as long. And she left a greater vacancy behind. …
A born candidate for dependency, Sarah never allowed herself to become anyone's burden but her own … never mind the difficulties she might encounter. …
But most of all, her father was proud of her heart, and her generosity of spirit, even toward those with whom she vehemently disagreed.
Thus, Sarah Rose Horowitz has been well spoken for — but now she gets the chance to speak for herself.
Anyone who read A Cracking of the Heart and fell in love with Sarah's indomitable spirit and indefatigable good will should round out the picture by picking up the newly published The Collected Writings of Sarah Rose Horowitz. The collection consists of a novelette, short stories, poems, Torah commentaries, letters about Sarah's involvement with the Jewish tribes in Uganda known as the Abayudaya, and her last radio interview. Her father's eulogy appropriately rounds out the book.
The extremely engaging novella, The Family of Man, opens the collection, and it alone is worth the price of the book.
This is the story of a Jewish "hippie" family, the Friedmans, with two girls and a boy, moving away from the politically charged atmosphere of '70s Berkley and back to the mother's middle class home after the parents split. It obviously has autobiographical aspects; but someone with no idea of the author's background would still find it emotionally potent, with vivid and likable characters and a sense of time and place that draws the reader into the world of this family.
But while the family members in The Family of Man are distinct from the people around them, the story does not focus on differences, but on the common human experiences we all share.
That's not to say that there aren't little moments, told with sly humor, that emphasize those differences. But the story neither devolves into a sitcom-like story of Hippies-in-Squaresville nor an America-bashing selection from the Oprah Book Club, which purports to expose how horrible it is to be different in bigoted Middle America.
In one anecdote, a helpful neighbor lady offering gardening tips wonders if people like the Friedmans would be okay with using poison on outdoor pests. After discovering that the woman is curious whether Jews would do such a thing, the mother good-naturedly muses, "I thought she meant hippies."
Later, Deborah, the daughter who is probably Sarah's alter ego in the story, engages a Palestinian young man making a political statement about Israel on the Berkley campus by pointing out that his approach would make it hard for him to convince people like her. "I gather you're Jewish?" Jamal asks.
"I'm not religious, but my parents are Jewish," Deborah replies. "As my brother would say, 'it was good enough for Hitler.'"
Most of the stories in the collection are beautifully drawn character sketches that could almost be described as extended prose poems. A good example of this is Six Million Israelis Bought Milk Today. In less than two pages, Sarah captures, through the thoughts of an Israeli housewife, the underlying worry of living in a land where random terrorism is a fact of life — as well as the frustration of having that terrorism define one's image in the world, even while the average citizen leads a more or less normal life. Not much "happens" in this short sketch, but a lot is said — and the observations and emotions conveyed have real staying power.
Poetry was Sarah Rose Horowitz's public medium, and it shows.
Even when dealing with current events and dropping names like O.J. Simpson and Bill Clinton, Sarah avoids the angry protest tone of the poetry slam, opting instead for an occasionally ironic tone. But even those poems bring it back to the personal:
Life is getting so much like television I keep forgetting
I'm not a talk show host, these are just my friends
And this is my kitchen
But it's not all contemporary commentary:
In A Dream
you woke me
with a kiss
tender as a
Among the Talmudic commentaries, one in particular will stand out for anyone, Christian or Jew, who has spent any significant time in worship services.
In "Bo," which is the Hebrew word for "come," Sarah deals with the hard topic of what it meant that God "hardened Pharaoh's heart" against granting Moses's appeals to let his people go, in the midst of the plagues before the Exodus; and whether that meant Pharaoh was no longer responsible for the evil he committed. It's a question I have heard many sermons on, but it was handled deftly in this commentary.
Sarah points out that those who focus on judgment have missed the point. It is a measure of God'smercy that He gave Pharaoh five chances to repent before leaving him to his own devices. She relates this to our own lives; that, like Moses, we must also come to those who have bad intentions toward us and repeatedly give them the chance to do the right thing. When we do, she says, God will come with us.
This essay perfectly sums up the character that shines through at every turn of the page in this rich and varied literary collection: persistence, mercy, determination, grace, and intellect.
Those who order The Collected Writings of Sarah Rose Horowitz from Frontpagemag.com at this link for $25.00 will get David Horowitz's A Cracking of the Heart for free.