Since childhood, Susan Jacoby, the New York Times bestselling author of The Age of American Unreason, was sure that her father was keeping a secret. At age twenty, just before beginning her writing career as a reporter for the Washington Post, she learned the truth: Robert Jacoby, a Catholic convert with a Catholic wife, was also a Jew.
In Half-Jew, Jacoby grapples with the hidden identity cloaked by the persona of a successful accountant and member of St. Thomas Aquinas Church in East Lansing, Michigan—and with the secrets and lies that had marked her family’s history for three generations on two continents.
Beginning in 1849 when her great-grandfather arrived in America as a political refugee, Jacoby traces her lineage through the lives of her great-uncle Harold, the distinguished astronomer whose map of the constellations is etched on the ceiling of Grand Central Terminal; her uncle, the bridge champion Oswald Jacoby, her aunt Edith, also a Catholic convert and eventually a reformer within the church; and, of course her father himself. At the core of story is the psychic damage that accrues across generations when people conceal their true ethnic and religious origins.
Featuring a new afterword, Half-Jew is a meticulously researched, emotionally poignant examination of the dark legacy of European and American anti-Semitism as well as a tender-hearted account of a daughter coming to understand her father, herself, and her family’s true legacy.
SUSAN JACOBY is the author of eleven previous books, including Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism and Strange Gods: A Secular History of Conversion. Her articles have appeared frequently in the op-ed pages of The New York Times and in forums… More about Susan Jacoby