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by Laura Blumenfeld
Washington Square, 2002
Review by Su Terry on Feb 19th 2003


In 1986, Rabbi David Blumenfeld was shot in the Arab Market of the Old City of Jerusalem. In 1998, his daughter Laura Blumenfeld, a reporter for the Washington Post, spent a year exploring the issue of revenge and how she, herself, might be able to exact revenge against shooter for her father. This is the premise behind Laura Blumenfeld book aptly entitled Revenge: A Story of Hope.

When Rabbi Blumenfeld received a head wound from a shot fired by a young Palestinian fanatic, he did not let it ruin his life or pardon the pun, let it go to his head. Unfortunately, the same could not be said for his daughter Laura, who was a journalism student at Harvard at the time of the shooting. For her, the minor head wound was a much greater injury. Laura became a writer for the Washington Post and arranged a leave of absence to coincide with her “honeymoon year” to travel to the Middle East and write an impartial study on the topic of revenge. During this first year of marriage, Baruch Weis, her new husband and New York City lawyer, spend the major of the year in NYC finish a rather tricky federal case and cementing his bid for becoming a judge. Meanwhile in Jerusalem, Laura spent the year making plans for her revenge rather than the more tradition preoccupation of “making babies”. Instead of getting to know her new husband, she spends her time getting to know the family of the shooter who was at that time in prison and beyond her reach. True to her promise to the Post, she travels throughout the Middle East and around the Mediterranean Basin talking to victims and their families who had plotted revenge, been part of a revenge resolution ritual, or had successfully and unsuccessfully taken part in acts of revenge. She also explored the topic with sociologists and psychologist as well as with legal, religious, and political experts in the field of revenge. She talked to Moslems, Christians, Jews, mystics, shamans, and Bedouins. In the end, however, it was her relationship with her father and mother, the shooter’s family, and finally the shooter himself, that help her to enter into the very heart of revenge.

Revenge: A Story of Hope is an emotional exploration of the human psyche. It explores the deeply biological drives to remove personal shame and to redeem familial or communal honor. If the reader is open to it, this book can be a workbook for exploring one’s own history of being wounded, a personal definition of what constitutes personal injury, one’s conscious and unconscious pattern for exacting revenge, and even the more complex issues of power, honor, and shame. This book can be a quick read, but to walk away from it untouched is to ignore our own festering wounds and to refuse the soothing and healing balm that this book has to offer.

Laura Blumenfeld is a journalist for The Washington Post and a guest writer for The New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, and The Los Angles Times. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Harvard and a master’s degree in International Affairs from Columbia University. She lives in Washington, DC with her husband, Baruch Weiss and their two children. Revenge: A Story of Hope (2002) is her first book.

Revenge: A Story of Hope by Laura Blumenfeld is a deeply personal and potentially social impacting book. It will change you, if you let it. This will be an award winner! I give this book the highest of recommendations!

[JUST IN: “HBO is making a movie out of Revenge. It will be directed by Julie Taymor (The Lion King), produced by Wendy Finerman (Forrest Gump), and written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, Tony Kushner (Angels in America).”]

© 2003 Su Terry

Su Terry: Education: B.A. in History from Sacred Heart University, M.L.S. in Library Science from Southern Connecticut State College, M.R.S. in Religious Studies/Pastoral Counseling from Fairfield University, a M.Div. in Professional Ministry from New Brunswick Theological Seminary, a Certificate in Spirituality/Spiritual Direction from Sacred Heart University. She is a Licensed Minister of the United Church of Christ and an Assistant Professor in Library Science at Dowling College, Long Island, NY. Interests in Mental Health: She is interested in the interplay between psychology, biology, and mysticism. Her current area of research is in the impact of hormonal fluctuation in female Christian mystics.