Friday, May 26, 2023

Q&A with Jeffrey Weiss



Jeffrey Weiss is the author, with his brother Craig Weiss, of the book Fighting Back: Stan Andrews and the Birth of the Israeli Air Force. They also wrote the book I Am My Brother's Keeper.



Q: What inspired you and your brother to write this book about Stan Andrews, a Jewish American who flew for the Israeli Air Force in its early years?

A: It was a combination of things. He was such a fascinating figure - artist, writer, bomber pilot, fighter pilot, and even a diplomat. He was seemingly alienated from his Jewish identity yet engaged in the most Zionist act imaginable - risking his life to fight for the creation of a Jewish state as one of the first fighter pilots in Israel's history.


We wanted to find out who he actually was, what drove him, and to share that story with people who are passionate about Israel and its history.

Q: How did you research the book, and what did you learn that especially surprised you?

A: We started by locating family (including a 93-year-old sister and an 86 year-old sister-in-law) and then located friends from high school, college, World War II, and Israel.


 From them we were able to track down not just great memories about Stan but also his high school essays, college essays, and letters from World War II and Israel's War of Independence. We built on that with archival research in Hebrew and English - primarily in Israel's military archive, which required a great deal of declassifying of documents.


Our biggest surprise was that he had so purposefully set out to write a book about his experiences in the war - and we have hoped that through Fighting Back, we have in some way helped him to achieve, posthumously, that literary ambition.

Q: How would you describe Stan's relationship with Judaism?

A: It was a conflicted one. He was never Bar Mitzvahed, apparently never set foot in a synagogue in his life, and once refused to admit that he was Jewish to a World War II tentmate who was himself a Jew. Yet 1940s-style antisemitism drove him to claim his Jewish identity and, by flying for Israel, strike back against the enemies of the Jewish people.

Q: What do you see as his legacy today?

A: I think his legacy is a proud, independent State of Israel with an air force that, pilot for pilot, is perhaps the very best in the world. And, very appropriately, one of that air force's fighter squadron's still flies into battle with planes that carry the logo that Stan crafted some 75 years ago.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: A book about Eliezer Ben Yehuda, the person most responsible for the revival of Hebrew as a spoken language and its status as the official language of the State of Israel.


The bringing back to life of Hebrew was something that even Theodor Herzl, perhaps the greatest visionary of modern Jewish history, thought impossible. (As he famously wrote in The Jewish State: "We cannot converse with one another in Hebrew. Who amongst us has a sufficient acquaintance with Hebrew to ask for a railway ticket in that language?")


Ben Yehuda's vision and heroic sacrifices - at one point he was imprisoned by the Ottoman Turks, then the rulers over what was then known as Palestine - are part of the modern-day miracle that is the restoration of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel after 2,000 years of exile and only three years after the extermination of one out of every three Jews then alive in the world during the Holocaust.

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: Anyone interested in learning more about the story of American Jewish volunteers in the Israeli Air Force in 1948 would enjoy watching Nancy Spielberg's award-winning 2014 documentary Above and Beyond, available on Amazon Prime.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

No comments:

Post a Comment