At her ninetieth birthday celebration in New Delhi, “Auntie Fori” revealed to her longtime acquaintance, Sir Martin Gilbert, that she was not of Indian birth but actually Hungarian—and Jewish. She did not know what this Jewish identity involved, historically or spiritually, and asked him to enlighten her.
In response, Gilbert embarked on the series of letters that have been gathered to form this book, shaping each one as a concise, individually formed story. He presents Jewish history as the narrative expression—the timeline—of the Jewish faith, and the faith as it is informed by the history. In Sir Martin’s hands, these stories are rich in incident and achievement, starting with Adam and Eve through the Biblical and post-Biblical periods, to the long history of the Jews in the Diaspora, and ending with an unexpected visit to an outpost of Jewry in Anchorage, Alaska. Ranging through almost every country in the world—including China and India—he maintains a chronological structure, weaving in the history of other peoples and faiths, to give Auntie Fori, and us, a sense of the larger stage on which Jewish history has played out.
“Compact, breezy, and thoroughly enjoyable . . . For those, like Auntie Fori, hoping to understand the Jewish past and present, this book is a treasure.” —Booklist