A Conversation With Ephraim Margolin

AY_MargolinInterviewOn Saturday afternoon, June 10, following a delicious community kiddush lunch, the Achshav Yisrael committee of CBS presented "Witness To The Birth Of Israel: An Interview With Ephraim Margolin." Although the special Shabbat afternoon program could not be photographed, we want to share some of the highlights.

Achshav Yisrael committee member Eileen Auerbach reports that about 75 people attended the program and the audience was rapt, listening intently to Ephraim's anecdotes and perspectives. More than one attendee remarked that Ephraim was so interesting that the interview could have lasted much longer than the two hours allowed. Indeed, Ephraim has led a remarkably full life and it was a treat for so many to learn more about it.

Ephraim was born in Poland in 1926. He fled with his mother to Tel Aviv in 1936, and wouldn't again see his father, Yuli (Yehuda) Margolin, for over a decade (after Yuli was able to make his way to Israel following extended exile in the Soviet Gulag). For better and worse, Ephraim's time and circumstances ensured that his own life would be uncommonly eventful. Writing of his youth in Tel Aviv, Ephraim shares:

"My mother hardly made a living. I still don’t know how she managed to put me through a private high school. She did physical work seven days a week. Our apartment was open to any new 'olim,' refugees arriving in Tel Aviv. We had dozens of people staying in our small apartment, or just show up for a dinner. We never knew who will come. It was just 'the thing to do.' One of the people who stayed in our apartment after arriving in Tel Aviv came in his Polish army uniform. His name was Menachem Begin. He became head of the Irgun, a major underground organization fighting for the establishment of a Jewish State. He would become prime minister of Israel a quarter of century later and win a Nobel Peace Prize for establishing a lasting peace with Egypt.

I, too, joined the Irgun. While serving, I became its clandestine radio announcer, a three-inch mortar gunner, and a commander of the base for illegally infiltrated children arriving in Palestine. [Years later,] in 1948, I became Menachem Begin’s private secretary."

Ephraim-Margolin-768x576Ephraim also highlighted his work as a lawyer in both Israel and the United States, itself dramatic: "While chairing the legal committee of ACLU, I took on 10 of their cases, pro bono, and won them all. I went into private practice in criminal defense and constitutional cases. For the rest of my career, I did one-third of my cases pro bono. I handled several of the race, gender, and free speech cases during the Civil Rights era. I handled and won the first televised argument in California Supreme Court (whether hypnosis of witnesses made their testimony admissible in court) and handled the appeal of John Gotti in New York."

In this, his 90th year, Ephraim shared his life experiences with the audience and talked about what he has learned as a result of them. His 2016 book, Philosophy of Early Zionism, is available on Amazon, and we highly recommend it. Ephraim is currently at work on another book...and his 49th Annual Yom Kippur Teaching at CBS!

ABOUT ACHSHAV YISRAEL: Achshav Yisrael’s mission is to provide quality programming about Israel to Congregation Beth Sholom and the broader community. Achshav Yisrael programs are open to all age groups and will occur on a regular basis. We intend to create a safe space at CBS for community exploration of Israel.

Achshav Yisrael Steering Committee Members: Eileen Auerbach, Becky Buckwald, Sandra Cohen, Betsy Eckstein, Ovid Jacob, Eva-Lynne Leibman, Ira Levy, Ephraim Margolin, Lucia Sommers

Introducing Zion(ism) Matters

facebook_zionismmattersThis year, our popular Thinking Matters: Modern Jewish Philosophy mini-course series is introducing an offshoot series dubbed Zion(ism) Matters!

Although we think we know what Zionism means, it is always helpful to revisit its past and present, as well as to consider its future. This exciting new series will explore Zionism through lectures, celebrations, and art exhibits.

Details and readings for upcoming Zion(ism) Matters single classes and mini-courses are included below. (The full 2016–17 course overview can also be viewed as a simple .pdf file by clicking here.)

All classes meet on Thursday evenings from 6:30 – 8 p.m. All sessions are FREE for CBS members, but students are encouraged to make a donation to CBS. For nonmembers, each single session is $12. Alternatively, nonmembers can purchase an 8-session pack for $84, or the full semester subscription for $180.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER FOR ZION(ISM) MATTERS ONLINE


On Love Of Israel
November 10, December 8, January 26, & February 23
(4 sessions w/ Ephraim Margolin, Esq.)


Course Description: Ephraim Margolin is a longtime professor of law who, before moving to the United States, served as Secretary to Menachem Begin, leader of the Irgun. He is a Hebrew University and Yale Law School graduate who has a rich knowledge of Israeli politics and culture.

His four-session mini-course will consider Israel through a contemporary lens, drawing on the country’s remarkable history and much Jewish thinking.

Session 1: Limits On Criticism of Israel
Session 2: Glorifying & Rejecting Jewish Power
Session 3: Roots Of Peace And Justice In Israel
Session 4: Self-Hate In Modern Israeli Culture

Readings: TBD

Zions: Home & Exile Beyond The Middle East
December 1
(1 session w/ Aaron Hahn Tapper, PhD)


Course Description: Dr. Aaron J. Hahn Tapper’s one-session class will explore Jewish "zions" outside the State of Israel, with special attention to the dominance of the Diaspora/Zion binary and subordination of non-Middle East Jewish homelands. Dr. Hahn Tapper is the Chair of the Department of Theology & Religious Studies, the Mae and Benjamin Swig Associate Professor in Jewish Studies, and the Founder and Director of the Swig Program in Jewish Studies and Social Justice at the University of San Francisco. In June 2016, Dr. Hahn Tapper published Judaisms: A Twenty-First-Century Introduction to Jews and Jewish Identities (University of California Press).

Readings: TBD

Philosophy Of Zionism In Ahad Ha'am
January 5
(1 session w/ Ovid Jacob)


Course Description: Ovid Jacob joined Rabbi Glazer on the Irving Rabin Community Building Mission To Israel last year. Following that trip, he has become interested in exploring novel ways of connecting members of the Bay Area Jewish community to Israel. This single-session class will explore what Zionism meant to Ahad Ha’am, the pre-state Zionist thinker who found himself at loggerheads with Theodor Herzl. Herzl’s priority was political Zionism, whereas Ha’am is credited as the founder of cultural Zionism.

Readings: TBD


CLICK HERE TO REGISTER FOR ZION(ISM) MATTERS ONLINE

Lead image credit: The background appearing in the Zion(ism) Matters title image is a 1902 illustration by Ephraim Moses Lilien, who was known for fusing Zionist iconography with an Art Nouveau style. Lilien's biographer dubbed him "the first Zionist artist."