Return to homepage

Bookmark This Site
Search our site
Send this page to a friendIncrease Font
Page DownBottom

Share this page

To buy a copy, click on the book.
Important dates

This Month...

Editor's Comment
Michael looks at:
Farewell, Shalom and Adieu

An Open Letter from Abba to His Family

Enough With The Political Finger-Pointing!

Revisiting the Haggadah

Eddy's Recipe List
Victoria Sponge

Book Review List

The Outspeaker
Encouraging violence is never correct

Good times and bad times with Batya

Nathan Weissler
What my friendship with Michael Hanna-Fein meant to me

Marjorie Wolfe
An Interview with Paul Reiser

BC's Backlot
The Last Shalom

This And That
My Treasure Chest

Three Symbols of Passover


Lynn Ruth Miller
How we all became part of a bigger story

Mel Yahre
A few words for my friend

Eddy's Thoughts
Don't let life flutter by

The Bear Facts
How I found Michael

The Yiddish Policemenís Union 
by: Michael Chabon  

If Raymond Chandler had sat down with Isaac Bashevis Singer over a bottle of schnapps, they might have produced The Yiddish Policemanís Union.

The Yiddish Policemenís Union combines a noir murder mystery with Jewish messianic beliefs in a "what if . . . " context that springs from an actual historical fact. Chabonís starting point is the 1940 Slattery Report that recommended that Alaska be used for temporarily resettling European Jews fleeing the Nazis. In reality, Alaska Territory Delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives Anthony J. Dimond prevented a vote on the Slattery recommendation from ever taking place.

In Chabonís book, the Jews of Alaska are within months of losing their temporary sanctuary, which will rejoin the United States. The State of Israel had been established in 1948, but was destroyed within three months by an Arab-Israeli War. The U.S. President believes in a divine mandate for the Jews to reclaim Israel once again.

The main character, Meyer Landsman, is an alcoholic homicide detective for the Sitka police department. He and his wife, Bina Gelbfish (also a police officer), have separated because Meyer is unable to live with the guilt of their decision to abort their unborn child Django due to a tragic genetic problem. Meyerís father, Isador Landsman, was a Holocaust survivor and chess grandmaster. His sister, Naomi, a bush pilot, died in a suspicious plane crash the year before.

Meyer is called in on the murder of a fellow resident of the Hotel Zamenhoff. The victim, Emmanuel Lasker, has been shot execution-style with equipment for shooting up heroin beside him along with a chessboard in mid-game and a copy of a book of famous chess games. Investigation uncovers the fact that the victim is actually Mendel Shpilman, son of a Hasidic Rebbe, who had disowned him.

Meyerís wife, Bina, is promoted to commander of their unit. The unit is charged with speedily cleaning up its docket of unsolved cases before Alaska reverts to American control. Meyer is involved in a shootout that leads to a suspension from active duty. He unofficially pursues the Shpilman case on the strength of a ragged Yiddish Policemenís Union ID card.

As Meyer drills into the issue of who killed Shpilman and why, the implications of his discoveries grow into dramatic international proportions

While The Yiddish Policemenís Union requires consciously suspending disbelief, it is suspenseful, poignant and hilarious. Yiddish speakers and chess mavens mingle with Tinglit Native Americans. Characters reach for their cell phones made by Shoyfer. Cops and bad guys alike carry guns referred to as shaloms -- a ďpieceĒ in detective books or perhaps a peace-maker.

Chabonís Pultizer Prize-winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is a more factually realistic tale of Jewish cartoonists during the 1930s and World War II years. The Yiddish Policemanís Union is a celebration of imagination and Yiddishkeit. Any reader with a taste for alternate realities and paradox will have much to enjoy in The Yiddish Policemenís Union.

© Jeannette M. Hartman, 2009

Submitted by: Jeannette M. Hartman
Go back to the list

Our magazine

Michael answers almost all of them.

Consult him about religious and spiritual issues

News article of interest to our community.


Tshatshkes, shmates and other shlok for the discriminating shopper.

Join the Gantseh Megillah Facebook Group

Follow Michael's Tweets

Interesting tidbits of jewishness


Have the Gantseh Megillah dropped directly into your e-mail box

Environmentally friendly Megillah bag

Audio and video Yiddishkayt

Buy him a Megillah shirt

See everything we have to offer


  Go to list      

Page UpTop Small Monitor Subscribe Tzedakeh Links

Subscribe (free) to the Gantseh Megillah. The Gantseh Megillah and are designed and hosted by HannaVisioN About this site Send a financial contribution to this site Contact us See our glossary of Yiddish words and expressions Log In Join
Personal insights from two yiddishe meydls Life stories from the heart News and information with a lighter touch Politics and policy with a Yiddishe taam