Book Review: Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist

Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist is a love story, and a blueprint of the current state of politics in America. It is a story about converting from hatred to love, a story about transformation from one type of leadership to another. It’s a true story about relationships, politics, and the politics of hatred. It’s a true story of acceptance and of harnessing ones soul to integrity, no matter where that path leads to.

I first heard of this book when I met a friend who was sitting outside reading it at the time, and her reason for reading it was to learn about how this young person, who was the elite of the white nationalist/white supremacist/anti-Semitic/holocaust denial movement, changed his ways as a result of being invited to Shabat dinners. It sounded like a fairy tale, but I had to read the book. Could such a thing happen? How could such a thing happen?

Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White NationalistRising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist by Eli Saslow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Derek Black, son of KKK Grand Wizard Don and Chloe Black, and godson of David Duke, KKK leader, was a new freshman and alone on at New College, Florida. Among the first people who reached out to Derek, unaware of his personal background and history, was a Hispanic, who invited to join in the regular Friday night Shabat dinners run by several orthodox Jews there at the college. Derek quickly became accepted by this diverse group of people who would scorn white supremacist ideology, and none of whom knew he was the creator of They also had no idea that each day Derek would run off campus to broadcast his white supremacist radio show. Over time, Derek, named by his parents Don and Chloe after Theodoric the Great, Germanic Visogoth conquerer of Italy and the Frankish night Roland, even began to date a Jewish woman whom he had met at these Shabat dinners.

Through a series of events, began to question many of his long held beliefs – and things heat up when one of the students discovers that this Derek Black is the same Derek Black from Stormfront. There’s an amazing story to be told how the students handle this news, some continuing to reach out to him, some advocating for shunning him. It’s the group of students who decide to continue to reach out to him who ultimately help him to see through many of the inhumanity of many of the “facts” that Derek was raised with.

How these students interact with Derek, and keep the connections, how Derek continues to value their friendships and question his own beliefs and the beliefs of his entire family structure is fascinating and something we all can learn from. How Derek faces and confronts the fallout from his white supremacist family and the risk of losing deep family connection due to his new identity should give anybody strength who has to challenge long-held beliefs and risk the loss of such relationships.

That said, this book is amazing.Eli Saslow literally accompanied Derek on family trips and was shown the emails sent between his friends and him as they engaged him on his ideas and his identity.

Rising Out of Hatred reveals the dark underbelly of white supremacist ideology, and how Derek himself admits and exposes how the Trump administration energized it and a plethora of conspiracy theories, and gave the white supremacist and alt-right movements  new oxygen, how it got “smart” and modified the rhetoric of its hateful ideology to seem more palatable and mainstream to the easily duped American public: Derek and his parents were at the fore of these strategies: deciding it would be good PR to replace the  white KKK robes for business suits, and substitute the term “white nationalism” for what it truly believed in, white supremacy, and more. They masterminded a strategy to appear less hateful toward others than they truly are, and to engage the support and sympathy of larger masses of Americans.

This book, so beautifully written, which dives deep into the heart and soul of these relationships that first structured Derek’s thinking and behaviors, and that later the self-reflection that opened Derek’s world and mind, can open ours as well.

Would that the rest of our country behave similarly and we have true engagement of ideas and strength of character.

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Craigslist – Yes, a5964dba8747391a5ee3epop7647c9f, it’s still available.

“Is your fireplace screen still available?”

Some of us are primarily sellers. Some of us are primarily purchasers.  And – despite the risks – who hasn’t sold or purchased something on Craig’s List?

People our age are primarily sellers. We have a lot from bringing two families together into one marriage. Add items big and small from receiving our elderly parents’ “overstock” or downsizing, and even more from their passing.  We have a lot from years of being unable to resist this book, or that new gizmo or bicycle part. Or from selling off old home parts as we modernized. Who would have thought that every single shutter – which totaled close to 40 – from our old home would be wanted and find a new home? Or every single S-hooks from those shutters? The people we meet – are primarily buyers or seekers and they’re younger than us.

They’re also an eclectic group.

Some use their first name in the initial contact and some remain anonymous. Sometimes after a few backs and forths, I have to ask,”What’s your first name? In this anonymous online world, where transactions are quick and your “name” might be a5964dba8747391a5ee3epop7647c9f, it’s still important to me to know somebody’s name. For the person to be real.

We had fun selling bike parts and learned pretty from the young biker types that we were undercharging for the rare pedals that we had many of. So the initial buyer got a bargain, and the others, well, they had to pay a good price. But come and pay they did, because the pedals had been discontinued and were still considered the best ever made. One guy purchased a Tulle roof rack and installed it on his car right there by the curb. He wasn’t wasting time and we were relieved to know that it was working as we had advertised.

Selling on CraigsList was not so much fun one night when we were in the basement waiting, and waiting, and waiting for the buyer, and I eventually phoned the guy. He had been there and rung the bell but turns out our bell wasn’t working. So he had just left and gone home. I phoned. “Are you still planning on coming by?” He said he had been there and rung the bell. Apparently it wasn’t working. That could have been at the time when our next door neighbors and we had the same bell and people would buzz their bell but it would ring in our home, and vice versa.  “You could have used the knocker, or emailed me. We were home,” I said, and received a curt nasty reply that sounded like **** in return. It kind of shakes you up. But the next customer was much better. We still have that item out in our garage.

For a while we were selling off parts of our chain-link fence that we had installed to keep our dog Joey from running off and had now taken down. This brought a very eclectic group of people. Some had chickens, some had dogs, some had horses! They were mostly pretty chatty people, and loved to talk about their chickens, dogs, and horses. And I can’t blame them!

Our old shutters was to be used in the decor by one person in her restaurant up in Maine. Others were using them for arts and crafts projects. Creative people will find a use for everything. Works for me. I kept her card for a while, hoping to go visit that restaurant, but in a world with too much stuff, one business card isn’t going to survive long.

You get pretty good at knowing who the scammers are. You’ll get an email back within a few hours of posting your item: “Is this still available?” without mentioning the item. FLAG THEM!!

Another bad experience was some guy and he wanted to purchase some old wood flooring, or we wanted to purchase old wood flooring from him. We never actually met… I think I had to phone him and cancel. And any rate all I remember is him yelling at me that his child was learning disabled and somehow it was my fault.

Once recently we were purchasers. Here’s where Craig’s List was really a savior. We had wanted one Crate and Barrel bookcase to go along with one that we had from years back, but that had been discontinued. Furniture online is expensive after shipping (despite Wayfair saying ‘one price’) and frankly isn’t made that well any more. It’s broken down into parts, then shipped, so it’s not long solid pieces anymore. We tried. We found a similar bookcase online then found the online photo to NOT be like the bookcase was actually made, which couldn’t actually withstand the weight of – BOOKS! So we boxed it up and shipped it back. Then we decided to HOLD OUT for Craig’s List. Eventually, we figured, somebody would be selling that ole’ item. BINGO. A few months later, there it was on Craig’s List!!  So on a nice Sunday afternoon everything went in reverse. We went there and met a really nice family and as things worked out gave them the name of a really good contractor that we had used.

Today I got an email:

Is this still available? Can you tell me the dimensions? I am looking to cover a fireplace that is 40″X29.5″
Thank you so much, 


Now I know everybody is in the holiday spirit but this is very high level. I got the dimensions right away, which I should have done before but figured what the hell.

The width is 38″
Height 31″
Depth 7″


Back was this:

Oh no I think that may be too small…

To which I fired back:

Sounds a little too narrow. Now that I have the dimensions, I’ll get then into the ad. 
We also have a 3-piece set of fireplace tools, if you need them; I just never got them into the Craigslist.

And then the pièce de résistance:

Hey Jane, 
I am all set but thanks so much for responding!
Happy Holidays!


Thank you, Grace. And I will continue to take my chances with Craig’s List!!

Happy Holidays, y’all! I hope y’all get what you need!

Yizkor: Which Side Are You On?

The rabbi announces “Yizkor” and there is a shuffling of positions. Some remain silently in their seats. Others, myself always included, exit the room.  If it’s a nice day, many of those go outside.

Chances are it would happen, sooner or later, the day when I would not walk out of the room and out of the building and find a place in the sun where I could sit and basque, tilt my face toward the warmth and light, and breathe a sigh. I might wonder what was happening in the room and I might not. What I knew was that some people were in and others were out, that I was usually out; earlier, some whom I hadn’t seen all year were running to be there on time, and others running to be elsewhere.

It is a mystery and a dance. The basics of the dance remain the same each time, but not the characters in it.

Last year I had quickly glanced at the folded booklet – as if I had found my father’s condoms or my mother’s birth control, things I didn’t want to believe or deal with. In the glance I noticed there was a paragraph for a grandparent, or for somebody who gave their life for our faith. All four of my grandparents had long passed. Why, then, could not I not participate in this service? Why was it off limits? Still, it was forbidden. I dare not read more.

This year, as I sat in my seat, the Rabbi as usual requested “All who have not lost a parent please leave the room.” This year I did not join that group. I was tempted to look around. Who were we, those who remained? I sat on the first row, by myself, within arm’s length of the window. It was closed on this cold day in April. Kids were outside playing basketball on the patio. I looked down and found the paragraph for those who have lost a father. We in the room were in the temporary world, our loved ones in the eternal one. My father was in the eternal world, and I was here.

I pledged charity on his behalf.  “A fund-raising gimmick,” I found my brain briefly thinking, and then caught that thought. At a time of loss and confusion – to pledge to give to those in need – works. To others in real need. It restores the balance.

I followed the written lines on the card and prayed for my father to be in Gan Eden. The Garden of Eden. My father in the Garden of Eden?

It was hard for me to imagine him, my father, at least my father’s soul, happy, in Gan Eden. He’d been so wretched in this life but met his end of days bravely and with love for us. Could he be happy for all eternity? Such a thought!

A friend and I talked afterward; I was thinking of my dad but was he thinking of me? How could I know? How could I ever know.

Soon I began chanting to myself Jackson Browne: “Which side, which side, which side are you on?” with its heavy beat and repetition. We were on this side. I was on this side. The ones we prayed for were on the other. Just as my father’s soul cannot come back, neither can I go back to being one who wonders and walks out of the room.

Before the holiday began, as dusk moved in and replaced the daylight, between my husband and me, we had lit four 24-hour memorial candles, my husband three and me one. My first. A full 48 hours after the 24-hour memorial candles were lit, and counting, my father’s alone continued to burn strong.

Yes, I thought, his soul is shining and he’s letting me know what I cannot know.

*shul = synagogue

Permission to Celebrate

Tonight is the 3rd night of Hanukkah. The first night of Hanukkah my husband and I each lit our own respective menorahs. The second night too.  But tonight my husband is on the road; at 4pm, which is sundown nowadays, it’s just me at home. My husband will be home later tonight, and when he comes home he’ll light his menorah. Meanwhile, mine remains candle-less and light-less. I can’t do it without him?

Of course I can.

The issue, I realize, as I indulge myself on the sofa by the menorah, is that this is the birthday of my father, and it was only two weeks ago when he, my father, may he rest in peace, died.  In a dignified service at a national cemetery, we buried him and honored him, and his life, 9 days ago. So today is the first time we’ve had my father’s birthday without him,  and it’s also Hanukkah, a day of celebration.

The menorah remains unlit in front of the window as it’s darker and darker on the outside of the glass. I can hear the cars drive by, but I remain in my world.

I had a pretty good day. Got up, went to a doctor’s appointment, which had a good result, and went to another doctor’s appointment, which also had a good result. I had reason to feel good about my future.

I haven’t realized it yet but as I lay on the sofa with my feet on the side arm rest, I don’t feel I have permission to celebrate on this particular day, this particular night, which our holiday requires us to do. And this is why I’m dawdling. And feeling sad. It may look like I’m doing nothing, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

As the minutes pass by, I really really need to light these nerot. We cannot live in darkness. The holiday tells us to bring light to our lives and to the world. So I fill the shamash-holder (the servant candle) and three candle holders with candles. I light the shamash, and say my blessings, and light the three nerot, the three candles.

And as I’m doing this, this is what I realize :

My mother and father have given me this beautiful 2,154 year-old legacy of lighting the Hanukkah menorah to have as my own. They’ve given it to my siblings too, to have as their own. Lighting my candles and honoring our holiday honors them too, and honors their ancestors, the unbroken line, all the way back to Abraham.

The legacy also says that there is a time for mourning and a time for celebrating. I have kept my obligatory 7 days of shiva and now taken off my wrinkled mourning shirt, which sits in a heap on my bench. Although I had thought I’d get rid of it when the mourning ended, now I’m unable to throw it away. And now we are into the 8 days of Hanukkah. On this 3rd day and night, it’s time to celebrate our legacy, and it’s time to celebrate, and remember, the lives of those we love and who have given us so much and who have carried on this great tradition and allowed us to do the same.

We can do both.


What Charlottesville Could Learn from Valencia: The Peace and the Concordance

This is the way it is now, the Placa de Ayunatamiento, in Valencia, Spain.

Not the way I remembered it from the fearful days of the fascist dictator Francisco Franco who, supported by Adolf Hitler, had led the Spanish nation into years of Civil War, countless atrocities and the deaths of hundreds of thousands. People lived in fear long after the Civil War ended, until the death of the Generalissimo in November, 1975.

In fact, when I lived there, in 1975, it wasn’t even called the Plaça de l’Ajuntament. Plaza del Caudillo (Plaza of the Leader), we called it. Even the language was different: Castilian then, Valencian, the regional language, now.

What was most disorienting was the plaza in the background opposite the fountain. Absent was the large monument of Francisco Franco, riding high upon his horse.

“Donde esta la estatua de Franco?” I asked, again and again, to blank faces. On this sunny day in 2012, nobody knew what I was talking about, let alone where the statue was, until one day a man who had obviously suffered through those years offered up the answer.  “The statue,” he said, “had been torn down,” in 1983. He directed us to the Plaça de la Reina (Plaza of the Queen), where we saw this monument to the victims of terrorism, sculpted by in 1998 by José Puche, 23 years after Franco passed from this world.

#Charlottesville could stand a good lesson about remembering those who, 150 years earlier, caused, and led, death, division of country, tyranny and atrocities, and about moving on to a better day for all. The memory of Franco, who had brutally divided a nation, had to come down. The people chose to erect the Peace and the Concordance to represent them, and to guide them, in its stead.

The statue of Franco was moved away from the public, to a military base.

Statues of the “heroes” of the Confederate and rebellious south were erected after the confederacy lost,after 1865, after the Emancipation Proclamation, in order to maintain the de facto status quo of blacks as inferior, fearful of the white ruling class, and stateless. The people of Spain chose to remember the past in their art, in their books, in the pain of a lost generation. They chose to remember their past by choosing something better for all, after unity was restored to Spain and after fascist anti-Semitic Germany was brought to its knees.

Perhaps even the Madrid-based statue of the infamous and fictitious Don Quixote, who roamed the vast country on his steed Rocinante, along with his faithful squire, Sancho Panzo, to restore chivalry and to right wrongs, to (even if foolishly) see beauty even when it didn’t exist, also has a lesson to teach to the tattered remnants of the failed confederacy.















What’s Your Morbid Hobby?

Life is full of “which is worse” scenarios. There’s the “death by fire” or “death by ice.” Here it is in the poem “Fire and Ice,” as could only have been written by the great American poet Robert Frost:

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

The political parties have us vying for which is the worse social problem and no, it is not Planned Parenthood. I’ll tell you straight out I’m going with opioid addiction. The biggest threat to our nation. The biggest threat to our people. That’s right, the fact that many people don’t want to acknowledge even exists. And this is why it’s so dangerous.

One of my more morbid hobbies is collecting headlines that deal with opioid addiction and drug overdoses. I’ve been doing it for years, the pile is getting higher, but recently it’s been a real jackpot.

It wasn’t always that way. In the beginning, I collected the rare articles of addicts who had fought through their addictions and made it. Addicts who had ultimately gone to college and gotten major degrees in major universities. One black American from an inner city who went on to graduate from Harvard Medical School. If I can dig the article out from my ever-growing pile, I’ll add the link here. There were articles about homeless who had gone into halfway houses and used that as a place from which to stabilize their lives, which included finding steady work and thus having a stable and proud income.

I clipped and sent these articles to send hope to a young relative of mine who was an addict and always feeling darkness. “See? You can do it too.” I’d like to think my hobby made a difference, helped this relative make good choices, but it seems like it did not. And now I cannot find the articles, even online.

Several years ago I would talk to a lot of my friends about this problem, and this pain of mine. On days when my relative was being arrested, or days when he was being released from prison, or days when he was beginning rehab and there was hope, I would sit in my seat during religious services and cry to myself. I’m not sure if anybody ever noticed my red eyes or my irregular breathing. If they did, they sure didn’t say anything. A few would tell me an aside about a relative who was an addict if I brought up the topic.

A few years back, my stepson died of an overdose of legally prescribed painkillers, shocking us all. He was a pleasure-seeker but he was not an addict. So my headline search and article clipping widened to include deaths by legally prescribed painkillers for things like, quite simply, pain. You know, those pain centers that are everywhere? Particularly in Florida?

Within the last few years, several parents in my community have lost a young adult child. Some of the parents have been brave and willing to confront this public epidemic. Others have not.

A few years later, after I was already personally grappling with this problem, the headlines expanded to include elderly adults who had been bankrupted by their addict children and grandchildren. I knew about this from personal experience, too.

The Untold Cost of the Opiate Epidemic: Elder Abuse

The headlines have continued to change over the years. In the last election, people started to care about the problem of “solving” the problem by throwing people in jail or prison. Were we creating solutions? Or new problems for even more people? A few times I sat in at a drug court. I saw young hopeless male adults. Five or so young adults would stand in front of the judge, who would ask them if they were on anything at that time. I saw them, in unison, lie. Five No‘s. I saw a pained grandmother as the judge would approve this one for drug court and that one – her grandson – to return to jail.

In the months and years after that, I started seeing headlines about large and small towns that were creating drug courts as a new approach.

This recent headline shows where we’re going, as a nation:

Life Expectancy in U.S. Declines Slightly, and Researchers Are Puzzled

Get this subheading!

African-American men gained 0.4 year of life expectancy in 2014, to 72.2 years.

My monthly AARP magazine is getting into the act, too, and not just about elder abuse by those seeking to get grandma’s retirement money in order to fund their heroin addiction. Once a place to find articles about cell phones and travel destinations for seniors, this 2011 headline was a first:

Boomers on Drugs

What you didn’t know about grandma!

Opioids and addiction are a national issue now because of the attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which includes attempts to eliminate – just when America is acknowledging this deeply entrenched and growing problem – American’s ability to get detox and rehab not just for the rich, who can afford private pay rehab stays, but for the poor and middle class who cannot. The people who care about this are elderly, farmers, veterans.

About six months ago I sat at a forum in my town for high schoolers, the goal of which was to open up a discussion about opioid dependency and provide referrals for those who needed them, and so on. A few audience members asked questions, and the oldest was about 90 years old and he had become an addict after radiation treatment for cancer. Whoever we are, we are at risk. There is no safe corner.

Yes, this is no longer a problem that white Americans or educated Americans, and so on, can ignore, thinking erroneously that this is “their” problem and not “our” problem. There is no way to hide from this situation.

Sadly, my morbid hobby continues and my pile continues to grow. Urban, rural, east coast, west coast, white, black, young, old, rich, poor, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, we are one nation, drug addiction and opioid overdose does not discriminate, and neither should we.

More to follow.