By Andrew Greener
With touches of humor and heartbreak, The 188th Crybaby Brigade is a wonderfully written memoir by author Joel Chasnoff. Detailing his year serving in the Israeli army, Chasnoff explores what it is like for a foreigner to serve in the tight brotherhood of the Israeli army.
After growing up an Orthodox Jew in Chicago, with a yearning for something more in his life, Chasnoff decided to sign up for the Israeli army. Falling in love with the country after numerous visits and having the ulterior motive of showing off to his Israeli girlfriend, he dives head first into an adventure he is not nearly prepared for.
From hiding in the bathroom stall to avoid guard duty to seeing front-page articles of fellow soldiers dying, Chasnoff bonds with his these men who have the same singular goal as he: stay alive and stay sane. This is as much a story as an adventure as we ride along with Chasnoff as he combats the immaturity and irrationality of his commanding officers and fellow soldiers.
The budding relationships he forms with his brigade and the witty, comical anecdotes constantly presented make this 288-page book seem half the length. As we trump through the hardships, laugh at the jokes, and cry with the heartbreak, we seem as close to Chasnoff as he does with his fellow soldiers.
Nearing the end of his tour with the Israeli army, aware of the transience of life, Chasnoff makes another life-altering decision. But I would not want to ruin the surprise, would I? So the cover of the book sums it up best: “A Skinny Jewish Kid from Chicago Fights Hezbollah.”