The Redemption Of The Soul Of A Writer with Alan Kaufman

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Psychologists say that in a family of Holocaust survivors, there is one child who is the designated “Memorial Candle,” the one to whom the survivor imparts the experience of the Holocaust. Alan Kaufman believes he was nominated to be the one to receive his mother’s suffering, anguish, and disappointments. He recounts the poignant story of retracing his mother’s escape from the Nazis, from Paris to the South of France and then into the North of Italy. Inexplicably, his traveling companions turned out to be two men who were both sons of Nazi soldiers. A deep healing took place for all three of them on that journey as they found the very family who took his mother in and saved her life. He speaks of adventures in Israel as a journalist. He describes his spiral down into alcoholism and his journey back through twelve step programs to his writing. In a twist of fate, he met poet Jim Brodey while sharing a bottle on a park bench in Manhattan. Brodey was able to get through Kaufman’s alcoholic fog when he said, “I’m dying. I have AIDS. I’m a heroin addict, and I’m an alcoholic…I’m not gonna get out of here, but you can.” Kaufman is shaken and even tearful as he tells the story of a dying man who could care enough to want to save him. Alan Kaufman is now 23 years sober and is an award winning writer and a poet compared to Kerouac, Henry Miller and even Ernest Hemingway. (hosted by Justine Willis Toms)


Alan Kaufman is the Bronx-born son of a French-Jewish Holocaust survivor, and a recovering alcoholic with 23 years of sobriety. He’s a former Israeli combat soldier and a novelist, memoirist, and poet. He was instrumental in the development of the Spoken Word movement in literature. 

He’s the author and editor of many books including:

He is co-editor of two groundbreaking anthologies:

To learn more about the work of Alan Kaufman go to

Topics Explored in This Dialogue

  • Retracing his mother’s trek to escape the Nazis in WWII
  • How the Holocaust survivors are like visitors from another planet
  • What it was like to grow up as a Jewish son of a Holocaust survivor in the Bronx
  • How a goldfish taught him to love again
  • How he found sobriety and support from surprising sources and sponsors
  • How his writing became his practice
  • Why we need to not quit before the miracle happens
  • Reading poetry in Tel Aviv with his 15 year old daughter

Host: Justine Willis Toms     Interview Date: 11/29/2013     Program Number: 3488

Music Playlist

From Album: Miho: Journey to the Mountain
Artist: Paul Winter Consort
2010 Living Music #LMU-242

Opening Essay: Track 09 Bendir & Heckelphone
Music Break 1: Track 06 Cedar Grove Dance
Music Break 2: Track 11 Singing to the Mountain
Music Break 3: Track 09 Bendir & Heckelphone reprise