The 188th Crybaby Brigade: A Skinny Jewish Kid from Chicago Fabits Hezbollah: A Memoir

by Joel Chasnoff

Book, 2010



Call number



New York : Free Press, 2010.


Look at me. Do you see me? Do you see me in my olive-green uniform, beret, and shiny black boots? Do you see the assault rifle slung across my chest? Finally! I am the badass Israeli soldier at the side of the road, in sunglasses, forearms like bricks. And honestly -- have you ever seen anything quite like me? Joel Chasnoff is twenty-four years old, an American, and the graduate of an Ivy League university. But when his career as a stand-up comic fails to get off the ground, Chasnoff decides it's time for a serious change of pace. Leaving behind his amenity-laden Brooklyn apartment for a plane ticket to Israel, Joel trades in the comforts of being a stereotypical American Jewish male for an Uzi, dog tags (with his name misspelled), and serious mental and physical abuse at the hands of the Israeli Army. The 188th Crybaby Brigade is a hilarious and poignant account of Chasnoff's year in the Israel Defense Forces -- a year that he volunteered for, and that he'll never get back. As a member of the 188th Armored Brigade, a unit trained on the Merkava tanks that make up the backbone of Israeli ground forces, Chasnoff finds himself caught in a twilight zone-like world of mandatory snack breaks, battalion sing-alongs, and eighteen-year-old Israeli mama's boys who feign injuries to get out of guard duty and claim diarrhea to avoid kitchen work. More time is spent arguing over how to roll a sleeve cuff than studying the mechanics of the Merkava tanks. The platoon sergeants are barely older than the soldiers and are younger than Chasnoff himself. By the time he's sent to Lebanon for a tour of duty against Hezbollah, Chasnoff knows everything about why snot dries out in the desert, yet has never been trained in firing the MAG. And all this while his relationship with his tough-as-nails Israeli girlfriend (herself a former drill sergeant) crumbles before his very eyes. The lone American in a platoon of eighteen-year-old Israelis, Chasnoff takes readers into the barracks; over, under, and through political fences; and face-to-face with the absurd reality of life in the Israeli Army. It is a brash and gritty depiction of combat, rife with ego clashes, breakdowns in morale, training mishaps that almost cost lives, and the barely containable sexual urges of a group of teenagers. What's more, it's an on-the-ground account of life in one of the most em-battled armies on earth -- an occupying force in a hostile land, surrounded by enemy governments and terrorists, reviled by much of the world. With equal parts irreverence and vulnerability, irony and intimacy, Chasnoff narrates a new kind of coming-of-age story -- one that teaches us, moves us, and makes us laugh.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member ALinNY458
This is a very funny but also melancholy story of Joel Chasnoff's service in the Israeli Army. Joel comes to the IDF with allot of expectations about what it would be like to serve in the rough and tough Israeli Army. He finds out that it wasn't so rough and tough and is populated by a bunch of
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whining teenagers and semi-competent NCO's and officers. Joel spends several month's in Lebanon and writes of the frustration of serving in an unwinnable war against Hezbelloh. But he writes about his experience with such great humor about what he and his comrades went through that I laughed thru much of the book. The Jewish Catch-22 its not quite but its a good read and I recommend it.
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LibraryThing member Shrike58
Call this a cautionary tale of getting what you want, as driven by a desire to feel more complete in his Judaism, in love with an Israeli girl, and at a dead end in his career, the author decides that his best option is joining the Israeli Defense Forces. Taking place in the mid-1990s, what you can
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call a process of growing up or disllusionment takes place, as by the time Chasnoff has finished his stint in the IDF he has discovered that the Jewish people is hardly one in Israel, that as a society Israel is living off nearly spent capital, and that the Israeli ground forces have lost their edge. While still critical about the dead end the Jewish state has wandered into, vis-a-vis rejecting the evolving nature of American Jewish society, Chasnoff can at least ruefully consider the whole adventure to be a good career move, even if he wanted to shoot a lot of fellow soldiers for their stupidity at the time.
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LibraryThing member xenchu
This is the story of a Jewish kid from Chicago with a burning desire to join the Israeli Defense Force, the Israeli Army. He gets his wish. He discovers the training is lacking, the people are incompetent and racist, and army life is boring. Except for the incompetence, it is just like any other
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As for the Judaism, I have no experience but his comments and situation were often funny. To become a Jew (although he has lived a completely jewish life) he has to pass through a totally kafkaesque religious bureaucracy that is, t least to the gentile mind, totally meaningless.

The combat he describes is dead on. Boredom and terror, boredom and terror, senseless rules and commands with no connection to reality. Except for wounds and death, combat is very seldom anything else.

Anyway, the writing is good and the book is funny. I can recommend it.
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LibraryThing member -Eva-
I think most people have an idea or image of the cool IDF soldier with his guns and his aviator sunglasses. So did Joel Chasnoff and he wanted to be one of them. However, it was only when he arrived in Israel and became a soldier in the Israeli army that he got a true look into the life of an
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18-year-old soldier's life - a soldier that is primarily an 18-year-old kid. This is a very funny, and sometimes scary, story of the accomplishments and the failings of the Armored Brigade - you'd think that the IDF wouldn't give a Merkava tank to someone who wasn't completely prepared, but, as Chasnoff finds out, this is not true. You'll laugh at the shenanigans of these kids and you will be horrified and amazed that the IDF has ever managed to win a war with the slight amount of training this 188th receives.
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