Armada of fans show up to support Hal’s Navy

by | Nov 22, 2013 | Other News

Miriam Seeherman, Hal Sacks, and Marie Torrans.

Miriam Seeherman, Hal Sacks, and Marie Torrans.

Like sailors rallying around their captain or destroyers protecting their carrier group, the audience that came to hear Hal Sacks speak about his memoir, Hal’s Navy, on Wednesday, Nov. 6 at the Simon Family JCC, showed up in full support of the newly published author.

More than 100 friends, family and community members attended the special reading and reception that was presented by the Tidewater Jewish Foundation and the Simon Family JCC, as part of the 2013 Lee and Bernard Jaffe* (of blessed memory) Family Jewish Book Festival.

Sacks is a longstanding member of the Tidewater Jewish community who has helped guide and lead the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater and the Tidewater Jewish Foundation, among many other Jewish and non-Jewish organizations.

“I thank you all for coming,” Sacks said. “It means a lot to me that so many of you are interested in hearing and reading about my life. I was just this Jewish kid from the Bronx who joined the Navy because I didn’t want to get drafted into the Army—and at the time it seemed better than joining the Marines.”

Literally hot off the presses—the paperback editions were printed just the week before his JCC appearance—Hal’s Navy spans Sacks’ Naval career, from his initial intention to serve only a requisite three year period through his retirement 20 years later as a Navy Commander.

“Hal is a great storyteller,” says Philip Rovner, president and CEO of TJF. “And a great guy. This book captures both of these qualities and we’re very fortunate that he wrote it.”

Hal’s Navy originally was meant to be read only by Sacks’ family. Memoirs, by their nature, are self-serving says Sacks, who holds a masters degree in American Literature from Columbia University and has been the book reviewer for the Jewish News for more than 30 years.

“I was writing this for my grandchildren, because of my experiences with my own grandfather,” says Sacks. “He and I were very close growing up, but did I ever ask him any questions about his life as a boy growing up in New York in the nineteenth century? No. And I wished I had. I realized my grandchildren might have the same regrets some day, so my motivation with this book was to give them the answers—what my life was like in the United States Navy.”

Sacks intends for all of the proceeds of the book to go to the Jewish News Archives project, in which all past issues of the decades-old community publication will be digitized and made available to the public.

At the end of the evening, Lynn Sher Cohen, co-chair of the Book Festival, surprised Sacks with the announcement that the 20 percent of Hal’s Navy book sales he had contractually committed to the JCC would no longer be required.

“We are returning those proceeds back to you for your Archives project,” Cohen said. “It is a pleasure for us to do that for you, because of all you have done for this community.”

Hal’s Navy, by Cdr. Harold Sacks, USN (Ret.), is available on, or by contacting

by Laine Mednick Rutherford