Spring 2012

Spring 2012
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Letters, Spring 2012

The Bimah Takes Center Stage and Chutzpah or Khezbh'n hane'fesh?


Comes the Comer

The New American Haggadah boasts a high-profile cast of contributors—Jonathan Safran Foer, Nathan Englander, Nathaniel Deutsch, Jeffrey Goldberg, Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, and Lemony Snicket. But it also features a series of unfortunate translations and commentaries.

President Grant and the Chabadnik

In 1869, President Grant received an unexpected visitor at the White House: Haim Zvi Sneersohn, a flamboyant and eccentric Chabad emmisary from Jerusalem. Bedecked in what The New York Times described as an "Oriental costume" consisting of a "rich robe of silk, a white damask surplice, a fez, and a splendid Persian shawl fastened about his waist," he strode self-confidently toward the president. Grant instinctively rose to greet him.


Diaspora Divided

In his new book, Peter Beinart leads a full-court press against the current state of Zionism. Expanding on his now (in)famous article, "The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment," Beinart sets out to convince young liberal Jews to join the battle for Israel's soul. Noble but misguided, his crusade is sure to backfire.

Leon's Roar

A new book explores Leon Modena's crusade against Kabbalah in 17th-century Italy.

What a Friend We Have in Jesus

A new crop of books about Jesus, by Jews and for Jews.

New Thinkers, Old Stereotypes

Moshe Idel is heavy on melancholy, not to mention surprising claims about the scholars of Western Europe.

Chasing Death

The director of the landmark documentary Shoah, Claude Lanzmann, has written a memoir, which sheds new light on his death-defying life.

The Statesman

Israel's president writes a biography of that country's first prime minister.

A Heretic in the Truth

A new book points out just how elusive Spinoza's ideas on politics were and raises serious questions about his "secularism."

Questioning in the Darkness

A century ago, S. Ansky (Shloyme-Zanvl Rappoport) assembled thousands of questions for a survey directed at shtetl residents in the Russian Empire's Pale of Settlement. A new book examines this fascinating survey.

In Brief

In Brief, Spring 2012

Baseball, Beats, and Scandals in Satmar.


Frogs, Griffins, and Jews Without Hats: How My Children Illuminated the Haggadah

The illustrated haggadahs of medieval Europe contain more than just rich, colorful depictions of the Exodus story. The closer you look, and with innocent eyes, the more sophisticated the artistic commentary becomes. There are drawings of rabbinic midrash and not a small amount of political satire and polemic.

Lost & Found

Singing Gentile Songs: A Ladino Memoir by Sa'adi Besalel a-Levi

Sa'adi Besalel a-Levi's memoir of life in 19th-century Salonica provides a rare and intimate glimpse into a lost Ottoman Jewish world. Sa'adi was an accomplished singer and composer and a printer who helped to found modern Ladino print culture. He was also a rebel who accused the leaders of the Jewish community of being corrupt, abusive, and fanatical. In response, they excommunicated him—frequently, capriciously, and, in the end, definitively—though with imperfect success.

The Lost Textual Treasures of a Hasidic Community

The Regensburg Library at the University of Chicago contains a catalogue of markings and stamps from books saved from Nazi destruction. One such stamp comes from the library of the Karlin-Stolin Hasidim, a collection that might contain the most valuable manuscript for understanding the roots of Hasidism. But where is it?

Last Word

Karl Marx, the Jews of Jerusalem, and UNESCO

Some revolutionary quotations from Marx and the People's Republic of China.

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