Summer 2018

Summer 2018
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Letters, Summer 2018

Poland and the Devil’s Point of View, Abraham’s Genome, Who's the Sabbatean?, and More


In the Melting Pot

More than a century after Zangwill's play debuted, the melting pot is still bubbling. What does that really mean for American Jewry?


Sacrificial Speech

Just a few years after the publication of her Purity, Body, and Self in Early Rabbinic Literature, Mira Balberg has somehow managed to write another path-breaking work on another formidable and arcane section of rabbinic literature—sacrificial law.

Maimonides, Stonehenge, and Newton’s Obsessions

It takes a bit of a genius to successfully study a genius, and in this case one must first master the millions of words Isaac Newton wrote about natural theology, doctrine, prophecy, and church history.

No Empty Place

The most substantial theoretical response to Hasidism from a leader of the mitnagdic—literally, opposition—movement did not appear until 1824, three years after the passing of its author, Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin.

The Founder of Jewish Studies

In 1818, a 23-year-old university student named Leopold Zunz published a 30-page essay with the modest title “On Rabbinic Literature.” He could scarcely have imagined his impact.

To Spy Out the Land

A palm tree over one grave and a fence around another—two new books explore the history and legacy of the Nili spy ring. 

Free Radicals

The history of American anarchists, and of Jewish anarchists in particular, has been forgotten, largely overshadowed by the history of the American communist movement.

A Book and a Sword in the Vilna Ghetto

If the destruction of Jewish culture and Jewish life were intertwined, then the reverse was also true: The rescue of books, manuscripts, Torahs, and so on was almost as much a form of resistance as the preservation of life itself.

33 Days and Four Years 

Leon Werth chronicled both the chaotic flight of French civilians from the advancing Germans and the long years of a French Jew living in "free" France.

You Shall Appoint for Yourself Judges

It is not much of an exaggeration to say that legal and judicial politics in Israel since his retirement have pivoted on competing views of Aharon Barak and his court: Was he a robust defender of human rights or a runaway judge who imposed his political preferences on a nation?

Containing God’s Presence

The Torah reading cycle provides the structure not just for the Jewish year but also for countless volumes of commentary on the biblical text.

Dress British, Think Yiddish

Stanley Kubrick was a New York Jew, fascinated with photography, jazz, and chess. He took evening classes at City College and studied at Columbia with Lionel Trilling.


Maimonides in Ma’ale Adumim 

Rabbi Nachum Rabinovitch has been working on his commentary to the Mishneh Torah for the last 41 years. It may be the greatest rabbinic work of the century.

On Literary Brilliance and Moral Rot  

Why did the prestigious publishing house Gallimard want to publish three vilely anti-Semitic pamphlets by Louis-Ferdinand Céline? And is he still worth reading?

Du Bois, the Warsaw Ghetto, and a Priestly Blessing 

When the editors at Jewish Life asked the venerable civil rights leader W. E. B. Du Bois to speak about the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, they had no idea that it would lead to a priestly blessing.

Last Word

Says Who?

Peter Berger listened to me patiently, and then he said, “You can come to see me, but”—and here he spoke with heavy emphasis—“it sounds like you have read my books . . . and I haven’t thought of anything new.”

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