Letters, Fall 2019

Austro-Hungarian Eden?; The Diaspora Strikes Back!; In Performance There Is Problem; Tact, Truth, and Tercets; Mameloshn



A brilliant and moving exhibit at the Israel Museum pairs the Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, who died in the space shuttle Columbia explosion, with the obscure biblical gure Enoch, who was also an astronaut of sorts.

A Failure of Reimagination?

We once worried about the faith of young American Jews; now we worry about their politics. It’s part of a long historical development we should resist because Judaism-as-politics isn’t enough.


Orpheus on the Lower East Side

Hart Crane’s name will forever be linked to Samuel Greenberg’s by a brilliant act of plagiarism, for the story of Greenberg’s posthumous manuscripts is almost as remarkable as the poetry itself.

State or Substate?

“Nonstatist” Zionists, as the historian David Myers has dubbed them, have received a lot of attention in recent years. Dmitry Shumsky, a historian at the Hebrew University, is grateful for this scholarship but believes that it has not gone far enough.

Mastering the Return

Embedding biblical allusions in her descriptions of pagan practices, Tova Reich in her new novel seems to suggest that the world is so entangled that there is no space between the sacred and profane.

The Gray Lady and the Jewish State

Jerold Auerbach’s archly titled new study Print to Fit: The New York Times, Zionism and Israel, 1896–2016 is a well-researched and, for the most part, damning brief of the Times’s news coverage and editorial attitudes toward Zionism and Israel for over a century.

In and Out of Time

A new collection of Heschel's writings plucked from obscurity and presented with clarity to English readers adds to our understanding of the centrality of time in Heschel’s worldview.

Setting the Table

“How will women’s proficiency in learning change family dynamics? . . . How will their sons view a woman’s capacity for rigorous study? Will women want a different sort of husband—one who is not threatened or intimated by an educated woman?”

The Arts


“I Do Not Care if We Go Down in History as Barbarians” is a reenactment; the quotation marks are part of its title, suggesting just how meta this film becomes. It steps back one more level into the minds of the people doing the reenacting.

Jews Not without Money

Jews, Money, Myth, at London's Jewish Museum, normalizes the Jewish relationship with money without negating those factors that made this particular historical association especially fraught.


Sitting with Shylock on Yom Kippur

The poet Heinrich Heine imagined the merchant of Venice attending Neilah, the final service of Yom Kippur, but I find him earlier in the day, at Mincha, and we are listening together to the story of another Jew among Gentiles, bitter at being compelled to show mercy.

Lost & Found

Last Word

The Symbol Catcher

My friends and I took for granted that the connection between the cards and the players they represented wasn’t just arbitrary.

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