Letters, Spring 2018

Toynbee’s “Zionist Card,” Their Man in Beijing?, Kibbutz Dreams, and the Mortara Affair Redux


The Jewish Critic and the Devil’s Point of View

We have never met this Mendele before, but he expects us to trust him, appreciate his wit, catch his references, and share his attitudes. In a few deft lines, the author created a figure so democratic you don’t have to look up to him, so familiar you don’t have to fear him, and so appealing you won’t realize you’re being flogged.


God’s Law in Human Hands

A Judean, a Stoic, a Jewish philosopher, a Jesus follower, and a rabbi walk into a seminar room at Yale, and Professor Christine Hayes asks them, “What do you mean when you say divine law?”

In the City of Killing

The Kishinev pogrom originated in a rumor, widely disseminated and believed around the area that Easter, that the imperial authorities had given permission for several days of uninterrupted violence against the Jews.

Child of Occupation

Hidden in Modiano's explosive novellas is a desire for answers, a quest for understanding, perhaps even a search for identity, all of which becomes clearer as his writing matures and his methodical qualities rise to the surface. 

Not of This World

In writing his first book for young readers, Aharon Appelfeld seems to have split himself and his life story between the two title characters: resourceful Adam, a boy of the land whose knowledge of the forest keeps them safe and fed, and bookish Thomas, a doubter in both faith and his own abilities.

Telling the Whole Truth: Albert Memmi

Albert Memmi began his career as a writer of fiction, but, with the appearance of The Colonizer and the Colonized in 1957, the novelist who wrote like a sociologist became a sociologist who wrote like a novelist.

Black Money

Terrorism is not cheap. Find a way of taking terrorists’ money, the logic would seem to dictate, and you may have a way of shutting them down. 


Moses, Murder, and the Jewish Psyche

Sigmund Freud had always identified with Moses. At the end of his life, as the Nazis rose to power, he returned to the Bible and the origins of the Jewish psyche. We all know his scandalous theory—or do we?


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