Letters, Spring 2019
Lachrymose Criticism?, Was Lincoln Jewish?, The Rebbe and the Professor, and The Transjordan Question
The Mabam Strategy: Israel, Iran, Syria (and Russia)
In 2017, Israeli fighter jets hit an Iranian weapons facility in Syria, and such strikes have continued over the last 18 months. But as Assad solidifies his victory in the Syrian civil war while Iranian and Russian forces remain on the ground, the next Israeli government must rethink its strategy in “the campaign between the wars,” known in Hebrew as mabam.
Quarried in Air
Sefer Yeṣirah is the most influential Jewish book you never heard of. Indeed, it has been argued that early commentaries written on the book tilled the gnostic soil out of which sprouted the tree of Kabbalah.
Moses and Hellenism
In a provocative new work recently published in German, Bernd Witte proposes nothing less than an “alternative history of German culture,” as the subtitle of his finely wrought work of scholarship tells us. Moses and Homer: Greeks, Jews, Germans is a historical and cultural argument animated by powerful indignation. This history, he insists, has yet to be fully confronted.
Victim Enough? The Jews of North Africa During the Holocaust
As the Tunisian Jewish novelist Albert Memmi wrote, “I am not enough of a victim; that is why my conscience is tortured.” Must the Jews of North Africa, as contributor Lia Brozgal puts it, write “a history that competes with a more catastrophic one, or be written out of history?”
In Giorgio Bassani’s Memory Garden
If you visit Ferrara, Italy, you can let Giorgio Bassani be your melancholy guide as you stroll along “the crowded rows of stores, shops and little outlets facing each other” to arrive at the synagogue’s “baked-red facade.”
Seventy Years in the Desert
At the 1965 International Bible Contest, David Ben-Gurion posed some of the questions. He also asked two to the entire audience: “How many of you are ready to make aliyah to the Land of Israel?” And then, more specifically, “How many of you are ready to come and live with me in the Negev?”
Universal Rights and the Particular Jew
Jews, like so many other minorities, whether they had states or not, deserve recognition and protection as nations. But these universal rights have eluded Jews, even as they worked to ensure them for others.
The Fire Now
"As horrific as the Holocaust was, it is firmly in the past. . . . Though I remain horrified by what happened, it is history. Contemporary antisemitism is not. It is about the present. It is what many people are doing, saying, and facing now," writes Deborah Lipstadt in her latest book.
Some Kind of Genius
Ben Hecht’s life should come with a warning label: Biographer, beware. A trickster, a prankster, a cool Wildean ironist, he was always a fast-moving target.
America’s Jewish Bridegroom
Horace Kallen can be found in the ill-starred pantheon of prolific writers known for only one thing: one novel, one sonnet, one treatise, or, in his case, one idea. That idea is “cultural pluralism.”
Our Man in Beirut
The Arab Section, suggests Matti Friedman, in one of his latest book's nicer lines, “needed men idealistic enough to risk their lives for free, but deceitful enough to make good spies.”
All or Nothing?
As Nathan Englander no doubt knows, it is impossible to read kaddish.com without thinking of his own well-publicized background as a yeshiva student who turned away from Orthodoxy.
Lessons of the Soviet Jewish Exodus
Between the mid-1960s and 1991, more than two million Jews left the USSR. To the extent that the Soviet Jewish exodus is remembered, its lessons are misunderstood.
I mug at myself in the mirror and recite the old Monty Python gag.
Harold Bloom: Anti-Inkling?
It’s a bit surprising to come across Harold Bloom’s confession that the literary work that has been his greatest obsession is not, say, Hamlet or Henry IV, but a relatively little-known 1920 fantasy novel.
Lost & Found
A Letter to Mama
A story by Isaac Bashevis Singer, with an introduction by David Stromberg.
For a young daydreamer, nothing is more beautiful than the unspoken, which becomes the focus of desire. And the Jewish unspoken of my childhood was so vast that, within it, the imagination could reach near-spiritual proportions.
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