Letters, Summer 2019

Garden Betrayed, Mysterium Tremendum or Coping Mechanism?, Lucifer in the Details


The Jewsraeli Century

Ben-Gurion declared that “with the creation of the state, we are standing on the edge of a new era. Not only in the life of the Jewish community in Israel, but . . . in the history of Judaism itself.” He was right, but not in the way he thought he would be.


Spiritual Survival

In 1960, the novelist Vasily Grossman wrote to then-premier Nikita Khrushchev with an unusual intention. He wished, he wrote, to “candidly share my thoughts” with the most powerful man in a country that often murdered bearers of candor.

Red Light, Green Light

Shadow Strike by Yaakov Katz, the editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem Post, tells for the first time the full story of the discovery of al-Kibar, the ensuing diplomacy with Washington, and the planning and execution of the Israeli air attack that destroyed the Syrian nuclear reactor.

“Jacob Gazed into the Distant Future”

In Jacob & Esau: Jewish European History Between Nation and Empire, Malachi Haim Hacohen provides a dense but lucid account of how the history of this typology of sibling rivalry unfolded, first in the later books of the Bible and then, following the invention of a linkage between Edom and the Roman Empire, in rabbinic literature, and, finally, in later Jewish and Christian writings, down to modern times.

The Witness

Raised in an assimilated German-speaking family and baptized as a Protestant at age 12, Adler had seemed destined for a stellar literary career as an heir to the Prague Circle, a group of German-language writers that included Kafka, Max Brod, and the philosopher Hugo Bergmann. His imprisonment in Theresienstadt changed the arc of his career and gave us some of the most powerful testimony about the inner life of the camps that has ever been written.

Poisoned Gefilte Fish, Broken Heart

In a characteristic turn of phrase, Der Nister wrote that the realization of the possibility of a land for Jews, where they lived under their own sovereignty would be a “brokhe af doyres” (blessing for future generations). The bitter irony is almost unbearable.

The Anti-Imperialism of Idiots

While it is customary to trace the Left’s bitter divorce from Israel to the Six-Day War of 1967, Susie Linfield shows that in some cases the relationship breakdown began earlier, in the late 1950s, when the New Left, having given up faith in the Soviet Union, decided anticolonialism is socialism,

Open-Door Policy

The Jewish American Paradox expresses Mnookin’s conviction that only a Judaism of choice, open to all who publicly declare their belonging, has any prospect of flourishing in American society.

The Sounds of Silence

In his latest book, John Gray, himself a nonbeliever, takes atheists to task for trying to convince themselves that the world is organized according to an intelligible principle—a proposition he believes they inherited from monotheism.

In My Country There Is Problem

Through this new book we get a disturbing picture of how students and faculty in the self-proclaimed progressive movement have demonized and marginalized Israel, its advocates, and anyone who wishes to genuinely learn about the Jewish State.


On a Story by Delmore Schwartz

In 1937, the editors at Partisan Review placed “In Dreams Begin Responsibilities,” by a 24-year old unknown improbably named Delmore Schwartz before pieces by Wallace Stevens, Lionel Trilling, Edmund Wilson, and Pablo Picasso, to relaunch their magazine. They knew what they were doing.

The Arts

Visiting Yemen in the 1980s: A Photo Essay

"Sometimes one really does find that moment and the image seems to capture a person—this particular Jew, this particular way of life—but often one does not and feels the need to return, to try again." But in this case, there are no Jewish communities in Yemen to return to.

Lost & Found

Last Word

Learning Yiddish After 60

When I was about 10, I had a brilliant idea. If my parents would agree to speak only Yiddish with each other, it would just come to me without effort. I wouldn't have to learn it or study it, I would just wake up one day knowing it.

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