Letters, Winter 2021
Et Tu, Jewish Review?, The Akedah Conundrum, Crazy Rich Mizrachim?, Josephus’s Jonah, and More
A Moral Voice
Morality is the title of the last book Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks published in his lifetime. It was released in the United States in September, and he died in November at the age of 72.
As it is, The Orchard reads more like Days of Our Lives than Daniel Deronda.
While the blood libel was rooted in Christianity, it also accused Jews of practicing precisely the opposite of what Judaism itself teaches, namely, not to consume blood.
Emancipation Terminable and Interminable
The modern "emancipation of the Jews" can be said to have begun a lot earlier than historians used to think, but has it really not come to its end?
How did a large number of religious Zionists come to believe a historical fantasy about the Vilna Gaon’s secret 18th-century Zionist plan?
At Home in America
Just beneath the surface of this Holocaust memoir is, in fact, an altogether different tale: a paean to the good life in America.
And One for All
Adam Sutcliffe is an intellectual historian, not a theologian or a philosopher, so he doesn’t try to answer the question of what purpose Jews serve in the world, but he has a lot to say about the attempts to do so that Jews and non-Jews have been making for ages.
Objective Muddles and Persuasive Testimony
It may seem as though a religious tradition like Judaism would have no home in a philosophical ecosystem that cultivates nothing but a specific mode of intellectual engagement. But it is precisely the lack of a positive dogma that makes analytic philosophy compatible with the basic tenets of Judaism—at least that’s the premise of Jewish Philosophy in an Analytic Age.
When Heidi Met Shimen
Whereas Heidi and her woke progeny scatter in the winds of the American landscape and the heirs of Yitzy and Ben find themselves growing further apart, their Israeli counterparts find themselves socializing together, mostly serving in the army together, and sharing a Jewish cultural vocabulary.
The Yiddish-Speaking Hitmen’s Union
What are we to make of Szczepan Twardoch, a non-Jewish Pole who has written a crime novel featuring a volatile Jewish gangster who, among, many nefarious acts, slices and dices a fellow Jew?
Most liberal Israelis once believed the 1990s-era Western narrative about Israeli-Palestinian peace: that the Palestinians would eventually be satisfied with a state alongside Israel, that everyone desired the same kind of progress, that maximalist rhetoric on the Arab side masked more modest goals, and that the Palestinian talk about millions of refugees and their “right of return” to Israel was a starting position that was bound to be bargained away.
The Tunnel, A. B. Yehoshua’s most recent novel, written as he moved into his eighties, does not exhibit any traits of what some literary critics have called “the style of old age,” but its unusual subject, incipient dementia, is patently a concern of old age.
Working One’s Way Out
"When I first read Winter Vigil over a year ago, I was swept away; I hadn’t read any contemporary writing as good in a long time. I hadn’t known Steve Kogan could write like that. I hadn’t, it turned out, known very much about him."
Who Doesn’t Love Roald Dahl?
There’s nothing quite like the realization that what you thought was an empowering work of art is actually a 200-page exercise in trolling. It took me more than 30 years to figure out that I’d been trolled by Roald Dahl.
The Mocker and the Makhers
Herman Mankiewicz's life wasn't all drunken bets and witty repartee. After all, he wrote Citizen Kane. Life in 1930s "Eretz Demille."
Lost & Found
Write a Modern Letter, Live a Modern Life
Alice Nakhimovsky, Roberta Newman
Imagine that you’re a woman living in a shtetl in 1900: what do you say in a letter to your husband in America if you think he’s cheating on you?
Halakha and Theocracy: A Response
Allan Arkush fails to see the novelty of the theocratic idea in Judaism.
The Medieval Blueprint: A Rejoinder
Alexander Kaye understates the extent to which medieval Judaism gave rise to the idea of a halakhic state.
My Father and Birnbaum’s Heavenly City
According to one scholar, Uriel Birnbaum produced “more than 6,000 poems, 130 essays, 30 plays, 10 short stories, 15 fairy tales, fragments of a longer epic poem, 20 chapters of a lost novel and 30 collections of illustrations.” And yet, Birnbaum received little acclaim in his lifetime. Today he is all but unknown.
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