Letters, Summer 2020
Contradiction?, The Missing Poll, Golden Books, Heroic Acts, and More
Holiness and Public Policy: The Haredi Response to COVID-19
Bnei Brak, where yeshivot and synagogues were kept open far too long, accounted for 16 percent of all Israeli COVID-19 cases and a comparable percentage of fatalities despite comprising only 2 percent of the Israeli population. We haredim must radically rethink our approach to public policy—and holiness.
The First Amendment and the Vocabulary of Freedom
Oral arguments in a case involving two Catholic schools sometimes sounded less like a jurisprudential clash over the First Amendment than a synagogue kiddush.
Not a Nice Boy
To every author who seemed too cautious—which was nearly every author he knew—Roth gave the same advice. “You are not a nice boy,” he told the British playwright David Hare. His friend Benjamin Taylor’s memoir is . . . nice.
In Morningstar Heights, Joshua Henkin tells his story simply and directly, with a narrative economy that conceals much close observation and human understanding. These have always been the strengths of his work, though they are not the qualities best rewarded in contemporary American fiction.
The Milchik Way
Katchor seems to take his cue from these menus with their meandering columns of dense text; their indirection parallels and feeds his own.
“A Story of Commitment, Solidarity, Love Even”
Retracing her father’s wartime journey from Poland, across the USSR, through Iran and eventually to Palestine, Michal Dekel learns a lot about what it means to belong to a people.
The Law of the Baby
Mara Benjamin provides a deeply philosophical account, in loving, sometimes humorous detail, of what it is like to live under the Law of the Baby—and uses it, together with incisive readings of classical Jewish texts, to explore the nature of obligation in Judaism.
Lives in Translation
The elegant essays in Hillel Halkin's new book are the fruit of a lifetime devoted to Hebrew literature.
In 2006, a blogger known as Baal Habos posted about a former rebbe who had once compared heretical media to “a hole in the head.” By then he had become a “ba’al ha-bos” (roughly, a family man), with a position in the community he wasn’t comfortable giving up, he had acquired plenty of holes in his head and wanted to discuss them—anonymously.
“We Found Our Outrage”
On March 2, 2015, a handful of campus activists announced that Andrew Pessin was an anti-Palestinian bigot. “I feel unsafe,” wrote Lamiya Khandaker, the student chair of diversity and equity at Connecticut College.
What does it mean to say that books have lives?
My Scandalous Rejection of Unorthodox
All of us in the online OTD community have gone through some version of the transformation Unorthodox dramatizes, and we gobble down and fiercely debate every new OTD memoir that hits the shelves, every documentary and movie that comes out.
A Plague on the Shores of the Sea of Galilee
The death of the Great Maggid in December 1772, a week before Hanukkah, was a crucial moment in the early history of Hasidic movement.
Lost & Found
Spinoza in Warsaw: Fragments of a Dream
“Having rested in his grave for 250 years, Baruch Spinoza came to the conclusion that just lying around like that was without telos” and decided to try to make it in Warsaw. A Yiddish satire, translated and with an introduction by Allan Nadler.
If God Wills It, a Broom Can Shoot
“Are you really intending to raise our kids,” my wife Tali asked me one Saturday afternoon after our Shabbes lunch, “in a world that doesn’t have Harry Potter in Yiddish?”
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