Letters, Winter 2017
Critical Powers, Pity the Poor Irisher, Evil Inkblots, Theologico-Political Query, Funny but Serious, A Day at the Races
Three Portraits of Jewish Excellence—at 29
At the age of 29, David Ben-Gurion was speaking to empty halls across America for the Zionist movement and Leo Strauss was finding the “theological-political predicament” insoluble. As for Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, he was in Berlin worrying about epistemology and halakha. Three portraits of Jewish excellence in the making.
Brave New Golems
As monsters go, golems are pretty boring. Mute, crudely fashioned household servants and protectors, in essence they’re not much different from the brooms in the “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” story.
The Lamp of Zion
Over time, the menorah has morphed from a nostalgia-evoking relic of the past to a nation-inspiring symbol pointing forward.
What’s Yichus Got to Do with It?
For the whole history of Jewish society, until less than two hundred years ago, love and attraction played little or no role in the making of marriages, which were arranged and contracted according to the interests—commercial, religious, and social—of the families involved.
Twilight of the Anti-Semites
Nietzsche’s reception has been sharply divided between anti-Semitic and philo-Semitic readings. Richard C. Holub's new book explores how the philosopher's views changed over time and whether some of his statements about Jews should be attributed to another hand.
A Brand Rescued from the Fire
Leon Chameides has painstakingly collected his father’s writings from the fateful years of 1930s Polish Jewry, before the break-up of his family and the collapse of Jewish life in Nazi Europe.
Back in the USSR
On the ephemeral nature of home and “certificates of cowlessness” in Russia's Jewish Autonomous Region.
Ike’s Bet and Nasser’s Vasser
Could the hot dog-munching, movie-going young colonel named Nasser have become our man if we had tried harder to accommodate him at the very outset?
Our Kind of Traitor
More than 40 years after the Yom Kippur War, some of its battles rage on, including the debate over the spy Ashraf Marwan’s true loyalty.
Jokes: A Genre of Thought
Three people are required to perfect a joke: one to tell it, one to get it, and a third not to get it.
The Genius of Bernard-Henri Lévy
Bernard-Henri Lévy's amour propre, while immense, does not quite extend to regarding his life as exemplary in its Jewishness, nor to tying all of his political actions to Judaism.
Bling and Beauty: Jerusalem at the Met
In a new exhibit at the Met curators Barbara Drake Boehm and Melanie Holcomb wear their liberal hearts on their sleeves, imagining that Jerusalem's crowds might yet be resurrected as a convivial medieval pluralism.
A Foreign Song I Learned in Utah
Despite all of Bob Dylan’s subterfuges, disguises, and costume changes, he really was a child of the American heartland. Winning the Nobel Prize might actually be his most Jewish achievement.
Waiting for Moshe Right
The web series Soon by You is part Seinfeld, part Srugim.
Memory and Desecration in Salonica
Memory and a vandalized memorial in a once-Jewish city on the Aegean Sea.
What They Talk About When They Talk About Golems
On golems and global conspiracy theories.
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