As a Woman, Being Reborn

By Jake Marmer

Medieval kabbalists wrote obsessively about language powers that brought the world into existence. Joy — previously known as Jay — Ladin is a contemporary poet whose words are also creating a world. In her case, though, the world in question is Joy’s own: living as an openly transgender person — spiritual seeker, sexual being, father of two and Jew.Read More

Out of Step, and Out of This World

By Stuart Schoffman

“I sat swaying over the book, poring over its words. I could make out nearly all that the Gypsies had written if I stuck with it long enough. The meaning was something else again. But that’s the way of a scripture: it’s often not meant to be understood.” So writes Danny Shapiro, the narrator-protagonist of David Halperin’s startling first novel.Read More

A Down to Earth Philosophy

By Allan Nadler

There is a charming Jewish tradition of taking delight in the discovery of the hidden Jewishness of celebrities. This childishly ethnocentric, but perfectly innocuous, enchantment with uncovering the Jewish origins of the famous and fabulous was brilliantly parodied decades ago in the song “Would You Believe It?” chanted by Phil Leeds on the aptly named 1966 album, “When You’re in Love, the Whole World Is Jewish.” A half century later, Adam Sandler, in hilarious testimony to the continued attraction of this variety of Jewish ethnic insecurity, blessed us with “The Chanukah Song.”Read More

The End of the Reign in Spain

By Mark Cohen

The voices that come alive in “Sephardi Family Life in the Early Modern Diaspora” beat down the tiresome impulse to prove history relevant. Instead, the six excellent and painstakingly researched scholarly papers, edited by Julia R. Lieberman, prove their worth in a better way: They tell stories that reveal how besieged societies strain to hold on to their traditions and to civilized life.Read More

Dan Miron’s Authoritative Answer

By Josh Lambert

Dan Miron’s “From Continuity to Contiguity” is a work of Jewish literary theory — an exceedingly erudite one, and in some ways the most important to appear in recent decades — that reads a little like a mystery novel. The book begins with the idea that “continuity” is dead as a model for studying Jewish literature, and Miron, the Leonard Kaye Chair of Hebrew and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, even tells us who killed it: “the so-called Tel Aviv structuralist school of poetics.”Read More

Yearning for the Past in the Future

By Gerald Sorin

We continue to be in the tricky business of trying to define what we mean (or don’t mean) by “Jewish writer.” Any writer who is a Jew? Only a writer, Jewish or not, who includes Jewish “content” in his or her work? Or a writer, often Jewish, whose work, with or without Jewish specificity, reveals, when read closely, Jewish meaning, values or sensibility? Derek Rubin, editor of “Promised Lands,” is determined to demonstrate, as he did in his earlier anthology, “Who We Are: On Being (and Not Being) a Jewish American Writer” (Schocken Books, 2005), not only that all such Jewish writers exist, but also that whatever else Jewish writing might mean, it almost always embodies a “core Jewish theme” of longing and belonging.Read More

‘Exodus’ Redux

By Benjamin Ivry

The 1958 novel “Exodus” by Leon Uris, and the 1960 blockbuster movie that it inspired, set to composer Ernest Gold’s triumphant brassy soundtrack, significantly altered the way Americans, and the rest of the world, see the State of Israel. Yet only now have two full-length studies appeared about the book and its author: “Leon Uris: Life of a Best Seller,” a biography by Ira Nadel, and “Our Exodus: Leon Uris and the Americanization of Israel’s Founding Story” by M.M. Silver. Why the delaRead More

How (and Why) We Saved Soviet Jewry

By Donald Kimelman

It is easy enough to understand why Gal Beckerman chose the somewhat melodramatic title, “When They Come for Us, We’ll be Gone,” for his masterful and highly readable history of the Soviet Jewry movement.Read More

Background Check On a Nazi Hunter

By Peter Ephross

When I was contributing to Simon Wiesenthal’s obituary in 2005 for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, I learned something that surprised me: The legendary Nazi-hunter didn’t personally hunt down a lot of Nazis. Sure, Wiesenthal helped capture some Nazis and their collaborators, and sure, he pioneered efforts to bring the issues of Holocaust memory and unprosecuted war criminals to international attention, but he didn’t track down as many war criminals as the world thought he did — and he wasn’t aggressive about correcting the record.Read More

To the End and Back Again

By Ranen Omer-Sherman

There is a moment in David Grossman’s novel, “See Under: Love,” when an Israeli son of Holocaust survivors gazes at his own sleeping child and remarks to his beaming wife: “‘It’s a good thing he can sleep through all the noise… He may have to sleep with tanks passing in the streets someday.’” Perhaps that stark utterance was the catalyst for Grossman’s latest novel, “To the End of the Land,” with its gripping meditation on love, war, suffering and rebirth. In the future, this may be regarded as Israel’s definitive anti-war novel, but that does not begin to account for its shattering poetry, nor for its incandescent empathy for characters whose euphoria and sorrows are fully revealed.Read More

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