2012

Is Israel's National Anthem, 'Hatikva,' Racist? A New Debate Gains Steam

Jews have a long history revising liturgy they find offensive.  The Reform movement has often led that charge, doing away with, for the most part, patrilineal prayers they think should be gender-neutral, and thus more inclusive.

Cornel West: On Chesed, Hamlet, and the Jewish Prophet Amos

You may remember the uproar Cornel West, the Zelig-like black scholar, caused last year when he viciously attacked Obama on the liberal website Truthdig.  The big news was that West—a prominent voice in American public life, but especially within the black community—had turned against the man he spent much of the 2008 campaigning for.  But there was a lesser-noticed quote in that interview that raised many Jewish eyebrows.  Embedded in his criticism that Obama wasn’t quite black enough, he said that Obama seemed “most comfortable with upper-¬middle

Move Over Mendelssohn: Why Everything You Know About the Jewish Enlightenment Is Wrong

Ask anyone about the Jewish Enlightenment, or Haskalah, and the first person they’ll likely mention is Moses Mendelssohn (1729-1786).  Few would disagree that Mendelssohn played a key role in the Haskalah’s earliest stages, attempting as he did to modernize Judaism in 18th century Germany and bring it in line with the broader intellectual trend of his time—that is, the Enlightenment, or what historians often call the Age of Reason.

"Mein Kampf" Goes Back In Print--in Germany. Good for the Jews?

For years, German scholars and the country’s most prominent Jewish organizations have argued that Germany should allow “Mein Kampf” to be published in Germany before the copyright expires, in 2015.  It is not illegal to publish the book in Germany, but the state of Bavaria, which holds the copyright, had adamantly refused for decades, saying that the longer the book was out of print, the better.

Gertrude Stein: Why Her Fascist Politics Matter

Gertrude Stein’s collaboration with the fascist Vichy government was never a secret.  But, until now, many have simply ignored it; or, to use the critic Frederic Jameson’s phrase, given over to the “innocence of intellectuals.”  Stein’s avid support for Petain, the Nazi collaborator who headed the Vichy government, has often been written off as merely the tragic consequence of many a brilliant artists.  What mattered was her prose, not her politics.

The Adventures of Alan Z. Feuer: The Jew Nobody Knew

Over the weekend, you may have caught the engrossing New York Times profile of a New York society don—one Alan Z. Feuer—who had a mysterious past.  I didn’t bother reading it when I first picked up my Sunday print copy—it was buried in the paper, in the scrappy Metropolitan section. But then I got one email after another, from family members, friends, recommending it, all with that guilt-inducing epigram: “must read.”

Welcome Back, Julian! WikiLeaks' Founder Is Back--and Interviews Hezbollah's Nasrallah

Remember Julian Assange, the guy behind WikiLeaks? Well, he’s back.  Despite facing rape charges in his native country of Sweden, he’s started a new internet T.V. show, which Russia Today is hosting online.   RT.com, a Kremlin-controlled station, may be a strange choice for Assange’s new show, given his quasi-anarchic ethos, but stranger still is his first interviewee—Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader.

Bob Dylan--and Ron Rosenbuam's--Problem with God

When the Ron Rosenbaum was researching his upcoming biography of Bob Dylan—to be published as part of Yale University Press’s Jewish Lives Series—he came across an obscure quote. In the mid-‘60s Dylan had written an experimental novel almost impossible to read. But being a diligent journalist, Rosenbaum muscled through the novel (“Tarantula”) and found a poem that included these lines: “hitler did not change / history. hitler WAS history.”

That was all he needed to stake a provocative new interpretation of Dylan. 

Grassyards and Anti-Grassyards: Notes on The Gunter Grass Affair

In the war waging over Gunter Grass—the Nobel Prize winning German author, teenage Nazi soldier, and author of a poem denouncing Israel’s threats on Iran—it’s hard to tell whose national psyche is more scarred.  In Germany, where Grass, 84, published the poem, translated into English as “What Must Be Said,” the intellectual landscape has been virtual

The Passover Rap Video Everyone's Talking About, and the Story Behind It

A couple of weeks ago, a Passover rap video—all in Hebrew, and with beat-boxing—went viral.  It featured two fairly typical looking American Jews dressed up as Pharaoh, Moses, and a sleuth of other biblical characters.  Then there were scenes of a Jewish girl in an Israeli-flag bikini; the two main singers playing poker in a retirement community; and then them again, rapping on a beach lined with skyscrapers. I thought, Wait, I know that place: Florida.

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