I was first baffled, then amused, and then finally inspired when I woke up this morning and read “The Daily Show” writer Rob Kutner’s blog entry on The Huffington Post: “My new book, ‘Apocalypse How,’ is about how the world is about to end ... and why we should be psyched! It’s the first-ever work of apocalyptic literature that ‘accentuates the positive’ — and teaches you how to not just survive, but thrive....”
It’s not often that one visits a contemporary art installation, opens up the comment book, and reads the following: “First of all, I am a broken vessel, a victim of abuse, and I am in the process of healing.” Or: “Today, June 8, makes 7 years since I lost my wife.” Other entries include promises to help woman held in sexual bondage, or work with local schools to improve the quality of education.
Floating above the earth now like one of his weightless figures, Marc Chagall might look kindly on the recent renaissance of American Jewish culture. The mixing of Jewish motifs and secular styles; the combination of biblical themes and contemporary events; the use of playfulness to recover, even after last century's tragedy, the joie de vivre of the Jewish folk: the Russian painter's colorful, surreal, shtetl-inspired work is a model for Jews now creating inspiring Jewish lives while still being firmly connected to secular culture.
The New York Times Book Review's recent survey of the "the single best work of American fiction published in the last 25 years" produced a number of interesting findings. The first was that, despite Toni Morrison's "Beloved" winning the prize, there were hardly any books by women among the multiple vote-getters. The second was that Philip Roth had far more of his books on the short list than anyone else, and if the Times had instead asked the question "Who is the best American writer of the last 25 years?" he would have won hands down.
At the Koret Jewish Book Awards last week in San Francisco, Stanford Professor and Koret Awards chair Steven Zipperstein asked for a minute of silence to remember Saul Bellow, who had just died. Zipperstein rightly praised Bellow for his unique contribution to Jewish and American letters, and we must give Bellow his due for helping create a new American language mixing high and low, combining the immigrant’s energy with the scholar’s subtlety.
The buzzword in business circles is synergy. That’s what JDub Records was looking for when the not-for-profit label began to think about its third annual Chanukah event. And when Rabbi Daniel Brenner, the vice president for education at the Birthright Israel Foundation, told JDub heads Aaron Bisman and Jacob Harris that he was interested in doing a project with them, the buzz of synergy filled the air.
An otherwise noncontentious national meeting of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs next week could see a fierce debate and politicking over a proposal to put the umbrella Jewish group in line behind efforts to impose divestment on Sudan because of the genocide in Darfur.
The Jewish community appears poised to join a growing movement of city and state legislatures, universities, religious organizations and other groups in calling for a targeted economic boycott of the Sudan.
The move, supporting divestment from companies with business ties to the Sudanese government, would come as the ethnic cleansing in Darfur, a region of the Sudan, enters its fourth year. The slaughter, considered a genocide by the U.S. government and much of the international community, has killed at least 400,000 civilians and displaced as many as 2.5 million.