Jerusalem — A.B. Yehoshua, the acclaimed Israeli novelist, is a proud secularist who almost never steps foot inside a synagogue. Why, then, did the writer and two dozen other prominent secular Israelis pledge their allegiance last week to the Reform and Conservative movements?
“I was motivated by the attack of the religious camps, especially the haredim [ultra-Orthodox], on these movements,” Yehoshua told The Jewish Week. “We think we have to support them more vigorously ... either by joining the movements or by becoming supporters.”
Speaking before several dozen people munching on babaganoush and taboule and chatting away in Arabic, Hebrew, Spanish and English, the Lebanese novelist Elias Khoury invoked the hallowed name of Al-Andalus.
"And if we do not find it, we can build it in our hearts," he said at the reception for a literary event last week in the Soho studio of Iraqi-born sculptor Oded Halahmy.
In David Grossman’s title essay from his new book “Writing in the Dark,” the Israeli novelist states that writing “has immense power, the power to change a world and create a world, the power to give words to the mute and to bring about tikkun — “repair” — in the deepest, kabbalistic sense of the word.”
A simple sentence, bold in its assertion of the power of writers and writing, but one that reveals layer upon layer of meaning.
First of all, what is “the Dark” to which he refers?
At almost the same moment last week that Uri Grossman, the 20-year-old son of Israeli novelist David Grossman, was reported killed in battle, I got news that an Israeli friend who had been called up to serve as a medic in the north of Israel had taken a David Grossman book with him.
When my friend came to California a few days ago for vacation, I asked him why he grabbed that particular book. He responded: “It was right there on my shelf. Anyway, I didn’t have time to get to the library.”
There have been Jews in Ireland since at least 1079, when the Annals of Innisfallen records the arrival of five, probably merchants from Rouen, on the island. As recently as the late 1940s there were over 5,000 Jews living in Ireland, but that number has dropped steadily since then and the Jewish population is now slightly more than a 1,000. Yet Ireland’s Jews have been, for the most part, a welcome part of their communities, successful in business and, above all, in politics; Jews have served repeatedly as Lord Mayors of Dublin and Cork.
Alan Lew was getting ready to sew his raksu, the garment worn by Buddhists for lay ordination, but he kept procrastinating. Instead, he wrote poetry and a monologue in the voice of his Bubbe Ida. With every stitch, he was supposed to say “I take refuge in the Buddha,” and he soon realized why he couldn’t sew at all: He felt he was betraying his Jewish soul.
Imre Kertesz, a Hungarian Jew who is this year’s Nobel laureate in literature, often says that he’s a medium of the Holocaust. “Auschwitz speaks through his stories,” a friend of his, the Israeli literary critic and author Shmuel Thomas Huppert, tells The Jewish Week. “His main theme is Auschwitz. He stresses the fact that first of all he’s a writer. He didn’t become a writer because he was in Auschwitz but, by being in Auschwitz, he found his major theme.”
As a wedding is about to begin in North London, all eyes are on the mother of the groom. Claudia Rubin is tall, beautiful, brainy and voluptuous, a celebrated rabbi who leads a large congregation. She’s not officiating at her son’s marriage, instead letting the bride’s family’s rabbi, Nicky Baum, lead the rites. But the service never begins, for the groom runs off with the woman he loves, Rabbi Baum’s wife.
Are we bound together by common purposes and goals? (This approach is beloved by the community organizers.) Or is there something deeper, more intimate, in the idea of community, something that reaches down to family? In this construct, the community provides the individual much of what the family provides; it’s the idea of kinship.