Jews

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.

Dave Eggers' Pusillanimity: Notes for L'Affaire Gunter Grass

Dave Eggers, the literary wunderkind, almost mustered some courage.  This week he refused to go to Germany to accept the prestigious, $50,000 literary award created by Gunter Grass—the Nobel laureate who recently caused on international uproar over his poem chastising Israel for threatening global stability.  But Eggers’ seeming act of courage was more apparent than real.  Essentially, he declined the award because he didn’t wan

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.

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.

On Adrienne Rich, R.I.P., and Radical Transformation

For the first half of her life, the woman born Adrienne Cecile Rich, in Baltimore, 1929, lived the life you would have expected.  She was baptized and raised in the Episcopalian church; her father was a medical professor at Johns Hopkins; her mother a pianist and composer.  Adrienne went to Radcliffe and wrote poetry.  By 1950, the kingmaker of mid-century poets, W.H. Auden, helped her publish her first collection, “A Change of World,” which featured accomplished if rather dull formal English verse—punctual meters, rhymes, etc.

J'Accuse! Robert Alter on Nathan Englander, a New Literary Feud

When I saw that the new issue of The New Republic had Robert Alter reviewing a new work by Nathan Englander, I instinctively thought it’d be of Englander’s new translation of the Passover Haggadah.  Given that Alter is a widely admired translator of the Hebrew Bible, it was only natural for me to assume as much. 

On "Death of a Salesman", Arthur Miller, and Goldman Sach's Greg Smith

When Arthur Miller’s “Death of A Salesman” first opened on Broadway, in 1949, Brooks Atkinson, The New York Times’ chief theater critic, could not have been more enthusiastic—“masterly,” he called, “heroic” and “superb.”  It is safe to say that the same adjectives can be used to describe the current Broadway revival that opened this week.  Philip Seymour Hoffman, in the lead role of Willy Loman, brings renewed complexity to a classic American character who

On Peter Novick, Albert Abramson, and the Death of Two Feuding Holocaust Figures

This week brought news of two shocking deaths: the first of Albert Abramson, 94, an important figure in building the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.  And then there was Peter Novick, 77, an historian who wrote a withering attack of the Holocaust’s undue influence on American Jewish identity.  The two would probably have had little to agree

Bibi Netanyahu: On History and Its Abuse

All eyes were on Bibi Netanyahu yesterday as he delivered his AIPAC speech.  At times he was disarming, at others bellicose, both emphasizing that Obama has Israel’s back, but that if need be, Israel would go it alone.  “The purpose of the Jewish state is to secure the Jewish future,” he thundered. “That is why Israel must always have the ability to defend itself, by itself, against any threat.”

On Being a Jewish Rapper: Musings from Drake and Co.

It used to be the case that when you mentioned Jews and hip-hop, it was Jews who did the producing, and blacks who did the rapping.  That’s changed.  Now every rap great still living—which is to say, most—are running things: Jay-Z, Kanye, Lil Wayne are all producing giants.  While Jews, on the other hand, are rapping: forget Matisyahu (but him too), there’s Drake and Mac Miller and, to my surprise, even DJ Drama.

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