The thought seems outrageous: that pracifism, a principled objection to America's entrance into World War II, would have saved more Jews than fighting Hitler and defeating Nazism altogether. But that is the argument that Nicolson Baker, the novelist and author of the 2008 pacifist's interpretation of the war, Human Smoke, makes in his month's Harper's. And his case is compelling.
I'm sure Comcast's p.r. people did not mean this to happen: early this week, Comcast, the cable provider sent out a press release that it would give away on its website and to subscribers 10 Holocaust documentaries, free of charge, and selected by Steven Spielberg's USC Shoah Foundation Institute. The press release said the altruistic gesture was meant to commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day, which falls on May 1. See, corporations aren't so bad, right?
Earlier this week the Israeli-Arab actor and peace activist Juliano Mer Khamis, 52, was shot dead, presumably by Palestinian militants. The New York Times had a moving story about the funeral for Mer Khamis held on Wednesday, reporting that the Israeli government allowed his coffin to be taken briefly to the edge of a West Bank checkpoint. They made the gesture so his Palestinian supporters could pay their respects, as they were not permitted to go to his burial inside Israel.
New York's nightly cultural offerings are the city's greatest attraction, as well as its most despairing. Every night there's something enticing to hear, see or do, but the guilt quickly settles in after you realize most of them you'll miss. Thankfully, there are reviews.
Last night I went to Phildanco's performance at The Joyce and saw something I did not expect: a dance set to Steve Reich's "Tehillim." Phildanco is one of America's premier contemporary dance companies, with a heavy African-American influence. And "Tehillim" is Reich's iconic Jewish chorale. Not there's a necessary contradiction, hardly. But seeing the company's exceptional dancers shimmy to Reich gave me pause.
Pardon my bloggerly desuetude, but last week I was out on vacation. Now I'm back, and to make up for the lost time in blog-o-land, I'm posting a few longer essays you might have missed. (I did, at least.)
My colleague Sandee Brawarsky spoke with Joshua Foer this week, and did an excellent job reminding readers of memory's central place in Judaism. Foer's in the news for his new book, "Moonwalking with Einstein," which details how he won the American memory championship.
In case you missed it, The New York Times had a nice piece yesterday on the discovery of 1,000 books for a long forgotten academic subfield: the "Science of Judaism." Now dormant, the Science of Judaism was an attempt by German scholars to study Judaism as a kind of lost ancient culture--how scholars today might study, for instance, Greco-Roman culture, or Egyptology.
The author Gabriel Brownstein takes up the old question -- are you a Jewish writer, or just "a writer"? -- in an interesting essay for The Millions. He goes over well-trodden territory, like the rea difficulty the first popular class of American Jewish writers -- Roth, Bellow and Malamud -- had accepting this label.