eric herschthal

Obama Reads Israel: David Grossman's "To the End of the Land" and the Politics of a President's Reading List

This week brought news that Obama is reading David Grossman's novel "To the End of the Land" while summering on Martha's Vineyard.  It was one of the best reviewed book's last year, and that it focuses on an Israeli mother whose son is killed in yet another Arab war, is probably lost on no one. Certainly not Jews.

The Religious Ecstasy of Alfred Kazin

 Fifty years ago, one of the most influential literary critics around was Alfred Kazin.  Everyone knew he was Jewish -- a famed member of the City College New York Intellectual set of the 1930s -- but few probably thought much of it.  Kazin seemed to like it that way, never distancing himself from his identity, but also only occasionally allowing his thoughts on Jewishness to seep into print.

The Religious Ecstasy of Alfred Kazin

 Fifty years ago, one of the most influential literary critics around was Alfred Kazin.  Everyone knew he was Jewish -- a famed member of the City College New York Intellectual set of the 1930s -- but few probably thought much of it.  Kazin seemed to like it that way, never distancing himself from his identity, but also only occasionally allowing his thoughts on Jewishness to seep into print.

What Do Shrinks and Ancient Israel Have in Common?

There was an interesting tidbit in The New York Times you might have missed last week: Patricia Cohen posted a small item about a research paper presented at this year's American Psychology Association convention. The researchers were from Yeshiva University and argued that the Sanhedrin--or, the judicial body that governened Jerusalem in ancient Israel--was surprisingly effective at combating "groupthink."

Philip Levine, Poet Laureate; Or "A dirty Detroit Jew with Bad Manners"

It was announced this week that Philip Levine, 83, will be the new U.S. poet laureate.  If it isn't obvious from his name, he's Jewish.  But that's no surprise with regard to poet laureates--Louise Gluck was the last Jewish honoree, in 2003, and Robert Pinksy held the distinction (i.e. laureate and Jewish) three years before that. Plus, there's Joseph Brodsky, Karl Shapiro, and many others I'm skipping.

Is Kanye West a Philo-Semite?

The easy thing to do after Kanye West's poorly chosen words this weekend--in which he likened the noxious stares he gets these days to ones people might give Hitler--is to ask for an apology.  No word yet on whether any Jewish groups are asking for one, but my bet is that it's in the offing.  But perhaps a better thing to do is to ask: are his comments a reflection of philo-semitism?  

Today's Guest Blogger: God

The New Yorker's exhaustive report on the killing of Osama is undoubtedly the magazine's coup this week.  This morning, a day after the new issue hit newstands, I woke up to the reporter, Nicholas Schmidle, being interviewed on "Morning Joe."  There was talk about a book dea, but if Schmidle's piece is the keeper this week, then perhaps it'll have one deleterious effect: people will forget about the Shouts & Murmurs section, where the magazine puts it short humor p

Ai Weiwei's Jews: Pictures from an Exhibition

On the weekends, I like to get away from work. One of the places where I like to do that is museums.  And what better one to visit, if you're looking to avoid Jews (for me, that's my job; not anti-semitism), than the Asia Society?  Surely there'd be nothing on view there that would make me think of writing, deadlines and blogging about Jews--that is, work.

Remembering Amy Winehouse, "The Little White Jewish Salt-n-Pepa"

I was never a fan of Amy Winehouse's music, but I think I understood where it came from.  Like me, Winehouse grew up enthralled by black music, and with hip-hop in particular.  Winehouse--who died on Sunday at 27, and was buried today in accordance with Jewish custom--told The Los Angeles Times a few years ago that her first singing act was in a female hip-hop duo.  She formed th

Elisabeth Badinter: The Celebrity French Intellectual Every Jew (And Feminist) Should Know

If you don't know who Bernard Henri-Levy is, don't worry.  There's a new celebrity French intellectual you should know: Elisabeth Badinter.  She's an older feminist who recently became a celebrity in France with her trenchant new book attacking other feminists' views.  And like BHL, she's Jewish.

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