Well Versed

Are Rabbis Giving Up on Israel? A Provocative New Study

The Conservative movement recently conducted a survey of hundreds of its rabbis and the results are in: on the whole, they're as committed to Israel as they've ever been, although younger rabbis have more liberal views about the state than they've used to.  The purpose behind this survey is clear: to assure anxious Jewish leaders that, contra the skeptics, Israel remains as vital a part of Jewish life as ever.

Rabbis and Rubble: Talmudic Responses to Sept. 11

Like most of you, I've been overwhelmed with 9/11 coverage the last few days.  But I couldn't resist posting this sharp review of a recent book of Orthodox rabbinical responses to the tragedy.  Based on the reviews, it gives a revealing look at how Orthodox Jews, from haredim to Modern's, have addressed both the deeper theological meanings of the attacks, as well as practical halakhic concerns.

The Post-9/11 Novel and the Jews

 There's been a glut of 9/11 books published on the eve of this year's 10th anniversary.  But all the new-ness overshadows the rich bevy of writing that's been published over the past decade since the attacks.  Literary critics have been debating what effect, if any, Sept. 11 has had on fiction in particular in recent days, but one of the best essays I've read is this one by Adam Kirsch.

Breaking News! Ex-NBA Star To Coach Jewish High School in South Florida

The traditional dynamic of black-Jewish relations in sports and entertainment is pretty straight-forward, and nothing to brag about: African Americans make the product, Jews sell it. You don't need to dig too deep into history to find relevant examples: Lyor Cohen and Rick Rubin ran the show at Def Jam, the hip-hop label juggernaut, until only recently. And David Stern still happily resides over the NBA.

Laughing at 9/11? A Jewish Perspective

New York magazine's Sept. 11 issue has arrived, and it's a real treat.   The whole issue has been turned into an encyclopedia of Sept. 11-related entries, including everything from "freedom fries" to "Abbottabad," and many of them penned by wonderful writers.  Mark Lilla's in there, as is Eliza Griswold. I haven't read them all, but one caught my eye in particular: Jim Holt's entry for "Humor."  

Sneak Preview! Amos Oz's New Book

On October 20, Amos Oz's latest book--his 14th--will get released in the United States. But it's been out for at least a month in England, and the reviews have been strong.  The word is that it's a moving, sparely written short story collection dominated by a sense of loss.

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."

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