Blog-Shmog

  • 9

    Writings Grid

    Passing Over and Out of India

    March 31, 2018

    An India Travelogue, Part 13 by Lawrence Bush Click for Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12.   WE ARE CUTTING SHORT our trip to India, with one week left (which would have involved a trip to Varanasi, the "holy city" on the Ganges River, and to Khajuraho, a city famous for its erotic temple sculptures). Our son has been hospitalized in St. Louis with a sudden, serious condition, so we're flying to Delhi tonight and back to the States the following night so that we can be with him....

    Read More
  • Blog-Shmog

    "Surfing"

    March 9, 2018

    by Sherman Pearl   SURFING For Randy California   MY REMOTE wasn’t looking for you, dear nephew, just surfing the net for something rich to divert me from the garbage, and there you were, on video, guitar screeching a rock tune.  The lyrics were   drowned out by fans screaming their love, cheering you back from the ocean that had pulled you into its silence, then buoyed you back to the surface for a farewell gig at the end of your tour.   I watched you emerge, playing yourself all ...

    Read More
  • social-media-jpg-2

    Writings Grid

    From NYC to Tel Aviv: Becoming Israeli, Staying Progressive

    March 2, 2018

    A Q&A WITH HILLEL SCHENKER by Ron Skolnik BORN IN BROOKLYN, New York, in 1942, journalist Hillel Schenker arrived by boat in Israel in November 1963. Since the 1970s, he has been a major participant in the Israeli peace movement, including as a co-founder of Peace Now, and today serves as Israeli co-editor of the Palestine-Israel Journal, the only independent, joint Israeli-Palestinian publication to be produced in the region. We asked Hillel to discuss life, culture, and politics in Israel...

    Read More
  • Blog-Shmog

    "Weathering Winter"

    February 16, 2018

    by Shirley Adelman   WEATHERING WINTER KASHA The comfort of kasha, on a cold winter day, warming me up, like Yiddish words, flying across the table many years ago.   BORSCHT Taking time from what should be done, to what must be done: cooking a winter borscht, to nourish my soul, hungry for the flavors, of childhood.   Shirley Adelman has been published in academic, literary, and medical journals in the U.S., Canada, Israel, and South Africa. Her poetry appeared most recently ...

    Read More
  • Blog-Shmog

    In a Rothian Novel, Nicole Krauss Explores Questions of Authorship and Authority

    January 4, 2018

    by Miranda Cooper Discussed in this essay: Forest Dark, a novel by Nicole Krauss. HarperCollins Publishers, 2017, 304 pages.   IN HER INTERVIEW for the New York Times Book Review’s “By the Book” column, responding to a question about what she sought in a novel, Nicole Krauss answered, “I want, if possible, a little bit of infinity, which I don’t think is too much to ask.” A desire for “a little bit of infinity” is what the two protag...

    Read More
  • Blog-Shmog

    In Memoriam: Marcus Raskin (April 30, 1934 – December 24, 2017)

    December 27, 2017

    by Arthur Waskow   MARC RASKIN died last weekend. He was one of the great progressive Jewish-universal thinker-activists of the 20th and early 21st centuries in the United States, co-founder of the Institute for Policy Studies, where I was one of the original Resident Fellows from 1963 till 1977. I am deeply saddened by his death. Since 1959, Marc had been my friend, my teacher, one of my heroes, even when we disagreed. When my wife Rabbi Phyllis Berman and I visited him in October, the weeke...

    Read More
  • social-media-jpg-2

    Writings Grid

    Trump's Speech: Lights Out for the Two-State Solution?

    December 6, 2017

    by Ron Skolnik   THE TWO-STATE SOLUTION, on life support for years now, might just have been put to death by one Donald J. Trump. The situation is critical and what a host of international actors do in the upcoming weeks could determine its continued viability. Trump’s weapon of attempted execution was the speech on Jerusalem he gave earlier today in which he formally recognized the city as Israel’s capital. On its face, that declaration doesn’t sound like such a terrible thing. After all, as...

    Read More
  • Blog-Shmog

    Oy, Rumania, Rumania

    November 17, 2017

    by Marty Roth Discussed in this essay: For Two Thousand Years, by Mihail Sebastian. Published in 1934, now translated by Philip Ó Ceallaigh into English, 2017, Other Press, 256 pages.   ARTHUR MILLER said that the Romanian Jewish writer Mihail Sebastian (1907-1945) wrote like Chekhov; Philip Roth that Sebastian's Journal 1935-1944 deserves to be on the same shelf as The Diary of Anne Frank and have just as huge a readership. Coming fresh from a reading of his 1934 novel, For Two Thousand Year...

    Read More
  • Writings Grid

    Letter to Nimrod

    November 9, 2017

    by Dan Grossman   YOUR HIGHNESS, six months ago you rose to power on a bold pledge: to build a tower to heaven. You told crowds that it would be “big” and “beautiful” and “create a million jobs,” and when you chanted “And who will pay for the tower?” we all screamed, “Heaven!” As you know, construction on the Tower of Babel has yet to begin. A leak from your royal circle indicated that my company, Babel Contractors, is to blame for the delay. Though I know this is probably the work of the fake...

    Read More
  • Writings Grid

    Aaron Lansky and the Gospel of Yiddish

    November 7, 2017

    by Bennett Muraskin   IS THERE A FUTURE for yidishkayt in North America? Aaron Lansky thinks so and offers as a model his National Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachusetts. I just heard him speak at a synagogue in Livingston, New Jersey. Anyone who read his outstanding memoir, Outwitting History, would have been familiar with the first half of his talk: how his study of Yiddish in college led him to rescue old Yiddish books. By relying on Yiddish-speaking old-timers who stuffed him and h...

    Read More
  • Writings Grid

    Jewish Films at the Doc NYC Festival and Beyond

    November 7, 2017

    by Mitchell Abidor FERENC Török’s 1945, currently showing at Film Forum, takes place over the course of a few hours in a small Hungarian town in August 1945, a time of transition. The war in Europe is over, the war in the Pacific is about to end, and Hungary, though Red Army troops occupy it, is not yet the socialist state it will soon be. Throughout the film we hear radio broadcasts about upcoming elections. Everything is unsettled, and into this charged atmosphere two Jews descend from the mo...

    Read More
  • social-media-jpg-2

    Writings Grid

    Why There's Hope for a Progressive Agenda in Israel

    November 3, 2017

    by Maya Haber   AT THE END of almost every lecture I give, someone in the audience describes the miserable state of the Israeli left -- the Labor Party’s failure to offer a progressive alternative to Netanyahu, the rightwing attacks on human and civil rights organizations, and the increasing racism against Arabs and Ethiopians -- and asks: Is there hope for a progressive agenda in Israel? For peace? These questions are often followed by another: Is there anything we, progressive Americans, can...

    Read More
  • Writings Grid

    The Uncivil Servant: Murdering Freud

    October 18, 2017

    by Mitchell Abidor   Discussed in this essay: Freud: The Making of an Illusion, by Frederick Crews. Metropolitan Books, 2017, 744 pages.   FREDERICK CREWS, a retired professor at Berkeley, has spent decades taking a pickaxe to the work and legacy of Sigmund Freud. His near monomania on the topic (equaled only by his interest in Winnie-the-Pooh, about which (whom?) he has written two books), has rested on relatively solid ground as Freud’s reputation has sunk. No longer a dominant figure in t...

    Read More
  • Blog-Shmog

    Bopping in the Balkans, Part 5

    October 17, 2017

    by Lawrence Bush For the first four installments of this travelogue, search "Bopping" to the right. ONCE UPON A TIME, I was a puppeteer in a two-person hand-puppet troupe called Poor People's Puppets, with our own storefront theater on St. Marks Place in New York's East Village. Although the art of puppetry did not take hold of me as a career, I've always loved it — the miniature of it, the childishness and sophistication, and the magic of endowing little figures with life and character — and ...

    Read More
  • Writings Grid

    Fantasyland vs. The Counterculture

    October 6, 2017

    by Lawrence Bush Discussed in this essay: Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire, by Kurt Andersen. Random House, 2017, 462 pages.   WHEN MY SON Jonah was about 8, he articulated his first generalization about human beings, based on his perceptions of our none-too-diverse community in the Mid-Hudson Valley of New York. "Dad," he said, "I think there are two kinds of people: Shoprite people and food co-op people." His mother, he said, was mostly food co-op, while I, he said — after pausing to l...

    Read More
  • Writings Grid

    OpEdge: Hugh Hefner as a Sexist Pig

    October 6, 2017

    INTELLECTUAL, LIBERAL, STYLISH -- BUT NONETHELESS A PIG!   by Marc Jampole   AS PART of his glorification and ascent to the Valhalla of dead celebrities, Hugh Hefner has received far too much credit for the positive impact he had on American society and far too little condemnation for the negative. True, he advocated for abortion and took other liberal and progressive stands, typically from the standpoint of libertarianism, which is not such a good political ideology in many areas. He did popu...

    Read More
  • Writings Grid

    Pitching Politics from the Mound

    September 25, 2017

    by David Spaner   SAM NAHEM was a right-handed pitcher with a lefty pitch. One day in 1948, however, Sam lost control of his pitch with Roy Campanella at the plate. It was a year after Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color line, and Sam, with the Philadelphia Phillies, was pitching to Robinson’s Brooklyn Dodger teammate Campanella, also one of major league baseball’s first black players. Campanella, Robinson and the other pioneering black players were facing tremendous racial abuse from fans...

    Read More
  • Blog-Shmog

    Channel Esther: BOBST, a Serial Novel, Part XIV

    September 18, 2017

    by Esther Cohen To read earlier installments, search “BOBST” at right.   A young Jewish girl named Rivka comes to New York City at the beginning of the 20th century. She meets a woman named Clara at the garment factory where she works. CLARA, eight years older than Rivka, Clara, soon after immigrating to the United States from the pogroms in Russia, Clara was more certain of her path. Clara was tall for her family and her history, for a young woman living in New York in 1902. She was a pers...

    Read More
  • Blog-Shmog

    The Uncivil Servant: Beauty, Despair, and Globalization

    August 8, 2017

    by Mitchell Abidor Discussed in this essay: Machines, by Rahul Jain, a film opening at Film Forum in New York, August 9. RAHUL JAIN'S documentary Machines, shot in a fabric factory in the southern India state of Gujarat, is a film of beauty and great despair, a portrait of globalism and the grinding brutality of the overseas factories that provide the clothing we wear, the goods we use. Shot largely inside the factory, we, like the workers there, are assaulted throughout the film by the cease...

    Read More
  • Writings Grid

    Queer Jews: What Kind of Ancestors Will We Be?

    July 11, 2017

    by Kate Shapiro and Amy Jaret   FOR MANY OF US, to be queer is to experience exile at some point(s) in our lives. To make what we need with our own hands. To know that family is bigger than wife and 2.5 kids. To be queer is not just a sexual identity, but an identity by which we define ourselves as outcasts and outlaws as we work for structural change to society, systems, and structures at their roots. To be queer is to look those that have been deemed “other” in the eyes of the status quo -- ...

    Read More
  • Writings Grid

    Woody Allen, Poking the Jews

    July 4, 2017

    by Debbie Burke   AMID THE MANY films, stories, and scandals for which Woody Allen is famous and infamous, one question persists: When he writes and portrays Jewish characters, there is always the undercurrent of biting sarcasm, pointing inward, which leads one to ask if his shtik is a function of self-loathing, or is he just putting stock into an insanely successful formula that’s made him legendary, a motif that he’d be crazy not to repeat movie after movie? This is nowhere more apparent th...

    Read More
  • Writings Grid

    The Uncivil Servant: On "Killing" Trump

    June 16, 2017

    by Mitchell Abidor   IN THE AFTERMATH of the shooting in Alexandria on June 14, the New York Times published an article describing it as a “test” of the movement Bernie Sanders founded. The journalist, Yamiche Alcindor, described this as “a moment for liberals to figure out how to balance anger at Mr. Trump with inciting violence.” She cites examples of Sanders’ allegedly overheated rhetoric, with Bernie calling Trump “dangerous” and "a demagogue.” Alcindor and the Times are not alone: we’ve ...

    Read More
  • Writings Grid

    "The Handmaid's Tale," the Burka, and the Contradictions of Secularism

    June 13, 2017

    by Alessio Franko IT STREAMED live on Facebook: In protest of Texas state Senate Bill 8, which bans a reliable form of late-term abortion and piles on bureaucratic obstacles to abortion access, three young women occupied the capitol building in Austin and read aloud true stories of women who struggled to get the abortions they needed. Another group of women formed a circle around them, tactically supporting the readers’ command over the space. Unlike the readers, this circle of protesters held ...

    Read More
  • Writings Grid

    The Rightwing Specter

    June 8, 2017

    by Bennett Muraskin Discussed in this essay: The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues and the Coming Dark Age, by James Kirchick. Yale University Press, 2017, 288 pages, indexed.   A SPECTER is haunting Europe, but it sure as hell isn’t communism. It is rightwing nationalist populism. Its targets are the European Union, globalization of capital, and immigration. If unchecked, it may change Europe from a stronghold of democracy to a region of emergent authoritarianism. James Kirchick, an auth...

    Read More
  • Blog-Shmog

    The Uncivil Servant: Ten Million Books

    June 8, 2017

    by Mitchell Abidor Discussed in this essay: The Book Thieves by Anders Rydell. Viking, 2017, 352 pages. THE NAZI WAR on knowledge and ideas is well-known and documented, and its image has been eternally fixed: the burning of books on May 10, 1933, a scene that opens Anders Rydell’s informative and well-written The Book Thieves. Less known is the complement to book burning: their confiscation, a policy that began almost simultaneously with the burnings. The sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld and his ...

    Read More
  • Writings Grid

    American Resistance to World War I

    May 23, 2017

    by Bennett Muraskin Discussed in this essay: War against War: The American Fight for Peace, 1914-1918, by Michael Kazin. Simon and Schuster, 2017, 400 pages. THE UNITED STATES did not enter World War I until April 1917, over two and a half years after the war began. If the militaristic Theodore Roosevelt had won the presidency in 1912 (he came in second), and had the Republicans attained a majority in Congress, the U.S. would likely have declared war a lot sooner. But the Democrat Woodrow Wils...

    Read More
  • Writings Grid

    Reflections on Conversion and a Trip to Israel

    May 2, 2017

    by Alan Rutkowski I CAME of age in the United States during the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement. Although I certainly never put my life on the line as some did in those struggles, as a university student I participated in them, especially the anti-war movement, and they contributed to my core values and political orientation. In the process, I abandoned the Catholicism I was raised in. In my fifties, I converted to Judaism. While I cannot articulate the exact reasons for my taking th...

    Read More
  • Blog-Shmog

    The Uncivil Servant: Meanwhile, in France . . .

    April 28, 2017

    by Mitchell Abidor AFTER THE FIRST round of the French elections, in which the centrist banker, Emmanuel Macron, leading his party of one, emerged in first place, followed closely by the anti-immigrant Marine Le Pen of the Front National (FN), and as the battle continues in preparation for the second round on May 7, a few observations: • The FN in truth laid something of an egg. They got more votes than ever, but with just over 20 percent of the vote, their chances of winning are nil, and give...

    Read More
  • social-media-jpg-2

    Article

    Thoughts on Jewish-Muslim Engagement in the Era of Trump

    April 26, 2017

    by Benjamin Kweskin I AM very heartened to see several national Jewish organizations across the political and ideological spectrum supporting American Muslims, a community clearly under attack and on the defensive amid the unprecedented McCarthyite witch-hunt by the current presidential administration regime and many of its emboldened supporters. Only ten days after the new US president was inaugurated, a report came out revealing that anti-Muslim legislation in the US had skyrocketed, sending...

    Read More
  • Writings Grid

    Rolling Over for that State of the Union

    March 7, 2017

    MEDIA AND OUR BIG BUSINESS GOVERNMENT by George Salamon THERE WAS ONE LESSON to be learned BY progressives from the media's coverage of President Trump's February 28TH State of the Union Address: they must build a media network  across the United States to rival the one conservatives already have in place. Without such a network, they lack the means to deliver their message to the broad coalition they'll need to forge and gain enough political power to bring about the “transformational” change...

    Read More
  • Writings Grid

    A Purim Special: How to Win the Lottery

    March 6, 2017

    Introduction by Dr. Lewis R. Shurtz and Helena Day, MSW, with Lawrence Bush We all get that intuitive feeling, at one time or another, that “something’s coming, something good,” as Tony sings it in West Side Story. Never mind that he ends up getting killed by Chino; the important thing is that Tony also got to sleep with Maria, so something did come and it was good, just as he predicted. Lotteries have their own version of Tony’s song: “Hey,” says the New York Lottery ad, “you never know.” In ...

    Read More
  • ester_y_mardoqueo_escribiendo_la_primera_carta_del_purim_ester_9-20-21_-_aert_de_gelder_-_google_cultural_institute-copy

    Writings Grid

    Does Purim Have an Ethical Foundation?

    March 5, 2017

    by Rabbi Reba Carmel MEGILLAH 7b of the Babylonian Talmud ascribes the following to Rava: "One is to drink on Purim until he is unable to distinguish between blessed be Mordechai and cursed is Haman." The following story is then recounted: Rabbah and Rav Zeirah made a Purim feast together. They got drunk and Rabbah killed Rav Zeirah. The next morning when he awoke, Rabbh asked for mercy for Rav Zeirah and he was revived. The following year Rabbah invited Rav Zeirah to celebrate Purim with him ...

    Read More
  • Writings Grid

    O My America: Suffer the Children

    November 9, 2016

    by Lawrence Bush HERE I AM putting finishing touches on this year’s Jewish Currents Arts Calendar, our winter issue, which is built upon the theme, “kinderlekh” (the Yiddish diminutive for children). We selected that theme months ago, to express our hopes for a thriving and inclusive future for our children and our grandchildren — and for their children and grandchildren. But what hopes for the future can we cling to in light of the election of Donald Trump to the White House, and the imminent...

    Read More
  • Blog-Shmog

    OpEdge: Shame on Us, White People

    November 9, 2016

    by Marc Jampole SHAME ON US, white people. We just rejected the most presidential, qualified candidate in history to vote for a mentally ill buffoon who spews hate speech and has no impulse control. We voted against someone who has studied every issue and developed a reasoned approach to each so we could vote for someone who has displayed total ignorance and confusion on the basics of what constitutes abortion, foreign trade, contemporary business practices, military strategy and tactics and ...

    Read More
  • Blog-Shmog

    The Uncivil Servant: The Hour of the Hypocrites

    October 17, 2016

    by Mitchell Abidor THE TIME has perhaps come for a hypocrisy check. As the number of women accusing Trump of unwanted sexual advances mounts, we all sit in shock and horror, wondering how anyone can continue to support him, and how anyone can think, as Trump claims, that this is all a politically manipulated campaign against the nominee. All these women are lying? Aren't their accusations consistent with what we’ve seen of Trump’s conduct over the years? Despite the obvious truth of the accusat...

    Read More
  • social-media-jpg-2

    Writings Grid

    Leivick and Other Yiddish Poets

    September 29, 2016

    by Curt Leviant Discussed in this essay: The Poems of H. Leivick and Others: Yiddish Poetry in Translation, by Leon H. Gildin, Finishing Line Press, 2015, 37 pp. WHEN I SAW the Table of Contents of this lovely little book of translated Yiddish poems by Leivick and other noted modern Yiddish poets, all of whom lived in the United States, two images came immediately to mind. One was a scene with Leivick, a slight figure with a beautiful etched face and a halo of white hair, sitting alone on cir...

    Read More
  • Blog-Shmog

    Our Fifth Raynes Poetry Competition

    September 26, 2016

    To submit by mail: Jewish Currents, PO Box 111, Accord, NY 12404 To submit by email: raynespoetry@outlook.com Submission fee ($18) at jewishcurrents.org/about/donate or by check to “Jewish Currents” at the above address. Name, address, and e-mail on each page; no more than three pages per poem, please. If you are friends with Irena Klepfisz, please wait until next year! Need more information? Call 845 626-2427 Please circulate this call....

    Read More
  • Blog-Shmog

    The Uncivil Servant: Birobidzhan Follies

    September 9, 2016

    by Mitchell Abidor Discussed in this essay: Where the Jews Aren’t by Masha Gessen. Nextbooks/Schocken, 2016, 170 pages. WHERE THE JEWS Aren’t, Russia-born Masha Gessen’s recounting of “the sad and absurd story of Birobidzhan, the Soviet Union’s "Jewish Autonomous Region,” is the latest addition to the Jewish Encounters series produced jointly by Schocken and Nextbook. The series has been uneven, producing small gems like Adina Hoffman and Peter Coles’ Sacred Trash, a thoroughly researched and ...

    Read More
  • Blog-Shmog

    Stat$: The State of America, Income Inequality

    September 9, 2016

    by Allan Lichtenstein WITH ABOUT eight weeks before the presidential election, the conversation has changed radically from that heading into the Democratic Party's convention a few weeks back. Many had hoped that Bernie Sanders "revolution" would pull the Democratic Party to the left, paving the way for a progressive agenda if Hillary Clinton is elected. As Clinton panders to the right to attract moderate (and not such moderate) Republicans, such optimism increasingly seems a pipe dream. Neith...

    Read More
  • Blog-Shmog

    My Lost Florida

    September 7, 2016

    A Memoir (1943-2011) by Howard R. Wolf I AM, by NASA’s and National Geographic’s standard, to say nothing of Marco Polo’s, Somerset Maugham’s, and Orwell’s, an ordinary traveler, but life compelled me nonetheless to make a demanding journey over time and space: to visit South Florida innumerable times between 1943 and 2012, with the most poignant trips taking place between 1970 and 2011 — the time of my parents’ retirement and death. My father, Abraham Wolf, died in 1998, my mother, Marian Fri...

    Read More
  • Blog-Shmog

    "Even When I Know It's the End, It Isn't the End"

    September 5, 2016

    by Marty Roth Discussed in this essay: The Extra, by  A. B. Yehoshua. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016, 249 pages. IT SEEMS APPROPRIATE that A. B. Yehoshua’s new novel, The Extra, opens with Noga, the protagonist, awakened at 4 a.m. by a phone call; appropriate also that we never learn who was calling. Yehoshua’s novels are never far from the border of sleep and dreams. Maybe it’s the thick atmosphere of Israel that brings on the lethargy and fatigue that Noga feels, that blurs the specificity ...

    Read More
  • Blog-Shmog

    Translating Amos Oz to the Big Screen

    September 5, 2016

    by Dan Grossman "A FULFILLED DREAM is a disappointed dream,” goes the voice-over at the end of A Tale of Love and Darkness, a new film directed by Natalie Portman based on Amos Oz’s 2001 memoir. The line is spoken while a teenage Oz shows his father around the kibbutz where Oz has fled from trauma. Despite his dreams of becoming a heroic pioneer, Oz still doesn’t feel at home. The line also applies to the experiences of Oz’s mother, Fania (Portman), who as a young woman flees European anti-Semi...

    Read More