Writings Grid

  • Writings Grid

    The Homeless: Disparaged and Scorned

    April 17, 2018

    IN EDWARD ALBEE'S play The Zoo Story, Peter, an executive in a small publishing house who lives in a comfortable apartment on the Upper East Side with his wife, two daughters and two parakeets meets Jerry in Central Park, a self-described “permanent transient” who lives in a “sickening rooming-house on the West Side”. When Jerry suddenly declares he wants the bench he is sharing with Peter to himself, Peter refuses to move, responding ironically, “People can't ...

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    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....

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    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...

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    Unlearning Woody Allen

    February 1, 2018

    It’s a cop-out to say that the heart wants what it wants. We have to ask ourselves who taught the heart what it wants, and whether it’s capable of wanting something more.

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    Anti-Occupation Activists Undeterred By Israel's Blacklist

    January 11, 2018

    Photo courtesy of Solidarity of Nations - Achvat Amim by Emily C. Bell   ISRAEL HAS ABRUPTLY closed the door on members of twenty organizations that support the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS). The list of organizations referred to as a “BDS blacklist” was released on January 7 and includes Code Pink, US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP). Israel had been slowly tightening its borders, or threatening to do so, since March of last year, when the...

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    First Anti-Trump Protestors Acquitted, But Challenges Remain

    December 27, 2017

    by Mike Isaacson   ENDING A YEAR of legal proceedings, the prosecution of a group of Trump inauguration-day protesters concluded last week with the acquittal of all the accused. Six of the 194 defendants faced upwards of sixty years in prison for attending a January 20th inauguration-day anti-Trump march. The stakes of the “J20” trial were immense. According to the state’s legal argument, engaging in normal protest activities -- attending the march, communicating information about it, bringi...

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    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...

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    MIDRASH: The Stories We Tell

    November 28, 2017

    WHY THE TORAH REMAINS AN OPEN BOOK by Reba Carmel   Moses received the Torah at Sinai and he transmitted it to Joshua,  and Joshua to the elders, and the elders to the prophets, and the prophets transmitted it to the Men of the Great Assembly . . . [who] said three maxims: Be measured in the legal process, raise up many students; make a fence for the Torah.  —Ethics of the Fathers 1:1 WHY DOES A TEXT called “Ethics of the Fathers” (Pirkei Avot), compiled and edited in its final form in approx...

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    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...

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    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...

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    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...

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    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...

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    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...

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    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...

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    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...

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    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...

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    Articles

    Bye, Bye, Boys' Club

    September 1, 2017

    WOMEN IN AN EXPANDING COMEDY SCENE by Raina Lipsitz From the Summer 2017 issue of Jewish Currents   COMEDY has become for the millennial generation what rock and roll was for baby boomers — the fantasy career option. Thousands of people pay upwards of $50 a class for improvisational and sketch comedy classes (organizations such as New York’s Upright Citizens Brigade require eight-class courses, meaning each student pays at least $400). Netflix, Amazon, Comedy Central, and other networks have...

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    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 -- ...

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    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...

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    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 ...

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    "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 ...

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    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...

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    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...

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    Yiddish in the Age of Identity

    May 7, 2017

    It’s a rare occurrence when I present all my identities without someone expressing shock and wonderment at the idea that these identities can coexist.

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    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...

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    Running for Congress at 24

    May 1, 2017

    AND GETTING ATTACKED BY NEO-NAZIS A CONVERSATION WITH ERIN SCHRODE From the Spring 2017 issue of Jewish Currents Erin Schrode, 25, has been an environmental activist her entire life. In 2005, at age 13, in response to skyrocketing cancer rates in Marin County, California, she and her mother Judi Shils co-founded Teens for Safe Cosmetics and set out to campaign against hazardous chemicals in beauty and personal-care products. Notwithstanding her precocious activism, Schrode was far from a publ...

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    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...

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    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...

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    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 ...

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    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 ...

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    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...

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    Israel and Canadian Jews

    November 8, 2016

    HOW THE MAINSTREAM COMMUNITY MARGINALIZES DISSENT by Mira Sucharov From the Autumn 2016 issue of Jewish Currents WHEN the United Church of Canada voted in August 2012 to boycott West Bank settlement products, the Canadian Jewish community’s reaction was harsh and swift. Calling the decision “morally reckless,” the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), Canada’s dominant Jewish and Israel lobby, moved to cut ties with the church. ARZA, the Reform synagogue movement’s Zionist group, calle...

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    Maimonides for the 21st Century

    October 16, 2016

    EVALUATING THE RAMBAM'S VIEW OF A JUST SOCIETY by Rabbi Reba Carmel From the Autumn 2016 issue of Jewish Currents. Discussed in this essay: Maimonides and the Book that Changed Judaism: Secrets of The Guide for the Perplexed, by Micah Goodman. University of Nebraska Press, 2015, 296 pages. "GOD IS THE GREATEST THREAT to religion.” So begins Maimonides and the Book that Changed Judaism, by Dr. Micah Goodman, an Israeli scholar and fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute. In a mere 250 pages, G...

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    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...

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  • Articles

    When Does Resistance Become Terrorism?

    July 27, 2016

    A PROVOCATIVE CONVERSATION ON PALESTINIAN VIOLENCE by Ron Skolnik from the Summer 2016 issue of Jewish Currents I WAS RECENTLY REMINDED of a conversation I had more than three decades ago, in 1984 or ’85, while doing my annual Israeli army reserve duty. I was stationed in the Lebanese village of Maaroub, with a unit of mostly young army conscripts (I was only about 25 myself). The government of Menachem Begin had ordered the invasion of Lebanon in June 1982, and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF)...

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    No Palestine? No Problem!

    July 18, 2016

    THE GOP VANISHES THE PALESTINIANS AND THE TWO-STATE SOLUTION by Ron Skolnik   IN AN ACT of legerdemain worthy of Criss Angel, David Copperfield, or the legendary illusionist, Harry Houdini, the Republican Party has just pulled off one of the most astounding political magic tricks of our generation: It has made an entire people –- specifically the Palestinian people –- disappear! For the first time since 1996, and only the second time since 1976, no reference to “Palestine” or “Palestinians” ca...

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    McCarthyism in Israel

    March 27, 2016

    Suppression By the Government, Segregation in the Streets by Ron Skolnik From the Spring 2016 issue of Jewish Currents [caption id="attachment_41137" align="alignright" width="219"] Im Tirtzu poster condemning the New Israel Fund and MK Naomi Hazan for the UN’s GoldstoneReport.[/caption] WHEN THE KNESSET'S Education and Culture Commitee convened in early January to discuss the work of Breaking the Silence (BTS), one of Israel’s foremost anti-occupation organizations, it was clear in advance t...

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