"I HAVE THE ANSWER I give and the answer I don’t give,” she said.
Adam’s smile widened. The door opened and the sounds of the house party filled the kitchen where they stood. He said, “I want both, obviously,” and she liked that he was leaning in closer than he needed to.
“The answer I give,” she said, “is that I’m writing about Holocaust memory in Germany. The answer I don’t give is that I’m writing about Holocaust memory and desire.”
Now his eyes were full of excitement. He said, “Desire like how Jews need the Holocaust now, for identity-making or Israel or—”
“No, no, desire like sex. Like, desire.”
“Oh! Even better. Go on.”
So she told him the story in the plainest sketch: how she’d come to Germany to look for traces of her grandparents’ survival story and fallen in love with a German Holocaust scholar named Martin whose grandfather had been in the SS. How she had thought this was the most meaningful and unique thing in the world, a closing of a historical circle. It broke all the taboos, it exploded everything—until she met all the other Jews, the Americans and Israelis and Brits who all had their Martins, and she realized this was something that happened here, an unremarkable phenomenon.
“But the most surprising thing,” she said, “was that mixed up in it all was this desire, this attraction. When I started coming here, I was angry all the time. I mean, it was Martin, and his parents, and everyone, it was everywhere. But I was also falling in love with all of them because they were defined by this thing too. It was like finding a sibling, sort of, except I was so angry, and I wanted to fuck them.”
He laughed, so she laughed.
“So that’s what you’re writing about?” he asked. When she nodded, he said, “Good. That will be a great book.”
He said it with full assurance of his own evaluative powers but also of hers, and she felt warmed by it. “I hope so. Sometimes I think so.”
“And how come you’re staying?” he asked.
“What, there are too many Jews in Germany? You think I should leave?”
“No, you know what I mean. You said your fellowship is over, and Martin’s out of the picture. Or is this home now?”
“Well, funny you should ask,” she said, her voice losing its levity. “I just heard that my visa extension was denied. I’m supposed to leave in three weeks.”
“Oh,” he said. “But did you play the Jewish card? When I did my visa I was basically like, I know I’m a broke pseudo-scholar who doesn’t have much to contribute to your society, but I’m a broke Jewish pseudo-scholar, so . . . ante up.”
“But if you leave, what will you do?”
He seemed so genuinely concerned that she almost admitted she had no idea, that she was terrified. Even before the visa rejection, she had started to worry that what was keeping her in Berlin was the fear that she wouldn’t be able to write anywhere else, that the familiar voices would be too loud. She had left home a different person, and she didn’t know what it would mean to go back to a place that wasn’t home anymore but could never be anything else, either. She had no real answer to his question, so she said, “You know, face reality, go back to New York, hang out with Jews instead of the children of Nazis.”
THEY SPENT the rest of the party deep in conversation, their body language clearly excluding others, their wine glasses never more than half empty. The only pause came when he mentioned his wife in the middle of a story about an ongoing sexual harassment case involving one of his colleagues at the university where they both taught.
“You’re married,” she asked-said.
“Yeah,” he said, adjusted his shirtsleeve, and continued telling her about the case. She tried to look unsurprised, but as he talked she internally groaned, of course, of course he’s married, and she hated that she had become the type of woman who thought in resigned tones.
They moved from kitchen to balcony and back, and when they weren’t together, she could feel his eyes on her. At one point late in the night, he said, “Have you been wearing those crazy glasses all night? They are so good.”
She laughed, said, “Yes, I wear them every day,” and he repeated, “So good,” and their eyes remained locked.
She liked the inappropriate intimacy. She didn’t forget he was married, but she let herself be guided by the desire to see what would come next. This was something Berlin and the years of miserable Holocaust research had given her, the allowance that pleasure was in itself an end—the only end?—worthy of pursuit. Especially now, faced with having to leave in a matter of weeks, she felt even more that she was owed something, and she didn’t care from whom.
Friends came by, said they were going to a nearby club. Adam looked at her and said, “We’re definitely coming,” so they joined the group walking over. Though she had been in line with someone else when they arrived, Adam ended up beside her, paid her entrance, and they walked together to the bar at the back, the others heading straight for the dance floor. He said, “I’ll have what you’re having, surprise me,” so she got her favorite Polish vodka, Zubrowka.
“I need to hear more about the desire, about the sex in treyf places!” He had to nearly yell over the music.
“But it’s my birthday,” she shouted back. “No Holocaust!”
His excitement about her birthday was immense, immediate. “It’s your birthday, that’s right! It’s after midnight! Thirty-three!” And he embraced her, a giant hug that lifted her, silly but with traces of the tension that had been making her body alert all night. He put her down and took her hand, leading her to the group of friends on the dance floor, and she laughed when she realized he was calling out a shehechiyanu.
Before long he pulled her into a kind of formal partner dance, and soon his arms were tight around her, and she felt the pull back to a private world of theirs alone. It had been so long since she’d inhabited a private world with anyone, and the dancing was so good. He was all hips to match hers, held her body with force, ran his hands through her hair, down her back.
She was up against a wall, his body flush with hers, when she pressed her mouth to his ear and said, “Every Jew should come to Berlin to dance.”
They danced and talked and drank and it was late, probably five in the morning, when he said, “I have to go, if my wife wakes up and I’m gone, she’ll freak out.”
“Of course,” she said, “you should,” and she meant it. The night had been long, and though she didn’t want to say goodbye, there were no other options. She focused on the fact of already having won her birthday: that whatever happened that day wouldn’t matter because she’d be half-awake and hung over, and had already satisfied the need to have a memorable occasion. When he took her number, it was obvious; there was no way they wouldn’t see each other again.
MONDAY MORNING she tried to enter her workday writing routine, but ended up back in bed, an arm over her eyes, telling herself she’d get up in a minute. There was the overwhelming task of trying to stay in Berlin, which she’d put off all weekend: calls to be made, bureaucratic research to be done. But it wasn’t Berlin, it was the idea of Adam that was distracting her. He’d written the day before to say happy birthday, they had exchanged a couple messages, and now she was wondering if he’d suggest another meeting. She chided herself for being spun out because of a guy, a married guy. And even though she didn’t quite believe it, she heard a voice reminding her she was 33 now, an age for children and marriage and productive mornings.
She’d been headed for all that but had turned a sharp corner a few years before, giving up a five-year relationship, a combined library, holidays alternating between parents and coasts. When she had started the research trips to Europe and discovered her body—because the time before that she now saw as a grayscale animation, uninspired and asleep—things had changed with her boyfriend at home, and she hadn’t known how to tenderly untangle the knots that kept them together. Instead she had cut things off abruptly, which felt like cutting out a part of her own body, a wound that occasionally still ached. She had quit her job, sold her books, left him the rent-controlled apartment, and moved to Berlin with a bag of clothes.
Now she couldn’t imagine having stayed in New York. But in the far corners of her mind where she allowed these things to hum quietly, she never thought she’d be single this long. Alongside the nights she fell asleep delighting in what still felt like a new and hard-won autonomy, stretching to take over the entire bed, there were times, like now, when she felt her loneliness was accruing; her writing had more or less progressed, but the loneliness had too. And in the most desperate moments, she feared this book about desire might actually be tethered to love, that it was the only possible end of the story. And because she hated and rejected that idea so much, she also couldn’t help but think it might be true.
The sun against her curtains and the uncertainty in her body became too hard to ignore. Eventually she got up and opened the windows, set herself to making a list and going through it. She willed herself not to check her phone each time she left the room and came back. She spent the afternoon trying to reach a real person at the visa office and speaking to immigration lawyers, finished a proofreading gig and responded to old emails. All the while she waited for her phone to ping, and in the evening it finally did.
Her chest tightened as she read, In your hood. Beer?
HALF AN HOUR later she turned a corner and saw Adam leaning against a building, and they both smiled like idiots, the involuntary smile of joy and embarrassment at joy. They hugged, not too long, and stopped at a späti to pick up beers en route to the canal. They settled on a grassy bank in a spot that was both open and cozy, trees arching loosely overhead. There was the faintest edge of a chill, and the sun reflected in the water briefly before it disappeared behind a far-off bridge, buildings, trees.
The charge between them was still palpable, but they were both a little miserable, a little tired. He had been up all night reading about the alt-right back home. They talked about writing and shame and faith and her leaving. He talked obliquely about his wife, his young children, how having moved his family to Berlin was sometimes (here he paused) draining, but worthwhile. The topic of his marriage was the only one she didn’t press him on.
As they spoke, the sky turned an electric blue. Soon the building lights reflected in the dark water, and she thought, city light reflected in water is so much more poignant than that of the moon.
They walked to a nearby bar, sat in a booth near the back with a tall candle on the table. Later, after a pause in which she was sure he’d say he had to go, Adam said, “Did I tell you about the Nazi that got in my face at that rally in June?”
“No,” she said, surprised, “you mean at the refugee march?”
“Yeah, exactly. I was with the antifa kids who peeled off to find the fascists, and when we did, all hell broke loose.”
“You mean, before the polizei separated you, which they did in like forty seconds?” she said wryly. “I saw that. It wasn’t exactly a riot.”
“Yeah, but it was scary. And this one guy was huge, and he just locked eyes with me and wouldn’t let me out of his sight, even after we were separated. He was just tracking me like a fucking hunting dog or something.”
“Oy,” she said, “that does sound scary.”
He had been a little transported in the telling, but now he brushed it off and said, “That’s why I started boxing.”
She burst out laughing at the vision of this bespectacled, bearded, slightly paunchy 38-year-old Jewish Studies professor standing in a boxing ring. “Are you joking?” she asked.
“No. Why is that so funny? It’s not like I think I’m going to fight these assholes alone. I’ve been reading about Jewish self-defense leagues in Warsaw before the war, and there are these Jewish-Muslim groups learning how to shoot together in New York right now.”
“You’ve got to be kidding. You think that’s the answer to all this?”
“What’s so different about me believing in strength the way you believe in sex?”
“It’s the same. You’re relating to history through your body. So am I. I’m just also preparing for a future that doesn’t look like the past.”
She tried to sort through how wrong this all felt to her. She said, “But for me it’s about working with anger and grief and the hard feelings, not just . . . hitting something.”
“It’s not just hitting something. It’s about a capacity for strength.”
She got the sense that he felt he was revealing something sacred here, something vulnerable, that this whole thing was intimate for him in a way she didn’t understand. And at that moment, even though she knew it was unfair, she felt irritated with him, with the whole situation, his superficial vulnerability and his unavailability and her longings.
So she said, “Okay, Cassius.”
He smirked and said, “Well, not every Jew can fuck their way across Europe, you know.”
“Wow,” she said, “low blow.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it like that. I wasn’t trying to—”
“It’s fine,” she said. “I guess not everyone can be so happily married, either.”
His face registered a sharpness, but he tried to laugh it off. “I’m not unhappily married,” he said. “It’s complicated.”
Now she felt that she should go, maybe she’d drank too much, this was no longer fun. She stood.
“No, wait,” he said, “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that, it was supposed to be a joke but I didn’t pull it off.”
“You think?” she asked.
“Look, I think you’d love boxing. If you tried it, you’d be hooked. I have my gloves here, I just came from the gym—”
He reached into the backpack shoved earlier into a corner of the booth and pulled out red boxing gloves.
The unexpectedness of this reveal made her laugh, and her sense that this was a disaster softened. She started to put one on, but he grabbed her hand and said, “No, no, if we’re going to do this, we need to do it right. We can’t do it in here. Don’t you live close by?”
TEN MINUTES later she was unlocking her door. Adam got glasses of water while she half-heartedly tidied the small flat. She was subletting a rabbi’s apartment for the year while he was in Israel, and his kippot and books were still in piles on the shelves and side tables. She liked being surrounded by holy things just lying around. She said, “Why do you think he needs so many kippot? Do you think he chooses them to match his outfit?” Adam laughed but didn’t respond, focused now on unwinding long strips of worn cotton he’d retrieved from his bag. She found a thin sweatshirt and pulled it overhead. And then they stood in socks looking at each other with crooked smiles in the middle of her studio, not really drunk but not sober either, and having crossed the threshold of that unexpected argument. There was something almost tender between them now. And then he started wrapping her hands with the material, slowly and carefully, and she thought, oh, he was right.
He used both hands, one to hold her wrist in place, the other turning rotations of the rough cotton around and around her right wrist, through her fingers, up and over, in a slow rhythm, and they were silent as he did. His touch was gentle and firm, and she thought he was making the binds a little too tight because she could feel the blood straining to rush to her hands, which she liked.
She watched Adam’s fingers circling hers and it occurred to her that it was like laying tefillin, which of course she had never done, had never even had occasion to see up close as an adult. Vague memories of her father wrapping his arms in the thin black leather emerged, but she hadn’t seen him do it in years. She wondered if the rabbi had extra tefillin lying around, and if he did, if she would dare to touch them, to try wrapping herself in them, to do it naked, to make art and sex of it, or even just to daven, which, she thought, didn’t necessarily preclude art or sex.
Adam was wrapping her left hand now, and she mentioned all of it (minus the sex part) to him, breaking the silence that had held them. He said quietly, “Of course, tefillin, the mark of bondage.”
As he continued wrapping her left wrist, she shivered, just once, and it made her arm tremble. Adam stopped for a moment, and she thought she could feel him exhale. They didn’t say anything more, and he kept wrapping. She loved the feeling of being held in place, if only her wrists—but what a conduit to power, the wrists. Delicate, breakable, a trace of pulsing blue visible beneath the skin before it disappeared under the stretches of cotton. All of her attention was drawn to her hands now, to a gathering force she felt awaiting activation.
Then Adam put the boxing gloves on her hands, over the binding cotton tape, one at a time, also gently, carefully.
But as soon as the second cartoon-like glove was on, the tension evaporated for her. Though it was kind of fun to try out the different punches and postures, she had lost interest. Her body had become some kind of instrument, and she felt outside of it.
Later they were sitting at her kitchen table when she said, “Well, usually when a man says he wants to teach me to box, the night ends differently.”
“A few years ago for me this night would have ended differently too.”
They held eye contact but neither of them said anything more, until he stood suddenly and said, “I should go.” She said, “Okay,” and within a few moments he was gone, the flat settling back into its usual quiet after she locked the door behind him.
TWO WEEKS passed in plans made and unmade, failed visits to the visa office, meandering walks and bike rides and beers in the park with Adam. In a moment she somewhat regretted, she had told her friend Ben the whole story, the countless dates that weren’t dates that had followed the midnight boxing. “But nothing’s happening,” she’d said.
“Right,” Ben responded.
“No, really, Adam even told her about me, I mean, our friendship—the wife, Andrea—” she said it the way Adam did, ahn-dray-ah, and Ben laughed.
“Ugh, she sounds like a tool,” he said.
“Oh, stop,” she said, but she’d been surprised at the pleasure she felt in his meanness, surprised about all of her feelings concerning Andrea when she let herself feel them: the way she’d turned against this woman she didn’t know, whom she had no reason to think badly of, this woman who most importantly (even if abstractly) was another woman, deserving of her solidarity.
To Ben she’d just said, “Well, Adam is sure we’d like each other, he says we should all have dinner or something.”
Ben smirked. “Let me know when that invite arrives.”
MOSTLY THOSE days she tried to accept the fact of being made to leave, of Berlin having rejected her. Everyone else seemed to make it work somehow—none of them had real jobs, they were all freelance somethings, artists and writers and the occasional academic floating between fellowships and residencies and part-time work. But their days and hers were full with openings and readings and talks and screenings and club parties mythical in their squalid glamor and obscure door policies. Everyone went to the parties: activists and poets and straights and queers and all the people who back home would never be the type to wait in line on a street corner at two in the morning. Here the dancing and drugs and indulgence was normal, even political, anti-authoritarian. This she loved most, the insistence on joy as a measure against repression.
She was kind of broke like everyone else, was stretching the stipend she’d gotten from her grant to its finite limits. She knew she needed something like a real plan, but she had been buying time, buying the potential for the right thing to emerge, as she regularly insisted to her parents. Instead, the wrong thing had happened. She kept trying to place herself back home, to see New York, but the city she knew better than anywhere else now seemed vague, far from recall. She knew it was where she was headed but she couldn’t quite picture it.
Too quickly, it was just a couple of days before she had to leave, and Yom Kippur. She welcomed the chance to spend a full day in shul, preoccupied with something bodily in the form of the fast, the sitting and standing and mumbling alongside others in a language she intuited more than understood.
When she arrived at shul she immediately felt the comfort of that room full of white tallises, men in suits, dark-haired women, children running around in clothes too smart for running. Unlike at home, though, everyone here seemed to basically be following what was going on, instead of huddled at the back talking. In Germany there was decorum. She saw Ben, who waved her over to join the group of youngish Germans and expats she’d come to know there. It felt good to be at this progressive shul in Berlin—in her first years there, the holiday cycle had been full of heaviness, the Holocaust hovering at the edge of everything, but by now, she’d become accustomed to the interplay of past and present. She noticed with relief that she didn’t feel overly reverent, that she wanted to crack jokes and feel bored and antsy and not overwhelmed by meaning-making.
An hour into the service she looked up from the machzor she was half-following. Before she saw him, she knew Adam was there, of course he would be there, why hadn’t they thought of that? And there were Sam and Lanie, the two kids she’d heard about, four and six, and that was the wife—Andrea—looking over the room, trying to find a place for them all to sit. Andrea looked smart and weird and cute, and she felt a sharp pang at her realness. The kids were just as she’d imagined them, little versions of Adam. She wanted to meet them and at the same time, for an unreasonable second, she wondered if she could run away. But there they were, Adam leading his family exactly toward where she sat. He hadn’t seen her yet, but there were open seats there, a row behind her.
She did an awkward turn-around right as they were shuffling into the aisle, said an exaggeratedly friendly nothing-to-hide hello, shana tova, etc. Ben and the others also greeted Adam and the kids in a whispered chorus of introductions, Andrea’s eyebrows arched in surprise at her name, and she turned back around and tried not to feel eyes boring into the back of her neck. Some time passed, the kids got fidgety, and Andrea and Adam negotiated in whispers who would take them out to the playroom until Andrea insisted.
She could hear all this happening behind her, knew Adam was waiting too. She waited until Andrea and the kids were safely out of the chapel before she turned around and looked hard at him.
“So, you came to shul,” he said.
“Yeah, I came to shul.”
They both laughed, got a look from Ben, she turned back.
“I’ll find you later,” he leaned forward and whispered into her ear.
BEN NUDGED her a couple hours later to take a walk, to break up the monotony of prayers. They nodded in passing to Adam and Andrea, whose kids had found other kids to run with in the halls. They made their way out of the building and into an unusually clear and beautiful day. She turned to feel the sun on her face as they walked and talked about the passing of time, markers of time, what they remembered of other Yom Kippurs. She told Ben about the magic that seemed to surround the Yiskor service as a child, when all the kids would go outside or into the lobbies and hidden rooms of the shul, and all the adults stayed inside, how somehow the air was charged with the knowledge of death but also the lack of responsibility for it. And when they went back into the chapel her mother always had mascara trails from crying, her father hugged them, the room felt heavier. Now, as an adult, it still had the aura of time outside of time, an innocent hour that she knew wouldn’t be hers forever. The thought of having to stay in the sanctuary for Yiskor pressed hard on something inside of her if she dwelled on it.
They sat by the canal and watched families and tourists pass. There was a brass band playing on a makeshift stage and couples practiced swing dancing. They were still talking about their parents when Ben sighed and said, “I wish they could understand how I feel about Berlin, why I love it here. To them it’s just unfathomable that any of us live here, of all places.”
He repeated this last phrase in the tragic tone her own mother was prone to using too, and she laughed. “Look, I get it,” he continued, “but they don’t realize that Berlin is exactly where we should be.”
“I know,” she said. They’d had a version of this conversation a hundred times. She looked past the dancers to the canal and remembered that a group of them had done tashlich there the year before, had thrown pretzel crumbs into the waters, naming out loud what they wanted to release before the new year. They’d ended up calling things out in a mix of languages as they threw: bad sex! body shame! self-doubt! my dissertation! and enjoying the curious looks they got from passersby.
The thought of having to leave Berlin cut in sharply, and it occurred to her that she didn’t know how to be a Jew anywhere else, at least not the kind of Jew she could stand being, even sometimes wanted to be. She sighed, and Ben looked at his watch and said they should get back to services.
Ben put his arm through hers as they walked toward the shul, moving slower now, both feeling the first effects of the fast. When they returned he went into the chapel and she sat on a bench in a room off the main hall, where the kids had been playing. She was almost dozing when she heard Adam say her name.
“Andrea took the kids home. She’s doing parent duty so I can do Jew duty,” he said, and sat beside her on the bench.
They sat without speaking for a moment, which became many moments, which at first held a tension and then became just a comfortable quiet. He was looking at the machzor he still held in his hands, she had her eyes closed and her face toward the window, their sides were touching.
“It’s such a bummer you have to leave,” he said.
“I know.” She looked into his face.
“You’ve become like my entire social life here,” he tried to joke.
“I know,” she said.
She looked back out the window, could feel him move beside her, adjusting. For a breath she thought he was going to put his hands on her back, her neck, stroke her hair, pull her toward him. She didn’t look at him, didn’t move, and his voice sounded unfamiliar, unused to itself, when he said, quietly, “Should we . . . leave?”
She knew he was asking her to make some decision, to move the pieces forward or not. She started to respond, stopped, looked at his face, looked away and outside. The last thing she wanted was to make another decision, to be in charge of someone else’s life. This thing with Adam, the hovering potential of being an other woman, it didn’t feel like her as she knew herself. But since leaving New York, hadn’t she become unfamiliar to herself many times over already? And didn’t she know that seeing yourself through someone else’s eyes makes you new, which was what falling in love was all about? She could feel suddenly that Adam was desperate for that, that he sensed in her the power to see deeply and to remake what was already made. She recognized that desire; it was what she’d wanted from Berlin.
She turned back to him, looked in his eyes. It was partly relief and partly grief she felt, and before the “no” had left her lips he said, “You’re right.” He sat up straighter and said, “Okay, okay.”
She was surprised to find tears gathering, which she blinked away. She would have said I’m sorry but she knew that would sound like an apology when it was just her way of saying she was sad about this situation, sad that they had met too late, though she didn’t really believe that either. She had to believe it was all meant to happen as it did, because that also allowed her to believe that everything would still work out for her in the end. Anyway, this was just a crush of a couple weeks, she knew that too. There were other things, real things, she told herself, to figure out now.
She could hear a swell of voices signaling some break in the service. The chapel doors opened and people started to emerge.
When she looked back at Adam, she thought his face looked different, she saw the night in it, something tired. She hugged him quickly, released her hold before he could really respond, stood and gave a small wave. His hand was still in the air when she turned into the crowd. She navigated the dark suits and wide women, took her jacket, and walked out the guarded doors.
She didn’t know where she was going, but she felt a kind of empty calm. At the first corner, she turned away from the boulevard and into the narrow protected streets. She saw a small park of boules courts, and walked over to see the old men crouching and tossing, the metal balls hitting dirt and sand. She stood and watched and was reminded of her grandmother, who had been a crackerjack boules player in Brooklyn, usually the only woman on the pitch. Here, too, it was a men’s game, and she imagined her grandmother taking the field in her starched daywear, remembered her surprising agility, the way she’d clap her hands precisely once when she made a point. She wondered briefly, as she sometimes did in Berlin, had her grandmother ever stood on this court, on this street?
A match ended and the men gathered, and now she saw their smiles, the way one held another’s shoulders. They shook hands and collected their kits and called out goodbyes. She was surprised to feel a longing for what she imagined must be the steadiness of their lives, the constancy. She wondered for a moment if she should follow one home and stow away in his dusty flat, sleep on a cot in the kitchen and live quietly and never have to think of making a future again. She could see it: the 1940s kitchen with lace half-curtains and a small fridge with rounded corners and—she thought to herself as though adding a decorative sconce—maybe a hiding place behind a false wall where the pantry would have been. It would be like . . . a residency, she thought. All over Berlin there could be Jewish artists living in attics and kitchens and cellars.
A giggle escaped her just as one of the old men walked by, so she nodded at him, and he half-smiled and walked on. She imagined how she would pitch it for German arts funding, how the bureaucrats would need to be convinced, but how they’d want to be convinced. She’d need to find some non-squeamish Jewish artists to go for it, probably Israelis. They could host tiny one-painting exhibits and cramped four-person readings. Oh, how coveted those invites would be!
Maybe it was the euphoria that sometimes accompanied the end of a day of fasting, but now she was giggling in bursts that caught her breath. She leaned against the short fence that enclosed the boules court and laughed until she cried, until she had to use her sleeve to mop her snot, until she got to a bench, and sat sobbing in heaves. She stayed there for a while in the quietness that came after, watching the life of the park, children and couples and other people’s grandmothers, until night came, and she started for home.
Maia Ipp is a writer, editor at Jewish Currents, and co-founder of Festivalt, an avant-garde Jewish arts festival in Krakow, Poland.