We hope you are finding time to gather with friends and loved ones during these difficult days. We’re grateful to be a part of your community, and, as we did last year, we want to celebrate Hanukkah by introducing you to some of the writers, editors, and organizational staff who make Jewish Currents what it is. Each night, you’ll meet a different member of our team, who will reflect on work they found particularly meaningful from the last year.
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I’m Claire Schwartz, the culture editor at Jewish Currents. For the past two months, we’ve been operating mostly in rapid-response mode, striving to meet the exigencies of the moment. So when I received a copy of our Fall 2023 issue with a folio on the francophone Algerian writer Hélène Cixous—the product of a year’s work—it felt like a dispatch from another time. The folio is a textured exploration of the feminist theorist’s tremendous oeuvre (more than 80 books!), comprising short essays, music, fiction, illustrations, and an interview with Cixous that I was lucky to conduct. As I paged through the collection, I found myself reenchanted by Cixous’s commitment to living alongside strangeness rather than attempting to metabolize it into what is knowable (“We meet. We exchange. We guess . . . The Other remains foreign”); by her oracular discussion of Jewishness (“To be Jewish is a permanent firework of enigmas”); and, perhaps most of all, by her own enchantment with language (“Writing and reading are adventures. You don’t try to catch meaning. You let it gallop like wild horses in front of you or beside you, and just enjoy the experience”). For the first time in weeks, I felt held inside shapes of thought that refuse the present’s brutal enclosures.
I often describe the work we do on the culture side of Jewish Currents as an engagement with the aesthetic dimensions of politics. While these forms of cultural production can’t “meet the moment,” they can participate in the much slower work of charting alternatives to the relentless rhythms of imperial catastrophe: turning over the language and images that comprise daily life, shaking off the sedimentations of our calcified common sense, and making vivid other ways to be and know. These past months, as mainstream media distorts syntax to construct alibis for Israeli violence and genocide scholars squirm to avoid the term’s application to a textbook case, it has been abundantly clear that this deeply rooted disaster—of Israeli colonialism and the world orders that affirm it—is profoundly entangled with this slower work we’ve done or neglected.
Holding the Cixous folio in my hands, I’m reminded that the long process of collaborating with other editors and the folio contributors was also a practice of learning how to read together anew, of coming from our various routes to face each other by way of these texts we’ve inherited. I’m reminded of the gift and urgency of this slow practice of rereading: that the future is forged by way of looking back.
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Thank you for your continued support. We wish you a restorative and meaningful holiday season.