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Chag Sameach! Eight Days of Giving (7)

Chag Urim Sameach! This year we are celebrating Hanukkah by introducing our readers to a new member of our incredible staff each night as we reflect on the work we’re most proud of from 2022.

We believe something amazing is happening here at Jewish Currents, but we can’t make miracles without your help. We don’t depend on venture capital to fund our work and we don’t accept paid advertising. Rather, it’s your engagement and support that makes the labor of our writers, editors, artists, and fact-checkers possible, and allows us to continue exploring the questions that are most vital to today’s Jewish communities. We’re excited to shine a light on the people behind Jewish Currents, to share with you exactly who and what you are supporting when you read, listen, donate, and subscribe to our magazine.

Ari M. Brostoff, senior editor
Young Ari celebrating with their mother and great-grandmother.

Young Ari celebrating with their mother and great-grandmother.

As a senior editor at Jewish Currents, I get to work on all kinds of pieces: essays and features, short web pieces and long narrative ones. But editing criticism is a particular pleasure, a chance to talk at length with writers about the questions raised by a work of art. This year, in light of the dismaying loss of some of our best literary publications—most recently and shockingly, Bookforum—it feels all the more important to keep JC thriving as an outlet for serious criticism.

One review I was excited to work on this year was Hannah Black’s profound, hilarious meditation on the Showtime reality series Couples Therapy. Hannah’s probing wit takes on not only the bleakly mesmerizing show itself (a “CSI: Brooklyn of the soul,” she writes, in which the star, psychotherapist Orna Guralnik, serves as “a brilliant investigator attending to the forensics of alienation”) but also the entire practice of therapy (with its “bracing wager . . . that a person can arrive at the blunt joy of aliveness by gradually accepting that the past is irredeemable, pain is self-inflicted, and time is finite”). At its root, Hannah argues, Couples Therapy offers us a glimpse into the work that therapists do, allowing us to vicariously experience the difficult pleasure of helping people meet themselves.

Another review I loved working on was Raffi Magarik’s brilliant piece on Olga Tokarczuk’s novel The Books of Jacob, published in Polish in 2014 and translated into English in 2022. Raffi took on one of the most acclaimed and ambitious literary works of the past few years, a carnivalesque historical tale in which 18th-century Poland appears as “a messy, multiethnic, pluralistic society”—and the home base of an antic, heretical sect of Jewish worshippers who follow the previous century’s scandalous false messiah, Shabtai Tzvi. In Raffi’s astounding reading, Tokarczuk uses a curious narrative technique to arrange an unlikely marriage between the history of messianism and the history of the novel itself. Often it takes years for this kind of synthetic reading of a work of literature to appear, and when it does it is circulated mainly among scholars; Raffi’s is already here, and I’m so glad that we could give it a home where all curious readers can benefit from his insight.

To continue publishing vivid criticism like the pieces Ari mentioned above, we rely on our community of supporters and subscribers. Please consider sustaining our work by making a donation or subscribing to Jewish Currents today. Our subscriptions also make great gifts!

As a small token of our appreciation for our community of readers and contributors, we are also offering newsletter subscribers 36% off of anything in our online store if you use the code GELT2022. Shop Jewish Currents gifts—like our tote bags, back issues, and special editions—for your friends and family (or yourself!).

Thank you for your continued support, and we wish you a relaxing and peaceful holiday season, no matter what you celebrate.