Michel de Montaigne

Writer and philosopher Michel de Montaigne, born Michel Eyquem on this date in 1533, was a major figure in the French Renaissance. His mother was Jewish, but converted to Protestantism, while his maternal grandfather was a crypto-Jew whose family converted to Catholicism. It is thought that there were conversos on his father’s side as well. Montaigne heard and […]

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The Child Bride

by Rebecca Boroson   IN 1905, when my grandfather was a divorced man who had cut off his payess and left his shtetl to live as a freethinker, he went to see a farmer who had three marriageable daughters. The daughters, whose mother had died in childbirth, were growing up wild, and the farmer was rumored […]

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On Being a “Jewess”

by Rebecca Boroson   TWO MEN WANTED ME, when I was young, for being something I was not. I was reminded of this recently, when one sent me my portrait, which I never knew he had painted more than fifty years ago. He titled it “Jewess.” The other man, tall, blond, blue-eyed, of German descent and […]

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Zemirovsky’s Flight from the Juif

ASSIMILATION AND DISSIMULATION by Zelda Gamson Discussed in this essay: The Nemirovsky Question: The Life, Death and Legacy of a Jewish Writer in 20th-Century France, by Susan Rubin Suleiman. Yale University Press, 2016, 376 pages. from the Autumn 2017 issue of Jewish Currents   THE LIFE could have made a good novel, and she might even have […]

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Turkish Delight

THE SEPHARDIC IMMIGRANT EXPERIENCE IN FICTION by Sarah Aroeste From the Autumn 2017 issue of Jewish Currents   Discussed in this essay: His Hundred Years, A Tale by Shalach Manot. Albion-Andalus Books, 2016, 208 pages.   IT IS WITH BOTH pride and curiosity that I spent my childhood years staring daily at a photograph of my grandfather as […]

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The Uncivil Servant: Diaries of Doomed Writers

by Mitchell Abidor Discussed in this essay: Earthly Signs: Moscow Diaries 1917-1922 by Marina Tsetaeva, translated by Jamey Gambrell. NYRB Classics, 2017, 248 pages; and The Diaries of Emilio Renzi by Ricardo Piglia, translated by Robert Croll. Restless Books, 2017, 448 pages.   MARINA TSETAEVA (1892-1941) was part of the remarkable generation of Russian poets who had […]

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Clancy Sigal’s 20th-Century Road Trip

by Marty Roth   “He was a romantic man, Clancy. The Left was then romantic, heroic, monitored by the ghosts of heroes and heroines.” —Doris Lessing THE ROLLER COASTER that was Clancy Sigal’s life and career has shut down, the lights turned off. What is still worth savoring? Although he was celebrated as a legendary figure […]

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David Rakoff’s American Life

David Rakoff, a Canadian-born gay writer who was a regular contributor to National Public Radio’s “This American Life” and published three bestselling volumes of essays, died at 47 on this date in 2012. Rakoff’s grandparents fled Latvia and Lithuania for South Africa at the turn of the 20th century; his parents left South Africa in 1961 and moved […]

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