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Words of the Week

“Can we get beyond the toxicity? That depends in large measure to what we attribute its origins. While the panoply of its causes is beyond the scope of this essay, one contributing factor reigns supreme: Many participants in the conversation have turned up the volume to camouflage an overwhelming ignorance about issues. It is no exaggeration to say that many of those who advocate ending the occupation tomorrow or continuing it forever have given much more consideration to which smartphone to purchase next than they have to the likely repercussions of the position they advocate with absolute certainty.

Many American Jews despair about Israel’s conduct of its conflict, but know nothing about how Israel responded to the very same challenges in the 1940’s and 1950’s, even in its public school curricula. We know the names of the prime ministers we detest, but cannot name five Israeli poets or novelists and say something about what they sought to communicate to and about Israeli society. Most young American Jews are largely opposed to the occupation, yet are unaware that the Palestinians’ explicit drive to destroy Israel began before there even was an occupation.”

Source: Daniel Gordis, “We Need to Talk About Israel” (Tablet)

I have just purchased a copy of Gordis’s new book, Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn.

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Monday Markets and Jobs for Writers

dollar-sign-mdMonday brings the weekly batch of no-fee competitions/contests, paying submission calls, and jobs for those of us who write (especially those of us who write fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction). Continue reading ›

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Sunday Sentence

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In which I participate in David Abrams’s “Sunday Sentence” project, sharing the best sentence I’ve read during the past week, “out of context and without commentary.”

“Would you like some slices of cheese and olives?” is not an offer you are likely to get from Axl Rose.

Source: David Remnick’s Leonard Cohen profile, The New Yorker

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Friday Finds for Writers

Treasure Chest
Writing-related resources, news, and reflections to enjoy over the weekend. Continue reading ›

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Pre-Shabbat Jewish Literary Links

Photo Credit: Reut Miryam Cohen

Photo Credit: Reut Miryam Cohen

Every Friday My Machberet presents an array of Jewish-interest links, primarily of the literary variety.

  • On “Philip Roth and his Jewish People”: commentary by A. James Rudin for Religion News Service.
  • Nice to see Christi Craig’s take on Anna Solomon’s Leaving Lucy Pear for the Great New Books website.
  • Phoebe Maltz Bovy’s writing always interests me, but I confess that finding an article of my own referenced within “Ferrante and the Freedom of the Jewish Woman Author” made me even more intrigued by this piece for the Forward‘s website.
  • Another (Jewish) take on the unmasking of Elena Ferrante: Rachel Shukert’s piece for Tablet.
  • And ICYMI: my response to numerous anti-Israelist messages in a recent Poets & Writers feature.
  • Shabbat shalom.

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    My Letter to Poets & Writers Magazine

    Here is the original, unedited full text (including paragraph breaks and a final sentence) of a letter that Poets & Writers has now posted online.

    Dear Poets & Writers:

    At the outset of “Dear President: A Message for the Next Commander in Chief From Fifty American Poets and Writers” (September/October 2016), you declared:

    It turns out something pretty great happens when you ask writers to convey, without a lot of political grandstanding, what is most important to them. The contours of some of America’s biggest issues—education, health care, gun violence, racism, immigration, and the environment among them—start to come into sharper focus, the collective discourse rises above the rhetoric of political pundits, and the pomp and circumstance of the political process falls away, so that we are left with a discussion of real problems, real concerns, and, if not solutions, then at least some honest ideas that may inspire action of real, lasting value.

    Unfortunately, among many fine contributions that may indeed meet those high ideals, your feature includes some that represent “political grandstanding” at its worst; they evoke an anti-Israelist “collective discourse” composed of the precisely the sort of distressingly familiar rhetoric that you claim the feature to be “rising above.” Far from “sharpening focus” or offering “honest ideas,” these paragraphs present what might most charitably be described as incomplete and highly arguable accounts of a longstanding conflict.

    What is inarguable, however, is that statements you chose to include—in particular, those from Ru Freeman, Emily Raboteau, and Naomi Shihab Nye—omit even the slightest sense of the matter’s complexity and history. (To its credit, a fourth statement to address this subject, Tom Spanbauer’s, at least suggests that Palestinian Arabs bear some responsibility for the ongoing difficulties.)

    That among all of the world’s nations and national groups your feature singles out for excoriation, more than once, only the planet’s sole Jewish state is distressing enough. That you’ve chosen to preface such anti-Israelist polemics with your laudatory introduction—rather than a more conventional statement clarifying that your contributors’ opinions are only their own—is profoundly disturbing to this longtime subscriber and past contributor. I expect better from Poets & Writers.

    Erika Dreifus
    New York, NY

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