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Words of the Week

“During my time in Israel, I landed an internship with an Israeli non-profit that provided support services for foreign reporters based in Israel. For the most part, my job was to accompany members of the press on field tours, getting perspectives on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides. I found to my surprise that much of the foreign press was ignorant and quite lazy in their reporting. They often had a less than limited understanding of the region, its history, and its politics. They tended to write stories that fit the preconceptions of their editors and producers. For the most part, this narrative consisted of the idea that Israelis are bad and Palestinians are good.”

Source: Zenobia Ravji, “Yes, Many Journalists Choose Sides in a Conflict—and Often for the Worst Reasons” (The Tower)

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Words of the Week

“I share the outrage of Jews and Zionists who recognize how antisemitism has infiltrated the academy and progressive politics in multiple and worrying ways. Even though these activists may vigorously deny the label of antisemitism, at the very least they benefit from deeply ingrained antisemitic attitudes that assume Jews (or the Jew-writ-large of the State of Israel) are inherently powerful, wealthy, aggressive, shadowy, clannish, and untrustworthy. With little of the intellectual honesty and empathy they claim to embody, many anti-Israel activists advance their cause with the aid of these dangerous tropes, and have enjoyed unparalleled success in singling out Israel for rebuke as a result. As a consequence, not only are Israelis dehumanized in deeply repulsive ways by a supposedly humane academy/progressive political class, but BDS activism in the far left has become one of the most effective vehicles for reifying and spreading calumnies and discrimination against Jews. This state of affairs has already led to violence against Jewish students on campus and the exclusion of valuable Jewish voices in progressive causes that have no clear, obvious link to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

As a Jew, a Zionist, a progressive, a professor, and a campus rabbi, I am deeply worried about these trends and what they mean for my students.”

Source: Rabbi Rachel Isaacs, Jewish Waterville

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My Year in Jewish Books

StarFor the past four years, I’ve found it useful (and kind of fun) to look back on “my year in Jewish books.” So, borrowing some of the same introductory wording, I’m going to attempt to do something similar for 2015.

Reviewing my reading for 2015 (thank you, Goodreads!), I can see that, again, I do not and would not ever limit my reading to “Jewish books” exclusively. (By the way, in case you haven’t heard me say this before, I define “Jewish books” in the simplest terms as books with substantive Jewish content. In my view, non-Jewish authors can write “Jewish books.” And Jewish authors can write books that don’t strike me as overtly Jewish.)

But this year, as usual, I did read quite a few books that fall within the “Jewish book” category. And, as an advocate for Jewish literature, I’m proud of that.

Below, you will find these books presented in the order in which I read them (most recent first).  I have also disclosed how I obtained each book: P (purchase), R (complimentary review copy), L (library), or FTB (for books I’ve read in manuscript prior to their release from Fig Tree Books in my job as FTB media editor). 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.

  • Did you follow that recent brouhaha about a so-called “banned” book in Israel? Liel Leibovitz dug deeper into that story for Tablet; read his piece. (See also Michele Chabin’s report for The Jewish Week.)
  • Fascinating to see what the National Library of Israel has been up to.
  • New on the Fig Tree Books blog this week: a look back on Philip Roth’s Everyman.
  • “If the American Jewish story is, on balance, a very happy one, why are our books so miserable? Where are the well-adjusted Jewish writers?” In a new review for Tablet, Adam Kirsch spotlights one of the happy ones: Herman Wouk, who has a new memoir out.
  • I’d fallen behind on the “Israel in Translation” series; here’s a tribute segment for Amir Gutfreund, the Israeli author who passed away this fall.
  • Shabbat shalom. PS: I’ll be traveling for the next few days; comment moderation and response will resume after my return.

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    From My Bookshelf: Leah Kaminsky’s THE WAITING ROOM

    WaitingRoomCoverI was all set to wait patiently for the U.S. release of Leah Kaminsky‘s debut novel The Waiting Room (which will happen next fall). But then, the author—an Australian whom I’ve yet to meet in person but with whom I’ve developed another of those wonderful “online friendships” I’m so grateful for—sent me a gift copy of the original Australian edition, which was published this past September. And how pleased I am that she did.

    There’s so much that’s noteworthy about this book, beginning with the subject matter. What I realized only a few pages in is that The Waiting Room brings together two topics that are often categorized separately among Diaspora readers. First, there’s its Holocaust thread. Protagonist Dina Ronen, Australian-born, is the daughter of two Holocaust survivors. Her father died during Dina’s childhood; her mother has passed away by the time the novel opens, with Dina a married mother of one young son and another baby about a month away from delivery. But her mother’s ghost speaks throughout the book, and we return often to her parents’ histories in flashbacks. Continue reading ›

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    Words of the Week

    “I read web and social media and it’s shocking how liberal Jews (I consider myself one, recall) so quick to righteously protest the sufferings of just about everyone else in the world, rarely have expressed any sorrow for the knifing of Jewish children. Sadly they seem to have been bullied by the BDS types, by the social media sewer of anti-Semitism, the Shylockization of Netanyahu. By the ‘moral equivalence’ ‘cycle of violence’ narrative. Can’t feel bad about murdered Jews if a right wing government’s in power. To the extent that if a liberal Jew speaks up for the murdered at a dinner party he is suddenly Sheldon Adelson. Or the Jew in the Annie Hall dinner scene abruptly finding himself clothed in Hasidic garb (not that there’s anything wrong with that).”

    Source: Ron Rosenbaum, “Thinking the Unthinkable: A Lamentation for the State of Israel” (Tablet)

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