My Machberet

“Machberet” is the Hebrew word for notebook. Since it’s also (appropriately) one of the very first words I learned in my first Hebrew school in Brooklyn (and, until I returned to language study well into adulthood, one of the few conversational Hebrew words I still remembered), I’ve chosen it to title this blog, where I offer write-ups on Jewish news (especially of the literary sort) and occasional commentary.

From My Archive: “Rio, 1946”

There’s a lot of discussion these days about immigration, and immigrants, and the specter of being considered a “public charge.” It’s been a little difficult for me to engage in this discourse, and for the most part, I haven’t. Each time another article or news clip or tweet comes to my attention, I think back to one of my grandmother’s most poignant stories, about her post-World War II efforts—as a recent immigrant and newly-naturalized American citizen herself—to bring her parents from Rio de Janeiro, where they had found refuge from their native Germany in 1940, to join her and her new husband and baby (my father) in New York. Her story is the “real-life” source for this short piece of fiction, which was published a number of years ago by The Pedestal Magazine.

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21st-Century Jewish Literature: A Glimpse into My Syllabus

Collage of three book covers: THE MAN IN THE WHITE SHARKSKIN SUIT by Lucette Lagnado; THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA by Philip Roth; and LETTERS TO MY PALESTINIAN NEIGHBOR by Yossi Klein Halevi.

A number of you have asked for details about the syllabus I’ve been working on for my upcoming undergraduate course on “21st-Century Jewish Literature.” Suffice to say that I’ve spent a lot of time this summer preparing for this class. (And with just two weeks to go before the first class meeting, I’m not done yet!)

Mindful of a number of factors—including the cost of book purchases—I’ve worked hard to feature among these readings plenty of materials that are freely available online and/or via databases accessible to all of my students. We’ll be reading lots of essays, short stories, poems, and excerpts from longer works. I’m asking that students obtain for themselves only three titles—those pictured above, by Lucette Lagnado, Philip Roth, and Yossi Klein Halevi (all three of those books are available in paperback and e-book format, with copies also available through our university and local public libraries).

Below are the names of the other authors (and translators) of texts featured on the syllabus. (Not cited here: the authors of supplementary secondary readings.)

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Responses to Difficult Reading, in Poetry and Prose

The 929 website, if you’re not familiar with it, “invites Jews everywhere to read Tanakh, one chapter a day, together.” Today’s chapter—II Samuel 13—is, as my friend Rabbi Abby Sosland observes, “almost unbearable” reading. Please be forewarned.

But if you can listen to Abby, and read my friend Sivan Rotholz’s reflections, there’s also a poem of mine included in the discussion on 929 today. (The poem, “Complicity,” is also featured in my forthcoming collection.)

Collage of screenshots from today's 929 English webpage, spotlighting contributions from Rabbi Abby Sosland, Sivan Rotholz, and me.

All three pieces—and much more—can be found on this page. (You’ll need to scroll down a bit to find my poem; if you’re in a hurry, here’s a direct link.)

Words of the Week

“Israel is in the Middle East.

That may sound like one of the more banal opening sentences to an article, but it’s a fact, argues Matti Friedman, that seems to continually elude many commentators and critics of Israel, many Diaspora Jews who pronounce themselves baffled by some of Israel’s actions and policies, and, indeed, many Israelis themselves.”

Source: David Horovitz’s introduction to an interview with Matti Friedman (Times of Israel)