Words of the Week: Theo Baker

Across the many conversations and hours of formal interviews I conducted for this article, I’ve encountered a persistent anti-intellectual streak. I’ve watched many of my classmates treat death so cavalierly that they can protest as a pregame to a party. Indeed, two parties at Stanford were reported to the university this fall for allegedly making people say ‘Fuck Israel’ or ‘Free Palestine’ to get in the door. A spokesperson for the university said it was ‘unable to confirm the facts of what occurred,’ but that it had ‘met with students involved in both parties to make clear that Stanford’s nondiscrimination policy applies to parties.’ As a friend emailed me not long ago: ‘A place that was supposed to be a sanctuary from such unreason has become a factory for it.’

(more…)

Jewish Literary Links

an open book (with Hebrew pages visible); subtitle reads "Jewish Literary Links"
Image by Yedidia Klein from Pixabay

Toward the end of each week, the My Machberet blog presents a collection of links, drawn primarily from the world of Jewish books.

  • One story has dominated Jewish-literary news this week. To catch up, you might consult “After a Writer Expressed Sympathy for Israelis in an Essay, All Hell Broke Loose at a Literary Journal” (Los Angeles Times) and/or “Guernica Magazine Retracts Israeli Writer’s Coexistence Essay That Co-Publisher Called an ‘Apologia for Zionism’” (JTA). Related opinion pieces have appeared in both the mainstream and Jewish press, with Phil Klay’s “The Cowardice of Guernica (The Atlantic; temporary gift link) and Nora Berman’s “An Elite Literary Journal Imploded over an Essay About the War — Because It Dared to Humanize Israelis as Well as Palestinians” (Forward) again offering just two examples. (Don’t neglect to read the actual essay at the heart of this, by Joanna Chen; you’ll find it linked in the other pieces, and you can also find it archived here.)
  • Mark your calendar for April 2 and a free, online event titled “The Language of War: Lost in Translation?” From the description: “Do Jewish writers across the globe speak the same language of war? Join Ambassador Michael Oren as he probes the experience of authors Elisa Albert, Iddo Gefen, and Aviya Kushner, and unpacks how their work is impacted by the current climate, what they see as their obligation to their readers, and how Jewish literature can be a point of connection in times of crisis.” Presented by the National Library of Israel-USA Signature Speakers Series and the Sami Rohr Prize Writers Showcase.
  • Speaking of Aviya Kushner: Check out her latest Substack, which brilliantly combines analysis of the work of Isaac Bashevis Singer with reflections on the aforementioned situation surrounding Israeli writer/translator Joanna Chen’s essay and Guernica magazine.
  • Book-award news: Natan and the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil have announced the latest Natan Notable Book: Target Tehran: How Israel Is Using Sabotage, Cyberwarfare, Assassination – and Secret Diplomacy – to Stop a Nuclear Iran and Create a New Middle East by Yon­ah Jere­my Bob and Ilan Evy­atar. And this year’s UK-based Wingate Literary Prize has been awarded to Elizabeth McCracken for The Hero of this Book.
  • And remaining in the UK as we conclude: In his latest essay, the incomparable Howard Jacobson addresses an infuriatingly memorable moment from Sunday’s Academy Awards presentation: an acceptance speech delivered when the Auschwitz-set film The Zone of Interest won the Best International Feature category. As Jacobson writes, “Jonathan Glazer made an ambitious, important film. I salute the artist. But his abject mea culpa debases him as a man.” I know that Jacobson’s arguments and historical reminders within this essay are aimed toward Glazer; it’s so very obvious to me that there are so many “#AsAJew” Jonathan Glazers out there who need to read and absorb it.

Reminder: If you haven’t checked it lately, you may want to peruse the “After October 7: Readings, Recordings, and More” document-in-progress. (Updates are frequent!) This may also be an appropriate week to mention anew the availability of some cautionary information (also in-progress), compiled under the title “Writers, Beware.”

Shabbat shalom.

#SundaySentence

Every weekend I participate in David Abrams’s “#SundaySentence” project, sharing the best sentence I’ve read during the past week, “out of context and without commentary.”

But if hatred comes from ignorance, why were America’s best universities full of this very specific ignorance?

Source: Dara Horn, “Why the Most Educated People in America Fall for Anti-Semitic Lies” (The Atlantic; temporary gift link provided)