Ruth R. Wisse

Ruth R. Wisse is a research professor at Harvard and a distinguished senior fellow at the Tikvah Fund. Her most recent book is No Joke: Making Jewish Humor (2013, paperback 2015).

Bellow Was So Jewish He Could Travel Any Distance Without Risking That Allegiance

His reputation will fall and rise with his people’s.

Oct. 28 2019 12:01AM

What Saul Bellow Saw

The Jewish writer who became America’s most decorated novelist spent his early years prodding the nation’s soul. Then, sensing danger to it, he took up the role of guardian.

Oct. 7 2019 12:01AM

Reckoning; or, the Distressing Transformation of Harvard (and American Academia)

What I witnessed in my two decades of teaching at Harvard.

Aug. 20 2019 12:03AM

Podcast: Ruth Wisse on Tevye the Dairyman

The renowned expert on Yiddish literature stops by to talk everything Tevye, Fiddler, Sholem Aleichem, and more.

Aug. 15 2019 12:01AM

Why It's Necessary to Bring Jewish Communism into Full View

Airing the complicity of some American Jews with Soviet criminality is essential to the honor and the reputation of the Jewish people.

June 17 2019 12:01AM

Arrival; or, Yiddish Makes Its Way to Harvard Yard

At arguably the moment of Harvard’s greatest involvement with Jews and Judaism, new movements in (anti-)intellectual thought started to creep in, too.

May 29 2019 1:36AM

Leadership; or, Some Specific Strengths and General Failures of the American Jewish Fighting Spirit

From academia to philanthropy to journalism, my experience with Jewish leadership has been by turns discouraging and inspiring.

May 3 2019 12:01AM

Contention; or, My Disputes with Irving Howe, Yiddish Academia, and Holocaust Memorials

Contention was so much a part of modern Yiddish culture that, in any study of that culture, it was all but taken for granted.

March 27 2019 12:01AM

Politics; or, Grappling with Liberalism and Women's Lib

I expected the women’s movement to evaporate as quickly as it had materialized. It was the worst cultural prediction of my life.

Feb. 27 2019 2:19AM

Intellect; or, Daring to Become a Writer

On making one’s way into the “intimidatingly smart” realm of the New York Jewish intellectuals, and the company of I.B. Singer.

Jan. 30 2019 2:06AM

Ascent; Or, Moving to Israel in the 1970s

For me, living in Israel is a moral imperative. There is no elegant or painless way to describe why, after a  year, we left.

Jan. 2 2019 12:01AM

The Best Books of 2018, Chosen by Mosaic Authors

Letters, antidotes, eternal lives, outcasts, secret worlds, pogroms, and more.

Dec. 12 2018 12:01AM

Perseverance; or, My Fight to Study, and to Teach, Yiddish Literature

In the late 1960s, appointments in Jewish studies were springing up in tandem with the “adversarial culture.” But we intended to strengthen the universities, not to trash them.

Nov. 29 2018 12:01AM

Destiny; or, How I Found My Two “Basherts”

Ruth R. Wisse discovers her husband and her subject.

Nov. 1 2018 12:01AM

Discovery; or, the Ferment of Jewish Montreal in the Fifties

With the relaxation of Catholic influence in Quebec, local Jewish culture began to come of age and flourish.

Sept. 27 2018 12:01AM

Accommodation: Or, Growing Up Jewish in Protestant Canada

We were invited to join in the school’s prayers and hymns, but our grateful acquiescence also implied there was something illicit or shameful about our Jewishness.

Aug. 30 2018 12:01AM

Responsibility; or, My Brother and I (and Leonard Cohen) Go to Summer Camp

And come to differing conclusions about the obligations of collective living.

Aug. 2 2018 12:01AM

Freedom; or, How a Family of Survivors Found Its Place in Jewish Montreal

Father brought us out of bondage, but Mother decided where we were to settle and how we were to live.

June 20 2018 12:01AM

Survival; or, How My Family Beat the Odds in 1940

It wasn’t easy for an entire Jewish family to escape Eastern Europe in the mid-20th century. Ruth Wisse’s did.

May 17 2018 12:01AM

Best Books of the Year, as Selected by Mosaic Authors

Spy games, catch-67s, lionesses, smugglers, patriots, setting suns, and more.

Dec. 27 2017 12:01AM

A Romanian Jew's Private Judgment of a World Bent on Condemning Him

In brilliantly charting the psychological effects of anti-Semitism on both its perpetrators and its victims, a newly translated 1934 novel outdoes even such master analysts as Freud and Proust.

Oct. 18 2017 12:01AM

My Life with Leonard Cohen

Friends, but never close, our paths intersected and then diverged, until this past September, when I connected with Leonard for the last time.

Nov. 30 2016 12:01AM

Jews and Other Poles

Poland offered Jews some of the best conditions they ever experienced in exile—until it didn’t. How are Poles dealing with that history today?

Dec. 21 2015 12:01AM

The Society That Abandons Its Jews Abandons Itself

American readers might consider the flight of French Jewry to be as foreign as foie gras. But there are warnings to be heeded even by them.

Oct. 12 2015 12:01AM

Oslo on My Mind

Memories of the day, twenty-two years ago, when the Oslo Accords were signed—and of the price Israel paid for that “terrible mistake.”

Sept. 10 2015 12:01AM

The Problem Starts at the Top

Responsibility for American universities’ failure to confront anti-Semitism rests with administrators and faculty.

May 26 2015 12:01AM

Anti-Semitism Goes to School

Anti-Semitism on American college campuses is rising—and worsening. Where does it come from, and can it be stopped?

May 4 2015 12:01AM

Of Dogs and Jews (and Lena Dunham Too)

A stale New Yorker quiz prompts stale accusations of anti-Semitism. More interesting is the trope of the canine Jew.

April 2 2015 12:01AM

Isaac Bashevis Singer and His Women

What drove the great writer to employ a “harem” of translators? A new film tells much, but not all.

Jan. 21 2015 12:01AM

The Herd of Independent Minds

What does it mean to be “pro-Israel” on campus today? A new novel tells the tale.

Nov. 5 2014 12:01AM

What's Wrong with "Fiddler on the Roof"

Fifty years on, no work by or about Jews has won American hearts so thoroughly. So what’s my problem?

June 18 2014 6:00PM

Their Tragic Land

Two acclaimed new books about Israel betray a disquieting lack of moral confidence in their subject and its story

Dec. 18 2013 8:36PM

By Our Efforts Combined

Dear Hillel: Don’t you think that Israel needs American Jews to help it withstand the campaigns of hate it faces?

Nov. 13 2013 8:57PM