Donate

A New Unpublished Story by Isaac Bashevis Singer

Searching through Isaac Bashevis Singer’s archives, the literary scholar and translator David Stromberg discovered the Yiddish manuscript of a previously unknown story titled “The Boarder,” together with a typed English translation. While neither text bears a date, Stromberg speculates that both the original and the translation were produced in the mid-1950s, and that Singer did the translating himself or with assistance from a collaborator. The story—available here—involves a conversation between an older, devout Jew, Reb Berish, and his younger, impious boarder, Melnik, about the possibility of faith after the Holocaust. In an interview with Deborah Treisman, Stromberg comments:

Reb Berish’s faith may be seen as contributing to his isolation in America, but he clings to it, perhaps because, no matter how alone he may feel, his commitment to God and Judaism gives him a sense of connection to generations that have come before him. This may not seem like much from Melnik’s modern perspective, but, when an atrocity as unfathomable as the Holocaust becomes an unequivocal reality, this faith—which solves nothing—seems, at least, to offer a viable counterbalance to the despair of doubt.

This is what makes it possible for these two men to engage in dialogue. It doesn’t really matter which perspective is right or wrong. What comes to the fore is that, their personal beliefs aside, these two refugees both find themselves on the margins of American society, each coping to the best of his ability with his personal trauma and pain. . . . I imagine that Singer understood and empathized with the perspectives of both. He shared the cynicism of Melnik, but also believed in the regenerative power of Reb Berish’s faith.

Reb Berish is stubborn about his faith. . . . So how much more must he cling to it in the face of Melnik’s bitterness! And yet the fact that this bitterness is rooted in pain and anger also leaves open the door to repentance. Reb Berish engages him because, in his Jewish tradition, the way back to religion is always open, and also, if Melnik returns, Reb Berish will have evidence that faith can overcome doubt. . . .

If “The Boarder” was indeed written in the 1950s, as I suspect, it would fall within Singer’s own “return to faith,” not as observance but as a literary memorialization of his parents’ faith. The major expression of this was a series of pieces that was later published as the memoir collection In My Father’s Court, which first appeared in Yiddish, in 1955. This story seems to be in line with his own struggle between faith and doubt, against a brutal God but in support of the miracle of human faith.

Read more at New Yorker

More about: Arts & Culture, Holocaust, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Judaism, Yiddish literature

How the U.S. Can Strike at Iran without Risking War

In his testimony before Congress on Tuesday, Michael Doran urged the U.S. to pursue a policy of rolling back Iranian influence in the Middle East, and explained how this can be accomplished. (Video of the testimony, along with the full text, are available at the link below.)

The United States . . . has indirect ways of striking at Iran—ways that do not risk drawing the United States into a quagmire. The easiest of these is to support allies who are already in the fight. . . . In contrast to the United States, Israel is already engaged in military operations whose stated goal is to drive Iran from Syria. We should therefore ask ourselves what actions we might take to strengthen Israel’s hand. Militarily, these might include, on the passive end of the spectrum, positioning our forces so as to deter Russian counterattacks against Israel. On the [more active] end, they might include arming and training Syrian forces to engage in operations against Iran and its proxies—much as we armed the mujahedin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Diplomatically, the United States might associate itself much more directly with the red lines that Israel has announced regarding the Iranian presence in Syria. Israel has, for example, called for pushing Iran and its proxies away from its border on the Golan Heights. Who is prepared to say that Washington has done all in its power to demonstrate to Moscow that it fully supports this goal? In short, a policy of greater coordination with Jerusalem is both possible and desirable.

In Yemen, too, greater coordination with Saudi Arabia is worth pursuing. . . . In Lebanon and Iraq, conditions will not support a hard rollback policy. In these countries the goal should be to shift the policy away from a modus vivendi [with Iran] and in the direction of containment. In Iraq, the priority, of course, is the dismantling of the militia infrastructure that the Iranians have built. In Lebanon, [it should be] using sanctions to force the Lebanese banking sector to choose between doing business with Hizballah and Iran and doing business with the United States and its financial institutions. . . .

Iran will not take a coercive American policy sitting down. It will strike back—and it will do so cleverly. . . . It almost goes without saying that the United States should begin working with its allies now to develop contingency plans for countering the tactics [Tehran is likely to use]. I say “almost” because I know from experience in the White House that contingency planning is something we extol much more than we conduct. As obvious as these tactics [against us] are, they have often taken Western decision makers by surprise, and they have proved effective in wearing down Western resolve.

Read more at Hudson

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen