A New Novel Tackles Jewish Family and Community—and Prayer

March 14 2016

In As Close to Us as Breathing, Elizabeth Poliner covers such familiar ground as love, the Jewish family, and community. But, notes Adam Kirsch, this “unusually perceptive” work also addresses a subject almost entirely absent from American Jewish fiction:

Early in As Close to Us as Breathing, . . . there is a remarkable scene of a group of men praying at a Conservative synagogue’s morning minyan. For eight pages, Poliner follows Mort Leibritsky, a department-store owner in Middletown, Connecticut, as he makes his way through the order of the service. . . . It is not that anything very imposing or grand happens. On the contrary, we see Mort striving for a feeling of transcendence, but then falling back into the internal monologue of memories and anxieties that makes up most of daily life.

The scene is remarkable, rather, because it is so very rare for American Jewish novelists to write about prayer. Of all the genres of American Jewish fiction—the nostalgic and the dysfunctional, the satiric and the elegiac—few have much interest in the prayers that are supposed to define Jewish life and practice. Perhaps that is because prayer gets right to the heart of the contradictions of our Jewish identity, exposing the gap between God as He is imagined in the ancient liturgy and the way most American Jews think about God today. Or perhaps it is because prayer is simply too routine, a duty rather than an encounter. . . .

Spirituality is difficult terrain for American Jewish fiction; family is where the action is. And so it proves for Mort, who says the words of the prayer but is mainly thinking about his father and his son.

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More about: American Jewish literature, American Jewry, Arts & Culture, Judaism, Literature, Prayer

The UN’s New Blacklist of Israeli Businesses Threatens Palestinians Most of All

Feb. 18 2020

Last week, the United Nations Human Rights Council publicized a database of 112 companies—94 of which are based in Israel—that do business in “Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory [sic], including East Jerusalem.” This list, three years in the making, evidently serves as a guide for those wishing, or promoting, a boycott of the Jewish state. As Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik explain in a detailed report, such a boycott would above all hurt Palestinians:

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Read more at Palestinian Media Watch

More about: BDS, Palestinian economy, UNHRC