The Permanent Worth of Cynthia Ozick’s Fiction

Aug. 22 2018

With the death of Philip Roth in May, there was much revived discussion of his place in American literature, and in American Jewish literature especially. Yet for all Roth’s talents, writes Ari Hoffman, it will be Cynthia Ozick—arguably the greatest living American Jewish literary figure—who has created work that will withstand the test of time:

It is long past time not just to celebrate Ozick, but to read her. Perhaps the best reason to do so is that, far more than Roth, her work has anticipated the current weather of Jewish life. . . . The audiences that Roth wrote for, antagonized, and played a part in defining are demographically exiting the stage. Jewish fiction, like Jews, will either become more overtly Jewish, or cease to be Jewish at all.

Ozick is the kind of altneu writer whose style will outlast the vagaries of literary fashion. At a time when Jewish writers were enraptured by what Roth called the “American berserk,” Ozick worried and wondered about the content of Jewishness; its books, theology, and art. Most of all, she puzzled over how to be Jewish, and write Jewishly, in English. These concerns once seemed remote, her own ideological cul-de-sac. The fullness of time, however, has revealed her centrality.

Ozick has always been a different, and to some degree difficult, kind of writer. Mostly that’s because she takes religion seriously. For her, art is not a way to flee the synagogue, but to burrow more deeply into its nooks and crannies. While Ozick can write realist prose that rivals the greatest practitioners’, her writing comes alive most when it meets ideas and magic. Her work is filled with golems and druids, rabbis and magicians. Her sentences are well acquainted with the spiritual. . . .

The first thing she offers is a robust roster of female characters: the conjuring would-be-mayor Ruth Puttermesser, the haunting Rosa from The Shawl, and perhaps most indelibly of all Ozick herself; the character who speaks her way into being in [her] essays—slashing, anxious, heretically pious.

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Read more at Lehrhaus

More about: American Jewish literature, Arts & Culture, Cynthia Ozick, Jewish literature, Philip Roth

Why the Leader of Hamas Went to Russia

Sept. 30 2022

Earlier this month, the Hamas chairman Ismail Haniyeh and several of his colleagues visited Moscow, where they met with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and other Russian officials. According to Arabic-language media, Haniyeh came seeking “new ideas” about how to wage war against the Jewish state. The terrorist group has had good relations with the Kremlin for several years, and even maintains an office in Moscow. John Hardie and Ivana Stradner comment on the timing of the visit:

For Moscow, the visit likely reflects a continuation of its efforts to leverage the Palestinians and other issues to pressure Israel over its stance on Russia’s war in Ukraine. Russia and Israel built friendly relations in the decades following the Soviet Union’s dissolution. After Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Jerusalem condemned the war, but made sure to tread carefully in order to preserve working ties with Moscow, lest Russian military forces in Syria disrupt Israel’s strategically important air operations there.

Nevertheless, bilateral tensions spiked in April after Yair Lapid, then serving as Israel’s foreign minister, joined the chorus of voices worldwide accusing Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine. Jerusalem later provided Kyiv with some non-lethal military aid and a field hospital. In response, Moscow hardened its rhetoric about Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories.

The Palestinian issue isn’t the only way that Russia has sought to pressure Israel. Moscow is also threatening, on seemingly spurious grounds, to shutter the Russian branch of the Jewish Agency.

Moscow likely has little appetite for outright conflict with Israel, particularly when the bulk of Russia’s military is floundering in Ukraine. But there are plenty of other ways that Russia, which maintains an active intelligence presence in the Jewish state, could damage Israel’s interests. As Moscow cozies up with Hamas, Iran, and other enemies of Israel, Jerusalem—and its American allies—would do well to keep a watchful eye.

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Read more at Algemeiner

More about: Hamas, Israeli Security, Russia