In Britain, the Jewish Literary Volcano Is Stirring

March 8 2019

English Jewry, writes Howard Jacobson, has a reputation for its lack of interest in literature or high culture. But this year’s annual Jewish Book Week, which concludes this Sunday, suggests that the reputation is undeserved:

[I]t’s with no small degree of satisfaction that Anglo-Jewry cocks a snook at its critics when London Jewish Book Week comes around at the end of February and sells out of tickets the minute it puts them on sale. It’s accepted wisdom that you can’t get an audience in London for anything literary. . . .

I’m not old enough to have gone to its first events in the early 1950s. I imagine them to have been diffident and sedate. They weren’t much bolder when I started going in the 1980s. Asked to choose their favorite Jewish book ever, an audience overwhelmingly went for The Diary of Anne Frank. Asked to choose their second they picked the diary of Anne Frank’s sister, and so on through the whole family. So what about living Jews? No interest? Yes, yes, of course. But were such books being written?

Well if they weren’t then, they are now. What James Joyce discovered a hundred years ago—that if you really want a hero for all time, he has to be a Jew—is enjoying renewed momentum. Readers who come to Jewish Book Week haven’t given up on Anne Frank, but in our troubled, not to say apocalyptic times, the experience of contemporary Jewry, life as lived by Jews or affected by Jews, life in the face of Jews, life as it wouldn’t be but for Jews, life as told in Jewish stories, life that only the Jewish spirit of bleak play can reach, life that is particularly Jewish by virtue of having no Jew in it, matters to them just as much or more.

Jewish Book Week is not a revelation to English Jews; it’s a reminder. The volcano might not have been erupting but it never was extinct. . . . Deep below the surface of things, in the germinating dark, the English Jews are stirring. We could choose to be cheered by that, or we could remember that Jews are civilization’s weather vane, and bad stuff is on the way.

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More about: Arts & Culture, British Jewry, Howard Jacobson, Jewish literature


In Brooklyn, Attacks on Jews Have Become Commonplace, but the New York City Government Does Nothing

July 17 2019

According to the New York City Police Department, the city has seen nineteen violent anti-Semitic attacks in the first half of this year and 33 in 2018, compared with only seventeen in the previous year. There is reason to believe many more unreported incidents have taken place. Overwhelmingly, the victims are Orthodox Jews in the ḥasidic Brooklyn neighborhoods of Crown Heights, Borough Park, and Williamsburg. Armin Rosen, examining this phenomenon, notes that no discernible pattern can be identified among the perpetrators, who have no links to anti-Israel groups, Islamists, the alt-right, or any known anti-Semitic ideology:

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Brooklyn, Hasidim, New York City