Irving Berlin’s Contribution to America’s Nondenominational Civil Religion

Born in the Siberian city of Tyumen in 1888, Israel Baline came to the U.S. at age five, later took the name Irving Berlin, and rose to stardom in 1911 when his composition “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” became a hit. From then on, he was one of most influential songwriters in the U.S., if not in the world. Stephen Whitfield, reviewing James Kaplan’s recent biography of Berlin, considers to what extent, if any, Berlin’s Jewish background influenced his work:

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Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: American Jewry, Civil religion, Irving Berlin, Musical theater, Popular music

 

The U.S. Has Managed to Force a Stalemate in the Syrian Civil War, at Least for Now

In a little remarked-upon statement in May, James Jeffrey, the State Department’s envoy for Syria policy, said that his goal was to turn the war-torn country into “a quagmire for the Russians.” By using economic leverage, this policy has achieved modest success, writes Jonathan Spyer:

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Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Bashar al-Assad, Russia, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy