Arthur Miller’s Literary Reckoning with His Jewish Experience

One of the most prestigious American playwrights of the 20th century, Arthur Miller is best known for Death of a Salesman and The Crucible. Although he did once comment that the actor who best understood the former play’s protagonist was Yosik Buloff, a giant of the Yiddish stage, most of Miller’s theatrical works are without explicitly Jewish content. A recent biography by John Lahr, however, calls attention to Miller’s explorations of the condition of American Jewry. John Nathan writes in his review:

It was against this background [of rising anti-Semitism in the U.S. and the Nazi conquest of Europe] that Miller wrote his first success—not a play but the novel Focus (1945), about a casual anti-Semite who becomes a foot soldier in the cause of Jew-hatred. He is, however, so often mistaken as a Jew by his fellow persecutors he ends up being a victim of his own prejudice.

Before then, Lee Strasbourg’s Theatre Group eventually decided against staging Miller’s new play The Grass Still Grows, about a Jewish family (not unlike Miller’s), because, having already mounted Clifford Odets’s Awake and Sing, they didn’t want “to do another Jewish play.”

Through the course of 200 pages or so—a fraction (a third, in fact) of the number of pages Lahr uses in his acclaimed Tennessee Williams biography—the author cherry-picks the crucial personal and world events from which Miller wrought his plays. . . . It is a tapestry rich with personal as well as public detail, but it also makes irrefutable the argument (sometimes opposed) that Miller’s Jewishness was foundational to his writing.

If Miller’s illiterate immigrant father Isidore—who became a wealthy businessman before everything was lost in the [1929] crash—is there in his college play No Villain (1936, about the dilemmas faced by a family business in the teeth of industrial action), so too is the crushing memory of Isidore needing his sixteen-year-old son to pay a subway fare.

Read more at Jewish Chronicle

More about: American Jewish literature, Anti-Semitism, Arthur Miller, Theater

Hamas Wants a Renewed Ceasefire, but Doesn’t Understand Israel’s Changed Attitude

Yohanan Tzoreff, writing yesterday, believes that Hamas still wishes to return to the truce that it ended Friday morning with renewed rocket attacks on Israel, but hopes it can do so on better terms—raising the price, so to speak, of each hostage released. Examining recent statements from the terrorist group’s leaders, he tries to make sense of what it is thinking:

These [Hamas] senior officials do not reflect any awareness of the changed attitude in Israel toward Hamas following the October 7 massacre carried out by the organization in the western Negev communities. They continue to estimate that as before, Israel will be willing to pay high prices for its people and that time is working in their favor. In their opinion, Israel’s interest in the release of its people, the pressure of the hostages’ families, and the public’s broad support for these families will ultimately be decisive in favor of a deal that will meet the new conditions set by Hamas.

In other words, the culture of summud (steadfastness), still guides Hamas. Its [rhetoric] does not show at all that it has internalized or recognized the change in the attitude of the Israeli public toward it—which makes it clear that Israel still has a lot of work to do.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli Security