A Lost Chapter, and Character, from One of a Yiddish Master’s Most Famous Books

Because it was made into a 1989 film starring Anjelica Houston, Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Enemies, A Love Story may be his best-known novel. Like most of his books, it was originally serialized in Yiddish before being published in English. Singer carefully supervised translations of his work, often altering the English versions significantly—and the 1972 edition of Enemies is no exception. In this case, the author removed an entire character, a young woman named Nancy Isabelle. Rachel Mines has translated the chapter introducing Nancy Isabelle, who wanders into the bookstore run by the protagonist, Herman—a talmudic scholar tortured by surviving the Holocaust, his religious struggles, and his complex romantic entanglements:

There had been a time when the life stories Herman heard in America amazed him, even bewildered him. But gradually he’d adapted to American ways. America was not a melting pot, but a laboratory of innumerable new combinations. History moved easily here. People in the Old World got what they wanted through wars and revolutions. Here they succeeded through business, love affairs, marriage, divorce, university, jobs, travel. In the Old World there were mass migrations, victories on the battlefield, oppression, and persecution. But here in America, nothing would happen if Nancy Isabelle took up the Kabbalah.

Herman ate his dairy soup while he talked. Ḥasidism was a continuation of the Kabbalah of the Holy Ari—Rabbi Isaac Luria—although it was also a popularization of it, adapted to the conditions of Polish Jewry. Nancy had heard of the Ḥasidim who’d settled in Williamsburg. She wanted to visit them, to speak with their rabbis. But would they let a woman inside? Would they understand English? Did Herman know where to find them? Herman replied, “Why do you need so much Judaism? You saw what happened to the Jews in Europe.” . . .

Nancy got behind the wheel and lit a cigarette. Herman sat next to her. She announced, “We’ll drive to Williamsburg—it’s right over the bridge. Maybe we’ll find something there.”

She drove quickly, easily and, it seemed, without any fear or sense of responsibility for the machine, which was capable of running over people and murdering its passengers. She whizzed past other cars, smoking and talking the whole time. “What does it mean to believe? I can’t comprehend it. How can people believe in something without a trace of evidence that it even exists? And how can they give up their lives for that kind of faith?”

Read more at Tablet

More about: American Jewish literature, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Yiddish literature

Universities Are in Thrall to a Constituency That Sees Israel as an Affront to Its Identity

Commenting on the hearings of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Tuesday about anti-Semitism on college campuses, and the dismaying testimony of three university presidents, Jonah Goldberg writes:

If some retrograde poltroon called for lynching black people or, heck, if they simply used the wrong adjective to describe black people, the all-seeing panopticon would spot it and deploy whatever resources were required to deal with the problem. If the spark of intolerance flickered even for a moment and offended the transgendered, the Muslim, the neurodivergent, or whomever, the fire-suppression systems would rain down the retardant foams of justice and enlightenment. But calls for liquidating the Jews? Those reside outside the sensory spectrum of the system.

It’s ironic that the term colorblind is “problematic” for these institutions such that the monitoring systems will spot any hint of it, in or out of the classroom (or admissions!). But actual intolerance for Jews is lathered with a kind of stealth paint that renders the same systems Jew-blind.

I can understand the predicament. The receptors on the Islamophobia sensors have been set to 11 for so long, a constituency has built up around it. This constituency—which is multi-ethnic, non-denominational, and well entrenched among students, administrators, and faculty alike—sees Israel and the non-Israeli Jews who tolerate its existence as an affront to their worldview and Muslim “identity.” . . . Blaming the Jews for all manner of evils, including the shortcomings of the people who scapegoat Jews, is protected because, at minimum, it’s a “personal truth,” and for some just the plain truth. But taking offense at such things is evidence of a mulish inability to understand the “context.”

Shocking as all that is, Goldberg goes on to argue, the anti-Semitism is merely a “symptom” of the insidious ideology that has taken over much of the universities as well as an important segment of the hard left. And Jews make the easiest targets.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus, University