Romance, Old Age, and Even Comfort in the Stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer

When one thinks of the fiction of Isaac Bashevis Singer, filled as it is with depictions of human frailty and depravity, and with demons real and imagined, neither comfort nor coziness are the first things that come to mind. Rokhl Kafrissen nonetheless reports that she has found a measure of solace in rereading his stories with their “absolute obsession with mourning, loss, [and] grief,” even if she “wouldn’t say that they were exactly comforting.”

Consider, for example, the married couple of Shmul-Leibele and Shoshe in “Short Friday.” Though they are still young, Shmul-Leibele and Shoshe have no children. As with many of Singer’s stories, this couple is mismatched: she was something of a beauty in her youth; he is shorter than she is and an object of mockery in their town. Nonetheless, the two are equally pious and snugly wrapped in a blanket of mutual admiration.

Though they are poor, and Shmul-Leibele isn’t much of a provider, on Shabbat, they live like royalty, especially during the winter. Rather than try to get everything ready during the short winter day, they would stay up all night on Thursday, making their Sabbath preparations. Shoshe kneads the dough, tends the oven, and even prepares the Shabbos chicken (or goose) by candlelight, while making little nibbles to feed Shmul-Leibele, who likes to climb up on top of the oven and watch Shoshe at her tasks.

The story itself is permeated with something . . . cozy, warm, sheltered, and held in love.

And even though the story’s ending can be read as tragic, it is closer to Ovid’s tale of Baucis and Philemon than to Romeo and Juliet.

Read more at Tablet

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

Using the Power of the Law to Fight Anti-Semitism

Examining carefully the problem of anti-Semitism, and sympathy with jihadists, at American universities, Danielle Pletka addresses the very difficult problem of what can be done about it. Pletka avoids such simplistic answers as calling for more education and turns instead to a more promising tool: law. The complex networks of organizations funding and helping to organize campus protests are often connected to malicious states like Qatar, and to U.S.-designated terrorist groups. Thus, without broaching complex questions of freedom of speech, state and federal governments already have ample justifications to crack down. Pletka also suggests various ways existing legal frameworks can be strengthened.

And that’s not all:

What is Congress’s ultimate leverage? Federal funding. Institutions of higher education in the United States will receive north of $200 billion from the federal government in 2024.

[In addition], it is critical to understand that foreign funders have been allowed, more or less, to turn U.S. institutions of higher education into political fiefdoms, with their leaders and faculty serving as spokesmen for foreign interests. Under U.S. law currently, those who enter into contracts or receive funding to advocate for the interest of a foreign government are required to register with the Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). This requirement is embedded in a criminal statute, and a violation risks jail time. There is no reason compliance by American educational institutions with disclosure laws should not be subject to similar criminal penalties.

Read more at Commentary

More about: American law, Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus