A British Lord Returns to His Humble Jewish Roots, and Praises Jewish Solidarity

Sept. 12 2019

In a serialized memoir, the British political theorist and member of the House of Lords Maurice Glasman recalls his Jewish education, the Sabbaths and Passovers of his youth, his extended family of East European immigrants, and his recent visit to the remote Ukrainian shtetl of Vinkivtsy, where his grandfather (“my Zaida”) was born—among much else. He sums up the values of his upbringing thus:

I was brought up to love Yiddishkayt [Jewishness]. I was brought up to love all those who have ever spoken Yiddish and their descendants. All of them. It’s true that I have mixed feelings about Litvaks but I try to put them to one side. The thing I love most is being a yid, with everything that means. All yidn. Always.

In just my Mum’s family we still have Communists, Zionists, Ḥasidim and Misnagdim [the religious opponents of Ḥasidism]; we have assimilationists, Bundists, capitalists and socialists, monarchists and anarchists. I love them all and I can’t deny that my head is a cacophony of ancestral argument and I can be any one of those things in the course of a single day.

My ability to hold, with great conviction and sincerity, several entirely contradictory opinions at the same time explains my calling as a politician. It comes very naturally to me.

During his journey to Ukraine, Glasman notes that “my Zaida left . . . as a pauper but I was returning as a Lord. I couldn’t have done it without him.” He concludes by imagining himself buried in the Jewish cemetery in Vinkivtsy, with the name of his favorite soccer team engraved in large letters on his tombstone:

In a smaller italic script, written beneath that, in the form of a biblical quote, would be the words, “The thing I love most is being a yid.” (That is also the single-line insertion I would want in the Jewish Chronicle with my name and the years of my life.) It would be my way of showing solidarity with all the yidn who were massacred there, the ones who were slaughtered and the ones who fought. It would have a lit navy-blue Jewish star shining on the top to show that however brokenhearted we may be, the star of exile can never be extinguished; that those who are loved never really die.

I could rest in peace with koved and honor. “Lord Moishe Glasman, son of Coleman Glasman, the Levite” would be set in stone forever in Hebrew, English, and Russian.

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Read more at Jewish Chronicle

More about: British Jewry, East European Jewry, Judaism, Ukraine

Salman Rushdie and the Western Apologists for Those Who Wish Him Dead

Aug. 17 2022

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder and supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, issued a fatwa (religious ruling) in 1989 calling for believers to murder the novelist Salman Rushdie due to the content of his novel, The Satanic Verses. Over the years, two of the book’s translators have been stabbed—one fatally—and numerous others have been injured or killed in attempts to follow the ayatollah’s writ. Last week, an American Shiite Muslim came closer than his many predecessors to killing Rushdie, stabbing him multiple times and leaving him in critical condition. Graeme Wood comments on those intellectuals in the West who have exuded sympathy for the stabbers:

In 1989, the reaction to the fatwa was split three ways: some supported it; some opposed it; and some opposed it, to be sure, but still wanted everyone to know how bad Rushdie and his novel were. This last faction, Team To Be Sure, took the West to task for elevating this troublesome man and his insulting book, whose devilry could have been averted had others been more attuned to the sensibilities of the offended.

The fumes are still rising off of this last group. The former president Jimmy Carter was, at the time of the original fatwa, the most prominent American to suggest that the crime of murder should be balanced against Rushdie’s crime of blasphemy. The ayatollah’s death sentence “caused writers and public officials in Western nations to become almost exclusively preoccupied with the author’s rights,” Carter wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times. Well, yes. Carter did not only say that many Muslims were offended and wished violence on Rushdie; that was simply a matter of fact, reported frequently in the news pages. He took to the op-ed page to add his view that these fanatics had a point. “While Rushdie’s First Amendment freedoms are important,” he wrote, “we have tended to promote him and his book with little acknowledgment that it is a direct insult to those millions of Moslems whose sacred beliefs have been violated.” Never mind that millions of Muslims take no offense at all, and are insulted by the implication that they should.

Over the past two decades, our culture has been Carterized. We have conceded moral authority to howling mobs, and the louder the howls, the more we have agreed that the howls were worth heeding. The novelist Hanif Kureishi has said that “nobody would have the [courage]” to write The Satanic Verses today. More precisely, nobody would publish it, because sensitivity readers would notice the theological delicacy of the book’s title and plot. The ayatollahs have trained them well, and social-media disasters of recent years have reinforced the lesson: don’t publish books that get you criticized, either by semiliterate fanatics on the other side of the world or by semiliterate fanatics on this one.

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Read more at Atlantic

More about: Ayatollah Khomeini, Freedom of Speech, Iran, Islamism, Jimmy Carter