To Make Sense of Modern Jewish Civilization, One Must First Ask “What Counts as Jewish?”

The sixth volume, of a projected ten, of the Posen Library of Jewish Civilization anthologizes material from the period from 1750 to 1880. In his review, Allan Arkush, considers its approach to the difficult question of what qualifies as Jewish:

In a 1902 essay on Jewish cultural revival, Ahad Ha’am reflected on the death earlier that year of the Russian Jewish sculptor Mark Antokolsky. He lamented not only the talented artist’s demise but the loss to Jewish culture that his career represented. If Antokolsky had wanted “to create the image of a temperamental and cruel ruler who committed murders every day and terrorized his surroundings,” complained Ahad Ha’am, “but who still had ‘God’ in his heart, and who sinned and repented, sinned and repented,” he could have picked Herod, one of his own people. Why did he have to sculpt a statue of Ivan the Terrible? Did art require him to desert the Jews?

Far from regarding Antokolsky’s depiction of a 16th-century tsar as a marker of what Jewish culture has lost, the editor of [the volume] spotlights it with a full-page illustration. And this is by no means the only way in which Elisheva Carlebach defines Jewish culture far more expansively than Ahad Ha’am ever did. She selects numerous excerpts from the works of Jewish writers that have nothing to do with Jews or Judaism, as well as passages from the works of Jewish-born converts to Christianity, including anti-Semitic ones.

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Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Ahad Ha'am, Jewish art, Jewish Culture

Will Costco Go to Israel?

Social-media users have mocked this week new Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich for a poorly translated letter. But far more interesting than the finance minister’s use of Google Translate (or some such technology) is what the letter reveals about the Jewish state. In it, Smotrich asks none other than Costco to consider opening stores in Israel.

Why?

Israel, reports Sharon Wrobel, has one of the highest costs of living of any country in the 38-member Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

This

has been generally attributed to a lack of competition among local importers and manufacturers. The top three local supermarket chains account for over half of the food retail market, limiting competition and putting upward pressure on prices. Meanwhile, import tariffs, value-added tax costs and kosher restrictions have been keeping out international retail chains.

Is the move likely to happen?

“We do see a recent trend of international retailers entering the Israeli market as some barriers to food imports from abroad have been eased,” Chen Herzog, chief economist at BDO Israel accounting firm, told The Times of Israel. “The purchasing power and technology used by big global retailers for logistics and in the area of online sales where Israel has been lagging behind could lead to a potential shift in the market and more competitive prices.”

Still, the same economist noted that in Israel “the cost of real estate and other costs such as the VAT on fruit and vegetables means that big retailers such as Costco may not be able to offer the same competitive prices than in other places.”

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Costco, Israel & Zionism