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Learning From Commentary – Matthew Continetti – Commentary Magazine

Posted By on October 20, 2020

PAPER GOING WELL, wrote Daniel Patrick Moynihan, soon to resign as U.S. ambassador to India, in a December 1974 telegram to COMMENTARY editor Norman Podhoretz. WE CANT DEAL WITH THIS WORLD IF WE DO NOT RECOGNIZE ITS IDEOLOGY. During his time abroad, Moynihan had grown alarmed at the anti-Americanism and socialism of the Indians and other members of the nonaligned movement that professed neutrality between the United States and the Soviet Union. As was his habit, he put his thoughts on paper.

The result was some 60 pages of triple-spaced typescript that arrived in Podhoretzs mailbox early in 1975. Podhoretz reorganized parts of the argument, inserted transitions, cut material, and showed it to the author. Moynihan was pleased with the revisions. His essay was published in this magazines March 1975 issue. Podhoretz arranged a press conferencethe first in COMMENTARYs long historyto mark the occasion of what was clearly a landmark article, entitled The United States in Opposition. The New York Times covered the event. Moynihan Calls on U.S. to Start Raising Hell in U.N., read its headline.

That was one way of putting it. Building on arguments he had made in a piece on Woodrow Wilson published in COMMENTARY the year before, Moynihan observed that the newly decolonized nations of the Third World constituted a majority in international forums such as the United Nations. It was a majority hostile to American interests and American ideals. To prevent the collapse of diplomatic institutions into proxies of the Soviet Empire, Moynihan argued, the United States should start behaving like a parliamentary minority. It is time, that is, that the American spokesman came to be feared in international forums for the truths he might tell, he wrote. Among those truths: Nations that privilege individual liberty over economic equality have a better record than socialist nations in producing both liberty and equality. This is our case, Moynihan concluded. We are of the liberty party, and it might surprise us what energies might be released were we to unfurl those banners.

The United States in Opposition was a significant event for both its author and the magazine in which it appeared. So impressed by the piece that he paid it the compliment of wishing he had written it himself, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger agreed with President Gerald Ford to nominate Moynihan for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Moynihan became the first of two special representatives to the UN who could trace their employment to articles they wrote for COMMENTARY. He used his position in Turtle Bay to defend aggressively the American cause. And he denounced the infamous Zionism Is Racism resolution that the General Assembly passed over his objections in November 1975. The fame that Moynihan earned from these courageous stands contributed to his election the next year as a senator from New York, an office he held until his retirement in 2000.

The United States in Opposition was also the clearest statement up to that point of COMMENTARYs ongoing case for an assertive U.S. foreign policy grounded in the deep soil of the American political tradition. In a pair of articles that ran in April and July 1976, Podhoretz and longtime contributor Nathan Glazer broadened Moynihans argument to include the general conduct of American statecraft. If it should turn out that the new isolationism has indeed triumphed among the people as completely as it has among the elites, Podhoretz warned in Making the World Safe for Communism, then the United States will celebrate its two hundredth birthday by betraying the heritage of liberty which has earned it the wonder and envy of the world from the moment of its founding to this, and by helping to make that world safe for the most determined and ferocious and barbarous enemies of liberty ever to have appeared on the earth.

In American Values and American Foreign Policy, Glazer described the great struggle to define Americas self-image. If it sees itself as a good country and a strong countrythe way I would say the overwhelming majority of Americans did between 1945 and 1965and if it is seen by others in the same way, it will feel confident in playing a large role in the world, he wrote. If it sees itself as a good though weak country (one present-day image of ourselves), or as a wicked and strong (another), or as wicked and weak, there will be a tendency to retrench and redraw. For COMMENTARY, America is good and strong.

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THE STANDPOINT that the magazine adopted beginning in the 1970s was critical of both liberal neo-isolationists, who followed their standard-bearer Senator George McGovern in urging America to come home, and conservative realists, who deemphasized ideology and human rights in relations between states. On one level, this stance was something of a departure for COMMENTARY, which had spent the 1960s flirting with revisionist attitudes toward the origins of the Cold War, and whose editor opposed U.S. intervention in Vietnam. On another level, however, Moynihan, Podhoretz, and Glazer remained committed to the vision of America and its place in the world that has imbued this monthly journal since its debut in 1945. Indeed, what strikes the reader of the COMMENTARY archives is the consistency of its approach to foreign policy over the past three quarters of a century.

That approach begins with a rejection of moral equivalence between totalitarian societies and free ones. It stands for the preservation of political and cultural freedom and the liberal values of pluralism, civil discourse, and tolerance. But it does not extend such tolerance to the intolerant, who would use freedom to extinguish freedom. It believes in the utility of military force when necessary to defend democracy. It is suspicious of international institutions where anti-American majorities present an ideological challenge to individual liberty and seek to constrain Americas freedom of action. And it believes that American strength abroad rises and falls with American self-confidence and willpower at home. What COMMENTARY wants to prevent is a failure of American nervea refusal to accept reality for what it is and to act accordingly in behalf of ones own.

These elements function as a kind of editorial genetic code. They have been expressed throughout the tenures of the magazines four editors, who have applied them in various ways to changing global environments. Between 1945 and 1960, when Elliot E. Cohens COMMENTARY was a home for liberal anti-Communism, the philosopher Sidney Hook regularly contributed pieces critical of that ritualistic liberalism that willfully ignored the dangers of totalitarianism and pretended that negotiations alone were the route to peaceful coexistence. If we do not teach the empirical temper of mind we run the danger of debasing our whole intellectual currency, of so confusing rational discourse about freedom of the press, economic democracy, national self-determination, free and unfettered elections, that nothing will appear clear but the logic of the iron fist, Hook explained in the March 1948 issue.

Early on, the magazine grappled with the relationship between intellectuals and America, and with the question of whether critical minds had to assume an alienated and oppositional attitude toward the country where they lived and worked. Its editor and writers concluded that there was plenty in this country that was worthy of affirmation. Our civilization, deformed as it is outwardly, is still an accomplishment, wrote the critic Mary McCarthy in the September 1947 issue. The past is at length outside, she added. It does not disturb as it does Europeans, for our relation with it is both more distant and more familiar. We cannot hate it, for to hate it would be to hate poverty, our eager ancestors, and ourselves. A few years later, the German historian Golo Mann marveled at the persistence of the American creed, and the differences between the American outlook and the European one. Americans were conservative only in that they held on to certain basic democratic principles, regarded them as established in this land for all time, he wrote. Everything else was expected to change, improve, expand indefinitely.

The February 1960 issue was the first Norman Podhoretz edited. Not satisfied with what he took at the time to be the excessive sobriety, prudence, and rectitude of the vital center liberalism of the 1950s, Podhoretz opened COMMENTARY to radical writers such as Norman Mailer, Paul Goodman, and James Baldwin, and to critics of American power such as the historians Staughton Lynd and H. Stuart Hughes. Throughout this period, however, Podhoretz also continued to publish cold warriors such as Sidney Hook and Irving Kristol. And his criticisms of American foreign policy did not extend to the entirety of American life.

Nor could Podhoretz join in the chorus denouncing the Vietnam War as proof of the irredeemable corruption of the United States. My position in the mid-sixties was more isolated than it had been a few years earlier, since even Hans Morgenthau had now joined in the moralistic clamor, he wrote in Breaking Ranks (1979). And the moralistic clamor itself had almost inevitably led to the idea that the entire policy of trying to check the spread of Communism was and always had been morally wrong as well. This was not an idea I could accept.

As the Sixties went on, Podhoretz grew disillusioned with the nihilistic excesses of the counterculture, and with the anti-Americanism of those segments of the left for whom the Vietcong and Ho Chi Minh were not just forces of nationalist sentiment but the moral superiors of the GIs defending South Vietnam from invasion. The rise in anti-Semitism that accompanied Israels victory in the Six-Day War in 1967 and the New York City teachers strike in 1968 disturbed him greatly. The June 1970 issue inaugurated his intellectual campaign against the Movement and its antiwar, anti-bourgeois, anti-Zionist, and Black Power manifestations.

It was during this phase of the magazines life that COMMENTARY acquired its reputation as a neoconservative outlet. Podhoretz began to assemble a roster of contributors who held, as he wrote in The Present Danger (1980), a highly positive view of the values implicit in the constitutional and institutional structure of American civilization and their belief that the survival of liberty and democracy requires a forceful American presence in the world. Edward Luttwak, Walter Laqueur, Richard Pipes, and Jeane Kirkpatrick joined Moynihan and Podhoretz in raising alarms about the erosion of American power and the expansion of Soviet influence. And they in turn were joined by younger writers, such as Carl Gershman, Elliott Abrams, and Joshua Muravchik, who advocated the incorporation of human rights into a foreign policy of military strength and democracy promotion.

The election of Ronald Reagan gave the neoconservatives the opportunity to translate these ideas into policy. There was a powerful positive message in the Reagan campaign to which, as everyone should also have known, the American people were very decidedly in a mood to respond, Podhoretz wrote in the January 1981 issue. It was this: the decline of America, far from being inevitable or the fault of the people themselves, is a consequence of bad policies pursued by the government and can therefore be reversed by shifting to other policies. Kirkpatrick became UN ambassador, Abrams became assistant secretary of state for human rights, and Gershman became president of the National Endowment for Democracy. Even as President Reagan hired COMMENTARY authors and championed freedom throughout the world, however, the magazine continued to pressure his administration for the quick deployment of anti-ballistic-missile defenses and against arms-control concessions to the Soviets.

Podhoretz retired in 1995. The following winter, in a lecture at the American Enterprise Institute, he delivered a eulogy for neoconservatism in which he said that in foreign affairs, neoconservatism has not so much lost its distinctiveness within the larger conservative community as its own internal identity. And yet the foreign policy that a decade later would become synonymous with neoconservatism was already taking shape within COMMENTARYs pages. The historian Robert Kagan, who had served in Reagans State Department, wrote a series of powerful essays for Podhoretzs successor, Neal Kozodoy, in which he argued that the future of democracy depended on Americas ability to uphold the liberal international order it had built after World War II.

Kagan held a broad view of American interests and responsibilities. When the hegemonic power does not react to violations of the principles it is widely known to espouse, he wrote in April 1996, a doubt is raised about its willingness to preserve not only those principles but also its hegemony. That meant problems ought to be addressed early regardless of whether they appeared at the periphery of American power or within its core. It meant that America ought to pursue a policy of what Kagan and frequent co-author William Kristol described in Foreign Affairs as benevolent global hegemony. And it meant that the distinction Kirkpatrick famously had drawn between totalitarian governments and authoritarian ones in her landmark 1979 COMMENTARY article Dictatorships and Double Standards no longer applied. For the day we adopt a neutral attitude toward the fate of democracy in the world is the day we deny our own essence, an essence rooted in a commitment to certain principles which we believe to be universal, Kagan wrote.

By 1999, Podhoretz had aligned himself, despite some qualifications and reservations, with Kagans worldview. The particulars on which everyone more or less agrees begin with the issue of the American military, he wrote in the magazines December issue.

We are persuaded that the cuts in the defense budget have been much too deep, and that along with beefing up both our conventional and nuclear forces, we are in urgent need of the protection against missiles that Reagan envisaged and that after so many years has still not been provided. This means abrogating the ABM treaty and, beyond that, giving up on the delusion that arms-control agreements can make much, if any, contribution to our safety and security. There is also agreement on China. No one imagines that China today poses the kind or dimension of the threat that the Soviet Union once presented, but we all insist that it should not be helped by the United States to develop into an analogous terror to our children and grandchildren. A similar measure of agreement exists on the proposition that the aim of American policy should be to topple both Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic instead of allowing them to remain in power.

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 reinforced the importance of American leadership as well as the desirability of what Podhoretz called the main political idea of his foreign-policy persuasion: that the United States should do everything it can to encourage and support the spread of democracy. It also spurred the construction of a new intellectual framework for the magazine. If the long twilight struggle against the Soviet Union was akin to World War III, Podhoretz reasoned, then the post-9/11 conflict with the forces of radical Islam was akin to World War IV. Like the Cold War, the global War on Terrorism had an ideological component. It is a war in which those of us who see Islamofascism as the latest mutation of the totalitarian threat to our civilization and who insist on the correlative necessity of meeting and defeating it, are pitted against those who think that the threat has been wildly exaggerated and does not in any case require a military response, he wrote in World War IV (2007).

Every month, Kozodoys COMMENTARYpublished lengthy, rigorous, and trenchant explications of the Bush Doctrine. It connected the events of World War IV to the global campaign to delegitimize the Jewish state and inflict harm on the Jewish people. It convened symposia on President Bushs Freedom Agenda and the nature of the fight against jihadism. It made arguments for and against (though mostly for) military action to stop Irans nuclear program. And it responded to the setbacks to the war effort in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as to the revival of anti-Semitism and the rise of a neo-progressive movement that repudiated much of what the magazine stood for, including the primacy of political liberty, the economics of growth, and a foreign policy of American assertion.

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FORTY-NINE years after his father became editor, John Podhoretz took the reins with the February 2009 issue. Revitalizing the magazines design, and bringing on board several young contributors, including Jonah Goldberg and Abe Greenwald, John Podhoretz has had to reckon with serious challenges to the COMMENTARY point of view, not only from the left but also from the populist right. The classical liberalism that animated Sidney Hook in the last century has come under bitter attack in the present one. The unapologetic defense of democracy and human rights for which Moynihan stood has few visible spokesmen on the national scene. The willingness to commit military forces to shore up the American-led liberal world order has all but collapsed. And America itself has come under renewed criticism by a radical left for whom this country is systemically racist, historically suspect, and fundamentally unjust.

In 1985, at a dinner to celebrate his first 25 years editing the magazine, Norman Podhoretz told his guests, COMMENTARY has defended America at a time when America has been under moral and ideological attack. COMMENTARYhas defended the Jewish people and the Jewish state when they, too, and for many of the same reasons, have been subjected to a relentless assault on their legitimacy and even their very existence. For me there has been no conflict or contradiction involved in defending this dual heritage by which I have been formed.

Nor should there have been. For as Moynihan wrote, we are of the liberty party and make no apologies for it. The moral and ideological attack on America that Moynihan and Podhoretz and their comrades fought against has resumed. It threatens to disestablish American preeminence by extinguishing the civilizational self-confidence on which that military and economic superiority rests. And so a rising generation is called to unfurl the banners of freedom once more.

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Learning From Commentary - Matthew Continetti - Commentary Magazine

Cleopatra’s Golden Rule – or, she who has the gold, makes the rules – Neos Kosmos

Posted By on October 20, 2020

Gal Gadot, an Israeli of Ashkenazi (European) heritage, and a former Miss Universe contestant, is slated to produce and star in another movie about Cleopatra (VII), promising to capture the myth rather than the reality of Cleopatra. Tall, pale, and athletic, one doubts that much of the movie will be spent on Cleopatras linguistic or medical accomplishments just saying. My relationship to the Cleopatra stories comes from teaching a subject on Black Athena to Afrocentric students in California (See Black Athena and the Incredible Whiteness of Being). Then as now, there are many things one can say about who should play Cleopatra, and I hope I manage to strike a balance. Most of the students in my class came with the vision of Cleopatra as a beautiful black queen, whose African status had been stolen by white Eurocentrists seeking to deny black people a place in history. How does one logically argue with a belief? I chose not to start with lineage. Instead, my question was, why Cleopatra?

Its well-known in classical scholarship that Cleopatra was Greek. As Alexander the Great lay dying in 323 BCE, his generals were reputed to have asked who he would leave his empire to. His answer: to the strongest, and in fact, the Empire was divided among three of his generals, with Macedonian Ptolemy gaining control over northern Africa and southern Syria until 30 BCE. So, I portrayed Cleopatra VII to my student as the plain Jane that historians suggested she was and as a loser: the person who after 15 Ptolemys (including her son Caesarion by Julius Caesar) lost Egypt to the Romans when Octavian (Augustus) captured Alexandria.

READ MORE:Cleopatra and the end of the Ptolemaic dynasty

Instead, I suggested to my students that they choose to elevate true African heroes such as the Kushite Nubian Queen Amanasheketo, followed by Queen Amanitore. The Nubian Kingdom of Kush lasted over 1000 years, from 850 BCE to 350 CE, retaining its independence from Rome longer than Egypt. In addition, Kush ruled over Egypt for a time forming the 25th Dynasty. Finally Kush was conquered by the Axumites of Ethiopia in 350 CE. It was famous in antiquity as a source of gold and as the best source of Egyptian cotton.

Queen Amanishakheto quietly, but effectively ruled a nation. Having reigned from 10 BCE to 1 CE, her rule seems to have coincided with briefly with Cleopatra 69-10 or 12 BCE.

However, I was still left with the issue of addressing who Cleopatra was to my students. Rather than insisting that she was Greek and white, I read her based on the work of Shelley Haley, a black classicist, next year to be president of the Society for Classical Studies in America. Haley initially studied the Classics as a haven to seek equality, and eventually gained the confidence to question Cleopatras identity. We know that some of Cleopatras lineage was uncertain, including women of Syrian and Persian origin, possibly even a concubine. We know that Egyptian elites took Nubian concubines, however, it is quite possible that she was purely of Greek lineage. Today, one need only read the tabloid press to understand that fame is often based on notoriety just as it is often based on real achievement. Despite losing her kingdom, Cleopatra did have some notable achievements. She was the only Ptolemaic ruler to speak Egyptian rather than only Greek and she knew many other languages as well. In addition, she wrote medical treatises on hair loss, and developed a special type of soap. So, unlike the tall and athletic Gadot, she was kind of a nerd.

READ MORE:Lecture: A photographic odyssey of Ancient Greeces legacy and glory

Returning to colour, anyone spending time in Greece or anywhere in the Mediterranean knows that people tend toward being olive skinned and appear as all other shades as well. The internet is already filled with people arguing about why Cleopatra is being played by an Ashkenazi Israeli and not an African or Arabic actress. This simply raises the even more obvious question of why wasnt a Greek actress cast as Cleopatra? Given that Gal Gadot has used her fame and fortune to stake her claim, perhaps one of the Greek Antetokounmpo brothers can play Ptolemy.

* Louise Hitchcock is Professor of Aegean Bronze Age Archaeology in the Classics and Archaeology Program at the University of Melbourne. She is the author of Minoan Architecture: A Contextual Analysis, Theory for Classics, and Aegean Art and Architecture (with Donald Preziosi), and is the co-editor of DAIS: The Aegean Feast, Aegaeum 29 as well as the author of over 80 articles dealing with Aegean archaeology, architecture, and theory. Her current research deals with Aegean, Cypriot, and Philistine connections. The Australian Research Council funded her excavations at the Philistine site of Tell es-Safi/Gath, where she was an area supervisor.

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Cleopatra's Golden Rule - or, she who has the gold, makes the rules - Neos Kosmos

Maybe its true Israels Jews are incapable of sovereignty – Haaretz.com

Posted By on October 20, 2020

Its hard to understand what Israel needs right now what can help move the wheels of the Israeli reality in the right direction and what the right direction is.

Theres nothing harder than helping another person, the Hungarian author Sandor Marai wrote in his 1935 book Divorce in Buda. You see that a person you like and who is important to you running amok to his ruin, living against his own good already can hardly withstand it falling apart . And you hurry to him, you want to help, and suddenly you realize that its impossible because what people need is not necessarily what their own good requires.

Haaretz Podcast: Could a Trump triumph be Netanyahu's get out of jail free card?Haaretz

Perhaps they need to hurt. Perhaps they need what by all signs is not for their own good. There is nothing more complicated than a persons own good . Symptoms can be treated; to assuage a headache I can write a prescription, but I dont have access to the thing that caused the headache.

Recently its been hard for me not to think about Israel as running amok to ruin. The Jews seem like people who need what by all signs is not for their own good. And I too, like journalist Ben-Dror Yemini, was taken by Yair Netanyahus tweet last week: As a full Ashkenazi Jew I am allowed to say: This group is completely screwed up.

Yemini saw the tweet as an echo of Jewish self-hatred, an incarnation of auto-antisemitism that Austrian thinker Otto Weininger suffered from the only honorable Jew, if you ask Hitler which led him to suicide. Yairs self-hatred reminded Yemini of the self-hatred that he ascribed to the extreme left, which believes that international intervention is needed to end the occupation.

Yemini isnt the only one who ascribes auto-antisemitism to the left. Its hard to find an article by Haaretzs Gideon Levy, or a report about Breaking the Silence, that doesnt earn a comment with the quote by Berl Katznelson that has become clich: Is there another people on earth whose sons are so emotionally twisted that they consider everything their nation does despicable and hateful?

The novelty is that Yemini attributes this to someone who for many is considered the most loyal spokesman of the right, who tweets from the groaning heart of the right-wing in its authentic political wrongness.

The spread to the right of the auto-antisemitic curse or perhaps the Jewish autoimmune disease seems symptomatic. Everything gets mixed into the argument in which left has become a synonym for Ashkenazi and right for Mizrahi; in which the right accuses the left of forgetting what it is to be Jewish and the left calls the right fascist and Judeo-Nazi; in which right-wing posts regret that the Nazis didnt finish the job.

And in posts from the other side, right-wingers are called baboons. Then it hits you: Maybe this is exactly what was meant by people who said the Jews are incapable of sovereignty?

This is the amount of pain they need. They pathologically undermine the nation-state in which they live, even when they have a sovereign state and its actually their nation.

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If the son of Israels prime minister, who was born here and imbibed Jewish sovereignty with his mothers milk, cant live with Israeli sovereignty that contains existential contradictions a we that includes Arabs and ultra-Orthodox, Ashkenazim and Mizrahim, without subtracting anyone, were all limbs of one body what should the Europeans say?

And if I think about Yairs father, suddenly he looks like a symptom. Removing him which I believe is necessary will assuage the pain for a while, but it wont give access to the source of the pain. The only hope is that the hiatus in the pain will give us breathing room to begin thinking about where we go from here.

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Maybe its true Israels Jews are incapable of sovereignty - Haaretz.com

In an Ashkenazi world, I’m struggling to connect to my Bukharian heritage – Cleveland Jewish News

Posted By on October 18, 2020

This post originally appeared in Alma.

I had never heard the word Bukharian until a few years ago. It was said in relation to food as most things surrounding my Jewish identity seem to be. The food in question was dushpara, a dumpling dish that my savta would only make on special occasions.

Whenever I would eat dushpara, I remember bragging about it to my Jewish friends. I would tell them about how many hours my savta spent folding the dumplings, simmering the meat, spooning the broth and how close I was to being able to make it myself. I figured they also ate dushpara we all went to Hebrew school and services, so it only made sense that we would share this, too.

But they never knew what I was talking about, and I would be confused. Dont all Jewish grandmas make dushpara?

Duspara before boiling. (Wikimedia Commons)

It wasnt until high school that my savta told me that dushpara came from our Bukharian culture, an aspect of my Jewish identity that I shared with none of my friends. Dushpara, which was once an unfamiliar word, became well-worn after years of asking for it, rolling it around my tongue, feeling its creases. Bukharian, on the other hand, was still unknown. It left a metallic trail in my mouth. It didnt belong.

Ever since I was a baby, I have known Judaism. My parents made an effort for me to not just be Jewish, but to feel, deep in my bones, the Jewish tradition. Or, a Jewish tradition. I chanted Torah, said the prayers, sang the songs, learned the stories. And I felt Jewish. When I grew older, I started asking questions and became dissatisfied with the answers my synagogue provided. I began expressing my Judaism through my actions, my organizing, my activism and I felt more Jewish than ever before.

But when my savta said this word, told me that I was Bukharian, told me about an identity I never knew I had, I didnt feel Jewish anymore. Rather, I didnt feel like the kind of Jewish that I thought I had been my entire life Judaism with a certain history and certain traditions and certain music and certain prayers. Suddenly, that Judaism, like the word Bukharian, felt foreign. And, suddenly, I felt foreign as well.

Bukharian Jews are Jewish people who came from Bukhara, a region now within modern-day Uzbekistan. Theres not that many of us left, and of the maybe 70,000 who are in the United States, 50,000 reside in Queens, New York, perhaps the only thriving Bukharian community on the continent. Bukharian Judaism has its own dialect, its own culture, its own clothing, its own cantillations, its own music, its own food. Its own identity.

But it was never mine. When my grandparents immigrated to the United States, they stopped speaking Bukhori, a Bukharian dialect. They stopped wearing the clothing, singing the prayers, chanting the cantillations. They continued to cook some of the dishes, but that was about it. Growing up, my dad knew around as much about his Bukharian background as I did.

My last name, Hahamy, is a relic of my relation to Rabbi Shimon Hakham, a Bukharian Rabbi who translated Hebrew books, including the Torah, into Bukhori. Many of these translations are still used today. For his efforts, a portrait of him can be found in a cramped room atop the Bukharian Jewish Community Center in Queens. Its this last name that I hold as a testament of my lineage. A link proving that, even though I dont always feel it, I am a Bukharian Jew. Sometimes I believe that, if I say my last name enough, I might make up for years of no connection.

Rabbi Shimon Hakham circa 1910. (Wikimedia Commons)

I dont live in Queens, and Ive never been. But I know that I have generations of family there: Bukharian Jews who speak in Bukhori, wear traditional clothing, sing traditional cantillations, belt boisterous melodies, cook dushpara and so much more. Bukharian Jews who carry their traditions to this day, and are so proud.

Im more than thankful for that initial conversation with my savta, which opened me up to a new and rich and exciting world. But Im also angry that it took so long, and that, even now, Im hesitant to claim the identity as my own.

American Judaism is dominated by Ashkenazi Jewry and its subsequent practices, and the impacts of Ashkenormativity are far-reaching beyond my own experience.

But my experience, in and of itself, is quite devastating. Ive grown up practicing only Ashkenazi Judaism, and believing that that was the only type of Judaism that was valid. I never learned Bukhori or Ladino from my grandparents, because I was never taught that any dialects beyond Yiddish existed.

I still struggle with feeling as though the Sephardi and Bukharian practices that Im now trying to learn are, in a way, inferior because they arent Ashkenazi. I cant help but feel that Ive lost so much time, so much knowledge, and so much pride.

I want to be able to sing and dance and speak in the way that my ancestors used to and not to feel less Jewish for doing so. I want to be able to say the word Bukharian and for it to not feel foreign and metallic, but warm. I want it to readily roll off my tongue as though I was born with the word fully formed on my lips. I am a Bukharian Jew. I am a Bukharian Jew. I am I am I am I am I am. I am.

Im working on it. And one day, Ill get there. Ill be so proud. As I should be.

The post In an Ashkenazi world, Im struggling to connect to my Bukharian heritage appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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In an Ashkenazi world, I'm struggling to connect to my Bukharian heritage - Cleveland Jewish News

Shtetl-inspired sweatshirts are creating controversy online but is shtreetwear really beyond the pale? – Forward

Posted By on October 18, 2020

Call it shtreetwear. Call it shtetlcore. The era of extremely Ashkenazi athleisure is here, and its forcing Jews to contend with a pressing question: What are shtetl vibes, and should you be able to sell them?

On Tuesday, the Jewish Twitterverse took note of Shtttl, a streetwear-cum-lifstyle brand inspired by shtetls yes, the small, pogrom-prone villages to which many American Jews trace their roots. The label immediately sparked uproar on social media, with observers questioning what seemed like an attempt to rework a fraught and complex period of Jewish history as a branding strategy. Yet Aryeh Goldschmiedt, Shtttls creative director, said he aims to revive an overlooked aspect of Jewish culture and spread the positive values he believes shtetl culture embodies.

Im using garments like a canvas, to bring wisdom and positivity and light to the world, Goldschmiedt, an artist based in Israel, said.

If the idea of shtetl fashion has you thinking of the American Pickle costume closet, youd be right sort of. Shtttl, which launched in 2018, peddles not shawls and suspenders but the monochromatic Brooklyn basics the film lampoons: oversized hoodies, slouchy beanies and slim-fit sweatpants perfect for attending slam poetry events or sipping soy lattes. What sets the brand apart from its many competitors in this genre are the slogans its products bear. If youre not satisfied with a Shtetl Vibes t-shirt, you can buy one emblazoned with the word Blessed transliterated into Hebrew or the inspiring (or ominous) proverb This Too Shall Pass. Hoodies encourage you to Elevate the Threads and baseball caps proclaim their wearers to be Humble / Bold / Blessed.

Shtttl gear might seem better-suited to Bed Stuy than Belarussia, but the brand takes inspiration from the bold faith and raw simplicity of shetl communities.

Shtetls were places of vibrant culture, elevating the mundane, hustling for those in need and living life with meaning & purpose down to the bone, Shtttls website said.

Aside from the Hebrew lettering, Shtttls promotional materials feature plenty of Jewish references. One Facebook post superimposed the Elie Wiesel quote Think higher, feel deeper over a skateboarding model; another featured the Jewish rapper Matisyahu.

What Shtttl lacked, until recently, was any explicit mention of Jews, the actual people who lived in shtetls. By reducing shtetls to a religion-neutral pastoral fantasy, Shtttl seemed to ignore the legally enforced antisemitism that created them and the persecution their inhabitants faced.

So on Tuesday, many Jews took to Twitter, encouraging Shtttl to ditch the rose-tinted glasses.

Some accused the brand of commodifying Jewish trauma.

brb opening a new clothing brand called pogromm, one Twitter user wrote.

Goldschmiedt, who said he was taken aback by the criticism, explained hed refrained from explicitly discussing Judaism on Shtttls website in order to emphasize the universal nature of the brands values.

But he said he understood concern about the messaging, and he responded quickly to the not-so-subtle hint he got from Twitter. By Wednesday morning hed overhauled the websites About Us page to include a crash course on shtetl history that nodded to antisemitic pogroms and persecution as well as the shtetl ecosystems complete devastation during the Holocaust.

Ultimately, Goldschmiedt said, the painful aspects of shtetl life shouldnt prevent Ashkenazi Jews from celebrating their roots. He recalled the tales his grandmother, a Holocaust survivor born on a shtetl, told about the vibrant culture of her birthplace: As she liked to say, What didnt go on in the shtetl?

It bothers me that people associate shtetls just with the negative, he said.

It makes sense to be extremely skeptical of any plan to transform the shtetl into an aspirational lifestyle trend. Shtetl Jews lived lives marked by social exclusion and violent persecution. Given the choice to leave, many did: If shtetl-dwellers were content elevating the mundane in the pale of settlement, they wouldnt have migrated in droves to the United States.

And for American Ashkenazi Jews, immigration narratives reinforced through generations of repetition have only strengthened our collective awareness of the difficulties of shtetl life. Many of us grew up learning about our ancestors upward trajectory from poverty and precarity in the Old World to stateside safety and prosperity. In these stories, the shtetl necessarily figures as a dark and dangerous place.

So while American Jewish culture may be deeply informed by the shtetl, its hard to imagine our ancestors extolling the raw simplicity of shtetl life or, for that matter, forking over $65 for a hoodie. In many ways, Shtttl seems less like an embrace of Jewish history than an utter departure from it.

But does that mean all discussion of shtetl history must be accompanied by somber expressions and uncool attire? Shtttl says no, and they may have a point. The look how far weve come narrative can obscure the richness of Eastern European Jewish history. Its easier to flatten the period into a picture of uniform rural misery instead of reckoning with the reality that there were shtetls big and small, poor and prosperous, rural and semi-urban. Shtetl life inspired Marc Chagalls art and the work of writers like Isaac Bashevis Singer and Sholem Aleichem. Despite persecution, places like Belarus became hubs of intellectual Jewish life, the Forward reported, where rabbinic dynasties formed and yeshiva students filled busy streets.

Thats why Yiddish composer Anthony Mordechai Tzvi Russel remarked on Twitter that knee-jerk criticism of the brand is reductive. Shtetl history, he argued, contains as much Jewish life as Jewish death.

Or as Goldschmiedt put it, For every tear there was laughter. To hold both of these emotions is a lot of what Jewish history is about.

It would be a mistake to sanitize that history in the interest of selling sweatshirts, but neither should we ignore it altogether. If Shtttl thinks it can redefine a period of history too often reduced to its worst elements, were waiting with one raised eyebrow to see how they do.

Irene Katz Connelly is an editorial fellow at the Forward. You can contact her at connelly@forward.com. Follow her on Twitter at @katz_conn.

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Shtetl-inspired sweatshirts are creating controversy online but is shtreetwear really beyond the pale? - Forward

Redefining the Diaspora: The Jews of Latin America and Beyond – jewishboston.com

Posted By on October 18, 2020

I was born in a different country as my parents, who were themselves born in a different country than their own parents. Whenever I introduce myself and people ask, Where are you from? I am stumped.

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I am from California, where I was born. I am from Boston, where my three children were born. I am from Mexico, where I lived from age 12 through 17. And I am Jewishmy family moved from Poland, Russia and Lithuania to Mexico in the interwar period.

Where are you from? For a wandering people, a people of diaspora, the question can invoke an implicit bargain: How far back?

Jews are not only Ashkenazi, Sepharadi, Mizrahi; they are not only American Jews or Israelis. Jews are a people of a multi-faceted diaspora who interact intimately with the people among whom they make their homes, many who are part of other diasporas themselves. Specifically, Jews of Latin America not only form part of the Jewish diaspora, they also become Mexican, Cuban, Argentine, Brazilian and sometimes even Latinx Jews.

At the same time, Jews of Latin America have been products of an Inquisitionsometimes on multiple shoresparticipants as well as casualties of the colonization of America, others in a region often defined as much by its pursuit of homogeneity as its marginalization of those who threaten said homogeny. And, of course, Latin American Jews also are among the Latinx population who have established new roots in the USA.

My parents moved to San Diego from Mexico in 1977, and then returned to Mexico when I was 12 years old so that I could form part of a Jewish Mexican world my parents lamented their children were missing. I moved back to the U.S. at age 17 and studied at UPenn, Stanford, the Jewish Theological Seminary of New York and Northeastern University. I am now the director of the Project on Latin American Jewish and Gender Studies at the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute of Brandeis University. We speak Spanish at home, English with our friends and Hebrew at occasions related to learning, praying and visiting Israel.

Today, more than ever, when questions of belonging, migration, gatekeeping and inclusion are in the forefront of public discourse, we are compelled to deepen our discussion of these current issues. And we become better equipped to do so when we are more culturally and historically engaged in the diversity of the Jewish experience.

Dalia Wassner, Ph.D., is the director of the HBI Project on Latin American Jewish & Gender Studies at Brandeis University and an instructor in Hebrew Colleges Meah Select community education program.

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Vegetarian cholent and kishke with a side of Shabbat mysticism J. – The Jewish News of Northern California

Posted By on October 18, 2020

Have you heard the one about the Roman leader who ate Shabbat lunch at the rabbis house, enjoyed one particular dish and wanted his chef to replicate it? The cook couldnt do it. The rabbi was asked for the special ingredient. His answer: The taste of Shabbat.

This is one of the 39 tales Rabbi Hanoch Hecht shares in A Kabbalah of Food: Stories, Teachings, Recipes. These stories from the Hasidic tradition all include food or drink. After each, Hecht offers an interpretation of its meaning. In the case of the Shabbat lunch, it is the manifestation of the spiritual world in the physical one.

Hecht learned his first recipes from his yeshivas chef, so food and learning became intertwined. The book also includes Shabbat and holiday recipes.

Below are adaptations of his spicy, vegetarian, slow-cooker cholent (bean stew) and oven-baked kishke (flour and vegetable dumpling), two Ashkenazi Shabbat luncheon favorites. Note: The beans soak overnight.

Adapted from A Kabbalah of Food

Soak beans overnight. Drain. Put in 5-quart or larger slow cooker. Add barley, sweet potato, red potato, hot paprika, sweet paprika, turmeric, black pepper, salt, ketchup, honey and oil. Stir. Add water to cover ingredients by 2-3 inches. Cook on high for 3 hours. Bury eggs in beans. Add water to cover by 2-3 inches again. Cook on low for 9 hours (may be cooked longer if necessary), adding water whenever cholent appears to be drying out. To serve, top each portion with onions and peeled egg.

Browned onion topping: In a large frying pan, heat 2 Tbs. oil over medium-high heat. Add 3-4 cups thinly sliced onions. Saut until softened. Add tsp. salt and tsp. ground black pepper. Saut until well browned.

Notes: For milder cholent, use 1-2 tsp. of hot paprika. For Hechts recipe, omit oil, eggs and onion topping.

Adapted from A Kabbalah of Food

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Have ready a rimmed baking tray and a 12-by-18-inch sheet of parchment paper.

Grate onion, carrot, celery and sweet potato in food processor with fine grater blade. Change to steel blade. Finely chop vegetables with oil, scraping down bowl as needed. Add salt, pepper, sweet paprika, garlic, onion and hot paprika. Pulse to mix. Add flour. Process until wet, loose and thick kishke dough forms.

Scrape out onto the parchment paper, a few inches from the long edge. With wet hands, pat into a 10-inch long by 2-inch wide rectangle or log. Roll kishke in paper, pressing firmly while rolling. Place seam side down on baking tray. Fold ends under. Bake 45 minutes. If kishke is firm but still springy to the touch, remove from oven. If not, flip seam side up. Bake 15-20 minutes. Let cool. Unwrap. Cut into 8 slices. Serve on top of cholent.

Notes: For Hechts original recipe, use 1 Tbs. salt and 1 tsp. hot paprika.

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Vegetarian cholent and kishke with a side of Shabbat mysticism J. - The Jewish News of Northern California

Talking to Your Kids About Breast Cancer – Dan’s Papers

Posted By on October 18, 2020

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As the world around us turns pink for breast cancer awareness month, your children, teens and young adults may have some questionsand we are here to give you some answers to these common questions. First the basicsbreast cancer is the second most common cancer among women, with some 250,000 new cases per year.

Can young women get breast cancer?While most breast cancer cases occur in women over the age of 50, younger women (even in their 20s) can and do get diagnosed with breast cancer (about 11% of all cases). In fact, younger women (those who have not yet reached menopause) tend to have more aggressive variants of the disease. Sometimes, breast cancer can be trickier to diagnose in young women because it is more unexpected and younger women tend to have more dense breasts which can be harder to fully evaluate during a mammogram.

Does breast cancer run in families?Yes and no. If there is a strong family history of breast cancer, especially in pre-menopausal women, and you are of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, there are genetic mutations (BRCA1 and BRCA2) that can increase your risk.

Are there any ways to prevent breast cancer?When it comes to cancer, our strategy should be to reduce riskeven those who do everything right may still be at risk. Cancer is never anyones fault! If you are looking to minimize your risk, here are a few tipsmaintain a healthy diet and regular exercise regimen, avoid smoking and excess alcohol use, and consider breastfeeding your babies. Women who are on hormonal replacement therapy or estrogens may also be at higher risk its important to speak to your doctor to see whats best for you.

The other thing you can do to protect yourself is to be vigilant about looking for signs and symptoms, even if you are too young for a mammogram (under 40 years old). Breast cancer does not have to present just as a lump in the breast or underarm. Women may notice changes in the skin of their breasts, including thickening, swelling, flaking, or dimpling. Signs of breast cancer can also include nipple discharge, pain in the nipple or breast, or any change in size or shape of the breast. Encourage your children and teens to get to know their bodies, learn how to do self-exams and bring concerns to you and their health care team.

One of my family members was just diagnosed with breast cancer. How do I explain this to my kids?First, be honest. When kids must fill in the blanks when they are worried, they often come up with scarier ideas than we can imagine. Explain in an age-appropriate way that their loved one has a disease called cancer. Remind them that cancer is not contagious and their loved one is going to have good care, which might include surgery or strong medicines that might make them lose their hair or feel sick. Encourage your kids and teens to send cards, visit (either virtually or in-person), or even fundraise and volunteer in honor of their loved one.

Is it true that I can get breast cancer from underwire bras, antiperspirants, or an injury to my breast?Nope! These are all myths. The type of bra you wear has no bearing on your breast cancer riskneither does breast size or shape. Antiperspirants, despite a lot of hype, have never been proven to increase the risk of breast cancer and are completely safe to use. And, although an injury or bruise to your breast will hurt, it will not cause cancer to develop. Remember to check out the facts with a reliable source and your health care team!

Dr. Rina Meyer is a board certified pediatric hematologist-oncologist at Stony Brook Childrens and Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University. Her views are her own and do not necessarily represent the views of Stony Brook Childrens and the Renaissance School of Medicine.

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HBO Max Swoops On Global Rights To Israels Most Expensive TV Series Valley Of Tears In Deal With WestEnd – Deadline

Posted By on October 18, 2020

EXCLUSIVE: HBO Max has struck a deal for world rights to Valley Of Tears, Israels biggest-budget TV series ever made, in a major deal for London-based sales and production org WestEnd Films.

The show marks WestEnds first foray into TV, through its banner WeSeries. It is producing and co-financing the project, which debuted in official competition at Series Mania earlier this year.

Valley Of Tears was created and co-written by Israeli-American TV and film writer Ron Leshem (HBOs Euphoria),Amit Cohen (False Flag), Daniel Amsel and Yaron Zilberman (A Late Quartet); the latter also directed the entire series.

The series will be branded a HBO Max original when it launches on an as-yet unspecified date. Inspired by true events, the ten-part show depicts the 1973 Yom Kippur War through the eyes of young combatants. It tells four emotional and highly personal stories of individuals swept away from their loved ones by the ravages of war, four parallel plotlines, intertwined together into one climactic battle.

Related Story'Generation': Lena Dunham Series Adds Seven Recurring To Cast

Cast features Israeli star Lior Ashkenazi (Foxtrot) alongside Aviv Alush (The Shack), Lee Biran, Shahar Taboch, Joy Rieger and Ofer Hayoun (Euphoria), Maor Schwitzer (Shtisel) and Imri Biton.

Valley Of Tears is a co-production between WestEnd Films, United King, Israeli Broadcaster KAN 11, Endemol Shine Israel and HBO Max. Exec producers on the series are Sharon Harel-Cohen, Maya Amsellem, Moshe Edery, Amir Ganor, Eldad Koblenz, Leshem and Cohen.

WestEnd previously worked with director Zilberman, following A Late Quartet and Israeli Oscar entry Incitement. Leshem, who was an EP on HBOs hit show Euphoria, also penned the 2007 Oscar-nominated picBeaufort.

WestEnd is also producing a second Israeli series, the thriller-drama Traitor, with Ron Leshem and Amit Cohen; the show is in post-production.

Valley Of Tears is a smart and thrilling series that goes way beyond the war drama genre. It will keep viewers on the edge of their seats while they become emotionally invested in the lead characters stories. HBO Max is truly the perfect home for the series and we cant wait to share it with audiences worldwide, said Maya Amsellem, managing director of WestEnd Films.

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HBO Max Swoops On Global Rights To Israels Most Expensive TV Series Valley Of Tears In Deal With WestEnd - Deadline

A Talmudic duel with Death comes to life in mosaic form in new book – Forward

Posted By on October 16, 2020

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi was a Jewish sage who lived in Palestine in the third century of the Common Era. While he was no doubt historical, in the legends of the Talmud and midrash, he became an otherworldly figure, the travelling companion between the worlds of Elijah the Prophet, who entered Paradise while still alive and defeated the Angel of Death in a duel of wits.

Rabbi ben Levi, known in Jewish tradition by the acronym of his name, the Ribal, was buried in Tzipori, which the Romans called Sephoris, a center of Jewish learning where sages edited the Mishna and began to compose the Talmud. But it was also a thriving cosmopolitan trading town Nazareth was just an outlying village of Tzipori. And it housed a community of amazing mosaic artists, whose creations, from decorative patterned sidewalks to large realistic depictions of Biblical themes and Greco-Roman myth, draw thousands of visitors every year, even in this time of plague.

Mitch Pilcer, of the Zippori vacation village, discovered Ribals tomb several years ago while digging a swimming pool. Unlike other anonymous ancient tombs, this one was empty of human remains, but it bears an inscription in Hebrew letters almost modern in their style: This is the resting place of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi. Pilcer commissioned me to design a three-meter mural, to be executed in mosaic of course, telling the story of the rabbis encounter with the Angel of Death.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

He is also mentioned in the poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow yes, he of Hiawatha and Paul Revere. It was in 1863, in the midst of the bloody Civil War and two years after his beloved wife Frances died of burns incurred in an accident at home, that the great American poet put the legend into English verse.

It all came together the rabbi who defeated Death by stealing his sword, the empty tomb, the bearded poet, the art of mosaic and the result is my new book, a reimagining of the Longfellow poem and the legend of Ben Levi in mosaic style.

Only after I had finished all the art for the book, the newspapers reported that a visitor to the Tzippori National Park had stumbled upon a round stone sphere, the size of a bowling ball, engraved with an open-mouthed face.

Archaeologist call it an animal head, perhaps a lion; but I immediately recognized the Angel of Death shouting Give me back my sword! So a third century artist was inspired by my 21st century depiction. Or perhaps both of us were in contact with the same original. Strange but then, anything connected with the Ribal is free of the usual constraints of time, mortality and other dimensions.

Avi Katzs drawings, ranging from the realistic to the caricature and comics, have appeared in various magazines and newspapers in Israel and around the world. He has illustrated hundreds of books; the JPS Illustrated Children s Bible won the National Jewish Book Award, and his books have received the Hans Christian Andersen Award four times.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the authors own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

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A Talmudic duel with Death comes to life in mosaic form in new book - Forward


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