Jewish Currents

Operating as usual

From the Spring issue: Lakshmi Padmanabhan interviews photographer Jehad al-Saftawi about his new book, MY GAZA, an inti...
05/10/2021
Portrait of a Siege

From the Spring issue: Lakshmi Padmanabhan interviews photographer Jehad al-Saftawi about his new book, MY GAZA, an intimate archive of daily life and destruction.

Jehad al-Saftawi’s photographs in My Gaza make up an intimate archive of daily life amid destruction.

In France, the "Sarah Halimi Law" exemplifies how Jewish suffering has become the excuse for a "tough on crime" politics...
05/07/2021
France’s “Sarah Halimi Law” Won’t Combat Antisemitism

In France, the "Sarah Halimi Law" exemplifies how Jewish suffering has become the excuse for a "tough on crime" politics that endangers marginalized groups while doing nothing to protect Jews.

Analysis from Jacob Hamburger:

In France, Jewish suffering has become the excuse for a "tough on crime" politics that endangers marginalized groups while doing nothing to protect Jews.

In a test of its expanded influence among Democrats, J Street is placing advocacy for restricting Israel's use of US mil...
05/05/2021
J Street Goes on Offense, Carefully

In a test of its expanded influence among Democrats, J Street is placing advocacy for restricting Israel's use of US military aid front and center. But the liberal lobby group still faces significant pressure from both the right and the left.

Mari Cohen reports:

For the first time, the liberal Jewish lobby is placing advocacy for restricting military aid to Israel front and center.

From our Spring issue, Judith Butler on Kafka and his publishers.
05/03/2021
Lost and Unfounded

From our Spring issue, Judith Butler on Kafka and his publishers.

Will Kafka’s work survive the distorted representations made in his name?

A poem on loss by Andrea Cohen, introduced by Poetry Editor Claire Schwartz.
04/30/2021
Refusal to Mourn

A poem on loss by Andrea Cohen, introduced by Poetry Editor Claire Schwartz.

On loss

In our Spring issue, we published a responsa by the editors on trends in left strategies for fighting antisemitism and b...
04/30/2021
Letters to the Editor: How Not to Fight Antisemitism

In our Spring issue, we published a responsa by the editors on trends in left strategies for fighting antisemitism and building power. Here are the letters we received in response.

Readers respond to the editors’ responsa on trends in left strategies for fighting antisemitism and building power.

A new wave of anti-trans legislation should be read as part of the religious right's longterm goal of remaking the US as...
04/27/2021
The Anti-Trans Lobby's Real Agenda

A new wave of anti-trans legislation should be read as part of the religious right's longterm goal of remaking the US as a Christian ethnostate, argues Jules Gill-Peterson.

A new wave of legislation seeks to enshrine an evangelical understanding of the gender binary and exclude transness from the public sphere.

New online from our Spring issue: The close of the Trump era finds the millennial anti-occupation group IfNotNow at a cr...
04/26/2021
What Happened to IfNotNow?

New online from our Spring issue: The close of the Trump era finds the millennial anti-occupation group IfNotNow at a crossroads.

Aaron Freedman reports:

The close of the Trump era finds the millennial anti-occupation group at a crossroads.

On Thursday night in Jerusalem, a crowd of several hundred far-right Jewish demonstrators marched from the city center t...
04/23/2021
A Night of Violence in Jerusalem

On Thursday night in Jerusalem, a crowd of several hundred far-right Jewish demonstrators marched from the city center toward the Damascus Gate, chanting “death to the Arabs” and “may your village burn.” Photojournalist Oren Ziv, a staff photographer for +972 Magazine and co-founder of the Activestills collective, covered the protests, capturing images of violence and fear as unsettling as they are sadly familiar.

An emboldened extreme right interrupts Ramadan with a show of force.

Last month, an international group of scholars released the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism to challenge the IHRA ...
04/21/2021
The Jerusalem Declaration’s Fatal Flaw

Last month, an international group of scholars released the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism to challenge the IHRA definition. Samer Abdelnour argues that, despite its virtues, the JDA falters in preserving a link between antisemitism and speech about Israel/Palestine.

Though the JDA improves upon the IHRA definition of antisemitism, it falters in preserving a link between antisemitism and speech about Israel/Palestine.

New online from our Spring issue: Members of the socialist-Zionist youth group Habonim Dror North America are increasing...
04/19/2021
Revising the Dream

New online from our Spring issue: Members of the socialist-Zionist youth group Habonim Dror North America are increasingly pushing back on Zionism’s centrality in the movement.

Assistant Editor Mari Cohen reports:

Members of the socialist-Zionist youth group Habonim Dror North America are increasingly pushing back on Zionism’s centrality in the movement.

"The florists union in Caracas and the Algerian weavers presented joint proposals // TOWARD ILLUMINATION THAT MULTIPLIES...
04/16/2021
The Workers Love Palestine

"The florists union in Caracas and the Algerian weavers presented joint proposals // TOWARD ILLUMINATION THAT MULTIPLIES"

A poem by Zaina Alsous, introduced by Claire Schwartz.

“WORKERS OF THE WORLD / JOIN THE STRIKE FOR GUARANTEED LIGHT”

From yesterday's newsletter, now up on our site, Ari Brostoff speaks with Gabriel Winant about his book "The Next Shift,...
04/16/2021
"Everyone Deserves Care"

From yesterday's newsletter, now up on our site, Ari Brostoff speaks with Gabriel Winant about his book "The Next Shift," the past and future of labor, and the worlds of Pittsburgh.

An interview with labor historian Gabriel Winant about his new book, The Next Shift, and how care work could become the basis of a new class solidarity.

The fact that progressives expect to be doing better in the mayoral race reflects how much the political landscape has s...
04/15/2021
Can New York’s Progressives Stop Andrew Yang?

The fact that progressives expect to be doing better in the mayoral race reflects how much the political landscape has shifted. But it is not only the pandemic that has stymied left-wing efforts to stop Andrew Yang's rise.

Joshua Leifer reports:

The shape of the mayoral race reveals the limits of the electoral power the left has built in the city since 2018.

We're looking to publish a range of responses to our staff Responsa—and other pieces from the Spring Issue, including th...
04/12/2021
How Not to Fight Antisemitism

We're looking to publish a range of responses to our staff Responsa—and other pieces from the Spring Issue, including the report on IfNotNow. Email [email protected]. Please keep them under 250 words and include name/city/institutional affiliation.

Here's the piece again:

By appropriating the right’s strategy on antisemitism, the Jewish left has trapped itself in an empty discourse—and a counterproductive pose of victimhood.

New online from our Spring issue: The coexistence camp Seeds of Peace prides itself on bringing Israeli and Palestinian ...
04/12/2021
All Talk

New online from our Spring issue: The coexistence camp Seeds of Peace prides itself on bringing Israeli and Palestinian teenagers into a fruitful dialogue process. But alumni and staff now say that the model does more harm than good.

Jess Rohan reports:

The coexistence camp Seeds of Peace prides itself on bringing Israeli and Palestinian teenagers into a fruitful dialogue process. But alumni and staff now say that the model does more harm than good.

For our first foray into audio, members of the Jewish Currents staff sat down with Rachel Stern—the artist behind the ph...
04/09/2021
On The Nose

For our first foray into audio, members of the Jewish Currents staff sat down with Rachel Stern—the artist behind the photograph on the cover of our new issue—to discuss the image, the response, and what it all means.

The cover of the Spring 2021 issue of Jewish Currents features a photograph that has proven controversial, eliciting a wide array of reactions, from disgust to accusations of antisemitism to schnoz pr

"If I give you my grandparents’ stories, what will you do with them, dear 'followers,' and friends, and 'friends'?"On #Y...
04/08/2021
This Is Not a #YomHaShoah Instagram Post

"If I give you my grandparents’ stories, what will you do with them, dear 'followers,' and friends, and 'friends'?"

On #YomHaShoah, Helen Betya Rubinstein explores what it means to make "content" from the Holocaust.

If I give you my grandparents’ stories, what will you do with them, dear “followers,” and friends, and “friends”?

We're seeking pitches for our Fall 2021 themed issue: The Soviet Issue. Send pitches, tips, or finished work to submissi...
04/07/2021

We're seeking pitches for our Fall 2021 themed issue: The Soviet Issue. Send pitches, tips, or finished work to submissions [at] jewishcurrents [dot] org by April 23rd.

We're seeking pitches for our Fall 2021 themed issue: The Soviet Issue. Send pitches, tips, or finished work to submissions [at] jewishcurrents [dot] org by April 23rd.

By appropriating the right’s strategy on antisemitism, the Jewish left has trapped itself in an empty discourse—and a co...
04/05/2021
How Not to Fight Antisemitism

By appropriating the right’s strategy on antisemitism, the Jewish left has trapped itself in an empty discourse—and a counterproductive pose of victimhood.

Read the staff Responsa from our Spring issue:

By appropriating the right’s strategy on antisemitism, the Jewish left has trapped itself in an empty discourse—and a counterproductive pose of victimhood.

"Lucifer only asked God why did you make me / and God only asked Mary why did you make me"A poem by Molly Brodak, introd...
04/02/2021
Mary

"Lucifer only asked God why did you make me / and God only asked Mary why did you make me"

A poem by Molly Brodak, introduced by Claire Schwartz and read aloud by Blake Butler.

“Lucifer only asked God why did you make me / and God only asked Mary why did you make me”

“The companies are very, very effective at PR,” said Vanessa Bain, an Instacart shopper and co-founder of the organizing...
04/02/2021
The Fight for the Right to Organize

“The companies are very, very effective at PR,” said Vanessa Bain, an Instacart shopper and co-founder of the organizing group Gig Workers Collective, told Clio Chang. “I think that the only real remedy or antidote to that is inoculating workers with real information and helping them understand what’s at stake.” Read Clio's report on the fight for the PRO Act, which would give contingent workers the right to collectively bargain.

The PRO Act would give contingent workers the right to collectively bargain. But organizers will have to cut through corporate-backed misinformation about the bill.

This winter, Katarzyna Boni joined the Polish Women’s Strike in response to the government’s abortion ban. She writes wi...
04/01/2021
The Power of the Polish Women’s Strike

This winter, Katarzyna Boni joined the Polish Women’s Strike in response to the government’s abortion ban. She writes with force about her own radicalization on the streets: "Only six months ago, I would never have placed myself in a police cordon of my own volition. But a lot has changed since then." Translated by Sean Gasper Bye.

Six months ago, I would never have placed myself in a police cordon of my own volition. But a lot has changed since then.

A federal grant program for security infrastructure has long funneled millions of dollars to Jewish organizations. But M...
03/30/2021
Fears of Government Surveillance Complicate Muslim Groups’ Access to Federal Security Funding

A federal grant program for security infrastructure has long funneled millions of dollars to Jewish organizations. But Muslim groups seeking to access the same funds must contend with fears of government surveillance.

Mari Cohen reports:

Muslim applicants to the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which has long funneled money to Jewish organizations, express concerns about pressure to collaborate with law enforcement.

Understanding the roots of anti-Asian violence in the US, says writer Mark Tseng-Putterman, requires reckoning with the ...
03/26/2021
The Long History of Anti-Asian Violence

Understanding the roots of anti-Asian violence in the US, says writer Mark Tseng-Putterman, requires reckoning with the structure of US empire.

A conversation with Asisstant Editor Joshua Leifer:

A conversation with writer Mark Tseng-Putterman, who situates the recent attacks on Asian Americans within the structures of white supremacy and imperialism.

Jewish Studies scholar Barry Trachtenberg once opposed any definition of antisemitism that could be codified into law. B...
03/26/2021
Why I Signed the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism

Jewish Studies scholar Barry Trachtenberg once opposed any definition of antisemitism that could be codified into law. But he became convinced the widely abused IHRA definition needed outright replacement. Despite legitimate critiques of the Jerusalem Definition of Antisemitism, "it is a necessary tool to identify antisemitism while defending the right to speech and political action that is critical of Israel," he writes.

Despite my worry that any definition of antisemitism reinforces beliefs in Jewish exceptionalism, the flawed and widely adopted IHRA definition needs outright replacement.

Leftist seders often use versions of the Passover text that articulate contemporary political commitments—but the classi...
03/25/2021
The Radical Case for the Traditional Haggadah

Leftist seders often use versions of the Passover text that articulate contemporary political commitments—but the classical haggadah allows us to make our politics our own.

An essay by Emily Filler:

Leftist seders often use versions of the Passover text that articulate contemporary political commitments—but the classical haggadah allows us to make our politics our own.

When she inherited her grandmother's recipes, the artist Rachel Meirs was disappointed to realize that they were from th...
03/24/2021
Ruth's Kitchen

When she inherited her grandmother's recipes, the artist Rachel Meirs was disappointed to realize that they were from the 1970s, not the 1800s. In this gorgeous comic, she finds new meaning in Ocean Spray and Bisquick on Passover.

On Passover, an artist explores her ordinary—and extraordinary—culinary inheritance.

"With every calamity, there is a moment when law gives way to history, when the pursuit of legal redress is replaced by ...
03/22/2021
The Right to a History Without Lies

"With every calamity, there is a moment when law gives way to history, when the pursuit of legal redress is replaced by the mandate for lasting moral judgement," Linda Kinstler writes in her report on the trial of two prominent Holocaust scholars in Poland. "The Polish government, like other revanchist governments past and present, has discovered that this is a reversible transfer of power." Read about how the effort to enforce what the government calls "the right to a history without lies" marks a sinister new phase in the right-wing ruling coalition's revisionist campaign:

With the ruling that two prominent Holocaust scholars must apologize for defaming the “good name” of the Polish nation, the chilling of speech enters a sinister new phase in Poland.

"These gold rings—how many prisoners could be freed for the price of these rings?"A poem by Jackie Wang, introduced by C...
03/19/2021
Accoutrements

"These gold rings—how many prisoners could be freed for the price of these rings?"

A poem by Jackie Wang, introduced by Claire Schwartz.

“These gold rings—how many prisoners could be freed for the price of these rings?”

SCOOP: In a sign of Israel advocates’ growing anxiety over progressive opposition to Israeli policies, a senior AIPAC op...
03/18/2021
Former AIPAC Senior Operative Launches Group to Cultivate Democratic Support for Israel

SCOOP: In a sign of Israel advocates’ growing anxiety over progressive opposition to Israeli policies, a senior AIPAC operative is starting a new advocacy group to appeal to Democratic Party activists. The new group, Heart of a Nation, aims to provide progressives “with a channel for their dissatisfaction that’s not disruptive of the US-Israel alliance.”

Jonathan Kessler wants to offer progressives “a channel for their dissatisfaction that’s not disruptive of the US-Israel alliance.”

Managing Editor Nathan Goldman speaks with intellectual historian Peter E. Gordon about his latest book, Migrants in the...
03/16/2021
Ghost in the Machine

Managing Editor Nathan Goldman speaks with intellectual historian Peter E. Gordon about his latest book, Migrants in the Profane, and the role of theology and secularization in the work of the Frankfurt School philosophers.

Intellectual historian Peter E. Gordon discusses the role of theology and secularization in the work of the Frankfurt School philosophers.

"Liberal reformism tries to wean the people off their idols with a kinder, gentler nostalgia: Make America normal again....
03/12/2021
Exodus: Vayakhel

"Liberal reformism tries to wean the people off their idols with a kinder, gentler nostalgia: Make America normal again."

Raphael Magarik on the penultimate section of Exodus and the start of the Biden administration, as we approach another Passover.

After a political rupture, rituals of repetition can attempt to restore normalcy—or throw it into question.

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“Beware the Ides of March.” John Burl Smith The Roman biographer Suetonius identifies the “seer” as a haruspex named Spurinna. His words prompted William Shakespeare to pin his famous play Julius Caesar, using the warning from the soothsayer regarding his assassination, “Beware the Ides of March.” Shakespeare’s dramatization, although millennials in the rearview mirror, reveals a great deal of clarity and truth. Today, looking back at the 1960s, when America lost some of its greatest leadership potential to assassination, most Americans today were not alive then, and those who were memory of those days have faded or become entangled with the dominant view pushed by popular media. Those accounts stripped away the corrosive, sarcastic and deadly atmosphere created by J. Edgar Hoover and other conservatives, as today’s conservative right-wingers portray the Capital insurrection back on January 6, 2021, as justified outrage. The loss deaths of Malcolm X, John and Robert Kennedy and finally Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr in the 1960s scorched brains and boggled the minds of those of us that live through those times. When I was a child “Beware the Ides of March,” Sounded like “Be aware of the eyes of March,” which to me meant to look forward to spring with hopefulness. The coming season followed the last signs of winter’s gray, which was stripped away by the winds of March, bringing freshness. The cleansing of March’s winds made way for the buds and greenery of new growth as part of the new season. Bringing hopefulness and new possibilities for all who survived the “hungry and desperate” days of winter’s scarcity, life began anew. Growing older and wiser, as well as having a clearer understanding of those words looking out at America today, I can see both statements as very appropriate metaphors for describing the political potential and reality of such an outcome. The upheaval caused by the “Capital insurrection on January 6 reflected the real possibility of Julius Caesar’s faith, as well as those past American leaders. Unlike Sen. Joe Manchin, I draw an entirely different lesson from the Capital insurrection and attempted coup, on the part of Donald Trump. Had insurrectionists succeeded we would be living in a totally different America, without law and Constitutional guarantees and subject to the whims of a dictator, Donald Trump, which may have been fine for Joe Manchin, given his current assessment of the insurrection. Looking back at the 1960s, my assessment of the assassinations of Malcolm and the Kennedys was America's losses painful and tragic, as a bystander. However, at the time, Dr. King’s assassination was very different because I was there in the midst of it all, and I have a close up and very personal connection to that event to share. Definitely not a sidewalk bystander, I spent the last 2 hour of Dr. King’s life talking with him, as he shared his hopes and plans, not only for the “Poor People’s Campaign,” but for America's future in general. Those last 120 or so minutes of Dr. King life, he spent talking with Charles Cabbage and me. His words began my winter of grayness, because following those events I felt the harsh and ascorbic criticism of civil rights leaders dead set against black power activists having any leadership role in the struggle descendants of American slavery faced. Civil rights leaders excoriated young black activists determined to lock them out of any role in determining the course of progress in the black community. Following the 1963 March on Washington, and the status quo accommodation civil leaders worked out with Pres. Pres. Kennedy, black power activists and other young voices were shut out of any leadership role by those Malcolm X called “The Big Six.” Young activists were labored and condemned as “a divisive and destructive force trying to destroy the black community.” It was the hollowness of the “1963 March on Washington” agreement and the lack of real progress that followed, which brought Dr. King back to Memphis following the march on March 28, 1968. When he left on the 29th, he promised to meet with the Invaders upon his return, which was on April 3, 1968. Dr. King joined the Invaders at The Lorraine Motel and shared his vision with Charles and I of the future he saw. He implored us to join his “Poor People’s Campaign. More importantly, Dr. King’s vision of the future ran counter to that of most civil rights leaders, which was encapsulated in his new dream, the “Poor People’s Campaign.” Relaying that vision, which began with bridging the divide between civil rights leaders and black power activists, he proposed bringing black power activists into leadership in the black community and wanted the Invaders to be the point in that effort. He had previously proposed his plan to civil rights leaders but they rejected Dr. King’s initiative. He told Charles and I in that last meeting, “This is why I have come to Memphis to talk with the Invaders hoping you would accept my offer and join the ‘Poor People’s Campaign.’ I need you to recruit other black power groups to join us, which would give me a broader base of support, dealing with politicians in Washington DC.” The Invaders accepting Dr. King's proposed alliance became J. Edgar Hoover’s worst nightmare, because it allowed Dr. King to break out of the box Hoover had entrapped him. The thing most people are unaware of is Dr. King’s new coalition included more than young black activists and some civil rights leaders, but young white activists, which allowed Dr. King to speak beyond the ghetto with a more powerful voice. I am convinced it was that agreement that prompted his assassination. What most Americans today do not understand is that Dr. King’s new coalition now included the anti-war activists. Dr. King had come out against the Vietnam War in 1964, which is when J. Edgar Hoover began attacking him as a communist. For the first time in American history a popular mainstream leader had pulled together young white and black activists in a progressive coalition. Fifty-three years later, America is back there once again, with a popular leader, working to advance the interest of poor and working class Americans based on a progressive coalition. This is a real threat to the Republican status quo, which is why Donald Trump engineered the insurrection at the Capital on January 6, which was intended to be a coup. Young people in America are poised on the precipice of political power in America, which is why assassination has become a real possibility once again for America’s current leadership. A popularly elected President is changing the political map in America because voters that elected him were from young people, which Republicans have no way to reverse. Today, the 18 to 25 demographic is made up of mostly first time voters and will continue growing every year. Combined with the 25 to 30 year old voting demographic Pres. Joe Biden has the potential to build an overwhelming vote coalition based on young activists. Pres. Biden has only to use the balance of power he is gathering to control future elections. The reality is older voters are presently evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. Moreover, elderly voters are passing on, leaving Republicans without a real replacement population of voters: hence all the voter suspension by Republican legislatures!!!! Republicans are hoping young voters stay home playing video games, chatting on social media not caring about their future and leave it up to them to decide. However, this does not mean Democrats can sit back and wait on attrition in order to maintain power, quite the contrary! Democrats must work harder than ever to bring young people into the political process. Young high school seniors should be Democrats' prime target. Gaining high school senior’s identification with their party as first time voters is the major task because statistics show first time voter identification tends to control their vote preference throughout their life. But more importantly, if Democrats are going to represent the future for Americans, it must bring in young people to their side by offering them leadership opportunities. Young voters must not be seen as only foot soldiers and grunt campaign workers. High seniors must be shown, they do not have to wait until they are in their thirties before they will get opportunities to make meaningful contributions and develop careers in politics regardless of their race or gender. More than anything, the green new deal must be seen as a means of creating a youth jobs program, not only summer jobs, but regular employment. Shakespeare’s dramatization of Julius Caesar and the foreshadowing by “Beware the Ides of March” warning is quite appropriate when one turns one’s eyes back to the 1960s, and compare what was at stake then as now. Corporate/political and other status quo interest will not go quietly into that good night. The Capital insurrection on January 6th show they will stop at nothing to hold on to power. The insurrection is not for Democrats, the blind Joe Manchin is trying to hide behind. It is not that his views are naive or misguided, they are very dangerous. Similarly, some Germans saw Adolf Halter as quant or dismissible, and never confronted the threat he represented. Germans are lucky to have the country they have today. Americans do not have to go down that road; they simply need to recognize racism, greed and the lust for power for what it is. Those who planned and financed the January 6th insurrectionists will not quit; they railed, plotted and struggled to hold on to their past of white supremacy that is their only choice or change. It was just such a time that produced the first Civil War, and there are those now who are so enamored of that time that in their heart of hearts they would do it all again. If there are any doubters, one needs only examine the events of the last 6 months and see January 6 as the tipping point. That day is no time to look the other way. True Americans must look it square in the face and see it as another day that must live in infamy in the minds and hearts of all true Americas.