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I have read with dismay Jessa Crispin’s interview with Shlomo Sand, the anti-Jewish Jew (he renounced his religion in his book How I Stopped Being a Jew) and the anti-Israel Israeli (as he details in this interview). The animus he bears toward Judaism and Israel vies with that of non-Jewish anti-Semites who seek to deny Israel as a homeland for the Jews. Although Crispin did not intend it this way, the “fever” and “fractured sense of self” she speaks of in her introduction accurately capture the conundrum of Shlomo Sand. Sand’s own roots (renounced or not) do not give him license to make blanket generalizations, outright false accusations, and other specious arguments. I appreciate the opportunity to respond to this piece. More… “On the Question of Shlomo Sand”

Lynn Levin is a poet, writer, translator, and teacher. She is the author of seven books, including the poetry collection, Miss Plastique; a translation from Spanish, Birds on the Kiswar Tree by Odi Gonzales; and, as co-author, Poems for the Writing: Prompts for Poets, second edition forthcoming 2019. She teaches at Drexel University. Her website is www.lynnlevinpoet.com.

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In his book Varieties of Religious Experience, William James wrote about the power the irrational holds over the rational:

If you have intuitions at all, they come from a deeper level of your nature than the loquacious level which rationalism inhabits. Your whole subconscious life, your impulses, your faiths, your needs, your divinations, have prepared the premises, of which your consciousness now feels the weight of the result; and something in you absolutely knows that that result must be truer than any logic-chopping rationalistic talk, however clever, that may contradict it.

So what do you do as a rational, intellectual person who is fighting a group that is in the grips of their intuition? How do you combat the power that holds? It doesn’t make sense to right the irrational with the rational. You can explain to, say, a Trump supporter very coolly that his economic policy would have disastrous ramifications, or that his foreign policy approach could very well lead us into decades of conflict, but if he’s caught up in a nationalistic fever, especially one that is being used to shore up a fractured sense of self, you will only antagonize and never sway. More… “The Shlomo Sand (Inter)view”

Jessa Crispin is editor and founder of Bookslut.com. She currently resides in Chicago.

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The auditorium was filled with men, mostly between the ages of 60 and 70. Despite gray hair and widening girths, they were as giddy as teenagers. The occasion was a conference celebrating the 75th birthday of Superman at the Center for Jewish History in New York City. For those of us not part of the demographic, the scene appeared bizarre — all these old men communally regressing to their 13-year-old selves, trading minutiae on how Superman’s outfit was made (from the blankets in which he was swaddled when sent to Earth from his native Krypton) and on the five kinds of Kryponite (green, red, gold, blue, and white) and their respective powers (I forget). There were spirited conversations on favorite Superman narratives, with the focus on material from 1938-1969, the so-called Golden and Silver Age of comics. Anything… More…

I have never known my husband without his beard, a fact that disturbed me in the early years of our relationship. What was he hiding: a weak chin, a saber scar, a slothful nature, a psychological need for a barrier between himself and the world? But as time passed, I no longer felt the need to ask these questions. I now know my husband, and the beard is part of who he is. This seems to me to relate to the question that the anthropologist Gregory Bateson raised about the old man with the cane: Where does the one end and the other begin? Impossible to say, Bateson concluded, since the two cannot be functionally separated. A beard may seem less functional than a cane, but the choice to grow a beard has a function, though it may not be singular or simply articulated.

I used to think that what distinguished Jews from other people could be boiled down to the balance of food and alcohol at a festive occasion. A Jewish affair would have lots of food but little to drink — and no one complained about it. I now know that there are exceptions to this rule, and that the rule itself may be changing. Jewish kids, even if they spend Friday night at Hillel, are not unfamiliar with the Saturday night keg party. And Jewish drunks, which my grandfather said didn’t exist (ditto Jewish prostitutes), are now a recorded species.

Despite such assimilating trends, there still remains some support for my generalization that Jews are more into food than drink. Take an informal survey at the next bar mitzvah you attend and I guarantee that the Viennese table — the name for what is essentially a dessert bar — will be more… More…