Shaul Magid is the editor of Jewish Thought and Culture for Tikkun, professor of Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College, and the Kogod Senior Research Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America. His last two books are The Bible, the Talmud, and the New Testament: Elijah Zvi Soloveitchik’s Commentary to the New Testament (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019) and Piety and Rebellion: Essays in Hasidim (Academic Studies Press, 2019).
Shaul Magid argues that the primaries will shape which worldview will predominate in public discourse in the coming years, so don’t make it about the specific strengths or weaknesses of the current candidates that are articulating these different worldviews.
Editor’s note: Shaul Magid answers below a set of criticisms being published in other Jewish publications about a forum on anti-Semitism sponsored by JVP, the leading Jewish organization supporting Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) in the Jewish world. Tikkun has not endorsed BDS, and our readers have a wide variety of different opinions about its wisdom as a strategy to achieve what we do endorse–peace and justice for both Israelis and Palestinians–but we do support the right of others to support those versions of BDS that do not seek to end the existence of the State of Israel. We plan to have a fuller discussion of BDS in a forthcoming Tikkun focused mostly on its wisdom as a strategy. –Rabbi Michael Lerner
Who Gets to Speak about Anti-Semitism? “Anti-Semitism and the Struggle for Justice” at the New School for Social Research
By Shaul Magid
On the evening of November 28th, 2017 the New School for Social Research in Manhattan, an institution long devoted to progressive politics and cultural critique, held an event entitled “Anti-Semitism and the Struggle for Justice.” It was in part a celebration of the book On Anti-Semitism: Solidarity and the Struggle for Justice published in 2017 by Haymarket Books sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace. There were four panelists in attendance; Lou Ferguson who works for Jewish for Racial and Economic Justice, Lina Moralis a Chicago-based Latinx-Ashkenazi Jewish activist who identifies as bi-racial and who is openly anti-Zionist, Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director of JVP, a progressive Jewish organization that supports BDS against Israel, and Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour.
Shaul Magid reviews the film “A Radical Jew” by Noam Osband. Arendt was accused of diminishing Eichmann’s evil by claiming it was banal. But maybe the reverse is true. Maybe the banality of evil is actually the most dangerous kind.
When I was a graduate student in Jewish thought and philosophy in Israel and the U.S. in the late 1980s and early 1990s we were all reading Emmanuel Levinas. Some of his major works had recently been translated into English and Hebrew (all were written in French) and his dual commitment to continental philosophy and Judaism made him, for many of us, the Franz Rosenzweig of our generation. Levinas quickly became a cottage industry among American scholars of Judaism, from those interested in Rabbinics who read his Nine Talmudic Readings, to those interested in phenomenology and ethics who read Totality and Infinity, Otherwise than Being and Time and the Other, to those who were interested in a philosophically sophistical apologia for Judaism who read his In the Time of the Nations and Difficult Freedom. Dissertations were written about him, journals were full of essays on his work, and a North American Levinas Society was established in 2006 with conferences and symposia. Levinas stood at the center of Jewish philosophical though for at least two decades.
Morty Leifman was a man who believed to his last day that what went on inside those gates at JTS was a crucial part of American Judaism. Yet he was not Pollyannaish or uncritical – he could be devastatingly serious and cutting and would put his career on the line for something, or someone, he believed in. But through it all he remained a consummate believer in Conservative Judaism. When we sometimes expressed our doubts about that he heard us and responded in a serious and honest manner, always with a grin and a twinkle in his eye. He had his own way of being subversive. But even in some of the darker moments inside those gates, I don’t think Morty ever considered leaving them behind. That was his spiritual home.
There are few Jewish figures in the contemporary Jewish imaginary as seemingly irredeemable as Meir Kahane. In 1986 the Israeli Parliament passed “The Racism Law” specifically targeting Kahane and his KACH party that eventually removed him from the Knesset. Even though the law could arguably have been applied to others in subsequent Israeli Parliaments (even some who openly espouse allegiance to Kahane) it never has been and likely never will. It was a law legislated to invalidate one individual. In America, The Jewish Defense League he founded in 1968 has long been discredited, even as it still exists, and his vision of the diaspora, Jews, race, and ethno-absolutism is an embarrassment to much of the American Jewish public.
Arthur Green recently published a review of my recent book Hasidism Incarnate in Studies in Jewish-Christian Relations. The review raises some important issues in regards to the study of Hasidism and Hasidic literature more generally, and the nature of comparison in the study of religion. It also gestures toward the complex relationship between scholarship and theology that many of us, both in Jewish Studies more generally, and Jewish mysticism in particular, traverse in our work. I begin my discussion of the larger questions raised in the review with Green’s claim of omission. In his review Green notes that it is surprising that I chose not to invoke Psalm 90:1 A prayer to Moses, man of God (ish ha- Elohim) in my study as it would ostensibly support my basic contention about incarnational thinking.
My approach and Somerson’s should be two examples of dueling alternatives on the American Jewish Left, hopefully beyond the Left, in search of both a correction (tikkun) and a conclusion (siyum) to the injustices of one people dominating another.
Led by Reb Zalman, the Jewish Renewal movement ushered in a new Aquarian Age of Judaism. To make it stick, we need to talk metaphysics. Plus: a response by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi (z”l) written in the last days of his life gives insight into how our great teacher saw his life’s work.