A Journey of Passion: Spirit and Horror during the Christian Holy Season

We were gathered in front of our church for the Palm Sunday celebration, dressed in our best clothing, full of Sunday morning cheer, waiting for the priest to arrive and begin the service. It would begin outdoors, as it does at Roman Catholic churches, and many other Christian churches, around the world. I went to one of the tables where I could pick up a palm frond to wave aloft during the procession into the church. It was the beginning of the most sacred portion of the year, the climax of the Christian story.

Circumcision: Identity, Gender, and Power

Circumcision is seen as the central mitzvah (or commandment) of Judaism. Even for nonreligious Jews, circumcision continues to be perceived as the sine qua non of Jewish identity. And yet, unlike any other controversial topic that we Jews address, the subject of circumcision is not to be challenged. What I intend to do here is to show that cutting out a portion of a child’s genitalia is fundamentally about gender and power.

Luther’s Call to Resistance: “Not with Violence, but the Word”

Some remember Martin Luther as an inspiring resistance theologian. Others see him in a negative light due to his indefensible stance against the peasants in their revolt in the 1520s, which he entitled, “Against the Robbing and Murdering Hordes of Peasants,” and particularly due to the anti-Semitic rantings he published in his declining years. While not seeking to apologize for these unconscionable writings, I am nevertheless interested in discussing some of his insights that may resonate for progressive people of faith.

Are Americans Coming Out of the Fog?

“Life in Just Peace,” the joint statement on liberation theology reprinted in full within Ulrich Duchrow’s article “A European Revival of Liberation Theology” (Tikkun, Winter 2011), is quite commendable but, like other declarations made by religious leaders, it runs the risk of remaining “on high” instead of fueling the struggles of ordinary people. In the interest of broadening this discussion in Tikkun I’d like to offer a response.

A Wayward Eulogy

David Grossman tirelessly explores the idea of peacemaking between Israelis and Palestinians as a human, one-to-one discovery and dialogue. His fiction too wants to make repair. To The End of the Land, his remarkable 2010 novel, tells of a journey through a family’s past, a love affair between a woman and two men, and a literal hike across the country of Israel, shot through with peaceful homes and beribboned with war zones.

Blood Brothers

A work of taut and absorbing beauty, Christopher de Bellaigue’s “Rebel Land” documents the author’s exploration of the area known as eastern Turkey, where history is simultaneously elusive and oppressive, cloaked and hiding in plain sight. From the weather-beaten ruins of a church; to a slip of the tongue over drinks; or to a conversation where commission, at least of a conceptual sort, is betrayed by an important omission in one’s account of a massacre that occurred almost one hundred years ago–in places like these, history hangs in the air.

Radical Poets Set Jewishness Adrift

A review of Radical Poetics and Secular Jewish Culture: Don’t let the title dissuade you from reading this provocative book. The poets and thinkers represented here, many of them groundbreakers in American literature and thought, don’t know what it means either. That’s the point — to define these terms so as to answer a question that has not yet been posed in American poetry: what is radical Jewish poetry and how is it related to secular Jewish culture?


Carving Fresh Initials on the World Tree

Imagine the ancient artist, before the tribe has gathered, putting aside his charcoal crayon or horsehair brush, chewing lumps of an ochre-rich clay, and spitting it in bursts through a narrow reed, to create a fine mist of color capturing the silhouette of his hand against the wall. Was it a kind of signature?

The Evolutionary Roots of Morality

When most people think of evolution, the first thing that comes to mind is either survival of the fittest or selfish genes. Yet the psychologist and system theorist David Loye argues this is a misreading of the gist of evolutionary theory and the intent of that theory’s founder. Moreover, misreading Charles Darwin has severe social consequences: it fosters the belief that the worst side of humanity is bound to win.