Tag: essays

“Why I left the Old Country”

In 1942 the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, which had only recently relocated from Vilna to New York City, sponsored a contest for the best autobiography by a Jewish immigrant on the theme, “Why I Left the Old Country and What I Have Accomplished in America.” More than 200 autobiographical essays were submitted, written mostly…

World of Our Fathers endures as a classic

Irving Howe (1920-1993), the New York intellectual who was a zealous socialist all of his life, received what he called his fifteen minutes of fame from a remarkable scholarly achievement that seemed a world apart from his leftist political convictions. His book, World Of Our Fathers, which was published in 1976, became a national bestseller…

Ozick’s ‘Quarrel & Quandary’

Opening Quarrel and Quandary, Cynthia Ozick’s latest collection of essays, is like removing the top from a box of quality chocolates: one doesn’t know where to begin. Despite a few mysterious squiggles and shapes, most of these bonbons have delectable fillings, as one might expect from the Jewish world’s foremost belle-lettrist. However, some of these…

Adventures of a Yiddish Lecturer

I believe that Isaac Bashevis Singer, Norman Levine, Philip Roth and probably numerous other Jewish writers have penned comical reminiscences about their experiences delivering lectures on various subjects to Jewish audiences. To this list we must add the relatively unknown name of Abraham Shulman. An American essayist and former contributor to the New York Daily…

Spirit possession in Judaism

One day about ten years ago, a teenaged Russian immigrant to Israel witnessed a fatal traffic accident through her window. The tragedy occurred on a Friday afternoon. The next day the 17-year-old witness, Menuhah, showed her sister the spot on the road where it had occurred. There was still blood on the road and Menuhah…

Rabbi Schild’s ‘World Through My Window’

Rabbi Erwin Schild, rabbi emeritus of Adath Israel Synagogue in Toronto and author of World Through My Window, an anthology of sermons published in 1992, arrives in Germany this week (1996) to attend the launch of the German-language edition of his book and to initiate a six-week speaking tour in German. The book was translated…

Matt Cohen’s Last Seen

Matt Cohen strides into the Future Cafe on Bloor Street West wearing a hat that looks suspiciously like the hat favoured by one of the two brothers who are the main characters in his latest novel, Last Seen (Knopf). Over a cup of coffee, however, the fifty-four-year-old Kingston-born novelist insists that it isn’t strictly necessary…

100 Great Jewish Books

In a bid to promote notable Jewish books written in the past 150 years, the National Yiddish Book Center of Amherst, Ma., has announced a list of “The 100 Greatest Works of Modern Jewish Literature.” The list includes works in all languages and will serve as a “redefinition of the Jewish canon,” said Center president…

Wisse’s Jewish Canon

In 1859 a London literary professor, David Masson, made a notable attempt to classify the novel, which was still a relatively young phenomenon, into distinct categories or genres. Influenced by Aristotle, Masson mapped out 13 different categories of novel. As if anticipating the work of Northrup Frye a century later, he also presented a unified…

The model for Proust’s dandified Swann

Swan’s Way, a book by French author Henri Raczymow that has been recently released in English translation (Northwestern University Press), is a probing literary inquiry into the once-celebrated Jewish dandy in late 19th-century French society upon whom writer Marcel Proust modeled Charles Swann, a major character in his famous novel Remembrance of Things Past. Raczymow,…