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I’ve been slowly making my way through Spinster, a novel by Sylvia Ashton-Warner. The book, which was first published in 1959, is a fascinating story about a white teacher of Maori children in New Zealand. The books is really interesting on a number of levels, including its exploration of sexual and racial politics, but what I’ve been most closely paying attention to the past couple of times I’ve sat down to read is its take …

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Last night, my wife and I went to see Spotlight, the new movie starring Michael Keaton that tells the story of his character, Walter V. Robinson, and team of journalists he led at The Boston Globe in that paper’s coverage of the sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church. It is a very powerful movie, and a good deal of its power, I think, comes from the way it focuses less on the horrors …

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A reading and workshop built around strategies for turning what scares you into art. When: December 12, 2015, 2:00 – 3:30 PM Where: QED Astoria, 27–16 23rd Avenue, Astoria NY 11105 To buy $5 tickets click here. Here’s the Facebook event page. When I received from the Queens Council on the Arts the 2015 individual artists grant that made it possible for me to finish my second book of poems, Words for What Those Men …

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Reading Walzer’s essay, I kept having to remind myself that this book was published nearly twenty years ago. There’s a lot about what he says that makes sense to me, but I found myself wondering if things have changed. Religious community is of course very different than ethnic, racial, or even national community. Religious communities share a culture, in the sense of a set of values, in ways that people of the same ethnicity, race, or nation–despite their many …

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Twenty years or so ago, not too long after I first started teaching at the college where I am still a professor, one of my colleagues–the woman who started the institution’s Jewish Studies Project–tried to start a Black-Jewish dialogue on campus. It was not successful. One reason, I think, was structural. In my memory the idea for the dialogue did not emerge from a shared sense of need, but rather with the desire of the white Jews’ on …

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Shaatnez refers to the prohibition in Jewish law against mixing wool and linen in the same garment. Such mixing is considered, as Cohen puts it, “an inappropriate bringing together of opposites” (35). His article is an exploration of the value that multiculturalism could have for American Jews, despite the fact that proponents of multiculturalism often seem to exclude Jews, Judaism, and Jewishness from the multicultural umbrella. Here is an excerpt: [T]oday’s multiculturalism is often expressed in a spirit quite …

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Continuing my excerpting from Insider/Outsider: American Jews and Multiculturalism, this is from the first essay in the book, “The Melting Pot and Beyond,” by David Biale, a fascinating look at the Jewish role in forging the notion of the United States as a melting pot. This is from the section of the essay called “Jews Become White.” When Jews came to America, they assumed both that America was different [from Europe] and that their “privileged” status as the …

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This is from the introduction by David Biale: Standing somewhere between the dominant position of the white majority and the marginal position of peoples of color, Jews respond with ambivalence to the attack of multiculturalism on the Enlightenment. For two centuries Jews have staked their position in Western society on the promise of the Enlightenment. When given the chance, they used emancipation to enormous benefit and they came to repay the Enlightenment with almost excessive gratitude, …

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Insider/Outsider: American Jews and Multiculturalism, edited by David Biale, Michael Galchinsky, and Susannah Heschel, has been on my shelf since I bought it in the late 1990s—the book was published in 1998—but I only started reading it last month. I wish I’d read it sooner. It is filled with really interesting and provocative takes on contemporary questions of Jewish identity as they relate to multiculturalism, intersectionality, canonicity, diaspora studies and more. This is a paragraph from Amy Newman’s (no relation) …

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I have some very exciting news! Ghostbird Press has agreed to publish For My Son, A Kind of Prayer, a chapbook of poems about being a father and raising a son. If all goes well, the book should be out in April 2016. The title of the book is a play on William Butler Yeats’ “A Prayer for My Son,” in which the poet asks for divine protection against those “who have planned [the boy’s] …

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