July 01, 2010
Moses Montefiore: Jewish Liberator, Imperial Hero By Abigail Green (Harvard University Press, 540 pp., $35) In 1827, an upright, well-to-do English gentleman, traveling through the Levant with his lady wife, ran into some dirty weather en route from Alexandria to Malta. But this particular gentleman was called Moses and his notion of calming the sea was to throw the afikoman half of the middle matzoh of the Passover seder into the churning waters. Apparently, as Abigail Green tells it, in some Sephardi traditions the breaking of the afikoman symbolizes the parting of the Red Sea.
The READ: Ephemera, Run
June 30, 2010
The most interesting piece I read in the Times last week—excluding the profile in which Reykjavik’s new mayor said that he would rule out as a coalition partner “any party whose members had not seen all five seasons of ‘The Wire’”—was Book Review editor (and TNR contributor) Sam Tanenhaus’s 2,500-word exploration of John Updike’s archive.
Chicago Politics At Its Grubbiest!
March 04, 2010
John McCormack at the Weekly Standard has a splashy headline today: "Obama Now Selling Judgeships For Health Care Votes?" The story turns out to be that Obama is nominating Scott Matheson, Jr. to the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. Matheson's brother is a member of Congress whose health care vote Obama would very much like. So now he's giving his brother a federal judgeship! So, let's meet this hack: Scott M. Matheson currently holds the Hugh B. Brown Presidential Endowed Chair at the S.J.
Erich Segal Z”L
January 27, 2010
I met Erich Segal in 1959, in a Harvard University graduate-school dorm. It was in Richards Hall, designed in the early ’50s by Walter Gropius, which Erich said only proved that “great men” could do desultory work. He was doing his graduate work in classics and comparative literature, and I in government. Of course, he knew more, much more, about my field than I did about his. In fact, he was rapacious in his pursuit of knowledge. And cheerfully intent about music and song. He was a man of traditional culture ...
Harold Pollack is a professor at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration and Special Correspondent for The Treatment. At a low moment of the Second World War, a breathless young aide barged in on Winston Churchill to report some bad news.
Erich Segal, Z"L
January 21, 2010
I met Erich Segal in 1959, in a Harvard University graduate-school dorm. It was in Richards Hall, designed in the early fifties by Walter Gropius, which Erich said only proved that "great men" could do desultory work. He was a Ph.D. candidate in Classics, and I in Government. Of course, he knew more, much more about my field than I did about his. In fact, he was rapacious in his pursuit of knowledge. And cheerfully intent about music and song. He was a man of traditional culture ...
Burying the Lede on Detroit
January 07, 2010
A few weeks ago, I noted that the cause of regionalism seemed to be on the rise in Detroit, because newly-elected Detroit council members seemed interested in reaching across the city border and making common cause with their suburban neighborhoods. Some new polling by the Washington Post, Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard University, suggests that there is even more reason for optimism on this front, although you wouldn’t know it from the dreary headline in the Post: “Stark Divisions Found Between Detroit and its Suburbs.” The paper thinks it’s glum news that “one in five poll respondent
The Ideal and the Real
December 12, 2009
The Idea of Justice By Amartya Sen (Harvard University Press, 467 pp., $29.95) In his introduction to The Idea of Justice, Amartya Sen asks the reader to imagine a scenario that will figure prominently throughout the book. Three children are arguing among themselves about which one of them should have a flute. The first child, Anne, is a trained musician who can make the best use of the flute. The second child, Bob, is the poorest of the three and owns no other toys or instruments. Clara, the third contender, happens to be the one who, with hard sustained labor, made the flute.
December 07, 2009
Trotsky Robert Service Harvard University Press, $35 When Leon Trotsky was assassinated in Mexico City by an agent of Stalin, in 1940, the American novelist James T. Farrell took to the pages of Partisan Review to memorialize him. “The life of Leon Trotsky is one of the great tragic dramas of modern history,” Farrell’s obituary began, and it only gets more idolatrous from there. “Pitting his brain and will against the despotic rulers of a great empire, fully conscious of the power, the resources, the cunning and cruelty of his enemy, Trotsky had one weapon at his command--his ideas.
Seeing and Believing
October 30, 2009
Are representations of the Prophet Muhammad permitted in Islam? To make or not to make images of the Prophet: that is the question I will try to answer. It is an unexpectedly burning question, as the newspapers regularly demonstrate. But both the answer to the question and the reasons for raising it require a broader introduction. There have been many times in recent years when one bemoaned the explosion of media that have provided public forums for so much incompetence and ignorance, not to speak of prejudice. Matters became worse after September 11, for two additional reasons.