Judaism

My Adult Circumcision

How I made the cut for my new religion

How I made the cut for my new religion.

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Hillel's Crackdown on Open Debate is Bad News for American Jews

America's most important Israel argument is happening on campuses

What the campus organization's big rupture means for American Jews

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The Feminists of Zion

An unlikely alliance between Orthodox and progressive women will save Israel from fundamentalism

The women who are helping to shape Israel’s future.

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Tashlich

We needed a running stream but we had our sins ...

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From the Stacks: 'Toy Goy'

April 26, 1993

On Passover 1993, then–senior editor Michael Lewis found himself alone in an empty New Republic office.

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The Deadly Jester

In Defense of Lost Causesby Slavoj Žižek(Verso, 504 pp., $34.95)Violenceby Slavoj Žižek(Picador, 272 pp., $14)I.Last year the Slovenian philosopher SlavojŽižek published a piece in The New York Times deploring America's use of torture to extract a confession from Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the Al Qaeda leader who is thought to have masterminded the attacks of September 11. The arguments that Žižek employed could have been endorsed without hesitation by any liberal-minded reader. Yes, he acknowledged, Mohammed's crimes were "clear and horrifying"; but by torturing him the United States was turning back the clock on centuries of legal and moral progress, reverting to the barbarism of the Middle Ages. We owe it to ourselves, Žižek argued, not to throw away "our civilization's greatest achievement, the growth of our spontaneous moral sensitivity." For anyone who is familiar with Žižek's many books, what was striking about the piece was how un-Žižekian it was. Yes, there were the telltale marks—quotations from Hegel and Agamben kept company with a reference to the television show 24, creating the kind of high-low frisson for which Žižek is celebrated. But for the benefit of the Times readers, Žižek was writing, rather surprisingly, as if the United States was basically a decent country that had strayed into sin.He was being dishonest. What Žižek really believes about America and torture can be seen in his new book, Violence, when he discusses the notorious torture photos from Abu Ghraib: "Abu Ghraib was not simply a case of American arrogance towards a Third World people; in being submitted to humiliating tortures, the Iraqi prisoners were effectively initiated into American culture." Torture, far from being a betrayal of American values actually offers "a direct insight into American values, into the very core of the obscene enjoyment that sustains the U.S. way of life." This, to Žižek's many admirers, is more like it.

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Survivor: Baghdad

SHORTLY AFTER SADDAM HUSSEIN'S ouster in 2003, I visited Emad Levy and his father, Ezra, at their starkly furnished home in Baghdad. Emad was the city's last rabbi, and he and his father were two of its only remaining Jews. I wasn't the only Westerner who stopped by their house in those heady days immediately following the end of Saddam's rule. Harold Rhode, a Pentagon official, had visited recently along with Tamara Chalabi, daughter of Iraqi National Congress chief Ahmad. So had a Daily Telegraph reporter from London. Everyone had their reasons for stopping in.

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I don't know whether the more esoteric passages of the kabala mention the talismanic importance of blond-headed gentiles, but I would not be surprised if they did. The flaming gentile in the Jewish institution often enjoys a status not so different from a luxury good: the Toy Goy. The Toy Goy has many privileges: he is permitted to slough off before and after (but hexer during) Jewish holidays; to laugh at Jewish jokes around the office: to be as superficial, happy and untroubled as he pleases.

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