Hold It All

Philosophy/Poetics/Politics

Month: August, 2017

Yiddish Writers/3

Isaac Bashevis Singer was the only Yiddish writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature (Elie Wiesel, whose first book, And the World Remained Silent, was in Yiddish, was awarded the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize.) Admitting his penchant for reading masters like Gogol, Dostoevsky, and Tolstoy, Singer didn’t particularly identify with the Yiddish literary tradition: “I consider myself a writer in the Jewish tradition but not exactly the Yiddish tradition…. The Yiddish tradition, in my mind, is a tradition of sentimentality and social justice.” Swearing off any such social ideology, Singer believed that “the basic function of literature, as far as I can say, is to entertain the spirit in a very big way. I mean small literature entertains small spirits and great literature entertains greater spirits.”

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If we reach the time when Yiddish and Yiddish customs and folklore are forgotten, Hitler will have succeeded not only physically but also spiritually.

I’m sure that millions of Yiddish-speaking ghosts will rise from their graves one day and their first question will be, “Is there any new book in Yiddish to read?” Read the rest of this entry »

She’s Had a Pretty Good Nocturnal Run

At Dunkin’ Donuts
She said matter-of-factly
“I haven’t had a nightmare
In 17 years”
She’s 22

Yiddish Writers/2

I tried in my book Kiddush Hashem to picture Auschwitz in seventy pages. But I wrote the book over a period of six years, in pain and agony. And writing it I became a changed man. I didn’t sleep night after night.  I lived through everyone’s separate torment. I experienced  over again every happening I described. I was back in Auschwitz.  When I did fall asleep I woke, screaming. I had dreamed I was in the ghetto or in Auschwitz. —Rachmil Bryks

Yiddish Writers/1

If you’re looking to buy something, I’m afraid I’m all out of stock, unless I can interest you in some fine hunger pains, a week’s supply of heartache, or a head full of scrambled brains.

Oh, my dear Lord, I thought: they say you’re a long-suffering God, a good God, a great God; they say You’re merciful and fair; perhaps you can explain to me, then, why is it that some folk have everything and others have nothing twice over? Why does one Jew get to eat butter rolls while another gets to eat dirt?

… unless, that is, the Almighty looks down on us and says, “Guess what, children! I’ve decided to send you my Messiah!” I don’t even care if he does it just to spite us, as long as He’s quick about it, that old God of ours!

–Sholem Aleichem, Tevye the Dairyman
Translated by Hillel Halkin

A New-Old Saintliness

On Maria Clara Bingemer, Simone Weil: Mystic of Passion and Compassion

French intellectual Simone Weil has had many biographers, interpreters, and critics since she died in 1943.   Brazilian liberation theologian Maria Clara Bingemer’s recent book is a generous retrieval of Weil ’s relevance in this decade.  What Latin American liberation theology eventually named  in the late 1960s as “the preferential option for the poor” Weil as an individual  was  practicing, sometimes awkwardly,  but always with fierce intensity, in the 1930s and 40s.  Bingemer sees Weil as an inspiring, even exemplary, figure for those who may be distant from the forms and rituals of  traditional religiosity. Read the rest of this entry »

Share the Wealth with Mary Shannon: Practicing Radical Empathy

My work with Casa de Salud has offered me a unique perspective on the St. Louis healthcare system. Through stories of my time with Casa, we will explore the barriers to healthcare that many St. Louisans face, the local systems that make it harder for some folks to be or stay healthy, and the notion of radical empathy.

Mary Shannon graduated from Saint Louis University in 2014, where she studied political science, international studies, and Spanish. After graduation, Mary moved to Nicaragua, working with the non-profit Global Brigades for a year. Mary has since returned to St. Louis and now works for Casa de Salud, a non-profit health clinic that serves the uninsured and under-insured foreign-born communities in the region.

Join us
Sunday 13 August
Potluck dinner begins at 6:00 p.m.
Please bring something to share
Mary begins sharing at 6:45
At the home of Julia Brucks
2819A Shenandoah
Saint Louis, MO
63104

Mary studied with me in a SLU freshman  Crossroads  Honors class in spring 2011.  It has been a delight to keep in touch with and be inspired by her the last several years.

A Letter Is… by Emily Guck-McGuigan

A letter is….

A humanly imperfect cartography of thoughts and experience
Made not for self-exploration
(Though insight often emerges from the act)
But for sending on–
Inviting,
“Imagine yourself here!”
Read the rest of this entry »