A Priest Bears Witness; The Origins of Jewish Creativity; Jewish Life in Iran; 2010 short fiction winner: Blue; Jewish Geography; Fall Film Picks; Shmarya Rosenberg,Why The Ultra-Orthodox No Longer Vote Democrat; Naomi Ragen , The Ecstasy—And Agony—Of Gilad Shalit’s Return; Mark I. Pinsky, Evangelical Christians Are Not Boogeymen; The soulful flavors of Roman-Jewish food.

E.L. Doctorow helped Austin Ratner

Speaking Volumes // Austin Ratner on E.L. Doctorow

Many writers seem daunted by the autobiographical novel—ashamed to write of themselves, as if that were either self-indulgence or exploitation. And of course with James Joyce and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man as a paragon, many do not even dare to try. But Joyce didn’t frighten off E.L. Doctorow, who mined his own Depression-era childhood in New York for the 1986 National Book Award-winning World’s Fair.

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Fiction // Blue

The adults had been there for hours—the ones from out of town for days—and they all seemed happy, huddled in little groups that opened up whenever I passed to let me in. They were offering me a space to receive their congratulations and slurred life advice. I smiled gamely and kept walking through my grandparents’ house—through the sunroom, past the living room picture window, past the silver platters of food, the crystal decanters with little nametags chained around their necks. I had nowhere to go. I had changed out of my bar mitzvah suit into an aqua leisure suit with a polyester shirt depicting a crowded seafloor scene. I had blow-dried and sprayed my hair into a kind of helmet. I was ready for someone my age to show up. I was ready for a...

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Symposium: The Origins of Jewish Creativity

Moment talks with artists, scientists and scholars to illuminate the source of human creativity Interviews by Sarah Breger, Nadine Epstein, Caitlin Yoshiko Kandil, Sala Levin and Amy E. Schwartz   David Brooks The dominant theory about creativity is that it is the result of the blending of two different idea networks. The classic example is Picasso, who took the idea network of the Western artistic tradition and the idea network of African masks—not just their physical look but the spirituality implied by them—and jammed them together like two galaxies crashing. That’s how it works: Two networks crash, and out of the ensuing clashes, conflicts, congruences, you spin off new things. So creativity is very rarely inventing something new out of whole cloth; it’s using two or more old things to create new combinations. The theory of why Jews are...

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A Priest Bears Witness

Father Patrick Desbois is on a mission to uncover the mass graves of nearly two million Jews. Sixty years after the Holocaust, time is running out. by Sarah Breger Father Patrick Desbois seldom smiles. Sitting across from me in the deserted dining room of a Foggy Bottom hotel in Washington, DC, the austere French Catholic priest unflinchingly chronicles the mass execution of Jews during World War II. “The shootings took place in public, it was like a show,” says Desbois. Our waiter looks uncomfortable as he places a Sprite on the table—most likely he is unaccustomed to hearing his customers discuss genocide over drinks. The diminutive 56-year-old has spent the last eight years on what some have called a “holy mission,” traveling across Eastern Europe—mostly in Ukraine—to identify the unmarked and sometimes previously unknown graves of the more...

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