This week, we are rerunning Balázs Berkovits’ two-part series on the Jews and whiteness, titled “What Color Are the Jews?” A detailed analysis of the “theory” that intends to describe Jews as “white” – or even as “super-white” – is not unhelpful at a time when a group of French members of parliament is tabling a draft resolution in the National Assembly comparing the State of Israel to South Africa’s apartheid regime. As Balázs Berkovits writes at the end of his essay for K.: “The labeling of Jews as white is essential to understanding why so much critical attention is given to Israel and Zionism today. [… Israel has become a symbol of domination and privilege, far removed from its complicated history and unique position in the Middle East. If anti-Zionism has become probably the most popular critical idiom, it is due to the perception of Jews as white colonizers. Criticism of Israel feeds on criticism of Jews as ‘white,’ and vice versa.”

Balázs Berkovits deconstructs a “simulacrum of social theory” that finds most of its developments in Critical Race Theory and Critical Whiteness Studies, disciplines increasingly popular on American campuses. A return to the roots of these theses was necessary to understand the genealogy of a discourse in which the definition of Jews as “white” is a major political and activist issue. A most absurd example of this: a leaflet circulating in an American university in 2017 which stated that “to end white privilege, we must begin by ending Jewish privilege.”     >>> More to read

 

How did Jews come to be defined as "white" by a critical discourse in vogue today? Why do we label Jews as dominant or privileged - and Israel as a colonial entity practicing apartheid motivated by Jewish and white supremacism? Part one of an essay by Balázs Berkovits on the supposed color of Jews...

How did Jews come to be defined as white? The answer can be found in a relatively new form of critical discourse, presently in vogue, in which ‘whiteness’ functions not as an empirical descriptor, but a politico-moral distinction. Read the second part of Balázs Berkovits’ essay on the implications of this shift, “What Color Are the Jews?”

Mendy Cahan is an actor, singer, and collector of books, all in Yiddish... He has stored 90,000 of them in an unlikely location in the Tel Aviv bus station. The piles of accumulated books seem to hold up the walls. And it is in this piece of Eastern Europe stuck in a zone of the Middle East that those who frequent this place gather to revive a Yiddish language that has become a minority in the middle of Hebrew. Visit the Yung Yiddish and meet its creator.

We see in the books of Daniel Mendelsohn how the  convulsions of geopolitics forever intrude on the intimate lives of his characters. How does Mendelsohn feel about the tumult of our own times? He comments on topics ranging from the Trump presidency to the current war in Ukraine to the state of Israel, in this last installment of our interview focusing on the author’s political vision.

Daniel Mendelsohn’s writing style is a skilful blend of personal narratives and evocations of classical literary works; of the intimate and the intellectual. What is the origin of Daniel Mendelsohn’s attraction to philology? What does it have to do with his family background made of tragedies and exiles, with the fact of being Jewish and gay? These are the questions that Daniel Mendelsohn explores with us in this second episode of our interview.

Daniel Mendelsohn’s books are associated with the genre of ‘autofiction’. However, the richness of the subtexts that irrigate them, coming from the Ancient Greek and Jewish traditions, complicates the scheme of the self-narrative. To the representation of a multiple identity – Jewish, Gay and American, attached to Europe and to Ancient cultures – corresponds the variety and fluidity of an oral style. In this first episode, Daniel Mendelsohn discusses his writing style, his literary project and the genre of his work.

Starting this week, K. is publishing in several installments a long interview with Daniel Mendelsohn. The great American writer, who became famous with The Lost, is the author of a rich body of work in which various traditions (classical, Jewish and American traditions, among others) intersect and the art of storytelling fuses with scholarly analysis. Déborah Bucchi and Adrien Zirah, who conducted the interview, examine some of the most singular and ambitious elements of Mendelsohn’s oeuvre in this introduction. Bucchi and Zirah situate his work at the crossroads between auto-fiction and mythic dialogue.

What happened that caused the newspaper published by the Zentralrat der Juden in Deutschland, the Central Council of Jews in Germany, to demand that the Minister of Culture resign? The presence of a blatantly anti-Semitic painting in the world’s largest contemporary art exhibition – the documenta, which has been held every five years since 1955 in the city of Cassel. It was due to the presence of the painting but also the result of a long debate before the fact about the anti-Semitic character of the 2022 edition of documenta, on which the minister did not want to take position in the name of freedom of art. Julia Christ reports on the crazy sequence of discussions and false humility consequent to the appearance of this work.

Chambon-sur-Lignon, a Protestant town, is the only Is the only French municipality to have been honoured – in the name of the entire Plateau Vivarais-Lignon – with the title of “Righteous Among the Nations”. On 10 August 1942, a group of young people read a letter of public protest against the Vel d’hiv’ roundup and the persecution of the Jews in front of the Temple. This year, on the occasion of the “march of remembrance” organised every 10 August in this hallowed site of French history and memory known for hosting refugees (since the Spanish war), Resistance fighters and Jews hunted by the Nazis, Nathalie Heinich will read a text about the presence of both Albert Camus and André Chouraqui in Le Chambon-sur-Lignon from August 1942, which K. is pleased to publish this week.

On 3 October 1989, at around 6 pm, Dr. Joseph Wybran, a leading doctor and president of the C.C.O.J.B, the Belgian Jewish federation , was shot at close range in the parking lot of the Erasmus hospital in Brussels. Thirty-three years later, justice has still not been served. Agnès Bensimon reviews for K. the twists and turns of an investigation into a murder whose treatment by the Belgian police and justice system raises questions.

In recent years, the small town of Canvey Island, an hour from London, has seen a small ultra-Orthodox community settle and grow, led by a new generation. Journalist Anshel Pfeffer went to meet this community and tells the story of the evolution of the haredi world that it symbolizes. A fascinating dive into this little-known part of the contemporary Jewish world whose internal developments are sometimes difficult to grasp.

Daniella Pinkstein brings together significant Jewish figures of writing and representation who once crossed paths in Warsaw and Paris — notably around the two issues of the magazine Khaliastra. Between references and excerpts from the works of Kafka, Chagall, Markish and Greenberg, she pays homage to the davar that held them together, that “dislocated thing that joins, undulating and impatient, the word.” In this in-between period when Jewish artists were at the forefront of modernity, she describes a condition where “responsibility is not acquired, not learned, it is transmitted, in this inhabited language, which places the individual in front of its duplicate.”

With the support of:

Thanks to the Paris office of the Heinrich Böll Foundation for their cooperation in the design of the magazine’s website.