# 148 / Editorial

If times of crisis are often a pretext for identity withdrawal, when we seek to reassure ourselves of who we are at the risk of all kinds of blindness, it is also a favorable time to revive philosophical questioning about identity and what it really means. Ivan Segré’s text this week invites us to do just that, by examining how Jewish identity relates to the corpus on which it is based, and to its emancipating events: the departure of Abraham and the liberation from Egypt. In Segré’s case, however, Talmudic commentary is charged with a thoroughly modern radicality, as the question of Jewish identity is taken up again from the depths of a reality that has yet to be named. Through the detour of a problem that seems to have embarrassed medieval commentators, the philosopher comes to this eminently modern question: what would become of a self-unaware Jewishness, or even of a Jew who proclaims himself as such without knowing anything about Israel? The fundamentally bipolar backbone of Jewish identity is thus identified, between a genealogy that leads to the intimate search for a name, and the irreducibly subjective affirmation of a strangeness in the world that compels departure and renewal.

What prevented October 7th from becoming a incisive event for most of the radical left? Why couldn’t it play a role similar to that of the Prague Spring in the critical distancing of left-wing intellectuals from Stalinism? Why does the defense of the Palestinian cause seem to make the supporters of collective emancipation so resistant to reflexivity and internal dissent? Balázs Berkovits examines the ideological parameters that have enabled the horror of the massacre, which is entirely empirical, to be immediately covered by a conceptual veneer that renders it non-existent, if not justifiable. The root of the problem, he argues, lies in the fact that the Palestinian cause is neither conceived nor articulated by its supporters as a political…

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Should a Jew who transgresses the Shabbat without being aware of his existence atone for it? Starting from the problem of a self-conscious Jewishness, Ivan Segré examines the bipolarity of Jewish identity, between the facticity of genealogical inscription and the radicality of subjective affirmation. In so doing, he sheds light on the Jewish articulation between individual and collective emancipation: it was not because he knew he was Jewish that Moses decided to leave Pharaoh’s house, but in doing so, he already was…

Since the 7th of October we are appalled by the continuous flow of reactions denouncing Israel and only Israel. We are especially appalled by those that come out of academic institutions, articulated by scholars and intellectuals. But should we be surprised and shocked? Was this response to the atrocities committed by Hamas, aided by their civilian Palestinian collaborators, not entirely predictable? Have not these same people, departments, student bodies, activists, etc. been saying the same thing for at least the last two decades? Of course, they have, and a number of them didn’t even hide their glee as the full story of the massacre, the sexual violence and the kidnapping emerged.  

Ber Kotlerman was born in Irkutsk, Soviet Union, in 1971. He grew up in Birobidjan—the “autonomous Jewish region” founded in May 1934 at the edge of the USSR on the Chinese border, with Yiddish as its official language. Ber Kotlerman has lived in Israel for thirty years, where he teaches Yiddish literature and culture at Bar-Ilan University. His novel “Koydervelsh,” which takes the reader from Birobidjan to Tel Aviv, has just been published. This is his fourth book of prose in Yiddish—the first, a collection of short stories, was published in Tel Aviv; the second, a thriller based on rabbinic responsa, in New York; and the third, a family epic, in Buenos Aires. However, he says that everything he writes is in one way or another linked to the region of his childhood, Birobidjan, which is the subject of this interview by Macha Fogel, conducted in Yiddish.

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