Wednesday, July 24, 2013

"Spiritual but not Religious"

In the New York Times today: an article about mainstream Christianity vs. Evangelical Christianity, "A Religious Legacy, With Its Leftward Tilt, Is Reconsidered" by Jennifer Schuessler. The article explains that "a growing cadre of historians of religion are reconsidering the legacy of those faded establishment Methodists, Presbyterians and Episcopalians, tracing their enduring influence on the movements for human rights and racial justice, the growing 'spiritual but not religious' demographic and even the shaded moral realism of Barack Obama — a liberal Protestant par excellence, some of these academics say."

I recognize that many of the trends that I've perhaps naively reflected in collecting my "hero or anti-hero" choices are the same as those described in the article. Judaism has undergone a parallel change, though I suspect that some of the social justice trends in Jewish life may have been a little ahead of the Protestant curve.

Interesting passage about the numerous books being reviewed in the article:
“At the end of the second Bush term, there was widespread interest in thinking about a religious left,” said Leigh E. Schmidt, a historian at Washington University in St. Louis, and the editor, with Sally M. Promey, of the recent book “American Religious Liberalism.” “The idea was, surely there is something besides simply a secular left.” 
That something often does not look very churchlike. The Smith and Promey volume, which collects papers delivered at the Princeton and Yale conferences, includes essays on Bahaism among early-20th-century artists and the “metaphysical liberalism” of the U.F.O. obsessive and cult writer Charles Fort, among other far-flung subjects. 
Conservative believers “may think this isn’t religion,” said Jon Butler, a Yale University scholar who is working on a history of religion in modern Manhattan. “But religion comes in an incredible number of forms.”

Monday, July 15, 2013

Abraham Sutzkever (July 15, 1913)

Haaretz has an article today -- "This day in Jewish history / A preeminent Yiddish poet is born" --commemorating the 100th birthday of AbrahamSutzkever, the Yiddish poet. I know very little about him, and found the article very fascinating. A few quotes:
"Abraham Sutzkever was born in Smorgon (today Smarhon, Belarus), a small industry city in what was then White Russia. During World War I, when their town was on the front line between German and Russian forces, the family took refuge in Omsk, Siberia. When his father died, his widow took the family back to Vilna, some 100 kms to the northwest, in 1921. It’s there that Abraham attended the Herzliya Jewish high school and audited classes at the local university: In both places he studied Polish poetry and literature.... "
"In June 1941, the Germans invaded Vilna, and Sutzkever and his wife, Freydke (whom he married in 1939), were herded into the newly created ghetto. He was assigned by the occupying force to catalog Jewish books and other works that were intended for shipment to Frankfurt for a planned Institute for the Study of the Jewish Question. He used the opportunity to hide away and thereby save drawings by Marc Chagall and a diary of Theodor Herzl’s, as well as other literary treasures from the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research (which after the war reconstituted itself in New York). Sutzkever was also active in the Jewish underground, and smuggled guns into the ghetto.... " 
"In 1946 Sutzkever testified at the Nuremberg Trials, and after moving around, from Moscow to Warsaw to Paris, he and Freydke came to Palestine. He was to remain there until he died, in Tel Aviv, on January 20, 2010."
Sutzkever won the Israel Prize in 1985. According to the article, his greatest work is titled “Lider fun Togbukh” (Poems from a Diary, 1974-1981), and he is recognized as a preeminent poet of the Holocaust. As usual, I intend to read some of his work or maybe more about his life; we'll see if I get around to it.