During the Rwanda genocide, I thought about taking in a Tutsi family or adopting an orphan. But I had a baby and a job, I was writing a book and was absorbed by family problems, so I never did. A couple of months ago, when I heard NPR senior host Robert Siegel interviewing a Syrian refugee on All Things Considered, I immediately felt the same way. My husband and I are empty nesters in a home full of rooms that are mostly used for storing clothes, books, musical instruments, household items—all the consumer paraphernalia that Americans accumulate. We have a small house, but why couldn’t we, I wondered, share some of it—and some of our extra stuff—with a family from Syria that needs a safe space and time to find its way in a new world?
We’re not the only fortunate ones who have extra space and things that we could share. There are tens of thousands of American Jews—maybe millions—who have far more space and stuff than they need. Given our long history, we, more than most people, know what it is like to be strangers. As my family historian, I know that many of my ancestors arrived here penniless and exhausted, and relied on the generosity of others. As Rabbi David Evan Markus says in this issue’s “Ask the Rabbis” section, in which our rabbis address Jewish responsibility toward Syrian refugees: “For Jews not to help is to betray our history and miss a chance to redeem our own suffering: We are to love these people, for we were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
The refugees from Syria particularly touch my heart. Be they Christian or Muslim, they are running not just from war and political chaos but from fundamentalism in the form of the Islamic State. ISIS is a life-threatening plague we all hope to contain and eventually dislodge from the parts of Iraq and Syria where it has established its so-called caliphate. It is modernity’s enemy and the nemesis of Jew, Christian and Muslim alike. The people fleeing ISIS are not just a Middle Eastern or European problem, and as a community we need to come together to help them, even as their dramatic story fades from the headlines, replaced by presidential debates and the latest world crisis.
The pages of our November/December issue are packed with international coverage. British writer Liam Hoare has filed an in-depth profile of French philosopher and provocateur Bernard-Henri Lévy, son of an Algerian immigrant, who almost singlehandedly convinced French president Nicolas Sarkozy to intervene in Libya after the fall of Qaddafi, precipitating the involvement of NATO, the UN and the United States. Moment contributor and Polish journalist Konstanty Gebert plunges us into the labyrinthine power politics of modern Russia in his story “Putin’s Jews,” in which we meet some of the rabbis and oligarchs surrounding Putin and glimpse the state of the Russian Jewish community today. We interview Warren Richey, a Christian Science Monitor reporter who recently wrote an in-depth series on ISIS social media recruitment techniques in the United States. Richey reveals the process, which he describes as “slow-motion kidnapping,” and discusses the pros and cons of current American strategy to combat these efforts. He also expresses concerns about the effect ISIS is having on the violence in Israel.
Moment senior editor George E. Johnson has put together an outstanding symposium of major thinkers—including Shlomo Riskin, David Stav and Bambi Sheleg—who tell us what they would change about the Israeli Chief Rabbinate as part of our ongoing Theocracy in Democracy project. Shmuel Rosner writes about Rabin’s surprising legacy; Marshall Breger warns against the dangers of censorship within the American Jewish community on the topic of Israel, particularly in light of the Iran nuclear agreement; Peter Berkowitz weighs in on the Obama administration’s response to the violence in Israel; and Letty Cottin Pogrebin ponders the definition of the oft-used term “Jewish continuity.”
A short story by the first-place winner of our Moment Magazine-Karma Foundation Short Fiction Contest immerses us in a world of aging immigrants from the Former Soviet Union in the United States. If you’ve ever wondered about the origins of the word gentile (it is closely related to goy!) or about Ethiopian Jewish food, head over to this issue’s Jewish Word and Talk of the Table. In Books, Juliana Maio tells us about Yitzhak Gormezano Goren’s Alexandrian Summer, and David K. Shipler reviews Killing A King, Dan Ephron’s account of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. Geraldine Brooks talks about her new novel on King David. There is enough rich material in this beautiful edition of Moment to keep you busy until the next one.
We are so grateful for your subscription—your membership in our community. Moment is a truly independent magazine—no parent company or association covers our overhead, and the price of independence is that we must ask for your support. As 2015 draws to a close, you can make a contribution at momentmag.com to our Next Generation Fund in honor of Moment’s 40th anniversary, or to our Rabbi Harold S. White Fellowship, named after a dear friend and Moment advisory board member who recently passed away. Another way you can help is by making it possible for everyone in your congregation or organization to receive a print or digital subscription to Moment. Call Debbie Sann at 202-363-6422 for details.
We have some exciting events on the horizon: Our 40th Anniversary Dinner is on November 15th in Washington, DC, and we’ll be at the Jewish Museum in New York on December 17 for our annual Moment Magazine-Karma Foundation Short Fiction Contest literary evening. This year’s event features a conversation on humor and fiction with 2015 contest judge and novelist Jami Attenberg. I look forward to seeing you at both!