what isn’t antisemitism (more to come)

i’ll expand on this sometime soon, but here’s a start, since it’s been on my mind for the past few days:

antisemitism is a specific political movement. it was one of the many innovations of 19th-century european nationalism (looking at nationalism as an overarching political movement with many nation-defining branches), and is alive and well and living all over world. it has a specific history, and a specific ideology.

all anti-jewish bigotry is not antisemitism.

all structural anti-jewish oppression is not antisemitism.

much of it is garden-variety christian supremacism, of a type most closely related to the kind directed against muslims. much of it is garden-variety xenophobia, in north america generally of a type most closely related to the kind directed against (some) asian communities. some of it is a now slightly antiquated type of white supremacism. (and all of it is inseparable from colonialism and misogyny.)

calling it all “antisemitism” is like calling all racism “white nationalism” (articulating that key distinction is one of the solid pieces of analysis eric ward has done, alongside giving progressive NGO cover to his far-right buddies at the ADL). it makes for muddled analysis, drains useful words of their meaning, and (worst of all) gets in the way of effectively fighting antisemitism, christian supremacism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

one of the greatest singers i’ve ever heard, one of the cultural workers i most admire, died on thursday morning.

the best way i know to honor her is to say her name and tell people to listen to her voice, in song, speaking, or on the page.

jewlia eisenberg zts”l

you can find out about her and her music (and watch and listen) on her website, here.

you can read her wise and generous thoughts on adventurous yiddish music here.

you can hear her on all the usual places, under her name and her bands: Charming Hostess. Red Pocket. Book of J. my favorite will probably always be Trilectic (Charming Hostess, 2002), but i’d never argue about it.

conflict, abuse, & lenin

today (1/9/2021) i learned that the original “bros before hos” leftist shmuck was, in fact, lenin.

like, literally. lenin.

and that him being That Guy was part of what drove the bolshevik/menshevik split.

i’m fascinated, and i think it’s actually pretty important – thus this post. be forewarned: there’s a certain amount of leftist trainspotting involved, but if you’re a movement person it will all feel very familiar.

here’s what seems to have gone down in what’s been called “the bauman affair”:

Continue reading conflict, abuse, & lenin

tsvishn tsvey dibukim, oder in der krizis iz arayn a dibek

i don’t often use this space to just write my way into things, but it feels like the right thing tonight.

to be clear from the top: this is a deep appreciation of the kultur-kongres’ centennial production. they did an amazing job under less than perfect circumstances and i enjoyed the hell out of it. and because it was a good, solid, well-thought-out production, af mame-loshn, it reminded me what i actually want from yiddish theater, and from yiddish productions of our classics.

i want a queerer dibek.
i want a trans-er dibek.
which is how ansky wrote it.

Continue reading tsvishn tsvey dibukim, oder in der krizis iz arayn a dibek

Tisha b’Av, Twice

[original version published on JVoices ז″ל in 2006; rewritten july 2020]

A quick introductory note: Tisha b’Av, the fast of the 9th day of the month of Av, commemorates the two destructions of jewish temples in Jerusalem – first (and not necessarily historically) by Assyrian armies in 587 BC1, and again by the Romans in 70 AD. The Roman conquest ended the hereditary rule of the high priests, which had been centered on the Jerusalem temple. That hereditary rule, and the bloodline-based caste system it created (a three-tier system of Israelites, Levites, and Kohanim) claimed its origins and found its legitimacy in the divinely mandated authority of the mythical bney Amram – Moses, Aaron, and Miriam – who consolidated their power through massacres of those who proposed non-hierarchical alternatives to their family’s rule (see Bamidbar/Numbers 16:3-14).

how long should a community sit shiva for an unjust and exploitative system simply because it was once their own?

One: Time

This year of toppling statues and rethinking the rituals of historical memory has made me think about the destruction of temples, and whether it’s something to mourn.

Continue reading Tisha b’Av, Twice

just temporarily putting these here so i can write what i’m supposed to be writing today without them getting in the way.

(1) the main thing wrong (politically/ethically; morality is just dishonest theology) with andrea long chu (as a thinker/writer; i don’t know her any other way) is that she’s a heideggerian (this needs a two-part parenthetical too; yes, i’m a bit compulsive today).

(2) the relationship between the terms in marxism-leninism is the same as the one in judeo-christianity, and serves basically the same purposes.

these are unrelated thoughts, for which fact i am grateful.

“a piss stop on the way”

for gay stamina month, here’s my old comrade bob kohler zts”l writing in Come Out in 1970 about the kids who hung out at christopher street & 7th avenue – the ones who fought at stonewall and aren’t celebrated by name; the ones who hung out at the piers (and still do, despite gentrification and redevelopment); the ones who west village homosexual homeowners and tourists call the cops on; the ones who GLmaybeBfakeTneverQ NGOs have never given a shit about.

these are sylvia rivera and marsha p johnson’s people. STAR people. “street gay” => “street queen” => “street transvestite” => “street transgender” ~> some kinds of trans folks, but not the nice kinds. not the kinds that want to wrap themselves in the flag, talk to the cops, be entrepreneurial, or march alongside cops and corporations in a parade pretending that Everything Is Just Fine. and not the kind who think Identity is what matters.

the piece is also the earliest place i’ve seen “mopped” and “read” in print, though i’m sure they were used much earlier. bob used to talk about these kids leaving stuff they’d lifted at his store on christopher street. they were his friends, and some of them, especially sylvia, were his comrades in the Gay Liberation Front (till it stopped being a workable space for trans folks) and many other projects down through the decades.

bob, unlike so many of the other gay men who were in the streets 49 years ago during the stonewall riot, never stopped being a radical faggot. he knew that as long as the kids he wrote about here were “so fucking afraid – in a world they never truly made”, he could not rest. he knew that until we truly make the world we live in, none of us can.

This Is an Old War – You Better Know What You’re Fighting For

i wrote this a little while ago, but today seems like the right day to post it. today is the 75th anniversary, according to the christian calendar, of the װאַרשע געטאָ אױפֿשטאַנד, the warsaw ghetto uprising. there’s so much to say about that heroic act of resistance, and the years of less-commemorated struggle that came before and after it, but other folks have been saying it for years. look, if you haven’t already, at the wonderful writing of irena klepfisz (in poetry and prose), the songs and poems of shmerke kaczerginski and avrom sutzkever, the memoirs and interviews of marek edelman… it’s a day to think, as well, about the things that we can – that we need to – learn from those struggles. in that spirit: honor to their memories – koved zeyer ondenk – כּבֿיד זײער אָנדענק

like a lot of us – jewish radicals; antifascists of all flavors; folks thinking about concrete resistance to state violence – i’ve been thinking a lot about the jewish partisan fighters of the 1930s and 40s lately. this year, i’ve seen their memory invoked, in many ways, far more often than in the previous decade. i’ve done plenty of that, too, in my contribution to this year’s Radical Jewish Calendar Project, among other places.

but lately, especially after a conversation just before the new year (5778, not 2018) with my dear friend and comrade malcolm, i’ve been thinking about how we talk about partisans, which partisans we talk about, and what we do and don’t say. and i’ve been getting a little worried. this is a bit of an exploration of how this history is used, guided by walter benjamin’s warning that antifascists must think about the past knowing that even the dead will not be safe from our enemies if they are victorious (and that our enemies have not ceased to be victorious).

if you want a tl;dr, just skip to the end. there are conclusions drawn.

Continue reading This Is an Old War – You Better Know What You’re Fighting For

notes on “ashkenazi” (a postscript in advance)

this is the season when i’m working all the time on a purimshpil, and can’t really get anything else done. but this has been nagging at me, so i’m clearing it out of my (metaphorical) drawer.

properly, it’s a postscript to something i’m trying to write out about the current importation of israeli terminology for differences among jewish communities into the u.s. jewish left. unsurprisingly, i’m not a big fan, not least because i don’t see the kind of highly consolidated, deeply racialized two-category system that exists among jewish israelis as something that exists in this country. and the mizrakhi/ashkenazi binary that describes it seems more of a hinderance than an aid to understanding the messy, contradictory lines of racial and class position that do deeply divide u.s. jewish communities. but that’s another post.

this is some preliminary thoughts on one of the things that came along on the way: the question of what we’re talking about when we talk about “ashkenaz”. and, ultimately, whether the term as it’s used makes any sense at all. TL;DR: no.

i’ve still got quite a few questions about this-all, and i’ll lay a few of them out at the end, in hopes that some of you can shed some light in various places.

a postscript
for my grandfather, jules / yidl nukhm schrager,
who said “what do you mean, ashkenazi? i’m a galitsianer!”

Continue reading notes on “ashkenazi” (a postscript in advance)
war-lesbian wrote:

it’d be good to have an explanation for why, at least in my experience, you tend to see more camab nb people in certain ~queer~ scenes and social circles (usually cafab trans dominated ones), compared to “binary” trans women. 

i guess i would speculate that

  1. cafab people like to have a monopoly on womanhood (even when they dont identify as women)
  2. it’s probably easier to convince camab nb people that they have privilege over u since they’re less likely to understand their experiences through the lens of transmisogyny (and this is no doubt a deciding factor in “qualifying” for these spaces)
  3. there’s a decent chance that these are trans women who have yet to come to terms with their womanhood, or are even being pressured away from identifying as women, so they are probably hurt and confused and everything else that comes with being closeted, making them more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation
  4.  camab nb people are possibly(?) more likely to present in a visibly gender non-conforming “queer” (but ultimately feminine) way, meeting the rigorous aesthetic (read: fuckable) standards imposed by these sorts of groups
  5. related: dont have that “camab person who started taking estrogen after puberty” bod non trans women are obviously so uncomfortable with
  6. and, most importantly – in my limited experience, are more likely to identify as bi or exclusively male-attracted
radtransfem replied:

We leave
(read: driven out)

and then i chimed in:

i partly agree with @radtransfem. but/aaaand, there’s also this inconvenient thing where nb trans women are pretty actively unwelcomed from most social spaces set up specifically by/for trans women.

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ראָזעלע זושוק האַלעװי