The catastrophe that befell the Jewish people under the Nazis was not the end of the story. Renewal came to Jewry in the creation of the State of Israel, a society rooted in the tradition, at once spiritual and rational, but also intimately tied to the modern sensibility of science and human development. The six million Jews who live as citizens of the United States are also an historic milestone: This is the first cohort of Jews since the Second Commonwealth who live—and live richly—under laws of both equality and justice.
The third phenomenon may at first glance seem almost trivial. But I think that there has emerged out of the ashes of European Jewry—and of the collateral torments of Jews in the Islamic orbit—an unmatched regeneration of the Jewish intellectual life. It is not precisely repair, perhaps because what has been destroyed cannot truly be restored. In any case, the disaster has put old verities into question.
So what has happened is that the sapping of the blood has made necessary a refreshing of the blood. This has happened in Jewish scholarship, both religious and secular, ancient and modern. In Jewish history of the old school but from the new schools, as well: ethnology, tangible materials, inter- and intra-communal relations, the arts, public politics and philosophical politics, family life, and the economic vertebrae to all of these. There are more centers of Jewish learning today than at anytime in history.
All of this means scholarly papers, conferences and books, serious if not always truly learned. Which is why the appearance of the “Jewish Review of Books” is not a fortuitous happening but almost a pre-destined event. Suffice it to say, the arrival of this periodical of study and lively criticism was virtually destined.
The first issue seems to me to be an excellent prototype for the future. Two serious novels (and novelists) are considered, and a poet. Two essays—one on a sexless Orthodox Jewish film and the other about the “Jewish” Bob Dylan—deal with popular culture. An old theological text on sin. Reflections on God and Godlessness ... and also fantasylessness. Literary criticism, religious reflections (in the serious sense), history looking backward and forward. There are also two essays on Zionism which would not ever appear in the New York Review of Books. This points to the indispensability of the Jewish Review of Books.