Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Book Review: In Search of the Lost Chord

In Search of the Lost Chord: 1967 and the Hippie Idea 
by Danny Goldberg 
Akashic Books 

Some years ago I did a review for Jewish Currents of a three-volume study of Jews in the creative arts. The chapter on the Jewish contribution to rock music was written by Danny Goldberg, and I found it the most annoying chapter in the book. He basically said, “I’m not just going to give you a list of who in rock music is Jewish” and then proceeded to do just that. It read like a laundry list.

I have a longstanding interest in the Sixties, including hippie culture, so when I heard Goldberg interviewed on Raghu Markus’ podcast about his new book, In Search of the Lost Chord: 1967 and the Hippie Idea I went and got it. After about 30 pages of his comprehensive chronology style, I was remembering what annoyed me about his writing the first time.

However, the book grew on me. What felt in 15 pages lazy and superficial, in 300 pages felt well-researched and wide-ranging. Goldberg basically takes the chronology of events in 1967 and give brief accounts of them: the people involved, the process that led to them, how they were covered in the press, how they affected the people involved, etc. Often this is covered in one paragraph; for more significant events more space is given, but no account lasts more than a couple of pages.  

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Some thoughts on antisemitism

On August 11, far right activists marched by torchlight through Charlottesville, Virginia. Their action, which was explicitly antisemitic, threatened worshipers at the small synagogue there that my brother and his family belonged to until very recently. Far-rightists marching by torchlight past a synagogue has traumatic historical resonances for any Jew. It led to a spate of “why do they hate us?” articles and a reminder from even the most progressive Jews that antisemitism is not a thing of the past.

And yet - I'm in my mid-50s and I can safely say that antisemitism has never played a major role in my life. There have been maybe half-a-dozen incidents of name-calling, but that's pretty much it. I have never lost a job opportunity or an apartment because of it, never been excluded from a social event or public accommodation, never been targeted by police. Even today, when I travel around parts of Kansas with few or no Jews and am explicitly political, there's remarkably little anti-Jewish feeling, and what there is, is oblique. (People's personal hatreds don't matter so much as long as they're too embarrassed to share them publicly and have no power over the lives of those they hate.) I have never feared to wear a kippah in public. Most rightwing political and religious figures in Kansas are Israelphilic, which, whatever it may be, is not traditional Jew-hatred.

In the eyes of America, I'm white. I know this is so because, inter alia, I never get unduly hassled at traffic stops. Most white Jews can “pass” with no effort at all, and many jettison their Jewish identities completely. It hardly needs to be said that this is an option that American blacks don't have.