Jeremy Corbyn, Richard Spencer, Harry Potter, and Mail-Order Kosher Food

It sounds like the world's worst Bar Mitzvah but is actually a bunch of things that I wrote or think are worth reading

This newsletter is like a box of chocolates—you never know what you are going to get.

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OK, now that it’s just the six of us, we can catch up.

As we hurtle toward the U.S. election, I’ve been doing more and more political coverage, and trying to fill the black hole of despair it inspires by also writing about completely different non-depressing things. Today’s edition: my deep dive into the best mail-order kosher food. After a painstaking months-long investigation that included the consumption of several pounds of herring—the sacrifices I make for journalism!—I’ve curated a list of small businesses that provide delicious kosher delectables from artisanal cheeses to bacon challah to gorgeous vegan chocolates (pictured above).

The reviews of the piece are in and they are effusive:

But don’t let Jeff Goldberg yuck your yum. Read the whole thing here.

How Not to Fall for Nazi Trolls

Back on the dystopia beat, I wrote about the sorry episode that was alt-right troll Richard Spencer’s “endorsement” of Joe Biden for president. Spencer, for those blissfully unaware, is the professional provocateur most infamous for his 2016 victory rally at which he and his supporters offered Hitler salutes and declared “Heil Trump!” He also helped organize and spoke at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where marchers chanted “Jews will not replace us.” And a couple weeks ago, he claimed he was endorsing Biden for president—and a lot of people took it at face value. “That a disingenuous racist like Spencer would pretend to support Biden in order to get attention and undercut the former vice president is not surprising,” I wrote. “What is surprising is how many people still fall for Spencer’s transparent trolling.”

I’ve sadly accumulated a lot of firsthand experience with alt-right trolling, and so I took this opportunity to give readers a guide to figuring out when they are being scammed. Because as it turns out, “Spencer and other white supremacists have a long history of purposely adopting their opponents’ causes and pretending to back them in order to undermine them,” including when it comes to a disingenuous embrace of “Zionism.” Read the whole thing here.

Jeremy Corbyn: Finally Saying the Quiet Part Out Loud

Readers of this newsletter and my reporting know that I spent years covering the disastrous anti-Semitism scandal that consumed the British Labour party under leader Jeremy Corbyn. Despite the overwhelming documentary evidence that the party had become infested by an array of hard-left anti-Jewish bigots, many continued to deny that the party had a real problem or that Corbyn had anything to do with it, casting the entire affair as “smears.” Reporters covering this beat got so familiar with this evidence-free deflection that I once quipped:

Corbyn, an incompetent and historically unpopular politician, lost in a landslide to Boris Johnson, putting an end to this particular charade, but a new interview with one of the former leader’s top aides helpfully settles the issue for anyone willing to listen. According to Corbyn’s own people, we now know, he wasn’t good at empathizing with Jews over anti-Semitism because he saw them all as privileged and wealthy!

Recommended Reading

  • Alan Jacobs on what the Lord of the Rings can teach us about the walls we build that prevent us from seeing our way out of despair. I can’t wait to read my copy of his new book, Breaking Bread with Dead: A Reader’s Guide to a More Tranquil Mind, which should arrive in my mailbox tonight.

  • As some readers know, my father Rabbi Moshe Rosenberg—author of the bestselling Hogwarts Haggadah—has been battling cancer for some time. In June, we prevailed upon him to start a newsletter to share his writing and thoughts with a wider audience, and it has slowly built up a substantial audience. This week, he wrote movingly about his experience completing his radiation treatment, and how we can maintain our humanity and dignify others even in the most undignified of circumstances. Obviously, I’m biased, but I think this newsletter is well worth your subscription. Read his piece here.

  • Last but not least: Many of your may remember my behind the scenes chronicle of the translation of Harry Potter into Yiddish. In that piece, you met the remarkable Orthodox Jewish Indian-American translator, Arun Viswanath, who “attended Harvard University, where he was the student president of Hillel, majored in linguistics, and attained conversational fluency in 15 languages.” The two of us first met in college, and he is one of the most talented people I’ve ever encountered. In the delightful video below, he performs some of the first Harry Potter book’s most famous lines in Yiddish—in character and with props. As you will see, it’s utterly hilarious and you don’t need to know any Yiddish to enjoy it.

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