July 16 2018

by Eric Michael Mazur, Virginia Wesleyan College

Many American Jews have felt uneasy during the current presidential campaign, largely because of how Judaism has been the object of campaign rhetoric—from various candidates and the media, and in ways that are neither flattering nor representative. Some of the rhetoric—seeming indifference to Jewish sensitivities, the deployment of anti-Semitic stereotypes, and even rhetorical threats of physical harm—is not unheard of in American politics. What seems new is the way this rhetoric has revealed a significant difference in how non-Jews and Jews understand “religion,” particularly with regard to Jewish identity.

by Robert Bowen, Governmental Affairs Associate, National Humanities Alliance

United States Capitol in Washington, DC

We have all become familiar with urgent requests in our inboxes and social media feeds to write our Members of Congress about an important issue. With a few clicks, these “action alerts” promise, we can influence our Senators and Representatives. Once we enter our zip code, we see a form letter replete with policy details and a specific request. We have the option to tailor the letter, but we can also simply hit “submit.”

Like other advocacy organizations, the National Humanities Alliance (NHA) issues action alerts to our network of advocates. Most often, we ask our advocates to communicate support for funding increases—or opposition to cuts—for the National Endowment for the Humanities, Title VI, or Fulbright-Hays.

While advocacy software has made political advocacy exceedingly convenient, you may wonder if these letters actually matter. The short answer is yes, they do. Constituent letters are very effective when used as one element of a larger strategy.

by Aaron Hughes, University of Rochester

Jacob Neusner was born to Samuel and Lee Neusner on July 12, 1932, in West Hartford, Connecticut. His father owned the Connecticut Jewish Ledger, a Jewish weekly that continues to serve the Connecticut region and western Massachusetts. The young Neusner received his first typewriter at age twelve and, by his junior year in high school, could do all the jobs associated with a newspaper. From a young age he could write both quickly and to make deadlines. Neusner grew up attending public school as opposed to Jewish day school, and his values largely reflected those of other assimilated and suburban Jews who came of age in 1940s and 1950s America. But whereas many of them ended up in law or medical school, Neusner realized, from a young age, that he wanted to be a rabbi—though he admitted later to me that he had no idea at the time what that meant, I suspect it was to lead a life immersed in the Jewish texts that he had yet to encounter.

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