July 27th, 2016

Jeremy visits Iran

A visitor from Minneapolis finds the Iranians — including members of a remnant Jewish community — to be friendly and hospitable


For many, or most, Jews, arriving in an airliner at Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport would be something akin to a waking nightmare.

Not so for Jeremy Iggers, an accomplished journalist from Minneapolis, who seeks out adventurous travel destinations. In fact, prior to his weeklong journey to the Islamic Republic of Iran, in late June and early July, Iggers had visited the country twice before, in 1971 and 2001.

Jeremy Iggers visited with the Jewish proprietor (right) of a haberdashery in the Jewish Passage, in Isfahan, Iran. (Photo by Jeremy Iggers)

Jeremy Iggers visited with the Jewish proprietor (right) of a haberdashery in the Jewish Passage, in Isfahan, Iran. (Photo: Jeremy Iggers)

“This was just something that had been on my bucket list for a very long time,” said Iggers, regarding his recent trip to Iran. “When I was there in 2001, I found it to be just a fascinating place and I had always wanted to go back.”

During an interview at Gigi’s Café in south Minneapolis, Iggers explained that he traveled in Iran, in 2001, for a post-9/11 series on Muslim countries for the Star Tribune, where he worked from 1984 to 2007. He also reported from Turkey, Syria and Azerbaijan for the series, which included photos by Jeff Wheeler.

His earlier visit to Iran, during the reign of the Shah, came after a sophomore year overseas semester, in Normandy, France. Iggers joined a group traveling in a VW bus from France to Nepal. The 1971 road trip traversed Iran; Iggers wasn’t enjoying his fellow travellers and got out at the border with India.

Keep reading →

July 27th, 2016

Editorial: ‘Two societies bleeding into each other’

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) held its biennial convention in Minneapolis, from July 18-21. I attended parts of two afternoon sessions at the Minneapolis Convention Center: on July 18, I heard Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speak (she got the AFT endorsement for president); and on July 19, I attended a session that featured, among other speakers, Stav Shaffir, the youngest female Knesset member in Israel’s history.

After Shaffir’s speech, I met her for a brief chat.

A petite, 29-year-old woman with flame-red hair, Shaffir came to prominence in Israel during the popular 2011 social justice protest. On leafy Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv, thousands of disgruntled Israelis erected tents and camped-in to protest the increasingly out-of-reach cost of everything from apartments to cottage cheese. The “tent protest” spread to other cities in Israel.

Stav Shaffir speaks at the American Federation of Teachers biennial convention in Minneapolis on July 19. (Photo by Mordecai Specktor).

Stav Shaffir speaks at the American Federation of Teachers biennial convention in Minneapolis on July 19. (Photo: Mordecai Specktor).

In 2013, Shaffir became a member of the Knesset on the Labor Party list. In 2015, Labor merged with Hatnua, former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s party, and Shaffir gained the fourth spot on the new Zionist Union list for the Israeli parliament.

In the Knesset, Shaffir has troubled the waters with her calls for financial transparency. As a member of the Knesset Finance Committee, Shaffir has succeeded in getting the Ministry of Finance to publish budgetary transfers online in advance of meetings. She continues to campaign for redirecting public money going to support West Bank settlements, and for her trouble, has been forcibly removed from committee meetings on occasion.


Shaffir said that she traveled to the United States to speak at the AFT convention.

“We’re building more connections between unions here and unions in Israel, between progressive organizations and progressive movements in the world to what we’re doing in Israel. And I’m dedicating some of my time also to fighting BDS initiatives that I see more and more here, especially among the young generation and within the Jewish community.” Keep reading →

July 27th, 2016

Roth’s autobiographical ‘Indignation’ reaches the screen

Adaptation of 2008 Philip Roth novel stars Logan Lerman and Sarah Gadon


For his directorial debut, veteran producer and writer James Schamus chose a Philip Roth novel set during a turning point in the Jewish-American experience.

Indignation unfolds in 1951, when opportunities and prospects for young Jewish professionals were just beginning to expand.

Logan Lerman stars as Marcus Messner and Sarah Gadon stars as Olivia Hutton in Indignation. (Photo by Alison Cohen Rosa).

Logan Lerman stars as Marcus Messner and Sarah Gadon stars as Olivia Hutton in Indignation. (Photo: Alison Cohen Rosa)

“You discover when you start to inhabit that world that there was a genuine sense of optimism, a genuine belief that belonging in this country was possible and real and happening,” Schamus, 57, says. “And on the other hand, you have all the traumas associated with the experiences of extended families in the Holocaust disappearing, and a political culture in this country that was bizarrely — especially if you’re of my age, and you didn’t experience it but you realize that your parents did — about as openly anti-Semitic as you can imagine.”

Schamus cites the covenants for real estate developments that excluded Jews, and the quotas for Jewish students at Ivy League universities. So Marcus Messner, the protagonist of Schamus’ insightful and moving film adaptation of Roth’s 2008 autobiographical novel, is fortunate to receive a scholarship from a small college in Ohio. He has to travel some distance from his New Jersey home, but not as far as the young Americans fighting in Korea.

Keep reading →

July 27th, 2016

A radical on the Supreme Court

Louis D. Brandeis: American Prophet, by Jeffrey Rosen, Yale, 256 pages, $25.

Reviewed by NEAL GENDLER

Today’s mania for consolidation likely would have offended the Jeffersonian sensibilities of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, who worked for years in opposition.

Brandeis, born in 1856, “was the most-important critic of what he called ‘the curse of bigness’ in government and business since Thomas Jefferson,” says Jeffrey Rosen in Louis D. Brandeis: American Prophet.


Not yet 21 when he graduated from Harvard’s law school with its highest grades ever, Brandeis originally defended corporations but around 1893 switched to the side of workers, fighting tenaciously against railroads and the nation’s “financial oligarchy” – including J.P. Morgan.

Rosen, president and CEO of the National Constitution Center, says that “Brandeis’ deep ethical sense, rooted in his burning determination to protect individual liberty and economic opportunity for the ‘small man’ … led him frequently to denounce injustice in the prophetic mode.”

So much so that President Franklin Roosevelt referred to him as “Old Isiah.”

Raised in a secular home in Louisville, Ky., Brandeis said he was “very ignorant in things Jewish.” But a transformation in his 50s pushed him in 1914 to lead the American Zionist movement, making it acceptable by declaring that one could be both an American and a Zionist – that Jewish obligation to support Zion needn’t include moving there.

Keep reading →