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Isaac Leib Peretz

Isaac Leib Peretz (born May, 18th 1852 in Zamosc, died 3rd April 1915
in Warsaw), also known as Yitskhok Leybush Peretz
Izaak Lejb Perec (in Polish), best known as I.L. Peretz, was a
modernist Yiddish language author and playwright. Payson R. Stevens,
Charles M. Levine, and Sol Steinmetz count him with Mendele Mokher
Seforim and Sholem Aleichem as one of the 3 great classical Yiddish
writers. Sol Liptzin wrote "Yitzkhok Leibush Peretz was the great
awakener of Yiddish-speaking Jewry and Sholom Aleichem its
comforter... Peretz aroused in his readers the will for
self-emancipation, the will for resistance..."
Peretz rejected cultural universalism, seeing the world as composed of
different nations, each with its own character. Liptzin comments that
"Every people is seen by him as a chosen people..."; he saw his role
as a Jewish writer to express "Jewish ideals...grounded in Jewish
tradition and Jewish history."

Unlike many other Maskilim, he greatly respected the Hasidic Jews for
their mode of being in the world; at the same time, he understood that
there was a need to make allowances for human frailty. His short
stories such as "If Not Higher", "The Treasure", and "Beside the
Dying" emphasize the importance of sincere piety rather than empty

Born in the shtetl of Zamość, and raised in an Orthodox Jewish home
(of Sephardic origin), he gave his allegiance at age fifteen to the
Haskalah, the Jewish enlightenment. He began a deliberate plan of
secular learning, reading books in Polish, Russian, German, and
French. He planned to go to the theologically liberal Rabbinical
school at Zhytomyr, but concern for his mother's feelings got him to
stay on in Zamość. He married, through an arranged marriage, the
daughter of Gabriel Judah Lichtenfeld, whom Liptzin describes as a
"minor poet and philosopher".

He failed in an attempt to make a living distilling whiskey, but began
to write Hebrew language poetry, songs, and tales, some of them
written collaboratively with his father-in-law, a collaboration that
nonetheless did not prevent his divorce in 1878, after which he
promptly married to Helene Ringelblum. Around the same time he passed
the exam to become a lawyer, a profession which he successfully
pursued for the next decade, until in 1889 his license was revoked by
the Imperial Russian authorities on the basis of suspicion of Polish
nationalist sentiments. From that time he lived in Warsaw, where his
income came largely from a job in the small bureaucracy of the city's
Jewish community. There he founded Hazomir (The Nightingale), which
became the cultural centre of pre-World War I Yiddish Warsaw.

His first Yiddish work appeared in 1888, notably the long ballad
Monish, which appeared that year in the landmark anthology
Folksbibliotek ("People's Library"), edited by Sholom Aleichem. This
ballad tells the story of an ascetic young man, Monish, who
unsuccessfully resists the temptress Lilith.

A writer of social criticism, sympathetic to the labor movement, he
wrote stories, folk tales and plays. Liptzin characterizes him as both
a realist and a romanticist, who "delved into irrational layers of the
soul", "an optimist who believed in the inevitablity of progress
through enlightenment", who at times expressed that optimism through
"visions of Messianic possibilities". Still, while most Jewish
intellectuals were unrestrained in their support of the Russian
Revolution of 1905, Peretz's view was more reserved, focusing more on
the pogroms that took place within the revolution and concerned that
the revolution's universalist ideals would leave little space for
Jewish non-conformism.

Much as Jacob Gordin influenced Yiddish theater in New York City in a
more serious direction, so did Peretz in Eastern Europe. Israil
Bercovici sees Peretz's works for the stage as a synthesis of Gordin
and the more traditional and melodramatic Abraham Goldfaden, an
opinion that Peretz himself apparently would not have rejected: "The
critics," he wrote, "the worst of them thought that M.M. Seforim was
my model. It's not true. My teacher was Abraham Goldfaden."

Some of Peretz's most important works are Oib Nit Noch Hecher ("If not
Higher") and the short story "Bontsche Shvaig" ("Bontsche the
Silent"). "Bontsche" is the story of an extremely meek and modest man,
downtrodden on earth but exalted in heaven for his modesty, who,
offered any heavenly reward, chooses one as modest as the way he had
lived. While the story can be read as praise of this meekness, there
is also an ambiguity in the ending, which can be read as showing
contempt for someone who cannot even imagine receiving more.

Peretz died in the city of Warsaw, Poland, in 1915. There is a street
in Warsaw named after him (ulica Icchaka Lejba Pereca in Polish

The notable American journalist Martin Peretz is one of his

for more information go to
Martin H. Peretz, also known as Marty Peretz, (born December 6, 1938),
is an American publisher and Harvard University lecturer. He owned The
New Republic from 1975 to 2007, [1] and served for many years as its
editor-in-chief. In 2007, he sold his shares to CanWest Global
Communications Corporation but retained his editor-in-chief position.

Peretz is a graduate of the Bronx High School of Science. He received
his B.A. degree from Brandeis University in 1959, and M.A. and Ph.D.
from Harvard University, going on to lecture in social studies.
Additionally, Peretz has seven honorary doctorates, and in 1982
received the Jerusalem Medal.

Peretz is married to Anne Labouisse Farnsworth Peretz, heiress to the
Singer Sewing Machine fortune and daughter of H.R. Labouisse and
Elizabeth Scriven Clark. Her wealth is widely credited as having given
Peretz the means to buy The New Republic.

[ Editorial stance
Under the leadership of Peretz, the magazine has generally maintained
liberal and neoliberal positions on economic and social issues, and
assumed hawkish and strong pro-Israel stances in foreign affairs. Some
critics have accused Peretz of steering TNR towards neoconservatism.
However, Peretz has long supported Democrats over Republicans,
including being a major behind-the-scenes benefactor of Eugene
McCarthy's primary presidential bid in 1968. Peretz is a strong
supporter of Al Gore and advocates for his candidacy in 2008.

Peretz has been accused by several critics of being stridently
anti-Arab and anti-Muslim. Glen Greenwald, a lawyer and author,
reviewed a month's worth of Peretz's New Republic blog, The Spine, and
found that "his blog, and apparently his political worldview, are
devoted primarily to one argument -- that Arabs and Muslims are
primitive savages and barbarians, and that the notion of a 'moderate
Muslim' or even a civilized Arab is all but a myth. The majority of
Peretz's posts, with varying degrees of explicitness, is devoted to
bolstering that claim." [1]

Media critic Jack Shafer has described Peretz as a "self-promoter,
braggart, Arab-hater, name-dropper, and bad writer." Shafer's 1991
examination of the 90-plus pieces Peretz inserted into The New
Republic found Peretz repeatedly explaining his theory that there are
no "Arab nations," only violent tribal groups with no allegiance to
their countries.[2] He also noted frequent press-bashing of media
outlets and personalities Peretz perceives as enemies of Israel,
ranging from the Washington Post to Peter Jennings.

In 1995, Peretz made headlines when he successfully pressured Vice
President Al Gore to rescind his offer to Harvard historian and
Tennessee writer Richard Marius to be a White House speechwriter.
Peretz accused Marius of anti-Semitism, citing a 1992 book review in
which Marius compared the tactics of the Israeli secret police
searching for Palestinian terrorists in the occupied territories to
the Nazi Gestapo in occupied Europe during World War II. Gore, a
former student of Peretz's at Harvard in the 1960s, complied with his
request. Many defenders of Marius – who had written a major Holocaust
speech for Gore to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Warsaw
Uprising and who criticized Martin Luther in a biography for the
Reformation figure's anti-Semitic writings – said Peretz's charge was
without merit.

] Controversies
In a November 28, 2006 posting on his TNR blog 'The Spine,' Peretz
referred to former United States President Jimmy Carter, writing:
"That's how he will go down in history: as a Jew hater." [2] On
February 16, 2007 he added: "...he (Carter) is animated by a very
strong animus towards Jews." [3]

Peretz's commentaries rarely mesh with the moderate opinions and
analysis expressed by the The New Republic's writing staff. In the
movie Shattered Glass, which portrays the unmasking of writer Stephen
Glass' serial fabrications in the pages of The New Republic, Peretz
was presented as a capricious figure who regularly fired his top
editors and who once degraded the magazine's staff by ordering them to
circle every comma in an issue of the magazine. (He was played by
well-known Canadian director Ted Kotcheff.)

On September 8, 2006 Peretz joined the Libby Legal Defense Trust as an
Advisory Committee Member. [4]

"I actually believe that Arabs are feigning outrage when they protest
what they call American (or Israeli) "atrocities." They are not
shocked at all by what in truth must seem to them not atrocious at
all. It is routine in their cultures. That comparison shouldn't
comfort us as Americans. We have higher standards of civilization than
they do." The Plank, "The New Republic", Nov. 19, 2006
"I have been in love only three times in my life. I was in love with
my college roommate. I am in love with the state of Israel and I love
Gene McCarthy." (told to Blair Clark in 1968; quoted in Washington
Babylon, p. 6)
"[N]onviolence is foreign to the political culture of Arabs generally
and of the Palestinians particularly. It is a failure of the
collective imagination for which no one is to blame." Diarist, The New
Republic, March 10, 1986.
"[The Lebanese] fight simply because they live. And the culture from
which they come scarcely thinks this is odd. Their men fight on and
on, and the women and children bleed." The New Republic, March 19,
"One cannot discuss at any respectable dinner table what many
respectable people are thinking themselves. This is the matter of
where do Arab Americans really stand on terror. It's a question that
Kenneth Chadwell, assistant U.S. attorney for the Detroit area, asked
about the Lebanese Shia who make up about 30,000 of the 100,000 people
in Dearborn, Michigan: 'Are they loyal to the United States or to this
group Hezbollah?' The answer is not simple. Still, the question is not
simple at all. … They have not really left the "old country" behind,
and some of them are making themselves at home by committing criminal
acts." The Plank, The New Republic, July 31, 2006
"(Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad) Siniora seems to have changed his
mind about Hezbollah. Or is he simply speaking with the forked tongue
that defines the political culture from which he has emerged?" The
Plank, The New Republic, July 20, 2006
"For years (William Shawcross) was an eminence on the north-Atlantic
left, first in Great Britain and then in the United States. Then he
changed his own mind. Or, rather, he was converted by the fascists of
Islam and other demonic forces." The Plank, The New Republic, August
15, 2006
"Had (George Soros) been tried in a de-Nazification process for having
been a young cog in the Hitlerite wheel, he would have felt that,
since other people would have confiscated the same Jewish property and
delivered the same deportation notices to the same doomed Jews, it was
as if he hadn't done it himself." The New Republic, Feburary 12, 2007.
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