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4 Questions with Steve Zipperstein

Rebecca Keys

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Each month we'll ask a preeminent Jewish thinker 4 questions about the Jewish experience.

4 Questions with Steve Zipperstein

Steven J. Zipperstein is the Daniel E. Koshland Professor in Jewish Culture and History at Stanford University. He is the author and editor of eight books including, most recently, Pogrom: Kishinev and the Tilt of History. Zipperstein has been awarded the Leviant Prize of the Modern Language Association, the Judah Magnes Gold Medal of the American Friends of the Hebrew University, and the Koret Prize for Outstanding Contributions to the American Jewish community.  He is also a series editor of the Jewish Lives biography series. 

1. In your opinion, what is the defining feature of Jewish life today?

The astonishing interplay between powerlessness of Jews in the recent past and Jewry's influence today in the west and military power in the Middle East.  Tough to wrap one's head around, and alas fertile ground for contemporary hatred, at least unease.

2. What is your favorite Jewish book and why?

Impossible to choose just one, so a brief medley: Song of Songs, Philip Roth's The Counterlife, Richard Holmes' Footsteps, and quite any of the fiction of A. B. Yehoshua, Amos Oz or Nicole Krauss.   

3. What do you think Jewish life will look like in 100 years from now?

Immense presence of Chabad, continued cultural vitality of Israel amid political decay, unending predictions of the disappearance of American Jewish life beyond its Orthodox sector despite all evidence of its continued health. 

4. If you could meet any figure from Jewish history, who would it be and why?