The pro­fes­sor’s best bites

A col­lec­tion of Ge­of­frey Al­der­man’s JC col­umns il­lus­trates his com­bat­ive ap­proach, grounded in in­side knowl­edge

The Jewish Chronicle - - Arts&entertainment -

with blink­ered stu­pid­ity, are grist to the Al­der­manic mill, as are, in­ter alia, Jewish crit­ics of Is­rael, Is­lamists and their apol­o­gists and, al­most above all, the an­tics of those whom he terms the “pseudo-Or­tho­dox”.

Al­der­man is keenly alert to the va­garies, id­io­cies, in­con­sis­ten­cies and rank in­jus­tices car­ried out be­hind strictly Or­tho­dox smoke­screens, of­ten with re­gard to sex­ual mat­ters. Here, he pil­lo­ries the “con­cern with the minu­tiae of fe­male at­tire”, as­crib­ing such ten­den­cies to the over­whelm­ingly male na­ture of re­li­gious fun­da­men­tal­ism, which man­i­fests it­self in “a primeval fear of wom­an­hood”.

The ul­ti­mate test of a colum­nist for his reader — and, I can add, ed­i­tor — is when he is ar­tic­u­lat­ing a view with which you find your­self in strong dis­agree­ment and yet, at the same time, stim­u­lated or en­ter­tained. Al­der­man passes this test. You would cer­tainly want him on your side. In­deed, a num­ber of in­di­vid­u­als — notably would-be JFS par­ents and oth­ers chal­leng­ing ed­u­ca­tional dis­crim­i­na­tion — have ben­e­fited from Pro­fes­sor Al­der­man’s readi­ness to take up their cases.

This book’s pro­duc­tion and de­sign (though not its con­tent) con­vey the slightly dry flavour of the lec­ture the­atre but the vivid, at­ti­tude-laden qual­ity of the prose can­not be gain­said. Scep­ti­cal, spiky, some­times spite­ful but al­ways scrupu­lous, Al­der­man’s se­lec­tion holds one’s at­ten­tion through­out, even on a sec­ond read­ing.

Un­like Chaim Ber­mant, Ge­of­frey Al­der­man may not be guar­an­teed al­ways to pro­duce a laugh, but he can be re­lied upon fre­quently to raise a smile. Thus, in 2006, he con­cluded a col­umn about the no­to­ri­ous Mo­hammed car­toons with a call for all Jews to “protest” against the Dan­ish news­pa­per’s “in­sen­si­tive” de­ci­sion to pub­lish them — by join­ing him “in boy­cotting Dan­ish ba­con”. Ger­ald Ja­cobs is the JC’s lit­er­ary and com­ment ed­i­tor. He has for most of Ge­of­frey Al­der­man’s years as JC colum­nist been re­spon­si­ble for edit­ing his col­umn

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