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