Over her many years of political and cultural analysis in the pages of the Wall Street Journal, Commentary, and Mosaic, and in her books If I am Not for Myself and Jews and Power, Ruth Wisse has been a north star for Jewish conservatives. What were the formative intellectual influences that shaped her worldview? What does she recommend that can shape our own? At last year’s conference, Professor Wisse drew lessons for Jewish conservatives from the literature of Isaac Babel, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and S.Y Agnon. This year, she focuses on Jacob Glatstein. As the dangers escalated for Jews across Europe in the 1920s and 1930s, some Jews who had emigrated from there to this country realized that American freedoms threatened—not their personal, but their collective—survival. Without yielding their individuality, how could they sustain the golden chain of Jewish continuity? Was it necessary to choose between the kerosene lamp and the neon lights, between the God of Abraham and faith in progress? In raising such questions, one of the keenest of those immigrants, Jacob Glatstein, charted his own brilliant path to a set of insights that can even today serve to revitalize Jewish conservatism in America.

Ruth Wisse

Recently retired from her position as Martin Peretz Professor of Yiddish Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard, Ruth Wisse is currently Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Tikvah Fund. Dr. Wisse’s books on literary subjects include an edition of Jacob Glatstein’s two-volume fictional memoir, The Glatstein Chronicles (2010), The Modern Jewish Canon: A Journey through Literature and Culture (2003), and A Little Love in Big Manhattan (1988). She is also the author of two political studies, If I Am Not for Myself: The Liberal Betrayal of the Jews (1992) and Jews and Power (2007). Her latest book, No Joke: Making Jewish Humor, a volume in the Tikvah-sponsored Library of Jewish Ideas, was published by Princeton University Press.