Probably the most famous line from the HBO series True Detective is: “Time is a flat circle.” The line, spoken by Det. Rust Cohle (played by Matthew McConaughey) in the first season, is an homage to Nietzsche’s concept of “eternal return,” the unavoidably cyclical nature of history.

The line is spoken in utter seriousness but instantly became a running joke, especially online. Yet with the recent challenges faced by the American Jewish community, I can understand why it haunts Rust Cohle. (Perhaps time is a flat circle after all.) One of the reasons organizational Jewry went from particularist advocacy to a widening universalism was that some of the societal problems that Jews faced were posed to new victims. But a recent spate of specifically anti-Semitic discrimination shows us how important it’s going to be for the organized Jewish world to face this part of the circle coming around again.

The Jewish singer and performer Matisyahu was scheduled to play a show with his band at the Rialto Theater in Tucson, Arizona, last Thursday. But that show—as well as the one that had been scheduled for the night before, at Meow Wolf in Santa Fe—was canceled when staff refused to work on a night when he was playing.

Vancouver-born Leah Goldstein was recently disinvited from giving the keynote address at an International Women’s Day event in Ontario, because a few decades ago she served in the IDF. Just three years ago, the National Post reports, Goldstein “became the first woman to win the solo category of Race Across America, a 4,800-kilometre bike race across the United States, and one of the longest endurance races in the world.” Due to “sensitivity,” the organizers withdrew their invitation, perhaps aware of the emotional pain it could cause attendees to see and hear the name “Goldstein.”

Last month I wrote about a genuinely insane incident in which Stranger Things star Noah Schnapp was forced to record an apology video for having been seen with a friend who was holding a “Zionism is sexy” sticker. His costar, Brett Gelman, defended him. Then Gelman, who has written a new book of short stories, had two book signings canceled by the host bookstores.

This sentiment has become the norm in the literary world. PEN America (to its great credit) faced down a torrent of protest for inviting Mayim Bialik to speak at an event. The American writer Randa Jarrar had to be removed from the event, so insistent was she on disrupting the Jewish speaker. This is not the first time Bialik’s Judaism has made her a target. In 2021, when Bialik was chosen as one of the two new Jeopardy! hosts, the Daily Beast ran a story taking aim at her “sketchy” support for Israel’s existence. The piece was updated with a note at the bottom that still makes me laugh: “This story has been updated to replace the word genocidal in reference to the IDF.”

According to JTA, two award-winning writers “broke ties” with PEN America in response to Bialik’s appearance and blamed Bialik for “ongoing slaughter” in the Middle East.

There was a similar campaign, JTA reported, to pressure a subscription service into dropping a promotion for a special edition of the novel Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, by Gabrielle Zevin. I enjoyed the book immensely and racked my brain to try to figure out the activists’ beef with Zevin. I assumed it had to be because one of the characters is Israeli. But it appears to have been even dumber than that: Readers objected to, believe it or not, Zevin’s having participated in events with the Jewish group Hadassah.

The New York-based writer Erika Dreifus told the reporter that the organized literary world’s response to the Hamas attacks of October 7 and their aftermath “certainly distances me from any sense of really belonging to a wider literary community.”

I asked Dreifus for the running list she’s been keeping of literary institutions’ responses to Gaza. I noticed some had incorporated them into their writing guidelines. An example from the Feminist Press: “We define our feminism as anti-racist, anti-capitalist, anti-imperial, and decolonial, and we intend to make that explicit with not only our work, but also our practices of solidarity.… In 2023 and beyond, we particularly hope to collaborate with and center Palestinian authors, in light of the ongoing genocide in Gaza and the century of Zionist settler colonialism in Palestine.”

I mention all these to make clear that the problem stretches far beyond academia and journalism and politics and, as I have noted previously, global sports. It’s everywhere. It’ll get worse, and the American Jewish community is going to have to be ready and willing to advocate for itself. It certainly won’t be able to rely on anyone else to do it.

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