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Rosa Luxemburg.(Wikimedia Commons)

Rosa Luxemburg was always an anomaly. One of the fiercest thinkers of the early 20th century, this Marxist philosopher and firebrand activist led masses of rebels during a time when politics was governed entirely by men. Living in Berlin, she was of Polish Jewish descent but not at all concerned with the plight of Jews. Unlike her male, dogmatic, and dull peers, she believed in love and passion and life’s small but great joys. In 1919, when she was just 47 years old, she was brutally murdered by her opponents. Long after many of her colleagues have been reclassified as tyrants by history’s unremitting hand, Luxemburg’s popularity is greater than ever; each year, thousands of young activists flock to her grave for inspiration.

But how is Luxemburg relevant to Jewish history? And what, if anything, would she have to say to Sarah Palin and her Tea Party supporters? The critic and essayist Vivian Gornick joined Long Story Short host Liel Leibovitz to discuss these questions in the first installment of Long Story Short, a new monthly podcast about the people, places, and ideas that have shaped Jewish life and history. Each installment will focus on a different subject—from the 17th-century false messiah Shabbatai Tzvi to the 20th century’s princes of punk, the Ramones—and will feature a wide array of thinkers, artists, historians, and intellectuals.

The conversations, leisurely and long, are recorded in Leibovitz’s living room over a bottle of wine and are designed as the antithesis to haste, hype, and the other vulgarities that plague our popular culture. The podcast owes a great debt to the BBC’s long-running show In Our Time, with which it shares the belief that ideas matter, and that rather than be marketed, condensed, tweaked, trivialized, or bowdlerized, they should be passionately discussed. [Running time: 42:27.]

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