Tablet Magazine’s newest columnist is Michelle Goldberg, and her column, The Diasporist, will find her reporting on the fringes of Judaism—religion and culture—around the country and around the world. Her first, for example, examines Argentina’s obsession with Freudian psychoanalysis. I called her up this morning to learn more about what she has in mind.
So what is The Diasporist going to be?
I’ve been writing for a long time about the intersection between religion and ideology. I also travel pretty compulsively. So I imagine the column combining those two things. It’s a chance to bring a Jewish lens to many corners of the world. The thing about the diaspora is it means that it’s possible to see the whole world through a Jewish lens.
I see The Diasporist as also being a reference to Operation Shylock. It’s one of my favorite Philip Roth novels, and it employs this really surreal device to get at what seems to be the author’s ambivalence about Zionism, and his suspicion that the best of Jewish culture really lies in the diaspora. What appeals to me about it is, inasmuch as I identify strongly as a Jew, it’s with the culture of my forefathers: Freud, Walter Benjamin, Trotsky—not politically, but as the Jewish culture that I like to claim as my heritage.
You have written on Jewish subjects in the past and are yourself Jewish, but have not been exclusively a Jewish writer. Why write a column for an explicity Jewish publication?
If there’s one thing that makes me incredibly proud to be a Jew even to the point of being a Jewish chauvinist, it’s realizing, when I’m in Israel, that there are more Jews fighting for Palestinian rights than there are, say, Chinese people fighting for Tibetan rights; or you could take any other oppressed situation. Even though I don’t write about Judaism, I write about religion, globalization, humanitarianism: And to me those are all quintessentially Jewish values.
Where are your favorite places to travel?
First of all India, which is probably the place I’ve spent more time other than the United States. I lived there in my mid-twenties.
Turkey is my favorite place. For pure holiday pleasure, there’s nowhere better.
Italy is my favorite place to go eat.
And Spain is where I’m going this afternoon.
In Treatment [Tablet Magazine]