Horn, Bickart Conversation Highlights Federation CRC Meeting

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Article reprinted with permission from Cleveland Jewish News

Author Dara Horn and Rabbi Noah Bickart. CJN Photo / Courtney Byrnes

Author Dara Horn discussed her book “People Love Dead Jews: Reports from a Haunted Present” with John Carroll University assistant professor Rabbi Noah Bickart during the Jewish Federation of Cleveland community relations committee’s 75th annual meeting.

After taking place virtually last year, this year’s meeting March 8 at Green Road Synagogue in Beachwood featured a hybrid model with about 120 in-person attendees and about 250 screens logged in virtually to the discussion on contemporary antisemitism.

“It’s really wonderful,” Horn told the Cleveland Jewish News about the return to an in-person event. “I think this is the CRC’s first event that they’ve done in person through the pandemic, so I’m really honored to be here to be in person myself and to be able to celebrate that return.”

Horn has previously been to Cleveland a few times to speak at the Mandel Jewish Community Center’s Cleveland Jewish Book Festival.

The CRC’s annual meeting began with short speeches from Rabbi Binyamin Blau of Green Road Synagogue, Jennifer Tramer, who co-chaired the meeting with Kevin Lurie, J. David Heller, board chair of the Federation, and Gregg Levine, chair of the CRC and a member of the Cleveland Jewish Publication Company Board of Directors.

About 120 people attended the event at Green Road Synagogue in Beachwood. CJN Photo / Courtney Byrnes

Heller presented certificates to past chairs of the CRC in attendance to honor their work throughout the years of the committee’s existence. Levine then gave a year in review of the committee’s initiatives in 2021, before Tramer introduced the evening’s speakers.

Horn and Bickart came to the front of the room to engage in a discussion around the author’s book and contemporary antisemitism. They discussed the title, “People Love Dead Jews” and the stories shared that are supposed to make the reader feel uncomfortable and even angry about the injustices explained.

“What I’ve really discovered in publishing this book is that there are so many people of goodwill who want to be good allies and maybe don’t have the education to do that,” Horn told the CJN. “So I’m hoping with sharing this book to build that possibility of education for Jewish and non-Jewish readers.”

Following Horn and Bickart’s discussion, they opened it up for questions from the in-person and virtual audience, and then exited to the social hall for dessert – an opportunity to buy Horn’s book and have it signed.

Past chairs of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland's community relations committee. CJN Photo / Courtney Byrnes

Many of the attendees came to the event excited to hear from Horn and were quite familiar with her work.

“Dara Horn is an incredible writer and she has a wonderful podcast. She does a lot of work with Tablet Magazine and I wouldn’t miss it,” David Neumann, a member of Beth Israel-The West Temple in Cleveland, told the CJN. “The minute I saw that she was going to be here in Cleveland, I wouldn’t miss it.”

Dara Horn signs a book for David Neumann. CJN Photo / Courtney Byrnes

One topic Horn and Bickart covered in their discussion was an idea about the narrative arc of stories based in Christianity that have a happy ending, contrasted with Yiddish stories based in endurance and resiliency.

“I was very interested in what she said about (how) we live in this Christian culture and so the stories that we are used to being exposed to is a Christian motif, and that traditional Jewish stories, historically, have not had that arc,” Rabbi Rachel Brown, who works as the educational director at Temple Beth Shalom in Hudson and Congregation Shaarey Tikvah in Beachwood, told the CJN. “I found that fascinating.”

According to her website, Horn received her doctorate in comparative literature from Harvard University, studying Yiddish and Hebrew. She has taught courses in these subjects at Sarah Lawrence College and Yeshiva University, and held the Gerald Weinstock Visiting Professorship in Jewish Studies at Harvard. She has lectured for audiences in hundreds of venues throughout North America, Israel, and Australia. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and four children.

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