Thursday, August 11, 2011

Tipsy on Books - A New Job and a New Blog

I mentioned previously that I have been blogging less because of my new-found social life. There was another reason for this. In July I started working as the Judaica book-cataloger for Eric Chaim Kline, Bookseller in Panorama City north of Los Angeles. This is a high end not your usual used book store (though I love shopping at those places); we handle a lot of antique and academic books. Eric is a great boss, who, in the few weeks I have been here, has taught me a bunch. What continuously strikes me about him is that he truly loves books (perhaps more than is good for a man in the business of trying to "rid" himself of them.) The greatest part of the job is that I get paid to handle all sorts of really interesting books and type in descriptions of their content and condition onto a computer. There is an inventory here of over 250,000 books so the quicker we put them into the system the quicker we can sell them.

When I first spoke to Eric before the summer about taking on this job, I suggested to him that, as part of my job, I could be his official blogger. I showed Eric some of my posts here on Izgad and he really liked the idea. So I have now started Tipsy on Books: Dispatches from the Tavern. It is going to be similar to the more academic posts I do here. It will be informative, mildly provocative with a generous sample of tongue-in-cheek. The difference is that I will be focusing on material here in this store.  So I welcome all of my readers to visit my new blog and to check out the Eric Chaim Kline, Bookseller website.  I am confident that this is going to be an even better blog. Now, instead of just me, my brain and my big mouth, it is going to be me, my brain, my big mouth and all the stuff I get to put my hands on.

Now for a bit of business. No Tipsy on Books is not going to be about trying to sell you stuff, though every book I discuss is on sale and there will be a link to the book's page on the store website if anyone wishes to buy it. That being said Eric is sponsoring the blog. As with any sponsorship if this does not lead to more sales then he is going to have to cancel this project and put me back to just book cataloging. If on the other hand Tipsy is successful then perhaps he will allow me to devote more time to it, allowing me to write more posts.

Speaking to other bloggers; if Tipsy succeeds then perhaps other businesses will take up the practice of sponsoring their own bloggers. That would be good for the entire blogging community. If you put up a link for me I would greatly appreciate it.

Eric has been kind enough to give me a job and take a chance on an unconventional advertising project so I would appreciate it if everyone could check out his site and see if there is something they could purchase. (If you mention that Tipsy sent you then all the better.) I admit that most of our collection is fairly expensive. That being said we do have top of the line material that you are not going to easily find in other places. 

It is not my intention to retire Izgad. I intend to still occasionally post material here that would not fit in with Tipsy. All past posts will remain up for your reading enjoyment. That being said, I will not be posting regularly so I will take this opportunity to say goodbye (at least for now). It has been a wonderful 4.5 years of blogging. Here is to better things, both in my personal life and to blogging.


Friday, August 5, 2011

Speaking at a Chabad House (About Messianism No Less)

In South Pasadena, where Miriam and I are living, there is not much in the way of Orthodox life. We have a Chabad house 3.5 miles away where we pray. It is a small, but very diverse group of people. They have been very good to Miriam in the past and are now very accepting of me. I am happy to be part of this family. While most of the people there became religious through Chabad, as with most Chabad places, beyond the two Chabad rabbis and their families it is not a Chabad community.

A few weeks ago someone put forth the idea to me that, as a Jewish historian, I should give a class on Jewish history possibly on what I am writing about. I am an academic historian, writing about messianism; how many sentences do you think it is going to take before the rabbi pulls the plug on me? Somehow this person managed to convince me to go for it and, even more surprisingly, convinced the rabbi to give me a platform. So this past Sabbath, I gave an "Introduction to Jewish Messianism." I guess the biggest shocker was that over twenty people stuck around in the afternoon to listen to me. It was the sort of lecture that I like giving. It went on for about an hour before tapering off into an informal question and answer session. I took a number of questions while I was speaking, which sent me off on lots of side tangents. The problem with this is that it sometimes makes me difficult to follow. I try to balance this with a sense of humor. If people have no idea what I am talking about they should at least think it is funny, whatever it is I am actually talking about. Well apparently everybody liked my presentation so it looks like we may do this again, perhaps make it a monthly event.

Believe it or not, I do have a plan as to how to keep myself from being too offensive. Keep everything theoretical. I am simply reporting on what is going on in my field. Phrase things in questions. I am simply explaining some of the major debates going on and offering points for consideration. Above all else, I should avoid talking about Chabad messianism. As a historian, I should have no problem keeping things in the eighteenth century or beforehand.

Ok, so I did talk about Chabad messianism. I raised the question of calamity based messianism; do messianic movements come about in response to major physical disasters? Isaac Abarbanel writing three books on messianism several years after the expulsion of 1492 and as the Jews of Portugal were being forcibly baptized sounds like calamity messianism. Jews in Poland responding to the Cossack attacks of 1648 by embracing Sabbatai Sevi in 1666 might be calamity messianism. (Of course, that would still not explain why Jews everywhere else did too.) Why did Chabad in the 1980s and 90s turn messianic? What great physical threat did Lubavitchers living in the United States at the end of the twentieth-century face? If you are going to say that this was in response to the Holocaust then why did the Lubavitcher Rebbe not come out in the 1950s with his "bring Moshiach" campaign? (The previous Rebbe, in the 1940s, started a messianic campaign, but it faded away for several decades.)

So no trouble yet. One of the attendees has asked me if, for my next lecture, I could talk about traditional Jewish claims that there will be no Messiah or that all messianic prophecies were already fulfilled with King Hezekiah and the Second Temple. What could possibly go wrong with this?         

Monday, August 1, 2011

Engagement Party

Miriam and I are having an engagement party on August 14th. If any of my readers from the Los Angeles area wish to come feel free to contact me and ask.