I had the privilege of hosting Professor Ilan Stavans on campus last week for the annual Harry Spindel Memorial lecture. While I appreciate coverage of the lecture in the Orient, I am concerned how the article emphasizes a singular, and rather alarming, interpretation of the lecture rather than a more complete account of general content. I spent more than a half-hour interviewing one-on-one with the reporter, but my perspective is completely omitted, as are any other faculty, staff, students or community members with differing impressions. First and foremost, I have reached out to leaders of Hillel to facilitate a conversation about the lecture to address any lingering concerns. I also invite readers to view the full lecture, available to stream online here.
I am confident that Ilan Stavans would never promote the idea that Jews should hide their identities. In fact, his research on crypto-Jews in the Hispanic world demonstrates rather an opposite effect: the persistence of identity carried from generation to generation even in the face of extreme oppression and violence and a general coalition building between minority groups over time in a variety of political and geographic contexts. The case of Luis de Carvajal the Younger and the reemergence of his 16th-century manuscript (detailed in this NY Times article) is just one of many examples he references in the talk, as well as the re-imagining of this historical figure in his graphic novel El Iluminado.
Margaret Boyle, Associate Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures