What Is Rootless Cosmopolitan?

It’s the successor to the Tony Karon weblog and email commentaries that I sent out from 9/11 onward to a list that eventually grew to several hundred friends and colleagues in different parts of the world. Initially, they focused mostly on that slow-motion catastrophe known as the “war on terror” (including Iraq) but as this new state of affairs became our permanent reality, the commentaries also began covering more quotidian obsessions such as football (soccer!), pop culture and cuisine. It’s a kind of en famille commentary from an exasperated journalist watching the unfolding of a tragedy foretold. If Rootless Cosmopolitan were a cocktail, the recipe, with apologies to Gramsci, would be equal parts pessimism of the intellect and optimism of the will.

Explaining the Name

“Rootless Cosmopolitan” was Stalin’s euphemistic pejorative for “Jew” during his anti-Semitic purges of the late 1940s. But as an African Jew with roots in Eastern Europe and before that France, raised under the cultural aegis of the British empire but living in the great global transit lounge that is New York (still playing the odd game of tennis-ball cricket with Jamaicans or Kashmiris in the parks of Brooklyn), I’ll happily answer to “rootless cosmopolitan” – even wear it as a badge of honor.

Rootless cosmopolitanism may describe my experience of Jewishness, but its hardly exclusive to Jews: It applies equally to most of the people I love and respect from every corner of the planet who see themselves as citizens of the world, their identities defined by multiple affinities formed in their movement through the spaces between cultures, their instincts including a disdain for racism and cultural (and geopolitical) arrogance, and a tendency to understand and respond to events through a global prism, rather than via the ties of blood and soil. Whether they were raised Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or atheist; whether their origins are Jewish, Indian, English, Scottish, Irish, German, Chilean, Persian, Basque, Israeli, Palestinian, Australian, Serb, Libyan, Midwestern or what have you, they are always most at home among people of similar heart and spirit.

All of the great Jewish intellectual, philosophical, moral and cultural exemplars I can think of were products not of a separate Jewish existence, but of the Diaspora, our dispersal among the cultures of the world. Whether it’s Maimonides or Spinoza, Marx, Freud, Einstein or Derrida; Kafka or Primo Levi; Serge Gainsbourg or Daniel Barenboim; Lenny Bruce or Bob Dylan; Mike Leigh or Ali G; kneidlach or rugelach or so many of the brooding operatic tunes I heard in synagogue as a kid; all are products not of Jews living only among themselves, but of our interaction with diverse influences in the Diaspora.

I’m a proud South African, and a proud African. I spent my youth there and had the privilege of working for a decade as a full-time activist in the liberation struggle against apartheid – an experience I wouldn’t exchange for anything. Frankly, it was that experience, more than any other, that taught me how to be a Jew in the world, and affirmed my rootless cosmopolitan instincts. I’m not at all religious, and certainly no Zionist (Israel in no way “represents” me, nor do I believe that it should hold a place for me, and others like me who’ve chosen to live elsewhere — the majority of Jews, actually — at the expense of others.) But I am proudly Jewish, my own sense of the meaning of that term captured in that famous comment by the great rabbi Hillel, who when challenged to define Judaism while standing on one foot, said: “That which is hateful unto yourself, do not do unto others. All the rest is commentary.”

241 Responses to What Is Rootless Cosmopolitan?

  1. First of all I want to say awesome blog! I had a quick question which I’d like to ask if you do not mind.
    I was interested to know how you center yourself and clear
    your mind before writing. I’ve had difficulty clearing my thoughts in getting my thoughts out.
    I do enjoy writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are
    generally lost simply just trying to figure out how to
    begin. Any recommendations or tips? Cheers!

  2. I am really impressed together with your writing abilities as neatly as with the layout for your weblog.
    Is this a paid theme or did you modify it yourself?

    Either way keep up the excellent high quality writing, it is rare to peer a great weblog like this one nowadays..

    Feel free to surf to my page; ????? part time

  3. I read this paragraph completely concerning the comparison of latest and
    preceding technologies, it’s amazing article.

  4. Cheryle says:

    Obesity is caused by a bad habit of overeating or the choice of fatty foods,
    which eventually results in the accummulation of
    fat lining the blood vessels, thus stifling the blood
    circulation in the human body. RO treatment
    is becoming a common home treatment method for contaminated drinking water.

    Though there are many other methods that
    you can use to save your home from the invasions of
    vermin but a lot of them are costly and need credit from any monetary establishment.

  5. Pretty component to content. I just stumbled upon your site
    and in accession capital to assert that I acquire actually loved account your weblog posts.
    Any way I’ll be subscribing on your augment or even I fulfillment
    you get admission to persistently quickly.

    Feel free to visit my web blog ??????????????

  6. Heya i’m for the first time here. I found this board and I to find It really helpful &
    it helped me out much. I am hoping to provide something again and aid others such as you
    helped me.

    Here is my web-site; ?????????????

  7. Now I am going to do my breakfast, when having my breakfast coming over again to read additional

  8. ???????? says:

    Hello to all, how is all, I think every one is getting more from this web site,
    and your views are nice in support of new people.

    Feel free to surf to my webpage ????????

  9. Excellent blog right here! Also your site loads up very fast!

    What host are you using? Can I am getting your associate link on your host?

    I desire my web site loaded up as fast as yours lol

  10. It is usually at this point that the most junior
    member of the household suggests that maybe I should put more water in the bowl so
    that the plunger has half a chance of success.
    It is said that it is useful in the opening of drainage in some cases.

    When you pull the toilet handle, the flapper rises and
    allows the water in the tank to empty into the toilet.

    my web page copper repiping pompano beach real estate

  11. ???????? ??? says:

    Since its launch in 1998, Viagra has created an identity for itself in the healthcare
    field. Flexibility – A major advantage of the ED vacuum pump is that it may be used in conjunction with other therapies.
    Then along with some water the pill is easily washed down into the stomach.

  12. ?.????? says:

    Hello there, just became alert to your blog through Google, and found that
    it’s really informative. I am going to watch out for brussels.

    I’ll appreciate if you continue this in future.
    Lots of people will be benefited from your writing.

  13. Hi, after reading this amazing paragraph i am also cheerful to share my experience here with friends.

  14. Hello, i think that i saw you visited my blog
    thus i came to “return the favor”.I’m trying to find things
    to enhance my web site!I suppose its ok to use a few of your ideas!!

  15. tim m?ch says:

    Thanks , I’ve recently been looking for info about this topic for ages and yours is the best I’ve came upon so far. But, what in regards to the bottom line? Are you positive in regards to the source?|What i do not realize is in reality how you’re not really a lot more neatly-appreciated than you might be now. You’re so intelligent.

  16. Darian Braun says:

    I’ll let Becky, one of the veteran coconut oil users, explain this
    to you:. Scalp massage promotes hair growth by reducing stress and tension. Commercial
    shaving creams usually consist of some sort of animal-based or hydrogenated vegetable-based fat, such as stearic acid, chemicals meant to create the
    right texture and p – H, fragrances and dyes, and water.

  17. I’m gone to say to my little brother, that he should also pay a quick visit this weblog
    on regular basis to take updated from hottest reports.

  18. It’s in point of fact a nice and helpful piece of info. I’m happy
    that you shared this helpful info with us. Please keep us up to date like this.
    Thanks for sharing.

  19. Make your subject more cushtyby introducing a fewmore or less a professionalp. Give a woman a flower to play with or a person a football. Give a bride and groom a fewbubble gum and feature them blow bubbles together,wholesale prada sunglasses sale. you don’t actually need to containthe professionalp within the frame in a fewcases however there could also be shots that figure out well with them.Be selective concerning the weather that you justinclude for your photo. Go ahead and take away anythin

  20. Are you wondering how Amazon can sell a device that can get online without monthly fees
    or a contract that locks you in. As incentive you will get free line charge per month.
    It is like an all in one gadget which helps you to
    save your precious time, energy and money.

  21. Scotty says:

    HCG is the most effective, permanent weight loss program to both men and women,
    in particular, those who have given up hope in their journey to permanently lose weight.
    There are now a great number of weight loss blogs that now exist all over
    the internet. It helps you lose weight swift and you’ll not be required to carry out physical exercise.

  22. google says:

    Excellent way of telling, and fastidious article to obtain information concerning my presentation subject matter,
    which i am going to deliver in school.

    Look into my web site; google

  23. Hello there, just became aware of your blog through Google, and
    found that it’s truly informative. I’m gonna watch out for brussels.
    I will appreciate if you continue this in future.

    Numerous people will be benefited from your writing.

    My website … cleaning service

  24. To set up into real photography networking, you are going to need memory cards, PC cards, Compact Flashes, Smart Media, Card Readers, Adaptors, Floppy Drive,air jordan femme pas cher, Zip Discs, a different storage mediums, image-edit software,chaussures vans, camera accessories and so on. As one example of further, booking an inexpensive flight to Vancouver 4 months before your actual date of departure can continue to grant you other enticing offers like hotels,lunette ray ban femme, airport se

  25. Hola ! Alguien en mi Myspace Página web con nosotros, así que vine a comprobarlo.
    Definitivamente estoy disfrutando amando la información. Estoy bookmarking
    y estaré twitteando esto a mis seguidores! Wonderful blog y increíble diseño y estilo .

  26. Ahoj, vždy Kdysi jsem zkontrolovat internetová P?ísp?vk? tady na ?asných ranních hodinách v
    svítání, jako i love do dozv?d?t více a

  27. Appreciate the recommendation. Let me try it out.

    Feel free to visit my website … check this out

  28. Dnes jsem šel do p?ímo u pláže s mými d?ti.
    Našel jsem mušle a dal to na m?j 4 roky starýdcery a ?ekl: “M?žete slyšet oceán, když dáte to do ucha.” Ona kladen shell k
    uchu a vyk?ikl. Tam byl poustevnický krab uvnit? a
    stiskl jí do ucha. Nikdy se chce vrátit! LoL Vím, že to je zcela zcela mimo téma, ale musel jsem to n?komu ?íct!

  29. To informacje jest warto uwaga wszystkich. Gdy mog? dowiedzie? si?

  30. As inequitable tax burdens, increased government intrusion and expanded entitlement programs
    squeeze the life out of an anemic economy, retirees unable to
    survive on their retirement incomes are headed back to
    the work force. The reason: The holder of a conventional bond is taking the risk of
    getting chewed up by unanticipated inflation. But Lee Marvin,
    in Serling’s episode of “Steel,” is quite another matter entirely, even by way
    of the most anciently impressive of standards; just as, to be sure, his performance,
    in The Dirty Dozen, was no less a masterpiece of the greatest refinement in style.

    Have a look at my page: commercial real estate miami beach

  31. Pretty! This was an extremely wonderful article.

    Thank you for providing this information.

  32. Po przeczytaniu tedgo my?la?em, ?e to do?? informacyjny.
    Doceniam ci? po?wi?ci? troch? czasu i wysi?ku i energia
    po?o?y? ta zawarto?? razem. I po raz kolejny znale?? ja
    osobi?cie wydatki du?o czas jak czytanie i komentowanie.
    Ale co z tego, ?e to jeszcze warto!

  33. Guadalupe says:

    I see you share interesting content here, you can earn some additional money, your blog has huge potential, for the monetizing method, just search in google –
    K2 advices how to monetize a website

  34. europa car says:


    After you have connected the hoses, turn your engine back on and see if that was
    the cause of the engine vibration noise. An American classic,
    the Corvette has always been a supercar boiled down to its raw

  35. Your style is so unique in comparison to other people I’ve read stuff from.
    Thanks for posting when you have the opportunity, Guess I’ll just bookmark this site.

    My homepage; check out here

  36. bewonderen van de tijd en energie die u in uw blog en gedetailleerde informatie die u offerte .
    Het is geweldig goed over een blog te komen elke keer in een tijdje dat is
    niet hetzelfde ongewenste informatie. Groot lezen! Ik heb gered uw site
    en ik toevoegen uw RSS-feeds op mijn Google-account.
    Houd Dit gaat u, great job!

  37. I’m not that much of a online reader to be honest but your blogs really
    nice, keep it up! I’ll go ahead and bookmark your site to
    come back down the road. Cheers

  38. I do not even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was good.
    I do not know who you are but certainly you are going to a famous blogger if you are not already 😉 Cheers!

  39. C’è sicuramente un sacco di conoscere numero. Mi piace tutto l’ hai fatto.

  40. Whats up are using WordPress for your blog platform? I’m new to the blog world but I’m trying to get started and set up my own. Do you need any
    coding expertise to make your own blog? Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  41. If you are going for best contents like me, only pay a quick visit this site all the
    time since it provides quality contents, thanks

  42. Can I simply just say what a comfort to find someone who actually knows what
    they are discussing on the internet. You certainly understand how to
    bring an issue to light and make it important. More people have
    to check this out and understand this side of the story.

    I can’t believe you aren’t more popular because you certainly have
    the gift.

  43. ecoexuma.com says:

    Then I started digging into some reviews of the S4 on the internet and
    hearing a lot of pretty wild stuff. Take a look at the video tutorials – you’ll take about 1 hour to master all
    the bells and whistles of the interface. It makes no difference to the performance, the principle being that the color of the lens blocks greens
    and browns, which are the most common foliage and
    rough colors, and sharpens the color of the ball against the now dull background, making it much easier to spot.

  44. I like the helpful information you supply to your articles.
    I will bookmark your weblog and take a look at again right here regularly.
    I’m slightly certain I’ll be told many new stuff right right
    here! Good luck for the next!

  45. I’m amazed, I have to admit. Rarely do I encounter a blog that’s both equally educative
    and amusing, and without a doubt, you’ve hit the nail on the
    head. The issue is something that too few men and women are speaking intelligently about.
    I am very happy I found this in my search for something regarding this.

  46. This blog was… how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I have found somrthing that helpe me.Cheers!

  47. ucdeal.com says:

    Jo comes down with her bag and says she’s heading to the
    locker room is by no means advocating avoidance riad marrakech alilia
    of orange of its utilization.

    My blog post :: Riad marrakech wedding; ucdeal.com,

  48. At this time I am ready to do my breakfast, later than having my breakfast coming again to read other

  49. The system’s production of pertinent data and clear performance
    measurements enables operators to run their business efficiently and
    plan strategically. Consult with your physician about doctor prescribed medicines
    and put together a support group. Vegetables and fruits are excellent sources of
    vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

  50. If some one wishes to be updated with most recent technologies then he must be
    pay a visit this website and be up to date every day.

    Here is my web blog dutch gold coins

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *