Not many pop-rock artists are inspired by Franz Rosenzweig’s “Star of Redemption” or “Totality and Infinity” by Emmanuel Levinas, but then again, Ruth Gerson is not your usual singer-songwriter.
“Most often, I start writing a song because of something I am reading,” Gerson said. Given her academic background (she studied Jewish existentialism at Princeton), she likes to read ethically focused material, which “spurs the kinds of questions to write about,” she explained. “People ask if I am talking to a guy in my songs. I tell them, ‘No, I’m talking to God.’”
Gerson, who has seven albums to her credit, has opened for artists such as Dave Matthews, Suzanne Vega, Steven Wright and Roger McGuinn, and has appeared at The Newport Folk Festival, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, and South by Southwest, among other festivals. She has also made appearances on Late Night with Conan O’Brien and The Craig Ferguson Show.
In celebration of Jewish Book Month, The Arty Semite is partnering with the Jewish Education Service of North America (JESNA) and the Jewish Book Council to present “30 Days, 30 Texts,” a series of reflections by community leaders on the books that influenced their Jewish journeys. Today, Ari Weiss writes about “Nine Talmudic Readings” by Emmanuel Levinas.
I went book shopping during my first week of college in 1999. I had already bought the necessary books for my classes; my goal during this outing was to find new books and new ideas. Wandering through the aisles of the book store, I surprisingly came across a Talmud book in the philosophy section: “Nine Talmudic Readings” by Emmanuel Levinas. In 14 years of day school and yeshiva education, I had not heard of this Talmudical philosopher (or, perhaps a philosopher of Talmud). In the 10 years since, these nine postmodern readings of the Talmud have been central in thinking about the world, justice and Judaism.