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Remembering Jules

- By Bruce Laurie

(Jules Chametzky. Photo by Jerome Liebling, courtesy of Rachel Liebling)

Jules and I were colleagues before we were friends. We met in 1973 when we joined about a dozen faculty, aggrieved by budget cuts and administrative incompetence more broadly, on an organizing committee aiming to unionize faculty and librarians on the UMass Amherst campus, which evolved into the Massachusetts Society of Professors (MSP). I got to know his academic work a year later when UMass Press asked me to review the manuscript of his biography of the Jewish radical writer and journalist, Abraham Cahan. We shared an occasional drink and then drew closer together as our union commitment deepened. I helped convince him to become the union’s third president (1979-1980), serving as his vice president...


Broadening the Canon

- By Werner Sollors

(A Chametzky family photograph, Brooklyn, NY, 1942. Jules Chametzky, fourteen years old, is standing in the back row, second from the right, next to his father and behind his mother.)

From “Broadening the Canon, or Talmudic Faulknerism: Reading Chametzky, Knowing Jules” (MR 44 1/2, 2003).

When we met in Berlin he adopted me as a student and ultimately became my Doktorvater. He invited me to team-teach the course "Broadening the Canon," my own first introduction to a broader overview of American ethnic literature. (By the way, he had limitless patience with the students, whether they were superrevolutionary, linguis­tically challenged, or both.) He would always be commenting on something he "happened to be reading" at the moment...


For Jules, in Appreciation

- By Esther Terry

(Jules Chametzky. Photo by Jerome Liebling, courtesy of Rachel Liebling)

By the second half of the twentieth century, apartheid was so deeply embedded in the national culture that the divide between black and white, codified in law, was fully embraced by institutions from pulpit to prison—and nowhere more so than in colleges and universities where, whether in fear of the consequences of crossing that American Rubicon or in sympathy with its tenets, white academicians (in all but a handful of exceptions) remained silent in the face of what W.E.B. Du Bois had said would be the problem of the twentieth century. Indeed, at that time, so few had acted in defiance of the prevailing ethos of silence and seeming accommodation that when, in 1959, from Amherst, Massachusetts, the...


in honor of garlic cloves. . .

- By Sabine Broeck

(Jules Chametzky. Photo by Jerome Liebling, courtesy of Rachel Liebling)

in honor of garlic cloves
baked whole
in rosemary olive oil


that eating together could be
an art
which Americans have perfected

that auld lang syne could come in versions unexpected

that canons are what you make of them

that living in generations brings gracefulness to life

that wisdom does not intimidate

that skin is in the eye of the beholder

that one Jew was personally against the murder
of Jesus, German killing fields, Palestinian revenge and
Zionist “Landnahme” –
all in one breath

that jokes may be sophisticated

that a parent must not be biological



My American Father

- By Ilan Stavans

(Jules Chametzky. Photo by Ned Gray)

Just a couple of days after I arrived to Amherst, Jules Chametzky called to invite me for lunch. My wife and oldest son (the youngest was born three years later) were still in New York. The following day, we met at a local restaurant. Right away, he greeted me in Yiddish, my childhood language. Still a stranger in a new place, that instantly made me feel rooted.

I remember loving his Brooklyn accent from the start. It felt zaftig. It was unlike the Yiddish I had grown up with in Mexico, more earthly. We talked about Abraham Cahan, Anzia Yezierska, Israel Joshua and Isaac Bashevis Singer, and I forget what else. And about family, of course: where our respective ancestors had come from, what year they had immigrated, to where, and so on....

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