It is with unmitigated sadness that I must join the chorus of the tearful mourning the passage of Robert Wistrich who died last night in Rome at the age of 70.
Like Barry Rubin, another lion who passed away recently (and far too young), Wistrich was a shocking powerhouse of productivity.
But while Rubin’s staggering output fell into the category of journalism and analysis, Wistrich was first and foremost a scholar. And in an era when some people bearing that label might spend their careers hocking one book (or one idea taking the form of many books, only one of which ever needed to have been written), Wistrich took on the huge (and – sadly – ever-relevant) topic of anti-Semitism, both dissecting it as a scholar and fighting it as a champion of the Jewish people.
Wistrich’s writing has impacted my thinking for as long as I can remember. And his recent masterpiece, From Ambivalence to Betrayal (which some of you might recall served as the basis for a five-part review a couple of years back) helped clarify mine (and, I hope, other peoples’) thinking about one of the most vexing political issues of our time: the prominence of anti-Semitism on the Left.
If you share my belief that ideas ultimately have more impact on the world than do mobs of clashing activists (or even armies, navies and air forces), then the body of scholarship Wistrich left behind will be continuing his life’s work for decades to come, hopefully contributing to a world where the phenomenon he studied and wrote about his entire career is no longer needlessly chewing up lives across the planet.
So Rest in Peace, Robert Wistrich, and rest assured that those you inspired and informed are ready to carry on the fight to the end.