I first encountered Bernie Rosenberg in Social Science B at Brandeis, where we read mimeographed chapters of Max Lerner’s forthcoming book on American civilization, and Max sat on the stage of the largest lecture hall on campus and talked, with Leonard Levy on one side and Bernie on the other. Since Lerner was “the book,” Levy and Bernie were “the bookends”— earnestness on one side, skepticism on the other. I was assigned to Levy’s section, in recognition, no doubt, of my own undergraduate earnestness.
So I didn’t get to know Bernie until I started going to Dissent meetings. I sat in those meetings with awe. That early group of editors was remarkable in their ability to define a political position . . . and demolish all immediately adjacent positions. Manny Geltman, who died last year, did this with an undertone of gentleness. Bernie did it with a wit so sharp that most of the people whose positions he demolished never knew how deeply they’d been cut....
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