Rebecca Lesses was born in Boston, Massachusetts. She received her degree in religion from Harvard University, and has been teaching in the Jewish Studies Program at Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York since 2001. Her speciality is the study of early Jewish magic and mysticism. She has spent several years living in Israel since the late 1980s, and visits there frequently. Rebecca blogs at Mystical Politics.
Why do you blog? > I began to blog out of frustration with the political atmosphere I was surrounded by - the American academic liberal-left's reflexive opposition to anything the Bush administration did. My political opinions have shifted somewhat, but I still blog mostly out of the desire to say something political.
What has been your best blogging experience? > Getting in contact with some of the Middle Eastern bloggers – people that I would never have known anything about were it not for blogs.
Who are your intellectual heroes? > George Orwell; Anne Applebaum.
What are you reading at the moment? > Todd Endelman's book on the history of Jews in England.
What is your favourite movie? > Shrek - not because it's the best movie ever, but because it's so comforting.
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > Feminism. When I was in my teens, I was opposed to it, but then I came slowly to realize how important it was for my life - as the vehicle to change society to take women seriously.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > I don't know if this is a philosophical thesis – but in the current political climate I think the pattern of thought that it's most important to fight is the belief that there are hidden conspiracies that run our lives.
Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > Stanley Milgram's Obedience to Authority, which I read in college - it taught me how easy it is for human beings to be convinced to act brutally against others while at the same time being convinced that they've done the right thing.
What is your favourite piece of political wisdom? > That the best is the enemy of the good - in the sense that holding out for the best may mean letting the worst succeed. Example in point: those people who voted for Ralph Nader in 2000 instead of Al Gore because Gore was not perfect on environmental issues.
If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > An immediate commitment to combating global warming.
If you could choose anyone, from any walk of life, to be President, who would you choose? > Barack Obama, who actually has a good chance for it.
What would you do with the UN? > For one thing, I would abolish the UN Human Rights Commission, which is a travesty. I think the permanent membership of the Security Council should probably be expanded, although if so there would be a need to work on whether those nations would still have veto power.
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > Unfortunately, I think that there are so many - in the long run, probably the political instability that may result from the environmental consequences of global warming.
Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > I hope that it's yet to come.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > Do your best not to become embittered by life, even if it's rotten.
Do you think you could ever be married to, or in a long-term relationship with, someone with radically different political views from your own? > I think so, although we would have to be able to talk things out calmly and not take ourselves too seriously.
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > Intellectual honesty.
What personal fault do you most dislike? > A tendency to conspiratorial thinking.
In what circumstances would you be willing to lie? > In order to save lives - of myself and others.
What commonly enjoyed activities do you regard as a waste of time? > Watching reality television.
What, if anything, do you worry about? > On the personal scale, the usual academic anxieties; on the global scale, the future of Israel and the rapidly growing effects of global warming.
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > Jerusalem.
What do you like doing in your spare time? > I like to read, garden, read other people's blogs, go swimming, hang out with friends.
What is your most treasured possession? > I'd have to say at this moment it's my computer.
What talent would you most like to have? > The ability to fall asleep immediately and not to be woken up by noise; the ability to learn foreign languages quickly.
Who is your favourite comedian or humorist? > Jon Stewart.
Which baseball team do you support? > The Red Sox.
If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be? > Gershom Scholem, Glueckel of Hameln, Rabbi Akiba.
What animal would you most like to be? > A cat - but only a pampered one, who was allowed to go in and out at pleasure.
[The normblog profile is a weekly Friday morning feature. A list of all the profiles to date, and the links to them, can be found here.]