What if?

What if?

Wednesday marked the 366th anniversary of Baruch Spinoza’s excommunication by the Amsterdam Jewish community. But what if, instead of finding deep theological questions that undermined traditional Jewish belief, the 23-year-old had found true love in the person of a young widow from a Lithuanian shtetl?

That is the premise of “A Face That Launched a Thousand Ships,” a story by Milton Verskin slated to appear in “Other Covenants: Alternate Histories of the Jewish People,” an anthology now seeking funding on Kickstarter.

The anthology’s editors, Rabbi Andrea D. Lobel and Mark Shainblum, received the story as part of their open call for submissions.

The genre of Jewish alternate history might be said to date as far back as the Passover Haggadah, which addresses the question, “What if the Holy One had not taken our ancestors from Egypt?” The genre’s highest profile came in the two classic novels which became recent television series, “The Man in the High Castle” and “The Plot Against America,” with their retelling of different versions of World War II.

Interestingly, while “Other Covenants” has four stories where the “What If?” pivoted on the Holocaust (some with better results for the world’s Jews, and some with worse), it has three stories that pivot on Joseph Stalin’s death being either sooner or later than it was in the real world. Take that as a sign that more than 30 years after the fall of the Iron Curtain, Soviet Jewry and its history has firmly returned to the Jewish mainstream.

Readers of “Other Covenants” will also find classic science fiction feats of astronautical engineering (one story features Ilan Ramon leading space shuttle repairs; another has kabbalah-powered space golems), and a few retellings of biblical stories, including a piece by veteran science fiction author Robert Silverberg that provides a 9,800 word answer to the Haggadah’s question, featuring a 20th century exodus from Egypt.

With rockets.

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