David Mandler, Ph.D.

Thoughts, feelings, reactions to events in the world. Hungarian, Jewish, assimilationist, Orthodox, American issues.

Discount Code for My Newly Released Vambéry Book

My book entitled Arminius Vambéry and the British Empire: Between East and West was released on July 22nd, 2016. If you’d like to purchase a copy, please note that a discount coupon for 30% is available. In addition, it would be wonderful if you circulated the flyer about my book (see below) amongst your friends and acquaintances who may be interested in identity politics, Orientalism, Jewish identity, Zionism, and Hungarian identity framed by Victorian culture etc. Your suggesting the book to your local library via email for purchase would also be wonderful.

You may order the book directly from the publisher’s website with 30% discount:


The code you need to enter for the 30% discount is LEX30AUTH16.


My Forthcoming Book: Arminius Vambéry and the British Empire


It is with great pleasure and gratitude that I announce the publication date of my book as July 16, 2016.

I believe the subject of this book is especially timely. Questions about British self-identity in face of Great Britain’s decision to leave the E.U. along with current issues about the nature of Islam as a religion and as a manifestation of geo-political aspirations are again in the forefront of public discourse. My book may be read as a scholarly examination of these questions (and many more) as they appeared in the 19th century.

Publisher’s Summary

This book frames the fascinating life and influential works of the Hungarian Orientalist, Arminius Vambéry (1832–1913) within the context of nineteenth century identity politics and contemporary criticisms of Orientalism. Based on extensive research, the book authoritatively presents a comprehensive narrative of Arminius Vambéry’s multiple identities as represented in Hungary and in Great Britain. The author traces Vambéry’s development from a marginalized Jewish child to a recognized authority on Hungarian ethnogenesis as well as on Central Asian and Turkish geopolitical developments. Throughout the book, the reader meets Vambéry as the Hungarian traveler to Central Asia, the British and Ottoman secret agent, the mostly self-taught professor of Oriental languages, the political pundit, and the highly sought after guest lecturer in Great Britain known for his fierce Russophobe pronouncements. The author devotes special attention to the period that transformed Vambéry from a linguistically talented but penniless Hungarian Jewish youth into a pioneering traveler in the double-disguise of a Turkish effendi masquerading as a dervish to Central Asia in 1863–64. He does so because Vambéry’s published observations of an arena still closed to Europeans facilitated his emergence as a colorful personality and a significant authority on Central Asia and Turkey in Great Britain for the next fifty years. In addition, the book also devotes significant space to Vambéry’s dynamic relationship to his most famous student, Ignác Goldziher (1850–1921), who is considered to be one of the founders of modern Islamic Studies. Lastly, Vambéry’s impact on Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula, is also explored.

                                                What Four Scholars Have to Say

Arminius Vambéry is one of the most fascinating figures in modern Jewish history, and David Mandler has provided us with a magnificent depiction of his remarkable life as atraveler to Muslim lands, a linguist, and the toast of nineteenth-century London high society. (Susannah Heschel, Dartmouth College)

David Mandler’s exceptionally fine book is a critical biography of Arminius Vambéry, a polymath linguist, traveler, and diplomatic adviser in nineteenth-century Europe. The book offers a human story of this linguistic genius as he grew up in segregated areas of Austria-Hungary but came to know Sultans and Queen Victoria. It also provides an intellectual history of Vambéry’s development of Middle Eastern studies and linguistics, placing him very interestingly in relation to later Orientalists. Dr. Mandler also gives us a compelling story of Vambéry’s importance in nineteenth-century diplomatic and literary relations. This is a sophisticated work that should make a name for Vambéry and for his author—in Vambéry’s case restoring him to his nineteenth-century brilliance and importance. (John Maynard, New York University)

This book challenges and refines Edward Said’s thesis in Orientalism by demonstrating the fundamental role played in the field by the Jewish Hungarian Orientalists Arminius Vambéry and Ignác Goldziher. Their Eastern European origins—in the context of a cultural milieu set on the borders of Europe and Asia in which Islamic and Christian traditions were in certain ways quite closely intertwined—meant that their Orientalist scholarship was not constructed in the absence of the human and social reality that it described, nor was it consciously or unconsciously motivated in terms of an over-riding imperial politics. Dr. Mandler’s important book thus transforms the widespread view that sees Orientalism simply as the West’s construction of the East, and it demonstrates the importance of Hungarian scholarship for European Islamic Studies. (Robert J. C. Young, New York University)

By digging into Hungarian-language sources, David Mandler has revealed a much more nuanced picture of the ‘oriental’ Orientalist Arminius Vambéry. Mandler does a fine job of correcting previous indictments of Vambéry’s ‘charlatanism’ (including that of the great Arabist Ignác Goldziher) and shows us a Vambéry who was, for his day, a well-informed and sympathetic Islamist and an insightful liberal commentator on European political and religious affairs. (Suzanne Marchand, Louisiana State University)

The book is already available for pre-ordering. It is on amazon.com https://www.amazon.com/Arminius-Vamb%C3%A9ry-British-Empire-Between/dp/149853824X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1467740106&sr=8-1&keywords=David+Mandler

The book would make a good (early) birthday present to anyone interested in books of this kind. It would also help if you let your local libraries know about this book and asked them to acquire a copy.

See the flyer below from Lexington Books for an additional 30% off the listing price.The link below will take you to the publisher’s website where you can enter the code.


The code you need to enter for the 30% discount is LEX30AUTH16.


A Poem for Holocaust Remembrance Day, 2016

Red Danube

I see my grandmother
Lying on her hospital bed
Thinking she’s back home
The youngest of eight

Walking an hour each way to school
With three girls and two boys
Making jokes
Throwing rocks into mossy ponds
Her feet massaged in the evenings
Dressed up as Queen Esther
At the carnival
Sitting in Papa’s soft lap
Embraced by the puffs of smoke
Coming from his pipe
Listening to Berty
Making love
With his violin
The challah in the oven

She lies in her bed
Staring at he ceiling
Nurses cold unfeeling
Waiting for her to die

She doesn’t talk to anyone
Her thoughts are incoherent
The light in the room disturbs her eyes
The room sinks under her

Her mother sings a lullaby

Bye bye world
I’m leaving you behind
The blue Danube turns red
Berty’s shoes floating
Upside down

The violin pulls her away
Floating above the tiny shoes
She’s lost in eager silence

April 30, 2015
© David Mandler

David Mandler’s short story, “The Loft,” is available on amazon.com.  http://www.amazon.com/Loft-David-Mandler-ebook/dp/B00E4WONNA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1462375125&sr=8-2&keywords=David+Mandler

The Singer

The Singer

If you have nothing wise to say,
Sing! Nobody cares about the lyrics.
With that, she turned around in bed
And slept away the rest of the day.

So he sang and sang and sang until
A horse came trotting up to his window.
A contrarian by nature, the brute neighed
Wordless tunes that could all but kill.

He smiled, and vowed to sing some more
About alien love, laughter in losing battles,
Frustrated frosty young men, and nothingness
Until his hoarse notes refused to soar.

When they took off his silver hat, bozo nose,
Flushed away the thickened white face paint,
Shaved his bowie hair, and removed the pants,
His skeletal nakedness spoke in silent wisdom.

© David Mandler


The Skullcap: to Wear it or Not to Wear it?

Following a spate of physical attacks on Jewish men wearing skullcaps in Marseilles, the head of the Jewish community, Avi Ammar, has suggested that Jewish men should stop donning skullcaps in public.

While I completely understand the sentiment, I cannot help but feel that this kind of response will only embolden those who seek to hurt Jews in France and all over the world. Nothing pleases Islamic fundamentalists more than seeing their violent actions against Jews and “Crusaders” bear fruit. Lone wolf attacks against Jews in France have occurred with increasing frequency in the past few years. These attacks were not exclusively directed against Jews who wore skullcaps in public. The hostage taking and eventual murder of four people in Paris at a kosher supermarket last January was a deliberate attack on Jews as well. Yet, nobody suggested that Jews stop frequenting kosher supermarkets in order to prevent future attacks on Jews.

In a society that feels solidarity with all its citizens, a groundswell of support for victims of terrorism or bigoted, racist persecution should be expected. There is ample historical precedence for this in Europe. While the story that King Christian X of Denmark vowed to wear the yellow star if the Nazis forced Danish Jews to don this most hated symbol of religious persecution is apparently a myth, it is true that Denmark went out of its way to protect and save its Jewish citizens from certain death at the hand of the German Nazis during World War II.

Far from discouraging Jews from wearing skullcaps, Jews who normally don’t wear them should begin to do so en masse as a result of these unprecedented attacks on freedom of expression in Europe. Moreover, a mass solidarity movement with victims of religious fanaticism should form with a clear message: we will not be cowed into submission. What an inspiring symbol of solidarity it would be for people of all religious backgrounds to wear the kippah, the skullcap for a day in Marseilles, all round France, and, perhaps, all over the world.

One thing is certain: abandoning a single religious principal or a way of life as a result of terrorist attacks will only lead to more attacks against Jews. Those who demonstrate fear instead of steadfast resistance in the face of such threats by these thugs can expect to be next after the Jews.


Te is Mosod Kezeidet?

1944 augusztusában, Szombathely mellett öt kilométerre, Simi bácsi (Glück Simon) 40-50 zsidó fiatalemberrel együtt Munkaszolgálatos volt. Minden este pontosan tíz órakor, az amerikai légvédelem repülôgépei elrepültek a város felett. Állitólag fegyvereket vittek Titó partizánjainak.

Egy este, az amerikaiak sztálingyertyákkal megvilágították azt a területet ahova a németek egy kis katonai repülôteret építtettek, majd másfél órán keresztül egy olyannyira borzalmasan pusztító szônyegbombázást hajtottak végre, hogy a környékbeli sáncokban rejtôzködô munkaszolgálatos fiúk közül sokan vidújt, a halál elött elmondandó imát, mondtak.

A bombázás után, amikor Simi bácsi és társai kimerészkedtek a sáncokból, arra lettek figyelmesek, hogy az elôttük fekvô terület szórólapokkal volt betemetve. A különbözô fenyítéseket üvöltözô keretlegények ellenére sikerült felszednie valakinek egyet a sok sok szórólap közül.

Innen tudta meg Simi bácsi, hogy mi történt az otthon maradt zsidókkal.

Innen tudta meg, hogy az egész családját akik közül szinte mind Újpesten maradt deportálták a lengyelországi halálgyárba.

1945 januárjában, amikor hazatért, az udvaron már csak édesapja Talmud kötetének szétmarcangolt darabjait, édesanya parókáját, és nagymamájanak egy jellegzetes babfôzôfazekát találta meg szemétben.

Amerikában letelepedve, évtizedekkel késôbb, Simi bácsi megszerezte a Magyar Honvédelmi Minisztériumtól a Szombathelyen olvasott lesújtó röpcédulának másolatát.

Ezt most itt közlöm, hogy senki se tudja mosni a kezeit. 2016-ban sem!

Sun of Soul

Sun of Soul

The astonished boy in the forest made
the pieces of meat wiggle and melt away
in the fuming furnace of my brain.

Pieces of sizzling meat; heaps of gray dust.
My animal spirit caged, my mouth veiled
behind a tainted white handkerchief. No verbs.

Thousands scream their souls into hoarse silence
behind giant green iron doors. Lights out.
Cold shivers—soaking in the shower of dumb death.

Hail Living Bullets! Make my holy profanities dance
amidst these silent green trees.
Blow-dry the ink of that last smile on my broken face.

Let that smile hug this doe-eyed, blond child,
standing  in the forest of the night, soaked in daylight–
The child that breathes memories of the future
through my dead lungs.

© David Mandler


Why I’m Going Off Facebook

For many of us, Facebook has become a way of life. I don’t know about others, but the first thing in the morning after washing my hands and brushing my teeth, I sign on Facebook to see what’s happened since I went to sleep. I scroll down on my wall with the eagerness of a drug addict ready for his next fix. I notice the few new postings (a new selfie, a cute dog, an historic picture of manly women from the 1920s, and a rant about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict). Just like a fully fledged narcissist, I check how many likes my latest post received. Usually, the number is disappointingly low. But what is even more disappointing is acknowledging just how much I have conditioned myself for this type of validation.

So, I have made a New Year’s resolution to break the habit. Starting January 1, 2016, I will no longer be on Facebook.

Facebook has become a familiar presence in my life that I know will be hard to leave behind. Perhaps too hard. But it’s worth a shot. I know that the people who truly care about me will want to stay in touch. We still have email addresses, don’t we? I still have my hardly-used Twitter account that I will use more now that I’ll have no status updates until I decide to cancel it as well. Not being on Facebook may lead to more phone conversations or texting. And then, there is the old fashioned way of communicating that seems as ancient by now as smoke signals: writing letters.

Why is it that I no longer feel the need to post more news items every day I find soul-shakingly important? Because by now, my acquaintances and friends know all too well my positions on the Middle East, on politics, and on life in general from the many comments and posts I have made in the last few years. In fact, they must know my thinking so well that they have practically stopped providing any feedback on my posts at all. Then again, it may be for other reasons the likes and the comments have dwindled to close to zero lately.

Still, it pains me to see the minimal (or no) likes on posts I intended to carry much weight, only to see dozens of likes on rather frivolous ones. After all, why don’t my Facebook friends react to my outrage when I see the biased media coverage on Israel? Why don’t I see more feedback on news about my work into which I had put so much energy and effort? Why doesn’t anyone care about my posts on the political cesspool that is Hungarian politics today? The habitual lack of feedback infuriates me. And therein lies the problem.

It should not!

Facebook has prompted me to seek instantaneous feedback, to post my thoughts, not to mention images of myself and my family, more quickly than I would ever do in a more contemplative mood without Facebook. And to what effect? The rare occasion my posts garner a sizable number of likes translates into a fleeting and insubstantial sensation of pleasure or resentment that threaten to lead me into inflating or deflating my own sense of ego. Of course, I tell myself that I have a more healthy sense of ego to let such things affect it. Still, my awareness that I give it a second thought at all it makes me want to take action now.

Therefore, I resolve to spend more time concentrating  on my work and selecting more fulfilling entertainment. Learning, reading, writing, correcting essays, researching, writing emails to friends and family who care to stay in touch, taking walks, meditating, praying, exercising, and making music are all infinitely more important than staring at the familiar blue and white screen that is increasingly being populated with “suggested posts” as Facebook launches into its money making phase. It was bad enough trying to see what posts mattered. The Facebook experience will likely worsen as Facebook users are made to navigate around a stream of paid advertisements even as fewer and fewer people on one’s friends list actually see genuine personal posts with more filtering built into the system. Even now, I have no idea how many people on my friends list actually see anything I post.

Certainly, I may end up missing some truly touching updates about tragic personal losses, or wonderful news of various life cycle events. But I know I will survive just as I did before 2006. What’s more, I will thrive once again by doing what truly matters in life.

Deactivating my Facebook account will be a stab in the eye of the growing monster of misplaced narcissism I fear Facebook has been feeding in me lately. It will also spare me from having to see how some of my “friends” are moving farther down the road towards losing any sense of compassion and humanity as they take positions on current political events that are totally antithetical to mine all the while refusing to be engaged in a meaningful debate. (As if meaningful debate were even possible on Facebook).

Friends, Acquaintances, and Strangers! Lend me your ears. Please don’t take this personally. It’s not really you. It’s me.

I hereby collectively “Like” all of your future updates about yourselves, your poems, your children, your parents, your political rants, your perspicuous readings of events, and even of your dogs and cats. Of course, this very last paragraph is enough of a testament to just how narcissistic Facebook has allowed me to become. Here I am, worrying about how you’ll feel once I am not on Facebook when the sad fact is that you will not even have noticed my absence if not for this self-promoting newsflash.

On January 1st, I will no longer check in to see in the morning to see what happened over night on Facebook (and I will be on time for the morning prayers).

Where Facebook ends, life begins.



War is me

On the third day, all was well.
With a shot of whiskey and
two jelly doughnuts in me,
I was ready to face the world.

Or so I thought.

In reality, the world faced me
in a kind of death stare of
a thousand kristallnachts
echoing in the dumb pages
Of multilingual newspapers
plastered to the sides of
flimsy bodegas in the streets–
and the shapeless howling of
a hundred kids streaming to
school in the morning.

I found myself in a sweaty
chill of indifference.
What’s Syria to me and I to Syria
that I should care at all?
I have a war in my body now
That holds my attention more
than could a thousand Syrias.

A glass of whiskey with antibiotics.
Just as the doctor never prescribed.
I have Syria in my stomach:
no idea who’s shooting whom.

The entire world is inside me.

©David Mandler

The Sacrificial Chicken (Yom Kippur 5776)

I haven’t asked anyone to forgive me this year.
Not because I’ve thought about or done
The right things all year–
Oh no.
I spent too much time on
Facebook and writing poetry
Talking at the world while
Failing to connect with and refusing to hear
The muffled sounds of my caged love songs.

I spent too little time listening with my heart
To my wife’s daily musings and nightly longings,
To the pleas of the homeless in the subway cars,
Thinking my feel-good quarter’s gift to them was enough.

I spent no time at all in a hospital ward
Visiting the sick, or feeding the hungry
In a homeless shelter filled with ruined lives
Hidden from me
Only because I had no desire to find it.

Forgive me, everyone!
I can’t be silent when I see inhumanity,
Even if it’s perpetrated on the enemy of my people,
Even if it’s directed against those who,
In happier times, would gladly
Celebrate my death as a victory.

But I know, not all of “them” are like “that.”

And if you all forgive me for all of my failings and sins,
Whether they be open or hidden,
Loud or mute,
Searing your skin as molten lava
Or freezing your blood as liquid ice,
Then I can ask the Master of the Universe
To forgive me
For being late
From synagogue almost every time
And glossing over words I don’t understand and
Have no time to articulate with serene concentration.

Forgive me for being on Facebook too much
And writing poetry only a handful of people
Will ever read.

Forgive me for not asking you for forgiveness
In person.

I’m a sacrificial chicken laden with
Other people’s sins to be slaughtered and made into
Chicken soup for the destitute.