Gershon Hepner

Kafka Unscanned as a Hung Jury

While fascinated by Ostyidden, Eastern Jewry,

Kafka by theatrical performances of Yiddish plays became inspired,

observing them like characters in all his works, including his great tragedy, The Trial,

 seeing them without judgement or reproach,

as he in Metamorphosis saw a self-cockroach,

 about the possibility of all decisions in his own life in complete denial,

just as he relished relationships with women he admired,

hangman in all his trials, hung like a Jewish jury. 

 In “Nothing but Literature,” Jewish Review of Books, Spring, 2023, Robert Alter, reviewing The Diaries of Franz Kafka translated by Ross Benjamin, writes:

 Kafka was a master of ambivalence. The three principal topics of ambivalence in the diaries are Judaism and Jewish culture, the institution of marriage, and sex. It may surprise some that of the three, the subject on which he was least ambivalent was Judaism. Raised in a thoroughly secular German-speaking home, he intermittently saw Jewish religion and culture as offering an authenticity of which he had been deprived by his upbringing. He reports being deeply moved at a Kol Nidre service, though, unlike Franz Rosenzweig’s parallel experience, it was not part of a personal transformation. He read Graetz’s history of the Jews and a history of Yiddish literature and repeatedly flirted with Zionism, at one point even briefly contemplating the possibility of immigrating to Palestine.

The major focus of the allure he felt in Jewish culture was the Yiddish theater that located for a run in Prague in 1911–1912. The bulk of the entries for this period are devoted to that theater.

About the Author
Gershon Hepner is a poet who has written over 25,000 poems on subjects ranging from music to literature, politics to Torah. He grew up in England and moved to Los Angeles in 1976. Using his varied interests and experiences, he has authored dozens of papers in medical and academic journals, and authored "Legal Friction: Law, Narrative, and Identity Politics in Biblical Israel." He can be reached at