Remembering Yehoshua Mondshine, Historian and Hasid

Dec. 29 2014

Historians of religion and true believers often find themselves at odds. Thus Yehoshua Mondshine—devout Chabad Hasid and scrupulous historian—was something very rare, winning the respect both of academic scholars and of members of his own community. Mondshine, who passed away last week, was responsible for publishing, editing, and sometimes discovering important manuscripts, as well as producing a staggering number of scholarly articles, bibliographies, and polemical essays. Eli Rubin writes:

In a 1992 article, the [historian David] Assaf described Mondshine’s special ability to uncompromisingly combine his unambiguously hasidic identity with the rigors of academic scholarship. He wrote that Mondshine “labors on the margins of the professional academy, but he knows well how to use the tools of that world. . . . His writing is characterized by comprehensive and impressive knowledge, originality, provocativeness—and a willingness to battle against what he sees as distortion of Chabad’s image by outsiders.”

Indeed, Mondshine wielded the scholar’s pen with surprising force. His textual knowledge, analytical skills, and perception as a hasidic insider were sometimes complemented by biting sarcasm to undo a thesis he disagreed with. As a Hasid operating in the academic sphere, he was unapologetic and unintimidated. Elements within each of the communities he straddled may have accused him of being under the sway of “external” influences, but Mondshine understood that the tools of critical research would help Hasidim better understand their own tradition.

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More about: Chabad, Hasidism


The Reasons for Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Staying Power

Nov. 20 2018

This week, Benjamin Netanyahu seems to have narrowly avoided the collapse of his governing coalition despite the fact that one party, Yisrael Beiteinu, withdrew and another, the Jewish Home, threatened to follow suit. Moreover, he kept the latter from defecting without conceding its leader’s demand to be appointed minister of defense. Even if the government were to collapse, resulting in early elections, Netanyahu would almost certainly win, writes Elliot Jager:

[Netanyahu’s] detractors think him Machiavellian, duplicitous, and smug—willing to do anything to stay in power. His supporters would not automatically disagree. Over 60 percent of Israelis tell pollsters that they will be voting for a party other than Likud—some supposing their favored party will join a Netanyahu-led coalition while others hoping against the odds that Likud can be ousted.

Opponents would [also] like to think the prime minister’s core voters are by definition illiberal, hawkish, and religiously inclined. However, the 30 percent of voters who plan to vote Likud reflect a broad segment of the population. . . .

Journalists who have observed Netanyahu over the years admire his fitness for office even if they disagree with his actions. A strategic thinker, Netanyahu’s scope of knowledge is both broad and deep. He is a voracious reader and a quick study. . . . Foreign leaders may not like what he says but cannot deny that he speaks with panache and authority. . . .

The prime minister or those around him are under multiple police investigations for possible fraud and moral turpitude. Under Israel’s system, the police investigate and can recommend that the attorney general issue an indictment. . . . Separately, Mrs. Netanyahu is in court for allegedly using public monies to pay for restaurant meals. . . . The veteran Jerusalem Post political reporter Gil Hoffman maintains that Israelis do not mind if Netanyahu appears a tad corrupt because they admire a politician who is nobody’s fool. Better to have a political figure who cannot be taken advantage of than one who is incorruptible but naïve.

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel & Zionism, Israeli politics