Revolutionizing Judaism . . . With a Dictionary

June 10 2016

Testifying to the agenda of the Haskalah, the 18th-century Jewish Enlightenment, a rare dictionary provides translations of Hebrew words into German, written in Hebrew characters:

[T]his “German”-Hebrew dictionary was, in its time, a bold statement. . . . The express purpose of Netiv Lashon Ivrit (“Path of the Hebrew Language”), [as the dictionary was titled], was to teach Jewish children Hebrew. The anonymous author imagined the book being put to use in Jewish schools. There is no year of publication noted but it is believed that this book was printed in Dyhernfurth, Prussia (present-day Brzeg Dolny, in southwestern Poland) in the late 18th century. The town had a long tradition of Jewish printing. The dictionary only goes up to letter g and it isn’t known if any additional volumes were ever published. . . .

The Maskilim (proponents of the Haskalah) sought a new emphasis on the Hebrew Bible [over the Talmud], whose universal human values, [they believed], were a link between Jews and the wider world. Knowing Hebrew was a key to being able to read this text unmediated by rabbinic authorities.

Hebrew was considered a noble language and a link to the glorious Jewish past. The Maskilim, by and large, disdained Yiddish as a worthless jargon, a non-language. They promoted not only Hebrew but also the acquisition of elite European languages such as German and Russian. German in Hebrew characters, sometimes referred to as Jüdisch-Deutsch, was seen as a way to wean Jews away from Yiddish. It might look like Yiddish but, in fact, was a type of “anti-Yiddish.” For readers in the Russian Empire, where this copy of the book ended up, [it] provided an opportunity to learn both German and Hebrew.

Read more at YIVO

More about: Haskalah, Hebrew, History & Ideas, Language, Yiddish


How the U.S. Can Strike at Iran without Risking War

In his testimony before Congress on Tuesday, Michael Doran urged the U.S. to pursue a policy of rolling back Iranian influence in the Middle East, and explained how this can be accomplished. (Video of the testimony, along with the full text, are available at the link below.)

The United States . . . has indirect ways of striking at Iran—ways that do not risk drawing the United States into a quagmire. The easiest of these is to support allies who are already in the fight. . . . In contrast to the United States, Israel is already engaged in military operations whose stated goal is to drive Iran from Syria. We should therefore ask ourselves what actions we might take to strengthen Israel’s hand. Militarily, these might include, on the passive end of the spectrum, positioning our forces so as to deter Russian counterattacks against Israel. On the [more active] end, they might include arming and training Syrian forces to engage in operations against Iran and its proxies—much as we armed the mujahedin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Diplomatically, the United States might associate itself much more directly with the red lines that Israel has announced regarding the Iranian presence in Syria. Israel has, for example, called for pushing Iran and its proxies away from its border on the Golan Heights. Who is prepared to say that Washington has done all in its power to demonstrate to Moscow that it fully supports this goal? In short, a policy of greater coordination with Jerusalem is both possible and desirable.

In Yemen, too, greater coordination with Saudi Arabia is worth pursuing. . . . In Lebanon and Iraq, conditions will not support a hard rollback policy. In these countries the goal should be to shift the policy away from a modus vivendi [with Iran] and in the direction of containment. In Iraq, the priority, of course, is the dismantling of the militia infrastructure that the Iranians have built. In Lebanon, [it should be] using sanctions to force the Lebanese banking sector to choose between doing business with Hizballah and Iran and doing business with the United States and its financial institutions. . . .

Iran will not take a coercive American policy sitting down. It will strike back—and it will do so cleverly. . . . It almost goes without saying that the United States should begin working with its allies now to develop contingency plans for countering the tactics [Tehran is likely to use]. I say “almost” because I know from experience in the White House that contingency planning is something we extol much more than we conduct. As obvious as these tactics [against us] are, they have often taken Western decision makers by surprise, and they have proved effective in wearing down Western resolve.

Read more at Hudson

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen