A Place for Water-Carriers to Pray and a Letter from Sholem Aleichem: Lost Jewish Archives Come to New York

Nov. 16 2017

Last month, the YIVO Institute announced that some 170,000 documents and artifacts had been found in Lithuania, remnants of the collection that a group of Vilna Jews had hidden from the Nazis during World War II. A few of these items are now on display in New York. Josefin Dolsten describes some of the most notable:

A communal record book from Lazdijai, Lithuania, 1836. The book, called a pinkas, was written for a Talmud-study association and used to record information about its members, such as births, deaths, and business transactions. It is decorated with ornate illustrations and states that in order to remain part of the group, members must study a full page of Talmud together. . . .

A letter written by Sholem Aleichem from a health resort, Badenweiler, Germany, 1910. The famed Yiddish author had health problems and would spend time in health resorts far away from friends and family. In this note, Sholem Aleichem makes fun of Leon Neustadt, a leader in the Warsaw Jewish community, writing that a biblical verse referring to non-kosher animals . . . actually refers to Neustadt.

An agreement between a water-carrier union and the Ramayles Yeshiva, Vilna, 1857. In the document, the group . . . promises to donate a Torah scroll and raise money to purchase a Talmud set for the prominent yeshiva in exchange for the use of a room for religious services.

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More about: History & Ideas, Jewish archives, Sholem Aleichem, Synagogues, Vilna, YIVO

No, Israel Hasn’t Used Disproportionate Force against Hamas

Aug. 15 2018

Last week, Hamas and other terrorist organizations in Gaza launched nearly 200 rockets and mortars into Israel, in addition to the ongoing makeshift incendiary devices and sporadic sniper fire. Israel responded with an intensive round of airstrikes, which stopped the rockets. Typically, condemnations of the Jewish state’s use of “disproportionate force” followed; and typically, as Peter Lerner, a former IDF spokesman, explains, these were wholly inaccurate:

The IDF conducted, by its own admission, approximately 180 precision strikes. In the aftermath of those strikes the Hamas Ministry of Health announced that three people had been killed. One of the dead was [identified] as a Hamas terrorist. The two others were reported as civilians: Inas Abu Khmash, a twenty-three-year-old pregnant woman, and her eighteen-month daughter, Bayan. While their deaths are tragic, they are not an indication of a disproportionate response to Hamas’s bombardment of Israel’s southern communities. With . . . 28 Israelis who required medical assistance [and] 30 Iron Dome interceptions, I would argue the heart-rending Palestinian deaths indicate the exact opposite.

The precision strikes on Hamas’s assets with so few deaths show how deep and thorough is the planning process the IDF has put in place. . . . Proportionality in warfare, [however], is not a numbers game, as so many of the journalists I’ve worked with maintain. . . . Proportionality weighs the necessity of a military action against the anguish that the action might cause to civilians in the vicinity. . . . In the case of the last few days, it appears that even intended combatant deaths were [deemed] undesirable, due to their potential to increase the chances of war. . . .

The question that should be repeated is why indiscriminate rocket fire against Israeli civilians from behind Gazan civilians is accepted, underreported, and not condemned.

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More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, IDF, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict