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A Storied Jewish Archive, Now Digitized, Will Remain in Russia

Nov. 15 2017

Founded in the 19th century by a wealthy Russian Jewish family with close ties to the tsars, the Günzburg collection is one of the world’s most impressive troves of Judaica. The Russian State Library in Moscow has just concluded an agreement with the National Library of Israel to digitize it and make it available to the public, as Ofer Aderet writes:

The Günzburg collection is a rich and unique collection of books and manuscripts that contains over 14,000 items, including thousands of rare Hebrew books as well as manuscripts in Hebrew and many other languages. It includes medieval works in science, philosophy, and Jewish studies, midrashim, copies of the writings of Moses Maimonides and the [13th-century Catalan talmudist and communal leader] Shlomo ibn Aderet, biblical commentaries, books of Hebrew grammar and halakhah, medieval poetry, and kabbalistic and medical texts. . . .

In 1917 a contract between the B’nai B’rith Library [the precursor to the National Library] and the Russian authorities was signed for the purchase of the collection. Half a million gold rubles were transferred to the Russians (about $15 million according to today’s gold value) through donations by Russian Zionists.

The books had already been placed in cartons in preparation for their dispatch to Palestine, but delivery was delayed due to World War I. With the outbreak of the Bolshevik Revolution the books were seized, nationalized, and transferred to the Lenin State Library in Moscow. Albert Einstein, Chaim Weizmann, and later Benjamin Netanyahu tried in vain to persuade the Russians to return the collection. . . .

The digitization project was funded by the Peri Foundation, headed by Ziyavudin Magomedov, a Russian Muslim billionaire businessman from Dagestan, who is active in cultural preservation.

Read more at Haaretz

More about: History & Ideas, Jewish archives, Middle Ages, Russian Jewry

In Dealing with Iran, the U.S. Can Learn from Ronald Reagan

When Ronald Reagan arrived at the White House in 1981, the consensus was that, with regard to the Soviet Union, two responsible policy choices presented themselves: détente, or a return to the Truman-era policy of containment. Reagan, however, insisted that the USSR’s influence could not just be checked but rolled back, and without massive bloodshed. A decade later, the Soviet empire collapsed entirely. In crafting a policy toward the Islamic Republic today, David Ignatius urges the current president to draw on Reagan’s success:

A serious strategy to roll back Iran would begin with Syria. The U.S. would maintain the strong military position it has established east of the Euphrates and enhance its garrison at Tanf and other points in southern Syria. Trump’s public comments suggest, however, that he wants to pull these troops out, the sooner the better. This would all but assure continued Iranian power in Syria.

Iraq is another key pressure point. The victory of militant Iraqi nationalist Moqtada al-Sadr in [last week’s] elections should worry Tehran as much as Washington. Sadr has quietly developed good relations with Saudi Arabia, and his movement may offer the best chance of maintaining an Arab Iraq as opposed to a Persian-dominated one. But again, that’s assuming that Washington is serious about backing the Saudis in checking Iran’s regional ambitions. . . .

The Arabs, [however], want the U.S. (or Israel) to do the fighting this time. That’s a bad idea for America, for many reasons, but the biggest is that there’s no U.S. political support for a war against Iran. . . .

Rolling back an aggressive rival seems impossible, until someone dares to try it.

Read more at RealClear Politics

More about: Cold War, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, Ronald Reagan, U.S. Foreign policy