A Czech Synagogue Tries to Reconstruct the Library of Its Great 17th-Century Rabbi

Born in or near Vilnius, Shabbetai ha-Kohen (1621-1662) spent his final years as the rabbi of the Moravian city of Holesov, now in the Czech Republic. Shabbetai, known to posterity by the acronym Shakh, was one of the foremost talmudists of his day, his most important work being a commentary on part of the Shulḥan Arukh—by his day the standard code of Jewish law. Local archivists in Holesov are now trying to assemble a library of historic copies of his works:

The Holesov synagogue bought at a New York auction a copy of Shakh’s commentary on Shulḥan Arukh, printed in 1677, which makes it the oldest of Shakh’s books in its collection. . . . [Acquiring the work] “is an extraordinary success because such copies are almost unavailable on the market and one can only very seldom find them,” the Holesov synagogue administrator Vratislav Brazdil said. . . . The Holesov synagogue also bought a copy of a newer edition of the commentary issued in 1711.

Brazdil began to create the rabbi’s library several years ago. He has been buying the books in online auctions organized abroad. At present, the library has 25 volumes that are displayed in what was once Shakh’s study, which was opened in the upper floor of the synagogue two years ago. . . .

A Jewish community appeared in Holesov as early as the 15th century. About 1,700 Jews still lived there in the 19th century. However, the Nazis destroyed the community during World War II. The local cemetery, with 1,500 gravestones, and the synagogue are among the . . . oldest Jewish [historic sites] in the Czech Republic.

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Read more at Prague Daily Monitor

More about: Czech Republic, East European Jewry, History & Ideas, Rabbis, Shulhan Arukh

Palestinian Acceptance of Israel as the Jewish State Must Be a Prerequisite to Further Negotiations

Oct. 19 2018

In 1993, in the early days of the Oslo peace process, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) under Yasir Arafat accepted the “right of the state of Israel to exist in peace and security.” But neither it nor its heir, the Palestinians Authority, has ever accepted Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, or the right of the Jewish people to self-determination. Robert Barnidge explains why this distinction matters:

A Jewish state for the Jewish people, after all, was exactly what the [UN] General Assembly intended in November 1947 when it called for the partition of the Palestine Mandate into “the Arab state, the Jewish state, and the city of Jerusalem.”

Although the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state does not stand or fall on this resolution—in declaring the independence of Israel on the eve of the Sabbath on May 14, 1948, the Jewish People’s Council, [the precursor to the Israeli government], also stressed the Jewish people’s natural and historic rights—it reaffirms the legitimacy of Jewish national rights in (what was to become) the state of Israel.

The Palestinians have steadfastly refused to recognize Jewish self-determination. [Instead], the PLO [has been] playing a double game. . . . It is not simply that the PLO supported the General Assembly’s determination in 1975, rescinded in 1991, that “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.” It is that that the PLO leadership continues to speak of Jews as a religious community rather than a people, and of Zionism as a colonial usurper rather than the national liberation movement that it is.

The U.S. government, Barnidge concludes, “should demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel’s right to exist in peace and security as a Jewish state” and refuse to “press Israel to negotiate with the Palestinians unless and until that happens.”

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: Israel & Zionism, Peace Process, PLO, US-Israel relations, Yasir Arafat