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

The Democrats’ Anti-Semitism Problem Involves More Than Appearances

Jan. 22 2019

Last week, the Democratic National Committee formally broke with the national Women’s March over its organizers’ anti-Semitism and close associations with the Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. Also last week, however, the Democratic leadership gave a coveted seat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee to the freshman congresswoman Ilhan Omar—a supporter of boycotts of Israel who recently defended her 2012 pronouncement that “Israel has hypnotized the world” to ignore its “evil doings.” Abe Greenwald comments:

The House Foreign Affairs Committee oversees House bills and investigations pertaining to U.S. foreign policy, and it has the power to cut American arms and technology shipments to allies. So, while the Democrats are distancing themselves from anti-Semitic activists who organize a march every now and then, they’re raising up anti-Semites to positions of power in the federal government. . . .

There is no cosmetic fix for the anti-Semitism that’s infusing the activist left and creeping into the Democratic party. It runs to the ideological core of intersectionality—the left’s latest religion. By the lights of intersectionality, Jews are too powerful and too white to be the targets of bigotry. So an anti-Semite is perfectly suitable as an ally against some other form of prejudice—against, say, blacks or women. And when anti-Semitism appears on the left, progressives are ready to explain it away with an assortment of convenient nuances and contextual considerations: it’s not anti-Semitism, it’s anti-Zionism; consider the good work the person has done fighting for other groups; we don’t have to embrace everything someone says to appreciate the good in him, etc.

These new congressional Democrats [including Omar and her fellow anti-Israel congresswoman Rashida Tlaib] were celebrated far and wide when they were elected. They’re young, outspoken, and many are female. But that just makes them extraordinarily effective ambassadors for a poisonous ideology.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, BDS, Congress, Democrats, Nation of Islam, Politics & Current Affairs