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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.

Read more at Prague Daily Monitor

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

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