New York’s Thriving Yiddish Press

Dec. 19 2018

The early decades of the last century were a golden age for the American Yiddish press, when tens of thousands of Jews got their news regularly from that source—either instead of or alongside English-language publications. Now, despite the decline of both print media and the proportion of Jews who speak the language, Yiddish newspapers are experiencing a second golden age, but now almost exclusively among Ḥasidim. While Der Yid was founded in the 1950s to serve the Satmar community—one of the largest ḥasidic groups and one deeply committed to maintaining Yiddish—and remains one of the most popular Yiddish dailies, it now has several competitors, even as the non-ḥasidic Yiddish press has all but died off. Rose Waldman writes:

Der Yid’s success is a microcosm of the general burgeoning Yiddish print industry. Nowadays, besides Der Yid, two major newspapers—Di Tzeitung and Der Blatt—cater to the ḥasidic, Yiddish-reading demographic. Readers also have their choice of magazines: Maalos, a monthly established by Sarah Jungreisz in 1996 that attempted to raise the literary quality of ḥasidic publications; Moment, a glossy weekly (not related to the secular Jewish magazine of the same name founded by Elie Wiesel and Leonard Fein in 1975), the first to feature images of ḥasidic personalities on their cover pages in the style of secular glossies; Der Shtern, established by Shimon Rolnitzky; as well as Di VokhDer Blik, and Der Blitz. And for Ḥasidim interested in reading edgier pieces on less mainstream topics, there’s the [somewhat controversial] Der Veker. In the 60 years since Der Yid was established, the industry has come a long way. . . .

The topics discussed in ḥasidic print media have evolved over the years, gradually becoming more forthright about issues that would not have been discussed openly two decades ago. One such topic is the issue of mental illness, first broached by the conservative magazine Maalos. (Maalos was also the first to feature a column on Yiddish grammar and language, a subject previously considered the domain of [secularists].) Nowadays, mental illness is often discussed in both Yiddish- and English-language publications with ḥasidic readerships. . . . Moment frequently serves as a platform for therapists, doctors, and academics who speak about various mental disorders and illnesses.

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More about: American Jewry, Arts & Culture, Hasidim, Media, Yiddish

 

Yasir Arafat’s Decades-Long Alliance with Iran and Its Consequences for Both Palestinians and Iranians

Jan. 18 2019

In 2002—at the height of the second intifada—the Israeli navy intercepted the Karina A, a Lebanese vessel carrying 50 tons of Iranian arms to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). But Yasir Arafat’s relationship with the Islamic Republic goes much farther back, to before its founding in 1979. The terrorist leader had forged ties with followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that grew especially strong in the years when Lebanon became a base of operations both for Iranian opponents of the shah and for the PLO itself. Tony Badran writes:

The relationship between the Iranian revolutionary factions and the Palestinians began in the late 1960s, in parallel with Arafat’s own rise in preeminence within the PLO. . . . [D]uring the 1970s, Lebanon became the site where the major part of the Iranian revolutionaries’ encounter with the Palestinians played out. . . .

The number of guerrillas that trained in Lebanon with the Palestinians was not particularly large. But the Iranian cadres in Lebanon learned useful skills and procured weapons and equipment, which they smuggled back into Iran. . . . The PLO established close working ties with the Khomeinist faction. . . . [W]orking [especially] closely with the PLO [was] Mohammad Montazeri, son of the senior cleric Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri and a militant who had a leading role in developing the idea of establishing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) once the revolution was won.

The Lebanese terrorist and PLO operative Anis Naccache, who coordinated with [the] Iranian revolutionaries, . . . takes personal credit for the idea. Naccache claims that Jalaleddin Farsi, [a leading Iranian revolutionary], approached him specifically and asked him directly to draft the plan to form the main pillar of the Khomeinist regime. The formation of the IRGC may well be the greatest single contribution that the PLO made to the Iranian revolution. . . .

Arafat’s fantasy of pulling the strings and balancing the Iranians and the Arabs in a grand anti-Israel camp of regional states never stood much of a chance. However, his wish to see Iran back the Palestinian armed struggle is now a fact, as Tehran has effectively become the principal, if not the only, sponsor of the Palestinian military option though its direct sponsorship of Islamic Jihad and its sustaining strategic and organizational ties with Hamas. By forging ties with the Khomeinists, Arafat unwittingly helped to achieve the very opposite of his dream. Iran has turned [two] Palestinian factions into its proxies, and the PLO has been relegated to the regional sidelines.

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More about: Hamas, History & Ideas, Iran, Lebanon, PLO, Yasir Arafat