What Do Tiny Letters Have to Do with the Yiddish Stage?

Micrography, the use of miniature writing to draw shapes and pictures, has been a Jewish art form for over a millennium. Traditionally, the letters spell out biblical verses and form images of biblical scenes or religious objects. But Louis Rotblat, a Polish-born Jew who made his way first to England and later to New York, used micrography to draw portraits, including of two of the greatest figures of the American Yiddish theater: the playwrights Abraham Goldfaden and Jacob Gordin. David Mazower writes:

[Rotblat] had a genius for creating micrographs—minutely detailed compositions made up of thousands of tiny letters that appear whole from a distance but fracture and dissolve when viewed close up.

This unique form of Jewish folk art has a long history . . . and is still being practiced today. A micrographic artist needs the compositional skills of an architectural draughtsman, the fearlessness of a tattooist, and the flowing hand of an artist. Plus the fluency and stamina of the sofer, the Torah scribe, the occupation that many micrographers followed.

Rotblat created his first known micrographic portrait in London in 1897. It paid tribute to . . . Abraham Goldfaden, the founding father of the Yiddish stage. The Goldfaden micrograph . . . uses thousands of words from the text of the biblical operetta Shulamis, one of the most popular of all Goldfaden plays. In similar vein, his 1909 portrait of Jacob Gordin was also minutely detailed and was based on the text of a hugely popular play. This time it was Gordon’s Mirele Efros, also known as The Jewish Queen Lear.

Read more at Digital Yiddish Theatre Project

More about: Abraham Goldfaden, Arts & Culture, Jacob Gordin, Jewish art, Lower East Side, Yiddish theater

The IDF’s First Investigation of Its Conduct on October 7 Is Out

For several months, the Israel Defense Forces has been investigating its own actions on and preparedness for October 7, with an eye to understanding its failures. The first of what are expected to be many reports stemming from this investigation was released yesterday, and it showed a series of colossal strategic and tactical errors surrounding the battle at Kibbutz Be’eri, writes Emanuel Fabian. The probe, he reports, was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein.

Edelstein and his team—none of whom had any involvement in the events themselves, according to the IDF—spent hundreds of hours investigating the onslaught and battle at Be’eri, reviewing every possible source of information, from residents’ WhatsApp messages to both Israeli and Hamas radio communications, as well as surveillance videos, aerial footage, interviews of survivors and those who fought, plus visits to the scene.

There will be a series of further reports issued this summer.

IDF chief Halevi in a statement issued alongside the probe said that while this was just the first investigation into the onslaught, which does not reflect the entire picture of October 7, it “clearly illustrates the magnitude of the failure and the dimensions of the disaster that befell the residents of the south who protected their families with their bodies for many hours, and the IDF was not there to protect them.” . . .

The IDF hopes to present all battle investigations by the end of August.

The IDF’s probes are strictly limited to its own conduct. For a broader look at what went wrong, Israel will have to wait for a formal state commission of inquiry to be appointed—which happens to be the subject of this month’s featured essay in Mosaic.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Israel & Zionism, October 7