A Film about Ḥasidim that Moves beyond Stereotypes

The movie Felix and Meira tells the story of a ḥasidic woman unhappy with her marriage and her community who toys with leaving the fold and pursues a dalliance with a Gentile. The movie, writes Shulem Deen, succeeds because, unlike other treatments of restless Ḥasidim, its characters are humans rather than archetypes:

Felix and Meira is the story of one ḥasidic woman, not ḥasidic womanhood; this is not a woman’s rebellion against religion, but the story of a wife and husband badly paired, who simply want different things out of life. [Her husband] Shulem wants the life he was born to live. A typical ḥasidic young man, he wants to study, pray, raise children, and maintain his good standing within the community. His wife wants more, but he does not understand her. . . .

Meira is not a one-dimensional figure with traits plotted along the dots of common ḥasidic female stereotypes. She’s given a voice and a psychological profile that is at once endearing and exasperating. Shulem, too, while possessing fewer distinguishing characteristics, is well cast; he comes across as balanced, having neither great passion nor great dullness. His equanimity may not stir in us great sympathy, but we cannot dislike him, either.

Read more at New Republic

More about: Arts & Culture, Canadian Jewry, Film, Hasidism, Heresy


An American Withdrawal from Iraq Would Hand Another Victory to Iran

Since October 7, the powerful network of Iran-backed militias in Iraq have carried out 120 attacks on U.S. forces stationed in the country. In the previous year, there were dozens of such attacks. The recent escalation has led some in the U.S. to press for the withdrawal of these forces, whose stated purpose in the country is to stamp out the remnants of Islamic State and to prevent the group’s resurgence. William Roberts explains why doing so would be a mistake:

American withdrawal from Iraq would cement Iran’s influence and jeopardize our substantial investment into the stabilization of Iraq and the wider region, threatening U.S. national security. Critics of the U.S. military presence argue that [it] risks a regional escalation in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran. However, in the long term, the U.S. military has provided critical assistance to Iraq’s security forces while preventing the escalation of other regional conflicts, such as clashes between Turkey and Kurdish groups in northern Iraq and Syria.

Ultimately, the only path forward to preserve a democratic, pluralistic, and sovereign Iraq is through engagement with the international community, especially the United States. Resisting Iran’s takeover will require the U.S. to draw international attention to the democratic backsliding in the country and to be present and engage continuously with Iraqi civil society in military and non-military matters. Surrendering Iraq to Iran’s agents would not only squander our substantial investment in Iraq’s stability; it would greatly increase Iran’s capability to threaten American interests in the Levant through its influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Read more at Providence

More about: Iran, Iraq, U.S. Foreign policy