Why Read Sholem Aleichem?

Yesterday was the 99th anniversary of the death of the great Yiddish writer on whose stories the musical Fiddler on the Roof was based. Jeremy Dauber explains why Sholem Aleichem’s work remains relevant by suggesting three ways it can be read (2014):

The first [way]—and in some ways the most direct, but in other ways the most limited—is to read Sholem Aleichem as a Jew. . . . To see if his theses—the importance of cherishing your own history and culture; the delights of Jewish language (Yiddish primarily, but Sholem Aleichem was also a great lover of Hebrew, and some of his earliest work was in that language); and the importance of the Jewish home, both in Yiddishland and in Zion—can illuminate your own ways of living in the world as a Jewish person today.

The second, wider way of reading Sholem Aleichem is as a reader. Many of Sholem Aleichem’s critics, after his death, accused him of being little more than a stenographer or tape recorder; they said his uncanny re-creations of the voices of a whole tapestry of East European Jewish life were little more than a ventriloquism act. Even a cursory reading of the stories shows just how unfair this is—in fact, the stories are a bonanza for anyone interested in monologue, in literary game-playing with persona and personality, with narrative and closure, and with the careful and clever use of allusion. . . .

But, ultimately, the third way to read Sholem Aleichem is, I think, the most important. And that is to read him, quite simply, as a human being.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Pakn Treger

More about: Arts & Culture, Fiddler on the Roof, Jewish literature, Sholem Aleichem, Yiddish literature

How European Fecklessness Encourages the Islamic Republic’s Assassination Campaign

In September, Cypriot police narrowly foiled a plot by an Iranian agent to murder five Jewish businessman. This was but one of roughly a dozen similar operations that Tehran has conducted in Europe since 2015—on both Israeli or Jewish and American targets—which have left three dead. Matthew Karnitschnig traces the use of assassination as a strategic tool to the very beginning of the Islamic Republic, and explains its appeal:

In the West, assassination remains a last resort (think Osama bin Laden); in authoritarian states, it’s the first (who can forget the 2017 assassination by nerve agent of Kim Jong-nam, the playboy half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, upon his arrival in Kuala Lumpur?). For rogue states, even if the murder plots are thwarted, the regimes still win by instilling fear in their enemies’ hearts and minds. That helps explain the recent frequency. Over the course of a few months last year, Iran undertook a flurry of attacks from Latin America to Africa.

Whether such operations succeed or not, the countries behind them can be sure of one thing: they won’t be made to pay for trying. Over the years, the Russian and Iranian regimes have eliminated countless dissidents, traitors, and assorted other enemies (real and perceived) on the streets of Paris, Berlin, and even Washington, often in broad daylight. Others have been quietly abducted and sent home, where they faced sham trials and were then hanged for treason.

While there’s no shortage of criticism in the West in the wake of these crimes, there are rarely real consequences. That’s especially true in Europe, where leaders have looked the other way in the face of a variety of abuses in the hopes of reviving a deal to rein in Tehran’s nuclear-weapons program and renewing business ties.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Politico

More about: Europe, Iran, Israeli Security, Terrorism