Enlightenment, Russian-Jewish Style

Shlomo-Zaynvl Rapaport (1863–1920), best known by his pen name S. An-Sky, was a leading figure in the Russian socialist movement, a supporter of Zionism, a great Jewish ethnographer, and the author of the classic Yiddish play The Dybbuk. His novel, Pioneers, about the experience of late-19th-century Russian Jews shedding religious observance to embrace modernity and the Haskalah (the Jewish Enlightenment movement), has recently been rendered into English by Michael R. Katz. Polly Zavadivker writes in her review:

What makes [the novel’s characters] compelling . . . is not so much their zealous quest for enlightenment as the doubts that plague them as they set out to remake themselves. [The protagonist] guiltily questions himself after he casts off his familiar garb: has he acted too rashly, made superficial changes that simply mask an old worldview, speech, and thoughts still intact beneath the surface? As he observes others in [his] circle break off ties with their disapproving families, and witnesses an aggrieved mother lose her son to [join a group of “enlightened” Jews], he doubts whether their cause is so righteous as to justify such suffering. An-sky’s sympathetic portrayal of the emotional and mental anxiety bred by this process of rupture surely must have reflected his own inner conflicts as a young man.

Adding further irony to the pioneers’ quest to master the world of Russian letters is their discovery of an abiding love for their native languages. In the course of a raucous debate about Russian radical thought, they revert to Yiddish and use sing-song methods of talmudic study as they take apart the writings of [the Russian radical authors] Dmitrii Pisarev and Nikolai Chernyshevskii.

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Read more at Marginalia

More about: Arts & Culture, Haskalah, Jewish literature, Russian Jewry, S. An-sky

As Vladimir Putin Sidles Up to the Mullahs, the Threat to the U.S. and Israel Grows

On Tuesday, Russia launched an Iranian surveillance satellite into space, which the Islamic Republic will undoubtedly use to increase the precision of its military operations against its enemies. The launch is one of many indications that the longstanding alliance between Moscow and Tehran has been growing stronger and deeper since the Kremlin’s escalation in Ukraine in February. Nicholas Carl, Kitaneh Fitzpatrick, and Katherine Lawlor write:

Presidents Vladimir Putin and Ebrahim Raisi have spoken at least four times since the invasion began—more than either individual has engaged most other world leaders. Putin visited Tehran in July 2022, marking his first foreign travel outside the territory of the former Soviet Union since the war began. These interactions reflect a deepening and potentially more balanced relationship wherein Russia is no longer the dominant party. This partnership will likely challenge U.S. and allied interests in Europe, the Middle East, and around the globe.

Tehran has traditionally sought to purchase military technologies from Moscow rather than the inverse. The Kremlin fielding Iranian drones in Ukraine will showcase these platforms to other potential international buyers, further benefitting Iran. Furthermore, Russia has previously tried to limit Iranian influence in Syria but is now enabling its expansion.

Deepening Russo-Iranian ties will almost certainly threaten U.S. and allied interests in Europe, the Middle East, and around the globe. Iranian material support to Russia may help the Kremlin achieve some of its military objectives in Ukraine and eastern Europe. Russian support of Iran’s nascent military space program and air force could improve Iranian targeting and increase the threat it poses to the U.S. and its partners in the Middle East. Growing Iranian control and influence in Syria will enable the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps [to use its forces in that country] to threaten U.S. military bases in the Middle East and our regional partners, such as Israel and Turkey, more effectively. Finally, Moscow and Tehran will likely leverage their deepening economic ties to mitigate U.S. sanctions.

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Read more at Critical Threats

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Russia, U.S. Security, Vladimir Putin