Three Yiddish Stories by One of Hebrew Literature’s Underappreciated Geniuses

Micha Yosef Berdichevsky (1865-1921) wrote the bulk of his short stories and novels in Hebrew. Yet between 1902 and 1906, he composed a series of short stories in Yiddish, set, like most of his work from this period, in a fictionalized shtetl. Seeking neither to satirize nor to romanticize, Berdichevsky—“the most tragic Jewish writer of modern times,” as Hillel Halkin has called him in Mosaic—instead portrayed “outward harmony . . . fraught with inner conflicts.” James Adam Redfield has rendered three such stories, perhaps better described as character sketches, into English. Here is how the first, “Yankev-Nosn,” begins:

Yankev-Nosn was a clever fellow: one of those brainy, traditionally learned Jews who also dabble in other areas. He seemed to know it all; he had an angle on pretty much everything: a page of Talmud or an interpretation by the Tosafists, a verse with Ibn Ezra’s commentary, a tricky math problem, even a discourse on astronomy. He was never so concerned with any one subject in and of itself—what he loved was knowledge as such; he loved being a connoisseur, a scion of our intelligentsia. Nor was he especially pious: he knew there was a God, but that sort of knowledge never moved him, never really took root. He never transgressed a commandment: he was simply too lazy to resist praying or doing whatever you’re supposed to.

Jewishness was just something he did, like pulling on his long coat or his socks and shoes. Desire, now there was a subject he knew nothing about—whether for eating, making money, or other things. What mattered to him, above all, was the intellect—understanding something forward and backward. He didn’t wrap up what he started; having a grasp of it was enough.

Read more at Yiddish Book Center

More about: Arts & Culture, Berdichevsky, Hebrew literature, Shtetl, Yiddish literature

While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy