Deborah Vogel: a Multilingual Poet and Critic Who Found Her Home in Yiddish

Born in 1900 in what was then Austrian Poland, Deborah Vogel became a leading Yiddish poet between the world wars. She gave crucial encouragement to another Polish Jew—the writer and artist Bruno Schulz—when he was on the verge of giving up on his literary career, although she rejected his proposal of marriage. Vogel was murdered by the Nazis in 1942, along with her husband, mother, and baby son. Mersiha Bruncevic writes:

While her childhood was spent in a small-town milieu of the Galician provinces, the outbreak of World War I in her adolescence meant the family had to move. They relocated to Vienna where Vogel went to an Austrian school. Eventually, the family moved permanently to Lviv, [by then part of newly independent Poland]. But Vogel continued wandering, attending university in Cracow and traveling frequently to Paris, Berlin, and Stockholm, and establishing lasting correspondences with New York City’s vibrant community of Yiddish modernist artists and writers, contributing regularly with both poems and essays to the literary journals Inzikh and Bodn.

It is exceptional to come across a body of high-quality literary work fluently composed in several languages. Yet the sum of Vogel’s work, written in Polish, German, Hebrew, and Yiddish, shows exactly that. Her family was an intellectual, secular family and they spoke Polish at home. Both her mother and father were teachers of Hebrew, which was passed on to Vogel and she quickly became as proficient as her parents. Those educationally formative years spent in Vienna meant that she mastered the German language impeccably; her first poems were written in German. While her parents showed no interest in Yiddish for various reasons, it was when Vogel picked up Yiddish in her twenties that she found her truest tongue.

The unreal atmosphere and disproportion of her poetic universe was, at the time of publication, often interpreted as surrealism, a dominant artistic movement in the 1920s and 30s. Vogel refuted this, claiming that while seemingly unreal, her poems were not surreal. She compared them instead to the paintings of Marc Chagall, whom she had met in Paris. Her impressions of the painter and his work can be found in an essay called “Theme and Form in Chagall’s Work (an Aesthetic Critique).”

Read more at Tablet

More about: Marc Chagall, Poetry, Polish Jewry, 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