When American Poets Fought over Judaism

In 1854, two years after visiting America’s oldest synagogue, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow published a poem titled “The Jewish Cemetery in Newport,” expressing admiration for the Jews and sympathy with their history of persecution, but treating them as if they were extinct or close to it. It concludes by lamenting Israel’s position among “the dead nations” that will “never rise again.” Fifteen years later, a young Emma Lazarus—until then uninterested in Jewish matters—would visit the same synagogue, and be inspired to write a poetic rejoinder. Meir Soloveichik writes:

Something—national indignation, family pride, or profound religious insight—welled up within her, and the teenager drafted a poem in response. Mimicking Longfellow’s meter, she chose a title that reflected a difference of emphasis: “In the Jewish Synagogue at Newport.” For Lazarus, it was the sanctuary where her predecessors had prayed that was the truly inspiring site more than their burial ground. The poem focuses on the lives they lived, rather than on their deaths.

Lazarus gives tribute to the radiance of freedom her forefathers had found in America, but she reflects on how the synagogue transported a visitor from the present to the roots of the Jewish people. . . . No one had read from the Torah in that synagogue in decades, yet standing there, in communion with her predecessors, Lazarus felt herself travel back in time back to Sinai itself: “A wondrous light upon a sky-kissed mount,/ A man who reads Jehovah’s written law,/ ’Midst blinding glory and effulgence rare,/ Unto a people prone with reverent awe.”

For many American Jews, Lazarus’ ode to America [at the Statue of Liberty] is rightly associated with our ancestors’ immigration and the blessings of freedom. At the same time, the Jewish arrival in America was to a great extent followed by abandonment of Jewish identity. Many American Jews might readily identify with the legacy of liberty associated with Newport, but less so with [the] struggle to keep Judaism alive.

Read more at Commentary

More about: American Jewish literature, Emma Lazarus, Poetry, Touro Synagogue

As Hamas’s Power Collapses, Old Feuds Are Resurfacing

In May, Mahmoud Nashabat, a high-ranking military figure in the Fatah party (which controls the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority), was gunned down in central Gaza. Nashabat was an officer in the Gaza wing of the Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, a terrorist outfit that served as Fatah’s vanguard during the second intifada, and now sometimes collaborates with Hamas. But his killers were Hamas members, and he was one of at least 35 Palestinians murdered in Gaza in the past two months as various terrorist and criminal groups go about settling old scores, some of which date back to the 1980s. Einav Halabi writes:

Security sources familiar with the situation told the London-based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat that Gaza is now also beleaguered by the resurgence of old conflicts. “Many people have been killed in incidents related to the first intifada in 1987, while others have died in family disputes,” they said.

The “first-intifada portfolio” in Gaza is considered complex and convoluted, as it is filled with hatred among residents who accuse others of killing relatives for various reasons, including collaboration with Israel. . . . According to reports from Gaza, there are vigorous efforts on the ground to contain these developments, but the chances of success remain unclear. Hamas, for its part, is trying to project governance and control, recently releasing several videos showcasing how its operatives brutally beat residents accused of looting.

These incidents, gruesome as they are, suggest that Hamas’s control over the territory is slipping, and it no longer holds a monopoly on violence or commands the fear necessary to keep the population in line. The murders and beatings also dimension the grim reality that would ensue if the war ends precipitously: a re-empowered Hamas setting about getting vengeance on its enemies and reimposing its reign of terror.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Fatah, Gaza War 2023, Hamas