From Selling Jewish Calendars to Selling Schmutz: A Story

Naturally, the beginning of the Jewish year is the time for Jews to purchase calendars, and it is this trade that is the subject of a short story by the great Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem, translated by Curt Leviant under the title, “Trying to Make a Living.” Through the eyes of one of his typical character-narrators, the author presents a searing reflection on the bewildering irrationality of anti-Semitism. The story begins thus:

Wanna know why a Jew like me, a father of children, has to sell illegal schmutz like French photo cards? It’s all thanks to Tolmatshov and Tolmatshov alone, may he fry in hell! But since this all happened so long ago, and since Tolmatshov is gone and Odessa is back to normal, I think I can come out with the whole truth and reveal why Tolmatshov was such an anti-Semite. And the truth is that I’m to blame for most of it, I’m afraid, if not all of it.

Well, now you’re probably wondering how a street-hawker like me, who peddles Yiddish newspapers—and those French photo cards on the sly—comes to General Tolmatshov! And what sort of pal am I with generals, anyway? If you can spare a few minutes, I’ll tell you an interesting story. It happened many years ago, right here in Odessa, at this season, during the intermediary days of Sukkot. Odessa was still the same old Odessa. No one had heard of Tolmatshov, and a Jew could roam around here free as a bird and sell his Yiddish books.

Then, there weren’t as many Yiddish papers as today. You weren’t afraid of anyone, and there was no need to mess around with contraband Parisian postcards. In the old days, I used to sell Sabbath and holiday prayer books and Jewish calendars around Lanyerovski, Katerinenski, and Fankonin streets. You could always run into a Jew there, for that was the area where speculators, agents, and various other Jews hung around waiting for a miracle.

Just like you see me now, I was strolling along on Fankonin Street, the spot where our fellow Jewish speculators wear out their shoe leather looking for business, and I said to myself: Where can I get a customer for those few Jewish calendars I’ve got left? Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are gone and forgotten and, before you know it, Sukkot will slip right by and I still haven’t gotten rid of my little bit of stock. God knows if I’ll ever sell those bound calendars—for if they aren’t sold before the holidays you can’t even give them away. Later, they’re completely useless. And I had three of these all-year Jewish calendars left over from before Rosh Hashanah!

Read more at Tablet

More about: Anti-Semitism, Jewish calendar, Russian Jewry, Sholem Aleichem, 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