Felix Mendelssohn’s Jewish Music

For years, Abraham Mendelssohn urged his son, the composer Felix, to abandon his Jewish surname; as Abraham Mendelssohn explained in a letter to his famous son, “There can no more be a Christian Mendelssohn than a Jewish Confucius; if your name is Mendelssohn, you are ipso facto a Jew, and that is of no benefit to you.” But Felix, who was born in 1809 to a large family of Jewish converts to Christianity, never denounced his Jewish roots. As Saul Jay Singer explains, the musical prodigy was always proud to be introduced as the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn’s grandson; some of his early works drew upon his grandfather’s biblical translations; and his compositions include classical Jewish cantorial melodies. And while Felix’s relationship to Judaism remains ambiguous, some scholars see in his oratorio Elijah, and other works, an attempt to reconcile his Jewish and Christian identities or restore his Jewish heritage.

The Mendelssohns lived in a very difficult time for Jews, and Abraham made the same “compromise” as many Jewish families did at the time: to convert to Christianity to gain citizenship and public acceptance. The situation was perhaps best described by the great poet, Heinrich Heine, also a Jewish convert, who characterized baptism as the “ticket of admission” into European culture. However, Felix’s conversion protected neither him nor other “New Jewish Christians” from anti-Semitism.

Nor did Mendelssohn’s conversion benefit his legacy. Although he was idolized by his contemporaries during his lifetime, Richard Wagner effectively destroyed his public stature when, [shortly] after Mendelssohn’s death, he published “Das Judenthum in der Musik” (“Jewishness in Music”), a racist and vitriolic essay directed primarily at Mendelssohn, whose work he maintained was derivative and lightweight because he was a Jew. He held Mendelssohn up as an archetype for how even a Jew with great talent and polish was incapable of creating great music, and he played a leading role in persuading the public that Mendelssohn was little more than a hack.

Mendelssohn’s reputation was further eroded by the Nazis, who banned his music and tore down all statues bearing his likeness. In one comical incident, Hitler ordered the removal of the Mendelssohn statue from the roof of the Prague opera house, but the workers mistakenly took down the statue of Richard Wagner, whom they believed to be Jewish because of the size of his nose. It was only after the Holocaust that music scholars began to recognize Mendelssohn’s genius and to revive his oeuvre and popularity.

Read more at Jewish Press

More about: Anti-Semitism, Felix Mendelssohn, Moses Mendelssohn, Music, Richard Wagner

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