A New Horror Film’s Surprisingly Sensitive Treatment of Hasidic Life

Based on a now-obscure bit of Jewish (and Near Eastern) lore about a demon named Abyzou, the horror movie The Offering has as its central characters an American ḥasidic family. Chaya Sara Oppenheim notes in her review that—unlike so many cinematic and television portraits of Ḥaredim—this one is both sympathetic and attuned to the nuances of Orthodox life:

Saul Feinberg (Allan Corduner), the ḥasidic owner of a funeral home in the heart of Brooklyn, asks his irreligious son Arthur (Nick Blood) to assist in the preparation of a dead body. The deceased is an older man named Yossile (Anton Trendafilov), who died sealing a demon in his own body. Unbeknownst to the Feinbergs, the evil spirit is about to be set free.

For the observant Jewish viewer, The Offering delivers an added layer of nuance concealed in an otherwise commercial horror movie. After lighting the Sabbath candles in front of a framed photograph of his late wife, Saul explains to [Arthur’s Gentile wife] Claire that men sing to their wives every Friday night, lauding the women for their inner beauty. “We’re a very misunderstood people,” he says. “It’s the burden of investing so much in internal meaning. It’s hard for outsiders to see.”

Saul’s statement is more than a reference to the often-misconstrued portrayal of Ḥasidim in contemporary media. The film is replete with pregnant allusions founded on the kabbalistic premises that guide ḥasidic life and place importance on the inner depths of our worldly realm. It is no coincidence that the Feinberg family sits down to eat kreplach—dumplings traditionally eaten before Yom Kippur as a meditation on our outer and inner selves before our fates are sealed. In another pivotal scene, a dark shadow sweeps the hallway, and the mezuzah on the doorpost breaks violently in half—a signal that the holy parchment enclosed in the wooden case has been compromised and the spiritual protection over the house has disappeared.

Read more at Moment

More about: Film, Hasidim, Jewish folklore, Kabbalah

If Iran Goes Nuclear, the U.S. Will Be Forced Out of the Middle East

The International Atomic Energy Agency reported in May that Iran has, or is close to having, enough highly enriched uranium to build multiple atomic bombs, while, according to other sources, it is taking steps toward acquiring the technology to assemble such weapons. Considering the effects on Israel, the Middle East, and American foreign policy of a nuclear-armed Iran, Eli Diamond writes:

The basic picture is that the Middle East would become inhospitable to the U.S. and its allies when Iran goes nuclear. Israel would find itself isolated, with fewer options for deterring Iran or confronting its proxies. The Saudis and Emiratis would be forced into uncomfortable compromises.

Any course reversal has to start by recognizing that the United States has entered the early stages of a global conflict in which the Middle East is set to be a main attraction, not a sideshow.

Directly or not, the U.S. is engaged in this conflict and has a significant stake in its outcome. In Europe, American and Western arms are the only things standing between Ukraine and its defeat at the hands of Russia. In the Middle East, American arms remain indispensable to Israel’s survival as it wages a defensive, multifront war against Iran and its proxies Hamas and Hizballah. In the Indo-Pacific, China has embarked on the greatest military buildup since World War II, its eyes set on Taiwan but ultimately U.S. primacy.

While Iran is the smallest of these three powers, China and Russia rely on it greatly for oil and weapons, respectively. Both rely on it as a tool to degrade America’s position in the region. Constraining Iran and preventing its nuclear breakout would keep waterways open for Western shipping and undermine a key node in the supply chain for China and Russia.

Diamond offers a series of concrete suggestions for how the U.S. could push back hard against Iran, among them expanding the Abraham Accords into a military and diplomatic alliance that would include Saudi Arabia. But such a plan depends on Washington recognizing that its interests in Eastern Europe, in the Pacific, and in the Middle East are all connected.

Read more at National Review

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy