What Chaim Grade Told Menachem Mendel Schneerson

The Yiddish poet and novelist Chaim Grade is best known for his literary depictions of religious life in prewar Eastern Europe—and of his own disillusionment from that particular life. Much of his work is centered around the great yeshivas of Vilna and its environs, heirs of the anti-ḥasidic countermovement of the late 18th century. Yet in the 1960s, Grade began a correspondence with the rebbe of the Chabad-Lubavitch Ḥasidim, facilitated by Israel’s then-president Zalman Shazar and encouraged by Grade’s wife, who generally wanted little to do with Jewish affairs. Eli Rubin tells the story, and presents a translation of some of the correspondence:

In July 1966, Chaim Grade . . . received a phone call. Zalman Shazar, the journalist and Labor activist who was now president of Israel, had arrived in New York on his first official visit to the United States, and would soon be heading to Washington to meet his counterpart, President Johnson. But Shazar had something else on his mind. As Grade recalled in a letter penned a few weeks later, “the [Israeli] consul told me that a constant stream of warnings are coming from Israel” that President Shazar “should not visit the Lubavitcher rebbe, and it is making the president ill, depressed, and agitated.”

Grade soon arrived at Shazar’s hotel, together with his wife, Inna Hecker Grade, for a heart-to-heart. “If you go,” Grade told the president, “there will be a storm outside of you, in Israel. But if you don’t go, there’ll be a storm within your own self, and it will never quiet down!”

“Now I see two things,” Shazar excitedly replied, “you are a poet, and you are a friend!”

A couple of days later, the New York Times was . . . reporting that “Mr. Shazar had clearly placed his own deep spiritual attachments ahead of the criticism of some Israeli newspapers when he made an unscheduled midnight visit to Rabbi Menahem M. Schneerson, head of the Lubavitcher movement in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn.” At Shazar’s request, and with Inna’s encouragement, Grade was in the presidential entourage.

Read more at Chabad.org

More about: American Jewish History, Chaim Grade, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, Yiddish literature, Zalman Shazar


Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict