“Rough Diamonds” Gets the Details of Hasidic Life Right, but Fails to Create Compelling Characters

Speaking of Yiddish, you can hear it spoken on the television series Rough Diamonds, along with a host of other tongues—a detail explored by our language columnist Philologos. Emil Stern provides a more general revies of the show, which focuses on a family of ḥasidic diamond merchants in Antwerp, their wayward son, and the clan of Albanian mobsters he has married into:

Streaming has opened up a world of subcultures to our homes, and on the count of verisimilitude, Rough Diamonds is mostly convincing. The ḥasidic costumes, beards, and wigs are realistic, there are mezuzahs on every doorpost, and the shul scenes feel enjoyably heymish. . . . But the show’s surface authenticity rarely deepens into psychology. The Wolfsons spend entirely too much time looking tense in elegant doorways. And while the polyglot nature of the show feels realistic, the dialogue itself is often workmanlike rather than idiomatic.

To its credit, Rough Diamonds doesn’t depict its world as irredeemably oppressive, the way Unorthodox, a very different Netflix series about ḥasidic life, did. The Wolfsons’ high-ceilinged home feels gracious and warm, and the kids seem well cared for. The show succeeds when its characters work with what they have, like Eli, haplessly trying to maneuver a rival by tattling on his son’s non-kosher Internet habits (it doesn’t work).

Despite its charms, Stern concludes, the show never quite delivers.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Hasidim, Television, Yiddish

Iran’s Program of Subversion and Propaganda in the Caucasus

In the past week, Iranian proxies and clients have attacked Israel from the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, and Yemen. Iran also has substantial military assets in Iraq and Syria—countries over which it exercises a great deal of control—which could launch significant attacks on Israel as well. Tehran, in addition, has stretched its influence northward into both Azerbaijan and Armenia. While Israel has diplomatic relations with both of these rival nations, its relationship with Baku is closer and involves significant military and security collaboration, some of which is directed against Iran. Alexander Grinberg writes:

Iran exploits ethnic and religious factors in both Armenia and Azerbaijan to further its interests. . . . In Armenia, Iran attempts to tarnish the legitimacy of the elected government and exploit the church’s nationalist position and tensions between it and the Armenian government; in Azerbaijan, the Iranian regime employs outright terrorist methods similar to its support for terrorist proxies in the Middle East [in order to] undermine the regime.

Huseyniyyun (Islamic Resistance Movement of Azerbaijan) is a terrorist militia made up of ethnic Azeris and designed to fight against Azerbaijan. It was established by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps . . . in the image of other pro-Iranian militias. . . . Currently, Huseyniyyun is not actively engaged in terrorist activities as Iran prefers more subtle methods of subversion. The organization serves as a mouthpiece of the Iranian regime on various Telegram channels in the Azeri language. The main impact of Huseyniyyun is that it helps spread Iranian propaganda in Azerbaijan.

The Iranian regime fears the end of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan because this would limit its options for disruption. Iranian outlets are replete with anti-Semitic paranoia against Azerbaijan, accusing the country of awarding its territory to Zionists and NATO. . . . Likewise, it is noteworthy that Armenian nationalists reiterate hideous anti-Semitic tropes that are identical to those spouted by the Iranians and Palestinians. Moreover, leading Iranian analysts have no qualms about openly praising [sympathetic] Armenian clergy together with terrorist Iran-funded Azeri movements for working toward Iranian goals.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Azerbaijan, Iran, Israeli Security