How Far Does Conversion Go?

In Leaving the Jewish Fold, the historian Todd Endelman traces the history of apostasy from Judaism—which he terms “radical assimilation”—from the Middle Ages to the present. Dominic Green writes in his review:

In our enlightened times, it is possible to identify as a person of no fixed principles. But for most of the past millennium, to cease being Jewish meant to start being Christian. Endelman identifies two forms of conversion from Judaism: “conversions of conviction” and “conversions of convenience.” The convicts are more spectacular, but the convenient are more numerous. For every sincere conversion on St. Paul’s road to Damascus, there have been thousands on the road to jobs in London and Paris, Berlin and Vienna, New York and Washington. [The poet Heinrich] Heine justified this kind of conversion as a “passport to civilization”: an escape from prejudice, an entry into high culture. Others simply resigned from a club that they never asked to join. Such converts did not need to be threatened with a sword, only with a carrot and stick: economic opportunity and “conversionary pressures.” . . .

There is nothing, [however,] “radical” about modern Western assimilation. The assimilators followed the universalist flow of their times and went out with a whimper, not a bang.

Create a free account to continue reading

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register

Create a free account to continue reading

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register

Read more at Commentary

More about: Assimilation, Conversion, Heinrich Heine, History & Ideas, Jewish history

As Vladimir Putin Sidles Up to the Mullahs, the Threat to the U.S. and Israel Grows

On Tuesday, Russia launched an Iranian surveillance satellite into space, which the Islamic Republic will undoubtedly use to increase the precision of its military operations against its enemies. The launch is one of many indications that the longstanding alliance between Moscow and Tehran has been growing stronger and deeper since the Kremlin’s escalation in Ukraine in February. Nicholas Carl, Kitaneh Fitzpatrick, and Katherine Lawlor write:

Presidents Vladimir Putin and Ebrahim Raisi have spoken at least four times since the invasion began—more than either individual has engaged most other world leaders. Putin visited Tehran in July 2022, marking his first foreign travel outside the territory of the former Soviet Union since the war began. These interactions reflect a deepening and potentially more balanced relationship wherein Russia is no longer the dominant party. This partnership will likely challenge U.S. and allied interests in Europe, the Middle East, and around the globe.

Tehran has traditionally sought to purchase military technologies from Moscow rather than the inverse. The Kremlin fielding Iranian drones in Ukraine will showcase these platforms to other potential international buyers, further benefitting Iran. Furthermore, Russia has previously tried to limit Iranian influence in Syria but is now enabling its expansion.

Deepening Russo-Iranian ties will almost certainly threaten U.S. and allied interests in Europe, the Middle East, and around the globe. Iranian material support to Russia may help the Kremlin achieve some of its military objectives in Ukraine and eastern Europe. Russian support of Iran’s nascent military space program and air force could improve Iranian targeting and increase the threat it poses to the U.S. and its partners in the Middle East. Growing Iranian control and influence in Syria will enable the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps [to use its forces in that country] to threaten U.S. military bases in the Middle East and our regional partners, such as Israel and Turkey, more effectively. Finally, Moscow and Tehran will likely leverage their deepening economic ties to mitigate U.S. sanctions.

Create a free account to continue reading

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register

Create a free account to continue reading

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register

Read more at Critical Threats

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Russia, U.S. Security, Vladimir Putin