From Soviet Jew to Academic Bible Scholar

Born, raised, and educated in the Soviet Union, Serge Frolov left Russia for Israel in the 1990s. Now he teaches Bible and Jewish studies at Southern Methodist University. In an interview with David Steinberg, he speaks about his Jewish identity, his education, and his scholarship:

My parents were brought up in the Soviet Union, and my family was not at all religious. Nevertheless, we were conscious of our Jewish identity and read Sholem Aleichem. I received my first Bible at the age of fifteen. Even getting a Bible was complicated. In Russia at the time, you couldn’t just buy a Bible in a bookstore, but the Russian Orthodox Church was allowed to sell them.

The Bible they sold was the authorized translation into Russian from the mid-19th century; interestingly, the main translator was a converted Jew. Of course, this Bible included both Old and New Testaments. Intellectually, I knew that the New Testament was something else, and represented another religion, but I didn’t really feel or understand the difference. Moreover, I didn’t really relate to the Bible—even the Old Testament—as “our heritage” but as a “global heritage.” . . .

Reading the Bible was a kind of escape from Russia, a window into a world that was completely different from my experience in every way. The ideas it expressed about the human condition and about God were never taught anywhere in Russia. It was exotic. I didn’t know anybody else reading the Bible, so my doing so was a strictly personal indulgence.

Read more at TheTorah.com

More about: Bible, Biblical criticism, Biblical scholarship, History & Ideas, Soviet Jewry

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