Mussolini and the Hungarian Rabbi of Rhodes

Feb. 22 2016

Born in Hungary in 1887, Isidore Kahan embarked on a successful rabbinic career, eventually taking a position as rabbi of Gorizia, Italy. His subsequent peregrinations reflect the rapidly changing fate of Italian Jewry between the world wars, as Ty Alhadeff writes:

In December 1928, the governor [of the isle of Rhodes, then under Italian rule], Mario Lago, established the Collegio Rabbinico. Mussolini personally intervened to ensure that funds [originally] directed to the [rabbinic] seminary in Rome went to Rhodes in order to spread Italianità, Italian culture, to the Italian colonies—even among Jews. Within months, Rabbi Kahan was recruited by the Italian government to be the administrator and head teacher of the Rhodes [rabbinic] seminary. . . .

The school educated approximately 25 to 30 students who came from Izmir, Aleppo, Beirut, Sarajevo, Cairo, and Ethiopia to study in this modern yeshiva. . . .

Kahan served in the Rhodes seminary until 1933, when he was hired as a pulpit rabbi in Rome, a position he held until 1939. However, as the tide in Europe turned, Kahan worked tirelessly to save his family from impending doom.

With the help of American Jewish contacts, Kahan fled to Seattle, where he became the rabbi of a Rhodesli synagogue.

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Read more at Stroum Center for Jewish Studies

More about: Benito Mussolini, History & Ideas, Holocaust, Hungarian Jewry, Italian Jewry, Rhodes

How European Fecklessness Encourages the Islamic Republic’s Assassination Campaign

In September, Cypriot police narrowly foiled a plot by an Iranian agent to murder five Jewish businessman. This was but one of roughly a dozen similar operations that Tehran has conducted in Europe since 2015—on both Israeli or Jewish and American targets—which have left three dead. Matthew Karnitschnig traces the use of assassination as a strategic tool to the very beginning of the Islamic Republic, and explains its appeal:

In the West, assassination remains a last resort (think Osama bin Laden); in authoritarian states, it’s the first (who can forget the 2017 assassination by nerve agent of Kim Jong-nam, the playboy half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, upon his arrival in Kuala Lumpur?). For rogue states, even if the murder plots are thwarted, the regimes still win by instilling fear in their enemies’ hearts and minds. That helps explain the recent frequency. Over the course of a few months last year, Iran undertook a flurry of attacks from Latin America to Africa.

Whether such operations succeed or not, the countries behind them can be sure of one thing: they won’t be made to pay for trying. Over the years, the Russian and Iranian regimes have eliminated countless dissidents, traitors, and assorted other enemies (real and perceived) on the streets of Paris, Berlin, and even Washington, often in broad daylight. Others have been quietly abducted and sent home, where they faced sham trials and were then hanged for treason.

While there’s no shortage of criticism in the West in the wake of these crimes, there are rarely real consequences. That’s especially true in Europe, where leaders have looked the other way in the face of a variety of abuses in the hopes of reviving a deal to rein in Tehran’s nuclear-weapons program and renewing business ties.

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Read more at Politico

More about: Europe, Iran, Israeli Security, Terrorism