Thomas Jefferson: Critic of Judaism, Protector of the Jews

Feb. 15 2016

Although he had a low opinion of the Jewish religion, the third president of the United States was passionately committed to religious freedom, and on multiple occasions spoke up for the rights of Jews. He even endeavored to study the Talmud, as Saul Jay Singer writes:

Jefferson . . . had limited contact with Jews; and his knowledge of them was essentially limited to what he had learned from studying the Bible. Nonetheless, he manifested extreme sensitivity to the Jewish condition.

In a famous letter to Joseph Marx, a prominent Jewish merchant who helped to found Richmond’s first synagogue, he . . . stated his belief that the reading of the King James Bible in public schools was a “cruel addition to the wrongs” that Jews had historically suffered “by imposing on them a course of theological reading which their consciences do not permit them to pursue.” . . .

[H]owever, Jefferson simultaneously held Judaism itself in low regard. . . . [He] was deeply troubled that the Jewish God was “a being of terrific character, cruel, vindictive, capricious, and unjust.”

After the Library of Congress was burned down by the British during the War of 1812, Jefferson offered his entire eclectic collection of books, some 6,487 volumes which he had spent over 50 years accumulating, as a replacement. . . . One of those books was [an edition of the talmudic tractate] Bava Kamma (Leyden, 1637), containing the Hebrew text, its Latin translation, and a commentary by the prominent Dutch Hebraist Constantin L’Empereur, in which Jefferson inscribed his initials at pages 65 and 145.

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More about: American founders, Freedom of Religion, History & Ideas, Judaism, Talmud, Thomas Jefferson

Terror Returns to Israel

Nov. 28 2022

On Wednesday, a double bombing in Jerusalem left two dead, and many others injured—an attack the likes of which has not been seen since 2016. In a Jenin hospital, meanwhile, armed Palestinians removed an Israeli who had been injured in a car accident, reportedly murdering him in the process, and held his body hostage for two days. All this comes as a year that has seen numerous stabbings, shootings, and other terrorist attacks is drawing to a close. Yaakov Lappin comments:

Unlike the individual or small groups of terrorists who, acting on radical ideology and incitement to violence, picked up a gun, a knife, or embarked on a car-ramming attack, this time a better organized terrorist cell detonated two bombs—apparently by remote control—at bus stops in the capital. Police and the Shin Bet have exhausted their immediate physical searches, and the hunt for the perpetrators will now move to the intelligence front.

It is too soon to know who, or which organization, conducted the attack, but it is possible to note that in recent years, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) has taken a lead in remote-control-bombing terrorism. Last week, a car bomb that likely contained explosives detonated by remote control was discovered by the Israel Defense Forces in Samaria, after it caught fire prematurely. In August 2019, a PFLP cell detonated a remote-control bomb in Dolev, seventeen miles northwest of Jerusalem, killing a seventeen-year-old Israeli girl and seriously wounding her father and brother. Members of that terror cell were later arrested.

With the Palestinian Authority (PA) losing its grip in parts of Samaria to armed terror gangs, and the image of the PA at an all-time low among Palestinians, in no small part due to corruption, nepotism, and its violation of human rights . . . the current situation does not look promising.

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More about: Israeli Security, Jerusalem, Palestinian terror