Thomas Jefferson: Critic of Judaism, Protector of the Jews

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.

Read more at Jewish Press

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


As Hamas’s Power Collapses, Old Feuds Are Resurfacing

In May, Mahmoud Nashabat, a high-ranking military figure in the Fatah party (which controls the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority), was gunned down in central Gaza. Nashabat was an officer in the Gaza wing of the Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, a terrorist outfit that served as Fatah’s vanguard during the second intifada, and now sometimes collaborates with Hamas. But his killers were Hamas members, and he was one of at least 35 Palestinians murdered in Gaza in the past two months as various terrorist and criminal groups go about settling old scores, some of which date back to the 1980s. Einav Halabi writes:

Security sources familiar with the situation told the London-based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat that Gaza is now also beleaguered by the resurgence of old conflicts. “Many people have been killed in incidents related to the first intifada in 1987, while others have died in family disputes,” they said.

The “first-intifada portfolio” in Gaza is considered complex and convoluted, as it is filled with hatred among residents who accuse others of killing relatives for various reasons, including collaboration with Israel. . . . According to reports from Gaza, there are vigorous efforts on the ground to contain these developments, but the chances of success remain unclear. Hamas, for its part, is trying to project governance and control, recently releasing several videos showcasing how its operatives brutally beat residents accused of looting.

These incidents, gruesome as they are, suggest that Hamas’s control over the territory is slipping, and it no longer holds a monopoly on violence or commands the fear necessary to keep the population in line. The murders and beatings also dimension the grim reality that would ensue if the war ends precipitously: a re-empowered Hamas setting about getting vengeance on its enemies and reimposing its reign of terror.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Fatah, Gaza War 2023, Hamas