How Medieval Converts from Judaism Helped Focus Anti-Semites’ Attention on the Talmud

On the upcoming holiday of Tisha b’Av, which begins this evening, Jews mourn not only the destruction of the First and Second Temples but all instances of persecution throughout the ages. Thus, one of the liturgical poems traditionally recited by Ashkenazim commemorates the burning of the Talmud by church authorities in Paris in 1242. Lawrence Schiffman explains why medieval churchmen came to view the Talmud with such hostility:

The earliest person to polemicize against the Talmud directly was probably Petrus Alphonsi, a Jewish physician and scholar who converted to Christianity in 1106 and was formerly known as Moses Sephardi. . . . The first sections of his Dialogue against the Jews attacks Judaism to a great extent by challenging the Talmud and the ancient rabbis. Whereas previous claims had been that the Jews continued to practice biblical law [while] refusing to accept Christianity, Petrus now claimed that the Jews were following what he said was a new and false law—that of the Talmud.

Somewhat different was Peter the Venerable, the Benedictine Abbot of Cluny (ca. 1092-1156). [Although] hostile to Jews and Judaism, he [nonetheless] wanted to see Jews spared from violence. . . . Peter composed a lengthy polemic against the Jews that included an attack on the Talmud. Peter [was] the first [influential author to make] an attack of this nature, although those who followed him had much more thorough familiarity with the [text itself, at a time] when European Christendom was crystallizing a new spirited opposition to Jews and Judaism. . . .

By the 13th century, Jewish converts to Christianity began to provide much greater [access to] talmudic learning to increasingly anti-talmudic Christian authorities. The first of these converts was Nicholas Donin, who lived in the first half of the 13th century. He argued that the Talmud was intolerable to Christians and that Christian society should destroy it. He set in motion the process that would lead to the burning of the Talmud in France in the 1240s.

Read more at Lawrence Schiffman

More about: Anti-Semitism, History & Ideas, Middle Ages, Religion & Holidays, Talmud, Tisha b'Av

Iran’s Program of Subversion and Propaganda in the Caucasus

In the past week, Iranian proxies and clients have attacked Israel from the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, and Yemen. Iran also has substantial military assets in Iraq and Syria—countries over which it exercises a great deal of control—which could launch significant attacks on Israel as well. Tehran, in addition, has stretched its influence northward into both Azerbaijan and Armenia. While Israel has diplomatic relations with both of these rival nations, its relationship with Baku is closer and involves significant military and security collaboration, some of which is directed against Iran. Alexander Grinberg writes:

Iran exploits ethnic and religious factors in both Armenia and Azerbaijan to further its interests. . . . In Armenia, Iran attempts to tarnish the legitimacy of the elected government and exploit the church’s nationalist position and tensions between it and the Armenian government; in Azerbaijan, the Iranian regime employs outright terrorist methods similar to its support for terrorist proxies in the Middle East [in order to] undermine the regime.

Huseyniyyun (Islamic Resistance Movement of Azerbaijan) is a terrorist militia made up of ethnic Azeris and designed to fight against Azerbaijan. It was established by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps . . . in the image of other pro-Iranian militias. . . . Currently, Huseyniyyun is not actively engaged in terrorist activities as Iran prefers more subtle methods of subversion. The organization serves as a mouthpiece of the Iranian regime on various Telegram channels in the Azeri language. The main impact of Huseyniyyun is that it helps spread Iranian propaganda in Azerbaijan.

The Iranian regime fears the end of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan because this would limit its options for disruption. Iranian outlets are replete with anti-Semitic paranoia against Azerbaijan, accusing the country of awarding its territory to Zionists and NATO. . . . Likewise, it is noteworthy that Armenian nationalists reiterate hideous anti-Semitic tropes that are identical to those spouted by the Iranians and Palestinians. Moreover, leading Iranian analysts have no qualms about openly praising [sympathetic] Armenian clergy together with terrorist Iran-funded Azeri movements for working toward Iranian goals.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Azerbaijan, Iran, Israeli Security