The Real Story of How Orthodox Education for Girls Came to Eastern Europe

Prior to World War I, traditional Jewish parents in Eastern Europe provided their daughters with, at the very most, a few years of formal religious education. If girls received any schooling beyond that, it would be at a secular institution; it was common, in fact, even for prominent Orthodox rabbis to send their daughters to secular schools. This all changed thanks to a Galician Jew named Sarah Schenirer, who founded a network of girls’ schools—known as Bais Yaakov—that grew rapidly in the 1920 and 30s; today, most ḥaredi girls attend Bais Yaakov institutions. Schenirer has since become a hero in ultra-Orthodox circles. But the popular version of her story, writes Leslie Ginsparg Klein, muddles some key details:

[According to most accounts], Schenirer first secured the approval of the major rabbinic figures of her time—most notably Israel Meir Kagan, known as the Ḥafetz Ḥayyim, a sort of living symbol of non-ḥasidic piety—before launching her grassroots educational movement in 1917. Some argue that she secured this approbation even before she began laying the foundations for her project in 1915. . . . [They claim] she obtained the approval of not only the Ḥafetz Ḥayyim, but also the Gerer rebbe [then the leading rabbi of Poland], and Rabbi Ḥayyim Ozer Grodzinski [the equivalent figure in northern Russia, among others]. . . .

However, there is something problematic about this account. . . . [T]he Ḥafetz Ḥayyim’s letter in support for Bais Yaakov . . . was written sixteen years after Schenirer opened the first Bais Yaakov school in Krakow. In fact, the declarations of support from the Grrer rebbe and Grodzinski were likewise issued a number of years after she had established [her flagship school in her native city of] Krakow. The only exception was the Belzer rebbe, who gave Schenirer a verbal blessing for her future labors. . . .

Schenirer seems to have gone to the Belzer rebbe, Yissachar Dov Rokeach, because she came from a family of his followers; at the time Rokeach was among Galicia’s most prominent ḥasidic rabbis, and also among the most conservative. Yet his approval consisted only of the words “blessing and success,” conveyed via Schenirer’s brother. Klein explains, therefore, that it was not the sanction of rabbinic leaders that paved the way for Schenirer’s educational innovations, but rather her school’s success that won her their support.

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Read more at Lehrhaus

More about: East European Jewry, Hafetz Hayyim, History & Ideas, Orthodoxy, Women in Judaism

The New Iran Deal Will Reward Terrorism, Help Russia, and Get Nothing in Return

After many months of negotiations, Washington and Tehran—thanks to Russian mediation—appear close to renewing the 2015 agreement concerning the Iranian nuclear program. Richard Goldberg comments:

Under a new deal, Iran would receive $275 billion of sanctions relief in the first year and $1 trillion by 2030. [Moreover], Tehran would face no changes in the old deal’s sunset clauses—that is, expiration dates on key restrictions—and would be allowed to keep its newly deployed arsenal of advanced uranium centrifuges in storage, guaranteeing the regime the ability to cross the nuclear threshold at any time of its choosing. . . . And worst of all, Iran would win all these concessions while actively plotting to assassinate former U.S. officials like John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, and [his] adviser Brian Hook, and trying to kidnap and kill the Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad on U.S. soil.

Moscow, meanwhile, would receive billions of dollars to construct additional nuclear power plants in Iran, and potentially more for storage of nuclear material. . . . Following a visit by the Russian president Vladimir Putin to Tehran last month, Iran reportedly started transferring armed drones for Russian use against Ukraine. On Tuesday, Putin launched an Iranian satellite into orbit reportedly on the condition that Moscow can task it to support Russian operations in Ukraine.

With American and European sanctions on Russia escalating, particularly with respect to Russian energy sales, Putin may finally see net value in the U.S. lifting of sanctions on Iran’s financial and commercial sectors. While the return of Iranian crude to the global market could lead to a modest reduction in oil prices, thereby reducing Putin’s revenue, Russia may be able to head off U.S. secondary sanctions by routing key transactions through Tehran. After all, what would the Biden administration do if Iran allowed Russia to use its major banks and companies to bypass Western sanctions?

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Russia, U.S. Foreign policy