A Place for Water-Carriers to Pray and a Letter from Sholem Aleichem: Lost Jewish Archives Come to New York

Last month, the YIVO Institute announced that some 170,000 documents and artifacts had been found in Lithuania, remnants of the collection that a group of Vilna Jews had hidden from the Nazis during World War II. A few of these items are now on display in New York. Josefin Dolsten describes some of the most notable:

A communal record book from Lazdijai, Lithuania, 1836. The book, called a pinkas, was written for a Talmud-study association and used to record information about its members, such as births, deaths, and business transactions. It is decorated with ornate illustrations and states that in order to remain part of the group, members must study a full page of Talmud together. . . .

A letter written by Sholem Aleichem from a health resort, Badenweiler, Germany, 1910. The famed Yiddish author had health problems and would spend time in health resorts far away from friends and family. In this note, Sholem Aleichem makes fun of Leon Neustadt, a leader in the Warsaw Jewish community, writing that a biblical verse referring to non-kosher animals . . . actually refers to Neustadt.

An agreement between a water-carrier union and the Ramayles Yeshiva, Vilna, 1857. In the document, the group . . . promises to donate a Torah scroll and raise money to purchase a Talmud set for the prominent yeshiva in exchange for the use of a room for religious services.

Read more at JTA

More about: History & Ideas, Jewish archives, Sholem Aleichem, Synagogues, Vilna, YIVO

An American Withdrawal from Iraq Would Hand Another Victory to Iran

Since October 7, the powerful network of Iran-backed militias in Iraq have carried out 120 attacks on U.S. forces stationed in the country. In the previous year, there were dozens of such attacks. The recent escalation has led some in the U.S. to press for the withdrawal of these forces, whose stated purpose in the country is to stamp out the remnants of Islamic State and to prevent the group’s resurgence. William Roberts explains why doing so would be a mistake:

American withdrawal from Iraq would cement Iran’s influence and jeopardize our substantial investment into the stabilization of Iraq and the wider region, threatening U.S. national security. Critics of the U.S. military presence argue that [it] risks a regional escalation in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran. However, in the long term, the U.S. military has provided critical assistance to Iraq’s security forces while preventing the escalation of other regional conflicts, such as clashes between Turkey and Kurdish groups in northern Iraq and Syria.

Ultimately, the only path forward to preserve a democratic, pluralistic, and sovereign Iraq is through engagement with the international community, especially the United States. Resisting Iran’s takeover will require the U.S. to draw international attention to the democratic backsliding in the country and to be present and engage continuously with Iraqi civil society in military and non-military matters. Surrendering Iraq to Iran’s agents would not only squander our substantial investment in Iraq’s stability; it would greatly increase Iran’s capability to threaten American interests in the Levant through its influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Read more at Providence

More about: Iran, Iraq, U.S. Foreign policy