A Stolen Synagogue Seat and the Fate of a Russian-Jewish Family

Born in 1893 in a small, backwater Russian shtetl, Doba-Mera Medvedeva began writing her memoirs—filled with rich and detailed descriptions of Jewish life—while living in the Soviet Union in the 1930s. Her grandson, the Israeli historian Michael Beizer, later published these Russian-language memoirs, which have recently been translated into English by Alice Nakhimovsky. The passage below describes the arrival in the shtetl of Medvedeva’s uncle Alter, who would use his relative wealth to exploit her family. Crucial to this passage is the mizra, or eastern wall of a synagogue, where the most desirable seats in the sanctuary could be purchased; sitting near the eastern wall was the ultimate sign of status:

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Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Russian Jewry, Shtetl, Synagogue

Israeli Sovereignty Would Free Residents of the West Bank from Ottoman Law

To its opponents, the change in the legal status of certain areas of Judea and Samaria is “annexation;” to its proponents, it is the “extension of sovereignty” or the “application of Israeli law.” Naomi Khan argues that the last term best captures the practical implications of the measures in question. Since the Six-Day War, the Jewish state has continued to uphold the Ottoman legal system in areas of the West Bank under its jurisdiction—despite the fact that the Ottoman empire ceased to exist in 1922; “annexation” would end this situation. Setting aside the usual questions of foreign policy, security, and the possibility of Palestinian statehood, Khan argues that this change would be the one most felt by those who live there:

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More about: Annexation, Israeli law, Ottoman Empire, Palestinian Authority, West Bank