Mordecai Manuel Noah, the Book of Esther, and the Ambiguities of the Jewish Diaspora

Feb. 28 2020

Born in Philadelphia to a prominent Jewish family, Mordecai Manuel Noah (1785-1851) was a playwright, essayist, lawyer, and (briefly) the U.S. consul to Tunis. He also served as a New York City sheriff, founded several newspapers, corresponded with ex-presidents on the subject of Jewish rights, and, in 1825, embarked on a quixotic proto-Zionist project to create a Jewish colony on Grand Island—located in the Niagara River separating western New York from Canada. Considering Noah’s colorful career, Stuart Halpern compares him with his biblical namesake:

The first Jew to confront openly the challenges and opportunities of American freedom, Mordecai Manuel Noah, like the biblical Mordechai, attempted through his actions to make the case that Jews could be robed in the clothing of leaders, spokespeople, and guardians of their country—for the benefit of their Jewish brethren, and the benefit of all citizens of the realm. Whether that case was a convincing one, in the eyes of their respective Jewish communities or in the minds of the citizenry of their respective home countries, remains open to debate.

[To some], the ending of the book of Esther is . . . tinged with pessimism and even tragedy, [a] tale of Jews barely retaining their national identity. Unlike the book of Ruth, which concludes with a genealogy leading to the birth of King David, Esther ends without offering hope of a viable future for the Jews of Shushan, [the Persian capital where the book takes place]. Mordechai doesn’t leverage his political power to pave the way for a return of the Jews to Israel, where the Second Temple was already standing, but rather is absorbed into the economic and political machine that is the Persian empire.

Mordecai Manuel Noah sharpens the question raised by the biblical Mordechai: can there be viable Jewish continuity in the Diaspora, even in a country with the freedoms and protections of America? According to [some rabbis and scholars], the very purpose of the megillah [read on Purim] is a satirical one—to demonstrate that efforts to build vibrant Jewish life outside of Israel are quixotic. [In this reading], the notorious absence of God’s name in the megillah, reflective of the hiddenness of His presence outside of Israel, [is one of many] signs that there was as much of a promising future for Shushan’s Jews as there was the chance that a ceremony in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in upstate New York, [held by Noah to inaugurate his Grand Island project], would lead to the first Jewish homeland in 1,800 years.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: American Jewish History, Esther, Mordecai, Zionism

Europe Must Stop Tolerating Iranian Operations on Its Soil

March 31 2023

Established in 2012 and maintaining branches in Europe, North America, and Iran, the Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Network claims its goal is merely to show “solidarity” for imprisoned Palestinians. The organization’s leader, however, has admitted to being a representative of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a notorious terrorist group whose most recent accomplishments include murdering a seventeen-year-old girl. As Arsen Ostrovsky and Patricia Teitelbaum point out, Samidoun is just one example of how the European Union allows Iran-backed terrorists to operate in its midst:

The PFLP is a proxy of the Iranian regime, which provides the terror group with money, training, and weapons. Samidoun . . . has a branch in Tehran. It has even held events there, under the pretext of “cultural activity,” to elicit support for operations in Europe. Its leader, Khaled Barakat, is a regular on Iran’s state [channel] PressTV, calling for violence and lauding Iran’s involvement in the region. It is utterly incomprehensible, therefore, that the EU has not yet designated Samidoun a terror group.

According to the Council of the European Union, groups and/or individuals can be added to the EU terror list on the basis of “proposals submitted by member states based on a decision by a competent authority of a member state or a third country.” In this regard, there is already a standing designation by Israel of Samidoun as a terror group and a decision of a German court finding Barakat to be a senior PFLP operative.

Given the irrefutable axis-of-terror between Samidoun, PFLP, and the Iranian regime, the EU has a duty to put Samidoun and senior Samidoun leaders on the EU terror list. It should do this not as some favor to Israel, but because otherwise it continues to turn a blind eye to a group that presents a clear and present security threat to the European Union and EU citizens.

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Read more at Newsweek

More about: European Union, Iran, Palestinian terror, PFLP