The Founder of Esperanto and the Dangerous Allure of Jewish Universalism

March 18 2020

Born in Russian-ruled Bialystok in 1859, Ludwik Lejzer Zamenhof was fascinated by languages from a young age and, like many of his day, saw linguistics and politics as deeply intertwined. In the early 1880s, Zamenhof became an enthusiastic “territorialist”—believing that Jews should create a homeland somewhere outside the Middle East, in his view on the Mississippi River—and then a Zionist, although one who thought the Jewish state should be Yiddish-speaking. He then took another about-face and settled on the idea that would drive him for the rest of his life: the elimination of strife and prejudice through the end of linguistic differences—a problem he hoped to solve by creating a universal tongue, later known as Esperanto. As his Esperanto movement gathered steam, Zamenhof created an ideology to go with it, as Saul Jay Singer explains:

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Esperanto, Universalism, Zionism

Israel Has Dodged a Constitutional Crisis, but Only Temporarily

April 3 2020

Two weeks ago, then-Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein refused to hold a vote for his replacement, insisting that, in keeping with precedent, the new speaker should only be chosen after a governing coalition has been formed. As his move prevented the newly installed Israeli parliament from resuming its normal business, the Supreme Court tried to break the impasse with two unprecedented interventions into the legislative branch. To Evelyn Gordon, Edelstein acted out of a “genuine and serious concern” about constitutionally questionable moves by his opponents, even if the court was justified in its order that elections for the new speaker take place.

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Benny Gantz, Israeli politics, Israeli Supreme Court, Knesset