A Snapshot of Jewish Salonica before Its Destruction

On the eve of World War II, Jews accounted for some 40 percent of the population of Salonica; in earlier times, they had constituted an absolute majority of the city’s inhabitants. Most of Salonica’s Jews were Sephardi and Ladino-speaking, descended from exiles from Spain who came to the Ottoman empire in the 16th century. In her recent book, Sarah Abrevaya Stein reconstructs the lives of a Salonican Jewish family named Levy in the 19th and 20th centuries, based on their correspondence and other papers. Like most of the other Jews of that city, almost the entire family was murdered in the Holocaust. Stein here shares a vignette of one of her subjects:

As a young man, . . . David a-Levi left the family business of printing to become a student of law, a high-ranking official in the Ottoman bureaucracy, and, in time, the head of Salonica’s Jewish community. These prestigious positions earned him a new name, Daout Effendi, Daout being a Turkish version of his given name, David, and effendi being an Ottoman honorific for a distinguished, well-educated man. Daout Effendi represented the Ottoman Passport Office as Sultan Abdülhamid II [tried to transform his] empire into a modern state. Later, Daout Effendi presided over the official Jewish community of Salonica when the Balkan Wars of 1912-13 resulted in the Ottomans’ loss of the city—territory the empire had held for centuries—[to Greece].

[David] helped the Jewish community meet the new demands of state and, in time, manage the chaos of World War I and the population exchanges between Turkey and Greece that followed. Salonica’s refugee population burgeoned [at this time] and poverty became the norm. “Each day the poor knock on the door,” . . . Daout Effendi wrote his son, “and it is I alone who must respond and comfort them.”

Read more at Los Angeles Review of Books

More about: Greece, Ottoman Empire, Sephardim, Thessaloniki, World War I


To Save Gaza, the U.S. Needs a Strategy to Restrain Iran

Since the outbreak of war on October 7, America has given Israel much support, and also much advice. Seth Cropsey argues that some of that advice hasn’t been especially good:

American demands for “restraint” and a “lighter footprint” provide significant elements of Hamas’s command structure, including Yahya Sinwar, the architect of 10/7, a far greater chance of surviving and preserving the organization’s capabilities. Its threat will persist to some extent in any case, since it has significant assets in Lebanon and is poised to enter into a full-fledged partnership with Hizballah that would give it access to Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps for recruitment and to Iranian-supported ratlines into Jordan and Syria.

Turning to the aftermath of the war, Cropsey observes that it will take a different kind of involvement for the U.S. to get the outcomes it desires, namely an alternative to Israeli and to Hamas rule in Gaza that comes with buy-in from its Arab allies:

The only way that Gaza can be governed in a sustainable and stable manner is through the participation of Arab states, and in particular the Gulf Arabs, and the only power that can deliver their participation is the United States. A grand bargain is impossible unless the U.S. exerts enough leverage to induce one.

Militarily speaking, the U.S. has shown no desire seriously to curb Iranian power. It has persistently signaled a desire to avoid escalation. . . . The Gulf Arabs understand this. They have no desire to engage in serious strategic dialogue with Washington and Jerusalem over Iran strategy, since Washington does not have an Iran strategy.

Gaza’s fate is a small part of a much broader strategic struggle. Unless this is recognized, any diplomatic master plan will degenerate into a diplomatic parlor game.

Read more at National Review

More about: Gaza War 2023, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy