The Gentile Scholar Who Became the First Campus Rabbi

In 1759, Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Lifshuetz gave a Danish Protestant named Olaf Gerhard Tychsen a document certifying him as a ḥaver, or fellow—a sort of junior version of a rabbinic degree. This is likely the only case in history of traditional rabbinic ordination of any sort being granted to a non-Jew. Previously, Tychsen had studied under Jonathan Eybeschuetz, considered one of the foremost rabbis of his day. Edward Reichman shares some new research into Tychsen’s subsequent activities:

One year after his ordination, toward the end of 1760, Tychsen was appointed professor of Oriental Languages at the newly established University of Bützow in Mecklenburg, [Germany]. It is in this capacity that Tychsen exercised a rabbinic role, becoming a university campus rabbi of sorts for a select group of Jews at the university. Though he may not actually have had a “minyan” of students, nonetheless, his impact on this select group was profound and long lasting.

Reichmann notes that Tychsen, who became the leading scholar of coins from the Islamic world, carried out correspondence in fluid Hebrew with Jewish colleagues, which he peppered with learned puns and allusions in the rabbinic style of the day. He developed a particularly close friendship with a medical student named Markus Moses:

Tychsen had a working academic relationship with Moses, as evidenced by the multiple research papers Moses wrote under his mentorship. It is remarkable that all of the papers were on Jewish topics. I have found a number of cases, though relatively few in number, of Jewish medical students throughout the centuries who wrote their medical school dissertations on a Jewish related topic, but I have never encountered any student who authored so many Jewish related papers as part of their medical training. The topics included the Samaritan Bible, a discussion of kosher and non-kosher animals based on the work of Maimonides, and an essay on the diseases of the old as reflected in Ecclesiastes 12. Moses’ dissertation . . . was also on a Jewish topic and was supervised by Tychsen.

An oath was . . . part of the graduation ceremony, and it typically involved avowing one’s belief in Christianity. Tychsen intervened with the duke of Mecklenberg on Moses’ behalf to allow him to take his graduation oath invoking the name of the God of Israel as opposed to the Christian deity. He even publicly conversed with Moses in Yiddish at the graduation.

Read more at Seforim

More about: Jewish-Christian relations, Rabbis

Russia’s Alliance with Hizballah Is Growing Stronger

Tehran’s ongoing cooperation with Moscow has recently garnered public attention because of the Kremlin’s use of Iranian arms against Ukraine, but it extends much further, including to the Islamic Republic’s Lebanese proxy, Hizballah. Aurora Ortega and Matthew Levitt explain:

Over the last few years, Russia has quietly extended its reach into Lebanon, seeking to cultivate cultural, economic, and military ties in Beirut as part of a strategy to expand Russian influence in the Middle East, while sidelining the U.S. and elevating Moscow’s role as a peacemaker.

Russia’s alliance with Hizballah was born out of the conflict in Syria, where Russian and Hizballah forces fought side-by-side in an alliance with the Assad regime. For years, this alliance appeared strictly limited to military activity in Syria, but in 2018, Hizballah and Russia began to engage in unprecedented joint sanctions-evasion activities. . . . In November 2018, the U.S. Department of the Treasury exposed a convoluted trade-based oil-smuggling sanctions-evasion scheme directed by Hizballah and [Iran].

The enhanced level of collaboration between Russia and Hizballah is not limited to sanctions evasion. In March 2021, Hizballah sent a delegation to Moscow, on its second-ever “diplomatic” visit to the country. Unlike its first visit a decade prior, which was enveloped in secrecy with no media exposure, this visit was well publicized. During their three days in Moscow, Hizballah representatives met with various Russian officials, including the Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov. . . . Just three months after this visit to Moscow, Hizballah received the Russian ambassador to Lebanon Alexander Rudakov in Beirut to discuss further collaboration on joint projects.

Read more at Royal United Services Institute

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Lebanon, Russia