The Vacationing Rabbis of the Marienbad Spa

If you find a pre-World War II photograph of several European rabbis together, chances are high that they are either at a large wedding or at a resort of the kind once popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries—where people went to enjoy the putative health benefits of fresh air and “curative” waters. If the picture was taken at a resort, chances are high it was the Marienbad spa (now Mariánské Lázně in Czechoslovakia), a popular destination for Orthodox Jews from Central and Eastern Europe. David Leitner, whose ḥasidic great-grandfather founded the town’s Hotel National, has recently written a book about the spa and its role in rabbinic history. Matt Lebovic writes:

Surrounded by dozens of springs with high mineral content, Marienbad was where great Torah scholars from Poland rubbed elbows with Britain’s King Edward VII and Sigmund Freud. Festooned with elaborate fountains, promenades, and meeting halls, the town was perfect for conventions and conferences.

[W]hen Queen Wilhemina of the Netherlands visited Marienbad, she witnessed thousands of people greet Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Spira at the train station. Requesting a meeting with the legendary scholar, the queen planned to tell Spira—known as the Munkatsher rebbe—about her inability to produce an heir. After uttering a few blessings during their meeting, the rebbe assured the queen that her line would continue. Within months, the queen was pregnant with Princess Juliana, heir to the throne. (Years later, as Nazi Germany took over Europe, Queen Wilhemina intervened to help 80 prominent rabbis acquire entry visas to the Netherlands.)

At the Hotel National, kosher food and running water in every room were standard. The entrance was flanked by signs displaying the various amenities, including a lift to upper floors and central heating. The hotel’s religious facilities included a mikveh (ritual bath) and a synagogue whose ceiling was painted dark blue. As a point of pride, the foyer displayed a poster with the images of 50 great Torah scholars who frequented the premises.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: East European Jewry, Hasidism, Netherlands, Rabbis

While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy