How an Heirloom Bible Found Its Way to Its Rightful Owners after Eighty Years

Aug. 31 2021

A few years ago, an art historian came upon an ornate Tanakh—with drawings by the famed 19th-century illustrator Gustave Doré—for sale on eBay. He purchased it, and then donated it to a local synagogue. Four years later, its origins were pieced together. Nicole Asbury tells the story:

A father and son in Oberdorf, Germany in 1990 were renovating the home they’d just bought when they came across something unusual: a chest hidden behind a double wall in the attic. Tucked inside the chest was a large, gilded Jewish Bible that looked like it had been carefully placed there. It was heavy, about 22 pounds, and almost 30 inches long and three inches high. . . [T]he son held onto it for nearly 30 years. But in April 2017, he decided to sell it on eBay. . . .

The Bible, it turned out, was part of the legacy of Eduard and Ernestine Leiter, a Jewish couple from Stuttgart killed by the Nazis during the Holocaust. . . . The Nazis forced them to move to Oberdorf . . . to live with seven other Jewish families. In August 1942, the Germans sent the couple to Theresienstadt, a ghetto and concentration camp outside Prague. Before the Leiters left the home in Oberdorf, they hid all their valuables and personal items—including their jewelry, some letters, and an 1874 edition of the Jewish Bible—in hopes of returning and retrieving their keepsakes. They never returned.

The Leiters’s son, Sali, was the lone survivor in the family. That’s when the family story becomes remarkable: Sali’s descendants—who did not know much about him—came to possess his parents’ Bible. It landed this summer on their doorstep in New York.

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Read more at Washington Post

More about: German Jewry, Hebrew Bible, Holocaust, Holocaust restitution

Iran, America, and the Future of Democracy in the Middle East

Nov. 23 2022

Sixty-two days after the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the Islamic Republic’s police, the regime has failed to quash the protest movement. But it is impossible to know if the tide will turn, and what the outcome of the government’s collapse might be. Reuel Marc Gerecht considers the very real possibility that a democratic Iran will emerge, and considers the aftershocks that might follow. (Free registration required.)

American political and intellectual elites remain uneasy with democracy promotion everywhere primarily because it has failed so far in the Middle East, the epicenter of our attention the last twenty years. (Iraq’s democracy isn’t dead, but it didn’t meet American expectations.) Might our dictatorial exception for Middle Eastern Muslims change if Iran were to set in motion insurrections elsewhere in the Islamic world, in much the same way that America’s response to 9/11 probably helped to produce the rebellions against dictatorship that started in Tunisia in 2010? The failure of the so-called Arab Spring to establish one functioning democracy, the retreat of secular democracy in Turkey, and the implosion of large parts of the Arab world have left many wondering whether Middle Eastern Muslims can sustain representative government.

In 1979 the Islamic revolution shook the Middle East, putting religious militancy into overdrive and tempting Saddam Hussein to unleash his bloodiest war. The collapse of Iran’s theocracy might be similarly seismic. Washington’s dictatorial preference could fade as the contradictions between Arab tyranny and Persian democracy grow.

Washington isn’t yet invested in democracy in Iran. Yet, as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has often noted, American hostility toward the Islamic Republic has been damaging. If the theocracy falls, Iranians will surely give America credit—vastly more credit that they will give to the European political class, who have been trying to make nice, and make money, with the clerical regime since the early 1990s—for this lasting enmity. We may well get more credit than we deserve. Both Democrats and Republicans who have dismissed the possibilities of democratic revolutions among the Muslim peoples of the Middle East will still, surely, claim it eagerly.

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Arab democracy, Democracy, Iran, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy