The Woman behind the First Printed Hebrew Prayer Book

Aug. 12 2021

The story of Hebrew printing begins in Italy in the latter part of the 15th century. Among the lesser-known pioneers of this period of Jewish publishing was Meshulam Kuzi, who produced an edition of the s’liot—penitential prayers said in the days or weeks prior to Rosh Hashanah. Yori Yalon writes:

Kuzi . . . founded a small printing business in the Italian town Piove di Sacco [and] printed his texts in stunning “Ashkenazi letters.” . . . According to the National Library of Israel, “This s’liot prayer book from around 1475 is effectively the first Hebrew prayer book ever printed.”

Another interesting aspect of the book is the role women played in its production. The curator of the National Library’s Judaica collection, Yoel Finkelman, explains that Meshulam’s wife is believed to have been active in publishing the work. “We know that Rabbi Meshulam passed away before it was published, and his widow, Devorah, completed the work,” Finkelman notes.

The pages of this copy of the book include evidence it was used by at least two other Ashkenazi women, who made notes about their husbands. On the first page appears a sentence signed “Mrs. Esther, daughter of Rabbi Asher,” which was apparently written not long after the book was published. . . . Another woman wrote her name on one of the last pages, a few hundred years later.

Nor was this Devorah the only widow with that name to play a significant role in the history of Jewish printing. Devorah Romm took over Vilna’s Romm publishing house, founded in 1799, after the death of her husband in 1860, serving as its director until her own death in 1903. During this period, the Romm press produced its renowned edition of the Talmud—whose layout has been imitated by nearly every subsequent edition, and whose pagination remains the standard way by which the work is cited.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Italian Jewry, Prayer books, Rare books, Vilna, Women in Judaism

American Aid to Lebanon Is a Gift to Iran

For many years, Lebanon has been a de-facto satellite of Tehran, which exerts control via its local proxy militia, Hizballah. The problem with the U.S. policy toward the country, according to Tony Badran, is that it pretends this is not the case, and continues to support the government in Beirut as if it were a bulwark against, rather than a pawn of, the Islamic Republic:

So obsessed is the Biden administration with the dubious art of using taxpayer dollars to underwrite the Lebanese pseudo-state run by the terrorist group Hizballah that it has spent its two years in office coming up with legally questionable schemes to pay the salaries of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), setting new precedents in the abuse of U.S. foreign security-assistance programs. In January, the administration rolled out its program to provide direct salary payments, in cash, to both the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Internal Security Forces (ISF).

The scale of U.S. financing of Lebanon’s Hizballah-dominated military apparatus cannot be understated: around 100,000 Lebanese are now getting cash stipends courtesy of the American taxpayer to spend in Hizballah-land. . . . This is hardly an accident. For U.S. policymakers, synergy between the LAF/ISF and Hizballah is baked into their policy, which is predicated on fostering and building up a common anti-Israel posture that joins Lebanon’s so-called “state institutions” with the country’s dominant terror group.

The implicit meaning of the U.S. bureaucratic mantra that U.S. assistance aims to “undermine Hizballah’s narrative that its weapons are necessary to defend Lebanon” is precisely that the LAF/ISF and the Lebanese terror group are jointly competing to achieve the same goals—namely, defending Lebanon from Israel.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, U.S. Foreign policy