To Make Sense of Modern Jewish Civilization, One Must First Ask “What Counts as Jewish?”

The sixth volume, of a projected ten, of the Posen Library of Jewish Civilization anthologizes material from the period from 1750 to 1880. In his review, Allan Arkush, considers its approach to the difficult question of what qualifies as Jewish:

In a 1902 essay on Jewish cultural revival, Ahad Ha’am reflected on the death earlier that year of the Russian Jewish sculptor Mark Antokolsky. He lamented not only the talented artist’s demise but the loss to Jewish culture that his career represented. If Antokolsky had wanted “to create the image of a temperamental and cruel ruler who committed murders every day and terrorized his surroundings,” complained Ahad Ha’am, “but who still had ‘God’ in his heart, and who sinned and repented, sinned and repented,” he could have picked Herod, one of his own people. Why did he have to sculpt a statue of Ivan the Terrible? Did art require him to desert the Jews?

Far from regarding Antokolsky’s depiction of a 16th-century tsar as a marker of what Jewish culture has lost, the editor of [the volume] spotlights it with a full-page illustration. And this is by no means the only way in which Elisheva Carlebach defines Jewish culture far more expansively than Ahad Ha’am ever did. She selects numerous excerpts from the works of Jewish writers that have nothing to do with Jews or Judaism, as well as passages from the works of Jewish-born converts to Christianity, including anti-Semitic ones.

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Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Ahad Ha'am, Jewish art, Jewish Culture

The New Iran Deal Will Reward Terrorism, Help Russia, and Get Nothing in Return

After many months of negotiations, Washington and Tehran—thanks to Russian mediation—appear close to renewing the 2015 agreement concerning the Iranian nuclear program. Richard Goldberg comments:

Under a new deal, Iran would receive $275 billion of sanctions relief in the first year and $1 trillion by 2030. [Moreover], Tehran would face no changes in the old deal’s sunset clauses—that is, expiration dates on key restrictions—and would be allowed to keep its newly deployed arsenal of advanced uranium centrifuges in storage, guaranteeing the regime the ability to cross the nuclear threshold at any time of its choosing. . . . And worst of all, Iran would win all these concessions while actively plotting to assassinate former U.S. officials like John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, and [his] adviser Brian Hook, and trying to kidnap and kill the Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad on U.S. soil.

Moscow, meanwhile, would receive billions of dollars to construct additional nuclear power plants in Iran, and potentially more for storage of nuclear material. . . . Following a visit by the Russian president Vladimir Putin to Tehran last month, Iran reportedly started transferring armed drones for Russian use against Ukraine. On Tuesday, Putin launched an Iranian satellite into orbit reportedly on the condition that Moscow can task it to support Russian operations in Ukraine.

With American and European sanctions on Russia escalating, particularly with respect to Russian energy sales, Putin may finally see net value in the U.S. lifting of sanctions on Iran’s financial and commercial sectors. While the return of Iranian crude to the global market could lead to a modest reduction in oil prices, thereby reducing Putin’s revenue, Russia may be able to head off U.S. secondary sanctions by routing key transactions through Tehran. After all, what would the Biden administration do if Iran allowed Russia to use its major banks and companies to bypass Western sanctions?

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Russia, U.S. Foreign policy