When Cyclists, Zionists, Schoolgirls, and Catholic Seminarians Came to Visit Poland’s Largest Yeshiva

Dec. 20 2021

Best remembered today for establishing the seven-year cycle of daily Talmud study known as daf yomi, Rabbi Meir Shapira (1887-1933) also founded the Yeshiva of the Sages Lublin, which, far more than other, older East European centers of learning, resembled a modern educational institution—even located in a large, new building with dormitories and cafeteria. The yeshiva attracted a regular stream of visitors, ranging from scions of ḥasidic rabbinic dynasties to Jesuit seminarians. Thanks to a partially preserved guestbook, Wojciech Tworek has mined some information about them:

[The] visitors include merchants, a physician, and various organized groups. After all, burgeoning Jewish tourism was becoming an important way of spending leisure time. . . . [The organized] groups include a cyclist club, “Marathon,” whose members made it all the way to Lublin from Warsaw, almost 125 miles.

Other groups, often very remote from the ideology and worldview of the [yeshiva], also used trips there as an educational opportunity. Among these groups were members of the right-wing Revisionist Zionist youth movement Beitar; 59 students from a competing institution, the [religious Zionist] Warsaw Taḥkemoni rabbinical seminary; students from Lublin’s school for children with special needs; and 90 girls from a nearby public elementary school—rather unthinkable in today’s ḥasidic yeshivas with their strict standards of modesty and rigorous separation between sexes.

A few words are due about a visit paid by the “Astrea” student fraternity active at the Catholic University of Lublin. While the inscription in the book gives only the date of their visit and the number of visitors (twenty), the students shared their impressions several days later in Głos lubelski, the mouthpiece of the Lublin chapter of the right-wing nationalist National Democracy party. The article “Z wędrówek po Lublinie” (“From wandering around Lublin”), shows that the trip was not intended to open up young Catholic minds, but to confirm their long-harbored prejudice.

These students were not the only non-Jews visiting the yeshiva. Indeed, the guestbook demonstrates that it was a fairly popular destination among priests and seminary students. It is fascinating to see that in the mid-thirties, when rampant and violent anti-Semitism was on the rise in Poland and the Catholic Church was one of the antagonizing factors, the worlds of yeshiva students and Christian clergymen could meet.

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Read more at In geveb

More about: Anti-Semitism, Jewish-Christian relations, Polish Jewry, Yeshiva

 

Why the Recent Uptick of Israeli Activity in Syria?

Sept. 23 2022

On September 16 and 17, the IDF carried out airstrikes in the vicinity of Damascus, reportedly aimed at Iranian logistical centers there. These follow on an increase in the frequency of such attacks in recent weeks, which have included strikes on the Aleppo airport on August 31 and September 6. Jonathan Spyer comments:

The specific targeting of the Aleppo airport is almost certainly related to recent indications that Iran is relying increasingly on its “air bridge” to Syria and Lebanon, because of Israel’s successful and systematic targeting of efforts to move weaponry and equipment by land [via Iraq]. But the increased tempo of activity is not solely related to the specific issue of greater use of air transport by Teheran. Rather, it is part of a broader picture of increasing regional tension. There are a number of factors that contribute to this emergent picture.

Firstly, Russia appears to be pulling back in Syria. . . . There are no prospects for a complete Russian withdrawal. The air base at Khmeimim and the naval facilities at Tartus and Latakia are hard strategic assets which will be maintained. The maintenance of Assad’s rule is also a clear objective for Moscow. But beyond this, the Russians are busy now with a flailing, faltering military campaign in Ukraine. Moscow lacks the capacity for two close strategic engagements at once.

Secondly, assuming that some last-minute twist does not occur, it now looks like a return to the [2015 nuclear deal] is not imminent. In the absence of any diplomatic process related to the Iranian nuclear program, and given Israeli determination to roll back Iran’s regional ambitions, confrontation becomes more likely.

Lastly, it is important to note that the uptick in Israeli activity is clearly not related to Syria alone. Rather, it is part of a more general broadening and deepening by Israel in recent months of its assertive posture toward the full gamut of Iranian activity in the region. . . . The increasing scope and boldness of Israeli air activity in Syria reflects this changing of the season.

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Read more at Jonathan Spyer

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syria, War in Ukraine