The Rabbi Who Met with Presidents

When Isaac Mayer Wise—the principal architect of Reform Judaism in America—met then-President Zachary Taylor in the White House, he was not meeting a U.S. president for the first time, but Taylor was meeting a rabbi for the first time. At least, that’s what Wise claims in his memoirs, and there is no evidence to the contrary. Allan Arkush describes both this meeting and some of Wise’s other presidential audiences:

When he went to the White House in February 1850, Wise himself was not yet the distinguished president of the Hebrew Union College or the Central Conference of American Rabbis; he was just a thirty-year-old pulpit rabbi from Albany, New York. Zachary Taylor, the Mexican War hero, had been president of the United States for less than a year when Wise, who was traveling south for his health, arrived in Washington, DC.

A Bohemian-born immigrant who had been in the US less than four years, Wise was eager to observe the American government at work. He could hardly have picked a more exciting moment. The debate over the Missouri Compromise was raging, and . . . Wise owed his meeting with the president to one of the principal debaters—William H. Seward—who was a friend of his from Albany, where the senator had been a lawyer for a number of years between his terms as governor of New York and his election to the upper house in 1849.

It seems . . . that newspaper reports of the very fact that he had met with the president made Wise into an instant celebrity. The following day he had a long conversation with Daniel Webster, who was so impressed by his erudition that he offered to get him hired at Boston University.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: American Jewish History, Isaac Mayer Wise, 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