How a Medieval Jewish Convert Fled Her Own Family and the Crusaders

Among the countless treasures found in the genizah—a depository for discarded documents—in Cairo’s Ben Ezra synagogue are a few fragmentary letters that tell the story of Christian woman who converted to Judaism in the 11th century. Henry Abramson writes:

Held in the remarkable Cairo Genizah collection of Cambridge University, the first letter was transcribed and published in 1931 by the pioneering scholar Jacob Mann (1888-1940) and described how this woman—she is strangely never named—left her wealthy Christian family (probably living in the northwestern region of Normandy) and became a convert to Judaism. She settled in the large Jewish community of Narbonne in the south of France, where she met her husband David, a member of the prominent Todros family, and had three children. Her brothers and others pursued her there, so the young family left the city. This was likely in the fateful summer of 1096.

Beginning in May of that year, a horrific new series of persecutions were unleashed on the Jews of Ashkenazi lands. For months, inspired by the call of Pope Urban II to impose Christian rule on the Holy Land, nobles and peasants alike were planning to make the long march to the land of Israel to defeat the “infidels.” . . . [A] group of frenzied Crusaders made a deathly calculation: why should they endure the arduous journey across land and sea to Israel, when there were unbelievers in their own midst, that is, the Jews?

It seems that David and two of the children—a son named Jacob and a three-year-old girl named Justa—took refuge in the synagogue [when Christians attacked the Jewish community of the village where he and his family lived]. David was murdered, and his children were kidnapped, presumably baptized and never seen again. Our heroine was spared, possibly because she was pregnant, but she and her infant son were left penniless.

The second fragments describe how she makes her way to Cairo, where she gives birth to a daughter. A refugee from the Crusades, she is supported by the community, presumably to the end of her days.

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Read more at Aish.com

More about: Anti-Semitism, Conversion, Crusades, French Jewry, Middle Ages

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