The Complicated Legacy of Eva Frank, Perhaps the Only Jewish, Female Messianic Figure

Five years before Eva Frank was born in 1756 in what is now Ukraine, her father Jacob had declared himself the successor of the 17th-century false messiah Shabbetai Tzvi. As Shira Telushkin writes, the elder Frank amassed thousands of followers before being excommunicated by Jewish authorities in 1756. He responded by converting to Catholicism, along with 3,000 of his disciples. Eva, raised in this strange religious atmosphere, followed in her father’s footsteps to become a radical spiritual leader.

Eva, who had been named Rachel at birth in honor of Jacob’s mother, was baptized with her new name. At this point, Jacob began to integrate Jewish and Christian beliefs more boldly into his theology. Soon after, however, local Catholic authorities imprisoned Jacob on charges of false conversion, noting that his followers continued to worship him as a divine presence and refused to marry outside their own community. Jacob was kept in a monastery in Częstochowa, where he continued to receive visits from admirers and develop his own ideas about mysticism, redemption, and feminine sexual power. Eva stayed with her father throughout the thirteen years of his imprisonment, along with her mother Hannah, and grew close to him. Their bond was reinforced when, later, Eva refused to leave during a Russian siege of the city, which kept even his staunchest followers outside the gates.

Jacob established Eva as a central figure of worship among his followers and encouraged her to hear confessions and administer punishments for sins. When Jacob died in 1791, Eva moved to Offenbach, Germany, with two of her brothers, where they strived to continue their father’s work and continue her role as the messianic divine figurehead of the movement. There, she continued to receive visitors, offer confession, and maintain support.

What do we make of Eva Frank? Her strange legacy is often caught between those eager to embrace her as a trailblazing icon of female religious authority, and those convinced she was a tragic victim in her father’s abusive schemes.

Read more at JStor Daily

More about: Jewish history, Messianism, Shabbetai Tzvi, Women in Judaism

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict