For Over 200 Years, Rabbis Crowdfunded Their Books

July 27 2022

In order to convince publishers to produce their works, Jewish writers in traditional milieux would roam from town to town collecting the names of people who pledged in advance to buy the books. As a token of appreciation, those names were then published in the books themselves. Elli Fischer explains what this practice can teach about Jewish history:

Between the late 18th and mid-20th centuries, several thousand Jewish books were published with lists of pre-subscribers (or prenumeranten), in a practice similar to today’s crowdfunding campaigns. Though the lists are generally organized alphabetically, either by name or by place, sometimes the order is geographical. By plotting such lists on a map, it is possible to reconstruct the journeys that authors or their agents took as they sold subscriptions to their books.

Fischer notes one of the most remarkable of these journeys:

Eliezer Ashkenazi was born in Poland in the early 19th century, but in 1845, his home was Tunis, and he was on his way back to Europe to publish a manuscript he found in North Africa. He had become a collector, dealer, copyist, and publisher of such manuscripts, and he returned to Europe several times, and by several different routes, writing on one occasion of his travels to Gibraltar by way of Morocco, and on another occasion of his return to North Africa from the port of Marseille.

As can be seen from Ashkenazi’s introduction to the first work he published, Sefer Zikaron (Livorno, 1845), by an early 16th-century Spanish refugee rabbi who found his way to Tunis, Ashkenazi viewed himself as a cultural bridge between the different lands of his travels.

“The dry heat of Africa did not stop me,” wrote Ashkenazi, “and the ice of Ashkenaz did not deter me.”

Read more at AJS Perspectives

More about: Books, Jewish history, North African Jewry, Rabbis

American Aid to Lebanon Is a Gift to Iran

For many years, Lebanon has been a de-facto satellite of Tehran, which exerts control via its local proxy militia, Hizballah. The problem with the U.S. policy toward the country, according to Tony Badran, is that it pretends this is not the case, and continues to support the government in Beirut as if it were a bulwark against, rather than a pawn of, the Islamic Republic:

So obsessed is the Biden administration with the dubious art of using taxpayer dollars to underwrite the Lebanese pseudo-state run by the terrorist group Hizballah that it has spent its two years in office coming up with legally questionable schemes to pay the salaries of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), setting new precedents in the abuse of U.S. foreign security-assistance programs. In January, the administration rolled out its program to provide direct salary payments, in cash, to both the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Internal Security Forces (ISF).

The scale of U.S. financing of Lebanon’s Hizballah-dominated military apparatus cannot be understated: around 100,000 Lebanese are now getting cash stipends courtesy of the American taxpayer to spend in Hizballah-land. . . . This is hardly an accident. For U.S. policymakers, synergy between the LAF/ISF and Hizballah is baked into their policy, which is predicated on fostering and building up a common anti-Israel posture that joins Lebanon’s so-called “state institutions” with the country’s dominant terror group.

The implicit meaning of the U.S. bureaucratic mantra that U.S. assistance aims to “undermine Hizballah’s narrative that its weapons are necessary to defend Lebanon” is precisely that the LAF/ISF and the Lebanese terror group are jointly competing to achieve the same goals—namely, defending Lebanon from Israel.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, U.S. Foreign policy