When Shanghai Was an Intellectual Capital of Sephardi Jewry

In the second half of the 19th century Shanghai became a major center of international commerce, and also home to a sizeable Jewish population—consisting mostly of Iraqi Jews who came there either from Bombay or directly from the Middle East. Aryeh Tepper describes this community’s contribution to the world of Jewish ideas:

Free to pursue their business, political, and spiritual interests in Shanghai’s British-run “International Settlement,” the Baghdadi Jewish community of Shanghai published local news and big ideas in Israel’s Messenger (IM), an English-language newspaper that was edited for many years by N.E.B. Ezra, a religious Jew and energetic Zionist from a well-known and well-connected Baghdadi Jewish family. . . . IM was . . . established in 1904, and under Ezra’s editorship the newspaper’s masthead declared it to be  a “fearless exponent of traditional Judaism and Jewish nationalism.” IM accordingly included discussions of local Jewish concerns together with long-form essays that probed the depths of Judaism and the progress of the Zionist movement.

IM’s horizon, however, was not limited to the Jewish world. Ezra advocated for Zionism in an Asian context, and he published entries on the Zionist movement by Japanese, Chinese, and Hindu intellectuals and public figures. The feather in IM’s cap was a letter in support of Zionism from the founder of modern Chinese nationalism, Sun Yat-sen, who wrote “to assure you of my sympathy for this movement which is one of the greatest movements of the present time.”

IM’s openness and receptivity to other cultures, religions, and peoples transcended purely diplomatic concerns. Together with local and general Jewish items, the Shanghai Jewish newspaper gave a platform to the Sanskrit scholar and historian of Bengali literature, H.P. Shastri, to offer his Hindu perspectives on Israel’s role in the revival of Asia, and to the Lahore-based Muslim author Muhammad Manzur Illahi to offer an Ahmadi view of Jewish-Muslim relations. IM also published essays on Christianity and theosophy and incorporated features on international figures like Rabindranath Tagore, the Bengali Nobel Prize-winning poet.

Read more at Tel Aviv Review of Books

More about: China, East Asian Jewry, History of Zionism, Judaism, Sephardim


Planning for the Day after the War in the Gaza Strip

At the center of much political debate in Israel during the past week, as well as, reportedly, of disagreement between Jerusalem and Washington, is the problem of how Gaza should be governed if not by Hamas. Thus far, the IDF has only held on to small parts of the Strip from which it has cleared out the terrorists. Michael Oren lays out the parameters of this debate over what he has previous called Israel’s unsolvable problem, and sets forth ten principles that any plan should adhere to. Herewith, the first five:

  1. Israel retains total security control in Gaza, including control of all borders and crossings, until Hamas is demonstrably defeated. Operations continue in Rafah and elsewhere following effective civilian evacuations. Military and diplomatic efforts to secure the hostages’ release continue unabated.
  2. Civil affairs, including health services and aid distribution, are administered by Gazans unaffiliated with Hamas. The model will be Area B of Judea and Samaria, where Israel is in charge of security and Palestinians are responsible for the civil administration.
  3. The civil administration is supervised by the Palestinian Authority once it is “revitalized.” The PA first meets benchmarks for ending corruption and establishing transparent institutions. The designation and fulfillment of the benchmarks is carried out in coordination with Israel.
  4. The United States sends a greatly expanded and improved version of the Dayton Mission that trained PA police forces in Gaza after Israel’s disengagement.
  5. Abraham Accords countries launch a major inter-Arab initiative to rebuild and modernize Gaza.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, Israeli Security, U.S.-Israel relationship