A Dutch Jew’s Extraordinary Library, Its Curator, and a Modern Republic of Rabbinic Letters

Sept. 19 2023

Several years ago, Theodor Dunkelgrün had his first phone conversation with an elderly woman with whom he had been corresponding in the course of his scholarly pursuits. “Her Dutch,” Dunkelgrün recalls, “sounded as if it had been frozen in time, . . . a prewar Jewish Dutch vernacular in which I recognized the language of the elders of the decimated community into which I was born.” He tells her story:

Els Salomon-Prins Bendheim, who died this past January in her 100th year, happened upon a spectacular library, a collection of more than 6,000 manuscripts, printed editions, and ephemera, when she first visited Jerusalem in 1949 at the age of twenty-six. The library was the life’s work of the Dutch scholar Eliezer Liepman Philip Prins (Arnhem, 1835–Frankfurt, 1915). Els Salomon-Prins Bendheim was his granddaughter.

With time, she discovered, the library had become an archive of sorts. The margins teemed with manuscript annotations and tucked between the pages she found letters from some of the most prominent rabbis and scholars of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The encounter with his books lit a double flame of love and learning within her, and she devoted the rest of her life to safeguarding her grandfather’s memory by editing his correspondence and his marginalia, in Hebrew and in Dutch.

[S]he gave me copies of the three books (two in Hebrew, one in Dutch) that she had devoted to her grandfather. . . . Together, those books painted a portrait of a remarkable figure—a learned independent scholar, book collector, contributor to Jewish scholarly journals of the late 19th and early 20th centuries as well as to the Dutch Jewish press. From his home in Arnhem, he had set out to connect with the leading Jewish figures of his time. . . . It was through his membership of this modern republic of rabbinic letters that Prins had made his greatest contributions to Jewish scholarship, as a connector and go-between with unsurpassed knowledge about the worlds of Jewish scholarship and Jewish books.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Dutch Jewry, Jewish history, Libraries


Israel’s Covert War on Iran’s Nuclear Program Is Impressive. But Is It Successful?

Sept. 26 2023

The Mossad’s heist of a vast Iranian nuclear archive in 2018 provided abundant evidence that Tehran was not adhering to its commitments; it also provided an enormous amount of actionable intelligence. Two years later, Israel responded to international inspectors’ condemnation of the Islamic Republic’s violations by using this intelligence to launch a spectacular campaign of sabotage—a campaign that is the subject of Target Tehran, by Yonah Jeremy Bob and Ilan Evyatar. David Adesnik writes:

The question that remains open at the conclusion of Target Tehran is whether the Mossad’s tactical wizardry adds up to strategic success in the shadow war with Iran. The authors give a very respectful hearing to skeptics—such as the former Mossad director Tamir Pardo—who believe the country should have embraced the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Bob and Evyatar reject that position, arguing that covert action has proven itself the best way to slow down the nuclear program. They acknowledge, however, that the clerical regime remains fully determined to reach the nuclear threshold. “The Mossad’s secret war, in other words, is not over. Indeed, it may never end,” they write.

Which brings us back to Joe Biden. The clerical regime was headed over a financial cliff when Biden took office, thanks to the reimposition of sanctions after Washington withdrew from the nuclear deal. The billions flowing into Iran on Biden’s watch have made it that much easier for the regime to rebuild whatever Mossad destroys in addition to weathering nationwide protests on behalf of women, life, and freedom. Until Washington and Jerusalem get on the same page—and stay there—Tehran’s nuclear ambitions will remain an affordable luxury for a dictatorship at war with its citizens.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, Mossad, U.S. Foreign policy