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

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

To Save Gaza, the U.S. Needs a Strategy to Restrain Iran

Since the outbreak of war on October 7, America has given Israel much support, and also much advice. Seth Cropsey argues that some of that advice hasn’t been especially good:

American demands for “restraint” and a “lighter footprint” provide significant elements of Hamas’s command structure, including Yahya Sinwar, the architect of 10/7, a far greater chance of surviving and preserving the organization’s capabilities. Its threat will persist to some extent in any case, since it has significant assets in Lebanon and is poised to enter into a full-fledged partnership with Hizballah that would give it access to Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps for recruitment and to Iranian-supported ratlines into Jordan and Syria.

Turning to the aftermath of the war, Cropsey observes that it will take a different kind of involvement for the U.S. to get the outcomes it desires, namely an alternative to Israeli and to Hamas rule in Gaza that comes with buy-in from its Arab allies:

The only way that Gaza can be governed in a sustainable and stable manner is through the participation of Arab states, and in particular the Gulf Arabs, and the only power that can deliver their participation is the United States. A grand bargain is impossible unless the U.S. exerts enough leverage to induce one.

Militarily speaking, the U.S. has shown no desire seriously to curb Iranian power. It has persistently signaled a desire to avoid escalation. . . . The Gulf Arabs understand this. They have no desire to engage in serious strategic dialogue with Washington and Jerusalem over Iran strategy, since Washington does not have an Iran strategy.

Gaza’s fate is a small part of a much broader strategic struggle. Unless this is recognized, any diplomatic master plan will degenerate into a diplomatic parlor game.

Read more at National Review

More about: Gaza War 2023, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy