Celebrating One of America’s Oldest Synagogues

This year, Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim (KKBE) in Charleston, South Carolina celebrates its 275th anniversary. Menachem Wecker delves into the synagogue’s architecture and the history of the local Jewish community:

Sitting in the voluminous sanctuary of KKBE across the aisle from Mark Swick, executive director of the congregation, is an exercise in self-restraint to focus on the conversation and not the arresting interior. Light pours in through colorful stained-glass windows, many with biblical themes. Some depict Noah’s ark, perhaps a nod to the merchants drawn to the city’s ports. An apparent depiction of the burning bush is damaged, a kind of echo of the 1794 synagogue building’s destruction in an 1838 fire that destroyed many city blocks.

KKBE boasts of being the oldest synagogue in continuous use in the nation. Touro Synagogue, in Newport, Rhode Island, is older but hasn’t been used continuously. The first Jews arrived in Charleston in the late 17th century—largely Sephardi merchants drawn to the city’s seaport and its unusual hospitality toward Jews, among others. By 1749, KKBE was formed, building its first synagogue 45 years later.

The current Greek Revival building draws on classical Greek architecture while suspending a dome—a distinctly ancient Roman feature—underneath the roof, according to an informational video that plays in the sanctuary for visitors. The elegant ark and interior suggested that Judaism, an older tradition, surpassed the best of Greece and Rome, per the video.

Read more at JNS

More about: American Jewish History, Jewish architecture, Synagogues

While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

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