Preparing for Passover in Venezuela

Despite economic crisis, a tyrannical regime allied closely with Iran, and growing unrest, some 6,000 Jews remain in Caracas, some holding out hope that President Nicolas Maduro will be toppled. Annika Hernroth-Rothstein, having spent a few weeks in the country, reports on the Jewish community there:

Kidnappings are one of the few profitable businesses here in Venezuela. . . . Members of the Jewish community, who are generally assumed to be wealthy, are popular targets. Some of the remaining Jews here are, in fact, better off financially than the general population, but, wealthy or not, they are a vulnerable minority living in a tumultuous failed state. . . .

Life [for Venezuelan Jews] is lived behind barriers, and Hebraica, [Caracas’s Jewish community] center, does not even allow my bodyguard—every journalist here must have one—and driver inside. I am shocked by how vast it is, a city inside a city, with schools, a bank, tennis courts, and restaurants. The Jewish community truly lives here: I see men in kippot having coffee and a game of backgammon as kindergarteners play wildly on the monkey bars. . . .

Although the diplomatic relationship between the state of Israel and the government of Venezuela is in shambles, identification with Israel is a large part of Jewish identity here. There are Israeli flags everywhere in Hebraica. Most of the children go on at least one communally subsidized trip to Israel while they’re at school, and many speak Hebrew as a result of the schools’ ambitious curriculum. There’s a mix of the religious and secular in the education here at Hebraica, as well as in the community. . . .

Venezuela’s Independence Day coincides with the first Passover seder this year. As all Venezuelans wonder what this Independence Day will bring, some of them will also be thinking about whether there will be enough matzah and kosher wine, and under what circumstances they will celebrate the festival of freedom.

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Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Latin America, Passover, Venezuela

As Vladimir Putin Sidles Up to the Mullahs, the Threat to the U.S. and Israel Grows

On Tuesday, Russia launched an Iranian surveillance satellite into space, which the Islamic Republic will undoubtedly use to increase the precision of its military operations against its enemies. The launch is one of many indications that the longstanding alliance between Moscow and Tehran has been growing stronger and deeper since the Kremlin’s escalation in Ukraine in February. Nicholas Carl, Kitaneh Fitzpatrick, and Katherine Lawlor write:

Presidents Vladimir Putin and Ebrahim Raisi have spoken at least four times since the invasion began—more than either individual has engaged most other world leaders. Putin visited Tehran in July 2022, marking his first foreign travel outside the territory of the former Soviet Union since the war began. These interactions reflect a deepening and potentially more balanced relationship wherein Russia is no longer the dominant party. This partnership will likely challenge U.S. and allied interests in Europe, the Middle East, and around the globe.

Tehran has traditionally sought to purchase military technologies from Moscow rather than the inverse. The Kremlin fielding Iranian drones in Ukraine will showcase these platforms to other potential international buyers, further benefitting Iran. Furthermore, Russia has previously tried to limit Iranian influence in Syria but is now enabling its expansion.

Deepening Russo-Iranian ties will almost certainly threaten U.S. and allied interests in Europe, the Middle East, and around the globe. Iranian material support to Russia may help the Kremlin achieve some of its military objectives in Ukraine and eastern Europe. Russian support of Iran’s nascent military space program and air force could improve Iranian targeting and increase the threat it poses to the U.S. and its partners in the Middle East. Growing Iranian control and influence in Syria will enable the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps [to use its forces in that country] to threaten U.S. military bases in the Middle East and our regional partners, such as Israel and Turkey, more effectively. Finally, Moscow and Tehran will likely leverage their deepening economic ties to mitigate U.S. sanctions.

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Read more at Critical Threats

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Russia, U.S. Security, Vladimir Putin