The Rabbi and the Basketball Coach

Those who follow college basketball closely will know that the University of Kentucky’s much-admired coach, John Calipari, is leaving for Arkansas. Among those wishing him well is the local Chabad rabbi Shlomo Litvin, who developed a friendship with the coach. Kelsey Dallas writes:

Rabbi Litvin described getting to know Calipari through a series of casual run-ins at a coffee shop. The two men would exchange polite hellos and sometimes chat about the latest developments affecting campus life. But in late 2018, after eleven people died during the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, their conversation took on a more serious tone, Rabbi Litvin said. Calipari, who grew up in Pennsylvania and used to work in Pittsburgh, expressed his concern and offered his support.

“He compassionately shared how horrified he was by the shooting, inquired how our community was, and how I was doing personally. He shared about his own connections to the city. Then he asked: How can I help?” Rabbi Litvin wrote.

Calipari ultimately agreed to be part of a menorah-lighting ceremony for Hanukkah, even though the event was taking place during basketball season. . . . Calipari and Rabbi Litvin went on to work together on other community initiatives, including a rebuilding effort after a tornado hit Kentucky in 2021.

Read more at Deseret News

More about: Chabad, Sports, University

Iran’s Program of Subversion and Propaganda in the Caucasus

In the past week, Iranian proxies and clients have attacked Israel from the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, and Yemen. Iran also has substantial military assets in Iraq and Syria—countries over which it exercises a great deal of control—which could launch significant attacks on Israel as well. Tehran, in addition, has stretched its influence northward into both Azerbaijan and Armenia. While Israel has diplomatic relations with both of these rival nations, its relationship with Baku is closer and involves significant military and security collaboration, some of which is directed against Iran. Alexander Grinberg writes:

Iran exploits ethnic and religious factors in both Armenia and Azerbaijan to further its interests. . . . In Armenia, Iran attempts to tarnish the legitimacy of the elected government and exploit the church’s nationalist position and tensions between it and the Armenian government; in Azerbaijan, the Iranian regime employs outright terrorist methods similar to its support for terrorist proxies in the Middle East [in order to] undermine the regime.

Huseyniyyun (Islamic Resistance Movement of Azerbaijan) is a terrorist militia made up of ethnic Azeris and designed to fight against Azerbaijan. It was established by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps . . . in the image of other pro-Iranian militias. . . . Currently, Huseyniyyun is not actively engaged in terrorist activities as Iran prefers more subtle methods of subversion. The organization serves as a mouthpiece of the Iranian regime on various Telegram channels in the Azeri language. The main impact of Huseyniyyun is that it helps spread Iranian propaganda in Azerbaijan.

The Iranian regime fears the end of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan because this would limit its options for disruption. Iranian outlets are replete with anti-Semitic paranoia against Azerbaijan, accusing the country of awarding its territory to Zionists and NATO. . . . Likewise, it is noteworthy that Armenian nationalists reiterate hideous anti-Semitic tropes that are identical to those spouted by the Iranians and Palestinians. Moreover, leading Iranian analysts have no qualms about openly praising [sympathetic] Armenian clergy together with terrorist Iran-funded Azeri movements for working toward Iranian goals.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Azerbaijan, Iran, Israeli Security