Why Ultra-Orthodox Jews Need to Reckon with Their Own Success

While there is little doubt that New York state’s governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City’s mayor Bill de Blasio have singled out Orthodox enclaves in their enforcement of social-distancing regulations, the fact remains that some of these communities have at times taken insufficient measures to prevent the spread of the pandemic. A similar situation exists in Israel, where prominent ḥaredi rabbis have persisted in keeping schools and synagogues open against government advice. To Shmuel Rosner, the problem lies in the very virtues that have led Ḥaredim to flourish:

Ḥaredi Jews have large families and live in densely populated areas. This enhances their model of togetherness and separateness. It also makes them more vulnerable to the coronavirus. By and large, like many closed communities, ḥaredi Jews are suspicious of outside institutions. (Some of this is born of a long history of persecution.) When outsiders demanded they shut down schools or cancel weddings or stop attending their synagogues, many of the leaders were thinking that such a decree could come only from people who do not understand the importance of these practices. They refused to comply.

[It] is time for ḥaredi leaders to realize that their model of isolation from the larger public is becoming archaic. Not because it failed, but because it succeeded.

The ḥaredi model in Israel and the West over the past century was meant to keep a threatened enclave from being wiped out by a cultural tsunami. It was . . . designed for a weak group attempting to prevent decline. But as a model for a strong and thriving community it is flawed and dangerous.

Responding to critics of his argument, and in particular to one who compared the situation of Jews in American with that of the Israelites in pharaonic Egypt, Rosner writes:

It is time for the ḥaredi world to acknowledge its success and stop pretending that it is under threat of an imaginary pharaoh, be it the mayor of New York City of the coronavirus czar in Israel. You are no longer oppressed. And that is a good thing.

Read more at Jewish Journal

More about: Bill de Blasio, Coronavirus, Ultra-Orthodox

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