For the Jews of Frankfurt, a Second Purim Once Celebrated a 17th-Century Anti-Semitic Riot

Feb. 26 2019

Few Jewish communities managed to preserve and document their local customs as thoroughly as did the community of Frankfurt-am-Main, one of the oldest in northern Europe. Among these customs is the celebration of a second Purim, just six days after the regular holiday. Josh Weiner writes:

In 1614, a local baker and troublemaker named Vincent Fettmilch, who, [in the Jews’ telling] considered himself to be the “New Haman,” led the city guilds in an uprising against the Holy Roman emperor Matthias. Included in their demands for lower taxes were also demands for fewer Jews in town and lower interest rates on Jewish loans.

When the emperor ignored or rejected the demands of the city guilds, Fettmilch led a mob to ransack the Jewish quarter of Frankfurt, burning, fighting, and pillaging until the entire Jewish population was forced to flee. Two years later, in February 1616, Emperor Matthias had Vincent Fettmilch and five of the other rebels hanged, and the Jews were allowed to return to the city in safety. The proximity of the hanging to Purim that year, as well as the resonances of the Purim story [which ends with the hanging of the wicked Haman after his plan to slaughter Persian Jewry], encouraged the community to celebrate the return as a mini-redemption, with special songs and a long poetic retelling of the story in Judeo-German called Megilas Vints [the “Scroll of Vincent,” after the Hebrew term for the book of Esther, read on Purim].

Frankfurt is not alone. In many Jewish communities throughout history, local episodes of near-destruction and sudden salvation have been marked along the lines of Purim. Reading through the history books one discovers hints of Purim Narbonne, Cairo Purim, Purim Hebron, Purim of Saragossa, and the four Purims of Ancona, Italy, to mention just a few.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, German Jewry, Purim, Religion & Holidays

 

War with Iran Isn’t on the Horizon. So Why All the Arguments against It?

As the U.S. has responded to Iranian provocations in the Persian Gulf, various observers in the press have argued that National Security Advisor John Bolton somehow seeks to drag President Trump into a war with Iran against his will. Matthew Continetti points out the absurdities of this argument, and its origins:

Never mind that President Trump, Vice-President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, and Bolton have not said a single word about a preemptive strike, much less a full-scale war, against Iran. Never mind that the president’s reluctance for overseas intervention is well known. The “anti-war” cries are not about context, and they are certainly not about deterring Iran. Their goal is saving President Obama’s nuclear deal by manipulating Trump into firing Bolton and extending a lifeline to the regime.

It’s a storyline that originated in Iran. Toward the end of April, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif showed up in New York and gave an interview to Reuters where he said, “I don’t think [Trump] wants war,” but “that doesn’t exclude him basically being lured into one” by Bolton. . . . And now this regime talking point is everywhere. “It’s John Bolton’s world. Trump is just living in it,” write two former Obama officials in the Los Angeles Times. “John Bolton is Donald Trump’s war whisperer,” writes Peter Bergen on CNN.com. . . .

Recall Obama’s deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes’s admission to the New York Times Magazine in 2016 [that] “We created an echo chamber” to attack the Iran deal’s opponents through leaks and tips to the D.C. press. . . . Members of the echo chamber aren’t for attacking Iran, but they are all for slandering its American opponents. The latest target is Bolton. . . .

The Iranians are in a box. U.S. sanctions are crushing the economy, but if they leave the agreement with Europe they will be back to square one. To escape the box you try to punch your way out. That’s why Iran has assumed a threatening posture: provoking an American attack could bolster waning domestic support for the regime and divide the Western alliance.

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More about: Barack Obama, Iran, Javad Zarif, John Bolton, U.S. Foreign policy