Abraham Joshua Heschel’s Philosophy of Jewish History, Cultivated During Nazi Rule

Abraham Joshua Heschel, the renowned theologian of 20th-century Conservative Judaism, is best known for the writings he produced after his arrival in the U.S. in March 1940. Thanks to a new volume, a selection of his work from his final years in Europe, spent mostly in Germany, is now accessible in English. Reviewing the book, titled In This Hour, Michael Marmur writes:

In This Hour does not, of course, include all of Heschel’s output from his German years. . . . It is a slight volume, and, as is often the case with Heschel, one must occasionally read between the lines, but it still packs a punch.

Much of Heschel’s musing on the interplay between the present day and the past is written in coded language. Against the backdrop of Nazi rule, Heschel writes “between the lines.” Take, for example, his eight biographical essays about the early rabbis who also had to cope with tyrannical overlords. . . . It has always been difficult to recognize divine providence in the maze of events, but, Heschel tells us, intellectual moderation and uncompromising morality can at least help to distill the call of the timeless from the rush of actuality.

In the last of the rabbinic portraits, Heschel offers a description of [the talmudic sage] Rabbi Ḥiyya, in some ways an outlier compared to the other figures profiled. It is hard not to see the link between ancient struggles and contemporary anxieties in [his description of a time when the Jews] “had lost their land, their leaders had been killed, and all security was taken from them. Most of them were refugees, emigrants, and martyrs.”

Heschel’s readers may have found solace in the notion of a rebuilding of Jewish life after destruction, or they may have noted Ḥiyya’s strategy of immigration to the Land of Israel as a source of hope. Certainly, these essays represent an act of consolation through history, contemporary comment through deflection, and an affirmation of the Jewish propensity for recovery.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Abraham Joshua Heschel, Holocaust, Judaism, Theology

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